Blue Crack Addict
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Local Time: 08:05 PM
What's heartening is that as of this morning the actual conservatives in the GOP seem ready to put the Tea Party on an ice floe.
There is a growing fear among Washington Republicans that the party, which has lost two national elections in a row, is headed for history’s dustbin. And I believe that they are right to worry.
The battle over the shutdown has highlighted the cracks and fissures within the party. The party’s leadership has begun to lose control of its members in Congress. The party’s base has become increasingly shrill and is almost as dissatisfied with the Republican leadership in Washington as it is with President Obama. New conservative groups have echoed, and taken advantage of, this sentiment by targeting Republicans identified with the leadership for defeat. And a growing group of Republican politicians, who owe their election to these groups, has carried the battle into the halls of Congress. That is spelling doom for the Republican coalition that has kept the party afloat for the last two decades.
American party coalitions are heterogeneous, but they endure as along as the different groups find more agreement with each other than with the opposition. After Republicans won back the Congress in 1994, they developed a political strategy to hold their coalition together. Many people contributed to the strategy including Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, Paul Coverdell, Paul Weyrich, and Ralph Reed, but the chief architect was probably Grover Norquist, a political operative who, along with Rove and Reed, came of age in the early Reagan years. The strategy was based on creating an alliance between business, which had sometimes divided its loyalties between Republicans and Democrats, and the array of social and economic interest groups that had begun backing Republicans.
In weekly meeting held on Wednesdays at the office of his Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist put forth the idea that business groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), but also including the specialized trade associations, should back socially conservative Republican candidates, while right-to-life or gun rights organizations should back tax cuts and deregulation. What would bind the different parts together was a common opposition to raising taxes, which Norquist framed in a pledge he demanded that Republican candidates make. Business could provide the money, and the single-issue and evangelical groups the grassroots energy to win elections.
The strategy worked reasonably well, especially in House races. The Chamber and NFIB became election-year arms of the Republican Party. In Congress, a succession of leaders, including Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, Tom DeLay, and Roy Blunt, followed the strategy. Gingrich initially overreached, and DeLay took ethical end-runs, but by the time John Boehner became Minority Leader in 2007, it had been refined. Its economic approach consisted of promoting cuts in taxes, spending, and regulation. Boehner, as lobbyists close to him explained to me, wanted to use the battle over continuing resolutions and the debt ceiling to achieve incremental changes on these fronts. He did not contemplate shutting down the government or allowing the government to default on its obligations.
But Boehner was forced to adopt the more extreme strategy. Norquist blames Cruz. “Boehner had a strategy,” Norquist told me, “but Ted Cruz blew it up.” That is, however, giving Cruz too much credit (or blame) for the result. Cruz did help convince House Republicans that if they linked passage of a continuing resolution to repealing Obamacare, he could get the votes in the Senate to follow suit. But Cruz was following a script that had been developed earlier. What has happened over the last two months, leading to the shutdown, and political paralysis in Washington, is the result of deeper factors that have put Norquist’s entire “center-right” strategy in jeopardy.
The groups are sometimes believed to be part of a single giant conspiracy led by the Koch brothers, but that is not the case. The Koch brothers started Americans for Prosperity after they became dissatisfied with Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, and the two groups are now rivals. The Kochs are also not major funders for the Club for Growth. The groups themselves often back the same candidates and causes, but are sometimes at odds. FreedomWorks has taken a harder line on the government shutdown than Americans for Prosperity, and the Senate Conservatives Fund is currently running ads in Arizona denouncing one of the Club for Growth’s favorite senators, Jeff Flake, for opposing the attempt to link the continuing resolution to the repeal of Obamacare.
What the groups share is an attempt to tap into the spirit of middle American radicalism. They espouse a somewhat sanitized (less anti-big business and Wall Street) version of the Tea Party’s economic libertarianism. They want to elect “champions of economic freedom” who are for “limited government.” They scorn compromise and the Republicans who make the compromises. “I think the whole concept of compromise and bipartisanship is silly,” Chocola says. Their ultimate goal, Chocola says, is to elect a “majority of true fiscal conservatives” who will transform the government—or in the meantime, gum up the works by making compromise difficult, if not impossible.
To date, the groups have had a mixed record in elections. They screwed up in Nevada, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, and Missouri by backing extreme Republicans in Senate primaries who lost winnable elections to Democrats. But they helped elect Senators Toomey, Cruz, Rubio, Flake, and Paul and about 15 House members, including Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton whom they are now backing in the Arkansas senate race.
These are still relatively small numbers, but in the peculiar American system, a few people can exert an inordinate amount of power. In the Senate, the Tea Party adherents can disrupt any attempts at compromise, as Senator Ted Cruz did recently. In the House, they can threaten John Boehner’s job, because Boehner needs an absolute majority of House members to retain his speakership. And numbers aside, the threat of a primary challenge (now converted into a verb “to primary”) hovers over the all Republican Senate and House members, most notably McConnell, and has forced Boehner and McConnell to follow dutifully the shutdown strategy of Cruz and his House allies.
Under pressure from grassroots radicals and the new outsider groups, the old Republican coalition is beginning to shatter. The single-issue and evangelical groups have been superseded by right-wing populist groups, which are generally identified with the Tea Party, although there is no single Tea Party organization. These groups can’t easily be co-opted by the party’s Washington leadership. And the business groups in Washington, who funded the party over the last two decades, have grown disillusioned with a party that appears to be increasingly held hostage by its radical base and by outsider groups. The newspapers are now filled with stories about business opposition to the shutdown strategy, and there are even hints of business groups backing challenges to Tea Party candidates. “The business community has got to stand up and say we are not going to back the most self-described conservative candidate. We are going to back the candidates that are the most rational,” says John Feehery, a former aide to DeLay and Hastert who is now president of Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a Washington lobbying firm.
What Washington business lobbyists say on-the-record about the House Republicans and about Tea Party activists pales before what they are willing to say if their names aren't used. One former Republican staffer says of the anti-establishment groups, “They want to go in and fuck shit up. These non-corporate non-establishmentarian guys—that is exactly what they are doing. And the problem with that is obvious. What next? What happens after you fuck shit up?” Other lobbyists I talked to cited John Calhoun, Dixiecrats and Richard Hofstadter’s essay on “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” to explain the rise of the populist right. It’s the kind of reference you’d expect to read in a New Republic article, but not necessarily in a conversation with a business lobbyist.
it's also heartening that the Tea Party's popularity has plummeted.
And one year until next fall’s midterm elections, American voters prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress to a Republican-controlled one by eight percentage points (47 percent to 39 percent), up from the Democrats’ three-point advantage last month (46 percent to 43 percent).
What’s more, Obama’s political standing has remained relatively stable since the shutdown, with his approval rating ticking up two points since last month, and with the Democratic Party’s favorability rating declining just three points (from 42 percent to 39 percent).
“If it were not so bad for the country, the results could almost make a Democrat smile,” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff.
“These numbers lead to one inescapable conclusion: The Republicans are not tone deaf; they are stone deaf.”
Yet what is perhaps even more worrisome for the GOP is the “boomerang” effect: As the party has used the shutdown and fiscal fight to campaign against the nation’s health-care law and for limited government, the poll shows those efforts have backfired.
For one thing, the health-care law has become more popular since the shutdown began. Thirty-eight percent see the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”) as a good idea, versus 43 percent who see it as a bad idea – up from 31 percent good idea, 44 percent bad idea last month.
In addition, 50 percent say they oppose totally eliminating funding for the law, even if it that means a partial shutdown of the government. That’s up from 46 percent who said they opposed that move in a Sept. 2013 CNBC poll.
And by a 52-percent-to-44 percent difference, respondents believe the government should do more to solve problems. Back in June, the public was split, 48 percent to 48 percent, on whether the government should do more or less.
Republicans and Democrats are debating a possible short term debt extension, but it's uncertain what each side would have to give. NBC's Mark Murray discusses.
“That is an ideological boomerang,” says McInturff, the GOP pollster. “As the debate has been going on, if there is a break, there is a break against the Republican position.”
Obama – with a 47 percent favorable, 41 percent unfavorable rating – also is the most popular political figure or institution in the poll, surpassing the Democratic Party (39 percent favorable/40 percent unfavorable); Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas (14 percent favorable/28 percent unfavorable); Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (18 percent favorable/32 percent unfavorable); and House Speaker John Boehner (17 percent favorable/42 percent unfavorable).
At the bottom of the list are the Tea Party (21 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable) and the Republican Party (24 percent favorable/53 percent unfavorable) – their lowest favorable numbers in the history of the poll.
once again, Obama has enabled his enemies to self-destruct. checkers vs. chess. Cruz and Lee are tanking in their home states.
i'm not even going to get into the stimulus again. you began to care about debt and deficit on January 21, 2009.
as we have seen since 1980, the GOP doesn't care about debt ("Deficits don't matter," said your last VP). They only care about lowering taxes on rich people.