Outside groups spent $23 million to crush the tea party in GOP primaries this year

I mentioned this in the immigration post but it deserves more attention. To be clear, the $23 million here is on top of the cash spent by each GOP incumbent’s own campaign. It doesn’t include a dime of what, say, Mitch McConnell’s operation dropped to defend his seat. This is crony money, showered on establishment candidates to make sure the gravy train keeps running.

The scope of the effort to suppress activist-backed candidates has been broader and costlier than is widely understood, covering at least 20 House and Senate primaries from North Carolina to California, and from coastal Mississippi to the outer tip of Long Island. The loose coalition of establishment forces encompasses two dozen advocacy groups, industry associations and super PACs that have raised and spent millions on behalf of Washington’s chosen candidates.

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan said the “quote ‘establishment’” had successfully divided up the primary map this year to avoid duplicating one another’s efforts…

Nearly a third of the establishment money has come from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The business lobby’s spending in this year’s toughest primaries has about equaled the $7 million that the conservative Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund have spent together on the most fractious elections — excluding races, like the Senate campaigns in Arkansas and Alaska, where there’s been no meaningful clash between establishment-sanctioned outside groups and the activist right.

Among other big establishment spenders: Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, the National Association of Realtors, and the Main Street Partnership, which vowed months ago to “beat the snot” out of conservatives in primaries and which used to be called the “Republican Main Street Partnership” before it dropped the troublesome “Republican” part. (The NRA also kicked in some money for Thad Cochran, do note.) What’s galling about this isn’t the amount spent or the fact that centrists would rise to meet a challenge from the right on ideological terms. The Club for Growth spends boatloads of money on elections too, after all. What’s galling, especially in the Cochran/McDaniel race, is the sense of how transactional the incumbent’s relationship with his money men is. That’s the real lesson from Mississippi, writes Jay Cost. There was nothing particularly ideological driving Cochran or the Mississippi GOP establishment. This was business. As always, as always, Republicans present themselves as one thing and then behave as something else:

Cochran is a classic example of the disconnect. He has been in the Senate for nearly forty years. To what lasting conservative triumph is his name attached? I cannot think of any, nor can I think of any fight against the liberal agenda in which he was a crucial ally. Instead, his claim to fame – as he proudly advertised during the campaign – was leveraging his seniority to steer government largesse to Mississippi…

His purpose is to perpetuate what Theodore Lowi once called “interest group liberalism.” He is the modern equivalent of the Gilded Age spoilsman; he parcels federal resources to well-placed factions that, in turn, help secure his reelection. This runs directly contrary to what the Republican party promises to do.

The problem for the Republican party writ large is that the Cochran-type does not seem like an outlier. People do not see the GOP as a party out to make the government “smaller and smarter,” to “celebrate success, entrepreneurship, and innovation.” They certainly do not see think it is trying to “lift up the middle class.” They see a party that perpetuates and expands government as it suits them, often to the benefit of the well-heeled interest groups that have descended upon the nation’s capital.

Cost is quoting there from the preamble to the GOP’s 2012 platform. Republicans blather on endlessly about small government, free markets, and competition, and then they go to the mat for a guy like Cochran who embodies the sort of “clientelism” for which conservatives typically despise Democrats. Honestly. as angry as righties are that Cochran won a GOP primary with Democratic votes, it’s a poetic finish to the race: His first loyalty is to his cronies, after all, not to a party. That’s why the Barbourites who rule Mississippi’s Republican Party wanted him to run again, even though it was often painfully clear on the trail (especially before the runoff) that Cochran’s heart really wasn’t in serving another term. A Twitter buddy speculated on Tuesday night that he’ll end up retiring next year, once his seat’s safely won, and then some other Barbourite — perhaps Haley’s own nephew — will be appointed to replace him. That would be poetic too. Establishment groups didn’t go all in for Cochran because they thought the U.S. Senate simply can’t afford to lose ol’ Thad. They went all in because they want Cochran’s client base to control the seat. What do they care if it’s him or some replacement from that base that actually casts their vote?

For more on all this, read Erick Erickson’s post from yesterday about the party of lobbyists and the marionettes that dutifully do their bidding. Erick’s regarded as the consummate tea partier while I’m more of a candy-ass RINO, but I don’t see how anyone at either of those two poles or in between could fail to recognize the truth of that. It’s grotesque. And that’s why the challenges from the right will keep coming.

Update: Ace is angry too, for all the right reasons:

Apparently the parties have decided the great ideological struggle of our time is whether the new social services building shall be called the John Murtha Social Wellness Center or the Thad Cochran Freedom & Independence Pavilion.

This is inevitable. And the solution is as inevitable as well. The professional political class must be displaced in favor of an amateur political class, which — for its first several years, at least — will in fact be more interested in revolution than racket.

As I’ve written several times, amateurs have their own weaknesses. But this process of renewal — the replacement of old, complacent, self-interested spirits with fresh ones — is vital.

Without it, a movement dies.

Are we dead already?