August 29, 2013
Demonstrators wait for Jim DeMint of Heritage Foundation. (Nate Chute/Reuters)
Demonstrators wait for Jim DeMint of the Heritage Foundation to speak  at a Defund Obamacare rally. (Nate Chute/Reuters)

Well, here’s something promising:

Members mumbled to each other about how it had become impossible to please these powerful outside groups, which are known to raise more money off Democratic victories than Republican ones. There was, as one Hill aide put it, “enormous discontent” among conservative members who were tired of feeling threatened by an outside group that existed as a parasite living off the Republican members of Congress.

Sokath, his eyes uncovered!

This is from a Tim Alberta National Journal article about how House conservatives are fed up with Heritage — to the point of kicking Heritage out of Republican Study Committee meetings.

Political scientist Richard Fenno’s classic statement of member motives includes three possibilities: reelection, making good public policy and increased influence within the House. Outside ideological groups risk all three, if and when they thrive when Republicans are out of office — and, when they are in office, by constantly contrasting their own purity with the squishes and RINOs who get elected. Even if Republican politicians are willing to put their reelection at risk by accepting a reputation as extremists, they might not also be willing to give up their ability to affect policy. Which is what Heritage (and other outside ideological groups) are insisting on when they demand, for example, that Republicans insist on impossible goals such as defunding the Affordable Care Act as a price for keeping the government running, instead of smaller, achievable goals. Or:

As one conservative House aide put it, “We can’t score touchdowns on every play; our job is to put points on the board. But all they want us to do is throw Hail Marys.”

There’s probably a more basic, personal level at work here. People who got into politics because they believed in conservative ideals are probably somewhere between severely annoyed and totally flabbergasted at having to constantly prove their conservative credentials, no matter how many times they (for example) vote to repeal Obamacare.

Granted, we’re a long way from a total crack-up here, and even longer, probably, from most mainstream conservatives in the House choosing to be legislators rather than accepting the role of props for these outside groups. And Alberta correctly points out that there are mixed incentives here: Heritage-funded junkets probably make the job a lot more enjoyable than it would be otherwise, and many members must realize that Heritage and other outside groups are a good landing point once they leave office, voluntarily or not (incentives that Fenno did not include in his understanding of the House).

But perhaps it’s a start.