Jerry Mander -The GOP Learned The Wrong Lessons From 2014

Jerry Mander

McConnell surrenders

To the detriment of the nation, Mushhead Mitch has made no attempt to thwart the Obama agenda. Harry Reid is, in effect, still running the Senate.

The GOP Learned The Wrong Lessons From 2014

By Josh Kraushaar at National Journal *

* National Journal is NOT known to be Conservative-leaning publication, but is not as openly leftist as, for example, Politico. Therefore, please note that in the concluding sentence, author Kraushaar ALSO draws the wrong lesson.

After the 2014 midterm elec­tions, the Re­pub­lic­an es­tab­lish­ment took something of a vic­tory lap. Re­pub­lic­ans won nine seats to re­take con­trol of the Sen­ate after pre­vail­ing in a series of messy primar­ies that pit­ted in­cum­bents and es­tab­lish­ment-minded can­did­ates against tea-party-ori­ented out­siders. In the 11 con­tested GOP primar­ies that year, Re­pub­lic­ans didn’t nom­in­ate a single can­did­ate that party lead­ers viewed as un­elect­able.

Re­pub­lic­ans cel­eb­rated the res­ults, clearly be­liev­ing they had de­feated the tea-party threat. But that en­thu­si­asm masked the grow­ing in­flu­ence of the party’s grass­roots, one that is ree­m­er­ging with a ven­geance in this year’s pres­id­en­tial race. In fact, ex­amin­ing the res­ults of those Sen­ate primar­ies is like look­ing in­to a crys­tal ball pre­dict­ing the rise of a grass­roots move­ment pin­ing for out­spoken con­ser­vat­ive out­siders—with minor-league ver­sions of Don­ald Trump, Ben Car­son, and Ted Cruz com­ing aw­fully close to stun­ning up­sets in the pro­cess.

“Any­body who was in­volved in 2014 could see the dy­nam­ics for 2016 com­ing. You have a really angry elect­or­ate who’s des­per­ate for change in Wash­ing­ton but doesn’t trust either party and doesn’t trust any­one who has spent time in Wash­ing­ton,” said Henry Bar­bour, a Re­pub­lic­an na­tion­al com­mit­tee­man who aided Sen. Thad Co­chran’s heated primary vic­tory. “They’re hungry for someone to tell them what it is they want to hear. Don­ald Trump has tapped in­to that.”
His­tory is writ­ten by the win­ners, so it’s un­der­stand­able that names such as Joe Carr, Milton Wolf, and Chris McDaniel are hardly re­membered in 2016. But it’s still re­mark­able how close some of the most en­trenched mem­bers of the Sen­ate came to los­ing against vir­tu­al nobod­ies whose main polit­ic­al ar­gu­ment was that they wer­en’t part of the mess in Wash­ing­ton.

Of the five GOP sen­at­ors fa­cing cred­ible primary chal­lenges in 2014, three won reelec­tion with less than a ma­jor­ity of the vote, and no one topped 60 per­cent. Es­tab­lish­ment-ori­ented Sen­ate can­did­ates in North Car­o­lina and Alaska ended up win­ning heated primar­ies with barely over 40 per­cent of the Re­pub­lic­an vote.

There are strik­ing com­par­is­ons between the Sen­ate in­sur­gents of 2014 and the pres­id­en­tial-cam­paign out­siders of today. Like Car­son, Wolf was a phys­i­cian with little polit­ic­al ex­per­i­ence, but even after prov­ing he wasn’t ready for the scru­tiny of a statewide cam­paign—he pos­ted pa­tient X-rays on his Face­book page—he non­ethe­less held Sen. Pat Roberts to 48 per­cent of the vote.

Like Cruz, Carr was a bomb-throw­ing back­bench­er in the state le­gis­lature whose claim to fame was his op­pos­i­tion to im­mig­ra­tion re­form. Yet des­pite spend­ing what would have been a tiny frac­tion of Sen. Lamar Al­ex­an­der’s cam­paign for­tune and get­ting little me­dia at­ten­tion, he held the Ten­ness­ee polit­ic­al icon to un­der 50 per­cent of the vote and came with­in nine points of vic­tory.

Like Trump, Matt Bev­in was a brash, wealthy busi­ness­man who had the temer­ity to chal­lenge his party’s lead­er head-on. Even though he was un­suc­cess­ful in de­feat­ing Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, he now is sit­ting pretty as gov­ernor of Ken­tucky.

McDaniel was a fore­run­ner to both Trump and Cruz. He made his mark in the Mis­sis­sippi Sen­ate as an un­com­prom­ising tea-party con­ser­vat­ive, but a trail of ra­cially-charged rhet­or­ic made him per­sona non grata to party lead­ers. In an­oth­er par­al­lel to Trump, McDaniel was im­mune to nearly any at­tack Re­pub­lic­ans threw at him. It took a last-minute ef­fort from Co­chran’s cam­paign per­suad­ing Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans to vote for a Re­pub­lic­an in the run­off to pull off a nar­row vic­tory.

All these can­did­ates ended up los­ing, but not be­cause the Re­pub­lic­an elect­or­ate had be­come more prag­mat­ic. In­stead, they lost be­cause party lead­ers and al­lied out­side groups took ag­gress­ive steps to blunt the ap­peal of the out­sider can­did­ates from the be­gin­ning. Mc­Con­nell threw the op­pos­i­tion book at Bev­in, ac­cus­ing him of be­ing a fake con­ser­vat­ive, of falsi­fy­ing his re­sume, and of not pay­ing back taxes. The U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce ran ex­pens­ive ad­vert­ising cam­paigns boost­ing their favored can­did­ates, while Amer­ic­an Cross­roads at­tacked the cred­ib­il­ity of the tea-party chal­lengers. In Mis­sis­sippi, Co­chran pulled off an un­likely vic­tory by per­suad­ing Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans to vote for the sen­at­or. (That ef­fort was aided by Bar­bour, who ran Co­chran’s anti-McDaniel su­per PAC.)

In short, party lead­ers re­cog­nized the in­tra­party threat early on, and en­gin­eered a stra­tegic game plan to en­sure that the most elect­able nom­in­ees emerged in the primar­ies. That’s not hap­pen­ing at all in this year’s pres­id­en­tial primary, where the es­tab­lish­ment ap­pears con­tent to watch its most elect­able can­did­ates fight amongst them­selves—as Trump con­tin­ues to com­fort­ably lead in na­tion­al and most statewide polls.

Con­sider: Des­pite be­ing the front-run­ner, Trump has al­most en­tirely avoided at­tack ads against him, from both rival cam­paigns and out­side groups. Out­side GOP or­gan­iz­a­tions have shown little in­terest in or­gan­iz­ing against a can­did­ate they all view as un­elect­able against Hil­lary Clin­ton. Can­did­ates are so fo­cused on their short-term in­terests that they’re neg­lect­ing the big­ger pic­ture for the party. If Trump wins Iowa and New Hamp­shire—blow­ing up the the­ory that his sup­port will dis­sip­ate as vot­ing nears—any ef­forts to blunt his ap­peal will be too little, too late.

“Run­ning Co­chran’s cam­paign gave me a dif­fer­ent per­spect­ive than some—and helped me un­der­stand Trump as soon as it was ap­par­ent he was con­nect­ing with voters,” said Bar­bour. “I’ve seen this movie be­fore.” Ex­cept this time, no one is play­ing Bar­bour’s role as the cap­tain steer­ing the party ship away from danger.

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One Comment

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  1. Yep, it seems we learn pretty slow! I get sorta tired of it!


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