Skip to comments.Conservatives roar; Republicans tremble
Posted on 10/22/2009 3:20:36 AM PDT by markomalley
Many top Republicans are growing worried that the partys chances for reversing its electoral routs of 2006 and 2008 are being wounded by the flamboyant rhetoric and angry tone of conservative activists and media personalities, according to interviews with GOP officials and operatives.
Congressional leaders talk in private of being boxed in by commentators such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh figures who are wildly popular with the conservative base but wildly controversial among other parts of the electorate, and who have proven records of making life miserable for senators and House members critical of their views or influence.
Some of the leading 2012 candidates are described by operatives as grappling with the same tension. The challenge is to tap into the richest source of energy in the party the disgust of grass-roots conservative activists with President Barack Obama and their hunger for a full-throated attack on his agenda without coming off to the broader public as cranky and extreme.
Mitt Romney has purposely kept a lower profile and stuck to speeches on specific policy issues, in part to avoid the early trade-off between placating party activists and appearing presidential. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, one of the most active potential opponents for Obama in 2012, said that media portrayals of a narrow-minded party could make it harder to attract the middle-of-the-road voters needed to make the GOP a majority party again.
The commentators are part of the coalition, not the whole coalition, Pawlenty said in a phone interview. The party needs to be about addition, not subtraction but not at the expense of watering down its principles.
We need more voices, said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, one of the partys up-and-coming leaders. Our partys challenge has been that we need to be more inclusive we need to attract the middle again. ... When one party controls all the levers of power in Washington, theyre going to try and villainize whoever they can on our side. It gives us an opportunity now to try and harness the energy and point it in a positive direction, so that we can attract the middle of the country to the common-sense conservative views that we have been about as a party.
Political operatives of all stripes like to fancy themselves as coolly controlling practitioners who can shape public images and direct the activities of party regulars from their perches in Washington.
But the reality of the GOP during the Obama presidency is that the partys image and priorities are in many ways being imposed on Washington driven by grass-roots energies that lawmakers and strategists can scarcely control.
At the same time, there are powerful incentives for Washington politicians to play to the crowd and bow to the influence of commentators like Beck, who at the moment is far more famous than any of the GOPs congressional leaders.
When Republicans such as Rep. Phil Gingrey have complained about these figures in public, most have quickly apologized in the face of outraged phone calls and e-mails from conservative activists.
House and Senate Republicans both seized on the issue of federal funding for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now after Obama critic Andrew Breitbart launched the controversy on his site BigGovernment.com with video of two people posing as a pimp and a prostitute in the groups offices.
As vividly illustrated by Rep. Joe Wilson, elected Republicans are seeing the benefits national media attention and fundraising from embracing the trash-talking style of talk show hosts. Wilson went from being a little-known member of the House minority who had repeatedly failed to get on the A-list committees to a cause célèbre for the right wing because he shouted You lie at Obama during a joint session of Congress.
Though he apologized to the president through chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, Wilson moved quickly to exploit his brush with fame, posting Web videos to raise money, appearing on Sean Hannitys show, getting a coveted invite on Fox News Sunday and even being asked to raise money for some of his conservative colleagues. Most rank-and-file Republicans have to spend hours on the phone pleading for money and relish the chance to be taken seriously by a major Sunday show.
But some Republicans worry the party could squander an opportunity to capitalize on voters concerns about Obama and the Democratic Congress because they come off looking shallow, sharply partisan or just plain odd to persuadable voters.
Warning of the influence of the Fox host, who recently accused Obama of racism against whites, George W. Bush White House veteran Peter Wehner wrote last month: Beck seems to be a roiling mix of fear, resentment and anger the antithesis of Ronald Reagan.
Still, these concerns apparently are not powerful enough to prompt most elected Republicans to take public stands against the rhetoric coming from the web of conservative talk show hosts, websites and public activists.
Ed Gillespie, who was counselor to Bush and has started a conservative group called Resurgent Republicans, said his polling shows rising numbers of persuadable voters who are growing disenchanted with the Obama administrations policies but nevertheless remain invested in the president.
Our party has to bring those voters along with a critique of policies, not the kind of harsh rhetoric the left used against former President Bush, Gillespie said.
Without a good slice of the independents, we are doomed, said former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).
The only Republicans standing up to Beck and other conservative activists right now are familiar iconoclasts like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and New York Times columnist David Brooks both of whom are distrusted by many Republicans for their frequent departures from conservative orthodoxy.
Graham, earlier this month, mocked Becks famous on-air cry and warned that the Fox News talk show host is not aligned with any party as far as I can tell. Hes aligned with cynicism. Not long afterward, he was heckled by conservatives at a political event back home.
Brooks, a Republican who has written both favorably and critically about Obama, amplified Grahams concern with the partys obsequious relationship with Beck and Limbaugh. It is a story of remarkable volume and utter weakness, he wrote. It is a story as old as The Wizard of Oz, of grand illusions and small men behind the curtain.
Allies of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have detailed for POLITICO how the former GOP presidential nominee is dismayed with the direction of the party and put an unusual amount of time and effort into trying to push the party in a more centrist direction.
All three figures are often irritants to establishment Republicans but in this case, many Republicans said privately they were in agreement that they need to move beyond the hard-core right to succeed.
But this critique goes to a major fault line within the party. Many activists believe the party lost because McCain failed to present a clear and genuine ideological contrast and that the party abandoned principles through excessive spending during the Bush years.
The debate means the argument over whether outspoken talk show hosts are reviving a beaten party or trashing its brand is likely to persist through the 2010 midterms and into the 2012 presidential primary.
On the one hand, the GOP seems to be surging a bit as it sharpens its attacks. The party is doing better than it has in recent history when it comes to generic matchups for the 2010 midterms. Beck, other Fox News commentators and Breitbart are clearly landing some punches on Obama.
Their efforts helped stoke turnout at the August town halls, forced the mainstream media and Obama himself to reckon with a scandal at ACORN and incendiary comments and led to the resignation of green jobs czar Van Jones.
On the other hand, the partys image more broadly remains in the dumps. An ABC News/Washington Post poll this week found that only 20 percent of those surveyed consider themselves Republicans. A larger study by the Pew Research Center this spring captured a similar trend: The share of independents in the electorate is the highest in 70 years (36 percent), while the share of voters who call themselves Republicans is the lowest in 30 years (23 percent, compared with 35 percent for Democrats).
Republicans in Congress are even more unpopular than the very unpopular Democrats who are running the House and the Senate. This suggests something has to change for a true GOP resurgence to take place.
Karl Rove, the chief political strategist for Bush, said impressions of the Republican Party as a captive of a fringe reflect a cynical and dismissive and small-minded view of who the American voter is.
The question will be whether the Republican candidates next year can talk about a lot of kitchen-table issues and the deficit and spending, Rove said. Rush Limbaugh wont be on the ballot.
This big tension is playing out in a smaller way in the special election in upstate New York. Congressional leaders are backing moderate Dede Scozzafava, despite her liberal views on abortion and other issues, because they think she has the best chance of winning this swing district. Conservatives, including many who participated in the much-publicized tea party protests, are convinced she is insufficiently Republican, so they are throwing their support and money to third-party candidate Doug Hoffman.
The result: Polls show the Republican vote could be so split that a lackluster Democratic candidate could pull off a win. If Republicans blow this race, it will leave the GOP holding only two of New Yorks 29 House seats. A decade ago, it had 14, most of which were occupied by Northeast moderates who no longer feel welcome in the party and were voted in by independents who remain very skeptical of the partys policy solutions.
But with the Scozzafava endorsement, one has to ask if they will even take a stand for NE RINOism...
He is from VA. From what I read, McDonnel doesn't turn left; yet, he might win the race next month. Meanwhile, the model for 'moderate', McCain, failed miserably last year, and Crist, another model for 'moderate', might lose the primary next year. The latest polls show that both Rubio and Crist do well in the general. So, why do we need to turn left?
“Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh figures who are wildly popular with the conservative base but wildly controversial among other parts of the electorate”
...telling the truth has now become “wildly controversial”.
R I N O
Has anyone ever seen an article written about the radical left and it’s death grip on the democrat party?
Didn’t think so.
“McDonnel doesn’t turn left; yet, he might win the race next month”
...McDonnell is now 14 points ahead of Comrade Deeds(D). Worried about the impending last minute “macaca” moment the libs WILL find and present 5 days before election. On the other hand, Deeds is very unpopular with blacks and a recent poll found that there’s a percentage of BO voters disenchanted with the “one” and will stay home! (I work for McDonnell) Fairfax County (Northern Va lib hang out) endorsed McDonnell!! So did lib Hampton Roads!!
The GOP has taken a side-step to the left. We Conservatives firmly stood our ground, where we will remain. That’s why they call us “Conservatives”. We’re stubborn as hell.
But I noticed this morning that Politico failed to even mention Cheney’s commentary about this politicizing of the war in Afghanistan.
Politico chooses their articles carefully, very carefully.
Graham, Brooks, Snowe and those of the same ilk are the reason the republicans got their socks beat off in the last two elections. For CRYING OUT LOUD (I'M YELLING NOW!), IF I WANTED A !@#$%^&*()p_+_)(*&^%$#$%^&*( LIBERAL I'D VOTE FOR A RAT. THESE RINOS ARE JUST DEMOCRAT LITE.
I wish they'd just cross the dang aisle and STAY THERE.
Mr. McCain's attitude toward the conservative was ‘just what
are you going to do about it’... well, now the answer has
come for Mr. McCain and the RNC.
So what the GOP needs is more Ken Mehlmans, Denny Hasterts, Mark Foleys, and John McCains.
exposing the truth! ......
as it had to be dug up, researched, connected the dots, followed the trails, ............
These people have no clue.
Politico just told the GOP to make the conservatives shut up and go away.
If the GOP doesn’t want our votes and money and volunteers let them say so. Just come right out and say it. We can completely take over the Libertarian Party within months.
"Once nominally in power, the Republicans spent & taxed & regulated like a bunch of Democrats- is it any wonder that the voters decided to elect The Real Thing?"
We aren't going to compete with the Evil Party by being ( "We can get you the goodies at a cheaper price" ) Democrat Lite.
That's my 2 cents, anyway...
“We need more voices...”
Someone isn’t paying attention. Politico is asking you GOP leaders to make your base SHUT UP and GO AWAY. Those private citizens out there are making it hard for the leftists and RINO’s to get things done.
Give John McCain's Senate seat to Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Throw McCain out and install a real law-enforcer.
Yeah, I’m not surprised if they will release something that potentially damaging McDonnell’s chance. However, hopefully the fact that he is familiar with the Northern Va will cut Deeds’ lead there.
“The GOP has taken a side-step to the left. We Conservatives firmly stood our ground, where we will remain. Thats why they call us ‘Conservatives’. Were stubborn as hell.”
Yeah! We will NOT compromose our principles.
“If the GOP doesnt want our votes and money and volunteers let them say so. Just come right out and say it. We can completely take over the Libertarian Party within months.”
That’s true. We may want to consider doing just that, as well.
Exactly. Politico.com is just such a box of tools .... on Election Night 2008, a guy from Politico commenting on network news used all his oxygen to slag on Sarah Palin. It was so vile .... these guys are a stone waste of human, just like all the rest of the 'Rats and RiNO's.
I’m a ‘small l’ libertarian - but the ‘big L’ libertarian party has a VERY wrong position on a few issues, the primary one being the WOT.
Said Bob Michel -- who never held the Speaker's gavel in his long, long House career.
But Newt got it away from them. How'd he do that, Bob?
I told the last GOP caller who wanted money that I was fed up with them supporting RINOS and that from now on, I’d give to individual conservative candidates that I favored. I told them, “In short, don’t call me, I’ll call you.”
Another example of wishful trash written by Washington Post rejects. It’s a cheeerleading piece designed to calm the knuckleheads in king obuma’s clown court who are losing the PR war and democrat seats. I approve of this propaganda because it envelopes rats in their comfortable cloud of liberal delusion, making way for major strategic mistakes. It reminds of Hitler’s last days as he sat like a rotting mushroom in the bunker moving imaginary divisions around the battlefield map.
This is exactly why they are failing as a party. This is exactly why a talk of a third party is circulating. Folks, through their own admission they intend to play us like a fiddle in 2010.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll this week found that only 20 percent of those surveyed consider themselves Republicans.
(How many of those who no longer consider themselves Republicans because the party left them? Look around they are not turning into democrats, instead these are the people you say you have to placate!)
Republicans in Congress are even more unpopular than the very unpopular Democrats who are running the House and the Senate. This suggests something has to change for a true GOP resurgence to take place.
(Uh...yeah. But they continue to fail to understand the reason for their unpopularity. You can't be middle of the road and hold onto conservative party principles.)
Dede Scozzafava, despite her liberal views
What part of no to any form of liberalism do you not understand? We destroyed the Republican party because we refused to go along to get along with our new founded socialism?
Maybe the Republicans should take a look at a winner, a conservative, someone to get excited about. Sarah Palin!!
They Just dont get it ,what the Hell PRINCIPLES does the MIDDLE have? We are NOt ACTIVISTS we are just Americans who believe in Traditional American Values,Faith Family and country. We Go to work ,pay our taxes follow the Rules and watch Sleaze bag Politicians who Fatten their own wallets at our expense,look the other way when millions of people break the law by coming across the Borderand we are told to shut up and accept it because we are a Country of Immigrants ! I never heard my relatives tell me they snuck across the Border, they did tell me though they were terrified when they landed at Ellis island that if they sneezed they would be Quaranteened.
Health care is a Big issue now and I suppose The Middle would agree that the Pompous Aholes in washington should get big fat salaries and lifetime Health Benefits while the rest of us peasants get what the elite politicians you know our Government SERVANTS,see fit to Bestow upon us .
My Freedom is not for sale to any Moderate and I am sure that if we had an Individual who had the Courage to stand on COMMON sense issues AMERICAN traditional Value issues this Party would explode with people ,you do not have to sell out your ideals to grow, you have to have the Courage to stand up for them
The current RINO Stupid Party doesn’t comprehend that there are many people who voted for the party of Reagan who became independents when the likes of McCain and Grahamnesty became the Stupid Party standard bearers.
If the RINOs would just get out...
Many activists believe the party lost because McCain failed to present a clear and genuine ideological contrast
^^^ ^^^^ ^^^^ ^^^^ ^^^^
Oh, so many “quotes”... so little bandwidth.
The liberal elite snobs already have a party.. why would they vote R?
If the R’s go down in flames again, so be it. I will NEVER EVER again vote for a RINO. Most polls show the majority of Americans are CONSERVATIVE. Except that “we’re all Socialists now,” aren’t we.
Pawlenty = what a joke. Romney = ROMNEY CARE, HELLLLOOOOWW!
It's not just conservatives who are mad at Obama & the Dems but those so-called moderates and independents are mad too.
If the Republicans think by continuing playing nice to the Dems and being me-too Dems are going to win them seats they're smoking crack.
Why aren’t lefties ever considered to be “cranky and extreme”?
At any rate, when the party powers are running people like scuzzyfuzzy, it’s insane to expect the base to toe the line.
I received a pub party congressional survey today that of course included a solicitation. When the survey got to that part at the end, you check a box indicating the amount you will donate ($500, $250, $100, $50, etc.) or “Other”. I checked “Other” and stated I would donate some advice. The advice was to start running candidates who are vertebrates instead of RINOs if they want any money from me.
We don't. McCain lost the election because the interminable war in Iraq lost the support of the "Jacksonian" segment of the electorate. McCain, Graham, and the rest are simply wrong.
Well, Ed, how well did that work out for Obama and his Maoist minions?
Freedom, personal responsibility, limited government, and truth ARE all "wildly controversial" in past ages and, in particular, in this age. They are ideas that motivate people to their highest achievements and many people are uncomfortable with that freedom. They are "wildly controversial" and dangerous to those in power.
Cantor didn’t say we needed to turn left, and he’s not a lefty. He’s nowhere near McCain. I think what he means is that we should use our traditional values to attract people who are shocked and sickened by what they’re seeing in DC.
I have. Several of them.
This one set me off yesterday like a rocket. I was screeming into the phone at John Boehner’s staff and writing follow up letters.
What the hell is so extreme about what the TEA Party folks stand for. If you have to dodge the issues raised by the TEA Party folks as too radical they need to be gone...
It may not be just the rats who experience some grief from the upcoming elections. Pub party powers have a lesson coming to them. Scuzzyfuzzy is about to get her butt whipped to hell and back.
“We can completely take over the Libertarian Party”
I don’t think so but the Conservative Party or the Constitutional party would welcome us with open arms. The only problem with that would be getting on the ballot in all 57 states.
The problem with Republicans is twofold. First, it’s the two party system with all others being shut out due to the costs associated alone. Second, it’s the fact that Republicans EXPECT your vote instead of hoping to EARN it.
For time exceeding my life span, you basically had two choices; Democrat or Republican representatives. Notice I did not say Liberal or Conservative representatives.
Now our country has been mortally wounded by these spineless Republicans in their quest to satisfy only their egos and pocketbooks.
It’s time to throw all of them out of office and start once again with those who FEAR THE WRATH of those who put them into office and those who will protect the Constitutionality of all that transpires within the governing body of this country.
Boxed in? Really? The way out is simple unless of course conservative principles mean absolutely nothing to you which I believe in the majority of cases within the current crop GOP that is true.
Constitution, Western Values & culture, Sovereignty, Dismantling the Leviathan we call DC. All of these lead you out of the box.
Politico is a bunch of whoring lefties.
The illusion that the oligarchy has put up is being shattered.
The good news is that 2010 is coming, and it will make 1994 look like a day at the beach.
It’d be nice if the pubs for once were prepared and had their own bomb to drop.
Imagine it’s 1776. Our founders feared that sounding too radical against the English crown would just turn off too many people.
So they attempted to be more “moderate” in their dealings with the Crown.
After the war, as they attempted to write the Constitution, they were worried that some of the language in it may turn off moderates
Did not read all of the responses so if someone already said this - sorry. IMO, we will continue to see articles like this to try and push us to a third party there by rendering us ineffective come the next set of elections. Bad idea. Don’t fall for this fluff! No third party! It was our party to begin with! We are making a difference! Stay the course!
Lots of straw-men and framing of the argument in this hit-piece.
If the party doesn’t move in the direction of its impassioned and energized conservative base, of course party ID will go into the crapper. I’ve identified myself as a Republican since Barry Goldwater, and now, to my own amazement, I find that I cannot do so.
Dede is about more than just one upstate NY county - she’s become a cause celebre, and is probably the best thing that could happen to conservatives, even if we lose a seat we’ve held forever. MAYBE THIS WILL OPEN THEIR EYES!