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February 14, 2014

Why I Refuse To Cheer The GOP “Establishment”

Yesterday I went on a Twitter rant (that’s what it’s for, right?) against Mitch McConnell’s debt ceiling shenanigans (the old, vote for cloture when you could stop it but against the bill on final passage when you can’t trick).

HQ and personal favorite Charles C.W. Cooke replied to one of the tweets.

He followed up by saying he’d be writing more about it later.

And that he did in a piece entitled “In Praise of the Establishment

Still, all of that notwithstanding, many conservatives have of late demonstrated a worrying tendency to believe that the virtue of their grievances and the legitimacy of their pursuits must automatically translate into political victory — and that if these do not, that this is the fault of the leadership of the Republican party. I appreciate that this is difficult for some to hear, but I would venture that the opposite is the case. In my estimation, the only thing of which Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have been guilty in the past few years is to have worked tirelessly within political reality and to have reacted sensitively to the hands that they were dealt. The hysterical epithets and acronyms, the witless talk of the amorphous “Establishment,” and the lucrative fundraising e-mails all to one side, there is little that either man could have done differently while their party controlled just one half of one branch of government.

“I’d be willing to risk losing the Senate if we could keep America,” Mitch McConnell’s primary challenger, Matt Bevin, told Glenn Beck this morning. What an astonishingly incoherent and misguided sentence that is. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” asks the King James Bible. A fair question, yes, but politics is a different game altogether, and, in this case, the alternative isn’t an otherworldly victory or spiritual advancement but simply more loss. The question for Bevin must be “for what shall it profit a man if he shall lose another debt-ceiling fight and lose his party’s shot at the Senate as well?” And the answer is “not at all.” If this is what we are to expect from the revolution — a host of nihilistic, suicidal, performance artists who would rather be outside of the control room screaming than inside and in charge — then give me the cynical calculations of a Mitch McConnell any day of the week.

Charles is correct that defeating the debt ceiling hike was a losing game for the GOP. That’s why I opposed pretending to use it last fall. You can’t play chicken when you announce that you will turn away first. McConnell knew this and yet he and other Republican leaders talked up a fight on the debt limit. Don’t blame me for holding them responsible for their failure to deliver on their rhetoric.

As an aside, why are people dumping on Ted Cruz for the debt ceiling vote? He didn't spend weeks saying the GOP would refuse to hike it without any strings attached. That's what McConnell, Boehner, Ryan and the rest of the "establishment" were saying. Why is Cruz the bad guy for trying to make them live up to their commitment? It seems rather strange to get mad at the guy who pointed out the lie rather than the liars.

I’ve heard McConnell talk about having to take tough votes in the Senate (it’s why they usually make terrible candidates for President) and he got bit by one this week. The reason it was a tough vote is because while complaining about the debt ceiling hike is popular, it’s also necessary to raise it.

I will give McConnell begrudging credit that in its own way his vote for cloture a brave and unselfish.

With all of that said, I see absolutely nothing wrong with using this against McConnell. Being in the leadership has its perqs but it also has downsides. McConnell is a big boy and knows this.

On the initial question as to whether McConnell has a tactical or ideological difference with Obama on the debt ceiling I’ll let McConnell’s record speak for itself.

I looked back at the debt ceiling hikes during the Bush years (that’s as far back as I had time to check) and there were seven of them totaling $5.85 trillion in increases. Mitch McConnell voted for each and every one of them. Only in 2009 did he begin to vote against hiking the debt ceiling. I find it hard to believe that McConnell suddenly found a principled objection to ever increasing debt. It seems pretty clear his biggest problem with debt is that it’s now political expedient to be against it. Remember, then Senator Obama said hiking the debt ceiling “is a sign of leadership failure”.

Based on that, I think it’s fair to say McConnell and Obama hold the same position on raising the debt ceiling.

McConnell, like Obama, is a politician so I don’t hold his shifting positions against him as some sort of character flaw. It’s more an occupational hazard. That doesn’t mean that I should salute him for it either.

This brings me to my biggest problem with Charles’ piece, his conclusion.

For a party that enjoys such little power in Washington, this has been pretty good going and, unfashionable as it is, I feel that I should buck the trend and praise the party for playing a difficult round adroitly and with foresight. Well done, McConnell. Well done, Boehner. Now win the Senate in November, and give ’em merry hell.

I have no faith that given more power, even the Presidency, the current GOP “establishment” will behave any better then they are now or have in the past. I don’t come to this simply as a nihilistic hater but as McConnell’s debt ceiling history shows, as someone who is well acquainted with what the party and its “establishment” history.

Others may have more faith in their latest promises that they’ve seen the light and will stay on the straight and narrow hence forth but I see no evidence of it. In fact there are many reasons to believe the exact opposite.

Remember when the sequester was supposed to be the Holy Grail to be protected at all costs to trade for entitlement reform? Or when every dollar of debt hike was supposed to be offset by a dollar or more of spending cuts? They couldn’t rollover fast enough on that to get the spending moving again.

I was not originally a fan of the “tea party” and I’m still not truth be told. I find it too emotion based and agree much of what its opponents say…it’s not interested in creating converts but enforcing discipline, it’s unrealistic about the popularity of the policies it prefers, that losing running candidates like Christine O’Donnell in deep blue states is preferable to winning with a sellout RINO (Note I said “deep blue” not purple or red states) and so on.

I view these faults, perhaps with more hope than reason, as growing pains that can be worked out over time. As I’ve said before I get why the GOP moves left…math. At this moment it’s easier to be just a little less liberal than the Democrats to win votes but that doesn’t actually move the ball in the proper direction for conservatives. Someone and some group of people are going to have to make it worth the while of the GOP to do that. Right now the best tool the “tea party” has is to make the GOP fear the right more than they are tempted by moderate left. In time I’d hope that would expand to winning over converts so the GOP will see the right as a constituency large enough worth wooing with more than words. Until we have a sufficiently large carrot, we will have to use the stick.

I don’t know that the current “tea party” is interested in taking this path and perhaps I will find myself cursing them as well. Only the future will tell that story. But the history of the Republican party is well known to me and plenty of other conservatives. It’s clear, at least to me, that the GOP is a hopeless broken and corrupt vessel for conservatives under the leadership of the likes of McConnell and Boehner.

If you want to change the way business has been done under Democrats and Republicans alike, at some point you will have to change the people doing that business.

digg this
posted by DrewM. at 10:07 AM

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