OK, so it's over. The deal has gone down, and the US House of Representatives is now in the slippery hands of John Boehner and the GOP. The Senate still belongs to Harry Reid and the Democrats, but by a smaller margin, and while the House is far in the lead when it comes to having new members with certifiable brain damage, the Senate also has some members who are no slouches in Teh Crayzee department. Jim DeMint is a perfect example of the latter, and it may come to pass that DeMint will find himself at the center of a damaging GOP civil war.
The outlines of such an intra-party conflict have been evident for a while now, and it has centered around the so-called "Tea Party." The "Tea Party" is nothing more or less than the GOP base with a new coat of paint, claims by the "mainstream" media of this being a "movement" notwithstanding. The "Tea Party" is comprised of the exact same people who were perfectly happy to have a fundamentalist war freak in the White House during the Bush administration, and never mind the fact that Bush grew the government exponentially while preaching to the choir about "smaller government." These are the same people who kept Bush's approval rating from dropping below 20 percent. These are the same people who set to yowling about Terry Schiavo loud enough to get the GOP congress to mess with constitutional law. And they are the same people who think Hillary Clinton murdered Vince Foster to cover up Bill Clinton's drug-running operation out of the Mena Airport in Arkansas, etc., etc., etc.
That's the "Tea Party," and just because they changed their name and got some big money from the Koch Brothers to raise hell and screech about armed revolution doesn't change the fact that they are the GOP base, reborn and rebranded by a compliant media that puts spectacle above substance as a matter of operational principle.
The seeds of the fight began to be widely sown after the election of President Obama, which coincided with even further congressional losses for the GOP. The party was declared all but dead, and Mr. Obama began flogging various reform-minded economic and social pieces of legislation. Along came the "Tea Party," holding hysterical rallies in which the participants openly packed enough weaponry to storm Utah Beach. Then came the disruptions in the health care reform forums, and all of a sudden, one could not swing one's dead cat by the tail without striking a news station or newspaper that were giving the "Tea Party Movement" as much air and ink as could be managed.
That's when the problems began for the GOP. A number of main-party luminaries - no less than Karl Rove being among them - began to openly mock the "movement" for being a disorganized grab-bag of nonsense. These critiques became more strident once "Tea Party" candidates began to talk about openly challenging "Republican-In-Name-Only" officeholders whose views did not jibe with "Tea Party orthodoxy. And then, of course, these "RINO" officeholders found themselves in primary fights with "movement" candidates, many of who were being pimped nationally (not to mention fundraised for) by the Queen of Right-Wing Gibberish herself, Sarah Palin.
(And, as an aside, you have to wonder how many personal [facepalm] moments John McCain has had since his fateful decision in 2008 to elevate Palin to the national stage; I'm guessing no less than ten thousand by now.)
The main Republican Party was in a bind. For decades, they had pursued a deliberate strategy of whooping up the base, getting them all fired up about Jesus and fetuses and guns and terrorists and immigrants, which paid them great dividends. The GOP base has been the most reliable voting bloc in the country since the Reagan administration, and any GOP candidate who said the right things about that Jesus-fetus-gun-terrorist-immigrant nexus could absolutely count on their support. Fostering the base's paranoia made them an effective electoral weapon, one that delivered a long succession of GOP victories, beginning in earnest in 1994.
After 2008, however, that dog slipped the leash, and the GOP found itself fighting against, instead of depending on, that very motivated and highly insane base of voters. As the 2010 midterms approached, they found themselves making a very delicate straddle; they needed these people to win back the House, and would deal with the problem of batpoop-crazy people joining the caucus after the House majority was secured.
Well, they got what they wished for...and therein lies the problem. These new "Tea Party" congresspeople have their own agenda - Boehner's recent retreat from recent remarks that the House's main priority would be to see Obama defeated in 2012 being one example - and while many of them will happily allow themselves to be absorbed into the go-along-get-along insider's game, enough of them won't to cause very large potential headaches.
Which is where Jim DeMint comes in. Check out this report from ABC's blog The Note, which was posted on Friday:
Some of the country's most powerful conservative leaders emerged from a five-hour long strategy session on Friday with an unequivocal message of support for South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, who is facing partial blame for the GOP's failure to take control of the Senate.
DeMint has become a human punching bag in some corners of the party for forcefully backing a handful of anti-establishment primary candidates like Delaware's Christine O'Donnell and Colorado's Ken Buck, who ended up losing their general election contests.
It's a line of attack that Brent Bozell, the president of the conservative Media Research Center and a lead organizer of Friday's gathering, rejected.
"The big winners of 2010 are Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin and liberal and moderate Republicans can't stand it," Bozell said in an interview with ABC News. "The Republican Party owes Jim DeMint a massive debt of gratitude and a standing ovation for what he did."
But prominent Republicans, including DeMint's South Carolina colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott have suggested that endorsing insurgent candidates was a mistake.
"If the moderates in the Republican Party want war, they're going to lose," Bozell said, holding up Graham as an example. "I guarantee you we will see their political carcasses when they come up for re-election."
Read that last bit again.
"I guarantee you we'll see their political carcasses when they come up for re-election."
Wham and splatter, baby. Them's fighting words.
You could perhaps chalk this kind of talk up the fact that post-election bruised feelings certainly still remain between main-party Republicans and the GOP base insurgents of the "Tea Party." But the outlines of the intra-party struggle that has gone on for the last two years are encapsulated right there in that feisty little exchange. It didn't break out in full before the midterms, but now that the "Tea Party" has dug itself into Congress for real, the potential for a full-fledged flameout appears to be increasing steadily.
Thanks to the GOP base's "Tea Party" push, the main Republican Party got what it wished for: the House.
They may live to regret letting these whacked-out foxes into the henhouse.