Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 30, 2010

YET ANOTHER GROUP JOINS THE PARTY.... About a year before the 2008 election, many leading conservatives decided that what Republicans really needed were a plethora of organizations like MoveOn.org. So, groups were formed en masse. Freedom's Watch, the Coalition for a Conservative Majority, The Vanguard, Victory Caucus, some odd Gingrich outfit, FreedomWorks, Reagan 21, Move America Forward, and a revitalized Citizens For The Republic all got to work.

They failed rather spectacularly. None of these groups had any significant impact on the elections, and nearly all have since disappeared.

In 2009, many leading conservatives decided that what Republicans still needed were a plethora of organizations. As Dave Weigel noted last May, groups like the Center for Republican Renewal, Renewing American Leadership, Resurgent Republic, and the National Council for a New America (the so-called "rebranding" initiative), among others, all hoped to help Republicans thrive. As 2010 gets underway, few of these names will sound familiar even to the most well-informed political observers, and some of the groups have already disbanded.

But the drive to create new groups continues.

At least half a dozen leaders of the Republican Party have joined forces to create a new political group with the goal of organizing grass-roots support and raising funds ahead of the 2010 midterm elections, according to people familiar with the effort.

The organizational details of the group, expected to be called the American Action Network, are still being worked out, but it is expected to contain both a 501(c)3 and a 501(c)4 component. In simpler terms, a 501(c)3 can advocate on policy matters while a 501(c)4 is an election arm.

Republican leaders expected to be affiliated with the group include former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Bush adviser Karl Rove, Republican strategist Ed Gillespie, and Republican donor Fred Malek.

Some of these exact same GOP heavy-hitters were supposed to help shape the "re-branding" campaign last year, before it fell apart. How will the American Action Network succeed where the National Council for a New America failed? Who knows -- it's still very much unclear what these guys want to do, what they're going to do, and why anyone should care.

But I continue to question the model itself. Organizing grass-roots support makes sense; organizing grass-roots support from the top-down -- led by Bush, Rove, and Gillespie -- makes far less sense.

Steve Benen 10:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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"...ormer Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Bush adviser Karl Rove, Republican strategist Ed Gillespie, and Republican donor Fred Malek."

or they could just call themselves the zombie jamboree.

Posted by: mellowjohn on January 30, 2010 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

uniforms would help...

Posted by: neill on January 30, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Of course grassroots organizing from the ground up would be... what's growing out of the tea party movement (not all, but definitely a good amount). I think Benen's being a little "damned if you do," here - it's bad when conservatives try to organize top down; it's bad when they do bottom up. I sense a pattern forming...

Posted by: weboy on January 30, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

If the best the Republicans have to offer are tje 140 droolers Obama dismembered yesterday, they're in trouble.

Watching the audience was interesting - the ones who were doing everything except holding their hands over their ears and saying "Naah-naah! I can't hear you!" There wasn't one of them who looked like they were thinking about what they were hearing. Of course, thinking requires a brain with an IQ over 60, and you can't be a member of their party with an IQ over 40.

Posted by: TCinLA on January 30, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

But I continue to question the model itself. Organizing grass-roots support makes sense; organizing grass-roots support from the top-down -- led by Bush, Rove, and Gillespie -- makes far less sense.

But it generates more troughs for out-of-office Republicans to feast from. It's just a means to channel some dead presidents to them while their off the field.

Posted by: eserwe on January 30, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

All that is required for membership in any of these organizations is a fat Rolodex or a fat checkbook.

With both, you get your name on the letterhead. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 30, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Only in the alternate universe of FOXNews could the names so associated with soiling the repub brand, rebrand it. Their best bet might be oversized shoes, orange hair and big round red noses.

Posted by: JoeW on January 30, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know anything about the particular groups you mention, but I would assume a lot of conservatives are thinking about ways to channel the raw energy of the tea party movement (which is legitimately grass-roots) in ways that will directly benefit conservative candidates.

Seems to me there's a natural partnership to be formed between the tea partiers and the GOP. The TPs need organization and structure, i.e., they need a party. The GOP needs (or could badly use) the passion and popular appeal of the tea partiers.

I don't think the GOP is in a position right now to swallow up the TP movement en toto [insert obscene joke here], but they can certainly hope to bring substantial elements of the TPs into the Republican tent over the next few years.

If you were a republican organizer-type, that's where you would be directing a lot of your strategic thinking.

Posted by: Conrad on January 30, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Starting from the "top-down" is all they know!
Who else matters but the 'top?' And how far 'down' do you go? To those making less than a $1 million a year?
They certainly can't reach far enough 'down' to include people of color - except of course, for those willing to spout the Republican talking points for, well, let's be honest here - well over $1 million a year.
What would the 'top' think of that?!?! Slumming...
Republicans, instead of paying the people at Volkwagon for designing and producing a wagon for the "volks," that's too far beneath them.
Instead, let the folks at Ferrari design an auto for the folks (and yes, I know Porsche designed the original VW).
Besides, I'm sure that "Bush, Rove, and Gillespie" will all get a cut of the proceeds - if there ever are any.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 30, 2010 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

These groups exist for the sole and exclusive purpose of making money for the "consultants" who run them. If you check the record, such groups routinely spend 90% to 95% of their money on operating expenses. Almost none of the money actually goes to supporting candidates. And the same is true of similar Democratic groups as well. No one should ever give money to such groups. If you support a candidate give it directly to him or her.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on January 30, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

I don't understand why everyone assumes the Tea Party is a true grassroots movement. Most true grassroots appear because of a serious unaddressed social/political issue which causes a large enough segment of the population to demand political address of said issue. The Tea Party is simply a segment of the population whipped into a frenzy via corporate controlled media outlets. It's the GIGO principle writ large.

Posted by: Talphon on January 30, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

And this is the party that's always talking about cutting down on inefficient bureaucracy?

Posted by: Aaron S. Veenstra on January 30, 2010 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter conservatism - We monopolize every media format except Comedy Central and the blogosphere, and we want those too.

Posted by: tempered optimism on January 30, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know. I actually LIKE this plethora of Rethug organizations. I'm on their mailing lists. All this mail gives me that warm fuzzy feeling that I'm important. And it allows me to divide my contribution budget (currently $0.00) between many ineffective organizations.

Posted by: Chopin on January 30, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, these orgs can be cash cows for the founders/backers/consultants, but there is also a "trial and error" situation here. There are smart right-wingers experimenting with this trend trying to figure out what works -- hoping that one of their projects not only catches fire but has legs, too (mixed metaphor alert).

Don't mock their efforts -- they are clever, malicious, and persistent.

Posted by: karl on January 30, 2010 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

The Party Patriot movement is a joke and always has been. It was never an independent grassroots movement. It was always just part of the normal life-cycle of the GOP as it seeks to be "Born Again" by repudiating its past sins, atoning for its manifest failures and begging for absolution from the public after two humiliating losses in 2006 and 2008.

That is why Tea Party politics seem so confused and chaotic now. The right wing is trying to pretend that it has nothing to do with the GOP. And maintaining that fiction is getting harder by the day.

"The Republican Party is on probation with us. We still have our hurt and our disappointments for their malfeasance of years not too recent, but we know that they are capable of representing the broad center of American politics and political values, which is freedom and fiscal responsibility." The speaker here wasn't some independent grassroots activist. It was Dick Armey, former top GOP House leader and a nomative leader of the Tea Party Patriots.

Said another South Carolina GOP operative about the Tea Party movement: "The only difference between us and those protesters is we dress a little bit better."

This slight of hand reminds me of what Lehman Brothers tried to accomplish in another context back in the fall of 2008 when it was desperately trying to avoid going into bankruptcy. Just as the GOP has spun off a splinter Tea Party movement to contain the damage to the GOP after eight failed years of Bush, Lehman Brothers tried to take all of its "toxic" assets and stuff them into a separate entity it called "SpinCo," which could quite literally be spun off, sold to the public as an independent asset, and thus allow Lehman to continue as before without its reckless failures contaminating whatever "good" remained at the bank.

As it turned out, investors and Lehman's fellow Wall Street CEO's weren't impressed because the toxin ran too deep, and when the the US and British governments refused to put taxpayer money at risk the bank went under.

The American Radical Right is trying a similar ruse with the Tea Party movement because they simply cannot accept the fact that its ideas were repudiated by the American people in the last two elections. The right wing will not tolerate a loser, even if the loser is them, and so the conservative movement has had to invent the fiction that conservatism was stabbed in the back and abandoned by faithless, corrupt and traitorous Republicans who weren't conservatives at all but liberals in conservative drag -- even THE most conservative president of the past 100 years, the former right wing action figure in a flight suit, George W. Bush.

The only way that the right wing can maintain the delusion that their ideas still dominate American politics is for the movement to rhetorically and physically distance itself from the discredited GOP brand.

That is essentially what the Tea Party Patriot movement is. It's a giant laundering operation by which the right wing hopes to put all the conservative failures of the past decade into an entity called The Republican Party which they intend to spin off until the coast is clear for a purified, Born Again, and re-branded right wing Tea Party Patriot movement to once again take the helm of the GOP. Then, when the conservative movement's manifest failures become apparent again, it will this laundering spin-cycle all over again.

Political parties that have a commitment to genuine democratic politics learn from their mistakes and adjust. Those that have a fundamental contempt for democracy simply repackage themselves and hope nobody notices.

Posted by: Ted Frier on January 30, 2010 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Not wise to mock these clowns.

"If at first you don't succeed, try again until you got it."

By complaining about the "liberal media" for the past few decades, they have been able to take the gonads out of the media, and have put FOX News out in front.

They will continue creating the reality that they want, and have enough money to keep trying.

Posted by: mad_nVT on January 30, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

If there's anything that to some extent deserving to be heard, its' IMHO "The Next Right" - (more of an intellectual coffee house than lobby-style organization) They are trying to rethink big C, may make it less horrible from what I see and hear.

Posted by: neil b on January 30, 2010 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps more important than the "advocacy" vs "election arm" difference is the fact that contributions to a 501(c)3 non-profit are tax deductible, while those to a 501(c)r 4 are not.

Bill Huddleston

Posted by: Bill Huddleston on January 30, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Given that Republicans were so-ooo successful at getting their "base" (remember the JeeZuz Campers?) to bow down and worship a cardboard cutout of that "Deciderer guy", it only stands to reason that they'd go to the well again with the idea of cardboard-cutout political organizations.

Someone might want to tell them that the well went quite dry a few years back. Global warming will do that kind of thing, y'know....

Posted by: S. Waybright on January 30, 2010 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

The Judaean Peoples Front, the Peoples Front of Judea, the Popular Front of Judea, the Judaean Popular Front, the Front for the Liberation of Judea...

Posted by: Speed on January 30, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

I got a real kick out of their 'rebranding' effort because it was so typical of conservatives. They had no ideas, no substance, and certainly no serious policy, but they decided that what they needed was a new bumper sticker. This puts them in a real bind, you know: they need new ideas to excite the American sheeple, but if there's anything on this earth that terrifies a conservative more than a new idea, I haven't heard of it.

Posted by: azportsider on January 30, 2010 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

No matter where he hides or who he hides behind, many of us will never cease trying to prosecute Karl Rove for the murder of Mike Connell and the jailing of Don Siegleman...besides trying to start another cold war with Russia by instigating the Georgian attack on the Soviets.

This man is allowed to speak nationally when he should be in prison for his heinous crimes. This gutter politician parasite will one day be held accountable. We will never forget what he's done.

Posted by: bjobotts on January 30, 2010 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Hmph! I could certainly use the income from working at a job like that. Why aren't the Democrats starting up organizations like these?!?!?
But yes, I do have to admit that Fox News was putting together marches in favor of the Iraq War and I said "Hey, I'm doing all these anti-Iraq war marches. I'd be happy to work on some of these other actions." But then I realized I'd be working on behalf of something evil.
*Sigh*, I can work for something evil and make some folding green or work for something good and obtain nothing but the satisfaction of being virtuous. Nah, no regrets. I'm glad that I was and am on a side I can be proud of.

Posted by: Rich2506 on January 30, 2010 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

There are only so many ways to repackage tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation of pretty much everything, maintaining the status quo in the health insurance sector, ignoring climate change, and the "nation-building" dreams of deranged neocons.

Most people in the country seem to be realizing that the GOP of the last couple of decades serves the interests of only a fraction of the population. Eventually, even the tea partiers may figure that out.

"You can fool some of the people some of the time..."

bjobotts: [Rove] is allowed to speak nationally when he should be in prison for his heinous crimes.

He can stand in line...it's a line that goes around the block.

Posted by: JM on January 31, 2010 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

Someone above had it right. It is a money laundering operation to funnel money into consultants' pockets. More organizations mean less accountability, especially to the IRS. They accomplish the following goals:

a) more opportunities to make money for consultants;
b) more opportunites to fool their consituents and the American people in general that they are accomplishing something when the ultimate goal is not to change anything;
c) it allows for more ways to advance an opposition meme - to find out what works with the American people;
d) more opportunities to bash Democrats and make it seem like lots of groups are against them when it is really the same people.

Pretty soon these non-profit groups will go away in favor of corporations that can operate out in the open and spent any amount of money to advance the "corporation's" freedom of speech, thanks to the SCOTUS.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on February 1, 2010 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK



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