Monday, January 17, 2011

Priebus vs. the Tea Party

Making the rounds today is a story at Politico on Reince Priebus relationship with the various Wisconsin Tea Party Factions. A number of different tea party leaders are quoted in the piece -- and if you didn't know them, you'd probably be inclined to think they were all cut-and-dry grassroots activist folk. Alas, this is not the case -- so without further ado here's some context behind the quoters.
  • Mike Murphy, Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus
He's obviously not an RP fan:

“Priebus will do whatever it takes to co-opt the tea party movement,” said Mike Murphy, chairman of a tea party-allied 527 group called The Republican Liberty Caucus of Wisconsin, founded in late 2009.

In the midterm elections, Murphy’s group supported tea party candidates, including some who were undercut by the state GOP, which largely ignored long-shot tea party candidates and endorsed the primary rivals of others at its May convention — months before the primary election.

“He didn’t allow for conservative voices that didn’t jibe with the establishment view and if he charges down that course (at the RNC), the tea party people will wake up and it may very well split up the Republican Party” coalition that powered the GOP’s 2010 landslide, said Murphy.

The Liberty Caucus is basically the plaything of Terri McCormick, the one-time state legislator, infrequent congressional candidate and all-around hellion who has butted heads and alienated her GOP overlords continuously in the past. McCormick is almost universally loathed by every ranking Republican in the state: Jim Sensenbrenner hate her. Paul Ryan hates her. WPRI hates her. Talk radio hates her. Former state GOP vice chairmen hate her ... and if you want to know why, just mosey on over here.

So when Murphy says "tea party people" he really means "my fellow Terri McCormick acolytes," which are very few and far between. Any prognostications and/or threats that come from Murphy should be taken with a proverbial grain of salt.

  • Jake Speed, Chairman of the La Crosse Liberty Coalition
This might actually be the largest online tea party group in the state with close to 200 members. Speed does a respectable job keeping the conversation moving at a brisk pace at his web site and is apparently quite active with events, and what have you. There are a number of elected officials who claim membership to the group, including the former Speaker of the state assembly and recently appointed Secretary of Administration, Mike Heubsch. If there's any tea party leader in Wisconsin who seems to have bridged the gap between grassroots and GOP establishment, it looks like it's been Speed.

One quick note: Speed was once pretty antagonistic towards the GOP establishment (see here, for example), but now that he appears to have a seat at the table seems much comfortable towing the party line.
  • Mark Block, formerly of AFP Wisconsin
Block's motives are as dubious as they are ambitious. As ringleader of the tea party astroturf circus here in Wisconsin, he got around plenty and spent money like it wasn't his (because, you know, it actually belonged to Koch Industries). In the early days of the tea parties, Block's group gave 9/11 truthers speaking spots at their rallies, so long as they agreed with other parts of AFP's agenda, so it's safe to say that Block is less concerned with substance than he is with presentation.

As the article points out, Block has left AFP to captain the U.S.S. Lusitania Herman Cain, presumably because (a.) Cain has a ton of money to throw around, (b.) isn't expected to win more than a dozen votes and (c.) still has to deal with the same media and political people that real candidates have to work with, thus providing Block with a wonderful opportunity to pad his Roledex.

Basically, Block is to grassroots organizing in the same proportion that pornography is to human intimacy.
Dake is still something of a mystery to me. Aside from dining with the newly elected RNC chair he also frequents the blog of fellow Grandson of Liberty, Capt. Karl, where he leaves words of encouragement and motivation. While that's certainly a neighborly thing to do, Capt. Karl is about as seriously disturbed as they come. He's a full-blown conspiracy theorist who has bought into some of the strangest urban myths we've ever heard and was so unhinged that last Christmas his wife walked out on him, taking the kids to a local domestic abuse shelter because she believed him to be "some sort of a threat to all of mankind because of my great concern for our country, economy and our liberty."

Dake's cameo in the Politico piece is rather telling:

Dake credited Preibus with supporting an effort by tea party activists who attended last year’s GOP state convention to add a plank to the party platform pushing for Wisconsinites to be allowed to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

“This was a very bold move on the Wisconsin GOP’s part, and it was done with Reince’s blessing, so he was clearly listening to a significant percentage of the tea partiers who felt that this was something that we were overdue for,” said Dake.

He conceded, though, that at that same convention “a lot of people were upset” by the party’s decision to buck 30 years of tradition by tendering endorsements nearly four months before the state’s Sept. 14 primary election.

“I talked with Reince about that shortly afterwards and I told him it feels like you guys are circumventing the will of the people on picking their own candidates,” said Dake. “And his argument was this is something internal to the party.”

So basically if you pay Dake some lip service with a meaningless addition to the party platform and have lunch with him every now and then, he really won't object to a blatant steamrolling of grassroots activists by the establishment come convention time.

It's really no wonder Priebus had a relatively easy time working with the tea party folks here in Wisconsin: some of these guys really aren't that bright.

Which brings us to the last two tea party leaders to show up at the end of the piece:
The RRP provided Wisconsin with one of the most excruciating hour's of the '10 election when they invited Ron Johnson to a meet and greet which they filmed for posterity. Many of the questions they asked were nutty, but now Sen. Johnson's performance was so disastrous that the campaign immediately scrapped its grassroots strategy and canceled similar events with other tea party groups.

Horvatin is probably the closest thing that Zack Speed has to an organizational equal within the Wisconsin Tea Party crew, but, as the example above demonstrates, the RRP are far more independent and less likely to acquiesce to WisGOP marching orders. The RRP was much more enthusiastic about Johnson's primary challenger Dave Westlake, and seemed justifiably miffed when Johnson secured the party endorsement less than a week after entering the race, prior to which he was completely unknown in state politics.

Some of these tea party folks, at least, have pretty good instincts when it comes to that nagging feeling that they are being played for fools.
Van Doren also brings up the GOP endorsements at the convention, for like the 83rd time in the article, which begs a question the author, unfortunately, didn't bother to ask: why did the state GOP break with tradition and endorse candidates last year when it was experiencing such a surge in grassroots activity?

The answer: precisely because there was such a surge in grassroots activity.

The closest thing to a competitive primary race last year was the race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, where Mark Neumann ran an insurgent campaign that threatened to derail establishment Golden Boy Scott Walker's coronation. By endorsing Walker the state party was able to marshal resources and money to fending off Neumann's bid, which proved somewhat necessary in the waning days of the primary when Neumann seemed to be giving Walker a run for his money. All of this was orchestrated by Priebus (a Walker ally) and Co., which makes Van Doren's comment at the end of the article all the more telling:

Ken Van Doren, who is active in the Wisconsin branch of the Ron Paul-affiliated Campaign for Liberty said tea partiers won’t support the RNC and its candidates if they see Priebus fostering “this closed country club-type atmosphere. We have an opportunity to enlarge the tent, but if we’re only going to look out for the insiders, the big money people, the party is done.”

Van Doren grudgingly acknowledged that Priebus “didn’t lash out against the tea party publicly the way the heads of parties in other states did.” But Van Doren added “I always had the feeling that behind the scenes he was working against our interests.”

You think?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The proper term for McCormick is "Crackpot Loon" not "Hellion" as you put it.

Michael S. Murphy said...

Hahahaha! Thanks for the good laugh. For a minute there, I thought I was reading 'The Onion'. Thank God for the blogs! They give fools and idiots a soapbox to stand upon.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating how anonymous bloggers supposedly "democrat" pretend all is about Terri McCormick ... there must be some element of fear here with banana republicans who want big government and more spending with their democrat allies.

If Terri McCormick 3 term legislator who was described by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as the "mother of all school reform" and all "healthcare reform" ... not to mention economic development reforms ... ticks off Paul Ryan and Jim Sennsennbrenner then who cares - old elites don't like idea people ... what is new?
"Loon" ... right... name calling and slander is always used by those who can't compete ...
The real problem is this ... those who 'can't compete' throw mud...

If Terri McCormick is no threat she wouldn't be thrown on so many mindless neocon/ banana republican blogs ... it isn't partican at all it is pettiness and jealousy ... time for Sensenbrenner to retire - and time for Ryan to step up to the plate and do something he claims he is doing for us fiscal conservatives who are still waiting for the rising star to produce something ... anything fiscally conservative.

Agreed ... fools with a soap box ... all support Priebus?