If you haven’t been paying attention to rubbernecking reports on the most recent “GOP civil war,” because you’ve been paying attention to more important stories like the DoJ targeted-killing white paper or the disastrous retooling of once-promising NBC sitcom “Up All Night,” here’s what you’ve missed: A couple of well-funded conservative groups made a big deal about being mad at a new well-funded conservative group, giving all the groups involved a wonderful new sales pitch for their fundraising efforts.
Most stories are presenting the fight as a war for the soul of the Republican Party, with sellout pragmatist Karl Rove and his “Conservative Victory Project” on one side and the purist conservative groups like the Club for Growth on the other. In a radio interview, a CVP spokesperson referred to venerable conservative huckster Brent Bozell as a “hater,” which led to a very overwrought open letter signed by two dozen huge conservative movement players, from Frank Gaffney to Ginni Thomas, demanding the spokesperson’s firing.
This isn’t actually an ideological battle. It’s mainly an argument about strategy. Karl Rove is savvier than most of the people he’s warring with. He’s in many respects the best friend the conservative movement could have, if they actually listened to him: Rove’s “pragmatism” means electing as many Republicans as possible, so that the conservative movement can implement its conservative agenda. Rove knows that moderate Republican elected officials give true conservatives power. Rove’s CVP is going to attempt to aid electable Republican Senate candidates in party primaries, to avoid Todd Akin situations. The Club for Growth exists to push already-elected Republicans to the right, by threatening to fund primaries against them. The groups don’t necessarily have to be at odds: The Club for Growth’s model has effectively kept the Senate in the hands of the Democrats. It’s also, in its defense, pushed the party, and Congress, closer to a purer conservatism.
Karl Rove is smarter and more accomplished than most of the people who signed this letter, if we’re talking electoral politics. If we’re talking list-building and fundraising, though, you can’t do much better than these signatories, most of whom belong to think tanks or publications or “activist groups” of very questionable influence. These are people who’ve spent years perfecting a scheme in which conservative people send them money, for accomplishing next to nothing to advance conservatism.
The conservative movement is a massive and elaborate moneymaking venture. Numerous nonprofits exist almost solely to raise money, which they spend on their own salaries and, obviously, more fundraising. A conservative civil war is great for business. Karl Rove throwing money at “electable” Republicans is a wonderful opportunity for people to raise money for groups that promise to elect crazies. More primary campaigns means more jobs for consultants. More third-party groups fighting for the soul of the party means more desperate pitches to gullible millionaires and billionaires. Plus more crappy books sold in bulk to conservative book clubs!
Rove’s super PAC and dark money nonprofit spent more than $300 million losing the last election. He obviously intends to raise even more money over the next two cycles. And the more his ostensible competitors will raise, which is why they all sound suspiciously like cartoon Tex Avery wolves audibly salivating in their quotes for this Politico story:
[FreedomWorks] CEO Matt Kibbe welcomed the prospect of squaring off against the Conservative Victory Project, asserting, “The guys who fund groups like Rove’s want to re-establish that they’re in charge, but they just don’t understand the inevitable decentralization and democratization of politics.”
And Club for Growth President Chris Chocola added that Rove and Law have gotten CFG donors’ attention and “may energize the groups that they view as ‘the problem.’”
He said, “When you think about a Republican primary, and you think about a principled conservative versus a moderate Republican — well, our model wins more often.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said his group will focus on a few races — primarily in the Senate. He said it’s just as well that “the moderate Republicans who have been involved in these primaries behind the scenes [are] making it clear that they intend to engage in primaries and defeat conservatives.”
“Donate to us or Karl Rove will defeat true conservatives” is a great pitch. Maybe even better than “donate to us if you actually want Republicans to win elections.” While only an idiot would send any money to FreedomWorks, an organization that currently pays Dick Armey a six-figure salary to not work there, the last cycle showed how many well-heeled idiots are out there asking to be fleeced.
It was hilarious last week watching respectable right-wing commentators like Peggy Noonan and Rich Lowry slobber over the inane Super Bowl ad featuring the disembodied voice of the late Paul Harvey, a right-wing huckster par excellence. Harvey was a broadcasting legend not just for his longevity, but also — maybe primarily — because of the apparent sincerity with which he hawked completely useless crap to the Social Security-collecting set. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, neither of whom have qualms about ripping off their audiences, are his spiritual heirs despite their narrower appeals.
The entire modern conservative movement these days seems like a successful experiment in getting rich people (and lots and lots of non-rich people, whose donations are less coveted but accepted nonetheless) to pay an ever-growing number of pundits, think tank “fellows” and “scholars,” failed campaign hacks and people like Ginni Thomas who seem to serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever. Like Paul Harvey, the super PACs and nonprofits know it doesn’t matter if your products — in this case, ideas and candidates and electoral strategies — are worthless, as long as you push the crap convincingly. Whether Rove succeeds or fails in helping the Republican Party, his campaign will be great for the movement.
By: Alex Pareene, Salon, February 11, 2013
CNN Online has publisheda story titled an “angry electorate helps sustain tea party,” ignoring the clear evidence the “movement” is only sustained by thinly-veiled religious zeal and wealthy funders like the Koch brothers.
Perhaps in an effort to avoid accusations of liberal bias, CNN Online parrots Tea Party spin, concluding the article by quoting a GOP strategist who states “The tea party is an organic movement that was largely created by people who were frustrated by Washington. . . There’s not much you can do about something that’s genuine, something that grew organically.” On the contrary, the tea party has been funded since its inception by the billionaire Koch brothers and other wealthy ideologues, and its events and gatherings have been orchestrated by corporate lobbyists.
Koch-funded Christian Right
Studies show that most people who now identify with the Tea Party were already highly partisan Republicans and identified with the religious right before the “movement” began. In the August 2010 New Yorker article lifting the veil on Tea Party funding, conservative economist Bruce Bartlett explained that “the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement,” and that they are “trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.” Tea Party handlers, then, harness the religious zeal of its members, allege they are motivated by Ayn Rand-inspired economic populism, and run candidates like Michele Bachmann who play down their extreme social conservatism in favor of an economic platform. And news outlets like CNN apparently continue to take the “grassroots movement” at face value.
Clearly Partisan Agenda
Matt Kibbe, longtime Republican operative and president of tea party group FreedomWorks, told CNN “we’re not a protest movement anymore; we’ve morphed into something else. We’re a get-out-the-vote machine. We’re organizing at the community level.”
Recently released recordings from the Koch brothers’ donor retreat in June, though, demonstrate that Tea Party events have always been aimed at electing Republicans. As Think Progress notes, Koch Industries executive and lobbyist Kevin Gentry described being “on the road” in 2010 for the Koch-funded “Americans for Prosperity’s last minute kind of get out the vote tours,” which he said was “a Tea Party AFP event designed to help in the Congressional races.” The specific “get out the vote” event Gentry referenced was in Congressman Paul Ryan‘s district.
CNN is co-sponsoring a GOP presidential debate with the Tea Party Express tonight.
By: Brendan Fischer, Center for Media and Democracy, September 12, 2011
Fragging: “To intentionally kill or wound (one’s superior officer, etc.), esp. with a hand grenade.”
If the nation defaults on its financial obligations, the blame belongs to the Tea Party Republicans who fragged their own leader, John Boehner. They had victory in their hands and couldn’t bring themselves to support his debt-ceiling plan, which, if not perfect, was more than anyone could have imagined just a few months ago. No new taxes, significant spending cuts, a temporary debt-ceiling solution with the possibility of more spending cuts down the line as well as action on their beloved balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.
These people wouldn’t recognize a hot fudge sundae if the cherry started talking to them.
The tick-tock of the debt-ceiling debate is too long for this space, but the bottom line is that the Tea Party got too full of itself with help from certain characters whose names you’ll want to remember when things go south. They include, among others, media personalities who need no further recognition; a handful of media-created “leaders,” including Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips and Tea Party Patriots co-founders Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler (both Phillips and Martin declared bankruptcy, yet they’re advising Tea Party Republicans on debt?); a handful of outside groups that love to hurl ad hominems such as “elite” and “inside the Beltway” when talking about people like Boehner when they are, in fact, the elite (FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, Club for Growth, National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Prosperity); and elected leaders such as Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, head of the Republican Study Committee, and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who grandstand and make political assertions and promises that are sheer fantasy.
Meanwhile, freshman House members were targeted and pressured by some of the aforementioned groups to vote against Boehner’s plan. South Carolina’s contingent was so troubled that members repaired to the chapel Thursday to pray and emerged promising to vote no. Why? Not because Jesus told them to but because they’re scared to death that DeMint will “primary” them — find someone in their own party to challenge them.
Where did they get an idea like that? Look no further than Sarah Palin’s Facebook page, where she warned freshmen about contested primaries and urged them to “remember us ‘little people’ who believed in them, donated to their campaigns, spent hours tirelessly volunteering for them, and trusted them with our votes.” Her close: “P.S. Everyone I talk to still believes in contested primaries.” While they’re at it, they also should remember that Palin came to the Tea Party long after the invitations went out. The woman knows where to hitch a wagon.
Unfortunately for the country, which is poised to lose its place as the world’s most-trusted treasury and suffer economic repercussions we can ill afford, the stakes in this political game are too high to be in the hands of Tea Partyers who mistakenly think they have a mandate. Their sweep in the 2010 election was the exclusive result of anti-Obama sentiment and the sense that the president, in creating a health-care plan instead of focusing on jobs, had overplayed his hand. Invariably, as political pendulums swing, the victors become the very thing they sought to defeat.
Who’s overplaying their hand now?
It must be said that the Tea Party has not been monolithic — and the true grass-roots shouldn’t be conflated with leaders who disastrously signed on to the so-called “Cut, Cap and Balance” pledge. What is it with Republicans and their silly pledges? Didn’t they get enough Scouting? This pledge now has them hog-tied to a promise they can’t keep — the balanced-budget amendment. As many as a third desperately want a pardon from that commitment, according to sources close to the action.
Hubris is no one’s friend, and irony is a nag. The Tea Partyers who wanted to oust Barack Obama have greatly enhanced his chances for reelection by undermining their own leader and damaging the country in the process. The debt ceiling may have been raised and the crisis averted by the time this column appears, but that event should not erase the memory of what transpired. The Tea Party was a movement that changed the conversation in Washington, but it has steeped too long and has become toxic.
It’s time to toss it out.
By: Kathleen Parker, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 29, 2011