On Conservatives and Losing


Sarah Mimms has an interesting piece at National Journal regarding the conservative losing streak in the House and Senate. It is intended, I guess, to cast a ray of hope for alternate tactics that conservative members of Congress can use to get around the blocking efforts of leadership, and Mimms makes several good points. For example:

Conservatives came to Washington labeling President Obama as enemy number one. But increasingly they find themselves battling an even more powerful foe: Their own leadership. And it’s not a fair fight.

The problem for members of the tea party is that the game is rigged against them, as they are repeatedly outmaneuvered and outsmarted procedurally. What they’ve found—and what Sen. [mc_name name=’Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’C001095′ ]’s controversial letter to Iran this week has proven—is that they’re much better off taking the fight away from the House and Senate floors.

The vast majority of conservative firebrands have only been in Congress for a few years; House Speaker [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ] and Senate Majority Leader [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] have been here for decades. Every rule, every parliamentary trick that conservatives could use to stick it to their leadership, Boehner and McConnell have already thought of it and found another legislative tool to stop them.

Conservatives aren’t so much bringing a knife to a gunfight, they’re showing up in the wrong alley.

Mimms is right that leadership is getting the better of these fights. But it isn’t just that leadership has a better command of the rules. It’s not really as though if conservatives had more procedural tricks up their sleeve they could have changed the outcome of any of the recent fights. Leadership didn’t have a better knowledge of the rules, they were the only people who were in position to pull the trigger on the rules. The reality is this: conservatives lost every meaningful fight for the next two years when they failed to oust [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ] and [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ].

In other words, it isn’t that conservatives pulled the wrong plays. It’s that the wrong people were in the wrong positions. No amount of “experience” in the chamber is going to change the fact that as long as Boehner and McConnell are pulling the levers, we are going to continue to lose important fights. It’s nice to have a plan to get out in front of fights from a PR perspective, as Cotton has done with the Iran issue, but ultimately the corporate crony lapdogs are going to win all the important fights until they are no longer in the position to win them.

I also quibble with one other point in the article:

What’s often lost in those fights is that on the biggest issues facing Republicans, conservatives and their leadership are on the same page. The difference is in how and when to fight those battles. If it were possible to gut the Affordable Care Act or overturn Obama’s “executive amnesty,” as conservatives term it, leaders would have done so by now.

This is demonstrably false. Leadership has shown time and time again that they are only interested in having these two issues around in order to use them to fundraise off suckers and as wedge issues in elections. They are scared to death of actually repealing Obamacare and given that they are owned lock, stock and barrel by the Chamber of Commerce, they are not-very-secretly delighted that Obama gave them amnesty without them having to actually vote for it and risk making people angry. Obama’s executive amnesty was secretly a political windfall for them in their Beltway-addled brains and all that was needed was some “failure theater” as my colleague streiff calls it to satisfy the rubes that something was being done.

Make no mistake – these fights turned out exactly the way leadership wanted all along. And that’s why conservatives will keep losing until we get new leadership.