More Thoughts on the Relevance of the Republican Party

While I agree with Charlie’s post from yesterday about the relevance of the Republican Party in light of Jack Kingston’s loss to David Perdue in the Senate runoff, I want to expand a bit on some of the points he made.

Charlie points out that Kingston earned the endorsements of “the leaders of Georgia’s most prominent Tea Party organization and Editor & WSB radio Host Erick Erickson.” Yet, despite that, I think it was the Tea Party rank and file that contributed the most to David Perdue’s margin of victory. The Perdue campaign targeted this group, whose members have spent a great deal of time going after Republicans in Washington they perceive as too closely tied to the establishment.

The takeaway here might be that the Tea Party is not a single organization operating within–and sometimes outside of–the GOP establishment. Debbie Dooley has consistently made this point, and when she endorsed Jack Kingston, she noted that the was doing it as a “personal endorsement” rather than on behalf of the Tea Party. It should also be a reminder that when you hear, “The Tea Party supports…,” or someone claims to he “the Tea Party candidate,” you might want to take it with a grain of salt.

There is another factor that contributed to David Perdue’s victory. Charlie hits the nail on the head here: “Money from an outsider can trump all of that, ignoring all GOP related activities as white noise.”

The Kingston campaign raised north of $7.4 million in its bid to make Jack the GOP nominee. Much of that money came from the deep pockets of the GOP establishment that supported him. That put Team Perdue at a fundraising disadvantage, and the candidate had to reach into his own pocket in order to remain competitive.

Both candidates had outside help. Jack received much of his outside support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a traditional ally of the GOP establishment. David’s campaign had help from various Super PACS, such as the Citizens for Working America PAC, which during this cycle was funded by several 501-C4 nonprofits whose donors are able to remain a secret.

The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizen’s United case opened the door for this type of election financing. At the time, it was seen as benefiting Republicans. President Obama went as far as to publicly chide Chief Justice John Roberts about the decision in his first State of the Union address.

Just this week, the New York Times devoted two front page stories to the issue of outside spending in elections. On Monday it lamented the influence of Super PAC money in political advertising. Today’s story talks about a new Super PAC named Mayday that is being formed to counteract the influence of big money PACs in elections.

Yesterday, the Center for Responsive Politics published a long piece that probes the relationships between the Super PACs and individuals supporting the Perdue campaign. It’s worth your time to read it.

There was a time when party elders picked their candidates in smoke filled rooms. Forty years ago, that began to change, when primary elections and the popular vote decided who the candidate might be. Because party insiders tended to hold the purse strings, they were able to fund the candidate they thought would be the best choice for the nomination. Today, Super PACS control much of the funding.

The way candidates and campaigns are financed has been a concern long before James McCord and four accomplices broke into the DNC offices at the Watergate office building in 1972. That incident led to the campaign finance reforms of the 1970s. When President Bush signed the McCain-Feingold Bill twelve years ago, he angered many Republicans because it limited the ability of political parties to raise funds by decreasing the role of soft money in elections.

Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee and the Louisiana Republican Party filed a federal lawsuit to overturn it.

Regulating the way campaigns are financed is like playing whack-a-mole. The law closes one avenue, but opens up another loophole. Court decisions change the meaning of the law.

I’m willing to bet the discussion about how campaigns are funded will continue for a long time.


    • Lawton Sack says:

      We are there now. The number of voters in a county versus the number of people in the county party should also show that the parties represent a very small portion of the total votes. If you take a look at a lot of county party straw polls as well and the actual results at the polls, you often see a discrepancy. Throw in McCain-Feingold, and the party is hamstrung.

  1. Someone said of Bob Kerrey when he was running for President that the Iowa Democratic caucuses was the only electorate in America where being a war hero was a negative.

    In Georgia, when you look at the success that former run of the mill conservative members of Congress have achieved (both Senators, Governor), I would argue that the only electorate where being a run of the mill conservative member of Congress is a negative is ironically the Republican primary.

  2. Bull Moose says:

    Just a couple of thoughts… These are written very much straight from my mind without a lot of deep thought put into them, so just take them for what they are worth – food for thought – not meant to start a fight or war with anyone…

    – The Tea Party, in its inception, was an idea that attracted a lot of people from very different backgrounds, for very different reasons to rally together. Many of the people who would attend the events and vocalize agreement had never been involved with politics, and in some cases, had never registered or even voted. Others involved in this movement were very much involved and engaged in the political process. The reality is that this is and never was a monolithic group with a hierarchal sense of organization. Debbie says that over and over again, but I don’t think people believe her. I think the Tea Party would have more credibility if it would stop giving a pass to Republicans who pay lip service to its message. More on that later.

    – There is no sense or order to the flow of money in our political process right now. I worked in DC as a Corporate (Soft) / PAC fundraiser and while I came to disagree with the flow of corporate money into the political process, there was a great deal of transparency and accountability with that system as opposed to what we have right now. It’s hard to find a solution to this issue that doesn’t somehow offend someone or, worse yet, get manipulated to mean something that it isn’t. We need campaign finance reform from top to bottom, and that means at the federal level all the way to the local level. That must include outside interest groups, tax free groups, etc…

    – In regards to the GOP, for me, it’s been bittersweet to watch what has become of the Republican Party. I think the party has sacrificed principles so many times for the sake of power that it honestly is beginning to ring hollow to many. Just as such, on the left, Democrats at times face the same obstacle. Look at voter participation in our country and I think most Americans are telling you what they think with their decision to not participate in the process. Absolute loyalty to a party for the sake of power makes no sense if you claim to be consistent in your character, integrity, and values. So often, politicians and most activists have had a different set of morals, based on party identity, that people just don’t have any faith or trust in anything that is said.

    – Finally, to Georgia. I think what we just saw in the Senate Run-Off was a result of what happens when the party turns so inward in terms of its message, appeal, and opportunities for others to get involved. You literally had two distinct camps of the GOP at war with one another. A lot of the things that I said earlier in this post came into play as well. A lot of people have compromised their integrity and values in defense of Governor Deal’s antics. Those people, almost unilaterally, were behind the scenes working, raising money, and championing Jack Kingston. I think some folks are finally waking up to the reality of the seriousness of Deal’s issues and making a wise decision to begin to distance themselves. Jack Kingston was running as a 22 year House incumbent in a season when a lot of people are just tired of politics as usual. Congress has a 7% approval rating and it’s very clear something isn’t working up there. As one of my friends has said about local politics: “They very well may be good people in their own right, but the chemistry of them together just isn’t working.” On the flip side, David Perdue, from the very beginning, and very early I might add, ran on a different message, castigating his primary opponents as part of the problem. He did it in a consistent, repetitive, and funny way that connected with a lot of people. He also went outside of the party structure, in a similar way that his cousin did in 2002, both in the primary and in the General Election. Heck, I’ll admit, during the McCain race in 2008, we too went outside of the party to get things done and be successful. A lot of folks forget that in the middle of summer 2008, Barack Obama had his targets on GA, not North Carolina! With a lot of hard work from a lot of good people, we flexed our muscle. They packed their bags and went to NC. The fact of the matter is that the GOP organization in GA has too many people that want a position, but don’t want to do anything! In some ways, that is discouraging to others and it leads to those folks not feeling welcome because they haven’t licked enough envelopes, put up enough yard signs, or gone door to door enough. My point is that, you really shouldn’t quantify the value of someone’s contribution to the degree or in the way it seemed the Kingston campaign and its allies tried to do. I disagree with those that suggest the Chamber of Commerce hurt Kingston. I think without their efforts on his behalf, the race would have never been close at all. I think that Kingston underperformed in terms of turnout here in the 1st District. Of those that turned out, he won by huge margins, however not enough turned out. If there were a concentrated effort to explain the significance and historic nature of having a Senator from the Coast, combined with a more proactive get out the vote effort, Jack very well may have one this race. It still would have been close, but the razor’s edge would have cut in his favor.

    My thoughts on where things go from here are up in the air right now. I can see a couple of things happening. Carter and Nunn could both win. It’s easy to see both of them doing that right now and I can see them both doing well and surprising and pleasing all but the hardest of partisans.

    On the other hand, Deal could win in a tight race and then face indictment. I have to think the calls for his resignation would be universal. A special election is anyone’s call. Does Casey run? Does Jack run? Does Karen run? Does Brian Kemp run? Does someone completely different, a la, a David Perdue type run? Does Carter run in that special election? I think Olens has taken a fatal wound for the Governor. He may continue along as AG, but can’t see him overcoming the controversy for higher office.

    If Perdue wins, I don’t think the Senate is where he plans to retire at all. Ambition can be a very good thing in politics!

    If Isakson does not run for reelection, there is no doubt that Kingston is well poised to run for the Senate, and likely win, if he so choses. There’s also a good case to be made by some that if Deal implodes, Kingston would be well poised to rebuild and clean up the mess. Who knows. I’m just speculating!

    The demographics of GA are rapidly changing, so I don’t know how the GAGOP adjusts to that given some of its strident positions on some of the issues. 2016 is around the corner and everything could could change with a more organized and motivated Democrat Party as well as a very demoralized, beat up, and bruised GOP lacking any candidates who have credibility. Finally, the majority of voters, those that don’t participate or vote, may finally awaken and create very radical change!

    Now, back to my relevancy crisis!

  3. Al Gray says:

    Giving the Liberty Movement the hob-nailed boot to the face treatment is now yielding dividends, eh?

  4. Chet Martin says:

    Couple Jack’s loss with the defeat of Eric Cantor (which occurred without any institutional Tea Party effort) and it seems that the time has come to stop talking of any “Tea Party” altogether. On issues of policy, those who call themselves “Tea Party” Republicans aren’t far from those who don’t, except on crony capitalism issues in which the larger party is changing (see the Ex-Im Bank) or social issues on which the whole party is slowly surrendering (see gay marriage.)

    If the institutional Tea Party is irrelevant to “Tea Party” voters, it seems Tea Party voters are nothing more than anti-incumbent Republicans. Older, whiter, more rural maybe, but distanced from the party only by their outrage that a party organization exists at all. They’re not much for hierarchies of any kind. When the Tea Party came was born in the spring of 2009, it was pronounced in to being by Rick Santelli and shouted in to action by movement conservatives like Hannity. Call it the Genesis 1:1 phase of the Tea Party, the phase that gave the GOP huge victories in 2010 despite costing it senate seats. Now? The “Tea Party” is a name without meaning, void and without form. Welcome to the Genesis 1:2 era.

      • Charlie says:

        I still love the irony of people screaming “we are the base” and shouting down anyone who tries to offer an actual solution to the problem self-identifying as silent anything.

          • TheEiger says:

            Honest question here. What do you consider amnesty? Anything short of putting them on buses back across the border? Do you consider amnesty as ANY bill dealing with immigration because you think the Senate will warp it into open borders (this is a legit concern)? I honestly want to know. Is it allowing people to get in the back of the line and pay a penalty, but stay in the US?

            I’m not sold on the idea that we have to do something now just to say we did something. I think we have time to do it right. The first thing is to actually secure the border and better track those individuals who are here on a temporary visa. Addressing visa issues is very important because around 40% of people that are here illegally come here legally and over stay a visa. They didn’t get here by sneaking across the border.

            All that to say though that it isn’t helpful to call everyone that wants to talk about a solution to the issue as pro-amnesty. We need to start playing chess with the President on the issues instead of constantly kicking over the chess board and stomping away. That doesn’t mean we give in to him. It means we can and should beat him when it comes to providing solutions.

            • Charlie says:

              And based on my recent experience, I’d like to officially welcome The Eiger to the “Open Borders/Pro-Amnesty” camp. The “Silent Majority” will now shout this at you often.

            • Harry says:

              I’m with you fellas. Nobody wants an orderly solution more than I. Charlie, you shouldn’t attribute everything negative to me. However, according to Obama’s actions it appears his definition of amnesty is far broader than anything any of us would desire. Also, as Eiger said, we have to secure the borders and return these minors to their families. I just hope Boehner doesn’t cave on those points.

      • Chet Martin says:

        Perhaps he would if those forces were a majority. On their best day, they might narrowly be the majority of a Republican primary electorate. Yet their sole victory in 2014- the defeat of Cantor- had just as much to do with retail politics as it did with the soul of the party. Perdue may have benefited from the “Silent Majority”, but it certainly didn’t have anything to do with amnesty. It didn’t have anything to do with politics at all. It had to do with anger at the status quo.

        • Harry says:

          Yes, but don’t be so naive. The “amnesty” thing is part of the anger at status quo politics.

        • Jon Richards says:

          Chet, I think that the negative ad run against Kingston at the very end, saying that he would sell out to the Chamber on Amnesty because he was bought and paid for with the Chamber endorsement and ad spending probably did move the needle towards the Perdue camp. But it was one of many things that did so.

          Perdue needed all of those things to reach what in the end was a very narrow victory.

          Harry, some of the anger by portions of the GOP base against those in DC is probably related to fears of a cave-in on amnesty (whatever that means). I wonder, though, how much of what caused people to vote for Perdue was the “term limits, politicians should not serve more than a term or two as envisioned in the Federalist Papers” response I see from many in the Tea Party?

          Unlike Broun, Gingrey, and to some extent, Handel–who with four-way tests and the like promised to obstruct any laws or actions the President might take that would appear to be unconstitutional–Perdue ran on a promise to fix things in DC that career politicians couldn’t. That implies a proactive effort to get something done, rather than a restrictive approach to try to keep the status quo.

          • Al Gray says:

            I saw very few ads either way. There was enough of a dossier of truly miserable votes over 22 years by Kingston for me to cite in my barrage of radio call-ins. The $21 Trillion for Medicare D on the National Debt Clock and the US having the highest drug costs in the world was one eye and ear catching tool I used. Then there were the votes to strip our constitutional rights away. Finally there was the calamitous repeal of Glass Steagall and the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000. We have not recovered from the damage and the structural failures that might ensue could cause a collapse.

            It was truly stunning to see that record ignored by ‘conservatives.’ We averted nominating someone who is a ‘conservative’ only by Washington, DC metrics by the thinnest of margins. I haven’t been that forceful, loud and committed in a long time, if ever. It was a close-run thing. Now I won’t have that chilly November date with a Nunn.

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