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David Jolly’s Next Problem: Boehner and McConnell

Now let us praise the conservative groups.

By 3.13.14

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So David Jolly wins the House special election in Florida this week by defeating a Democrat who pledged to fix Obamacare, not repeal it. But there’s more.

Jolly won the GOP congressional nomination in the first place by defeating State Representative Kathleen Peters in the GOP primary. And what was Peters promising? Said Peters:

“I do not think that we should take a stand and say absolutely repeal it. Not unless we have a plan and a proposal to replace it.”

Peters lost, Jolly won. Democrat Alex Sink made the same pledge as Peters. Jolly won again.

And what is John Boehner’s GOP House set to do? They’re going to fix Obamacare.

Yes, you read that right. Reports Politico’s Jennifer Haberkorn (hat tip Taegan Goddard here), bold print supplied:

GOP Now Trying to Fix Obamacare Instead of Repeal

Politico: “House Republican leaders are planning to bring up three changes to Obamacare next week — but unlike dozens of prior bills, these are more minor measures that are not expected to be controversial. All three bills essentially fix drafting errors, perceived oversights or unintended consequences in the president’s Affordable Care Act. They have bipartisan support and are scheduled to be considered under a suspension of the rules, which limits debate and requires support from two-thirds of House members — a signal that leaders of both parties do not expect any heated debate.”

In other words, Boehner’s GOP House is set to do exactly what Jolly won promising not to do.

In a snapshot, this is exactly the GOP’s problem. Candidates run pledging to do X — then once elected they are quickly pressured by the GOP’s Washington Establishment to join the status quo and not do exactly what they pledged to do if elected. Margaret Thatcher, faced with the same problem from British Establishment Conservatives, put it this way:

“Indeed one of the reasons for our electoral failure is that people believe too many Conservatives have become socialists already…. And why should anyone support a party that seems to have the courage of no convictions?”

This is why the widening gulf between the GOP Establishment and conservatives, whether one describes the latter as Tea Partiers, conservative reformers, the heirs of Ronald Reagan or groups such as the Senate Conservatives Fund, Heritage Action, The Club for Growth, Freedom Works, Americans for Prosperity and the Madison Project. Case in point?

Over in Mitch McConnell’s Senate GOP? The Republican Leader has had a sit down with that famous bastion of conservatism, the New York Times, to say of the Tea Party, that elected Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and made the GOP a House majority:

“I think we are going to crush them everywhere,” McConnell said. “I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.”

There was, as might be expected, a quick backlash to this. Enough so that McConnell went over to Ben Shapiro’s Truth Revolt to backtrack — sort of. While changing his tune on the Tea Party, McConnell doubled-down and made things worse by going after the Senate Conservatives Fund as follows: 

“I’ve always been and continue to be a big supporter of the Tea Party and the conservative change it’s bringing to Washington. One of the biggest obstacles to that change, however, is the Senate Conservatives Fund, a rogue political operation that has co-opted the Liberty movement for its own enrichment to the detriment of the conservative cause. This is a point that I have been making repeatedly and energetically over the past several months, because in my view this group has deceived a lot of good people. They claim to share our goals but undermine them at every turn. I think they should be stopped, and I don’t mind saying so.”

This was an extraordinary slap at the integrity of McConnell’s former Senate Republican colleague Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the now-president of the Heritage Foundation who founded the SCF. Matt Hoskins is the SCF Executive Director and he gave The American Spectator this response to McConnell’s charge:

Mitch McConnell is not a conservative and he has worked to undermine the Tea Party at every turn. McConnell has not only voted with the Democrats to pass bailouts, more debt, higher taxes, and funding for Obamacare, but he has also worked to defeat conservative candidates like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio in their primaries.

Mitch McConnell and other career politicians have hijacked the Republican Party and used it to empower themselves at the expense of hard-working Americans. They have badly damaged the image of the party and prevented it from winning many elections.

The members of the Senate Conservatives Fund believe that the kind of Republicans we send to Washington matters and they’re working together to elect people who share their values — leaders who will actually fight to stop the spending and debt that are bankrupting the country. They don’t buy into the Washington argument that politicians are entitled to a lifetime in office.

SCF is careful about the races it engages and only endorses candidates who are principled conservatives, who have strong grassroots support, and who can win the primary and general elections. So far this year, we have endorsed conservative Senate candidates in Nebraska, Kentucky, Mississippi, Kansas, and Louisiana — five red states where a conservative nominee will most likely win the general election.

Our members have substantive disagreements with Mitch McConnell on a number of critical policy issues and they believe the country will be better off if he is replaced with conservative Matt Bevin. We polled our members about this race before we got involved and 90% said we should endorse Matt Bevin, 8% were unsure, and only 2% opposed. This was before Mitch McConnell betrayed conservatives on the debt limit and began threatening the Tea Party. The percentage of our members who support Matt Bevin today is even higher.

Our members are not stupid. They know that Mitch McConnell has voted to raise the debt limit 10 times, they know he helped pass the Wall Street bailout, they know he negotiated the fiscal cliff tax hike with Joe Biden, and they know he stabbed Ted Cruz and Mike Lee in the back when he helped the Democrats fund Obamacare. Our members also know that Mitch McConnell has repeatedly supported liberal Republicans like Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist, Bob Bennett, and Trey Greyson against conservative challengers.

Unfortunately, Mitch McConnell cannot defend his record so he’s chosen to smear Matt Bevin and attack the grassroots organizations that support Bevin and other conservative candidates. McConnell is worried because Matt Bevin is gaining support in Kentucky and poses a real threat to his power. Bevin’s hard work, along with the efforts of local Tea Party groups and other national organizations like FreedomWorks and Madison Project, are beginning to show results.

Mitch McConnell cannot contain his hostility for the grassroots. Despite his best efforts to bite his tongue, he said the Tea Party deserves a “punch in the nose” and vowed to “crush” conservatives “everywhere.” He says these things because he thinks that defeating conservative candidates will destroy the groups that hold Republicans accountable. He wants to demoralize the grassroots to the point where they just give up and let him freely cut deals with the Democrats. Mitch McConnell does not understand that conservatives actually believe in the principles that made this country great and they will never stop fighting for them.

Mitch McConnell has shown his true colors and now it’s up to every freedom-loving American in Kentucky and across the nation to do their part to replace him. The primary is on May 20th and we have a strong alternative in Matt Bevin who is not only more conservative than McConnell, but is also more electable in a head-to-head match-up with the Democrat in November. This is our chance to change Washington by changing the people we send there. Now is the time for Americans to rise up.

Aside from McConnell’s latest comment to the Times, as Erick Erickson points out over at Red State, McConnell:

… has referred to conservatives and the outside groups they fund, as traitors, bullies, drunks, and fringe. He claims conservatives “tear up every bar they walk into,” and he wants to “punch” the tea party “in the nose.”

Those are his words. And he has been pretty consistent over time. Back in 2009, McConnell’s associates famously put James Dobson in a terribly embarrassing spot when they lied about Rand Paul’s record. McConnell sent staff into Kentucky to defeat Rand Paul.

McConnell now says he only meant he wanted to crush the Senate Conservatives Fund, but back in 2009 and 2010, the Senate Conservatives Fund was the group standing with conservatives and Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul against Mitch McConnell’s supported Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist, Bob Bennett, and Trey Grayson.

It is true that a number of McConnell’s remarks have focused on the Senate Conservatives Fund, but his remarks have also targeted groups like FreedomWorks, Club For Growth, and others. He is systematically targeting conservative organizations that do not follow the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s lead.

So. The House GOP is caving on Obamacare even as David Jolly wins both a GOP primary and a special election by specifically refusing to tweak or fix Obamacare but instead repeal it out right. The tweaking, of course, doing President Obama’s work for him, not to mention sending a signal that the GOP Establishment is ready to raise the white flag on eventually accepting Obamacare. This while the Speaker is out there saying the conservative groups “have lost all credibility.” And the Republican Leader of the U.S. Senate is out to “crush” the Senate Conservatives Fund because they are traitors, bullies, and all the rest.

Well.

Let me see if we have the picture here. The “groups” — every one of which has been out there vigorously supporting conservative principle as Ronald Reagan once did — are the bad guys. The people who not only gave the House GOP its majority — a point just reinforced with the Jolly election — but elected Rand Paul over Trey Grayson, Ted Cruz over David Dewhurst, Marco Rubio over Charlie Crist and Mike Lee over Bob Bennett — these are the people who need to be “crushed.”

Let’s take a look at these infamous — infamous to Establishment Republicans — groups.

• The Senate Conservatives Fund: As mentioned, founded by then-South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, Matt Hoskins is the group’s Executive Director. What is the SCF all about?

SCF is a grassroots organization dedicated to electing strong conservative leaders to the United States Senate. We do not support liberal Republicans and we’re not affiliated with the Republican Party or any of its campaign committees.

SCF seeks to bring bold conservative leadership to Washington by supporting candidates who have the courage to fight for the timeless conservative principles of limited government, strong national defense, and traditional family values.

Our goal is to enact policies that will restore America’s greatness.

Specifically? This means the SCF supports candidates who would stop spending, repeal Obamacare, enforce immigration, defend the Second Amendment, ban bailouts, end earmarks and protect life.

Scary, no?

• Heritage Action for America: Former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint ( perhaps not coincidentally, as noted, the founder of the Senate Conservatives Fund when he was in the Senate) is the chairman of the Heritage Foundation. Michael Needham is the Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Action. The Heritage Foundation has a long and distinguished history and played a key role in support of the Reagan White House. Heritage officials were frequently hosted by Reagan for both working and social events. With all the fuss over Heritage it is not mentioned that a Distinguished Fellow (as here) of Heritage is the delightful Elaine Chao. Also known as the Bush 43 Secretary of Labor — and Mrs. Mitch McConnell. Heritage Action’s reason for being?

We hold Congress accountable to conservative principles.

For too long, big-government special interests have dominated Washington. Heritage Action believes Washington should work for America’s best interest, and we hold them accountable to ensure they do.

We take the conservative policy visions outlined by our sister organization, The Heritage Foundation, and make them a reality. We ensure members of Congress hear directly from their constituents, including over 700,000 members of The Heritage Foundation and millions of others around the country who believe in our principles and share our vision of America’s future.

• FreedomWorks: The Chairman and CEO is Matt Kibbe. What is FreedomWorks about?

We are over 6 million Americans who are passionate about promoting free markets and individual liberty. Our members all share two common traits: a desire for less government, lower taxes, and more economic freedom.

For over a quarter century, FreedomWorks has identified, educated, and actuated citizens who are passionate about showing up to support free enterprise and constitutionally limited government.

We are not primarily a “think-tank,” content to study the issues and publish papers and reports. FreedomWorks breaks down the barriers between the beltway insiders and grassroots America.

FreedomWorks members known that government goes to those who show up. That’s why we give them the tools to break through the media noise and provide the same access to Washington as the big-moneyed lobbyists.

Preserving liberty depends on all Americans having access to their elected officials — not just special interests. FreedomWorks holds Washington accountable to the citizens that put them in office. 

• The Club for Growth: Now headed by former Republican Congressman Chris Chocola, the Club’s Board includes Jack Kemp’s former aide Ken Blackwell, later Ohio’s Secretary of State. And this very Kempian group is about as follows:

Club for Growth is a national network of thousands of pro-growth Americans, from all walks of life, who believe that prosperity and opportunity come through economic freedom. We work to promote public policies that encourage a high growth economy and a swift return to America’s founding principles primarily through legislative involvement, issue advocacy, research, training and educational activity.

The primary tactic of the separate Club for Growth PAC is to provide financial support from Club members to viable candidates to Congress who believe in pro-growth policies, limited government, low taxes and economic freedom, both in Republican primaries and general elections. 

The Club’s issues? Reduce income tax rates, death tax repeal, limited government through limited spending and budget reform, including a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution, Social Security reform with personal retirement accounts for younger workers, expanding trade freedom (free trade),end abusive lawsuits through medical malpractice and tort reform, replacing the current tax code (flat tax, fair tax), school choice, regulatory reform and deregulation.

• The Madison Project: Chaired by former Olympic champion and Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun, the Madison Project is about:

With the collective approval rating of Congress dipping as low as single digits, there is a broad consensus that Washington, D.C. is broken and in need of new leadership. Yet, year after year, over 90% of the incumbents win reelection, usually without any competition from within their own parties. It is our goal to usher in a new electoral paradigm and foster competition to challenge career politicians with conservatives who believe in the Constitution as originally drafted by James Madison.

During every election cycle, Republicans of all stripes campaign on a conservative platform. Yet, upon assumption of power, these elected officials lead a double life of talking the conservative talk at home and walking the statist walk in D.C. Ultimately, only a small cadre of elected conservatives remains from the army of conservative candidates. The Madison Project seeks to grow that army by recruiting and supporting candidates who will not only effectively articulate all the tenants of constitutional conservatism, but have the courage to fight for those values in the face of opposition from Republican Party bosses. We seek candidates who will change GOP leadership, not those who will be changed by the party leadership.

At its core, conservatism values choice and competition. We work to grow competition in Republican primaries against ruling-class incumbents who have grown stale and ineffective throughout their long careers in Washington.

• Americans for Prosperity: The AFP is headed by Tim Phillips and has serving on its board James C. Miller III — Ronald Reagan’s former Budget Director. Curiously, in attacking the AFP Speaker Boehner finds himself on the same side as another non-fan — President Obama. And what is AFP about?

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is committed to educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing those citizens as advocates in the public policy process. AFP is an organization of grassroots leaders who engage citizens in the name of limited government and free markets on the local, state, and federal levels. AFP grassroots activists advocate for public policies that champion the principles of entrepreneurship and fiscal and regulatory restraint. To that end, AFP supports:

- Cutting taxes and government spending in order to halt the encroachment of government in the economic lives of citizens by fighting proposed tax increases and pointing out evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse.

- Removing unnecessary barriers to entrepreneurship and opportunity by sparking citizen involvement early in the regulatory process in order to reduce red tape.

- Restoring fairness to our judicial system.

So there you have it. The Senate Conservatives Fund is the group Mitch McConnell wants to crush, and all the rest are the groups John Boehner cannot stand because they have no credibility. Except that they do have credibility. Lots of credibility — with the GOP base.

As the election of David Jolly illustrates yet again, there is a considerable difference between the grass roots — the base — of the GOP and its Establishment leaders in Washington. That difference is clearly understood by the Senate Conservatives Fund. By Heritage Action. By Freedom Works, the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and the Madison Project.

There is a message in the election of David Jolly. And it isn’t just to Democrats.

The other message out of that Florida special election is a shot across the bow of Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and Establishment GOP Republicans. To Americanize Margaret Thatcher’s point, people have come to believe that too many Republicans have become socialists already. David Jolly went out of his way to oppose tweaking or fixing Obamacare. He won.

The Senate Conservatives Fund is paying attention to that message. Heritage Action, Freedom Works, The Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and the Madison Project are paying attention to that message. In fact, each of these groups in their own way is making it abundantly clear to the GOP base that the message from the base is not only understood before the next election. But after the election.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.