The House Freedom Caucus is suddenly not far right enough for the extremists in the base of the Republican Party. Less than two weeks ago, it was their stubbornness that drove the House Republican Conference into disarray over the establishment leadership’s inability to garner enough support to get Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) elected as Speaker of the House.
Now, the spectrum of how far right the GOP can move has entered the invisible realm of far infrared. Right wing bloggers like Breitbart.com, commentators like Erick Erickson and darkside personalities like Ann Coulter, along with a bevy of Super PAC profit takers, have trapped themselves into fighting the establishment at so many turns, that they have started to eat their own. The latest target is Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), whom a majority of HFC members voted, last week, to support as Speaker of the House.
Arch-conservative Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) is suddenly “a RINO establishment lapdog” and a “phony,” according to a story in the Washington Post. Critics are even taking on Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the Freedom Caucus stalwart who put a motion on the floor of the House of Representatives for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to step down over the summer, writing things on his Facebook page like, “You should be ashamed,” and threatening other HFC members that they “should all be replaced.”
Just in time for Halloween, they are the ghosts in the Republican machine. You can never be sure what number is going to come up on Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-Louisiana) calculator. “The House Ways and Means chairman [Ryan] is set to be elected the 54th speaker of the House this week,” notes Politico’s Bernie Becker, “unless the House GOP finds yet another way to surprise us.”
The pressure is not just coming in the form of social media comments from ugly internet trolls. It’s also coming from Super PACs, those Citizens United enabled juggernauts that can raise tons of money for a cause and keep as much as they want. The New York Times reported on one such organization, the Tea Party Leadership Fund, which, it says, has raised millions, including in a recent “Boot Boehner” campaign:
“‘Your immediate contribution could be the most important financial investment you will make to help return America to greatness,’ the Tea Party Leadership Fund website said, although it gave no indication of how donations would be spent.
“The answer can be found in campaign finance records, which show that of the $6.7 million the Tea Party Leadership Fund has raised since 2013, only about $910,000 has been spent on conservative Republican candidates it supports — either in direct contributions or independent expenditures on the candidates’ behalf — as an alternative to Mr. Boehner and his supporters.
“Almost all of the rest of the money it has raised since 2013 has been spent on consulting firms involved in helping collect the donations.”
And that’s only one example of, as the old idiom puts it, a fool and his money parting. The group that advises the Tea Party Leadership Fund and tracks its fundraising, DB Capitol Strategies, has its hands in many right wing pies, and they make money from them in other ways, too. According to the Times’ story:
“[DB Capitol Strategies’ Dan] Backer and his various businesses run out of his office in Alexandria, Va., are another major beneficiary. His law firm provides legal and campaign advice to the Tea Party Leadership Fund. He also has an ownership stake in a campaign fund-raising company called SCM Enterprises that the Tea Party Leadership Fund relies on. And he helped create a conservative website, American Action News, where the Tea Party Leadership Fund routinely places advertisements. Collectively, the corporate entities Mr. Backer owns or has financial ties to have been paid at least $1.1 million in fees since 2013 by the Tea Party Leadership Fund and other PACs he helps run, federal records show.”
Considering how groups like Backer’s have sabotaged GOP leadership, it should come as no surprise that the Republican establishment views them as troublemakers who “stir people up on issues that don’t exist or solutions that can’t be achieved,” according to the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon).
Frankly, this is just as disconcerting for liberals, too. Just as we get over our shock at how far right the nut job rubber band can be stretched, they blow us all away by stretching it even further. Soon, though, it may break, sending the entire Republican Party into a centrist wall with a force consistent with Newton’s third law. But then, according to Newton, at least it will also fling the last hangers-on of the infinitely far right into the political abyss.
A new Gallup poll show’s the Tea Party movement with its lowest percentage of adherents ever. It’s at just 17 points among all voters, down from 32% in its 2010 hay day. While it still enjoys favor among many Republicans, at 42%, that’s way down from the 63% that ushered in their revolution.
What’s worse for the GOP, according to the poll, is they are losing independent R leaners who supported the Tea Party in 2010. That number is down 29 points, from 52% to 23%. That number could prove costly in 2016, barring any major implosion by the Democrats.
Some people like to classify the Tea Party remnants as Frankenstein’s monster, a creature that rises up to threaten its maker, but it looks like they are really zombies, the political walking dead, driven to eat anything establishment, even if it kills the entire country. They still eat brains, of course, because their backers want a dumbed down electorate. Unfortunately, it seems that despite Gallup’s assertion that smart people don’t support the Tea Party, the zombies will always have an endless food supply.