February 4th, 2013

The latest battle in the Republican civil war

Whatever the Democratic Party doesn’t succeed in doing to destroy the Republicans, the Republicans seem determined to do to themselves. It’s getting very, very old.

And by “Republicans” I don’t just mean what other people mean when they use the term “establishment Republicans.” I mean “establishment Republicans” on their own, Tea Party conservatives on their own, and the two pitted against each other.

Each group has strengths and weaknesses. Each group could, at least theoretically, help each other (novel thought, that). You will probably disagree with me if you believe that these two groups are unalterably and irrevocably opposed to each other. But although I know they have their differences, I believe those differences do not automatically preclude their uniting on common goals to help each other. But I don’t think it’s going to happen; the bitterness is too great and the territorial instincts too strong.

I’m seeing reactions on the conservative side to articles such as this one about the formation of a new super-PAC that some consider an establishment effort to undermine and usurp the Tea Party and its candidates and replace them with more establishment types. The article (which appeared in the NY Times, and since when did conservatives pay much attention to what’s said there?) describes it thusly:

The effort would put a new twist on the Republican-vs.-Republican warfare that has consumed the party’s primary races in recent years. In effect, the establishment is taking steps to fight back against Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations that have wielded significant influence in backing candidates who ultimately lost seats to Democrats in the general election.

Ah, the Times only has our interests at heart, to be sure! No doubt they just want to see us all get along:

The Conservative Victory Project, which is backed by Karl Rove and his allies who built American Crossroads into the largest Republican super PAC of the 2012 election cycle, will start by intensely vetting prospective contenders for Congressional races to try to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections.

The project is being waged with last year’s Senate contests in mind, particularly the one in Missouri [and Indiana, involving Akins and Mourdock].

The project’s president, Steven J. Law, is quoted as saying:

We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.

Sounds reasonable to me; in fact, I think it’s something I’ve suggested in the past. But it’s also completely understandable that Tea Party forces see this as an attack, an attempt to undermine them and their power.

If these groups persist in tearing each other apart, they will splinter into two parties—and, as I’ve written before, help assure a lengthy hegemony for the liberal/left.

Lost in the shuffle is the fact that, as Ramesh Ponnuru points out (in my opinion, quite reasonably) in National Review, why suspect someone like Stephen J. Law, head of American Crossroads, which is behind the new Conservative Victory Project?:

I take him at his word: He is, in my experience, solidly conservative himself, and served in the top ranks of the most successfully conservative Cabinet department of the George W. Bush administration (Labor, under Elaine Chao). American Crossroads spent a lot of money on behalf of conservative candidates such as Representative Allen West in 2012. My guess is that Law really does want to implement the “Buckley rule” of picking the most electable conservative.

Ah, is it because Karl Rove has backed the project? He seems to have gone from being evil incarnate to liberals to being evil incarnate to Tea Party types. Or maybe not; I’m weary of trying to follow these skirmishes.

I also wonder whether this group tried to work with the Tea Party types and were rebuffed, or whether some Tea Party types are actually on board, or whether no effort was made to recruit them in the first place.

33 Responses to “The latest battle in the Republican civil war”

  1. M J R Says:

    The answer(s) implied in your very last paragraph, . . .

    “I also wonder whether this group tried to work with the Tea Party types and were rebuffed, or whether some Tea Party types are actually on board, or whether no effort was made to recruit them in the first place. ”

    . . . would fill in a heckuva lotta blanks. Very good piece, based on what we think we know. But what don’t we know yet?

  2. M J R Says:

    The answer(s) TO THE QUESTIONS implied in your very last paragraph . . .

    Sigh.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    M J R: the answer to the question could also rightly be a sigh. A big sigh.

  4. George Pal Says:

    “intensely vetting prospective contenders for Congressional races to try to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections.”

    Which is to say cull those who cannot, will not, appeal to lowest common denominator voters either by: lying to them, convincing them they, the GOP, do to ‘care’, seeing them as, indeed, victims, or convincing them the GOP is damn well capable of producing their own messiah. Karl Rove, CPAC, Ramesh Ponnuru and the rest of the keepers of the flame can sell their souls for seats but they’ll have to outbid the Democrats for them. Electing conservatives who are indistinguishable from Democrats is just the strategy that will win the elections and further lose the country. Welcome to Plan B.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    George Pal: thank you for coming in right on time to illustrate the sort of attitude I was writing about.

  6. southpaw Says:

    The Republican party needs to adopt a new mascot – A circular firing squad would be appropriate.
    Rove? Conservative? News Flash – Karl and George Junior weren’t and aren’t fiscal conservatives. While he was very conservative on social issues which irritated a lot of opponents; (other than the death penalty), he didn’t really cram it down people’s throats. He was no where near the intractable right wing stalwart the media portrayed.
    Not that I disagree with his stance on most of those issues, but it’s not at the top of my list of priorities if gays get married or whatever. I think that’s true of a lot of Texans, regardless of their political leaning; for the most part, they aren’t going around worried about gays getting married or whatever. Most of us live in big cities and have never ridden a horse or run a gay person up a flagpole, or whatever is commonly believed on the coasts.
    But I digress – the point is, their message was tailored to their electorate and they knew what they were doing in Texas. In spite of his personal views, as governor of Texas, George W Bush was not an idealogue, he was the original “reach across the aisle” governor. He frequently worked with a lot of liberal representatives and got things done that he thought were for the greater good. That did irritate conservatives, but the alternative was a lot worse. It worked ok here, economically and socially, and the other side got what they wanted most of the time and everybody was happy. The big difference, and it’s a huge difference, is that in Texas, it’s state law that the budget is balanced every year. When your fiscal house is in order, everybody gets along.
    On the national stage, cooperation and bipartisanship weren’t rewarded. The only rewards he got for his attempts to be more like a democrat do not need rehashing. He spent billions on programs that conservatives disagreed with, but it won him no praise in the media or with his opponents on the left.
    So good luck to Karl and his squad picking up where they left off, miscounting votes all the way up through election night, miscalculating badly the independent reach of Romney. As I recall, Romney was the “only candidate who could win a national election”. Oh by the way, Karl and his band of merry men fought tooth and nail here to defeat Ted Cruz, backing David Dewhurst with more millions than anybody cares to count. Cruz will be a bright spot in an otherwise dismal class of republican senators, but he doesn’t fit the mold Karl and his buddies are made from – which is “talk fiscal responsibility, but make any deal as long as your district is getting a healthy sum of the loot” Applying Texas politics of 15 years ago to national races might keep Karl fat and happy, but it’s destined to be another loser, just as his all-out support for Dewhurst was a disaster.

  7. Mr. Frank Says:

    They don’t call it the stupid party for nothing.

  8. T Says:

    Theory and practice.

    In theory it’s always best to vote for the most adamant proponent of one’s views. In practice, as Neo points out, the question is “Can that candidate be elected?”

    In my own personal case, I distrust and vote against those who spout a “party-line.” I distrust avid proponents of any large organization (church, state or corporation); they are simply not to be trusted to be true to their word.

    Having said that, there is almost nothing in the Democrat party line which I espouse, but there are some ideas in the Republican party which I can agree with. Just shy of saying “a pox on both of their houses” I vote anti-liberal Democrat, even if that candidate is only barely so. The only exception is on the local level (Dem controlled for 70+ years) in which my choice is relegated to less liberal Democrat v more liberal Democrat. More’s the pity!

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    southpaw: Romney WAS the only candidate of the ones who entered the race who had a even a chance to win the election. That seems to be a self-evident truth that people seem to forgot.

    I really am getting tired of pointing out the same things over and over.

    I’m not a Rove fan. In fact, I couldn’t care less about him. But I’m really tired of statements that don’t recognize the reality of what the Republican field offered in 2012. I think I have some credibility here, because I think, if you look back at what I wrote during the 2012 election season, I never was sanguine about the GOP’s chances of winning. I was always saying I thought Obama was going to be a much stronger candidate than most people were crediting, and that I was very disappointed in the Republican entries as a whole, and that Romney was the best of the lot. I see no reason whatsoever to revise that judgment.

    I agree about Cruz, though. He’s good.

  10. blert Says:

    Lest we forget: the official Republican National Party has signed a consent decree with the Devil.

    Hence, the Democrat Party can — and has been — fulsomely corrupting the vote and its tally.

    This is where the one-party state springs from.

    All else is deck chair dancing.

  11. T Says:

    “I was always saying I thought Obama was going to be a much stronger candidate than most people were crediting . . . .”

    Obama won, but not by much. I don’t think he was as strong as many people thought he would be. His campaign just played a marginally better political game than the Republicans (or was it that the Republicans played a marginally weaker campaign than Obama—there is a difference).

  12. M J R Says:

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/02/03/Rove-declares-war-Tea-Party

    Rove Declares War on Tea Party
    by Ben Shapiro
    3 Feb 2013

    —— —— —— —— ——

    http://michellemalkin.com/2013/02/04/kneel-before-zod-gop-control-freak-karl-rove-launches-new-effort-to-snuff-out-tea-party/

    Kneel before Zod! GOP control freak Karl Rove launches new effort to snuff out Tea Party
    By Michelle Malkin
    February 4, 2013 10:02 AM

  13. George Pal Says:

    neo-neocon:

    I’m happy to have obliged and delighted to be an exemplar. One thing though, it is not an attitude but a sincere conviction.

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    T: when I write “than most people were crediting,” I’m talking about what I read over and over from pundits and on blogs, which was that (a) ANYONE could beat Obama, he was so weak; and (b) predictions right before the election of HUGE victory for Romney.

    This was done by almost all prognosticators. I was stunned by it at the time—it did not look good to me, the polls never really showed Romney in the lead (and my independent study of those polls did not support the idea that they were deeply flawed), and on election eve my stomach was in an uproar because I’d feared the writing on the wall for quite some time.

    Again, my point isn’t how right I was, but how very many people weren’t just wrong, but in lala land. This was every bit as true of many Tea Party conservative types as it was of establishment Republicans. They underestimated Obama.

    Which is not to say he won in a landslide. I never expected that. I always expected it to be close, and it was.

  15. T Says:

    My comment was not to take issue with your point but to elaborate on it.

    I was one of those who thought Romney would win. In fact I had correctly predicted the final electoral vote outcome, however, I had my parties reversed.

    I believed that Romney woul win on principle. I did not believe that Obama would lose because he was a weak candidate but because he was a failed president. That he won in spite of that is a profound frustration for me.

    He won by playing a better strategic game than Romney, but I offer that such does not make him a stronger candidate. Perhaps I’m splitting hairs here because it doesn’t really matter or change the outcome of 2012, but I think that understanding this distinction could have an effect on the outcome of 2014 and 2016.

  16. Jim Nicholas Says:

    Some of the most intense and intractable enmities are interfamilial–brother against brother, father against son. Perhaps it is a sense of love betrayed or wished-for love withheld that generates a hatred greater than that toward an outsider enemy. When that happens, common family values cease to be important.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    T: I understand what you’re saying, and although I think our disagreement is perhaps mostly semantics, I will still say that I don’t think Obama’s victory was due to superior strategy, although it was certainly partly that. I think he would never have won had he not benefited strongly from the media being in his pocket so firmly, and that long Gramscian march that has helped to transform much of the American public. I think both things have reached critical mass. Plus, something about Obama’s persona itself (and I’ve analyzed what factors might go into this many times) is tremendously appealing to a very large segment of people, and that is part of his being a surprisingly strong candidate despite his record. In Obama’s case, his record is almost irrelevant. That is a new thing for a candidate, and it is part of his strength as a candidate.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    Jim Nicholas: excellent point. That’s why civil wars tend to be quite violent and bitter.

  19. T Says:

    “. . . the media being in [Obama's] pocket so firmly, and that long Gramscian march that has helped to transform much of the American public. I think both things have reached critical mass.”

    No disagreement from me on that point.

    Regarding the media (and academics) I strongly recommend this weekend post from Ace of Spades for those who haven’t read it yet:

    A Military Psychistrist’s [sic] Diagnosis of the Left
    —Ace

    The link: http://ace.mu.nu/archives/337181.php

  20. southpaw Says:

    Neo-
    I agree with you Romney was probably the best of a weak field. My point is Karl Rove’s judgements about future such candidates is dubious if not laughable.

  21. T Says:

    “Plus, something about Obama’s persona itself (and I’ve analyzed what factors might go into this many times) is tremendously appealing to a very large segment of people . . . .”

    Perhaps not unlike JFK on the national scale after his election and any Kennedy in Massachussets.

    The problem I have understanding that phenomenon (both JFK and Obama) is that it falls flat on me (like trying to explain “red” to a man who is born blind).

  22. neo-neocon Says:

    southpaw: yes, I don’t think much of Rove. But other people are in charge of this endeavor, although he’s one of the people behind it. Will he be making the judgments? He will have input, I would imagine, but not necessarily be the last word on it.

  23. gcotharn Says:

    W/o the Tea Party, there is no Ted Cruz, and no Marco Rubio.

    If we pretend that Repubs had better Senate candidates in Missouri, and where ever the other controversial-statement candidate was – Ohio, maybe, it remains true that one Ted Cruz is more important to America … than would be two more John Cornyn type Repub. Senators (from Missouri and from Ohio).

    Some might argue: “Think how the balance of power would be tipped in the Senate, if only we had two more Repub. Senators to counter Obama!” My counter-argument: over the next decade, dynamic Tea Party types such as Ted Cruz (and Rubio, and Rand Paul, et al) will tip the balance of power more than would a Senate-full of John Cornyns; will spark movement, reformation, enlightenment, dynamic energy. And that – i.e. my counterargument – is where the establishment/Rove types get it wrong. They cannot see the forest for the trees. They are tiny thinkers; focused on tiny goals. Tiny goals do not inspire.

    Let the big dogs run. We’ve had enough John Cornyn type poodles. We barely escaped decades of Charlie Crist and David Dewhurst. Let the big dogs run. Go big or go home.

  24. George Pal Says:

    “We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.”
    - Steven J. Law

    Here we have an out and out lie followed by duplicity. It would astound the heavens if the GOP would ever support a clearly conservative candidate whose convictions against gay ‘marriage’, against any consideration of illegal aliens, and who was less than admiring of Islam – and who had unpropitiously stated any or all of them publicly.

    …the most conservative candidate who can win. The Hispanic Hope, Marco Rubio understands this well – hence rationalizations on illegal aliens. The admirably exotic Gov. Jindal understands this well – hence rationalizing same sex marriage as the wave that’ll carry the candidate. CPAC understands this well, so that when Ann-Marie Murrell questioned Suhail Khan of CPAC about his statement that there was no Muslim Brotherhood influence in the government and conservative circles (Mr. Khan himself) she was asked by some CPAC members to leave and called an instigator.

    Sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down you’re rockin’ the boat.

  25. gcotharn Says:

    Something else, which was sparked by remembrance of Mourdock – of Indiana, not of Ohio, as I previously had wrongly guessed.

    Mourdock was inartful, as opposed to offensive. He was wrongly characterized (by the media/left) as having been offensive, and the Rove type Repubs did not adequately stand up for him.

    Any Repub candidate … who does any effective advocacy for conservative causes … is going to get hit. The Repub candidate, most of the time, will be mischaracterized in completely unfair fashion.

    Fraidy-cat conservatives believe conservative candidates ought run from criticism. They are wrong. Such is a losing strategy. Such results in candidates who play scared, and who do zero advocacy, and who thus make zero difference: it is as if they are not even there. Their fear, and wrongful strategic calculation, turns them into poodles.

    The winning strategy is: audace, audace, audace! Attack straight into the ambush.

    Mourdock was betrayed by his fellow Repubs. Also, Mourdock failed b/c he did not attack straight into the ambush, and with everything he had.

    Every Repub, who is worth spit, will be attacked. We must not run from such Repubs. Cruz will be attacked, soon, and viciously. Cruz, for one who has a record of accomplishment, appears to have an amazingly clean past. It doesn’t matter. Dems/left/media will promote lies about him. Conservatives must respond; must not abandon Cruz. To abandon him is the way of poodles. Loser poodles.

    Public figures, who are worthwhile, will say things of value, and will be attacked. We must not run away from being attacked. We must welcome it, and counterattack with everything we have.

  26. holmes Says:

    The goal sounds reasonable, but they’re going about it in self-serving ways as your last paragraph indicates. Though I worry that the TP is concerned about power now instead of influencing the election. If they get into a power struggle here, they’ll lose and will become irrelevant. But they may have no choice as Rove decided to insert himself in the middle here.

  27. holmes Says:

    Think of all those years Rove squandered with the legislature and executive under R control. Think of it.

  28. parker Says:

    My problem with the republican establishment is that when they held all 3 branches they were not fiscally conservative. Until the republican establishment acknowledges DC is the problem and fights back against the behemoth (including the MSM) by actions, not words, it will have a difficult time attracting my attention. Until then, my focus will be on the local and state level.

  29. Otiose Says:

    parker, your point about Republicans lacking fiscal self control when they had control of the three branches has been brought to my attention by people who are in the middle and dissatisfied with both parties. And it’s true and very disappointing. That fact probably has cost a lot of votes in recent elections.

    If during that period if Republicans had moved to cut – for example – agricultural subsidies, pushed through entitlement reforms – especially social security which Bush attempted to his credit, cut back/down Fannie/Freddie, then they would have a record of standing for principles that many people would find attractive now after having experienced the Democrats in power for 4 years.

    This most electable conservative is a slippery concept that is often used by establishment type Republicans very comfortable with ever bigger entitlements and government.

    Somehow I doubt Reagan met the criteria in ’76 and probably not ’80 either for many party leaders.

    Short of going through a Faber like catastrophic melt down of the political/financial system – something a lot of us might not survive – I don’t see this country going back to the limited Federal government of the 19th century. On the other extreme I don’t think we should support MEC’s like say Gergen or Powell who say they’re Republicans but don’t have any space between themselves and Pelosi type Democrats that I can see.

    The current ‘civil war’ between the Tea Party – I take that to mean a fiscally responsible Republican – and the establishment free spending types is healthy and necessary.

    Both parties have broad coalitions with plenty of fissures ready to bust open. And Obama I believe will work overtime to close up those Republican fissures in time for the next election.

  30. rickl Says:

    See Angelo Codevilla. It’s the “ruling class” vs. the “country class”. And the ruling class are closing ranks. As the saying goes, “It’s a small club, and you ain’t in it.”

    Look at how the rule of law has been utterly trashed. Whether or not you are prosecuted for a crime depends on how well connected you are. (See John Corzine and David Gregory.) And if a connected person is prosecuted, he’s likely to get off with a fine; whereas a non-connected person would face jail time. We are rapidly moving towards a society where there is one set of laws for the elite and another for the peasantry.

    Recall that Sarah Palin ran for governor of Alaska on the platform of rooting out corruption in her own party. She, and anyone like her, must be smeared, discredited, and driven out of politics. If a genuine reform movement gains traction, large numbers of the established political class, of both parties, will end up behind bars.

  31. parker Says:

    Otiose,

    Somethings need to be cut 100% (eliminated) and all else needs to be scaled back by 20-50% and this includes in descending order the big 3: medicare, SS, and the DOD. Otherwise there is no path to fiscal sanity. For example: Franklin Raines should now be a resident of Leavenworth. The window is closing, rapidly.

    Rickl,

    I want to see Corzine (and others) tarred and feather, run out on a rail, weighted down with cement boots, and then deposited into the Atlantic and/or the Pacific. The same goes for the banksters and their politico friends, dim or repub. Otherwise, the message is there is no rule of law (GM bond holders). When there is no rule of law, anarchy descends upon the land. Under anarchy, it is time to raise the black flag and begin slitting throats. The window is closing, the thugs of DC have to prove us wrong or face the consequences.

    A rough beast slouches….not toward Bethlehem but towards DC.

  32. neo-neocon Says:

    rickl: but Palin wasn’t driven out of politics by Republicans angry at what she did to root out corruption in the Republican Party in Alaska. In fact, after she did that, she was rewarded by one of the biggest RINOs of them all, John McCain, who chose her to be his Vice President.

    During the campaign of 2008, yes, some Republicans in the so-called “establishment” were against her. But most were not. I certainly remember David Brooks (who doesn’t even count as a Republican in my book) being critical then, as well as (at least, to the best of my recollection) Krauthammer and Rove (although I can’t remember whether they were critical of her as early as 2008). But the drive to take her down, to discredit and destroy and ridicule her, was mounted almost entirely by Democrats with the assistance of their handmaidens in the press.

  33. Ymarsakar Says:

    The Left did not get the power they have now due to their past victories in elections.

    Their regime will last for however long it does, but not because their opponents lost elections.

    The GOP factions can no more help each other than Democrats can help America. Not because there is a mutual incompatibility, but merely because one side, the Left, believes that it is better for them to have a situation where they win 5 and you win 0, vs a situation where they win six and you win six.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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