Monday, October 12, 2009


Digby, aimai and Steve Benen are saying, "Pass the popcorn," but I'm pessimistic about the apparent sabotage of the GOP by its own zealots:

Tea partiers turn on GOP leadership

...Whether it's the loose confederation of Washington-oriented groups that have played an organizational role or the state-level activists who are channeling grass-roots anger into action back home, tea party forces are confronting the Republican establishment by backing insurgent conservatives and generating their own candidates -- even if it means taking on GOP incumbents.

"We will be a headache for anyone who believes the Constitution of the United States … isn’t to be protected," said Dick Armey, chairman of the anti-tax and limited government advocacy group FreedomWorks, which helped plan and promote the tea parties, town hall protests and the September 'Taxpayer March’ in Washington. "If you can't take it seriously, we will look for places of other employment for you."

"We're not a partisan organization, and I think many Republicans are disappointed we are not," added Armey, a former GOP congressman....

Well, that last statement is a crock. Of course Armey's organization is partisan. It just wants the GOP to be more GOP than it is now.

And it'll get its way.

See, as long as there's a need for a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate to pass any legislation in D.C., and as long as all non-Maine Republican senators hang together on just about every vote of consequence, and as long as they're routinely joined by Stockholm-syndrome Blue Dog Democrats, the Republicans have incredible amounts of slack. They don't really need to worry about pursuing majority status. They just have to worry about not dropping below (or, given the reliability of the Blue Dogs, too far below) 40 in the Senate. Then they can still keep gumming up the works (and getting contributors' checks for gumming up the works) while writing the narratives --specifically, narratives that move the center on every discussion as far to the right as possible. The party leaders tasked with winning elections in 2010 may not feel this way, but they won't work to crush the Limbaughs and Becks and Armeys because (a) they know that's a formula for losing the base in 2010 and (b) they know it won't be all that horrible if a few zealots lose general elections where moderates would have won.

And I forgot (c): They know that if the zealots win the primaries, unless those zealots are utterly insane, what they're saying will be treated as within the pale and respectable by the political establishment. So if Rubio beats Crist in the Florida Senate primary, Rubio will be deemed mainstream. Pat Toomey is already deemed mainstream. Hell, who's less likely to be reelected next year, Harry Reid or Michelle Bachmann? So what's "acceptable" discourse in this environment?

This is a battle for the party, but it's not truly self-destructive, because either way the party will probably emerge with something positive -- either a few moderates will pick up seats or the extremists will make extremism seem less unthinkable. (And failed primary challenges could make winning moderates less moderate.) This will keep happening until the nation finally rises up and declares Republicanness, not merely certain Republicans, utterly unacceptable. But that never seems to happen.

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