Karl Rove has made what he calls his fearless political predictions for 2014. Some are fairly safe, such as that Obama’s approval ratings will go up after falling so low at the end of 2013. Here’s the prediction I found most interesting, and perhaps even fearless: “Every Republican senator and virtually every representative challenged in a primary as insufficiently conservative will win.”
Considering how the Republicans have lost several potential seats due to Tea Party extremists winning primaries, this is something which party insiders might hope for, but it remains to be seen whether this prediction comes true.
Speaking of predictions, who would have predicted that the Republican Party would move so far to the extreme right that Karl Rove would desire to become a spokesman for the more moderate wing (with the true moderate wing driven from the party)? On the other hand, Steve Benen looks at Rove’s diminished influence among Republicans.
The Tea Party may or may not actually win races against less extremist Republicans, but Theda Skocpol is probably right that the Tea Party is not going to go away.
Even though there is no one center of Tea Party authority—indeed, in some ways because there is no one organized center—the entire gaggle of grassroots and elite organizations amounts to a pincer operation that wields money and primary votes to exert powerful pressure on Republican officeholders and candidates. Tea Party influence does not depend on general popularity at all. Even as most Americans have figured out that they do not like the Tea Party or its methods, Tea Party clout has grown in Washington and state capitals. Most legislators and candidates are Nervous Nellies, so all Tea Party activists, sympathizers, and funders have had to do is recurrently demonstrate their ability to knock off seemingly unchallengeable Republicans (ranging from Charlie Crist in Florida to Bob Bennett of Utah to Indiana’s Richard Lugar). That grabs legislators’ attention and results in either enthusiastic support for, or acquiescence to, obstructive tactics. The entire pincer operation is further enabled by various right-wing tracking organizations that keep close count of where each legislator stands on “key votes”—including even votes on amendments and the tiniest details of parliamentary procedure, the kind of votes that legislative leaders used to orchestrate in the dark…
…at least three successive national election defeats will be necessary to even begin to break the determination and leverage of Tea Party adherents. Grassroots Tea Partiers see themselves in a last-ditch effort to save “their country,” and big-money ideologues are determined to undercut Democrats and sabotage active government. They are in this fight for the long haul. Neither set of actors will stand down easily or very soon.
Also worth remembering is that “moderate Republicans” barely exist right now. Close to two-thirds of House Republicans voted against bipartisan efforts to reopen the federal government and prevent U.S. default on loan obligations, and Boehner has never repudiated such extortionist tactics. Tea Partiers may not call for another shutdown right away, but they will continue to be able to draw most GOP legislators and leaders into aggressive efforts to obstruct and delay. In the electorate, moreover, more than half of GOP voters sympathize with the Tea Party and cheer on obstructionist tactics, and the remaining Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are disorganized and divided in their views of the likes of Ted Cruz.