Right-wingers wage war against the Republican Party
Molly Ball SAYS an uneasy alliance between Tea Partiers and Republican loyalists is increasingly marked by hostility—and many on the right now want a divorce:
On his radio show recently, Glenn Beck urged his listeners to “defund the GOP.” Sarah Palin has threatened to leave the Republican Party; Rush Limbaugh calls it “irrelevant.” The Senate Conservatives Fund has targeted mainly incumbent Republican senators for defeat. Erick Erickson, one of the right’s most prominent commentators, wonders if what’s coming is “a real third party movement that will fully divide the Republican Party.”
Conservatives have declared war on the GOP.
Tired of feeling taken for granted by a party that alternately panders to them and sells them down the river, in their view, Tea Partiers and others on the right are in revolt. The Republican Party itself is increasingly the focus of their anger, particularly after Wednesday’s deal to reopen the government, which many on the right opposed. Now, many are threatening to take their business elsewhere.
“Conservatives are either going to split [from the GOP] or stay home,” Erickson, the influential editor of RedState.com and a Fox News contributor, told me. “They’ll first expend energy in primaries, but if unsuccessful, they’ll bolt.”
The recent government shutdown, and the infighting it laid bare between Republican factions, convinced many conservatives that the institutional GOP would rather sell them out than stick up for them. “There are two views on the right. One says more Republicans is better; the other says better Republicans is better,” said Dean Clancy, vice president of public policy for the Tea Party group FreedomWorks. “One view focuses on the number of Republicans in the Senate, the other on the amount of fight in the senators.”
When Beck made his appeal to “defund the GOP,” he told his listeners to stop giving money to Republican committees and give to FreedomWorks instead. “We kind of agree,” Clancy told me. “Giving to the party committees is wasted money, because they’re just incumbent protection clubs …. Sometimes you have to beat the Republicans before you beat the Democrats. Just because they’re ‘our guys’ doesn’t mean they’ll be our guys when it counts.”
Dissatisfaction within the ranks appears to be one driving factor in the record-low approval numbers recorded for the Republican Party in several recent polls. A Gallup poll last week, for example, found just 28 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of the GOP, the lowest level of support in the two decades Gallup has asked that question. Among Republicans, 27 percent saw their party unfavorably—twice the percentage of Democrats who held a dim view of their own party.
To some Republican institutionalists who have long seen the Tea Party as a destructive force, the talk of a schism merely confirms what they’ve always suspected—that these activists are a radical, destabilizing force, nihilists devoid of loyalty. Some, like the renegade moderate David Frum, urge the Tea Party to go ahead and leave: “Right now, tea party extremism contaminates the whole Republican brand,” Frum wrote on CNN.com this week, wondering “whether a tea party bolt from the GOP might not just liberate the party to slide back to the political center.”