CPAC the Popcorn...The Base is Revolting!
I often refer to the conservative takeover of the Republican Party as activism we lefty types would do well to emulate. However, there may be a limit to just how far the conservatives can go within that Party. A genuine backlash is coming: a giant grunge match "to the pain" between the corporatists at the top of the Party and the anti-government/fundiegelical base at the bottom.
There are many indicators of this growing rift between the elite GOP and the revolting base. One big one is that CPAC 2011 was not exactly a success with conservative activists, according to Fox News (and they would know!). This is remarkable because the convention is supposed to be given by, and for, conservatives.
WASHINGTON -- If the mood at the Conservative Political Action Conference is any gauge, Republican presidential hopefuls have a lot of convincing to do in order to sway the base to their side.
Some complained that the candidates with a sound policy vision had no "charisma." Those with plenty of personality offered less in the way of substance, they said. Some were too far right, others weren't conservative enough. Many said they'd prefer to "wait and see" before warming up to anyone in particular.
Every prospective candidate who spoke over the past two days seemed to be trying very hard to tap into the Tea Party message, demonstrating the sustained influence of the movement which is relatively new to the CPAC scene. They all talked about fiscal conservatism rooted in constitutional principles and of limited government, about the founding fathers and much about Reagan.
"I think the Tea Party is going to have a very large impact," said Watnick, who is a county Republican chair in Fresno, Calif., and a member of the Tea Party.
Allen suggested the Tea Party voters are also realists who are likely to be very discerning, and will want a candidate who "has that energy and creativity (of the Tea Party), but still has the best chance of being nominated, and elected."
I'm just pausing here to let the description of Tea Party voters as "realists" who are "very discerning" sink in. These are the people who thought Christine O'Donnell, she who didn't know about the separation of church and state being in the First Amendment, was a "realistic" nomination; same with Sharron Angle, who favored the reinstatment of Prohibition...IN LAS VEGAS.
Venerated conservative Rush Limbaugh also feels that CPAC was a disappointment. If you can stand to listen to the clip linked in the story above (I lasted about four and a half minutes, but I got the gist - El Rushbo is nothing if not repetitive), his chief complaint is that the "ruling classes" in the GOP were making obvious moves to ditch the social conservatives, by including LGBT groups like GOProud in the Convention, and having the "old hands" in the Party take every opportunity to disrespect talk radio (obviously ol' Rush ain't having any of that) and insist that they ditch the wingnuts, er, Tea Party base. The fact that Ron Paul won the straw poll at CPAC is also sticking in his craw. As he said bluntly (and for a change, truthfully), "Ron Paul is not going to be the Republican nominee for President. It's just not going to happen."
Limbaugh also laments the fact that Dick Cheney was booed and called a war criminal at CPAC (I cheer it - maybe there's hope for some of those Tea Party people yet!), and demands, "Does the Left ever dump factions of their Party? Do they ever say 'We don't need the Huffington Post or the Daily Kos?," clearly expecting that the answer would be "No." Obviously Rush missed the significance of the 2008 election, and does not understand the causes of the so-called "conservative ascendancy" he claims is happening right now. Yes, Rush, the Democrats and the "professional left" DID throw a huge portion of their base under the bus - working-class, moderate, blue dog, yellow dog and liberal Clinton supporters, including a large, LARGE group of women who felt alienated by the Obamacrats' virulent and constant sexism. They have been doing so ever since, and they have paid the price for it, since many of those formerly reliable Democratic voters either stayed home, voted third party, or went to the other side in 2010. Many even became Tea Partiers. In fact, the Democrats of 2008 are an object lesson in how NOT to treat their base. The politically savvy Republicans would never take such a big risk, especially when their base is the only group in the Republican Party that is actually excited about 2012...would they?
They just might. The ruling classes - the GOP elite - are, indeed, extremely unhappy with the Libertarian/fundiegelical base, and haven't been shy about saying so. Tea Party favorites Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachmann have all felt the ire of the corporatist (i.e., non-insane) wing of the Party. Michael Medved recently wrote that Palin and Limbaugh are weakening the movement with their allegations that Obama is deliberately trying to destroy America. (Actually, I agree with them on that one - but it's because he's too much like them, not because he's too liberal. As if!) Senator Lindsey Graham sided with Obama over Sarah Palin on Egypt. "No Spin" Fox pundit Bill O'Reilly (hardly a rocket scientist himself) dismissed Glenn Beck's recent rantings about an Islamic caliphate tied to the American Left. Dubya's speechwriter David Frum stated in January of 2010 that Beck and Palin have betrayed "daddy" conservatism. On Monday, Frum wondered when the "serious" Tim Pawlenty, an oft-mentioned 2012 Presidential possibility, would stand up. You know, it's pretty impossible for any serious person to run as a Republican these days, so I have no idea what magical creature David Frum is seeking...but I digress.
More evidence on the schism between the base and the Republican Old Guard has been seen in the first few weeks of Burnt Orange Boehner's "leadership" in the House. Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi, but the woman can, at least, count. When she took over in 2006, she passed all of her Hundred Hours legislation with barely a hitch. Perhaps tallying votes is difficult when tears are blurring one's eyes.
If the Tea Party continues to flex its muscles, John Boehner may not be the only establishment Republican crying. As for me, I'll be crunching the popcorn, and devoutly hoping that the Republican Party stupidly destroys itself just as the Democratic Party did in 2008. If that happens, maybe there will finally be room for the REAL center to make its priorities known. You know, the 60-70% of Americans who think tax cuts for the wealthy are wrong and financially disastrous, that Social Security and Medicare should NOT be cut, that single-payer health care would be vastly better than the Health Whatever Bill the Heritage Foundation came up with decades ago, and that jobs, not abortion, should be the true focus in Washington.