Political Animal


February 03, 2013 1:40 PM Dissension within GOP-land. Pass the popcorn!

By Kathleen Geier

Don’t you just love it when wingnuts fight amongst themselves?

Call this round “The Empire Strikes Back.” The New York Times is reporting that some of the top donors in the G.O.P., frustrated by the Tea Party’s success in gaining nominations for far-right candidates in senate primaries, only to have them lose in the general election, is forming a new group aimed at nominating more mainstream candidates. Their goal is to win back G.O.P. control of the senate.

The group, which is called the Conservative Victory Project, is part of the American Crossroads super PAC, and is backed by Karl Rove, among others. Given Rove’s track record of late, this hardly bodes well. And already, conservative groups like the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund are mocking the effort as “the Conservative Defeat Fund.”

The Times reports that the first major battle for the new group could be the Republican senate primary in Iowa, where veteran Democratic senator Tom Harkin recently announced his retirement. The Tea Party faction is trying to recruit Rep. Steve King, while the Crossroads group wants to defeat him. But according to an article in Politico, there’s a fear that an anti-King campaign might only create a backlash of support for him.

My heart bleeds. Truly.

I understand the Crossroads dudes’ frustration. It seems clear to me that the G.O.P. could have gained control over the senate, had the base not insisted on nominating numbskull candidates like Christine O’Donnell in 2010, and Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock last year. But they have a very delicate balancing act on their hands as they seek to nominate candidates that are acceptable to mainstream, yet also pass muster with the cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs base.

It’s hard to say how all this will play out. On the one hand, the base doesn’t seem to be getting any saner; then again, eventually, they will get tired of losing. As for the Crossroads, establishment types, they seem badly out of touch — after Karl Rove’s election night meltdown, would you trust him to organize a Sunday school picnic? In the Times article, Grover Norquist, who’s a pretty shrewd operator, seems to be playing it both ways. He says he supports the pragmatism of the Crossroads effort, but also points out that the G.O.P. establishment candidates haven’t fared so well of late, either.

One problem for the G.O.P. as a whole is that it is currently rudderless. There are no clear political or even intellectual leaders. Rush Limbaugh is now the one figure who comes closest to being the party’s true leader.

It will be fascinating to see how this split resolves itself. Or doesn’t.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • jjm on February 03, 2013 2:35 PM:

    Can't put the genie back in the bottle, Karl. The people know now exactly what is in the dark heart of the GOP and it's very ugly: teahadism and the manipulative, greedy rich who thought they could use teahadism for their benefit.

  • Elie on February 03, 2013 2:46 PM:

    There is no way to use "intellectual" in reference to the GOP in any way. They are unmoored to anything approximating some logical, rational, reality based strategy to accomplish anything. They are right now, closer to a religious cult than a political party or any organization wishing to accomplish running anything.
    Romney's candidacy had and will continue to signal the complete degredation of the GOP. He and the Teajadists, led them to a leadership black hole where no light can escape. While Rove may not save it, I guess its good for someone to start. Our country needs a functioning two party system -- a real one where BOTH parties actually want to govern, not just throw bombs...The only people who can begin to clean this up ARE the Republicans themselves.

  • Gandalf on February 03, 2013 3:10 PM:

    Will someone please explain to me why our country needs two parties to operate right? Is it one of those mindless blitherings(no offense intended ELIE) that if people say it often enough they start to believe it? Why can't we have four or five forming alliances or coalitions to govern. Hell we've had more than two on a number of occaisions.

  • c u n d gulag on February 03, 2013 3:26 PM:

    It seems like the Republicans desperately need a Nurse Ratchet for their Cuckoo's Nest.

    And I don't think even lobotomies will work with that sociopathic crew.

    There's nothing to cut in their heads.

    You might, though, be able to trim some fat, or chip away some granite.

  • MuddyLee on February 03, 2013 3:40 PM:

    Rush is their leader now? And Rove is their moneyman? Time for both of these guys to step aside - they've done enough damage to America. I would like to see a functioning 2-party system also: the moderates and the liberals. Let the crazy conservatives move to Texas and create their paradise there.

  • c u n d gulag on February 03, 2013 3:42 PM:

    You can have as many parties as you want in national elections.

    But, the system is really wired only for two - if I remember right, in many states, candidates have to have X-number of signitures before they can be allowed to run. So, it takes an organization, and people with time and money, to spend getting enough signatures.

    There were really only a handful off even semi-successful 3rd parties in our history, let alone 4, 5, or 6.

    Essentially, they were the Republicans, who really were the old Whigs, only with a new name, while that old party completely died off, due to America's 'Original Sin' - slavery.
    Then, there was Teddy Roosevelts "Bull Moose Party."
    Then, came the DixiecRAT's, with Strom.
    And then, George Wallace, essentially, in Strom's place.
    And finally, there were the John Anderson effort in '80, and Ross Perot's, in '92 and '96.

    And, unless we can change to some sort of more parliamentary form of government, I don't see how a 3rd Party can do much of anything - besides take votes away from the 2 major ones.

    I'm hoping that, if they p*ss-off the Tea Party loons enough, that they'll form their own 3rd Party to run in Senate and Presidential races, paving the way for Democrats to keep the Presidency in 2016, and the Senate through the next two elections.

    Gerrymandering may make the House unattainable for Democrats for a while yet - unless they get even crazier, of course.
    But, maybe the more main-stream Republicans will do us all a favor, and run those candidates in the Tea Party loons districts, letting Democrats regain control of the House.

  • John on February 03, 2013 4:08 PM:

    Non-tea party Republican candidates like Linda Lingle, Denny Rehberg, and Heather Wilson didn't do particularly well last year, either.

  • dweb on February 03, 2013 5:45 PM:

    The moderates in the Kansas GOP (if there actually is such a thing) created a fund to try and help their candidates face a conservative legislative onslaught in the state and got creamed.

    And the conservative side of the ledger is determined to get even tighter control of the Kansas Legislature in the future:


    " Frustrated by their inability to achieve some policy goals, conservatives in Republican states are turning against moderate members of their own party, trying to drive them out of state legislatures to clear the way for reshaping government across a wide swath of mid-America controlled by the GOP."

    As the last election proved, you add up the conservative and the "moderate" wing of the GOP and the whole thing generated 47% of the presidential vote. As long as the two wings are bent on fighting each other, Democrats can only applaud and say, "More of this please."

    If the moderates win back control, the wing nuts will be furious and it will just reinforce their belief that the party is run by "compromisers" who don't really support true conservatism. And if the wing nuts win, they'll elect more candidates with positions that don't fly with mainstream voters. Flail away folks and the angrier the better.

  • Rick B on February 03, 2013 6:26 PM:

    Right now the U.S. has an insane religious-dominated authoritarian-by-inclination party, the GOP, and the sane liberals, progressives and conservatives all lumped together under the national rubric "Democrat." The frightened religious fundamentalists dominate the GOP because they have the ability to turn out the votes on election day. The rest of the GOPers have to cater to the crazies.

    The crazies were the last refuge of the loyal Bushies in the 2000's, and when they were repudiated in 2008 they changed their name to the Tea Baggers - a joke based on their fear and isolation which I still enjoy. The remain electorally powerful in low population states and districts, but they are losing demographically and they are losing the young people who grow up in high-density urban area.

    As the crazies lose they have no resources other than the bias the U.S. federal and most state constitutions give to rural votes. The same ideological group hung on in California because of the 2/3rds requirement to pass a budget, screwing up government from the defeat of Pete Wilson until the success of Jerry Brown.

    Nationally it is the Senate with its filibuster and the state-level ability to gerrymander districts that allows them to hang on and screw up the nation's government. If either Russia or China became major threats to the U.S. the Republicans would let their sane members make a lot of the decisions again, but that is not going to occur.

    There is no room for a third party. The GOP cannot permit a split because they would 1. lose and 2. become irrelevant and disappear as a party, leaving the Democrats to fracture on their internal liberal/conservative fault lines. Similarly, the Democrats are held together because of fear of the more sane politicians of the whacked-out religious right crazies currently running the GOP.

    You might note that Ross Perot ran the last real third party campaign. That was right after the collapse of the USSR when there ceased to be an existential external threat to the U.S. There will not be another credible third party in the U.S. until after the religious right crazies lose their hold on the structure of the GOP. Until that time the religious right crazies are themselves the greatest single existential threat to the continued existence of the American nation.

    That's my opinion, anyway.

  • T2 on February 03, 2013 6:32 PM:

    I'm with Ellie......using the word " intellectual" along with the Republican Party is a non-starter.

  • Rick B on February 03, 2013 6:36 PM:

    Somewhere I cannot recall I recently read an analysis of why the U.S. has insane conservatives rather than the more rational conservatives that populate politics in Canada. The author's conclusion was that the answer is that the U.S. has the whacked-out religious right as the core of the American conservatives. That to me put the American conservatives in perspective.

    It was confirmed when the Tea Baggers were exposes as the new religious right, same as the old religious right but with packets of Earl Grey hanging from their hat brims. Anyone who watched the split in the Southern Baptists between the conservatives and the (misnamed) moderates back in the 70's will recognize the same people, the same language and the same tactics.

  • rrk1 on February 03, 2013 8:28 PM:

    Reagan brought the religious right into the GOP fold and thereby created the Rethugs. The Teajadists are nothing more than the aging dwindling remnants of the John Birchers of the 1960s, soon to be extinct. There are too many factions under the Rethug umbrella these days so that some will no doubt be left out in the rain.

    Only money matters, and when the money guys decide to reform the Rethugs it will happen. If that splits the Kristian faction away, or the racist faction, that price will have to be paid. The reformed Rethugs will have to draw their support from the independents and the Democrats, and leave the rest of the awful bunch to fight among themselves unto well deserved oblivion. That will allow all the viable parties to move to the left, which they must or else the country will disintegrate.

    That's how I see it.