After RNC Chairman Reince Priebus unveiled the Republican Party’s Growth and Opportunity Project last month, conservatives were hopeful this marked a fundamental change in the direction of the party. The 100-page document’s emphasis on engaging the grassroots and broadening party appeal seemed to indicate GOP leaders were looking to make amends with their base. Less than a month later however, the RNC renounced these claims and once again revealed the greatest hindrance to the GOP’s success: the party itself.
Many Republicans were aghast to witness the blatant political theater that took place last year during the Republican National Convention. Not only were controversial rules changes ushered in by Romney supporters and the establishment but video was released shortly thereafter revealing that the votes were rigged.
As an attempt to quell the growing animosity among grassroots conservatives, the RNC launched the Growth and Opportunity Project and offered to further discuss the rules changes at the RNC’s Spring Meeting.
Initially, it was believed the RNC was sincere in their efforts to overturn the recent powergrabs that rendered delegates nothing more than pawns being used in a chess match that had long been decided without them. As FreedomWorks New Media Director Kristina Ribali noted however, this was hardly the case:
Just days after the Republican National Committee (RNC) rejected most proposed rules changes that would undo the power grab from last year’s convention, a number of grassroots activists stopped by to express their disappointment with party leaders and let them know that they would not give up the fight.
Shortly after 10am, around 50 activists (pictured above) showed up at RNC headquarters in Washington, DC to present a representative from the party with a open letter to Chairman Reince Priebus that hit at the heart of grassroots’ frustration with the party.
“As grassroots fiscally conservative activists from states across the country, we are stopping by the RNC Headquarters in Washington today to express our disappointment in the Party’s continuing marginalization of the individuals who are driving the only credible ground game to combat the progressive liberal political machine,” read the activist-signed letter to Priebus. “After reading the 100-page Growth and Opportunity Project, we had a glimmer of hope that the Republican Party was going to make a sincere effort to make the Party process more bottom-up and transparent in structure.”
“The opportunity to repeal the ‘Tampa Power Grab’ last week was your first big shot at beginning to mend the relationship between the Party and the principled, small-government grassroots activists that you’ve disenfranchised,” the letter continued. “And you blew it.”
News broke over the weekend that Karl Rove was launching a new PAC aimed at helping establishment Republicans defeat conservatives in primary races. As I explained yesterday, this move is tantamount to declaring war on grassroots fiscal conservatives.
Based on the formation of this new PAC, the absurdly named “Conservative Victory Project,” Rove obviously wishes that Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio hadn’t have won their primary battles, in which they were pitted against more establishment candidates.
Yesterday, Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of FreedomWorks, responded to Rove’s new PAC in a statement, noting that the “Empire is striking back.”
“Imagine a Republican Party without the leadership, energy and principled ideas coming from Senators like Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Pat Toomey and Mike Lee, because that is what you would get from a lack of real primary race competition now being proposed by Karl Rove,” said Kibbe. “The choice is simple: should voters choose who represents them in Washington, DC, or should political insiders make the decision behind closed doors?”
Echoing Ronald Reagan’s words of “rais[ing] bold colors, not pale pastels,” Kibbe noted that a watered down vision will not lead the Republican Party to electoral success. “We believe that good ideas, compelling candidates, and open competition are the only way to rehabilitate the GOP,” explained Kibbe, “and the diverse group of compelling young leaders our grassroots community has helped bring to Congress speaks for itself.”
With the dust finally clearing from the 2012 election, FreedomWorks, an organization that organizes and trains the grassroots, hosted over 100 activists from 19 states for a debrief on this year’s campaigns — finding out what tactics and strategies did and didn’t work.
This weekend also provided these Freedom Movement activists, all of which were flown into Washington, DC for the meeting at FreedomWorks’ headquarters, an opportunity to plan for 2014, as well as to receive some training in new techniques to help get their message out to new voters and to get an idea of what is going on in the negotiations over the so-called “fiscal cliff” and the status of ObamaCare’s state healthcare exchanges.
This morning, FreedomWorks hosted a press conference that give activists an opportunity to be heard by the media. Before turning over the press conference to activists, Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of FreedomWorks, explained that “[t]here’s more energy in this movement today than there was on November 6th,” adding that the the activists that showed up this weekend are focused on 2014 and ideas.
Kibbe also noted that the debate and negotiations on the “fiscal cliff” were somewhat peculiar. “I don’t know about you, but I feel like we went over the fiscal cliff a long time ago,” explained Kibbe.
Last week, I went to Tampa for the Republican National Convention in Tampa. This was sort of an odd experience for me, being a libertarian and all. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve been to conventions and conferences before. The oddest experience was BlogCon in Denver last November, when the local Occupiers showed up to protest us. But the RNC was a much, much larger scale event.
Tropical Storm Isaac: While I understand why Republicans saw fit to scale back events for Monday, the storm really didn’t do much to the Tampa area. It rained some, but it wasn’t near what everyone was expecting. Truth is Republicans could have gotten away with more than gaveling the convention to order. By the time the storm actually hit, everyone was more concerned with what could happen to New Orleans and the rest of Gulf Coast than Tampa.
Grassroots v. the Establishment: Over at FreedomWorks, Dean Clancy has put together a great synopsis of the fight over the new rules implemented, which won’t start until the 2016 process. We went over some of this earlier last week, but at this point many grassroots activists are disenfranchised. Many Ron Paul supporters who attended the RNC as delegates may now be looking for an alternative come November because of the rules changes.
Rule 12 would allow the Republican National Committee to change the rules if 3/4 approve. As Clancy explains, “The new Rule 16 requires that a delegate who attempts to violate his binding pledge to a candidate under state law or state party rules shall be deemed to have resigned and the Secretary of the Convention must record the improper vote as it should have been cast based on state law or party rule.”
The IRS scandal continues to get creepier. Yesterday, we told you the story of Justin Binik-Thomas, a Cincinnati-based activist who was mentioned by name in the agency’s queries to the Liberty Township Tea Party, an organization with which he had no affiliation. It appears that this is not just some isolated incident.
The Daily Caller reports that Dylan Nonaka and the Leadership Institute, a well-known conservative organization based in Arlington, Virginia, were also targeted in IRS requests for more information from the Hawaii Tea Party:
In what former Republican executive and activist Dylan Nonaka is calling a massive invasion of privacy that suggests a coordinated effort to target conservative groups, two IRS offices last year independently and simultaneously conducted costly audits and sought tea party-related training materials that they apparently believed could be tied to Nonaka.
Just a few weeks ago, it looked like Mark Sanford was headed to defeat in South Carolina’s First Congressional District. He had made a notable misstep, which caused the National Republican Campaign Committee to pull resources from the race. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and FreedomWorks, a grassroots-driven organization, stepped into fill the void, with the former providing vocal support and the latter activists to educate voters in the district.
Sanford wound up defeating his Democratic opponent by a healthy margin, providing Paul, who is thought to be candidate for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016, and FreedomWorks with notch on their belt against the Republican political establishment.
Fresh off this victory, FreedomWorks has now set its sights on another South Carolina race that could shake-up the Republican Party.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has long been a thorn in the side of fiscal conservatives. He was once thought to be untouchable, but recent polls have showed his numbers falling among Republicans.
Forget what you think you know about the Republican leadership in the United States Senate. Sure, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the Minority Leader of the Senate Republican Conference, but the real leadership lies with at least three members.
Writing at the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney notes that Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee, each of whom were elected with Tea Party support, are setting the tone for the caucus on pressing legislative matters:
There are two power centers in the Senate Republican Conference. One is the official leadership under Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The second is the Tea Party Troika of Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul.
It’s not that there are two Republican parties. Nor is there a chasm running along ideological lines. The new dynamic is this: The official leadership has even less power than Senate leadership typically has, and the Tea Party Troika, mastering what’s called the “inside-outside game,” has more power to swing their colleagues than backbenchers normally have.
Carney cites the gun control issue as an example of the clout these three carry. Paul, Cruz, and Lee were able to turn a letter sent to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expressing their opposition to new gun control measures into something that gained the support of a majorty of the Republican caucus. The new gun control measures, which Cruz said were all but a done deal at one point, were eventually defeated.
Carney also notes that outside groups have been a key to their success in stopping bad legislation or raising awareness to their causes:
James Carville, a Democratic strategist who is known for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns, apparently likes what he sees from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), though he doesn’t agree with him on politics.
During the roundtable on ABC’s This Week, Carville said Cruz is the “most talented and fearless politician I’ve seen in the last 30 years.” While he didn’t specifically mention Ronald Reagan’s name, that is inferred from the comments made.
“People love Ted Cruz because he’s taken on his own party, his own leadership, he’s taken on the other party,” explained Jim DeMint, a former Senator turned President of the Heritage Foundation. “He’s trying to rock the boat to get us to stop moving towards this cliff we’re heading for as a country. I’ve been in about 25 cities in the last few months. All you have to do is mention Ted Cruz and people get on their feet.”
“I think he is the most talented and fearless Republican politician I’ve seen in the last 30 years,” added Carville. “I further think that he’s going to run for president and he is going to create something. I’m not sitting here saying he’s going to win, and I think Senator DeMint is right. I’ve listened to excerpts of his speech in South Carolina, he touches every button. And this guy has no fear. He just keeps plowing ahead. And he is going to be something to watch.”
Carville wasn’t done there. When discussing debates for the Republican presidential nomination, Mary Matlin explained that the dynamics could be interesting, to which Carville said, “And I’m telling you, get in there, Ted Cruz is going to each their lunch,” adding later that he doesn’t agree with him on policy or politics.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been frequently mentioned at United Liberty since he came out of nowhere last year to defeat David Dewhurst in a heated primary campaign. Since taking office in January, Cruz has wasted no time in challenging the political establishment in Washington and further endearing himself to the conservative movement.
Alongside Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT), Cruz has made up a core of principled fiscal conservatives who have a genuine concern that the Constitution is being ignored, not just by the Obama Administration, but also his fellow Republicans. He, like Paul and Lee, has been a strong voice against gun control, taken a strong stand for civil liberties, driven the Republican establishment crazy, and perplexed the mainstream media. Perhaps his only real misstep along the way was his questioning of Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, who would go on to win confirmation by the Senate.