Thursday, April 30, 2009

CFG, GOP and Specter

I've written enough times about the Club for Growth, and their links to Representative Scott Garrett, that people are aware how wrong I think they are. Now, in the game of finger pointing about why Senator Arlen Specter switched parties, they're finally taking some heat. There are lessons in this for Republicans and Democrats.

From Politico:
(Sen. Orrin) Hatch, the No. 2 man at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Toomey can’t win in a general election in Pennsylvania — and that by chasing out Specter, the Club for Growth and its backers may have cost the GOP another seat in the Senate.

“I don’t think it had anything to do with leadership; it had to do with Club for Growth,” the Utah Republican said of Specter’s switch. “I wish they’d spend their money going after Democrats, rather than Republicans. ... Let’s just be honest about it: In blue states, we’re not going to get conservative Republicans. It’s just that simple.

[snip]

“I would remind Mr. Steele and some of our party leaders: Theirs is a job of winning elections, of increasing party strength, not of forming some sort of party purity police so this grand experiment to shrink the base to its purest form finds us confined to a phone booth,” (veteran GOP strategist John) Weaver said.
The Club for Growth only received 2903 donations from individuals last election cycle. Granted, they raised and spent $3.4 million, but it came from 2,900 people. That's less than seven people per Congressional District.

Yet the Republican Party tolerates their slash and burn tactics. They can't be a player in a general because their message doesn't resonate, so they go in the primary forcing good Representatives like Marge Roukema into early retirement, cost Lincoln Chaffee reelection by burning his warchest, and switches by long time public servants like Sen. Specter.

And what do they get?

They get to pad their paychecks by pointing to things like Garrett's recent vote against clean water as success, wringing their hands they don't have more people like him. They never seem to point to the fact he was only one of ten to vote that way. Such bluntness would probably be too demoralizing or a wake up call to help the CFG faithful realize they're pouring money into a an ideological black hole.

As the GOP continues it's march toward irrelevance, Democrats can't be too certain it can't happen to them as well. Voters saw it in Connecticut with the campaign against Lieberman. Targeted by MoveOn, Leiberman and his 90% Democratic voting record spoke at the Republican National Convention last summer.

Granted, MoveOn crushes the Club for Growth in terms of number of donors and raised ten times as much money last cycle, but it's still only about 11,000 donors. That's a whopping 26 people per Congressional District of 600,000.

The claims by special interests that the locally elected representatives of a District or state have lost touch with their constituents and therefore merit a primary challenge are just that; claims by a special interest they don't like the representative. Sure, there are Districts throughout the nation where the general is won on Primary Day, but the assault on moderates in moderate Districts is a recipe for disaster for either party.

It's what happened to the Republicans, and the Democrats need to guard against it.