Not With a Bang, But a Whimper


Since November 7, 2012, literally millions of words have been dedicated to analyzing and describing the decline and fall of the Republican Party.  I’ve contributed my share.

Some point fingers, some lash out, some ridicule, some despair.  Others prescribe, coach, and recommend reform to little avail because many of the new hands are unqualified, irrational zealots and many of the old hands are frightened, tired and not up to the job of rehabilitating demagogues.

But now we’ve arrived at a tipping point in which the age old battle between those who would preserve what we have built vs those who would destroy everything and start over is about to be waged.  We have to decide whether to “stay calm and carry on” or go crazy and break things.

Historically, similar battles have been waged with variable results so it is understandable that no one is quite sure how the current Rand-ian Self-Interest Crusade will change the face of American politics, if at all.

Personally, I tend toward the “if at all” side of the equation for a number of fairly prosaic reasons.

First, I believe that a lot of the energy conservatives demonstrate, right now, is fueled by rage—rage over losing elections, losing mass appeal and losing a grip within the Republican Party.  And rage eventually burns itself out.  In other words, I believe that the 2010 Republican “wave” was a rogue wave that resulted in a false mandate and sense of legitimacy.  And it hurts to be fooled so publicly.

Evidence this could be true is pretty plentiful.  Global reaction to the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis has been resoundingly negative.  If an infusion of TEA Party candidates had been good for the Republican Party, it would not have created such a self-destructive schism nor such embarrassing moments for America on the world stage.

Rod Dreher, a well-respected conservative columnist for The American Conservative, reporting on the past weeks’ fiscal crises said, simply:

I cannot believe I’m saying this, but I hope the House flips to the Democrats in 2014, so we can be rid of these nuts.

I have to assume that Dreher is not the only pragmatic conservative who feels that way.

And while Ted Cruz may have enjoyed a hero’s homecoming in Texas, Daniel Larison warns that could be a fatal flaw:

It does conservatives no favors to celebrate poor judgment by the politicians that claim to speak for them, but that is what many conservative admirers of Cruz and his allies expect. It does nothing to persuade people already wary of trusting Republicans with power that they should pay more attention to conservative arguments when those arguments are linked with gratuitous and pointless political stunts.

. . . Conservative voters are frequently failed by their putative leaders, who tell them flattering and self-serving stories that allow them to believe that their interests are being served by whatever it is that the leaders happen to be doing. When that is not the case, it is important to say so and to warn conservative voters that the people claiming to represent them are in error.

Larison also weighed in on the Cloud Cuckoo Land theories of the Default Deniers Club, thus:

Toying around with default threatens to impose greater costs on American taxpayers rather than reduce them. It is the perfect example of striking a symbolic blow against fiscal irresponsibility while adding to the country’s fiscal problems. If one seriously wants to control and reduce government debt, raising the debt ceiling ought to be the last thing that one worries about, since refusing to raise it simply makes paying off the debt that has already been incurred more expensive.

That is as clear as it gets . . .

But this final point, the money point, is key. 

In conversation after conversation, donors express growing frustration with the party and the constellation of outside groups they’ve been bankrolling. After getting squeezed last year by an array of campaign committees, party committees and disparate super PACs, many of them are still sitting on their checkbooks — a worrisome sign for the party with the 2014 midterm elections fast approaching.

And here’s why:

Donors and business leaders, whose words used to carry great weight with candidates ever worried that the money spigot might be turned off, now face a new reality. It’s a Frankenstein syndrome of sorts, in which the candidates they’ve helped fund, directly or indirectly, don’t fear them, and don’t think they need them.

Meanwhile, some of the outfits that used to bankroll TEA Party candidates with “grassroots” cash have fallen on hard times of their own.  Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of FreedomWorks, has been making some noise recently about how “brilliantly” Republicans executed the recent fiscal debacles, probably because Kibbe desperately needs the support [read donations] of anyone out there who agrees with that assessment so that FreedomWorks doesn’t go bankrupt.

Evidently, Kibbe’s gospel of fiscal responsibility did not inform his own management style.

. . . the group’s financial troubles were less related to raising money in an off-cycle year and had more to do with extravagant spending, including a craft beer bar in the office and $80,000 Las Vegas hotel bills, by FreedomWorks’ top-heavy management structure, sources said.

They also questioned the value in spending a reported $1 million a year to prop up Glenn Beck’s network, The Blaze.

By the same token, more traditional power brokers like the US Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable, normally natural Republican allies, were appalled by the shutdown and debt ceiling brinksmanship.  And said so.

Last but not least, “as the Koch’s go, so goes the nation” may turn out to be decisive:

. . . two stalwart backers of the movement, the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, did not support the shutdown strategy, and people with knowledge of their thinking say they are unlikely to engage in primary efforts against incumbents.

Such reluctance illustrates a central challenge for the insurgents in their effort to take over the party: unity.

I think that cash flow, or the lack thereof, will create the inflection point for TEA Party influence in our government.  And I’m with Rod Dreher—

I hope the House flips to the Democrats in 2014, so we can be rid of these nuts.

Posted by Bette Noir on 10/20/13 at 09:22 AM • Permalink

Categories: PoliticsElection '14NuttersTeabaggery

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I’m thinking one real danger of all this is that a lot of Blue-Doggery might pop up; newly-minted “Democrats” fleeing the Republican shipwreck and taking up positions on the blue side.

I think it would benefit liberal/progressive activists to point out that our support and opposition need to be targeted at policies and not parties. Anyone pushing for top-end tax cuts and deregulation needs to be opposed, regardless of party.

I agree about cash flow being a determining factor—Tea Party groups can threaten primaries and put out “scorecards” with marks against supposedly insufficiently pure Republicans, but without being able to actually mount a reasonable challenge, their actual success is limited not to actually threatening the establishment incumbent, but to possibly making that candidate act more like a Tea Partier in the hopes of getting the actual voter support. But the big money is probably still going to be on the incumbents because of better ROI.

The trick is in getting the GOP incumbents to recognize it. The RW echochamber effect is very real, and the perceived importance of “winning over” TP support is I think overestimated. (The worst these folks would ever do is maybe stay home. They are sure-thing conservative voters, regardless. They surely aren’t voting for the “commies”.)

I think the real danger is in the brand of the Republicans becoming more & more concentrated in the crazy, as the moderates flee to the Democratic party, thus diluting that brand, which would in turn to liberal & progressive Democrats fleeing to ???, the Green Party? Or maybe a new party that better represents the values of the left wing of the party? I think the time may be at hand where we see the emergence of a viable 3rd party on the national stage as the political electorate schisms into smaller factions of more ideologically narrow ranges.

In other words a crisis in their party may fuel one in ours down the road as more & more political centrists take up residence in the Democratic Party because the GOP won’t have them in theirs anymore. Eventually this may fuel a split in our party because the moderate Republicans had a place to go, but where will the Democrats on the left side of the political spectrum go other than to form an entirely new party.


What a stimulating conversation—you guys and gal, are all coming up with new angles. Which gives me hope that we really are at a pivotal stage.  Maybe there’s more “hope and change” than any of us counted on.


It would be suicidal for progressive Dems to hop ship to a third party.  The only way to get progressive reforms is to have the clout of a major party and enough of a majority that the blue dogs have to let themselves be dragged along.  If the Republicans actually have a schism precipitated by the TeaBaggers their influence as a whole will be pretty diminished and maybe we can actually get something done in this country again.

@Xecky Gilchrist: I’m thinking one real danger of all this is that a lot of Blue-Doggery might pop up; newly-minted “Democrats” fleeing the Republican shipwreck and taking up positions on the blue side.

But it would make a major difference if the Dems were in charge of the House, even if it takes blue dogs to make it happen. For one thing, we wouldn’t see a repeat of this madness and be out $24 billion again.

Face it, with things gerrymandered the way they are, the path to the Pelosi holding the gavel again is paved with blue dogs.

Blue Dogs are still Dems and as such they can’t stray too far from the platform. Plus, Pelosi is no Boehner and can deliver even Blue Dog votes when necessary.

The way to get the Villager echo chamber to quit granting excess influence to TP types is for the TP types to totally bork the next election.  It looks like McConnell is going to be toasted by the combined effects of a decent democratic candidate and the total whackjob TPer, and there goes the single most effective senator they’ve currently got.  Effective as in effective at stopping every democratic initiative.  The best result for us would be if the Democrat wins (of course), but replacing an effective pol with a crazy who has no seniority isn’t as bad as re-electing McConnell.  So, in a few ways this TP infection may actually help us!

They also questioned the value in spending a reported $1 million a year to prop up Glenn Beck’s network, The Blaze]

First cup of coffee for the day. I almost lost control of all my bodily functions when I came across that one.

The value of… ? Yes, please send Matt Kibbe more of your money, dingdongs.

@Ripley yep, that’s a good one.  One-tenth of all donations to FreedomWorks go to supporting The Prophet Beck.

There are a dozen movies (I can’t think of an example) in which an otherwise nice, middle-class person hires a professional killer to knock off a wife, boss, or etc., and then lives to regret it as the killer assumes more and more control and becomes a bigger threat.  That’s the Tea Party.

What’s also interesting is, the TP mainly consists of people driven by emotion: hate, bigotry, fear, resentment.  Look at their signs and their costumes, listen to their speeches.  When we say they’re “crazy” we mean, they’re ruled by feeling and, therefore, indifferent to facts, their own blatant contradictions, or anything else objective.  Look at all the unbelievably stupid people they’ve sent to DC.

Whereas the traditional, sane GOP was exactly the opposite: people driven by rational calculation of their (mainly economic) self-interest. 

Weed out the TP from the GOP, though, and you lose, not only their rabid energy, but the (insane) self-righteousness of their nutbar program.  They’re the ones currently making the right-wing agenda seem patriotic.  Absent them, lowering taxes on millionaires and cutting welfare will once more just seem like the greedy designs of old rich white guys.

The only way that I can see to keep the moderate Republicans, coming over to our side of the spectrum, & Democratic conservatives, already here, from taking of the party would be to push from the left as hard as the Tea Party/Club for Growth/Koch Bros. funded groups are pushing to the right to birth out a centrist party that would then be free to pursue their own Third Way/No Labels ideology with explicit blessing of The Mustache of Understanding. You’d have to primary New Dems, DLC’ers, & former Blue Dogs with more liberal or progressive candidates. That might have the desired effect of making the party more liberal, returning it to its labor-oriented populist roots, but would require an organized, sustained effort, something we all know is frankly impossible.

Comment by Stentor on 10/21/13 at 03:52 PM

That might have the desired effect of making the party more liberal, returning it to its labor-oriented populist roots, but would require an organized, sustained effort, something we all know is frankly impossible.

@Stentor I’m afraid the only way to mimic what’s happening on the right is to somehow program some magical-thinking, anti-logical, progressive ideological zealots.  And IF that were possible, those folks would probably manage to be as obnoxious and robotic as the current crop of TPers.

Joe Max & Glix - you’re right, we need some Blue Dogs along, the way things are currently set up. We just need to make sure their agenda doesn’t take over the party any more than it already has.

How that’s done, I don’t know, but grassroots support to the best people we can find will help.

@ Mr. Wonderful: I’ve thought of “Fargo” many times while watching the fail parade unfold.

LOL, “Fargo” is a perfect comparison.  Only hope this one ends as well. ;-)

Evidently, Kibbe’s gospel of fiscal responsibility did not inform his own management style.

Matt Kibbe, putting that con in Conservatism… it’s funny that Dick Armey was an even bigger crook than Kibbe.

Tom Friedman & Matt Kibbe - AKA The Mustache of Understanding & Action Sideburns. Maybe they should form a superhero team like The Ambiguously Conservative Duo

Comment by Stentor on 10/22/13 at 03:09 PM
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