Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Will Tea Party Congressmen Be Hoist On Their Own Petards Come 2014?


Too much? Even for mainstream Republicans?

Conventional wisdom is that congressional teabaggers are in such safely gerrymandered districts that they have little to worry about from their overwhelmingly white, angry, low-info constituents. Sure there are as many as 40 Republican incumbents in mainstream districts who could-- if we had a competent or even partially competent DCCC-- be defeated. But not even every Tea Party congressman is in a district as filled with idiots as Louie Gohmert, Tom Graves and Steve Stockman.

Robin Marty, writing in the new Rolling Stone has outlined 8 examples of flagrant Republican hypocrisy that even some teabaggers could find themselves fighting for their political lives next year. Assume the DCCC gets it together and takes out the easy pickings like Charlie Dent (R-PA), Peter King (R-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Buck McKeon (R-CA), Fred Upton (R-MI), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Mike Rogers (MI), Jon Runyan (NJ), Dave Reichert (WA), Erik Paulsen (MN), John Kline (MN), Jim Gerlach (PA), Pat Meehan (PA)-- none of whom the DCCC is currently going after-- there are still actual teabaggers who could defeat themselves by backing statements by GOP crazies who have been working assiduously to shut down the government all year. These aren't necessarily the ones who could be defeated, but they can be seen as toxic for other Republicans who pal around with them. We'll get to that in a moment.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina) has been called "the architect of the shutdown" by CNN. They report that Meadows "wrote a letter to his Republican leaders suggesting they tie the dismantling of Obamacare to the bill that funds the government for the next year... Meadows successfully convinced 79 of his colleagues to sign on to his letter. And he went further, leading a group of 40 lawmakers to demand that the continuing resolution, or the short-term government funding bill at issue, zeroes out funding for President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement so far." (Meadows has nonetheless denied that a shutdown was the end goal: "Our intent has never been to shut down the government. It's to stop the [health care] law.")

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) has been ready to shut down the government since August. He told the conservative site Newsmax, "One of the things that we're doing wrong is that we're accepting the argument that when we defund Obamacare, that we're closing the government down. We're not! In fact, we're saving the nation's future by not funding it."

Rep. Tom Massie (R-Kentucky) says a shutdown is just fine with him, since he was happier at home than at Congress, anyway. "The last thing I fear is going back and leading that same life," he told Bloomberg Businessweek when they asked if he was concerned about losing his seat because of advocating for a shutdown.

Indiana's Mike Pence is no longer in Congress, having been elected as the state's governor in the 2012 cycle. But when he was still a member of the House, he was more than willing to shut the government down-- in that case, in an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. According to the blog Crooks and Liars, when then-Rep. Pence was asked in 2011 if he would shut down the government over a budget that provided federal funds to the healthcare provider, he responded, "Well of course I am. I think the American people have begun to learn that the largest abortion provider in the country is also the largest recipient of federal funding under Title X, and they want to see that come to an end."

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has also been calling for a government shutdown for years. In 2010, Rep. King asked for a "blood oath" that Obamacare would be repealed regardless of what it took, even if a shutdown was necessary. "I'd like to challenge them to make that pledge," King said, according to Roll Call. "I'd like [Boehner] to make that commitment that if the president shuts down the government, there wouldn't be a repeat of 1995 where the House caved."

King wasn't alone in 2010 by any means. Also clamoring for a shutdown was Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who figured it would be "frustrating" but worth it. "It's an inconvenience, it would be frustrating to many, many people and it's not a great thing, and yet at the same time, it's not something that we can rule out," he mused. "It may be absolutely necessary."

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Michigan) is demanding that the responsibility for the shutdown be pinned on President Obama. "It's a disservice to the Constitution, the taxpayers and the businesses of the nation," he told Heritage News. "This has become a political issue and they are trying to make people believe the House Republicans are causing the shutdown." This deflection is a throwback to 2010, when, just after being reelected, Rep. Walberg claimed his victory meant that the voters rejected the health care law, and if President Obama needed to bend to the will of the GOP: "If he doesn't, he will shut government down."

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) has been taking the closing of the WW II memorial hard, demanding that it be allowed to stay open while the rest of the government stays closed. However, in 2010 Rep. Gohmert was more than willing to see everything shut down-- for the sake of the children, of course. ThinkProgress reports Rep. Gohmert saying, "Listen, if it takes a shutdown of government to stop the runaway spending, we owe that to our children and our grandchildren. I don't have any grandchildren yet, but if we don't stop the runaway spending-- even if it means showing how serious we are-- okay, government is going to have to shut down until you runaway-spending people get it under control. And if you can't get it under control, then we just stop government until you realize, you know, yes we can."
One Tea Party fave, Justin Amash, is good on issues involving war and privacy but as bad as any teabagger when it comes to economic issues. He's one of two Michigan teabaggers-- the other being Kerry Bentivolio-- who are too extreme for mainstream Michigan voters. We covered Bentivolio's problems a couple weeks ago but yesterday the Washington Post had a closer look at the hole Amash has been digging for himself.
[I]n the Dutch Reformed country of West Michigan, long a bastion of mainstream, mannerly conservatism, voters in 2010 handed the House seat once held by Gerald R. Ford to Justin Amash, a 33-year-old revolutionary and heir to the libertarian mantle of former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.). Amash was part of an attempted coup against House Speaker John A. Boehner (R- Ohio) and is a leader of the House tea party faction that helped force a government shutdown last week.

But within Grand Rapids’ powerful business establishment, patience is running low with Amash’s ideological agenda and tactics. Some business leaders are recruiting a Republican primary challenger who they hope will serve the old-fashioned way — by working the inside game and playing nice to gain influence and solve problems for the district. They are tired of tea party governance, as exemplified by the budget fight that led to the shutdown and threatens a first-ever U.S. credit default.

Similar efforts are underway in at least three other districts-- one in the moneyed Detroit suburbs and the others in North Carolina and Tennessee-- where business leaders are backing primary campaigns against Republican congressmen who have alienated party leaders. The races mark a notable shift in a party in which most primary challenges in recent years have come from the right.

“It’s a new dynamic, and we don’t know how far it’s going to go,” said Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman who is close to the House leadership. “All the energy in the Republican Party the last few years has come from the tea party. The notion that there might be some energy from the radical center, the people whose positions in the conservative mainstream are more center-right but who are just furious about the dysfunctionality of government-- that’s different.”

But any move to take out a tea-party-aligned congressman in a Republican primary would be challenging, especially here in Michigan’s 3rd District, where grass-roots conservatives hold considerable sway. In the 2012 presidential primary, former senator Rick Santorum beat the eventual Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, in this culturally conservative district, even though Romney carried the state.

Some prominent business leaders are lining up behind investment manager Brian Ellis, according to several GOP operatives here. Ellis declined to grant an interview but wrote in an e-mail: “I am taking a hard look at running in the Republican primary” and “will make up my mind in the near future.”

State Sen. Mark C. Jansen, seen as a pragmatic Republican, also is weighing a challenge to Amash, said Deb Drick, his chief of staff. “We get frequent calls from people encouraging Senator Jansen to run,” Drick said. “There’s got to be a reason he’s being approached so much.”

Meg Goebel, president of the Paul Goebel Group, an insurance agency, said she is “really, really unhappy” with the leading role Amash has played in tying the health-care law to overall government funding.

“I don’t see him as a collaborator, and I think that’s a huge problem,” Goebel, a former chair of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, said. “People used to say, ‘I don’t like the Congress, but I like my congressman.’ I don’t think that’s the case anymore.”

There are similar sentiments 140 miles east in the tony Detroit suburbs of Oakland County, where businessman David Trott is waging a well-funded primary campaign to defeat Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R), a former high school teacher and reindeer rancher now dubbed by fellow Republicans the “accidental congressman.”

...In Tennessee, tea-party-aligned Rep. Scott DesJarlais faces a GOP primary challenge from state Sen. Jim Tracy, who has won over donors and other supporters who abandoned DesJarlais after a series of personal scandals. In DesJarlais’s divorce records, released too late in the 2012 campaign to impact the result, the congressman revealed that he had multiple affairs with co-workers and patients while he was chief of staff at a hospital and that he counseled a mistress and his wife to get abortions.

In coastal North Carolina, Taylor Griffin, a former aide to George W. Bush who has backing from the Washington establishment, launched a primary challenge last week against Rep. Walter B. Jones, an outspoken iconoclast who has repeatedly antagonized Boehner.
It's sadly ironic that Amash and Jones, if they lose, will lose to conservative automatons who may not be pro-Tea Party, per se, but who will both toe the line to party bosses the way Amash and Jones have refused to do. If Amash, Jones or Bentivolio is defeated in a primary, there are good pick-up opportunities in all three districts. Naturally-- par for the course-- the DCCC doesn't have a credible candidate recruited in any of the districts.

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