“I hate to keep repeating myself, but to have the kind of relief the country needs, I think we change the government. Change the Senate, change the presidency.”
—Mitch McConnell, November 7, 2013
recently wrote a piece on what I said will be the Republican establishment’s strategy to win general elections against Democrats: triangulation. They will try to make voters believe that they occupy the middle ground between those crazy teapartiers, who want to deconstruct the present government, and those nutty left-wingers, who want to construct an even bigger government.
Well, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the first arrow out of his triangulation quiver today, via Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column:
“The most important election yesterday wasn’t the governor of New Jersey and it wasn’t the governor of Virginia, it was the special election for Congress in South Alabama, where a candidate who said the shutdown was a great idea, the president was born in Kenya, and that he opposed Speaker Boehner came in second.” The victory of a more electable Republican, is significant, Mr. McConnell says. To govern, parties must win. To win, parties must “run candidates that don’t scare the general public, [and] convey the impression that we could actually be responsible for governing, you can trust us—we’re adults here, we’re grown-ups.”
McConnell, who is up for reelection in 2014, confidently says he is “gonna be the Republican nominee next year” in a race that would pit him against Kentucky’s Democratic secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has been raising a lot of dough for the battle. In Noonan’s column, McConnell shrewdly went after the Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former senator and unrepentant teapartier Jim DeMint, for spending a lot of money attacking Republicans like him and for doing so “in obvious coordination with Harry Reid’s super PAC.”
And McConnell has obviously figured that his primary campaign opponent, bidnessman Matt Bevin, who is supported by Tea Party groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, is best dealt with by painting him and his supporters as irresponsible people who can’t win a general election because the public doesn’t trust them to be grown-ups and govern.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has also stepped up the rhetoric against extremist groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund and the consulting firms that work with them. The New York Times recently reported:
“We’re not going to do business with people who profit off of attacking Republicans,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the committee. “Purity for profit is a disease that threatens the Republican Party.”
Feeling that threat from the anti-establishment extremists, the establishment extremists—who want all of the same things that their zealous Republican brothers want—are now fully arming themselves in an attempt to convince Americans that they are the middle-ground answer to the problem posed by people who don’t want to govern at all and people who want to govern too much.
My point in all this is that Democrats should not just sit back and enjoy the Republican Civil War, delightfully tempting as that is. We have to keep reminding people that even though Mitch McConnell and some other Republicans seem to have learned their lesson about courting and coddling the zealots in the Tea Party, the only difference between the establishment and the zealots is that the zealots are at least honest about what they want to do.