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Old Jack Danforth is a troubled man.
Danforth’s wiry frame got bent all out of shape because the chairman of Missouri’s GOP stated the uber-obvious in an email to friends: the McCain-Graham angry old man meme ain’t sellin’ no more. What is selling is Rand Paul’s courageous demand for a statement on the limits of executive power.
On Wednesday, Ed Martin sent an email to Missouri Republicans praising Paul’s courage and rebuking McCain and Graham’s defense of unlimited presidential power.
On Thursday, former Senator John Danforth responded with an email criticizing Martin and accusing the chairman of the Missouri GOP of kicking people out of the party.
Martin’s email praised the courage and consistency Senator Rand Paul displayed in his famous 13-hour filibuster. It also derided McCain and Graham for their childish and un-Senatorial attacks on fellow Republican Paul. Why Danforth felt a need to reply, and why he felt a need to exaggerate Ed Martin’s message, tells me there’s more going on here than just an angry, irrelevant old man spouting off.
Missouri’s Republican Establishment Is At War With the Grassroots
You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter. In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider!
–George Bailey to Mr. Potter
When Ed Martin won the race for MOGOP chairman, the establishment was stunned and horrified. Martin appeals to conservative and libertarian grassroots activists, not the smoky room king makers that Danforth favors.
I think the Establishment believed they could intimidate Martin by threatening to cut off donations to the MOGOP and to Republican candidates who won’t do their bidding.
With Martin continuing to display his populist independent streak, the Establishment called out their version of Mr. Potter to play bad cop, keeping the others’ noses clean.
This Could All End In Disaster for Missouri Republicans
Danforth and his cronies are playing with fire. In November 2012, 90,000 votes were cast for Libertarian candidates in Missouri. Most of those votes came at the expense of Republican votes.
If the grassroots–and especially young voters–get the feeling that the GOP is a private club for the rich, they’ll flee to the Libertarian Party in 2014. And if the RNC installs rules meant to block non-Establishment presidential candidates at their April meeting in Los Angeles, 2016 could be the Republican Party’s last national election.
It’s All Happened Before
Before the modern Republican Party emerged from the abolitionist movement in 1858, America’s other major party was the Whigs. Abraham Lincoln led the Whig Party in Illinois. But the Whigs were never a cohesive party of consistency around some set of principles. Instead, they were united only by their opposition to an imperial presidency. From the History Channel:
The Whig party was founded by individuals united only in their antagonism to Jackson’s war on the Second Bank of the United States and his high-handed measures in waging that war and ignoring Supreme Court decisions, the Constitution, and Indian rights embodied in federal treaties. Beyond that, however, there were Whigs and Whigs. Some played the demagogic anti-Catholic game; others scorned it. Some spoke critically of working people; others, admiringly. Detailed studies of the Whig party in the states and biographies of such Whig leaders as Clay, William Seward, Daniel Webster, and Horace Greeley reveal dissimilar policies from one state to another and important differences in the character, beliefs, and actions of the leaders.
It seems that opposition to Barack Obama is the only thing that unifies Republicans. But many of us realize that Obama won’t be on the ballot in 2016. So what will the GOP stand for?
Within the GOP today, I see two large factions. One is the Establishment personified by McCain, Graham, and Danforth. The other is, for lack of a better term, the Tea Party faction united on the principles of free markets, Constitutionally limited government, and fiscal responsibility. The Establishment stood around befuddled in 2009 and 2010 as the Tea Party did the work to regain control of the House and dozens of state legislatures. And that Tea Party success is what started the current rift.
Leading up to 2012, the Establishment, recognizing that the rabble were within striking distance of seizing their party, went on the offensive–not against the Democrats, and not in support of those basic, simple principles. The GOP Establishment went to war against its own grassroots base.
Like the Whigs of 1856, the Republicans of 2016 seem poised for a horrible fall. The millions of rabble who want the party to stand for three simple principles don’t understand why Danforth and his spiders insist on keeping the party a closed country club. We don’t understand why Danforth won’t invite in the libertarian kids. They won’t steal his millions, I promise.
Who’s Kicking Who Out, Mr. Danforth
With that background, isn’t it sad that Danforth’s vitriolic email to wealthy Republican donors accused Martin of doing exactly what Danforth and his scurvy spiders have been doing for years: deciding who may and may not call themselves Republicans.
In 2005, Danforth all but called for the expulsion of Christian conservatives from the GOP’s ranks. And he did so in that Republican of Republican rags, the New York Times.
Isn’t it sad that a man whose tent is closed to Christians and, now, libertarians accused Ed Martin of minding the gate?
Ed Martin understands that young people smell hypocrisy better than old men like Danforth. And even Bill Hennessy. Ed’s email simply praised Rand Paul’s courage in raising a vital question that Danforth should also be asking: is there a limit to Executive Power?
McCain and Graham–and, by proxy, Danforth–seem okay with unlimited executive power to assassinate American citizens. They apparently were content to leave the American President with absolute power. And if they oppose such tyrannical power, they are unwilling to confront the President on the matter.
That puts them at odds even with Attorney General Eric Holder. Forced by Senator Paul’s 13-hour filibuster, Holder admitted that the President lacks the Constitutional authority to order the assassination of Americans on American soil. That’s an admission the White House refused to make for months until Senator Paul forced its hand.
Neither McCain nor Graham nor Danforth lifted a finger to press this fundamental human right and this enormous Constitutional question. Rand Paul did, and Ed Martin was right to point out it out.
Those Scurvy Little Spiders
I’ll leave you with George Bailey’s speech to Mr. Potter as the board of Bailey Brothers Building and Loan met to dissolve the firm upon George’s dad’s death.
Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!
John Danforth and his nest of scurvy spiders should consider that their money can’t buy blind loyalty from the rabble they so despise. There are more of us than there are of them. Nothing guarantees that a political party will last forever, and the arrogance of the Establishment threatens to destroy the party that men like Danforth seem to love more than the country that party’s supposed to serve.