The horses are lining up in the gates. Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee (seriously he’s going to run again I think) Rick Santorum (this guy has nothing else to do), Jeb Bush, Rick Perry may make another run, and who knows who else, are all chomping at the bit. The 2016 nomination isn’t that far away. They can all taste it.
Within this battle for the GOP nomination is a battle for the Republican Party of course. Will the hostile takeover of the party continue or will the GOP revert to another establishment retread at the helm. Will the social conservatives make a real effort? (They’ll try, but will fail ultimately.) Will a coalition between the remnants of the Christian Coalition and the establishment counter the Tea Party/libertarian trend within the party?
Fundamentally the question is whether the GOP will become a 21st Century party based on the principals of liberty, opportunity, entrepreneurship and innovation, of new ideas, or whether it will try to scrape out one last win with the big government “conservatives” embodied by Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. Will the GOP ever actually be the “party of small government” or is it destined to remain a “big government of another kind” party?
The neoconservatives and DC GOP establishment would prefer the latter. They are not interested in a smaller government at all. They are interested in a big government which has a different emphasis than the one the Dems prefer. For them “small government” is nothing but a talking point (and one which they don’t even use that much any more) to placate the rubes who in their view can be placated by such talk. Why should the GOP actually be for reducing the power of the federal government? That just means reducing the power of the GOP to execute the programs it wants when it is in power.
The neocons have defined the GOP agenda both domestically and abroad for 2 generations now. The party which was once the “grown up party” concerned with Soviet expansion but very sober in its foreign policy, the party which would have recognized programs such as No Child Left Behind as federal power grabs was by the 1990s no more. By then the small government folks (and there were only a very few left even during the Reagan presidency) had been replaced by a crew of Utopian dreamers as happy to pass Medicare Part D as they were to wage 2 land wars in Asia. But they weren’t “conservatives.” They weren’t for “small government.” They weren’t for reducing the power vested in Washington DC. They were neo-conservatives which generally speaking are for big government. As big as the Dems. (At least.)
What “conservative” says that “deficits don’t matter? But that’s what Dick Cheney once said.
The neocons and establishment GOP (they are not exactly one and the same) also share something besides the love of big government with the Democrats. They loathe the Tea Party. I mean loathe the Tea Party.
Those idiots in the tri-cornered hats, reading the Constitution, and making life difficult for Speaker Boehner, have crashed the big government conservative shindig. What’s worse? The Tea Party is way bigger than the neocon crew.
And in addition to being a larger faction than the neocons the Tea Party people know how to leverage social media. The neocons are limited to emailing their wonky friends in DC and New York.
The establishment GOP deeply resents the current citizen revolt. Take for instance the time Speaker Boehner referred to small government advocates in the House as “knuckle draggers.” Or when Bush Treasury Secretary Mr. Hank Paulson lamented that the Internet and the Tea Party made things difficult for the powers that be.
The establishment wants to hand the Tea Party a defeat. It wants to put the Tea Party in its place. “Why don’t you people just go back to whatever you people do in flyover country and leave the ruling…er I mean, governing, to us.”
This is what Pat Caddell, one of the smartest political minds I know thinks too. He had this to say about the establishment GOP and IRS scandal in February.
That’s right. Caddell thinks the establishment GOP isn’t really pursuing the IRS harassment of Tea Party groups because they WANT the Tea Party groups harassed.
The establishment GOP knows that very soon many of them could be swept from the game. They know that they are this close to finding themselves deep in the political wilderness at the hands of what used to be their own party. That is why this group is desperate to get someone they own as the GOP nominee. Chris Christie would be good, but Jeb from Florida would be even better. Just think of all the jobs (in government and on K Street) which will be generated for Bush II alums if Jeb becomes president.
This is why the big Jeb Bush Push started over the last 2 weeks or so. With Christie hobbled a bit by his state issues, Bush has an opening. He has a chance to woo the New York banking money which looked ready to flow to to the New Jersey governor. (Even Bushes need the backing of the big money.)
The Republican wing of the 2 party power structure knows that it is under serious threat. They want to force a situation where the small government wing of the GOP holds its nose and supports the big government establishment candidate because Hillary Clinton is even worse than Jeb or Christie. The establishment thinks that if it can just appeal to a few more women than Romney did it’s fat city again in Washington for them. The Tea Party and the libertarians will have no choice (they think) but to fall in line. This is the play.
But this calculus assumes quite a lot. The main reason Romney lost was because he didn’t have the support of the small government folks, and Christie or Bush very likely might find themselves in the same situation in 2016 if they were to get the nomination. In fact it might be even worse for the establishment Republicans because they no longer control the majority of the GOP electorate. The Tea Party and the libertarians (who in some cases are the same people) appear to be in the majority and their numbers are growing.
The establishment thought it could wait out the insurgents. That before long the small government folks would be brought into the fold. But for the most part they haven’t been. Now the last ditch is getting one of their guys, Bush, Christie or one of the lower tier but establishment acceptable candidates into the White House. If the neocons and DC establishment GOP have a president which tows the line the Tea Party will have no choice but to tow it right with him.
Or so they think.