The fate of principled conservatism: a juxtaposition
Driven by growing concerns that House GOP leaders will give in to raising tax rates, grassroots conservatives are ramping up pressure on Republicans to block any deal on the fiscal cliff.
More than 100 conservative leaders — including Santorum megadonor Foster Friess, RedState editor Erick Erickson, Phyllis Schlafly, longtime GOP activist Morton Blackwell, and others — banded together Wednesday to send an open letter warning Republican members of Congress against voting for any compromise on the fiscal cliff.
“The thrust of the letter is to remind Republicans in the Congress that this is a time of testing,” said Morton Blackwell, a veteran Republican Party activist who hosts the exclusive Weyrich Lunch conservative strategy sessions. “The pressure is on to cave into the demands of president Obama and the left….They need to understand or be reminded that to cave in would be very bad and very much damage the credibility of the GOP
The letter, Blackwell told Business Insider, is “meant to help stiffen backbones and to let people know that there would be consequences to their political careers.”
The warning underscores the significant obstacles Republican Speaker John Boehner must overcome to reach a deal with the White House on the fiscal cliff. Facing a divided caucus, it is unclear if the GOP leadership can drown out its vocal far-right faction and cobble together enough votes to pass a bill that gives in to Democrats’ demands to raise tax rates on the top 2 percent of earners.
It also highlights the potential threat to Boehner’s speakership should he reach a deal with Democrats. In the letter, conservatives warn that they are ready to “systematically” replace the Republican congressional leadership.
Not so fast, though, says NRO’s Robert Costa: “House Conservatives Hold Off on Coup“:
Several conservative House members are frustrated with Speaker John Boehner, but they are not considering a coup.
“We don’t have the votes to make a serious run for the gavel,” says a Republican House member, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “People are unhappy, but there is no one willing to lead a rebellion.”
At a closed-door meeting today, over 30 members of the Republican Study Committee huddled. They discussed the threat of tax-rate increases, and they knocked leadership’s negotiating tactics.
But no one, it seems, spoke up and urged the RSC to lead a revolt. Two top House conservatives, Tom Price (Ga.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio), were there, but they did not stoke talk of a challenge.
“We are all waiting to see what Boehner does,” says a House conservative insider. “Until we know more, the RSC isn’t going to be talking about putting somebody up for speaker.
“No one willing to lead a rebellion”? I find this dubious frankly. Those 4 conservatives removed from committees — along with Louie Gohmert, Michele Bachmann, and Steven King — seem likely candidates to lead such a “coup”. And it’s no longer in doubt that one is necessary. Remember, it was Boehner’s agreeing to the current debt ceiling deal — against the advice of the naive Hobbits — that has brought us to this point (with downgraded credit, to boot); and now he’s looking to negotiate another bad deal on top of that one in order to provide his House leadership with media cover. All it takes to give John Boehner the press he wants and the room to wheel and deal that he desires is to give in to Democrat demands. Then? Business as usual.
And John Boehner is the weepy orange poster child for GOP establishment status quo-ism.
Lucky for him, he has cover from many “pragmatists” on the establishment right — many of whom were last seen chiding the obstinate TEA Party faction on their way to a disastrous debt ceiling compromise. And that cover continues to hold, leaving conservatives and classical liberals to wonder if there is any party willing to represent them:
John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have worked hard to keep their thumbs stuck in the dam of rising tax rates. Still, the fiscal cliff is looking more each day like an inside-the-Beltway CYA operation. Does anyone in the country beyond the halls of Congress and media specialists have any idea what these people are doing?
The Republicans’ rote rationale for this sorry state is four words: We have no leverage. We lost the presidential vote. We only control the House. By law, the Bush tax rates will rise for everyone Jan. 1. The default strategy is: Survive. Give Barack Obama some version of the soak-the-rich revenue-raising he ran on, get past the cliff and regroup in 2013. Not a very happy New Year, but that’s the best we can get.
This sad argument is not ridiculous.
Only a newborn babe in the Washington woods would think the congressional Republicans’ leverage with the president is much more than zero. It’d be nice to think this is all a grim fairy tale and that come New Year’s Eve, Prince John of Cincinnati will turn dross into gold. No, Virginia. Republicans lost the election.
But does that mean Republicans have to help Barack Obama dismantle their party by letting its most basic conservative principles disappear into the Beltway’s smoke and mirrors? That is what’s happening now.
Where is the Big Picture? Why is it not possible for John Boehner or anyone else in this party to articulate for the dumbstruck public watching these dreadful cliff negotiations what the Republican Party stands for? Who speaks for the GOP?
No end of people keep saying of the Republicans that “they” should do this or “they” should do that. Who’s “they”? It is no one. With the Republicans, there’s no “they” there.
Barack Obama is controlling the cliff narrative now because the GOP has no one whose job is counter-narrative. Mr. Obama this week was recycling campaign speeches about the middle class at the Daimler Detroit diesel plant while the GOP has been a Babel of Beltway voices. Don’t any of these senators go to church on Sunday morning, rather than running around television punching the “entitlement crisis” card?
The GOP’s postelection angst is no excuse for failing to define the party more clearly during the cliff crucible. No one’s looking for a speech on Hispanic outreach or the anxieties of single white women. None of that post-Romney hand-wringing is relevant to what’s at issue in the fiscal-cliff talks.
One issue sits at the center of all this: the Size of Government. Yes, the arcane detail is unavoidable. But what mere voters want to know is whether this means the government or the private sector is going to lead and shape the U.S. economy for a generation. Is “preserving the safety net” now the single most important existential reality in the life of every U.S. citizen, as in Europe, or is the core American idea still about something more exciting than that?
John Boehner has his hands full dealing with the phantom of the White House. A House speaker’s primary job has always been herding the congressional cats rather than publicly defending principles. But in the absence of a compelling conservative voice, the party is defaulting to a chaos of voices. They are letting their despondent supporters in the country sink deeper than they were the night of the election. They’re going to leave a deep philosophical hole for every candidate in 2014 and any conceivable presidential candidate in 2016.
The GOP needs a person of stature and credibility to provide the public with a clear sense of the Republican purpose, no matter the negotiation’s outcome. If people start talking about that person and the presidency, so be it. A cliff is no place to look shy, timid or lost.
Or weepy. Or orange.
We need a leadership change. Somebody needs to strap on a pair and take on Boehner, who is more interested in consolidating his own power than in representing the TEA Party conservatives who thrust the GOP into control of the House leadership in the first place.
There comes a time when sniffing that the fringe conservatives simply don’t understand the nuances of DC becomes a ludicrous refrain — and that time coincides with the serial failures of the GOP establishment’s pragmatic vision for governance, the one that has been pushed more and more leftward by a dug-in ideological left who refuses to surrender its principles, twisted though they are.
The 2012 election should have been about the drastic ideological differences between the parties and about the President’s vision for “fundamental transformation”– a move toward a centralized, command-and-control economy run by executive dictate and unelected bureaucrats in the administrative state; instead, it became about the well-meaning, patriotic misunderstandings of a basically fine fellow who may be in just a tad over his head — and could use the help of a rich white man to bail his very sincere, but very confused, black ass out of the economic, fiscal, and foreign policy fires. Still, pats on the head for trying, Mr Fine Black President! You done your people proud!
Shockingly, that condescending message didn’t sell terribly well.
Let’s call it the soft-bigotry of low expectations.
We conservatives have reluctantly backed the aimless, ideologically-compromised mush the GOP keeps pushing out as representative of us, if only to avoid allowing socialists to take office. And yet when it comes time for that mush to back conservative candidates, we see them joining forces with the left to pile on, OUTRAGED by unpolished rhetoric — or else giving aid to Democrat candidates (cf. Dick Lugar or Chris Christie, among others).
It’s time for a little reciprocation, don’t you think?
And yet —
(h/t RI Red)