If “scorched earth circular firing squad” were an Olympic event, the Republican Party establishment would win the gold medal every time.
Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in my home state of Iowa, where the undocumented Democrat known as Republican Governor (for life) Terry Branstad, and the corporatist shills surrounding him, could be poised to put the finishing touches on a complete rout of their own base. The end result could be the Republican Party of Iowa electing its third chairman in the last 28 months. Then nominating for Congress an agri-business lobbyist who finished fourth in the primary. A lobbyist who has until June 26 to respond to a FEC complaint filed against his campaign for receiving donations that exceed the legal limit.
Imagine if these people were as merciless in opposing Democrats and their policies as they are in opposing us? There would be no need for all these primaries and the GOP would again be one, happy big tent. But alas, when those of us who actually believe in the party platform dare to demand a voice in the process, we must be silenced at all costs. If we don’t comply, they’ll use Ronald Reagan’s famed 11th Commandment against us. All the while disregarding it themselves, of course.
Former Iowa state legislator Danny Carroll became the state party’s first evangelical state chairman in March, succeeding the state party’s first libertarian state chairman A.J. Spiker, who resigned to work for Rand Paul 2016. In a rare show of unity between evangelicals and libertarians, Mr. Spiker personally recommended Mr. Carroll to replace him. That helped Mr. Carroll, one of Mike Huckabee’s state chairmen during his victorious 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign, get elected as party chairman thanks mainly to central committee votes of Ron Paul supporters.
While most organizations would applaud unity within its base among typically warring factions, this is actually the Republican Party establishment’s worse nightmare. They’d rather suffer through a third term from President Obama then suffer through a unified base of activists, who finally figured out working together whenever possible is the best way to advance our shared principles. Mr. Obama doesn’t threaten their K-Street corporatist base. A unified GOP base does.
So the Branstad machine went all-in to oust as many true believers from the state party’s ranks as they possibly could, and replaced them with its friends, family, and those whose livelihood is based on the growth of government. The first fruits of this bitter harvest could be ousting Mr. Carroll soon with the state party convention slated for Saturday, and the new (old) bosses about to take over (again).
Ever since one of the state’s most respected public officials turned down a job offer to work for Mr. Carroll and the state party because the Branstad people told him change was coming, speculation is Mr. Carroll is living on borrowed time. If the establishment ousts him, Mr. Carroll would be the first state party chairman fired in at least the last 40 years of the Republican Party of Iowa.
Then there’s the third district congressional race, which heads to a nominating convention on June 21 after no one secured the 35 percent required by state law to win the primary outright. The Branstad machine is actively working to get fourth place finisher Monte Shaw — a corporatist lobbyist who’s supported, endorsed, and donated to a long list of Iowa liberals (including the Democrat candidate for Congress in this district) — the nomination at the convention.
Keep in mind this is the same Branstad machine that criticized the Ron Paul faction for doing something similar in 2012, when they voted to award the state to the first bishop of American libertarianism instead of presumptive nominee Mitt Romney. Mr. Branstad’s poll numbers ahead of his re-election campaign this fall currently mirror Mr. Obama’s. One would assume, therefore, the last thing he needs is a demoralized base.
Yet if the establishment successfully shoves the fourth place finisher down the base’s throat they might be risking handing a winnable district to Democrat Staci Appel, a Nancy Pelosi wannabe. The Leftist Ms. Appel was humiliated by 18 points in her last run for public office in 2010, but she is flush with cash this time around. It wouldn’t take much of the base staying home for her to win the seat vacated by retiring Congressman Tom Latham.
However, the money at stake for Mr. Branstad and his cronies may cloud their judgment. Mr. Shaw is the long-time face of Iowa’s lagging ethanol industry, which has seen its influence diminish both in Iowa and nationally in recent years. The chance to put a lobbyist for its special interests in Washington, D.C., who will paid by taxpayers as a Congressman to lobby on behalf of billions of dollars in subsidies, is probably too good of a deal for the corporatists to pass up.
Just to show how strongly Iowa conservatives oppose a lobbyist like Mr. Shaw as their nominee, the other more conservative candidates are actively working together to stop him at the nominating convention.
The bottom line is Iowa is a case study on the current divide threatening to rip the Republican Party apart at the seams. Those running the show in the GOP need government to keep their corporatist gravy train going, but they represent the very people who want to shut the spigot off before their kids’ futures are bankrupted for good.
But as bad as things look for Republicans, it could be worse. They could be Democrats, who are headed towards a reckoning with the American people this November.
(Steve Deace is a nationally-syndicated talk show host and the author of “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)