The rise of the GOP's "Tea Party" establishment
Yesterday at the WaPo, Dana Milbank admirably provided the kind of acute political analysis you just don't find much in the mainstream press:
The Republican establishment, we are told, has suffered quite a beating at the hands of a 41-year-old Delaware woman by the name of Christine O'Donnell.
The Time magazine cover says the Tea Party's "conservative rebels are rattling the Republican establishment." ABC News says the Tea Party landed "a huge blow to the GOP establishment," and CNN says it sent "shockwaves to the Republican establishment." George W. Bush ad man Mark McKinnon tells USA Today "there is now a civil war within the Republican Party," pitting the Tea Party against "the Republican establishment."
Similar claims had been made earlier about the Tea Party bucking, beating, striking, shocking and delivering blow after blow to the establishment in New York, Florida, Colorado, Alaska, Kentucky and elsewhere.
Sorry to interrupt the anti-establishment violence, but could we pause long enough to ask a question: What is this "Republican establishment" of which you speak?
Though it has become a stock storyline to describe besieged party bosses, those peddling this account have largely created a straw man. The Republican establishment of popular imagination, like the Georgetown salon, no longer exists. If there is a Republican establishment, the Tea Party is it.
I think that's exactly right -- and make sure to read the entire piece. Milbank exposes the myth that continues to be peddled in the media (which feed off conflict and manufacture it when they need to) and by a handful of disenchanted Republicans (mostly establishment types who are now on the outside looking in as the party has continued move further and further to the right, embracing the Tea Party "movement" along the way).
This ill-conceived narrative is predictably spun after every "shocking" primary victory by the far right, notably last week after Christine O'Donnell beat Mike Castle in Delaware and Carl Paladino beat Rick Lazio in New York, just as it was after Joe Miller beat Lisa Murkowski in Alaska. Milbank gets it, to his credit, but a lot of the rest of us do, too. Here's what I wrote last Wednesday in response to O'Donnell's and Paladino's wins:
It's a nightmare for Republicans, says Politico, but is it? Isn't the GOP just reaping what it is has been sowing? Isn't this what the party wants, what it dreams about? A shrewd insider like Karl Rove may lament O'Donnell's victory, but the party as a whole has been moving ever further to the right in recent years, so much so that an extremist like O'Donnell is well within the Republican mainstream. Her win wasn't a surprise, it was almost an inevitability.
The New York Times writes that O'Donnell's win in Delaware and similar far-rightist Carl Paladino's win over establishmentarian Rick Lazio in New York's Republican gubernatorial primary were insurgent wins. But were they? Yes, insofar as the less extremist candidates won and insofar as these two were backed by the far-right base that dominates the party, but, again, should we be surprised? If anything, these two are more Republican than their more moderate opponents. Is it really an insurgency when the supposed outsiders have become the new mainstream?
It's neither insurgency nor civil war. It's just the Republican Party become ever more extreme and shedding its old "establishment" in the process, with a new one having already taken over.