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“Straight To ‘Hell No'”: The Rapid Radicalization Of The Republican Party By The Hard Right

This is a blog, not a history lesson. But I can’t resist trying to make some sense of the current Republican desire for self-immolation.

Where has this so-called “Hell No Caucus” come from? Whether it is refusing to pass bills to fund the government, approve increases in the debt ceiling or provide money for the Department of Homeland Security, the Republican Party has an increasingly apparent and growing antagonism to pragmatic solutions. It has drifted so far right that it is truly in danger of self-destruction. As New York Republican Rep. Peter King, put it on CBS’ “This Week,” “[T]here’s a wing within the Congress which is absolutely irresponsible – they have no concept of reality.” Speaking with MSNBC’s Luke Russert on Friday, he added, “I’ve had it with this self-righteous, delusional wing of the party.”

The GOP has become more and more extreme, to a point where it is barely recognizable from what it was in the 20th century. Even Ronald Reagan, and certainly Barry Goldwater, would not understand their party today.

I remember producing a pamphlet on the rise of the “New Right” in the early 1980s with an analysis of groups like the National Conservative Political Action Committee, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, the Conservative Victory Fund and many others. We argued how destructive the extreme right wing views were at the time but little did we realize how nihilistic they would become.

Here is the history lesson.

A very conservative group formed in 1973 called the Republican Study Committee. They were small, but they were opposed to both Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford as too liberal and decided to organize against their policies. Then-Rep. Phil Crane of Illinois and congressional staffers Paul Weyrich, who went on to found the Heritage Foundation, and Ed Feulner, who later headed Heritage, were driving forces, along with several other members of Congress. When Newt Gingrich became House speaker in 1995, he didn’t want a separate group on his flank causing trouble, despite the fact that his conservative views were not too far from theirs. So he abolished it; but it came back.

A National Journal article last year discussed in detail the evolution and rapid growth of this far right caucus.The growth of the Republican Study Committee since 1995 has been truly dramatic – 15 members out of 218 in 1995, up to 72 members out of 220 in 2001 and skyrocketing to 171 members in 2013. The percentage of Republicans who joined this very conservative group went from 7 percent in 1995 to over 70 percent last year.

It is not too difficult to understand why House Speaker John Boehner, or any speaker, might have trouble with his or her Republican caucus.

Of course, there are other groups. Michele Bachmann helped organize the Tea Party Caucus several years ago, a group more extreme than the Study Committee. And, now, an initial nine members of the Study Committee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, have begun to assemble the House Freedom Caucus. More trouble is afoot than Republicans may realize.

The vote last Friday where 52 Republicans bucked the speaker on his effort to move forward on funding for DHS says a lot about the GOP’s direction. The numbers don’t add up for Boehner to move much of anything forward, and the Senate won’t buy what the Study Committee or the Freedom Caucus are selling.

The rapid radicalization of the Republican Party is playing out in the presidential sweepstakes as well. The Conservative Political Action Conference has gone from a fringe gathering to a primary litmus test for most candidates.

There is no such thing as a moderate voice in the leadership of the Republican Party any longer; there is barely a Main Street conservative voice that will get traction within the party that now finds itself in control of the House and Senate. Even the John Boehners and the Mitch McConnells live in fear of the new suicide caucus.

The problem, as many Republicans know, is that this crowd is ungovernable and ultimately, nationally, unelectable.

 

By: Peter Fenn, U.S. News and World Report, March 3, 2015

March 5, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Modern Republican Party”: House Conservatives Fed Up With Conservative Caucus, Form Even More Conservative Caucus

The National Journal reports that a few liberty-loving Republican members of Congress, led by Rep. Justin Amash, have started a little caucus to represent the true, “hard-core” alternative to the Republican Study Committee. The idea that anyone needs a more “hardcore” Republican Study Committee seems to require some explaining. The RSC is (and has been for decades) effectively the House of Representatives’ “conservative caucus,” the group you join to announce that you are officially not a RINO. It is also a sort of miniature right-wing think tank with extensive ties to the business and other interests that fund the right and keep Republicans in line. For years, it has produced alternative budgets and decried compromise and criticized leadership for being insufficiently dedicated to small government.

It has, it turns out, been too successful. The RSC’s membership has increased rapidly as it became necessary for most House Republicans to signal their allegiance to ultra-conservatism; it now counts more than 170 members, including the most extreme members in the House, like Louie Gohmert, Michele Bachmann and Paul Broun, but also many more who rarely make headlines. There have been attempts to replace the RSC with something even more conservative in the past, but most of them — like Michele Bachmann’s pathetic “Tea Party Caucus” — were more about an individual lawmaker’s play for press than about creating an alternative organization.

The problem is, the RSC, by any measure, won the battle for the House Republican caucus long ago. More than three-quarters of the GOP conference are now members, including everyone in leadership besides Boehner and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. Its primary “rival,” the “moderate” Republican Main Street Partnership, currently has fewer than 50 members in the House.

This criticism is nothing new. Many RSC members, including some former chairmen, have long expressed concerns about its membership—which now stands at 179 of 233 House Republicans. If three-quarters of the GOP Conference belongs to the RSC, they argue, the group cannot possibly practice the ideological purity on which its reputation was established.

“The RSC today covers a fairly broad philosophical swath of the party. It’s no longer just the hard-core right-wingers,” [South Carolina Rep.. Mick] Mulvaney said, adding: “If you want to pay dues, you can get in.”

What Mulvaney doesn’t seem to understand is that the RSC is still “just the hard-core right-wingers,” it’s just that now the vast majority of the Republican conference is “the hard-core right-wingers.” When everyone is a true conservative, then, how do you distinguish yourself as a true conservative? Easy! You just stake out a new position to the right of the right-wing majority. Hence, Amash’s “House Liberty Caucus,” which has a Rand Paul-ish name and a (somewhat fluid) membership of “core” House conservatives, like Mulvaney, Rep. Raul Labrador and Rep. Jim Jordon.

So, while Amash and others insist that the Liberty Caucus is a complement, not a competitor to the RSC, the National Journal says that “several RSC members are considering leaving the group altogether next year and pouring their energy into growing the Liberty Caucus.” In other words, a few years from now, don’t be hugely surprised if the far-right RSC is the “mainstream” House Republican caucus to the “conservative” Liberty Caucus, all without any Republican having moved even slightly toward “the center.” (Either that or this Liberty Caucus will flame out after failing to repeal Obamacare by 2016 or whatever.)

This is the entire story of the modern Republican Party, writ small: ratcheting ever rightward.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 18, 2014

January 19, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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