THE BUNDY RANCH IS NOT A BATTLE IN THE SO-CALLED REPUBLICAN CIVIL WAR -- WHY?
We've been hearing lately that the tea party is losing its battle with the Republican establishment. Establishment candidates are swatting back tea party primary challenges. Fat-cat Republican donors are withholding money from candidates who might shut down the government or press for a U.S. debt default. The old guard is winning. Crazy radicalism is being contained.
But then there's Fox News, with its wall-to-wall coverage of Cliven Bundy's standoff with the Bureau of Land Management.
The GOP is trying to look responsible, but its Ministry of Information is cheerleading anarchy and violent insurrection. (It's not just Fox, of course. Here's National Review, reputedly part of the thoughtful wing of conservatism, giving Bundy a thumbs-up.)
But do you notice what's not happening? Insurgent GOP candidates aren't demanding that incumbent Republicans take sides on the Bundy Ranch. They're not digging up old, seemingly innocuous votes to fund the Bureau of Land Management and portraying them as evidence that veteran GOP officeholders are freedom-hating enablers of big-government totalitarianism. This doesn't appear to be an issue in Republican primaries at all. It's just a media event.
This tells me that the so-called GOP civil war has evolved into a sort of gang truce -- or, to mix the metaphor a little more, it's turned it into a good cop/bad cop act. Establishment Republicans (after moving further rightward, though not all the way into Ted Cruz territory) are now winning the elections -- but the read-meat-craving teabagger base is getting its jollies from a battle far outside the electoral sphere. Hold your nose and vote for Lindsey Graham, then turn on Fox and cheer on a bunch of revolutionaries in Nevada. Barcalounger radicals get their vicarious 1776, the Chamber of Commerce gets its stable corpocracy. Everybody wins!
Um, everybody wins except for America's non-conservative citizens. And that's the problem: this is a nice equilibrium point for the GOP. The party looks less crazy and more electable. The wacko-bird base doesn't alienate America's middle. The crazies have their fun, and the Lindsey Grahams and John Cornyns just keep winning.