Establishment GOP vs Grassroots: Civil War or Growing Pains?

Because I am a nice guy and don’t want anyone to waste their time, here is a quick list of those who won’t enjoy this post: 

1) People working for Mitch McConnell’s reelection.

2) People who come from families that internalize everything rather than fight it out and get it over with. 

3) People who are Mitch McConnell. 

The last several weeks have brought to the fore some ugly realities that the establishment GOP was hoping it could deal with using its go-to conflict resolution strategy: put it off, hope the problem goes away and then perhaps a nap. 

Led by a host of Republican senators whose most notable achievement is getting elected a lot, the old guard has been busy publicly admonishing the more Tea Party-minded additions to the fold that they don’t know anything. 

Because they haven’t been elected a lot. 

Now, I will concede that, yes, the establishment dinosaurs do have a knack for winning elections. However, the gaps in between those victories tend not to be filled with much to crow about unless you’re a fan of things like the Department of Homeland Security, Medicare expansion or being part of a team that’s only won the popular vote in a presidential election once in twenty five years. 

A school of thought is emerging amongst us extremists that it might be rather refreshing if they applied some of that ability to battle and prevail over Democrats in elections to the legislative process. 

So a schism is erupting that sees one side yelling, “Hey, we win elections and stuff!” and the other side responding, “Yeah, but you’re kind of hosing us once you do!” 

The eruption, however, isn’t from a new source of conflict. In fact, this is a decades-old ideological volcano in the GOP that has had spectacular consequences after blowing up in the past. 

This New York Times article almost deserves a sentence by sentence examination but let’s just grab a couple of chunks and look at them. 

After the budget standoff ended in crushing defeat last week and the political damage reports began to pile up for Republicans, one longtime party leader after another stepped forward to chastise their less seasoned, Tea Party-inspired colleagues who drove the losing strategy.

“Let’s face it: it was not a good maneuver,” Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the senior Senate Republican and supporter of the deal that ended the showdown, said on Thursday in an interview from his Capitol Hill office. “And that’s when you’ve got to have the adults running the thing.”

Hatch is indeed “seasoned”. Four hundred and thirty seven years old and serving his fiftieth term (okay maybe only his seventh) in the Senate, Hatch can not only win elections but will more than likely survive the zombie apocalypse. 

By the way, Hatch was first elected to the Senate largely by campaigning on the premise that his three term incumbent opponent had been in Washington too long.  You can’t make this stuff up.

The adults Hatch mentions are the same grown-up election winners who brought the Republican party to the point where it was helpless to stop the passage of Obamacare. 

These same adults also spent the last debt ceiling showdown whining about Ted Cruz rather than discussing the ticking time bomb of debt that will one day blow up this economy. These adults actually sped up the countdown timer on the bomb. 

But, hey, winning elections and stuff. 

Oh, the “political damage” from the “crushing defeat” was so overwhelming for the GOP that less than three weeks later President Obama’s job approval hit an all-time low

The obvious reason for this swan dive in The Lightbringer’s approval numbers is that Obamacare had a rocky start.  Because it’s awful. 

I believe it was Ted Cruz who was mentioning that a lot in September and early October. Silly unseasoned kid. 

Let’s look at one other thing from the Times article: 

The moment draws comparisons to some of the biggest fights of recent Republican Party history — the 1976 clash between the insurgent faction of activists who supported Ronald Reagan for president that year and the moderate party leaders who stuck by President Gerald R. Ford, and the split between the conservative Goldwater and moderate Rockefeller factions in 1964.

Some optimistic Republicans note that both of those campaigns planted the seeds for the conservative movement’s greatest success: Reagan’s 1980 election and two terms as president.

Oh, the Times will be the Times-there is nothing “optimistic” about it, that’s actually what happened. 

The Republican party is not, and has not been for quite some time, an ideological lock-step affair. That’s something that we should be celebrating rather than having fits about. If you don’t like in-fighting and you want to pretend a lot, the other guys would love to have you. 

The present battle is a most necessary one not only for the future of the party but the future of the country. 

The problem with the “capitulation for the sake of fighting another day” approach the GOP has taken for decades is that it allows the Democrats to push the center ever leftward by increments. We are now at a point where the nation’s wealth is shifting to those who bloat and perpetuate the federal behemoth. The IRS is going to punish you if you don’t purchase something that is going to be far more expensive now that it is required than it was when it was a free choice. 

Shall I go on? 

Let’s say your case for maintaining the status quo on either side isn’t a very strong one at this juncture.  In a sane world, anyone seeking to oust the people who have been in charge while the country headed down this path would be lauded.  Instead, we are demonized by a GOP establishment that is eerily in concert with the MSM and the Democrats. 

Whenever I talk to my more moderate Republican friends (and I have many) about challenging incumbents their side of the conversation is always filled with the same excuses masquerading as reason.

I have no problem with incumbents being challenged but this just isn’t the right time/challenger.

And: “You (Tea Party people) just need to find better candidates.” 

My only response to them now is, “How are you not at the point where you want to go out and find better candidates?!?!?!?” 

If you can survey the political landscape in America for the past twenty years and are OK with at all that has gone on while Orrin Hatch, Mitch McConnell and the rest of the adults in the GOP have held sway in the party then you and I definitely have a problem

If you think it’s all right for McConnell to be reelected and continue his capitulating reign of “meh” while the progressives in the Democrat party run roughshod over the Constitution, your liberties and anything else they can get their filthy statist paws on then yes, we are going to fight about some things. 

The “another day” and “next time” approach to governance employed by GOP leadership in recent years isn’t a strategy, it’s a pathetic reality avoidance mechanism. 

And it is ruining the country. 

The Republicans had better find a way to provide, and articulate that they are providing, a clear contrast to the Democrats. That they have done both so poorly for several years is the real problem the party is facing. Not demographics the culture or whatever other monsters they want to find under the bed. 

Decimating economically crippling policy before it becomes law is far more important than whether everybody is happy in the Senate lunchroom.  And if you want to continue to enjoy your rights you may want to think about getting behind candidates and legislators who aren’t afraid to lose friends while thwarting the statist onslaught. 

There is no inherent virtue in bipartisan cooperation with an opponent who never gives anything in return. In fact, it’s becoming rather dangerous. Republicans could use some leaders who grasped this simple fact. They don’t have any at present. 

So, yeah, let’s fight for the party. 

If those of you fond of the GOP status quo want to remain true to form and just wait to fight another day while we run you over I’m OK with that too. 


Stephen Kruiser is not only a comedian, but he’s also a grassroots activist who has been working to rebuild the Republican party for decades. 

Photo credit: Sent to FreedomWorks by Twitter follower @justusthem