Loudest Teapot Tempest Yet

Kudos to Jonathan Bernstein for identifying the dog that didn’t bark in the fascinating and heavily reported internal battle for control over the original Big Bertha of the Tea Party Movement, FreedomWorks:

As far as anyone has reported, there were no doctrinal disputes between the Armey faction and their rivals. Nothing about public policy. But alongside what appears to be personality clashes and money-grubbing, there did appear to be one issue of campaign tactics involved in the clash. The faction led by donor Richard Stevenson wanted to waste gobs of money on the futile attempt to reelect Tea Party favorite Rep. Joe Walsh, while Armey preferred wasting enormous sums and embarrassing conservatives and the Republican Party by backing doomed Senate candidate Todd Akin in Missouri. In the event, $1.7 million went to Walsh, who only lost by 9 percentage points (while Akin lost by 15 points; another couple million dollars wasn’t going to save him).

Amidst all the efforts to shoehorn the FreedomWorks “meltdown” into the tired narrative of a struggle between “realistic” and “idealistic” wingnuts–or between the Tea Folk who are just the same old conservative activist GOP “base” that’s been around since about 1962 and the “Republican establishment”–it’s kind of important to remember that nobody’s much arguing about ideology in the supposed “struggle for the soul” of the GOP or the political Right generally. All the fights over strategy and tactics and use of money and personalities shouldn’t obscure the fact that conservative movement’s conquest of the GOP–a growing reality for decades that reached its point of consummation in 2009 and 2010–remains not just the status quo on the Right but the most important variable in American politics.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.