They have a right to hold objections to programs they don’t like. But conservatives do their country a disservice by holding the normal functions of government hostage to their tests of ideological purity. That’s not just coming from me. It also comes from many of their fellow conservatives.
Some of the party’s best known conservatives have come under attack from the GOP’s tea party wing for failure to be conservative enough. The Senate Conservatives Fund, for example, has been running ads that attack Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Thad Cochran of Mississippi. Their sin: reluctance to support their party’s self-destructive strategy against Obamacare.
“Tell Senate Republicans to stand with Ted Cruz and (Utah Sen.) Mike Lee,” says the group’s website, “not (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell (of Kentucky) and (Senate Minority Whip) John Cornyn (of Texas).”
Other conservative groups, including the Tea Party Patriots, For America and Heritage Action have mounted ads attacking Republicans in both houses who don’t rigidly support their efforts to defund Obamacare.
Over on the House side, Cruz has thumbed his nose at traditional protocols by plotting strategy with tea party House members — against Speaker John Boehner’s wishes.
But what is Boehner to do? He’s been warned by the tea partiers that he’ll be voted out of his speakership if he passes any major legislation with less than a majority of House Republicans. The radical right may be a minority of the House but they appear to leverage a majority of the power against Boehner’s lack of a counter-strategy.
Cruz has taken de facto leadership of the new radical Republican assault on Obamacare, most visibly by speaking for more than 21 hours in a pseudo-filibuster about his objections to the program. This has won soaring support for him in the party’s right wing, setting him up for what most likely will be a presidential run in 2016. One wonders whether he cares more about Republicans or the Ted Cruz Party.