Empire Striking Back: GOP Gearing Up For War Against Tea Party

At the National Journal website, Beth Reinhard has an article: “Inside the Messy but Moneyed Republican Plan to Neutralize the Tea Party.” It features a lovely picture of Stormtroopers from the Star Wars franchise—which is where I got the idea for the title of this post.

From Alabama to Alaska, the center-right, business-oriented wing of the Republican Party is gearing up for a series of skirmishes that it hopes can prevent the 2014 midterm election from turning into another missed opportunity. This will not be a coordinated operation. It will be messy, ugly, and prone to backfiring. And if the comeback succeeds, it will be in fits and starts, most likely culminating in the selection of a presidential nominee in 2016.

“Hopefully we’ll go into eight to 10 races and beat the snot out of them,” said former Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio, whose new political group, Defending Main Street, aims to raise $8 million to fend off tea-party challenges against more mainstream Republican incumbents. “We’re going to be very aggressive and we’re going to get in their faces.

The caterwauling over the GOP brand ramped up after President Obama’s reelection and a handful of setbacks in the Senate before hitting full screech as the country hurtled toward default. For some Republicans, the time for soul-searching is over. “This is a battle we have to fight,” said GOP consultant John Feehery, who has advised top Republican leaders on Capitol Hill. “We can’t just lie down and let this happen.”

Tactics being discussed among Republican strategists, donors, and party leaders include running attack ads against tea-party candidates for Congress; overthrowing Ron Paul’s libertarian acolytes dominating the Iowa and Minnesota state parties; promoting open primaries over nominating conventions, which can produce Republican hard-liners such as Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli and shutdown-instigator Mike Lee of Utah; and countering political juggernauts Heritage Action, the Club for Growth, and FreedomWorks that target Republican incumbents who have consorted with Democrats.

You can see more of John Feehery’s wit and intelligence from an earlier post I wrote. I have also written about the GOP treachery against Mike Lee.

While the official line is that the Tea Party is hurting the Republican brand, it seems likely that these attackers know they are basically fighting to make the GOP an even less powerful party that merely cheerleads Democrat aggression overseas. Consider this line from the article:

Like other business leaders and prominent Republicans, Casey was reluctant to identify specific targets for fear of antagonizing the conservative grassroots.

This doesn’t sound like the behavior of people who think they have a majority.

Because efforts to roll the tea party typically provoke activists to roar back stronger than ever, the old guard is stumped in some instances. Ideally, the establishment would figure out a way to channel the movement’s passion into electoral victories in 2014 and 2016. But how do you control Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the Republican ringleader of the shutdown, who may not count enough friends on Capitol Hill to rename a post office but whose real power comes from outside Washington? How do you influence House Republicans when gerrymandering leaves them with little to fear?

Clearly, there are people with money who are so upset that they can’t control conservatives that they are willing to further damage the Republican Party just to thwart the populist uprising.

Obviously, this is a challenge to all Christian conservatives. We have a fight ahead of us.