Friday, December 13, 2013

The GOP Civil War (Again ...)

It's All Over But The Crying

The Omnivore is underwhelmed by the flurry of news and blog-posts about the GOP Civil War. Maybe it's Civil War fatigue? Or maybe it's nonsense? How would we tell?

What IS The GOP Civil War?
If you're reading this you bloody well ought to know--but in a nutshell: it's the Tea Party / Conservative groups (and their backers) against the GOPe (Establishment)--the old-guard that's more or less in Washington right now.

What's The Fight About?
That's a good question. This is why the Omnivore isn't especially engaged with the dynamic headlines: the fight is either about ...
  1. The fundamental values of the GOP--and by extension--America. America stands on a precipice and teeters on a tipping-point. If conservatives win, the GOP will return to its roots in American conservationism and might be able to hold the line and salvage the republic. If the GOPe wins, the Republican party will become the party of Borrow-And-Spend rather than the party of Tax-Borrow-And-Spend and all is lost. --or--
  2. The fight is about (essentially) strategy. There are certain realpolitik concerns in play that call for pretend bipartisanship but, ultimately, the reason we can't repeal Obamacare is because we don't control the Presidency. So, you know, until that changes certain things have to be done to preserve the party. Also: primary challenges.
Huh--What? What About The Whole GOP Autopsy Thing?
The 2012 finding was that the GOP was damaged with immigrants, Jews, young people, everyone but older white males--and them only if rich and / or not college educated. The new thinking is that (a) Obamacare has damaged the Dem brand so badly that the collation is fleeing them and (b) that you can win with just white guys anyway if you can get enough of them.

Rebranding is not really on the table. There have some attempts (notably some educational sessions to teach R-column lawmakers how to talk to women) but mostly? It was a non-starter. With the highly visible Obamacare debacle that's all done now anyway. The idea of a wave-election for the D's looks so unlikely no one is scared of it.

No--the question here is whether Boehner really believes what he is saying or whether it's all just strategery. That's right: STRA-TEE-GER-EE.

Which Is It?
Trick question: It doesn't matter. We don't even know if Ted Cruz believes the stuff he's saying, much less Boehner. At least Cruz is pretty consistent. The actual interesting question here is this: which strategy is better? Will the GOP(e)'s repudiate-the-Tea Party approach prevail in 2014 and 2016? Or will the party cleave to the right as they did in the 2012 primaries?

This is a more interesting question because it's less about a gut-check and more about being cornered. Boehner has several potential Tea-Party challengers next year and he has to make a decision: run to the right (which, being the Speaker of the House is impossible if he wants to pass any legislation whatsoever--such as a major budget deal, which he did, which speaks to his credibility as a legislature in Washington) or run for the center-right and refudiate them (REE-FUU-DEE-ATE).

There's literally no room to their right so he did the only thing he could, he refuidated them:
Speaker John A. Boehner for the second day in a row used a news conference to air grievances against the conservative outside groups who have sought to strong-arm House Republicans into moving further to the right.
“Frankly, I think they are misleading their followers,” the Ohio Republican told reporters on Thursday morning. “I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be, and frankly I just think they’ve lost all credibility."
At the same time, the Tea Party (along with President Obama) hits an all-time low in popularity. This makes the "run down the center" look at least plausible.

SO? Which Is It?
The question will hinge on what happens next with amnesty. That's conservative for "Immigration Reform." Whether or not Boehner successfully launches his center-right strategy will depend on whether he is all in for immigration reform. He's made some noise to the effect that he's open to something. This is toxic to the Tea Party--but would, in fact, be possible to run on if he can pass it and it's acceptable to anyone on the right (if Marco Rubio gives it a thumbs up).

If you see him do this, you know that he has thrown all-in against the Tea Party and their grip is slipping. If he doesn't, it still means it's a bridge too far (which it was when Rubio tried it). Doing almost anything in this space would mean directly taking on, for example, powerful groups like Heritage Action (whose brand has taken a beating).

We might also see him move towards the center on the minimum wage (which is very popular and disliked by the Tea Party as well).

If he doesn't really do either of these things--if he trash-talks conservatives but does not execute a strategy based on immigration reform or the minimum wage? Then it's still Tea Party tactics with a thin coating of centrist rhetoric. If he does attempt actual policy in the central-band, though, it's an actual break with the GOP base.

THEN you have the Omnivore's attention.

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