It’s been over a week since Eric Cantor got thumped in the Virginia GOP primary. In the time since, I’ve read pieces from dozens of pundits. They typically run along one of two themes:
- The Tea Party is killing any chance of Republicans returning to national power.
- Conservatism is at war with itself.
This is because the establishment GOP – who have taken to calling themselves “Movement Conservatives” or “Reform Conservatives” (the conservative part of the label is questionable, at the very least) – cannot imagine a political party that exists without the benefit of their favorite cronyist pals; Big Finance, Big Oil and military contractors. And they very much would like to pry away Big Tech from the Democrats. The idea of “their” party – which has been bought and paid for by those interests for two decades now – returning to the coalition built by Goldwater and Reagan and actually putting those ideals into action scares the living snot out of them.
That palpable fear was perfectly expressed by Greg Sargent:
“Almost all the internal preoccupations of the Republican Party — in primary battles, intra-movement arguments, conservative media tropes — have nothing to do with the party’s main external challenges: appealing to young people, to the middle class, to the working class and to rising demographic groups.”
For some reason, this argument is the establishment’s favorite: that a principled, conservative approach to governance can’t attract voters. The idea that those under 30, those in the middle class (or aspiring to the middle class) and legal immigrants can’t find common ground with a party that actually works towards reducing the size and scope of an overreaching government, or a party that actively works to strengthen national security is absurd on the face of it.
Don’t let anyone fool you. The GOP establishment, or movement wing, or reform wing, or whatever other hair-brained name they decide to call themselves, is not conservative. Oh, they all talk a great game about reducing the size of government, getting our debt and deficit under control, blah, blah, blah. But let’s not forget it was the Republican Party of GWB that shredded the Constitution by passing the Patriot Act, that exploded the size of the federal government by creating the Department of Homeland Security, that passed No Child Left Behind, that first proposed TARP. It was establishment figures like John McCain, Lindsay Graham and John Boehner (and yes, Eric Cantor) who first proposed legislation that would legalize criminal border crossings, and establishment, “conservative” pundits from Ann Coulter to David Brooks who told us Mitt Romney was just a s conservative as, well, Ronald Reagan. Somehow, the fact that Romney had introduced a socialist medical care system in Massachusetts* didn’t matter. For all of the evils Barack Obama has visited on American liberty, he couldn’t have implemented them as quickly and with as little backlash as he has without the Republican Party of 1993-present first laying the groundwork to make it happen.
But having spent 20 years becoming, essentially, the Democrat Party, the party bigwigs are in a tizzy with a true conservative movement afoot. Yes, you read that right: establishment Republicans are no different from establishment Democrats. The only difference is who signs their paychecks. Dems are signed by Big Labor and Big Tech. Republicans are signed by the groups I mentioned above, along with Big Religion. Neither party actually stands for the groups Sargent outlines. The difference between 2012 and 2000 is simply that the Republicans let themselves be played in the last election. How? By running a candidate that exactly fit the narrative Dems created: that conservatives are nothing more than Big Business hacks out to screw the common man.
Yet, here’s the funny thing: the common man knows he’s getting screwed by the government AND Big Business AND Big Labor. And he’s getting tired of it. Doesn’t matter if he’s 18 or 72, black or white, rich or poor – he wakes up every morning knowing that somebody in “authority” is going to do their best to undermine his best efforts. He knows those forces arrayed against the common man are conspiring to make mere survival almost impossible, much less actually getting ahead. Those are the people that voted to turn Eric Cantor out of office.
And those are the same people that voted the last true conservative into the White House. In 1980, the political class – especially the entrenched Republican interests – thought the Reagan Revolution was suicide for the party. But Reagan captured the votes of the young. He got majorities of traditionally Democrat voting blocs, including Big Labor. He won a majority of the Latino vote, the last Republican Presidential candidate to do so. And he did so by campaigning on a platform of conservative values. Unfortunately for the nation, Reagan made one HUGE mistake in 1980 when he accepted George Herbert Walker Bush as his running mate. The establishment had their backdoor into the seat of power. By 1988, Bush was being touted as a conservative, and the label hasn’t meant what it did for Reagan since then.
This, if anything, is the disconnect that the pundits and professional pols haven’t come to realize. The rise of the Tea Parties in 2009 was less about Republican voters who had decided to become activists. I was about conservative voters who were tired of being lied to and taken for granted becoming activists. Conservatives have found their voice. The genie is out of the bottle – and the phony conservatives populating the Republican Party are unhappy.
That’s a good thing.
*BTW, RomneyCare has turned into such a colossal failure the state has asked the feds to take it over.
There’s this notion that Republican Party is America’s “conservative” political force. It was true 30 years ago, when Ronald Reagan remade the Republican coalition. It was still true 20 years ago, when rank-and-file Republicans essentially told the reliably milquetoast George Herbert Walker Bush to take his Maine pragmatism and shove it up his Kennebunkport.
There are still conservatives in the Republican Party, but the idea that the Republican Party is conservative is about as accurate as saying CNN is a relevant news organization. It might have been true a generation ago. But not today.
There’s this common theme in mass media and even among members of the party, the idea that Republican Party of today is undergoing a civil war of sorts. It’s the RINOs vs the Tea Party for the heart and soul of the Republican band. Of course, according to those same experts, we should all hope that the RINOs win and put those racist, extremist Tea Party nut jobs out to pasture. Oh, those insane whack-jobs in the Tea Party! How dare they suggest limits on governmental authority, reductions in general debt or enforcing our borders? Hey, it’s a great narrative for selling outdated copies of print magazines and filling dead air during “sweeps” months. And the articles practically write themselves!
Indeed, every “news” organization was so certain of the outcomes of Tuesday’s elections they already had the obituaries for the Tea Party written. The double whammy of blowout victories for this generation’s GHW Bush in New Jersey and Clinton surrogate Terry McAuliffe in Virginia would demonstrate to the entire world that those radical Tea Party gun loving inbreds were finally out of American civic life.
This is modern reality. The Republican Party is no longer a community of like-minded conservatives. We Tea Partiers, those who hold fealty to the conservative ideals of fiscal prudence and personal responsibility, who value life and shun totalitarianism, are no longer welcome members of the Grand Old Party. We’ve mistakenly taken to calling the John McCain’s and Reince Priebuses RINOs. The fact is, in the 21st century we’ve become the RINO: and the party could care less what we have to say. They want our money and our votes, but more importantly, they want us to sit in the corner and shut up. No, these people are not the RINOs we’ve fretted about. They are the Elephants, true to their party’s symbol – large, in charge and afraid to fight even a mouse.
You know what? I’m all for leaving the GOP to the Elephants. They’ve proven they are incapable of fighting for conservative principles. Like all good elephants, the only thing they care to fight for are a few peanuts from their masters in the Democrat Party. If they trample the American people and their own reputations while scurrying after a bit of hay, why should it concern them? After all, they have their junkets to Syria and if they play real nice, maybe an invite to a White House dinner.
They’ve already chosen their standard bearer for the next election, another elephant who talks a great conservative game but runs behind the phantasm of higher elected office when asked to stand and deliver. Yes, Governor Christie talks all the right things on conservative issues – right before capitulating on gay marriage or promoting an Islamic law cleric to the state Supreme Court. He’ll talk about how sacred the Constitution is, before signing into law some of the most draconian gun control measures in the country.
He talks about pragmatism as a governing function, but has defined pragmatism to man capitulation. First, he threw his party’s Presidential nominee under a bus, just to ensure he could get a seat at the federal feeding trough. Now, the incoming chair of the Republican Governor’s Association throws a conservative running for governor under a bus, just to ensure the media plays up how his “pragmatic” approach to campaigning delivers 30 point wins over political nobodies.
In the Elephant Man, the modern Republican Party has found its truest representative, indeed. So I say it is high time for the last conservatives who call themselves Republicans to form a new party, a truly conservative political force that will fight for those bedrock principles that made America great once and can again. We are not abandoning the Republican brand; the Republican brand no longer stands for anything meaningful or trustworthy. So, if you’re a conservative in more than name only, join us! and leave the peanuts for the Republicans!
From the ICYMI file: on Thursday, the House failed to pass a Farm Bill. Why is this significant? Because ordinarily, the Farm Bill passes both chambers easily. For instance, the Senate passed it’s version of the Farm Bill by a 66-27 vote. The last Farm Bill, in 2008, passed 316-117.
So why could this version of what is normally as uncontroversial a piece of legislation as possible garner only 195 “ayes” – and only 24 votes from Democrats? To hear the Democrat House leadership, it was a failure of the Republican leadership to round up their caucus, pointing to the 62 Republicans who voted against the bill. The Republican leadership casts the vote as pure partisan politics by the Democrats, who had promised 40-60 votes for passage and then reneged. According to the political press, the bill failed because it was too draconian in the way it slashed subsidies for everything from direct payments to farmers to the food stamp program.
All of them are wrong.
The problem with all of this prattling is that nobody is paying attention to a new dynamic that is appearing in the legislative process. The legislative institutions are creatures of habit. The rules they play by are built on decades of two-party primacy in American politics. As such, they’ve become a sort of hodge-podge of American Constitutionalism and parliamentary rulings, with very clear delineations of authority. There are majority and minority party leaders, deputies and whips. These party leaders are expected to round up the overwhelming of their party members into voting blocs. In a strict two-party system, these rules have worked well. Both parties have made use of the “Hastert Rule,” even before it was declared by former Speaker Dennis Hastert. (For the politically uninitiated, that particular rule says no bill can come to the floor unless it has support from more than half of the majority party). Likewise, both parties have made use of patronage and privilege to obtain votes and threats of retaliation to punish wayward caucus members.
But the system breaks down and becomes ineffective when there are three or more parties involved in legislating. While there may be only two official parties recognized in Congress, there is a stark reality that isn’t being faced by any of the DC proletariat: when they weren’t looking, a de facto third party stormed the gates. This party is not beholden to established party dictums or the existing rules. In fact, most of these members consider it their sworn duty to upend the apple cart. While most carry the “Republican” label, they are really much more broad than that narrow definition. Moreover, their power may be felt primarily in the House right now, but there are a small number in the Senate who are making life difficult for their caucus leaders.
I’m speaking, of course, about the Tea Party.
It is a loose coalition of libertarians and social conservatives, who ordinarily could not agree on the time of day. But in the current political climate, they do agree on one important point: the federal government is too big, too bloated and too intrusive. They see the issue not as one in which government practices must be reformed, but completely eviscerated. The reason they voted against the Farm Bill was not that it didn’t cut enough (as opined virtually everywhere), but that it spent $940 billion over 5 years – a figure that wasn’t offset anywhere else. For them, it represented further government growth, which is the ultimate sin. Their nays were virtually assured.
So what is the Republican leadership to do? In the Senate, the establishment Republicans are being faced with fierce resistance by the likes of Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. These members have already employed their own version of the nuclear option to gum up the works on legislation. In the house, Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are faced with a large bloc (perhaps as much as 35% of their caucus) who simply cannot be cajoled or threatened into following them.
The answer is, the Republican establishment needs to understand that the “party line” no longer exists as they know it. If they really want to survive as a viable party, then they need to reclaim their party – and realize they cannot reclaim the Tea Party caucus. The two groups, currently defined as factions within the media, are in fact two separate parties, pursuing disparate goals.
Legislatively, the “loony birds” (as described establishment figure John McCain) are successful strictly because they can sow havoc within the Republican caucus. While they may not have the power to pursue their own legislative agenda, they do have enough clout to prevent bills they dislike from becoming law. It is the root of the “do-nothing” Congress.
Of course, expelling the Tea Party members from the Republican caucus would present two problems for the establishment part of the party. First, in a practical sense, it would mean losing their majority status in the House and being further diminished in the Senate. Second, while the establishment still represents the majority of the Republican brand, there is little doubt that the real energy in the party is coming from the Tea Party faction – and real fear among Republican leaders that crossing swords with Tea Party candidates would lead to decimating losses for establishment types.
For the Tea Party itself, such an expulsion would have immediate consequences, in that there isn’t a national Tea Party infrastructure. This would mean to survive, it would need to build one immediately. Fundraising (always critical in political campaigns), identifying candidates, getting on state ballots – all of these operations would need to get up-and-running within months, if not weeks. Undoubtedly, groups like FreedomWorks and Heritage would be willing to jump in on their behalf. And a skeletal effort could be gleaned from former Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign organizations. It’s even likely the libertarian Koch brothers, much reviled by the political left, would be willing to switch allegiances.
In the short-term, however, the Republican party is facing a question over how to proceed. It seems likely that the compromises hammered out in the Senate stand virtually no chance of passing the House without significant buy-in from Democrats. On budget matters, the Republican Establishment is still more closely aligned with their Tea Party members than with liberal Democrats – meaning repeats of the Farm Bill fiasco are more likely unless the leadership crafts legislation that reduces overall spending. Think about it: the sequester, reviled publicly by liberals and privately by establishment conservatives, was never supposed to happen. The political calculus was nobody would want to see across the board spending cuts. But none of the main players counted on a strong Tea Party bloc that wanted exactly that outcome. And sequester-type bills are the only thing Tea Party members will approve on appropriations.
So, what happens now? Expelling the Tea Party from the Republican caucus would smooth the passage of legislation that bloc finds offensive. But it would cost the establishment Republicans their power and potentially their seats in 2014 or 2016, an unfathomable idea to the Washington mindset. Moving further to the right on budgetary matters would allow them to preserve their majority, but would likely lead to a legislative stalemate with the Senate. That’s also considered a political loser for the establishment. My bet is on the latter, though, if for no other reason that it leaves battle lines as drawn between Republicans and Democrats. It is a version of kabuki theater with which both parties are familiar.
But looming in the background will be the Tea Party. At the moment, it is much more prominent on the national stage than in local and state government. But if more Tea Party type candidates find themselves in elective office on those levels and the establishment Republicans are perceived to only pay lip-service to Tea Party ideals, then watch out. There may be a sudden explosion of legislators and governors, mayors and council members, displaying a T after their name to show party affiliation.
Well, well. It seems Rick Perry took one look at his war chest and decided he’s back in the race. About 12 hours after a dejected and deflated Perry seemingly left the race, he tweeted he was back in. Only caveat: he appears to be bypassing New Hampshire entirely and going for broke in South Carolina.
Skipping New Hampshire makes sense for Perry. That’s Mitt Romney’s back yard and Romney is expected to crush his competition there. Unfortunately for Granite Staters, it makes their primary virtually irrelevant, barring another Rick Santorum miracle or surprise from Jon Huntsman.
No, the real battle becomes a fight for the anti-Romney vote in South Carolina. Perry, well financed but bumbling vs. Rick Santorum, newly minted as the anti-Romney favorite. It should be fun to watch the two conservatives with vastly different styles going after the same voters. Will Perry’s southern charm and immense campaign coffers allow him to overcome the fact he can’t seem to utter a coherent sentence in public? Or will Santorum’s down-to-earth, middle-class sensibilities combine with his oratorical repertoire in wooing over South Carolina’s conservative base?
We’ll know the answer in 16 days. Until then, game on!
There are idiotic ramblings from both sides of the political spectrum, but there is one in particular that just simply will not die. There seems to be a hard-core group of nutcases who insist that President Obama does not meet the legal definition of citizenship and therefore, is ineligible to serve as President. They don’t realize that their infatuation with the President’s citizenship is a large part of the reason that the TEA party is looked on with disdain by nearly 70% of the country – including wide swaths of the electorate who would otherwise agree with most policy positions. But since the nutcase fringe, the people who once exiled themselves to the Jon Birch Society and the like, has taken up residence in the TEA party, it’s time the rest of us told them “Enough!” We care about the direction of the nation, not conspiracy theories.
Look, I do not care for the President’s policies. I certainly can’t stomach his approach to governance. I don’t even really much care for him as a person. As far as I can tell, the only difference between him and Richard Millhouse Nixon is that only one was actually convicted of lying. But none of that has any bearing on whether or not he is a citizen.
The latest bit of drivel contesting not only the President’s citizenship, but that of Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Bobby Jindal, comes from some hack named Joseph Farah. In a blog post that I’ve now seen passed around Facebook and Twitter like candy (not to mention had emailed to me three times), Farah demonstrates either willful ignorance or absolute disregard for the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Farah states, without equivocation, “To be a natural born citizen means to be the offspring of U.S. citizen parents at the time of birth.” Really? Where in the US Constitution does it say that?
The 14th Amendment states, verbatim, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
In Farah’s bird-brained opinion of Constitutional law, anyone who cannot prove their lineage to the Mayflower is ineligible for federal office. It stands to his inexorable reason that unless you can prove your parents were born to his interpretation of “natural born citizens,” that they aren’t full citizens, either – and on down the family tree you go. Fortunately or us, the Constitution only acknowledges three types of citizens:
- Born: pretty simple – born in the US? You’re a US Citizen.
- Naturalized: Not born here, but you’ve met all the requirements and sworn an oath of allegiance to the United States.
- Here at the nation’s founding: If you know anyone still kicking after 240 years or so, let me know. We’ve got a story.
The version of citizenship pushed by the Joe Farah’s of the world doesn’t exist anywhere except in their imaginations. I don’t like defending the President against the peevish insults of men of that ilk – it makes me feel, dirty – but denigrating a person based solely on lies and misinformation should be well behind us as a nation. That it isn’t; that so many people insist on denouncing the President’s citizenship, demonstrates a side to our nation that should give anyone with a brain and more than a 2nd grade education pause.
I’ll make this simple, so that even the bird-brained “birther” conspiracists can understand it: bring us proof that Barack Hussein Obama was born outside the USA and we’ll listen. Otherwise, let those of who truly care about the future of the nation debate the issues and policies while you spend your time taking a civics course. Or two.