Horowitz: Which Party's Base Did Cochran 'Broaden'?
Last Tuesday’s GOP primary runoff in Mississippi is turning out to be the most revealing incident in the protracted fight between the conservative grassroots and the GOP establishment. The GOP party leadership has been exposed for their true motives in front of all the party faithful.
Over the past few years, we have been told by some of the inside-the-beltway “conservatives” that the GOP schism is overblown, that it is merely a disagreement over strategy. We have also been told that the grassroots have been too purist in their expectations of how Republicans can govern when they only control the House of Representatives. These “conservatives” asserted that the party leadership was just as committed to fighting Obamacare and the growth of government, they just lacked the political power to do so. We were assured that as soon as they win just one more election, they will fight for conservative issues.
We have always known that the intra-party divide encompassed a lot more than disagreements over strategy, rather it cut to the core of many policy issues. It manifested in issues like full repeal of Obamacare, the debt ceiling, bailouts, immigration, so-called social issues, and corporate welfare. However, last week’s runoff in Mississippi showed us that GOP leadership fundamentally doesn’t share our conservative values.
With conservative Chris McDaniel leading by roughly 8-10 points in the pre-runoff polling, the Cochran campaign, with the full support of the Mississippi GOP establishment and the NRSC, abandoned the party platform in support of Democrat votes. It’s bad enough to deliberately and systematically override the will of the party voters in a primary, but it would have been worth it had the Cochran campaign attracted Democrat voters on a conservative message.
Instead, Cochran doubled down on a pro-earmark message and waged a demagogic scaremongering campaign over food stamps, federal education funding, and race.
Allied PACs paid for ads insinuating that McDaniel and conservatives would cut funding for programs and criticized him for being “disrespectful” to the first African-American president.
Encouraging black voters to help stop the “racist” Tea Party is not a winning Republican message, and it doesn't broaden the Republican base. Indeed, many of the people involved said openly they would be voting for the Democrat in the general election – which is technically illegal under Mississippi law.
Worse, we now have Democrat party officials on record as saying they were asked to help steal the election and not hand over the polling books to GOP clerks so they could prevent Democrats from double voting in the primary and runoff. The McDaniel campaign claims to have already found roughly 2,000 illegitimate ballots from combing through the books of just a few counties.
Yet, astoundingly, several GOP senators have actually expressed glee and approval of Cochran’s tactic for winning the primary.
Mississippi’s junior senator, Roger Wicker (R-MS), scoffed at the notion there is anything wrong with the insidious campaign tactics: “Going out and broadening the base of the party, asking more Mississippians to participate in the ballot that was going to determine the next senator? No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” said Wicker.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) dismissed the concerns of conservatives: "I'm for more people voting, not less people voting."
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told the AZ Central that Cochran’s strategy was good for the party: "There are some people complaining that African-American voters voted. [But] I thought one of the major priorities of the Republican Party was to get all minority and ethnic voters out to vote for Republicans."
The rationale of these senators is as sound as someone defending Benedict Arnold’s treachery as an innovative way to expand American forces in the region. Getting Democrats to vote in a GOP primary solely on a message that is an anathema to the Party is not a form of expanding the base; it is destroying our base and expanding the other party.
Perforce, it is clear from the repugnant tactics of the GOP establishment that they fundamentally don’t share our values. They are looking to replace their own base with new voters. The irony is that these voters will never support them in the general election because they were not inspired to join the tent with a message of upward mobility and liberty; they were instigated to tear down the GOP tent.
Last week, President Obama told his supporters that a number of Republicans have privately expressed a desire to work with him, ''but they can't be too friendly toward me because they'd be run out of town by the Tea Party.'' Similarly, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) expressed hope that “mainstream” Republicans would gain the upper hand within the party.
After the Mississippi massacre last week, it is no surprise that Obama and the Democrats don’t fear the GOP establishment. They know that in the long-run, they will help broaden the Democrat Party base.