The shot heard ’round the fringe: GOP moderates take action against extremists

Gentlemen, start your engines.

Despite recent events widely seen as setbacks for and reasons to be doubtful of the GOP’s seemingly-inevitable and hopefully-inexorable Bataan death march toward positive change and a new amiable condition with certain majorities of the citizenry, and continuing an equally-improbable recent trend in good ideas coming from unlikely sources, Karl Rove, of all people, has had a good idea, and has done something very necessary that will better his party. This comes with many, um, caveats, of course. I’m sure he’s not doing it for the betterment of his party – he’s likely hedging his bets, so that he doesn’t get so thoroughly trounced again as he did in 2012, with his reported one percent return on investment outraging his American Crossroads donors – and it’s far from certain to work as planned. One potential downfall would be the new organization, the American Victory Project, turning into or being co-opted by the ultra-conservative fringe they’re trying to stop – or in some places, usurp. (If I was on the other side, that’s what I’d do.) Another is the likely amount of general trouble this will create, in the chaos of the GOP doing battle with itself. The civil war is beginning. Brother against brother. At least, I hope.

As reported by The Guardian:

Republican donors are setting up a multimillion-dollar war chest to help protect electable party candidates from primary challenges from “undisciplined” candidates from the fringe right.

The Conservative Victory Project, set up by the Karl Rove-backed Super Pac American Crossroads, seeks to become a bulwark against the kind of extreme views that have seen the party lose Senate seats in recent contests.

The people behind the idea said it is a push against indiscipline rather than any particular ideology. But it comes as the Republican party seeks to define itself after November’s presidential defeat amid an apparent battle for the heart of the party.

It is also being framed by some as a push against the influence of the Tea party, the likes of which have seen the GOP dragged to the right in recent years.

This move is purportedly more a reaction to the un-electability of the finge candidates and the new logistics of electoral politics that we saw in 2012 – Todd Akin, for instance, was supposed to be a shoo-in for his Missouri seat until he opened his mouth about rape – rather than a pushback against any specific ideology. And actually, if that turns out to be true, I think that’s good. It gives the GOP mainstream a practical, pragmatic reason to take action towards thwarting the extremists and against their primary candidacies, and a clearly defined goal to shoot for that everyone can get behind – nominating an electable conservative candidate with broad appeal – which gives the Project itself a likely broad base of support. It is a good first step, strategically, to bringing the party back toward electability if not common sensibility.

“I wouldn’t classify this effort as being conservative versus moderate. It is about being the most conservative candidate that can win. If a candidate is undisciplined or unable to raise sufficient resources, it should be recognised,” [American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan] Collegio told the Guardian.

He added: “Our party has lost six Senate seats over the last two election cycles not because of our ideas but because of undisciplined candidates running weak campaigns.”

I don’t think that’s true. It was probably because of both of those things – unpopular ideology combined with a lack of discipline and a weak campaign, a perfect storm of sorts, though any one of those would be enough to sink a campaign – that lost the party six Senate seats. But both factors need to be addressed, and this addresses, for the moment, one of them.

Todd Akin – to use the ubiquitous example again – and his comments created two problems: they made him ideologically alienating, which is bad enough, and they also made him un-electable, which is worse. Despite being asked to step down from the race by his party’s leadership, Akin refused and continued his campaign to its inevitable conclusion, spurred through it by two things GOP leaders likely wished it did not have: money and moral support, both coming from “those towards the fringe of the party” and “right-wing groups.” The mainstream GOP “is seeking to counter” that support, and may solve the problems of a candidate like Akin’s alienating ideology and un-electability. The Conservative Victory Project intends to solve the second, and in so doing solve the first.

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6 comments
  1. That is a good start for them. Unfortunately it may not help in 2016 because the fringe still gets to vote in the primary which will drive the candidates toward the right and away from electability.

    • kipp said:

      True, but the hope here is that the fringe candidate is beaten in the primary by one that is more moderate and broadly-appealing. And now, hopefully, with this new initiative the moderate will have the financial and institutional support to beat them.

      • I hope you are right. I am just skeptical because it seems that primaries only serve to polarize candidate since they are attempting to appeal to only one side of the spectrum.

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