Some Republicans Question Club For Growth

Yesterday I noted how some conservative writers are breaking from  Republican orthodoxy on economics. Hard line Republican economic views and ideological purity are often enforced by the Club For Growth, which often targets Republicans who vary from the party line. The Wall Street Journal reports today that the Club for Growth Wears on Some Republicans.

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party underscores the clout of Club For Growth, a conservative group that targets Republicans it brands insufficiently committed to low taxes and small government.

The move also has inflamed a debate within the party: Are the group’s tactics good or bad for Republicans?

Mr. Specter fingered Club For Growth as the key factor behind his decision, saying he would have lost the Republican primary to a Club-backed rival. His decision has prompted some Republicans to turn on the organization, saying it backs those who are so conservative that they then lose to Democrats.

“If their goal is to increase the Democrats’ numbers in Congress, they’re doing a very good job,” said Rep. Steven LaTourette (R., Ohio), a moderate who won his seat in 1994. “Do they want a permanent minority of 140 people as pure as Caesar’s wife, or a Republican majority that can get them 70% of the issues that are important to them?” (Republicans hold 178 of the 435 House seats and 40 of 100 Senate seats.)

Some Republicans defended the organization but the article did return to further criticism:

Other Republicans say the Democrats have the right idea with their approach toward the past two elections of fielding candidates even though they deviated from some elements of party orthodoxy such as abortion rights and gun control.

“I’m not looking to be a member of a club,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) told reporters the day of Mr. Specter’s defection. “The difference between being a club and a national party is being able to play outside your traditional areas.”

Critics of the group say there are several elections in which the Club defeated or weakened a Republican candidate. Republican Reps. Joe Schwarz of Michigan and Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland lost primary bids in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Both districts are now represented by Democrats.

“It brings a smile to our face when we see the Club For Growth going in, because in some instances it improves the prospects for our candidates,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), who spearheads the Democrats’ House campaigns.

There was more defense for the organization with the article concluding with LaTourette repeating his criticism:

But Mr. LaTourette, the Ohio representative, said an overemphasis on ideological purity could make the GOP a permanent minority. “If the Democrats said everyone had to look like a Democrat from Massachusetts, they would not be the majority party,” he said.

Ultimately it comes down to whether they want ideological purity or a party which can win national elections. You cannot do both in a two party system.

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  1. 1
    Robert L. says:

    You cannot win national elections while maintaining ideological purity?   Care to check off how many nationally elected Democrats oppose abortion, defy the teachers unions and support school vouchers, or favor eliminating affirmative action?

    The Republicans have deep, deep ideological problems but their problems stem more from not having had any ideology for the past 8 years (other than maintaining power) than in questing for ideological purity.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    The linked article points out how much more diversity there is in the Democratic Party. Look at some of the Senators elected in the last election cycle. The Democratic Senate Majority Leader opposes abortion.

  3. 3
    Fritz says:

    I don’t think there is a huge future for the GOP in becoming the “more efficient big government” party.    I might be wrong in that — my father was, in essence, in the “goo goo” (Good Government) wing of the Republican Party. 

    Might be bigger than the future of the “Old South Christian Party”, to be sure.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    How about, instead of dwelling on the “size” of government becoming a party of limited government–limiting the ability of government to mess around in our lives as is promoted by the Old South Christian Party, and limiting the power of the executive branch to restore the checks and balances eroded by the last Republican president.

  5. 5
    Fritz says:

    Ron, I’m not sure I’ve seen (with the possible exception of the War on Some Drugs) any proposal from the current administration to reduce its power and restore checks and balances.  Instead, I’m seeing the accumulation of more power and the assertion of even more claims of executive privilege and secrecy than the Bush administration.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    More than Bush? There’s definitely some frustration that Obama hasn’t overturned all of Bush’s claims of executive privilege but he is not grabbing new power like Bush. The real issue is what he does over time. The court cases which precipitated some of the decisions we don’t like came early in his presidency when there was little time to consider changes in policy. Over time I expect to see more revisions in policy.

    It is still early, but there have been more positive moves than just the limited changes (so far) with regards to the war on drugs. Obama is not using signing statements as Bush did to ignore the rule of law. Use of torture is no longer official US policy. Obama is no longer using the powers of the presidency to promote the agenda of the religious right, such as with eliminating the global gag rule and funding for abstinence based education. He is no longer using the veto to stop bipartisan support for funding embryonic stem cell research.

    I also would not count on the president, any president, to do enough to reduce presidential power due to their obvious bias on this issue. This is something I would hope that Congress does more of–from each party regardless of which party is in office.

  7. 7
    Ohg Rea Tone says:

    Health care reform is tough enough when everyone is honest.  But some conservatives choose to distort concepts of accountability, responsibility, choice, and competition. ………

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    We have two problems with conservatives and health care. Some intentionally distort the issue. On top of it many have tremendous misunderstandings as to how the health care system works. They compare the worst possible health care plans to some unrealistic vision they have of the current system in their heads.

    As an example of how uninformed some conservatives are, just a couple of days ago a conservative was claiming (in capital letters) that employer-paid insurance plans and HMO’s do not set prices they will pay for health care services, thinking that only government programs like Medicare do, distorting the market.

    I haven’t had time yet to look at the video and just skimmed the article in the link, but I can easily imagine the fallacies in their thought. If they are concerned about patient rights, they need to consider how much closer Medicare than many private plans come to providing freedom of choice in health care decisions. It is also ironic that they claim to defend patient rights when they are the ones who infringe upon decisions involving reproductive rights and end of life issues.

  9. 9
    Fritz says:

    The people in favor of, in one way or another, nationalizing the health care system indulge in as much distortion and wishful thinking as those who are against such nationalization.

    You think you can have the benefits (universal coverage) of a nationalized system while maintaining the benefits of a market-based industry.  Such a hybrid seems implausible to me.

    I think perhaps the only reasonably straight-up and honest approach was one taken by Oregon — a list of procedures and treatments along with their extended costs was presented to the legislature and the legislature voted on what to fund.  If what you needed did not make the cut, then you were out of luck for that year.

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:


    Simply the use of the word “nationalization” is a distortion.

    We already have a hybrid system combining a market-based industry and government programs. Further changes are needed in such a system.

    I’m sure you could find an isolated case of distortions, but for the most part those advocating health care reform are pretty open as to what they are advocating. It is the opponents who generally who are engaging in distortions.

  11. 11
    Fritz says:

    I figured “nationalization” was a less loaded word than “socialized medicine” and could encompass everything from “Medicare for all”, single payer, etc. up through a British style national health system.

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:

    Medicare for all, single payer, and a British style national health system are not on the table. Both Obama and most Congressional Democrats have rejected all of these plans.

  13. 13
    Christoher Skyi says:

    “Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party underscores the clout of Club For Growth, a conservative group that targets Republicans it brands insufficiently committed to low taxes and small government.”

    Well, you can question the club for growth, lower taxes and smaller government, but what kind of answer will you get?  Here’s a taste:

    S&P Cuts UK’s Rating Outlook to Negative

    “Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s lowered its outlook on Britain to negative on Thursday, citing government debt that would be hard to rein in and political uncertainty about the policy response with an election looming.

    We have revised the outlook on the UK to negative due to our view that, even assuming additional fiscal tightening, the net general government debt burden could approach 100 percent of GDP and remain near that level in the medium term,” Standard & Poor’s credit analyst David Beers said in a statement.”

    Ron Paul was certainty not the only one who was not “shocked and stunned” by the collapse of the housing market, but he was widely ignored. Now he’s predicting the collapse of the U.S. dollar. And note that he doesn’t have some special insight mere mortals lack.  It’s pretty obvious to a lot of people, e.g., 

    Chinese Predicts the Collapse of US Dollar

    “China will shy away from the dollar, causing a collapse for the U.S. currency, predicts Andy Xie, an independent economist who was formerly chief Asia Pacific economist for Morgan Stanley. The U.S. government’s move to inflate itself out of recession is “pushing China towards developing an alternative financial system,” Xie writes in the Financial Times. “For the past two decades China’s entry into the global economy rested [partly] on … pegging the renminbi to the dollar,” he explains. “The dollar peg allowed China to leverage the U.S. financial system for its international needs, while domestic finance remained state-controlled.” Xie writes, “This dual approach has worked remarkably well. China could have its cake and eat it too.” But China knows it must one day become independent of the dollar. “Its recent decision to turn Shanghai into a financial centre by 2020 reflects China’s anxiety over relying on the dollar system,” Xie explains. “The year 2020 seems remote,” he points out. “However, if global stagflation takes hold, as I expect it to, it will force China to accelerate its reforms to float its currency and create a…market-based financial system.” Result: “The dollar will collapse,” Xie says.”

    There’s a lot more best selling books like this one, The Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit from It, and would that be? Cashing in on fear? Yes — and well grounded fear it is.

    As the left happily waves goodbye to smaller government & lower taxes, get ready for more headlines like this:

    US gold ends up on dollar slide, inflation worries
    U.S. Dollar to Fall Further on Stimulus Spending, Says Windheim
    Is the US-Dollar Headed for a Mighty Crash?

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