As the GOP Primaries Draw to a Close, a Word of Thanks to the Tea Party

 

shutterstock_182901161The last important GOP primary will take place tomorrow in Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to defeat — no, to bury — his Tea Party opponent, Matt Bevin. In the Nebraska Senate primary, Ben Sasse, who was generally viewed as the candidate most acceptable to the establishment, defeated three other candidates, at least two of whom presented themselves as Tea Party candidates. And in the North Carolina Senate primary, Thom Tillis, Speaker of the Republican-controlled House, defeated Greg Brannon, a Tea Party firebrand. And so it has gone across the country, with so-called establishment candidates defeating Tea Party candidates.

Even so, the Tea Party won — and won in a sweep.

To see what I mean, look at this excerpt from a an article on the North Carolina primary in the Economist:

[I]f Mr Tillis was the establishment choice in what has become a swing state in presidential races, this says something about how the establishment has been reshaped by the Tea Party. Under his watch, the statehouse has passed a clutch of laws that infuriate Democrats. These include: a measure to make abortion clinics meet the same standards as surgeries, which has in the past proved an effective tactic to close them down; a sharp reduction in the value of unemployment benefits; and an election law that restricts the kind of identification that may be used at the ballot box and allows any registered voter to challenge the eligibility of any other voter—measures that are likely to depress turnout in a way that suits the GOP. The legislature also passed a bill that bans sharia (Islamic law), a form of jurisprudence that has yet to catch on in the Tar Heel state.

As if this legislative record were not enough to prove that Mr Tillis is a proper conservative, he made it clear on the campaign trail that he opposes Common Core, a sensible set of federal educational standards that have morphed into a test of conservative credentials. He also opposes immigration reform until the border is secure (ie, never), adding at one point that Israel had the right ideas about how to keep illegal migrants out. In other words, the battle within the GOP at the start of the primary season is between conservatives and ultra-conservatives.

Subtract the Economist’s only-too-usual smugness and condescension and you’re left with the fundamental fact of GOP politics as we head into the midterm elections of 2014:  The Tea Party has reshaped the entire party, moving it to the right on all the issues and giving it that essential element, courage.  

Ben Sasse, an establishment candidate? Call him that if you want, but just look where he stands on the issues. As Bob Costa put it on the Ricochet podcast last week, Ben Sasse is Ted Cruz with charm. (I myself consider Ted Cruz plenty charming in his own way, but you can see what Bob was getting at.)  Even Mitch McConnell ran as an unabashed and forthright conservative, insisting he was the better candidate not because he would make pretty with President Obama and Harry Reid but because he, and not Matt Bevin, was in the strongest position to fight them.

Senate Republicans with fight. This is beautiful to behold.

Thank you, Tea Party.

There are 25 comments.

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  1. Pete EE Member
    Pete EE
    @PeteEE

    This is good news. This is how it should be. Contrast with Canada’s example of how not to do it: the Conservative’s treatment of the Reform element in the late 80’s lead to 15 years of utter exclusion from power. Ultimately, the Reformers “won” anyway.

    • #1
  2. Belt Member
    Belt
    @Belt

    Allow me bang the drum a bit for Iowa?  We have an open Senate seat (good riddance, Harkin!) and the GOP primary will be held on June 3.  We have five contenders, and if no one candidate gets more than 35% of the vote, it goes to a convention.  My preferred candidate is Sam Clovis, a Tea Party favorite, but Joni Ernst would also be good, I think, and has a number of high-profile endorsements.  Mark Jacobs has a large personal bankroll and seems determined to be as non-controversial and unobjectionable as possible.  (That he is an establishment squish is just a rumor.)

    So we have an open seat with a unpredictable primary and a good chance to flip a long-term Dem seat to the GOP.  And you think the last important GOP primary takes place tomorrow?

    • #2
  3. Peter Robinson Contributor
    Peter Robinson
    @PeterRobinson

    Belt:

    Allow me bang the drum a bit for Iowa?  So we have an open seat with a unpredictable primary and a good chance to flip a long-term Dem seat to the GOP. And you think the last important GOP primary takes place tomorrow?

    I am positively covered in shame, Belt.  Mea culpa.  The Iowa primary’s a big deal.

    And now you have a homework assignment:  Between now and June 3, keep us posted!

    • #3
  4. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    Incredulous Observer:  Are you telling me the Overton Window can move toward the conservative side, too?

    Cynical Observer:  Only during Republican primaries and then back to moving left after the general elections.

    • #4
  5. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    I hate to be a wet blanket here, but I think this should be pointed out now. If we don’t win the Senate it doesn’t matter how much the Tea Party has moved people. If anything given your formulation would they deserve the blame? Or at least a large share of it? 

    Our good feelings here are predicated on an assumed victory. We haven’t won anything yet fellas there is no reason to be optimistic.

    • #5
  6. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    I have to admit being disappointed that primary challenges so far have not had more success. Still few accomplishments of merit are achieved so quickly. Even with the crushing wall of Federal debt bearing down on us apparently we have to play the long game, so be it.

    • #6
  7. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    As an addendum Mr. Robinson you do yourself no favors by requoting the the type of vile slander The Economist is apparently now printing because some people in our nation favor elections without fraud. 

    Accusations of suppressing turn out are nothing more than crude and insulting propaganda.

    • #7
  8. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Roberto:

    I have to admit being disappointed that primary challenges so far have not had more success. Still few accomplishments of merit are achieved so quickly. Even with the crushing wall of Federal debt bearing down on us apparently we have to play the long game, so be it.

     Primaries matter not only in the cases of the incumbents overthrown in them, but in the cases of those who behave differently because of them.  Anyone politically savvy to win a nomination and get elected in the first place is usually savvy enough to figure out what they need to do to keep their party reasonably happy.  They know they answer to their local electorate and act accordingly.  

    Lindsey Graham is cruising to re-election, but he’s had to tread somewhat carefully to do that.  If you let your imagination run loose, try to guess what he might be up to these days if he didn’t have the SC primary electorate to answer to.

    Even if 90% of the time incumbents face only a token opposition, primaries matter.

    • #8
  9. user_473455 Inactive
    user_473455
    @BenjaminGlaser

    Are you overlooking the Mississippi GOP primary where Tea-Party favorite Chris McDaniel has recently come into the margin of error/ahead against Thad Cochran who has a 52% rating from the ACU?

    Primary is June 3rd. 

    • #9
  10. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Roberto:

    As an addendum Mr. Robinson you do yourself no favors by requoting the the type of vile slander The Economist is apparently now printing because some people in our nation favor elections without fraud.

    Accusations of suppressing turn out are nothing more than crude and insulting propaganda.

    The next time Peter comes to London, I would recommend he came to the Economist offices and talked with the people who churn these stories out. If they sound like snotty undergraduates, it’s not entirely by coincidence (yes, they are graduates, but not generally for long). Does anyone think that “until the border is secure”, a formulation used by McCain and Democrats on a regular basis, really means “never”? Are credential and hygiene requirements really 100% bad faith tactics designed to impede services? If animus is the only explanation, the author might wish to ponder why the state hates other forms of surgery.

    Peter’s storyline is what Jim Geraghty has been describing as the new Democratic line, so of course the Economist is printing this. If you were a foreigner just out of school and all your knowledge of American politics came from reading the NYT and watching the Daily Show, you’d feel this way, too.

    • #10
  11. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    Republicans with fight? So far it is just words about fighting. What makes you think McConnell will actually fight Obama this time, when he’s never done so before? And if he’s all about fighting Obama why not start now? He’s already in the senate.

    • #11
  12. Butters Inactive
    Butters
    @CommodoreBTC

    The classic party line, trash conservatives in the primary, then play nice once they are over and expect conservatives to hold their nose and vote. Like the winning side that’s such a good sport once the match is over.

    Defeating an incumbent Senator in a primary is incredibly rare and difficult. There’s no reason to be disheartened if it doesn’t happen.

    We’ve still got a chance to knock off Cochran in MS and Roberts in KS, two members of the ruling class that have been in DC for decades and done little to advance the cause of limited government.  LA’s jungle primary is also still in doubt.

    In Georgia today, the amnesty/bailout/crony capitalist Chamber of Commerce has spent a million dollars to get Jack Kingston elected. It is imperative that Karen Handel defeat him.

    EDIT: The list of Chamber of Commerce spending is a handy guide for who we should and shouldn’t support in primaries. If you think they are spending a million dollars to help McConnell without assurances on amnesty, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

    • #12
  13. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    J Climacus:

    Republicans with fight? So far it is just words about fighting. What makes you think McConnell will actually fight Obama this time, when he’s never done so before? And if he’s all about fighting Obama why not start now? He’s already in the senate.

    Do you actually believe that the guy who fought to see Obama cut spending for two years in a row, and then went back on his deal to renegotiate the defense elements without touching the domestic spending, never fought? That the guy who kept the Obamacare vote to a pure party line matter, the guy who singlehandedly did more to defeat McCain-Feingold than anyone else is a quitter? That Elaine Chao’s husband lacks a history of taking on the labor movement?
    We don’t win every fight; that’s not the life of a minority leader. We win a lot of them, though, because we have a leader who understands that if he acted like Ted Cruz, Susan Collins and pals would vote with the Democrats and Obama would develop some momentum again. In the face of constant Democrat and malcontent opposition, he’s partly healed the GOP rifts. Not nothing. 

    • #13
  14. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Butters:

    We’ve still got a chance to knock off Cochran in MS and Roberts in KS, two members of the ruling class that have been in DC for decades and done little to advance the cause of limited government. LA’s jungle primary is also still in doubt.

     You know Roberts is, according to Heritage Action, the most conservative incumbent facing election this cycle? That he’s the 4th most conservative Senator period? After Lee, Paul, and Cruz, before Inhofe and Scott? If that’s not enough to dodge those insults, nothing is.

    • #14
  15. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Butters:
    EDIT: The list of Chamber of Commerce spending is a handy guide for who we should and shouldn’t support in primaries. If you think they are spending a million dollars to help McConnell without assurances on amnesty, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

     I’m not in the market for a bridge, but I’ll buy you a drink at the first meetup if he votes for a general (McCainiac) amnesty. Immigration isn’t the only thing the CoC cares about, and McConnell’s America’s leading fighter for free market principles. You think the Democrats are funding Grimes and Bevin because they oppose amnesty? 

    • #15
  16. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    This is a cheering observation, but it is still a battle.  Moving to the right is not the instinct of career politicians in general.  Still, Cruz, Lee and Rubio have had an outsized influence in Washington and this hasn’t gone unnoticed even while the establishment has resisted.  Rand Paul too.  They have all the new and fresh ideas coming out of the GOP.

    • #16
  17. Butters Inactive
    Butters
    @CommodoreBTC

    James Of England:

    Butters:

    We’ve still got a chance to knock off Cochran in MS and Roberts in KS, two members of the ruling class that have been in DC for decades and done little to advance the cause of limited government. LA’s jungle primary is also still in doubt.

    You know Roberts is, according to Heritage Action, the most conservative incumbent facing election this cycle? That he’s the 4th most conservative Senator period? After Lee, Paul, and Cruz, before Inhofe and Scott? If that’s not enough to dodge those insults, nothing is.

    Eh, his lifetime Club for Growth ranking is lousy for a state as red as Kansas. Worse than McCain and Graham. 

    All things being equal, unless you are an irreplaceable advocate for limited government (and Roberts is hardly that), if you’ve been in DC for 50 years, you need to go. Career politicians are not healthy for the republic.

    • #17
  18. Butters Inactive
    Butters
    @CommodoreBTC

    sorry to pick on Peter, but a few other things:

    (1) “firebrand” is a pejorative used exclusively for conservatives. Greg Brannon is certainly less of a firebrand than Ronald Reagan was. 

    (2) Kentucky is hardly the last important primary. There are important primaries in GA/KS/SC/TN/LA/IA/AK/NH

    (3) Of course they all run as conservatives, that’s the Rove/Chamber playbook, carpet bomb the airwaves painting their guy as a conservative. No mention of amnesty or bailouts or Common Core. What matters is how these people will vote, and who they are beholden to for their election victory.

    • #18
  19. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Valiuth: #5 “Our good feelings here are predicated on an assumed victory. We haven’t won anything yet fellas there is no reason to be optimistic.”

    I’d opt for something further out.  I’d like good legislation put on the president’s desk.  He might sign it or he might not (and who would bet that Barry would sign good legislation), but good legislation from the Republican/conservative types in both the House and the Senate would be most welcome.

    Unless we can get a 2/3rds majority in both houses and not require Barry’s signature.

    • #19
  20. flownover Member
    flownover
    @flownover

    One can imagine the sheer terror that will be expressed in the MSM on Wednesday morning . 
    ” GOP goosesteps to far right, Tea Party big influence in threatened cuts to benefits, war on women . “

    • #20
  21. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    I’d be satisfied if every two years  the conservative voters of the Conservative party upset one or two conventional Republican incumbents. I want those people  worried.  “To encourage the others.”

    • #21
  22. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Butters:

    sorry to pick on Peter, but a few other things:

    (1) “firebrand” is a pejorative used exclusively for conservatives. Greg Brannon is certainly less of a firebrand than Ronald Reagan was.

     Google “liberal firebrand”. You’ll discover that it’s not so rarely used a term, by either conservatives or liberals.

    • #22
  23. user_231912 Inactive
    user_231912
    @BrianMcMenomy

    Can’t we put aside our sniping & be thankful that (so far) we don’t have a Todd Akin or Christine O’Donnell screwing up a Senate race we might actually win?  Yes, by all means hold their feet to the fire, but from inside the tent shooting out, not the other way ’round.  Harry Reid & Chuck Schumer are the guys to whom we must deny power, not Ted Cruz or Mitch McConnell.

    • #23
  24. Blue State Curmudgeon Inactive
    Blue State Curmudgeon
    @BlueStateCurmudgeon

    What’s happening with the Tea Party is part of a long-standing tradition in American politics.  A reform movement breaks out because the two established parties fail to address the political desires of the electorate.  Either one or both of the established parties adopt elements of the agenda of the reform movement.  Remember John Anderson and Ross Perot?  There will never be a permanent third party in American politics because the established parties are built to ultimately respond to where the electorate wants to take them.  While some Tea Party conservatives decry the success of the “establishment” candidates, I believe there is a case to be made that these candidates won because they have moved toward the Tea Party making them more palatable to the conservative wing.

    • #24
  25. Ralphie Member
    Ralphie
    @Ralphie

    I heard Milt Friedman say the answer wasn’t to vote the bums out, but make them
    behave. That is what the Tea Party has done, I believe.

    • #25

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