The Daily Beasts reports on a conversation between Rep. Greg Walden - the House Republicans' point man whose job it is to maintain their majority - and their benefactors on Wall Street and DC law firms last month.
Why, they asked, did the GOP seem so in the thrall of its most extremist wing? The donors, banker types who occupy the upper reaches of Wall Street’s towers, couldn’t understand why the Republican Party—their party—seemed close to threatening the nation with a government shutdown, never mind a default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later this month.In response, Walden admitted that the Tea Party has put the fear of God in the Republicans, thus essentially admitting that the real hostage crisis is the Tea Party taking the GOP hostage.
“Listen,” Walden said, according to several people present. “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.”Walden then went on about how the Tea Party gets involved at the local level, hence their lopsided power to primary Republicans who do not toe the line.
What he didn't mention, interestingly, is the fact that the Tea Party's outsized influence is itself the creation of his own party - whose governors and state legislatures gerrymandered Conrgessional districts to make them as conservative as possible, thus making the competition in the primary rather than the general election. The Tea Party can primary Republicans because the districts are so red that they don't have to worry about pushback from other Republicans who actually want to win. As the 2012 Republican presidential primary proved, Republicans who want to win aren't exactly powerless or outnumbered.
Be that as it may, the GOP's moneymen aren't buying the Tea Party excuse. No, really. They are literally not buying it.
“We are finding a marvelous way to grab defeat from the jaws of victory,” said Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based businessman who was a major donor to both of George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns. “The way we are handling this has been a mistake from the beginning. I think we misread where the country was.” [...]Some Republican fundraisers even echoed President Obama.
“I am not writing a check to anyone,” he added. “That is not working for the American people.”
Bobbie Kilberg, a Republican fundraiser who has worked for four Republican presidents, echoed Zeidman. She has hosted fundraisers for ideological warriors such as Reps. Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor, and is hosting Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton later this year, but she said she will not give to the NRCC.The Republican check-writers have good reason not to buy the Tea Party excuse. Not only has the Republican party purposely gave them too much power by severe gerrymandering, the moneymen know that they themselves propped up the Tea Party with... wait for it... money! The astroturfing, the fake outrage at Obama from the beginning of his presidency, and the media coverage to make them look good were all bought with one thing: money.
“When you have a small segment who dictate to the rest of the party, the result is what we have seen in the last two days,” she said. “People need to stand up and not be afraid of the Tea Party.”
“This may be a turning point,” she predicted. “People may say, ‘Enough already.’”
Sure, the Tea Party shows up at the local level. But the reason they are able to threaten to primary Republicans who dare to not bow to them is because they are able to support their candidates with ads on the airwaves. That costs money. The incumbents aren't afraid of old white men with teabags hanging off their hats and handguns hanging on their holsters - they are afraid that they won't be able to raise the money it takes to run a campaign and win if the Tea Party goes against them.
Tea Party's (mostly secret) money scares them because there is no counterbalance. But what if there were? What if Republicans had to suddenly choose between the crazy caucus and the moneybag? What if their money supply were being cut off not because they stood up to the Tea Party but because they refused to? What if the moneymen turned off the lights at the Tea Party?
Finally, the Wall Street Republicans are taking sides in the GOP civil war. They are tired of the extremists in their party slapping them around, and they seem to be ready to put the screws on the leadership.
I hope something good comes out of this for the GOP. They are going to have to suffer a lot of pain, however. Lots of Republicans will be put between a rock and a hard place. The Tea Party isn't going to just give up without leaving a lot of blood on the floor. They will take out some Republicans through primaries, and when they can't, they will sit out the elections and depress Republican turnout (are they starting to sound familiar?).
But the Wall Street Republicans realize something: if they hope to gain political power back, they cannot afford to be seen as the crazy party for too much longer. They must return to a party with whom governing is possible before they can return to being a governing party. Let's hope this is the beginning of that process.