The double standard between the GOP establishment and conservatives when it comes to “party unity” rears its ugly head once more.
In my home state of Iowa, a GOP establishment desperate to blame anyone other than themselves — the real culprits — for killing the lucrative Ames Straw Poll, is engaging in the sort of ham-fisted tactics as the anonymous source whining about conservatives to the liberal media about it.
First, a little history lesson so you know the background here.
Three years ago, the Republican Party of Iowa was taken over by the Ron Paul/Liberty movement — fair and square — when they shrewdly used party rules to put their people in place. Our Democrat Governor Terry Branstad — yes, he calls himself a Republican, but I don’t believe in bearing false witness — couldn’t abide that obviously.
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Because if there’s one faction of the base the GOP establishment hates even more than the evangelicals it’s the libertarians. However, his efforts at re-taking control of the state party were stymied when the libertarians and evangelicals formed an alliance. Ron Paul-er A.J. Spiker remained party chairman, but his new co-chair was respected evangelical Danny Carroll, a former state representative.
Thus, last year when Spiker stepped down to work for Rand Paul 2016, Carroll was next in line to succeed him.
Realizing that an alignment of evangelicals and libertarians was an existential threat, the GOP establishment hired one of Governor Chris Christie’s top people and gave him a substantial budget to work the party rules to get rid of their base once and for all.
The problem is the effort may have been too successful. For now Branstad has virtual dominance of the state party, whose biggest fundraiser is the quadrennial (because the establishment keeps blowing presidential elections) Ames Straw Poll.
An Ames Straw Poll that Branstad is on record for years trying to undermine, because it favors grassroots conservatives and not the corporatist shills such as himself.
Yet the entire faux-argument for why the establishment, the alleged grownups, needed to be put back in charge of the state party is the grassroots coalition couldn’t raise money. Of course, this is mainly because Branstad and his sugar daddies refused to help them raise it, but I digress.
Therefore, the absolute last thing the Branstad Machine can be seen doing is slaying the party’s biggest cash cow. It undermines their faux argument, and exposes the reality this was never about fundraising. It was always about control. Just as it always is with progressives, regardless of which political party they call home.
So after they moved the goose that lays golden eggs from the comfy confines of Iowa State University to a place in rural Boone, which is only open because of taxpayer bailouts (messaging much?), the Ames Straw Poll became a “Boone-Doggle.”
And they gave 2016 presidential candidates, already leery of spending a million or two to win the same straw poll which last place Iowa Caucus finisher, Michele Bachmann – who won four years ago – the excuse for declining they were looking for.
The first to formally say no was, ironically, ultimate establishmentarian Jeb Bush. Prompting Iowa’s new (establishment) party chairman, hot-headed Jeff Kaufmann, to take to Twitter to lambaste Jeb. Now I enjoy a little establishment-on-establishment violence as much as the next conservative, but can you imagine what would’ve happened if a grassroots conservative party chairman had done this to Bush Royalty? Does the phrase “sleeps with the fishes” mean anything?
But Kaufmann was just getting started.
With Jeb and the national establishment basically pulling out, the event was left to be a Battle Royale of conservatives. Slitting each other’s throats all summer to win 3,000 straw poll votes, all the while Jeb and the establishment remain untouched on the sidelines.
Discerning that to be a lose-lose proposition, 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee became the first grassroots candidate to also say no. A little birdie tells me Kaufmann had “harsh words” for a senior Huckabee adviser in a phone conversation afterwards.
Then last week the party establishment held a meeting for campaigns interested in participating in the Boone-Doggle. Despite the fact it was stated up front attendance at the meeting didn’t lock anyone into a commitment, the only campaign considered a serious threat to win the Iowa Caucuses that showed was Senator Ted Cruz. No Scott Walker, no Marco Rubio, and no Rand Paul.
Now The Washington Times has a story about GOP establishment leaders literally threatening candidates, telling them “campaigns who make the decision not to attend the straw poll at all do so at their own peril.” Apparently the national GOP establishment has seen enough of amateur hour. They at least understand you bully candidates behind closed doors in smoke filled rooms, not out in the open for all to see.
So in the same story Bruce Ash, chairman of the RNC’s “all-important” rules committee, rebuked the Iowa establishment with these words: “I hope our folks in Iowa will focus on party success and not just on filling their party coffers by trying to bully candidates.”
When the GOP establishment in D.C. are the ones complaining that you’re too focused on money and your own ambitions, rather than the greater principle here, that’s certainly going to leave a mark.
The final result of all this chicanery is one of the conservative movement’s great events, the Ames Straw Poll, is dead whether it happens in Boone or not. All because the people running the Republican Party have a vastly different value system and set of priorities from the conservative base, so they make decisions based on emotion and ambition and not on what’s best for the cause.
What appears to be “the stupid party” is really just immaturity and ego, stemming from the fact the GOP establishment has more disdain for its own base than the Democrats.
Case in point, if the shoe were on the other foot and the conservatives running the state party had tried to bully candidates like this, it wouldn’t just result in a stinging rebuke.
It would probably be used as the excuse to yank Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status. But we know there is a different set of rules for the establishment then there is for us.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.