The Washington Examiner‘s Byron York recently asked, “Are Republicans too divided to have a civil war?”
He laid out a number of varied issues that have pitted conservative against conservative: immigration, national defense, Ted Cruz. And he concluded, “But the very number of divisions within the GOP makes it difficult to imagine the party falling into a classic civil war, with two sides lined up against each other over some irresolvable dispute.”
That line was written before Mother Jones‘ David Corn revealed #Groundswell, a cabal of ultra-conservative activists, journalists and policymakers who regularly conspire in their neverending #war against Obama. The members of the group go beyond sharing information — they actually attempt to plot a “30-front war” by shaping messaging to sell their policies and then pushing it into the world. For instance, they created a series of hashtags to undermine Democratic messaging: #CantTrustObama, #SequesterLies and #PoliticsOverPublicSafety.
“Politics over public safety” was a major theme of the group, who saw it as a salient attack against Obama on immigration, national defense and — of course — #Benghazi!
Ginny Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a key player in #Groundswell, loved the “politics over public safety” messaging so much that she issued “brownie points” to anyone in the organization who effectively “deployed” it in the media, Corn explains in the video above of his talk with 92Y producer Jordan Chariton.
A key element of Groundswell wasn’t just to try to destroy Obama — which the right has being trying to do since 2007 — but it was also meant to take on “the establishment,” which to the group and Thomas in particular was personified by Karl Rove, the mastermind of the last successful Republican presidential campaign and the largest Republican landslide in generations in 2010.
#Groundswell was a reaction to the general establishment consensus after the 2012 election, typified by the GOP autopsy, that indulging the base both with extreme candidates — Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock and Sharron Angle — and over-optimism — Dick Morris — had cost the GOP the chance to win back the White House and the Senate. Though Dick Morris is still in exile and the Republican National Committee is back to its same old gin-up-the-base-with-nonsense ways, the rift between the Tea Party exemplified by #Groundswell and the establishment continues.
When Rand Paul battles Chris Christie, when Ted Cruz calls Republicans in the Senate “the surrender caucus,” when the base tries to stop GOP donors from pushing immigration reform through, it’s #Groundswell versus the establishment, even if all of the party’s base doesn’t identify with that particular cabal.
The base generally wants to cut and starve the government, even if it costs them elections. The establishment values winning over everything. The politicians who serve the base are willing to say anything or do nearly anything to build their mailing lists. The establishment thinks actual governance over government shutdowns is better for the party.
And though the base mostly fell in to try to elect Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, it may be a different story in 2014.
Is there enough of a #Groundswell to push Ginny Thomas’ version of the GOP, or will Karl Rove and the hundreds of millions of dollars behind him drown out, or appropriate, any dissenting #hashtags?