’14 Purge?

Lots of observers noted the rather large and decisive regional splits in the House vote on the “fiscal cliff” tax bill. Here’s John Judis’ summary:

All in all, 85 Republicans voted for the Senate resolution and 151 voted against it. The opposition was centered in the Old South. Southern Republicans opposed the measure by 83 to 10. The delegations from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina were unanimously opposed. As one might expect, the bill got support from five Florida Republicans, including Republicans from Cuban districts.

Republican House members from the East and the Far West strongly backed the Senate resolution. In the East, House Republicans were 24 to one in favor, with New York and Pennsylvania unanimous. In the Far West, Republicans voted by 17 to eight in favor. The Midwest was split, with 27 against and 21 for, with Michigan and Illinois in favor, and Ohio, the Speaker’s state, against 7 to 6. This back of the envelope tally suggests that, to a surprising extent, the Civil War divisions endure, and even supersede in this case the partisan divisions between Republicans and Democrats.

The rapidly congealing CW about why this happened is that “yea” voters were from districts where the main threat to incumbency is a Democratic general election opponent, while the “nays” were worried about primary challenges.

I’d note this sort of reductionist analysis excludes the possibility that some of these folks voted their convictions–particularly the “nay” voters who got elected as outspoken Tea types to begin with (52 of the 59 members of the Tea Party Caucus voted “nay”). More importantly, the idea that the 85 “yea” voters are by definition safe from a right-bent primary challenge may be quite wrong, at least if you give any credence to the loud saber-rattling going on about a great big RINO Purge in 2014:

[A]fter 85 House Republicans joined Boehner in raising taxes without spending reductions during the end game of Monday night’s fiscal-cliff negotiations, Tea Party leaders and conservative activists from around the country are dusting off their tri-corner hats and “Don’t Tread On Me” signs, and now say that their members are as energized as they have ever been since the first Tax Day protests in 2009. And the Republican Party, they add, had better beware.

“We now have 85 members of the House who have shunned their noses at us,” said Dustin Stockton, a Texas- and Nevada-based operative and the chief strategist of The Tea Party.net. “Our job now is to recruit and inspire and motivate people to run against those Republicans who did it.”

If nothing else, this sort of talk will keep the pressure on House GOPers to stay crazy during the upcoming debt limit fight. Progressives aren’t the only ones who have decided to judge the New Year’s deal on the basis of where it leads next.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.