Earlier this year, Karl Rove created some controversy when American Crossroads, his super PAC, announced plans to launch a new organization — the Conservative Victory Project — to help so-called “electable conservatives” get elected in Republican primary races.
The move was clearly aimed a the Tea Party and other grassroots conservatives, which have played a significant role in primary races across the country as they backed fiscal conservatives over establishment-leaning incumbents and candidates. To put it differently, if Rove had his way, candidates like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee would have never been elected.
Well, Karl Rove has done it again.
During a discussion about libertarian Republicans, Rove told fellow panelists that Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) is the “most liberal Republican” in Congress.
“There’s this tension between the kind of libertarianism we’re seeing here today — in the last six, eight, nine months — and a healthy future for the party. The question is gonna be — I welcome the libertarian influence in the party,” Rove told the panel, which included Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. “I grew up in the west…every western Republican has a healthy does of libertarian in them. But the question is whether it’s gonna be the prudential, to use one of my favorite terms, a prudent leadership of the libertarian movement.”
Rove then went over some libertarian views with which he agrees, including school choice and some parts of healthcare policy. “These are sort of things that have a libertarian flavor to them, but it’s gonna require a prudent leadership among libertarian Republicans that says ‘we wanna find answers,’ he said. “And what we’ve got right now is, we’ve got most libertarians who say, ‘If I don’t have 100% perfect answer, I’m voting no.’”
And that’s where Rove moved in for his slam on Amash.
“National Journal put out its ratings of the most liberal to conservative Republicans. The most liberal Republican is Justin Amash of Michigan — far more liberal than any other Republican,” Rove said of the two-term libertarian Republican. And why? Because he is a 100% purist libertarian. And if it’s not entirely perfect, ‘I’m voting with Nancy Pelosi,’ which is how he ends up with all these liberal ratings. ‘I’m voting no because unless my side has something that’s completely 100%, I’m voting with the bad guys.’”
MLive.com noted that Rove’s reference to the National Journal rankings is actually wrong. Amash was the fifth most liberal Republican in the House. But don’t be fooled by that. As Erick Erickson, editor of RedState.com and a conservative talk show host, has explained, the National Journal’s rankings are horribly misleading and not at all a good measure of what passes for conservatism.
If you’re going to judge a member of Congress on congressional rankings, at least do it based on information from groups that know the conservative movement. From that perspective, Amash is one of the most fiscally conservative members of the House. He has a 100% lifetime score from FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth. He received a 91% from the National Taxpayers Union and 82% from Heritage Action.
It’s no secret that Rove wants people to fall in line and do what Republican leadership in Congress tells them do. That may have worked during the Bush-era of big government Republicanism — when entitlements were expanded to the tune of $14.4 trillion and spending was growing out of control — but the GOP has changed, though much more work is still to be done.
The problem with the Republican Party isn’t its ever-growing libertarian streak — but rather too many Republicans want to continue the “business as usual” politics that have contributed to bankrupting this country. We need more people like Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee and much, much less of Karl Rove.