Saturday, January 16, 2010

Natural Allies

Two complementary movements have formed over the past few years. One is older and making a comeback, the other rather new and making headlines all over the nation. Both have conservative and similar agendas. It's up to the Republican leadership to reconcile the views of each with the other, and up to conservatives to make it all work at election time.

The two groups I refer to are the Republican Study Committee and the Tea Party Movement. The Republican Study Committee (RSC) is the older of the two groups, and has definitely suffered its history of ups and downs. Centered in "the people's house" (the House of Representatives), which is more volatile and more in touch with grassroots sentiments than its counterparts in the Senate, this caucus within the Republican Party has been to the top of the mountain--and slid nearly back to the bottom. Today, it is climbing its was back to the crest of the political ideology known as conservative Republicanism.

Meanwhile, a much more recent phenomenon which sprang up nearly overnight has had far fewer political ties, but shares the RSC's general political philosophy--less government, lower taxes, and freedom to conduct our lives without perpetual government intrusion. The RSC is known largely only to political insiders and political groupies, where the Tea Party Movement has drawn national attention. Nobody in the mainstream media which is so loyal to the Democratic Party has attacked the RSC, but the strength and agenda of the Tea Party Movement has brought massive retaliation from the left. This indicates the quiet non-attention grabbing strength of the RSC and the broad American spectrum strength of the Tea Party Movement.

These two entities are natural allies, and the sooner they discover each other, the better for Americans and the Republican Party. The RSC must translate its insider conservative agenda into votes. The Tea Party Movement can provide those votes, and bring along disaffected Democrats and independents with them. I look at it as the perfect melding of Special Ops Forces with the US military. Shock troops joining in a common goal with a powerful army. Both can energize the Republican Party, but neither owes it unswerving loyalty.

A short history of the RSC goes something like this. Its early leader was Tom DeLay who had become the chairman of the caucus by 1991. By 1993, the caucus had 130 members, and the Republican leadership had no choice but to listen to the ideas of the caucus, which was no longer a leftover Goldwater fringe group. In 1994, the Republicans took back the House of Representatives, in no small part as a result of the RSC's powerful positions.

But the RSC fell victim to the old adage "be careful what you wish for." The caucus had targeted budget-cutting as a goal, but too much of a good thing can turn bad. House Speaker Newt Gingrich took budget-cutting all the way to cutting committee and caucus budgets almost to zero. Without serious funding to support its goals, the caucus was unable to stem the flow of Gingrich's consolidation of personal power. That left Republican leadership in the House as well as the real power in the Republican National Committee almost entirely under the Speaker's thumb. The RSC reduced its membership (or had it reduced for them) and concentrated on two issues--abolition of the National Endowment for the Arts and defunding of the Department of Education. It even changed its name to the Conservative Action Team, and it became ever more marginalized. Even when the Speaker agreed with the CAT, he was not about to allow his leadership to be challenged. Said Gingrich: "We don't need any of this crap, because I'm here, and I've got more ideas than anybody."

After nearly disappearing into the pages of history, a new and more realistic RSC began to emerge. By 2001, it was again becoming a power within the Republican Party. Gingrich's one-man rule had come to an end, and conservative Republicans were seriously questioning "big government conservatism" along with the easy accommodations reached with the Ted Kennedy Democrats. First, new chairman John Shadegg of Arizona reinstated the name of the caucus and performed yeoman's labor in increasing membership. The RSC promoted even deeper and more permanent tax cuts than those proposed by the Bush administration. Sympathetic to the war in Iraq, the caucus supported carefully-monitored increases in expenditures for the military, but serious cuts in domestic spending. Sue Myrick took over in 2003 and expanded the RSC's interests into internet and telecommunications freedom along with domestic energy promotion. Mike Pence took over next, and led the charge against out-of-control politically-correct expenditures for recovery from Hurricane Katrina and the expansion of Medicare Part D (prescription coverage). Former chairman DeLay fought Pence over those issues, but his own downfall left Pence free to pursue his goals.

Most recently, the RSC has consistently opposed both Bush and Obama stimulus packages as wasteful, nearly useless, outrageously expensive, not to mention government-intrusive, and of no assistance whatsoever in kick-starting the moribund economy. That put the RSC athwart the leadership of John Boehner, who subsequently lost the battle within his own party over the issue. A much-chastened Boehner learned his lesson, and as a spokeswoman for the Center for American Progress said, "it's the only way Boehner can keep his job and relate to that caucus."

Today, Pence has risen to the chairmanship of the entire Republican conference, and continues his RSC ways by defying the traditional leadership of the party. He was highly visible in the recent special elections by butting heads with Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele in refusing to support far-left Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava in New York's 23rd Congressional district. He also drew the ire of Boehner and House whip Eric Cantor for that move. Although Scozzafava lost to a Democrat in a traditional Republican district, Pence was able to point out that if the Republicans had supported the upstart conservative instead of the ultraliberal "safe" candidate, the conservative Republican who ran as an independent would have won in a walk.

Today, the RSC is proposing an updated, modernized and more Reagan-like version of Gingrich's 1994 Contract with America that largely brought about the astounding Republican victories in the off-year elections. Not a statement of party principles and credos, it will instead be a slate of legislative proposals. And the RSC has made it clear that it will not allow itself to be sidetracked by the old Republican guard. That would provide guidelines for conservative candidates as well as countering the Democratic nonsense that Republicans have no programs and are only capable of saying "no." Among the proposal recommendations are the elimination of "czars," fiscal transparency, a waiting period to read bills, and a top corporate tax rate of 25 percent (effectively undoing the horrendous damage done by Sarbanes-Oxley). Grover Norquist, who can easily discuss inside politics and public movements said "I think it will come from the field. It will come from the tea party guys, from the RSC, from the grassroots guys. To come through the Hill, it has to be put into legislative language."

Which brings me to my point. The tea party and the RSC have almost identical goals. One can produce that legislative language and herd the Republican sheep in Congress, while the other can bring the full-throated support of an angry public determined to get the government off their backs. The Tea Party Movement knows what it wants, and the RSC knows how to get it. Either without the other is much less effective. Together they may be nearly unstoppable, and they can certainly convince the Republican leadership at large that they are a force to be reckoned with. Steele and the traditional Republican leadership will have to go along with the two movements, or work carefully with them to produce a workable agenda. Opposing them would be suicidal for the old guard.

My other opinion is that without clear leadership that includes insider political sophistication, the Tea Party Movement could easily drift into obstructionism, or fall prey to the danger of being taken over by ideological purists or demagogues who don't know the first thing about winning elections. Even worse, they could fall victim to the siren call of third partyism. It would be a terrible shame and perhaps a national tragedy if the Democrats held onto power because people of good faith simply couldn't see the need for unity, their natural affinity for the Republican party, and a powerful and experienced force within the Republican party that would produce a winning conservative alliance. The Tea Party Movement already has a voice in the Republican Party if it chooses to recognize it, and it's time for that winning coalition to start scaring the hell out of the Democrats.

24 comments:

Writer X said...

Strength in numbers. Well said, LawHawk. I wonder if their agendas are still too different (RINO vs. Conservative)?. Plus, I think the RSC seems to be in a constant identity crisis.

By the way, John Shadegg (R-AZ) recently announced he wouldn't be seeking reelection.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

I wouldn't put Steele in the category of being against the conservative principles. I believe that Steele does get the message from the Tea-Party movement. I believe he is at odds with the Republican Blue-Blood elitists who are content with being invited to the "Politically-Correct" parties. You know the ones who are happy with being in the minority. The ones who prefer moderate (RINOS) Republicans to conservative ones.

Steele, I think, will surprise you.

BevfromNYC said...

Funny you should write this. I just read a article on the front page of yesterday's NYT about how the teaparty movement members are taking over positions in local Republican precincts - "In Power Push, Movement Sees Base in G.O.P." http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/15/us/politics/15party.html?scp=1&sq=In%20Power%20Push,%20Movement%20Sees%20Base%20in%20G.O.P.&st=cse

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

This post is great because it illuminates much more about Newt and his grab for power.

I didn't know this about Newt, but now that I think about it, the Republicans weren't too unhappy that Newt was unseated. This would explain it.

AndrewPrice said...

Good article Lawhawk.

I agree with Joel about Steele, don't count him out as being against conservative principles. I remember him from Maryland and he was very conservative then -- and what I hear these days as scuttlebutt is that the RINOs are upset at him for "buying into" the tea party philosophy. I think he's making a lot of right moves -- not all, but I think he is moving the party in the right direction.

Also, again echoing Joel, thanks for the info on Gingrinch. He's made a LOT of moves that I find extremely questionable and this just adds another one to the pile.


Bev, That's really encouraging. That's what we need to have happen if the tea party movement is going to have any influence -- take over the Republican Party precinct by precinct.

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: It does seem that way sometimes. But the re-growth of the RSC is always an indicator of the parallel resurgence of the conservative movement. Let's face it. We've had our ups and downs as well. Maybe it took Barack Obama for us to find ourselves.

LawHawkSF said...

Joel: That's where I was leading in the previous article on Steele and the RNC's woes. He is a good, solid and loyal Republican but he had been floundering. I agree that he seems to have put the trends together and figured out that there is a conservative rebirth that will unite the party and the nation.

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: The Tea Party movement is learning from the RSC and vice versa. The RSC is well known to the political writers at the MSM, but they have either dismissed it or ignored it--until the Tea Party movement caught fire. Most of those liberal publications still haven't figured out the natural alliance between the two organizations. Watch for direct attacks on the "dangers" of the "right wing" RSC when they do put the two together.

LawHawkSF said...

Joel: The average Republican knows that there was some kind of internal problem with Gingrich but few except insiders knew just how nasty the battle between the movement conservatives and Gingrich became. He has a streak of megalomania that few but the insiders were aware of. Still, we owe him a debt for his organizational skills that were so vital to the 1994 victories. His recent picks on candidates seems to indicate he's lost his touch, however.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: I agree with both you and Joel on Steele. I think his basic instincts are moderate-conservative, and his experience in dealing with the liberal state of Maryland skewed his view of accommodation with the liberals at the early stages of his national leadership. And like both of you, I think he realizes that Maryland is not the nation, and is making some excellent choices now. In fact, I think he is probably very relieved to be able to support the candidates he really would have chosen in the first place without his earlier Maryland missteps.

As I mentioned in the earlier article on Steele, I took some pleasure in watching Steele show some rambunctiousness in telling the carpers that if they didn't like the way he's doing his job, fire him or shut up. His enthusiastic use of Republican resources to support Brown in Massachusetts is very much to his credit.

LawHawkSF said...

I do want to add that both Andrew and I have cautioned against lumping RINOs and moderates into the same category. Scuzzyfatso in NY 23 was a RINO, undeserving of the support of the Republican Party. Brown in Massachusetts is a moderate, leaning conservative, fully deserving of the support of Republicans and conservatives. He is well within the purview of the Reagan 80% rule of thumb, and an honorable candidate with whom I have some disagreement.

Therein lies the danger of conservative purity tests. A movement conservative simply could not win in Massachusetts. A moderate-conservative can. Brown probably comes as close to the perfect example of a moderate I can give unswerving support while disagreeing with some of his views. Steele sees it the same way, unlike the mistake he made in NY 23.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--Your comments on moderates, RINOs and Brown are laid out in detail in this article on PJTV today: Brown: Pragmatism or Principle. Brown is about as conservative as could possibly be expected of any candidate who could win in Massachusetts.

LawHawkSF said...

HamiltonsGhost: I would also add that Brown's position on abortion is moderate. He is pro-choice, with which I have a problem. But he also opposes public funding of abortion, which I can respect. The article you cited really does point out that the "conservative" in one state is the "moderate-liberal" in another. So long as they don't drift off into RINOism, it is so important to recognize that winning elections is as important as "pure" doctrine. If an "80%er" can win and a pure conservative can't, make the moderate your candidate.

The goal is to elect Republicans to shore up the percentages in Congress while strengthening the conservative movement by choosing the most conservative candidate that has a chance of winning. A conservative-moderate civil war only helps the Democrats and the liberals.

Unless and until a powerful Conservative Party emerges, the Republican Party remains the party which most closely adheres to conservative principles. It's far from perfect, but you have to play the hand you're dealt. I prefer conservatives, but I've learned to live with moderates if it means a more conservative government overall.

Tennessee Jed said...

I always expect good stuff from you, Hawk and you never disappoint. Like most of the folks, I didn't have that good background on the history of RSC and Newt.

I truly hope things go our way Tuesday in Massachusetts. That is what will make me believe we may be able to see the end of our current national nightmare.

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee: Thanks. Practical insider politics are rarely public knowledge, but have nearly as much final effect on elections as do the gyrations going on publicly. I'm a student of insider politics, but until I did the research, I wasn't aware of just how deep and personal the Gingrich/RSC dichotomy went.

I am slowly allowing myself just the smallest feeling that we may actually pull it off in Massachusetts. I hoped for it, but still felt that we would lose narrowly (which would still be a major victory of sorts). I guess I still have that teenage fear of rejection. So I'm going to allow myself (shall I say it?) hope. Besides, you know the Democrats are in trouble when a guy from Tennessee and a guy from California can spell Massachusetts correctly, and the Democratic candidate in Massachusett(e)s can't.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk. Speaking of conservatives and the MSM, have you noticed that the coverup is already beginning in Haiti? Breitbart had an article today entitled "Anger Growing In Haiti Over US Rescue Efforts." The same people who attacked Bush for harnessing the wind and creating Katrina, sabotaging the levees, and "not caring about black people" are basically silent about the lack of coordination at the airport and seaports of Haiti. While the US is utilizing its military to assist Haiti, their commander-in-chief is campaigning for Oakley in Massachusetts while holding hands with special ambassador to Haiti, Bill Clinton. More Democrat hypocrisy.

Sorry, I accidentally posted this on Scott's comment thread originally. HG

LawHawkSF said...

HamiltonsGhost: The bitching in Haiti was as predictable as the sunrise. For America, no good deed goes unpunished. From practically the beginning, the locals were saying "if the Americans don't do something right away we're going to (fill in the blank), but usually something like "riot and loot and blame it on America's failure to help, help fast enough, help in the right way, give us more money, make Haiti into Beverly Hills overnight, etc., etc., ad nauseam." We do these things because they're the right things to do, but if anybody was expecting a simple thank you, they haven't read history.

CalFederalist said...

Lawhawk. I saw the Breitbart article, too. And it wasn't just the locals. The French, who created the monstrosity of Haiti in the first place, are kvetching up a storm because they claim the Americans are evacuating their own expatriates first. Well, at lest we got that right.

LawHawkSF said...

CalFed: The MSM reaction (or lack of it) is merely typical. It praises Obama for promising $100 million in American aid above and beyond the relief efforts when Haiti has a proven track record of making many more millions disappear without a trace. The government reacted as quickly as it could, however imperfectly, after Katrina and the Asian tsunami, but Bush never did enough for them. But a rocky start in Haiti and a commander-in-chief who is AWOL for four days after the earthquake doesn't even get a line of ink.

The situation is New Orleans writ large. Nobody deserves this kind of horror, but look at the similarities. Millions of dollars of money from DC poured into both prior to the disaster with no discernible action for the public good taken with that money. Warnings of inadequate buildings and necessary infrastructure facing a potential natural disaster ignored. Self-help and enterprise nearly non-existent. Politicians and police in league with the criminal class. A population almost entirely dependent on the government to provide their daily needs.

And after the disaster strikes, calls for immediate remedies from DC. Not help--instant fixes, the very thing that got them into trouble in the first place. Still, Bush's actions will be vilified forever in the MSM, while Obama's flailing rescue attempts and lavishing of the American taxpayers' cash on a thoroughly corrupt and failed government will go down as "Obama's success proves how wrong Bush was." I'm not holding my breath waiting for the MSM to question why Obama is campaigning with Bill Clinton in Massachusetts in the middle of a disaster of truly biblical proportions. Obama should be in DC directing rescue efforts and Clinton should be in Haiti where the "special ambassador" belongs during a crisis.

StanH said...

It would seem that the Tea Party is pulling the Republican party to the right whether they like it or not. I would guess the RINOs are in a full panic. Win, lose, or draw in Mass, it’s has to be alarming to the Democrats, and like I’ve said a couple times the Democrats misread the electorate in ’08, it was classic “throw the bums out,” in American politics. Like good little leftist they’ve overreached, and “We the People,” are gonna make’em pay!

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: I think the ultraliberal wing of the Republican Party is almost as shocked as the Democrats about this huge backlash against all things socialist. And I agree that the Tea Party movement has played a huge role in creating that shock. I do want to point out that the Tea Party advocates still need to work with the conservative insiders already in Congress to make this all work.

That was one of my primary goals in discussing the resurgence of the RSC. The two movements are natural allies. But the job of a government is to govern, and we need public activists as well as experienced, savvy politicians to effect the change (and equally important, to preserve the change after the election fever has worn off).

Until I'm proven wrong, I will continue to maintain that insiders at the RSC and similar organizations are vital to the success of conservative health and to stave off cynical manipulators and demagogues who may try to use the powerful but essentially leaderless Tea Party movement for nefarious purposes or to advance their own political careers at the expense of the common good.

AcesAndEights said...

Are there any of those "behind the scenes" RSC members who are of sufficient status to step into the outside arena and join in the small and currently weak presidential pool?

LawHawkSF said...

Aces: The only name that immediately came to my mind was John Shadegg, and WriterX says he's not in the running for re-election. That would certainly put him outside the circle formally, but wouldn't require him to break his personal ties with the RSC. Beyond him, I have no suggestions. Maybe some of our other readers have some ideas.

LawHawkSF said...

Interesting Development: The Democrats have been discussing how they would delay the certification of Brown in Massachusetts in order to maintain their supermajority until they can pass Obamacare. Now the Republican insiders and lawyers are saying that if Brown wins, the certification is irrelevant given legal precedent and the current Massachusetts statute. Upon his election, a new Senator immediately replaces an appointed Senator by operation of law with no need for certification. I'm not sure of the law on this, but it's a great argument, with precedent in the Senate for it. If correct, then the Democrat' current appointee ceases to be the Senator the day of the electon. Bye-bye supermajority, with or without Brown actually present and voting.

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