The Thread is an in-depth look at how major news and controversies are being debated across the online spectrum.
“Republicans emerged from Tuesday’s elections energized by victories in Virginia and New Jersey, but their leaders immediately began maneuvering to avoid a prolonged battle with conservative activists over what the party stands for and how to regain power.” So writes Adam Nagourney of The Times this week, summing up the sense of many regarding an off-year election that saw, in addition to those gubernatorial races, the continuation of Mike Bloomberg’s reign in New York City, a defeat for gay marriage in Maine, and a Democratic pick-up of a House seat in upstate New York that Republicans had held since the Reconstruction Era.
We know that hard-line conservatives are riled up. But so are hard-left Democrats and their gay allies.
It was that last race, in which a moderate Republican found herself forced to drop out after a rebellion by hard-line conservatives, that led Nagourney to speculate about a “prolonged battle” within the G.O.P. — and he has plenty of company:
— Ruy Teixeira on The Times Op-Ed page: “If any repudiation is going on, perhaps it is of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Democrats captured New York’s 23rd Congressional District for the first time since 1872, as Bill Owens defeated Doug Hoffman, the hard-line conservative who forced a moderate Republican out of the race. Mr. Hoffman’s narrow defeat is now likely to embolden conservatives — who far outnumber moderates in the party — to challenge Republican incumbents they find ideologically impure.”
— George Stephanopoulos of ABC News (courtesy of NewsBusters.com): “But, what’s most interesting here is civil war inside the Republican Party. You saw this conservative candidate just come in and swamp the Republican who was pro-choice, pro-gay rights. And what the White House is trying to do even if they lose here is exploit- is fan the flames of this civil war. ”
— Philip Rucker and Perry Bacon Jr. at The Washington Post: “As the party turns toward the 2010 midterm elections, pitched battles between moderates and conservatives — and between the Washington establishment and the conservative grass roots — are underway from Florida to Illinois to California. Conservative activists, emboldened after forcing out the moderate Republican nominee in a New York congressional race, said they will fan out nationwide and challenge Republican candidates whom they deem too moderate or insufficiently principled … In Washington, some party leaders worry that viable moderate candidates could be damaged if they bow to conservative pressures, particularly in Senate races in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky and New Hampshire. Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, cautioned that hotly contested primaries could leave eventual nominees ‘broke and bloody.’ ”
— Charles Mahtesian and Alex Isenstadt at Politico: “In what could be a nightmare scenario for Republican Party officials, conservative activists are gearing up to challenge leading GOP candidates in more than a dozen key House and Senate races in 2010. Conservatives and tea party activists had already set their sights on some of the GOP’s top Senate recruits — a list that includes Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida, former Rep. Rob Simmons in Connecticut and Rep. Mark Kirk in Illinois, among others … Activists predict a wave that could roll from California to Kentucky to New Hampshire and that could leave even some GOP incumbents — Utah Sen. Bob Bennett is one — facing unexpectedly fierce challenges from their right flank.”
As for the conservatives themselves, Jon Henke, at the Next Right, is all for an intramural bloodbath:
The story of NY-23 is not “conservatives beat moderates” or “conservative loses to Democrat”.
The story of NY-23 is “the Right starts dismantling the Republican establishment.” This is about how the Republican Party is defined and who defines it.
Right now, the movement wants the Republican Party to be defined by opposition to big government. Gradually, as new leaders arise, we will demand that the Republican Party be defined by its own solutions, as well, but rebuilding is an incremental process. We can hammer out the policy agenda and the boundaries of the coalition later.
For now, our job is to disrupt the establishment GOP. If we beat Democrats while we’re at it, great. But the first priority is to fix the Drunk Party – the Living Dead establishment Republicans. They’re history. They just don’t know it yet.
NY-23 was the first shot in that war. It was a direct hit. Next year, we start storming the castle.
Allahpundit at Hot Air, however, thinks that this is a recipe for defeat:
Certainly primaries are a better way to handle intraparty warfare than third-party challenges, but they’re not perfect. My sense of the looming Crist/Rubio battle in Florida is that it’s going to get nasty and that Crist will likely end up being just as demonized as the eventual Democratic nominee, if not more so. And if that happens — and Crist wins the primary anyway — I’m not sure how the fences end up being mended in time for a unified party-line vote in the general election. It’s hard to go from “this guy’s a … RINO who’s no better than the Democrats who are destroying the country” to “this guy represents most of my interests” in a few months. I don’t know what the solution is to that, but I think Ace is smart in trying to build bridges between “pragmatists” and “maximalists” long in advance. The nastier things get, the more likely hardcore supporters in the primary loser’s camp end up staying home for the general, and the more likely a Democratic Congress becomes.
Why is it that when looking back at an election in which very little went right for Democrats, so many folks are seeing nothing but dread and doom for the G.O.P. Apparently, everyone agrees that for the party in power, unity behind a popular president is something of a security blanket. Everyone, that is, except George Soros and his minions: “MoveOn.org is sending out emails today seeking more contributions for its campaign to defeat any Democratic senator who does not fully support Obamacare,” reported The Washington Examiner’s Byron York on Tuesday. He had more:
Yesterday the left-wing activist group asked members to contribute “to a primary challenge against any Democratic senator who helps Republicans block an up-or-down vote on health care reform.” Today, MoveOn reports that it has received $2 million in pledges in less than 24 hours. “It’s a clear sign of how angry progressives would be at any Democrat who helps filibuster reform,” MoveOn executive director Justin Ruben writes in the new email …
MoveOn is already planning radio ads targeting Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln over the health care issue.
MoveOn’s new campaign comes amid much discussion in the political world of divisions among Republicans, with many analysts reading the presence of third-party candidates in New York’s 23rd District and in New Jersey, and coming primary battles in Florida and elsewhere, as proof of deep, and perhaps disastrous, divisions inside the GOP. One publication recently dubbed it a “nightmare scenario” for Republicans. But MoveOn’s new threat of primary attacks on Democratic lawmakers suggests that the story might be a bit one-sided. Democrats who stray from progressive orthodoxy might be in for big trouble — and the divisions inside the Democratic party might be just as big a deal as the problems inside the GOP.
By Friday, York had more details:
MoveOn executive director Justin Ruben says the group has raised $3,578,117 for the project and is thinking of new ways to punish errant Democratic lawmakers.
“It’s a huge sum, and the clearest signal yet that any Democrat who helps Republicans filibuster health care reform will face an enormous backlash from the grassroots,” writes Ruben. And now, working in conjunction with Howard Dean’s old organization Democracy for America, MoveOn is starting a drive to take away the committee chairmanships of any Democrat who fails to live up to MoveOn’s progressive standards. “Many of these senators hold coveted committee chairmanships that give them significant power within the Senate,” Ruben writes. “Our friends at Democracy for America have launched an open letter urging Senate Democrats to strip committee chairmanships from any Democrat who filibusters health care.” Ruben says that more than 66,000 MoveOn and Democracy for America members have pledged to contribute.
“Chairing a committee is a privilege, not a right,” Ruben continues. “So if a member of the Democratic Congress joins with Republicans in the most important vote in a generation, then they certainly don’t deserve a position of power controlled by Democrats.”
The latest statements from MoveOn and Democracy for America come amid continued media analysis of divisions in the Republican party. MoveOn’s threats — backed by millions of dollars and tens of thousands of progressive activists — have received far less attention.
Not from the Opinionator, Byron. And not from conservative bloggers, either. John Hinderaker of Powerline thinks a rebellion on the fringe may hurt centrist Democrats more than moderate Republicans: “The Democrats’ problem is compounded by the fact that not only most of the party’s energy, but most of its money is on the far left. Perhaps the ill-fated Ned Lamont campaign was only the beginning, and we are about to witness an all-out attack on Democratic moderates.”
“Heh,” responds Big Tent Democrat at TalkLeft. “Tell that to Dede Scozzafava, Charlie Crist and Carly Fiorina. To be fair, too many progressive bloggers engage in the same hypocrisy. I like to be consistent and I think I am – everybody should be fighting for what they believe in and every public official should face primary challengers. Of course, I will favor those candidates who promote my views. As everyone else should. Pols are pols my friends.”
But the conservative blogger Betsy Newmark thinks that Blue Dog Democrats might want to take a hint from pragmatic Republicans: “They should acknowledge what the Republicans are starting to learn. Certain districts aren’t ideologically one way or the other. The only way a candidate will win there is to play to the middle. Just as the Republicans should accept a Mike Castle in Delaware or a Mark Kirk in Illinois as the best they can do to win in those states, the liberals have to accept their moderates or they can kiss their majorities good-bye.”
As for the threat involving chairmanships, writes Newmark:
I predict that the leftists will have just as much luck at doing that as conservative Republicans had in trying to remove a Republican like Mark Hatfield from his Senate chairmanship after the 1994 takeover. There was a push to remove him from his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee after he voted against the balanced budget amendment, thus sinking it. Rick Santorum led that movement. But then the caucus went behind closed doors and Mark Hatfield emerged with his chairmanship intact. I predict the same thing will happen behind closed doors of the Democratic caucus. When it comes down to it, respect for seniority will trump any desire to enforce ideological purity. Senators will start to wonder what will happen to their positions if they strike down the old rules. Robert Byrd will totter up and make a passionate speech evoking the sacred rules of the Senate and caucus and the move will die.
But, by all means, let’s have Moveon.org get out there and run ads attacking their own members and running primary challenges. We’ll see if the media regards that with as much simulated dismay as they regarded the move to push out Dede Scozzafava.
While MoveOn isn’t naming names at this point, Eric Kleefeld at TPM has a good guess: “While no specific Senator is mentioned, it should be noted that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), who is up for re-election in 2010 and is currently facing a tough race, could find herself becoming a top target of this push from the left.”
Whether or not there is a fight brewing among Democrats on health reform, election week 2009 did give hints that a rift has formed on another issue: gay marriage. Things got going on Monday when Joe Sudbay of Americablog noted a new memo from Organizing for America, an advocacy project under the direction of the Democratic National Committee:
The Executive Director of Organizing for America sent an email to Mainers telling them to vote. Someone I know just got it:
Tomorrow is Election Day once again in Maine. It’s as important as ever for you to get out to vote. And just like you did last year, bring friends, family, and co-workers with you when you go to the polls.
Funny thing (or not), OFA forgot to tell Mainers what issues are on the ballot and how to vote on those issues. For example, there’s no mention of Question 1, the measure to repeal Maine’s marriage equality law – i.e., repeal gay marriage – in the email (really big surprise, huh?)
Thanks for nothing, OFA, DNC and Obama administration. Time and time again, those folks have shown they are unabashed about injecting themselves into state level politics. But, not in Maine. And, not when gay issues are involved. They just won’t do anything that might indicate support for marriage equality, support for gay equality.
Greg Sargent of the Plum Line was quick to jump on the larger implications:
Among gay rights advocates already frustrated by Obama’s foot-dragging on their issues, this one threatens to balloon into a new controversy:
Obama’s outside political operation is urging supporters in Maine to turn out to the polls for local elections — without making any mention in its emails of the nationally-watched anti-gay ballot initiative in the state.
Organization for America is beginning to take heat for this, but OFA officials are declining to comment in response to this blog’s inquiries.
The reason this could become a real issue for OFA is that the vote on the Maine initiative — which would repeal gay marriage — is expected to be super close. And a loss — particularly one rooted in turnout, which OFA has the capacity to boost — will result in fierce recriminations.
What’s more, tensions are already so raw because of a host of other ways gay advocates feel let down by the new president that they may be even more inclined to point a finger at OFA in the event of a loss. This one could get ugly.
And it did, quickly, when Sudbay’s colleague John Aravosis got news of a follow-up missive from O.F.A.:
Today things got worse. We just received a copy of an email message that OFA sent to Maine voters yesterday asking them to get involved in…. New Jersey!
So now we know the rest of the story. This wasn’t an issue of OFA not getting involved in politics (they are, after all, an arm of the DNC – that’s what they do, politics). They absolutely get involved in state elections, so long as the election isn’t about the g-a-y.
And actually, even that isn’t exactly true. The DNC under Howard Dean donated $25,000 to the battle to defeat Prop 8 in California (albeit a bit late), before Barack Obama became president. Democrats asked Barack Obama’s DNC to donate to the Maine effort as well – the DNC ignored the request.
Tell us again why any gay voter should help the DNC ever again? And where is our President, the “fierce advocate”? This is his list, and OFA’s top staffers were all the top staffers on the Obama campaign. So, who came up with the idea to ask Maine voters to contact New Jersey when Maine has its own hugely important election? Did the White House have a say in OFA not helping gay Americans keep their civil rights in Maine?
In any case, Adam Bink at OpenLeft thought Tobias’s explanation only made things worse:
Andy seems to mock LGBT complaints … by saying it would have been nice to ask Mainers to vote No ‘in case there may have been an email-enabled Organizing for America activist someplace in Maine who did NOT know where Maine Democrats stood on this issue. (Out of the country without Internet access until the night before the election?)’
Again, Andy, you’re missing the point. One of the biggest priorities for this campaign in an off-year election was turning out young voters, and that was no secret. Lots of OFA activists are young people. I’ve organized GOTV for young people in 2004 at my alma mater. Young people don’t vote just because they know where Maine Dems stand on the issue or they get a bland OFA e-mail reminding them to vote. College students vote after you’ve given them 25 reasons to, dorm-stormed, called them, set up voter reg tables in the student union, set up shuttle buses to polling places (which the No On 1 campaign did at UM-Orono), have Dave Matthews Band perform at their campus to encourage voting, and basically drag them kicking and screaming to do it. If you want to win campaigns, you have to mobilize people, not just send them an e-mail and pat yourself on the back.
So rolling your eyes and saying “but OFA activists knew where Maine Dems stood on the issue anyway, and we sent them an e-mail, so what’s all the fuss about” is irresponsible.
“Let’s just say that a little leaked email proves LGBTs are seen as the easy gAyTM to the DNC that can be manipulated, ignored, and pickpocketed as mob rule strips us of civil rights without a finger being lifted to help at the eleventh hour,” adds the influential gay blogger Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend. “It’s worse — stripping resources at the time of need.”
She offers a call to arms along the lines of MoveOn’s:
I don’t know about you, but at the very least, it’s a peek at the kind the two-timing that goes on in national politics with constituencies they find “troublesome” or a perceived “liability” (save the $$$, of course). The difference is that the peek inside makes you realize how easily you’ve been had …
Shut the gAyTM down; only give directly to candidates and organizations you believe are truly working in your best interest. Not a penny to the DNC; it’s the only leverage you have as an average citizen. The big donors in our community have to take a stand on this kind of nonsense, otherwise, they are enabling this kind of treatment of our community. It’s party-building at our expense each and every time …
Pam, you may not like to hear it, but that last line could just as easily have come from Glenn Beck. Just goes to show: it may be entertaining to watch your enemies rip themselves apart, but you might just want to keep an eye on the guy to your left.
Source : https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/06/weekend-opinionator-are-democrats-too-facing-a-civil-war/