Political Animal


December 26, 2012 1:32 PM Loudest Teapot Tempest Yet

By Ed Kilgore

Kudos to Jonathan Bernstein for identifying the dog that didn’t bark in the fascinating and heavily reported internal battle for control over the original Big Bertha of the Tea Party Movement, FreedomWorks:

As far as anyone has reported, there were no doctrinal disputes between the Armey faction and their rivals. Nothing about public policy. But alongside what appears to be personality clashes and money-grubbing, there did appear to be one issue of campaign tactics involved in the clash. The faction led by donor Richard Stevenson wanted to waste gobs of money on the futile attempt to reelect Tea Party favorite Rep. Joe Walsh, while Armey preferred wasting enormous sums and embarrassing conservatives and the Republican Party by backing doomed Senate candidate Todd Akin in Missouri. In the event, $1.7 million went to Walsh, who only lost by 9 percentage points (while Akin lost by 15 points; another couple million dollars wasn’t going to save him).

Amidst all the efforts to shoehorn the FreedomWorks “meltdown” into the tired narrative of a struggle between “realistic” and “idealistic” wingnuts—or between the Tea Folk who are just the same old conservative activist GOP “base” that’s been around since about 1962 and the “Republican establishment”—it’s kind of important to remember that nobody’s much arguing about ideology in the supposed “struggle for the soul” of the GOP or the political Right generally. All the fights over strategy and tactics and use of money and personalities shouldn’t obscure the fact that conservative movement’s conquest of the GOP—a growing reality for decades that reached its point of consummation in 2009 and 2010—remains not just the status quo on the Right but the most important variable in American politics.

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.


  • Josef K on December 26, 2012 1:50 PM:

    This would be the same "internal battle for control" that involved an aide of Armey's coming to work with a holstered weapon in plain sight and escorting a few just-dismissed workers out at virtual (if not literal) gunpoint?z

    Sorry, but I find that element a tad more disturbing than how both Armey and Stevenson were pouring money down the outhouse hole. Its a given their ideological leanings are off the rails already, but bringing loaded guns into it is something else.

  • c u n d gulag on December 26, 2012 2:16 PM:

    These aren't even the run-of-the-mill Conservatives like Buckley.

    These are the Bircher's mixed in with the Manichean Dominionist Evangelical Christians, funded by the Koch Brothers, whose father was one of the people who organized the John Birch Society in the first place.

    They are America's Christian Brownshirts, and the party reprensting their interests, is indistinguishable from the 19th Centuries No-Nothing's and Nihilists.

  • Ron Byers on December 26, 2012 2:25 PM:

    But the take over of Freedomworks involved an armed gunman. If that wasn't emblematic of modern Republicanism, I don't know what might be.

  • Rick B on December 26, 2012 3:08 PM:

    @Ron Byers - You are absolutely right, Ron. The conservatives both want and need to use the power of guns and money to control government and other organizations because many of them know their "ideology" (such as it is) is strongly attractive to minority group libertarians and Dominionists and very few others. Today's American conservatives exist only to deliver votes to the Koch-like plutocrats who live on unearned income from largely inherited wealth.

    One of those plutocrats attempting to use the conservative power to control government is Richard J. Stephenson, a reclusive Illinois millionaire discussed in the excellent Washington Post article on the attepmted coup by Dick Armey, his wife, and an armed gunman.

    It's interesting that the battle that led to the coup was over whether to waste money supporting Joe Walsh for reelection (Stephenson) or to elect Aiken and Richard Mourdock to the Senate (Armey.)

    Armey and Stephenson are both long-time libertarian crackpots in the Koch brothers vein.

    Except that this incident displays the level of insanity of the libertarians like the central actors here, there is not a great deal it can tell us about the nature of Republican politics - except perhaps that "Republican" politics no longer exists outside the Democratic Party. [See Florida's Charlie Crist, RI's Lincoln Chafee, and Barack Obama.]

  • schtick on December 26, 2012 5:02 PM:

    I wonder exactly what is or was going on there that we really don't know about. This isn't something that "just happened" in the mix of things. They have been molding the party into what and how they want things and been doing so for years. There has to more than flexing muscle for money support.

    The people that are republicans and always have been refuse to see or believe their party is turning into something that is un-American. They can't name a bill that the repubs have promoted or passed that has benefited average American people, but they KNOW there must have been a few.

    Until these people open their eyes and take a long and hard look at what their party is doing, everyone is going to be on the short end of things they do. The repubs have pushed the idea, with the help of MSM, that both parties do it and the American people have bought into that idea. That they bring armed guards to their own meetings to push people around doesn't bode well for the rest of us.

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