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November 05, 2012 2:53 PM The Looming Post-Election GOP Tempest in a Teapot

By Ed Kilgore

It’s not often that I read a political article outside the Greater Wingnutosphere and issue forth a full Chris Rockian “That ain’t right!” But Jonathan Martin’s Politico piece today on the “looming GOP civil war “ struck me exactly that way. Whether Romney wins or loses, says Martin, there will be a vicious battle to the death between the party’s conservative base and “practical-minded party elites.” No question who the heroes of this account are: those “party elites” who understand the need to get things done and broaden the GOP’s base and so on and so forth bark bark woof woof. Interestingly, the only representative of said elites quoted in the piece is Sen. Lindsay Graham, who just loves to talk sensibly unless some specific action is required.

Meanwhile, the “base” seems to be composed of the bulk of actual Republican voters, the interest and constituency groups that hold veto power over every single party decision, the big new ideologically-driven funders, and oh, nearly all House Republicans and most Senate Republicans, not to mention every single politician who would like to run for president some day.

Sure looks like a civil war that will last about as long as the Whiskey Rebellion, if that.

Now there will undoubtedly be some tension if Romney wins and Republicans—as expected—fall well short of control of the Senate. At that point, all Democrats, most independents, the MSM, and maybe Lindsay Graham, would remind Mitt of all that “bipartisanship” rhetoric he suddenly started uttering near the end of the general election, after swearing on stacks of bibles all through the primary season that he’d never betray The Cause (viz. the Cut-Cap-Balance pledge of no debt limit increase without a balanced budget constitutional amendment permanently limiting federal spending, not to mention the various no-tax-increase pledges, and pledges of executive actions on a variety of issues—most notably Obamacare and abortion—that would make Democratic cooperation impossible). What then? Will Romney actually defy most of his own party, with only “party elites” at his back? Of course not.

Martin’s own fantasy of a “bipartisan solution” to the big fiscal problems involves the Republican formula of tax-reform-without-rate-increases (keeping in mind that Republicans define letting the Bush tax cuts expire as a “rate increase”) in exchange for “entitlement reform,” which basically means the Ryan Budget. Sure, a lot of Republicans would go for that, but would any congressional Democrats, now that Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson aren’t around? I doubt it.

Look, I’m a veteran of many “civil wars” in the Democratic Party, and expect to see another one soon. But the conditions simply aren’t ripe for one in the GOP: there are too many convenient rationalizations for defeat other than a failure to compromise; too many conservatives who would prefer to take their chances on future defeats in the hopes of pulling off that one big win that will let them wreck the New Deal and Great Society once and for all; and too much precedent for Republicans deciding that the answer to every conceivable political problem is to move still further to the Right. Remember that “GOP civil war” after two straight calamitous defeats in 2006 and 2008? Where were the “practical-minded party elites” ready to tell the restive “base” it was time to compromise and “move to the center”? Cowering and surrendering, or getting in touch with their inner Barry Goldwater to get in front of the rightward-stampeding parade. And having the recent experience of winning their own landslide in 2010 after going feral, are Republicans going to wise up now just because they lost to an incumbent president with a nominee they didn’t want or like? The question answers itself.

The “looming civil war,” if it happens at all, will be a tempest in a teapot. And the tea will win.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • mrgavel on November 05, 2012 3:01 PM:

    The problem is that too many of the political writers are people who assume that what they would do in any situation is what ordinary voters would do, for example, move to the "center" after losing a presidential election. Unfortunately this isn't based on any real research but is based on continual self-referencing among the political commentators in this country. That's why a lot of them can't stand Nate Silver. He bases his conclusions on research and math, while most of the political writers don't like doing research and can't stand math. (Why do you think they went into media work?)

  • hells littlest angel on November 05, 2012 3:11 PM:

    If the GOP has a civil war, every member will immediately apply for a deferment.

  • stormskies on November 05, 2012 3:20 PM:

    The “looming civil war,” if it happens at all, will be a battle between Preparation H and the hemorrhoids that the Repiglicans actually are.

  • T2 on November 05, 2012 3:23 PM:

    I read an interesting editorial in my local paper today...A TeaParty guy standing up for his team. In the process (much like Romney did at the Town Hall) he totally trashed the George W. Bush presidency for not being " a true conservative". But of course the fellow left out the fact that Bush received 100% GOP support for everything he did. The fellow also managed to leave out mention of two unfunded, unnecessary wars, and the Tax Cut for the Rich. Those two things alone were huge contributors to the Deficit the TeaParty seems so concerned about. Where was this guy then? Where were the tri-cornered hats when the Republicans were driving the nation into a Great Recession? Where was he when Dick Cheney said "deficits don't matter"? Where is he now when Mitt Romney has put basically ALL of the Bush advisors in advisory positions in his team?
    Where indeed......jokers...reactionaries...clowns...all of them. WIll they change if Romney loses....nope.

  • Citizen Alan on November 05, 2012 3:26 PM:

    The only hope for the GOP and, by extension the nation, lies in the fact that between now and 2014, a few million more racist old white people will die and go to hell. The kids are alright, and once these poisonous old fuckers who went 50 or 60 years without ever having to show the slightest respect to a non-white finally die off, America will blossom again. Assuming that the Teabaggers, in their final revenge, don't delay responding to global climate change until we're all screwed.

  • j on November 05, 2012 3:34 PM:

    I just read online that Obama's sanctions have caused Iran to shut down it's nuclear program, anyone else hear that?

  • K Wilson on November 05, 2012 3:34 PM:

    Repeat after me: "We should never have nominated a liberal from Massachusetts!"

    IMHO, it will take at least two more electoral cycles for the fever to break, because the erosion of support for the ever-harder right hasn't been calamitous, but gradual enough to be wished away. (This is barring unlikely disasters like a failed ultra-right insurrection, or something similarly awful.) Demographic changes are working slowly but inexorably, and soon there won't be enough angry old white men to ever win national elections. We'll know the turning point has come when the Republicans disavow nativism, do a screaming 180 on immigration, and start to seriously woo Hispanic voters.

  • Ron Byers on November 05, 2012 3:44 PM:

    Wingnuts don't see themselves as being the problem. They see themselves as being the only solution. If the rest of us would just be reasonable and do what we are told America would be great again.

    They don't see themselves as the problem because they never hear the truth. Fox News and Talk Radio blame everybody who doesn't watch or listen to Fox News and Talk Radio. Worse, the mainstream media spend a lot of time watching and listening to Fox News and Talk Radio so they actually establish the conversation for the rest of us, yet they never hear what the rest of us conclude because people who watch Fox News and listen to Talk Radio are never told the truth.

  • thisdave on November 05, 2012 3:46 PM:

    If Romney wins and Repubs control the Senate, there'll be no war at all within the R party. They'll happily steamroll over everything in their path (including the filibuster - getting rid of it would be the first action of a Repub Senate's new term).

    If Romney wins and faces a Dem Senate, the conflict will be within the Dem Party, on whether to go all out in opposition or to roll over and play all noble and stuff.

    If Obama wins, regardless of who controls the Senate, Lindsay Graham and the other "mainstream elite" will be too afraid of getting bit by that tiger they've been riding to try and stop the tide of anger and paranoia inevitably coming out of the right. That is, until they start seeing articles of both impeachment and secession coming up in state legislatures around the country. If the craziness threatens to destroy the Republican brand nation-wide, making it likely that Dems will sweep the 2014 and 2016 elections, then we'll see opinion leaders on Fox and other media talking about cooling things down for the good of the country.

  • Steve LaBonne on November 05, 2012 3:50 PM:

    The Repiglicans will continue their death march into Whig-land. This is a very, very good thing for the country.

  • T2 on November 05, 2012 3:54 PM:

    @Citizen Alan....as a 60's hippie, I dreamed of the day when "we" would take over, driving the Nixon's and Haldeman's from politics, replaced with peace and love for one another...and no laws against pot.
    But a funny thing happened, we finally got one of ours in the White House and "they" impeached him. Then we found out that people our own age were very happy to have a guy our age, George W. Bush, in the White House....and all of a sudden peace and love sort of went away. On the other hand, you can legally buy pot in lots of states for MEDICINE. Apparently it doesn't lead straight to heroin after all.

  • c u n d gulag on November 05, 2012 4:03 PM:

    hells littlest angel - FOR THE WIN!!!

    Man, I wish I'd written that!!!

    And, I will.
    I will.
    I am SOOOOO STEALING that line!

  • SecularAnimist on November 05, 2012 4:04 PM:

    The GOP is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the fossil fuel corporations. The overwhelming majority of the "dark money" that is funding the so-called "independent" groups backing Romney and other GOP candidates, and funding the so-called "Tea Party", is coming from the Koch Brothers, the American Petroleum Institute, and other fossil fuel interests, and a majority of the "issue-oriented" ads on the GOP side have been attacks on renewable energy, efficiency, and technological innovations like electric vehicles.

    The Democratic Party has long since become what the GOP used to be: the party of "big business" in general. Most of America's corporate ruling class is reasonably happy to deal with Obama and the Democrats, who, after all, are no longer the party of "the New Deal" but merely the party of "a little bit better deal" for working people.

    Which means that the whole and entire purpose of the GOP today is to defend the narrow interests of a handful of ruthless, rapacious fossil fuel oligarchs, whose interests are in fact inimical not only to the interests of the American people in general, but to the vast majority of the business community as well.

    "Drill Baby Drill" and "Burn Baby Burn" is what the GOP is really all about. Everything else is fodder for the Ditto-Heads. Civil war, humbug. The elites and the grassroots of the GOP will answer to the Koch Brothers and dance to their tune.

  • mudwall jackson on November 05, 2012 4:09 PM:

    if it didn't happen after the GOPers had their proverbial heads handed to them in 2008, why would they do now after a relatively close election that most likely will find them at least holding onto the house?

    plus there are plenty of excuses to distract them from the truth: sandy stole mitt's mo. mitt wasn't one of us, the election was stolen, etc.

  • DRF on November 05, 2012 4:14 PM:

    I think you will see a civil war in the GOP if Romney loses. Although the base appears to be largely hardcore in its view of social and economic issues, there is still a meaningful class of experienced political figures, both in elective office and in operations, who are more realistic about the need for change in order to win future elections. Think of Jeb Bush, Graham, Christie, Karl Rove, etc. In addition, there are plenty of younger, more ideologically inclined Republicans who presumably are capable of reading the tea leaves and have national ambition; they will want to broaden the party's appeal for selfish reasons. Finally, the core business constituency wants to push favorable tax and economic programs and don't much care about either the social issues or the deficit. They will be pushing hard for a more moderate candidate and party.

    I'm not saying this faction will prevail, just that it's there and isn't going to go away quietly.

    Incidentally, I think that Lindsey Graham is toast when he's up for re-election; the Tea Party will knock him out in a primary, and I assume he knows it.

  • Dave on November 05, 2012 4:16 PM:

    There WAS a covil war in the GOP post-Bush. The wackos won.

    They will win the next one, too. And the next.

    But each time, their party will become one more iteration wackier. When people like Graham and Christie are starting to become "apostates," it's the beginning of the end.

    Republicans will cycle back to the middle - after they suffer through their versions of Mondale and Dukakis.

  • DRF on November 05, 2012 4:30 PM:

    I think you will see a civil war in the GOP if Romney loses. Although the base appears to be largely hardcore in its view of social and economic issues, there is still a meaningful class of experienced political figures, both in elective office and in operations, who are more realistic about the need for change in order to win future elections. Think of Jeb Bush, Graham, Christie, Karl Rove, etc. In addition, there are plenty of younger, more ideologically inclined Republicans who presumably are capable of reading the tea leaves and have national ambition; they will want to broaden the party's appeal for selfish reasons. Finally, the core business constituency wants to push favorable tax and economic programs and don't much care about either the social issues or the deficit. They will be pushing hard for a more moderate candidate and party.

    I'm not saying this faction will prevail, just that it's there and isn't going to go away quietly.

    Incidentally, I think that Lindsey Graham is toast when he's up for re-election; the Tea Party will knock him out in a primary, and I assume he knows it.

  • Josef K on November 05, 2012 4:49 PM:

    The “looming civil war,” if it happens at all, will be a tempest in a teapot. And the tea will win.

    Never underestimate the power of tea.

    It let the Chinese nearly bankrupt the British Empire. It has more caffine in it than Red Bull. It can simultaneously keep you awake and put you to sleep. It...

    Ah, never mind. Of course the tea-heads will win their little set-too after the election. Passion and action win out over contemplation and money any day of the week.

    (unless you read Sun Tzu, in which case you defeat the opposition before engaging in battle by getting them to do stupid stuff so they defeat themselves; by that measure, the establishment money has already won)

  • ComradeAnon on November 05, 2012 5:02 PM:

    J-Saturday or Sunday I read that they are willing to temporarily halt 20% uranium enrichment as a trade off for something. Nothing by Juan Cole yet.

  • j on November 05, 2012 5:21 PM:

    ComradeAnon - Yes, I read it on Al Arabiya, it looks like there is movement in that area - let's hope!

  • PEA on November 05, 2012 6:52 PM:

    agree with secular animist. The BIG money will continue to use the wackos, hedgefund managers, and "moderate politicos" to their own ends. And if/when O is re-elected, they will unite against him in new ways (impeachment, charges he murdered Vince Foster or someone -- ok he was only 12 or so but he coulda done it!) etc.

    Ed: after the election if O wins, let's discuss what we can do to herd O & the Dems in a more progressive direction (I so worry that despite all the populism of the campaign, that O will return to negotiating from the center R as a starting position; what we can do to fix our very hacked election process; and what to do about citizens United...

  • Should be a Republican, but...... really!!! on November 05, 2012 7:23 PM:

    There will likely be a battle for the Republican party and possibly a move towards the center in 2016, not 2014, because the Democratic Presidential candidate will no longer be black. Thus, the need to oppose the anti-christ no-matter-what will no longer exist.

    'Course, she could be a woman, in which case, we're BACK ON FULL CRAZY!!!

  • BrianTH on November 05, 2012 7:54 PM:

    Recent history suggests it will take at least three lost national elections in a row, probably including a cumulative filibuster-proof (or filibuster-killing) Senate, to force the Republican Party into a reform phase. And it could well be the case by then that the Republican Party will lack the means to reform itself (for all we know that has happened already).

  • Al Spafford on November 05, 2012 9:10 PM:

    Ah, no "stack of Bibles" for Mitt. He uses the Book of Mormon, don't you know!

  • Robert Waldmann on November 05, 2012 9:47 PM:

    I think this post is brilliant. Especially "Lindsay Graham, who just loves to talk sensibly unless some specific action is required."

    I absolutely agree with you.

  • Roddy McCorley on November 05, 2012 9:56 PM:

    Their Civil War has come and gone, I'm afraid. Happened sometime in the 90s, when the moderates started leaving. They're mostly gone now. What's likely to happen after a Romney loss (please, God!) will be more along the lines of a Stalinist purge.

  • castanea on November 05, 2012 10:59 PM:

    As long as the money holds out--and it will for the foreseeable future--and the GOP manages to get over 47 or so percent in every presidential election, the party will not move toward the center one iota.

    Why should it? With a complicit media and billions of dollars to spend, along with a willfully ignorant base, the GOP will continue along its present course.

    And it will take my country down with it, I fear.

  • Derrick Coetzee on November 06, 2012 1:57 AM:

    For what it's worth, the current stats at FiveThirtyEight, surprisingly, predict a higher chance of a Republican Senate than a Romney win (about 9% versus 8%). So the scenario of Romney having to cope with a Democratic Senate is not nearly as likely as it seems.