There has been a simmering resentment among Senate Republicans and, to a certain extent, House Republicans that outside groups (Heritage Action, Senate Conservatives Fund, etc.) and rabble-rousing right-wingers (e.g. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah) are more interested in attacking them than Democrats. This ire reached the boiling point when Republican senators, but not Senate Democrats, were deluged with calls to “defund” Obamacare. Why was Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) getting a free ride while Republicans who repeatedly voted against Obamacare were been assailed?
That sentiment is only increasing now that the House leadership, however reluctantly, has agreed to take on the continuing resolution fight against their best judgment (which was to focus on the debt limit). Why isn’t Heritage Action ginning up calls to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) from medical-device company employees or to Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) from businesses and energy companies to complain about their intransigence on Obamacare and their refusal to take one of the offers from the House (e.g. to get some government functions back to work)? Why aren’t the right-wing blogs obsessed with stirring a revolt against House Speaker John Boehner now, when he’s done precisely what they wanted, telling their followers to light up the switchboards of Democrats? Instead they seem anxious for the GOP to “cave” so they can scream “Betrayal!” once again. I mean, don’t Heritage Action and Club for Growth donors want to accomplish something and hold Democrats‘ feet to the fire?
The risk these outside groups and the elected ringleaders take — aside from watching their strategy collapse — is that even hard-line members won’t give them the time of day. If not even right-wingers pay attention, then surely someone like Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) or a congressman from a district who voted for President Obama won’t pay any heed to these voices. The perception that the right-wingers are simply going to root for failure when the chips are down means they no longer can claim to be the “real” conservatives or hope to bully their brethren.
I have made no bones about my unbridled opposition to the entire “defund” strategy and to the sort of uber-aggressive extremism that characterizes the voices who came up with the scheme. As predicted, the GOP is now trapped between its own right flank and an unbending White House. But if the forces that egged Republicans on don’t win and aren’t seen to be fighting to win, they risk a revolt on the right from disgusted, resentful members, even those who might sympathize with the conservative zealotry of the defunders.
House leadership is striving to at least spread the blame for the shutdown, trying to make Dems “own” the shutdown of key departments, agencies and offices so as to make the Democrats take some heat. Soon someone may ask what Jim DeMint is doing to help. Frankly, if the only purpose of these outside groups is to bite the hand that feeds them (or at least listens to them), then not only will the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling be big losses, but GOP “establishment” types will be proven correct, namely that the defunders are in it for self-promotion and don’t have the interests of actual Republicans at heart. Right now, it sure looks that way.