Share

Opinion: Columnists

David Freddoso: Look who is purging their party now

By |
Photo -

It was almost exactly four years ago that MSNBC's blustery Chris Matthews declared that "the Republican Party continues to be unable to hang on to its moderates, especially in the Northeast, where it has begun to resemble the 19th century, pre-Civil War Whig Party."

It was 2009, and the late Sen. Arlen Specter, Pa., had just announced he was leaving the GOP, prompting Matthews to declare that the party was killing itself by purging its moderate members.

"They want to be the party of the religious right!" he boomed.

Matthews' guest, Chuck Todd, was more measured, merely asking, "Can the Republican Party be in the majority again without finding people who can win Senate seats and hold Senate seats in the Northeast?"

At the time Todd spoke, though, Republicans actually had found a person who could (and soon would) hold Specter's Pennsylvania seat -- Pat Toomey, the conservative who had just scared Specter out of the GOP and into a Democratic primary he was destined to lose.

As for the rest of "the Northeast," Republicans had no difficulty holding a seat in New Hampshire that same cycle.

The Tea Party revolution, which had begun months before Matthews' rant, has since undoubtedly cost the GOP a few Senate seats. But its energy probably let them seize the House and control of many state governments in 2010. And despite any Tea Party excesses, Republicans are within striking distance of a Senate majority in 2014.

Today, the same liberal worldview and wishful thinking that fueled the pundits' "GOP purge-and-die" narrative in 2009 is causing them to miss the more dangerous purge that threatens the Democrats now.

In 2006, Democrats built a congressional majority by embracing and convincing pro-gun, pro-life moderates to run in marginal states and districts. They have since lost many of these in the House, and liberals are now in the process of purging them from the Senate.

Until Monday, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., had been acting like a man seeking re-election -- raising $1.5 million in the first quarter and attempting to distance himself from Obamacare.

But Baucus had just voted against the gun control measures that President Obama had been pushing. And in response, Organizing for Action -- the post-campaign version of Obama's campaign -- announced it would be mobilizing activists to shame and pressure Baucus and the three other Democrats who had voted against gun control.

Baucus, already polling badly and facing a tough re-election, needed that like he needed a hole in his head. Who could blame him for hanging it up early?

On the heels of Baucus' announcement came one from Mayors Against Illegal Guns -- the mostly Democratic group co-founded by liberal New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Lacking any soft Republican senators to target in 2014, the mayors have apparently settled on taking the scalp of Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

National Journal's Ron Fournier reported this week that the group will spend what it takes to "make an example" of Pryor. Rather than talk about guns and risk helping him unintentionally, the group plans "a months-long television, radio and direct-mail campaign" that would, among other things, inform black voters that Pryor was "opposing the president's agenda." For the few Democrats still capable of holding Senate seats in the South, such friendly fire is sure to kill.

If liberals succeed in purging the Democratic Party over gun control, it will make a lot of journalists happy. As Politico's Dylan Byers recently observed, the purported objectivity of the Washington press gave way quickly to strident advocacy when guns became involved.

Several surveys have shown that the people who bring us political news are to the left of the U.S. mainstream politically, and there are few issues on which they feel more strongly than this one.

It's a lot harder to mind or describe the perils of a purge when you're the one holding the torch.

Washington Examiner columnist David Freddoso is editor of the Conservative Intelligence Briefing. Follow him on Twitter at @freddoso.

View article comments Leave a comment