Marsha Blackburn, Ted Cruz (AP/Chris Usher/J. Scott Applewhite)

Conservatives huddle to "recommit" to their own imagined victimization

GOP candidates all agree on the same right-wing policies, so why are "anti-establishment" types still complaining?

Jim Newell
May 16, 2014 8:27PM (UTC)

A bunch of real conservatives gathered at the heart of Real America, the Ritz-Carlton in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, on Thursday, to champion real conservative issues that the RINO establishment has supposedly abandoned in its pursuit of midterm glory. What, pray tell, are these issues that these real conservative luminaries, including Ted Cruz, Ed Meese, Mike Lee, Grover Norquist and others, tried to reassert to dominance atop the party platform? Robert Costa at the Washington Post reports:

The group, alarmed by a resurgence of the GOP establishment in recent primaries and what activists view as a softened message, drafted demands to be shared with senior lawmakers calling on the party to “recommit” to bedrock principles.

Some of those principles laid out in the new document — strict opposition to illegal immigration, same-sex marriage and abortion — represent the hot-button positions that many Republican congressional candidates are trying to avoid as the party attempts to broaden its appeal.

Maybe we missed something (??), but ... it didn't seem like the GOP was really wavering from "strict opposition to illegal immigration, same-sex marriage, and abortion." Instead this seems like a group of people who define themselves by their opposition to "the establishment." Now that the "Tea Party" and the "establishment" have merged, policywise, into something we might lazily call the Teastablishment (sorry), the Tea Party types who raise money off of attacking the establishment need to, well, have a day-long summit to Recommit to Principles or whatever to keep the illusion of conflict running. Victimization sells.


Who are the enemies who would "soften" the bedrock conservative principles of telling women what to do with their bodies, building a literal fence with Mexico, and making the lives of gay people miserable? The nefarious Chamber of Commerce, of course: "Meanwhile, mainstream GOP business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have lifted establishment candidates to victory in a Senate primary in North Carolina and a special House election in Florida. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) is expected to easily defeat a Tea Party challenger in his primary Tuesday."

Ahh, but see, the Chamber of Commerce isn't exactly getting what it wants here. As we wrote earlier this week, despite its insistence that House Republicans pass comprehensive immigration reform, the Chamber's endorsees still have been adopting hard-line stances against any and all forms of "amnesty." These include North Carolina GOP Senate nominee Thom Tillis, who led a right-wing revolution in North Carolina that included the passage of a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage. Mitch McConnell also voted against immigration reform and opposes same-sex marriage and is pro-life. Indeed, he is going to defeat his Tea Party challenger on Tuesday, but not because he's doing the dubious bidding of the Chamber. Mostly it's because his Tea Party challenger is a terrible idiot candidate. If anything, it's the Chamber getting played here more than the anti-establishmentarians are losing, because the business lobby is spending its vast funds to support candidates' tack right to win their primaries.

What other brave stands found their way into this radical grass-roots pamphlet that was compiled by senators and lobbyists at a Ritz-Carlton in the Washington suburbs?


In the 10-page pamphlet finalized Thursday, they called on party leaders to champion lower taxes, a well-funded military, and the idea that “married moms and dads are best at raising kids.” The document warns Republicans against signing on to an immigration overhaul unless the U.S. border is “fully secure,” and it argues that support for school prayer, a balanced-budget amendment and antiabortion legislation should remain priorities.

We don't see a single item that any Republican candidate running a statewide race anywhere in the country would oppose or downplay as a priority.

The Senate primary in Nebraska earlier this week was a perfect example of how the "Tea Party vs. establishment" narrative no longer passes muster. As E.J. Dionne described it, "The fights this spring are not between 'the grass roots' and 'the establishment' but between two establishment factions spending vast sums to gain the upper hand."

This is nothing but a turf war, now, between various organizations based in Washington, trying to separate people from their money by playing up the existence of some grand ideological rift in policy within the party.


Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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