GOP Establishment's war on its base

A political party blessed with a large, enthusiastic, and active base is planning a war against that very base. They don't call it "The Stupid Party" for nothing. Neil King, Jr. and Patrick O'Connell report for the Wall Street Journal:

Republican leaders and their corporate allies have launched an array of efforts aimed at diminishing the clout of the party's most conservative activists and promoting legislation instead of confrontation next year.

GOP House leaders are taking steps to impose discipline on wavering committee chairmen and tea-party factions. Meanwhile, major donors and advocacy groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads, are preparing an aggressive effort to groom and support more centrist Republican candidates for Congress in 2014's midterm elections.

At the same time, party leaders plan to push legislative proposals-including child tax credits and flextime for hourly workers-designed to build the party's appeal among working families.

Right. That's going to work. Corporate interests are beloved by working families, who will grasp the sincerity of the effort.

It all boils down to power. Who is in charge here? The constituents or the party leadership:

One stark example of the new quest for discipline came this month, when Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio publicly lashed conservative advocacy groups that had opposed a two-year budget compromise aimed at breaking the crisis-driven cycle that has governed Congress's budget-writing process.

At the same time, Mr. Boehner's deputies took steps behind the scenes to end internal dissent, including among GOP committee chairmen who had voted against the House leadership in prior fiscal battles. In the run-up to the budget vote, Mr. Boehner's deputies warned chairmen who were tempted to oppose the deal that doing so could jeopardize their committee posts, said people familiar with the discussions.

The goal was to reverse a trend in which chairmen, who typically earn their post by hewing to the party line, voted against priority legislation. Six chairmen had voted against an initial version of a farm bill earlier in the year, causing the legislation to collapse on the House floor, and 11 voted against the pact this fall to reopen the federal government and extend the country's borrowing authority into 2014.

Republican leaders in the House have employed similar tactics to enforce discipline with their rank-and-file. Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, one of four Republicans to lose a committee assignment in 2012 for consistently voting against party priorities, said he recently approached GOP leaders about returning to the Agriculture Committee. In response, the Kansas Republican said one member of the leadership team made it clear "that until I voted the way they wanted me to vote, they were not going to put me back on the Ag Committee."

This is a recipe for suicide. We saw in November 2012 how well it works when a party pushes a presidential candidate who alienates the base. The GOP turnout was far too low because Romney did not inspire the base. Does anyone think John Boehner does? Does anyone care how turnout will go in November next year?

The GOP Establishment lives and breathes the Beltway, where the combined weight of the media, government bureaucrats, and all those lobbyists leads them astray. They have no idea how their arrogance plays to their natural constituency.

The midterm elections should be a slam-dunk. But the Beltway Republicans, traumatized by the media campaign against the shutdown, are fighting the last war, completely unaware that the base doesn't want another shutdown, it wants repeal of Obamacare and sees it in sight with victory on 2014 and then 2016. If only the Establishment can stop attacking them while it sucks up corporate money.

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