From It Affects You
I know many on the Religious Right have a disdain for divorce, but nevertheless here we are. It seems the once fruitful relationship between the Religious Right and the GOP is, sadly, not what it used to be.
We’ve all heard grumblings from the Religious Right about how they are courted every couple of years for elections but then dumped by the second week of November. We’ve witnessed them try to purge the GOP of all moderates. We’ve heard the threats of pulling support, demands made for judicial appointments and legislative action.
Well, it seems arch Conservative Paul Weyrich is growing tired of all this and, probably citing irreconcilable differences, is taking steps towards ending the relationship. (For those not very familiar with Weyrich, I recently went over just what a juggernaut he is in the Cosnervative movement. He is one of the architects of the VRWC, not some random wacko. If he’s talking like this, it’s big.)
Weyrich is writing a series on the Next Conservatism. In previous entries, he sharply disagreed with Conservative foreign policy. And by sharply, I mean sharply. His vision was almost completely incompatible with Bush doctrine. And on the home front, he strongly derided the Patriot Act while clearly he’s utterly frustrated with the lack of progress in the “culture wars.”
In short, he’s been railing not just against the usual liberal targets, but against modern Conservatism and the GOP. While in previous entries he highlighted his gripes with modern Conservatism, in his most recent entry he gives some idea of how he plans to either bully the GOP into his corner or engineer a complete split. I’ll skip over the parts where he essentially repeats his gripes and get right to the threats:
We should put a new line on every ballot, “none of the above,” and if it wins there should be a new election with new candidates. Voters in Russia have the power to reject all candidates, and they sometimes do so. Why should American voters all too often have to hold their nose and pick the lesser of two evils? NOTA would put pressure on all political parties to offer better candidates.
Ouch. Does that sound like someone happy with the candidates he’s been voting for? I wonder if he held his nose while he pulled the lever for President Bush. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of Republican candidates.
The threat here is clear. The GOP has been wooing the Religious Right for years, yet they often fell short in delivering after the elections. The Religious Right wants to send a message. The GOP can no longer put up candidates who do not meet their strict guidelines and expect the Religious Right to vote for them because they have no choice. If such election reforms are put in place, the Religious Right will threaten to urge their supporters to vote “NOTA” unless a “suitable” candidate is found. Message: don’t think we’ll vote for you by default. If you don’t put up a Religious Right approved candidate, we won’t vote.
At present, incumbents have a tremendous advantage over challengers, an imbalance made worse by McCain-Feingold, which was really an incumbents’ protection act. We need to establish a more level playing field. One way to do that might be allow challengers to spend several times as much money on their campaigns as incumbents. It is much easier for incumbents to get free media attention, and the government subsidizes incumbents to the tune of $2 million for each Congressman with regional offices, staffs, mailings and so on. Allowing the challenger to spend more would reduce the incumbent’s unfair advantage.
I’m sure Weyrich wants such legislation so he can raise vast amounts of money to go after sitting Democrats, but that’s not the interesting part. Given the tone of his criticisms of the GOP and points he makes in this very article, Democrats are not Weyrich’s primary target here. Weyrich clearly means to threaten sitting Republicans. During the years between elections, Weyrich can use the threat of heavily financing a primary challenger to demand concessions out of Republicans. And in at least a few of those cases, he’s likely to follow through.
His following point should remove mosts doubts about who his primary targets will be:
We also need to create a level playing field for third parties. Third parties have historically played important roles in advancing new ideas, something the next conservatism should keep in mind. The Republican and Democratic parties collude in keeping third party challengers out of the system. The next conservatism should insist on more options for the voters and fair play for all parties.
Weyrich plays for keeps. He’s not the kind who lobbies for wider participation in the democratic process and you won’t find him a champion for voting rights. He lobbies for a system which helps his ideas and the candidates who support them triumph. If he’s pressing for a stronger role for third parties, you can bet it’s not for “fair play for all parties.”
This falls right in line with his two previous points. He not only wants to be able to threaten to pull votes and finance primary challengers, he wants to make the threat of the Religious Right bolting from the GOP real. If the GOP fears losing a critical bloc of votes, they may be forced to deal. All that extra money he wants to be able to spend against incumbents isn’t for Democrats. He wants the GOP to feel an independent Religious Right will be able to inflict serious damages.
All his ideas are essentially ways to attain additional leverage within the GOP and, should that not work, of actually following through and causing a deep split. Make no mistake, though. This is not a war between moderates and extremists within the Republican Party; moderates already lost that one. This is a struggle between which extreme element will control the Republican Part for the next decade or two.
Weyrich is one of the primary architects of the current VRWC, and he’s giving us a look at his next design.
Remember, divorce is toughest on the children. If you see a poor wingnut lost, split between both ideological parents, give ’em a little hug.