Now that a group of liberal GOP senators, including Lisa Murkowski, Shelly Moore Capito, and Susan Collins, have made it clear they oppose repeal of Obamacare, some commentators are suggesting that McConnell and party leadership are in an untenable position. They blame conservatives for dissenting from the Right, forcing leadership into a scenario where the liberal flank of the party is also emboldened to dissent from the Left, leaving “mainstream” Republicans sandwiched in between with nothing to pass.
Thus, isn’t Mitch McConnell the victim and Senator Mike Lee the villain?
The short answer is that the problem with the party runs much deeper than the three or so “most liberal” Republicans. The problem is that the majority of the party, leadership members, and “mainstream” elected Republicans agree with the liberal Republicans in principle. They are merely using them as foils.
Why is it that we have so many Republicans who openly support every tenet of Obamacare in the first place? And not just from blue states. From Lisa Murkowski and John McCain to Lindsey Graham, Shelly Moore Capito, Lamar Alexander, and Bill Cassidy, the GOP conference is full of RINOs.
The answer is simple. GOP bosses have no problem with these people and will continue to support them. They stand for nothing. They have failed to offer a free market vision for health care (or anything else for that matter) and don’t disagree with any of the principles from the left flank of the caucus. These senators who are more openly liberal know that the GOP platform is a joke and a free-for-all. They know that leadership will continue to help them get elected, help new liberal Republicans win primaries, and tolerate endless dissent.
The dissents from Mike Lee and Rand Paul are not equivalent to the dissents from Capito and Murkwoski. While the former are upholding the GOP promise and the GOP platform, and even compromising on it, the other side is not willing to adopt a single tenet of what they signed onto during the election. But unlike conservatives who are raked over the coals and marginalized for believing in what the party claims it stands for, these liberal Republicans get off scot-free.
It’s precisely because we didn’t have a president and party leadership speaking with one voice on GOP free market principles that the left flank of the party felt emboldened to promote Obamacare. They understand that party leaders don’t care.
A functioning party that actually stands for something will always have slightly differing shades of its ideology and some differing opinions, but everyone is united behind fundamental principles. Just look at the Democrat Party. They never have problems on legacy issues in a significant way from their “right flank,” because the core center of the party leadership actually believes in their platform.
Think about it: when was the last time you found a Democrat undermining her party’s agenda in any meaningful way, much less on a core legacy item? Where are the Democrats supporting traditional marriage or even dissenting from the party line on the most extreme ideas of promoting sex-change operations in the military? Not a single one Democrat voted against funding sex-change operations in the military.
When was the last time a Democrat supported free markets?
When was the last time a Democrat supported private retirement accounts?
When was the last time a Democrat supported strong borders and opposed illegal immigration?
Even the Democrats from the reddest of red states are fully in cahoots with their party leadership. They merely posture to the Right on a few issues, such as guns, but will never thwart their party in a meaningful way. In fact, the only action we’ve seen from “pro-gun” Joe Manchin was his effort to further the gun-control agenda. It’s all a sham. He has never dissented from the pro-abortion agenda or the transgender agenda — ever! His work in the Senate is completely divorced from his campaign ads.
Yet we have Republicans even from red states who can’t uphold the most basic tenets of the GOP platform. Whereas Democrats lie to the voters in pursuit of their party’s platform, Republicans lie to the voters in pursuit of the other party’s platform.
If the mainstream elected Republicans actually believed in their party’s platform with as much conviction as mainstream Democrats believe in thiers, there would be no place for those who are completely out of touch with those values.
But it’s worse than the callous attitude toward enforcing the platform. Republicans like Mitch McConnell have ensured that these very liberal Republicans continue to win primaries. After Lisa Murkowski ran as an Independent in 2010, and knowing her liberal views on every single issue under the sun, including health care and abortion, why did they help her win over Joe Miller in 2016? They should have downright endorsed Joe Miller if they really believed in their platform. After all, Alaska is a red state.
Furthermore, why do we have a pro-abortion liberal like Capito in a solidly pro-life state like West Virginia? This is because party bosses make it clear that candidates like Mike Lee have no place in the party, even in red states, and that no matter how liberal one of the establishment candidates is, they will support that candidate until the bitter end. At this very juncture, the entire party infrastructure is busy promoting similar candidates in the 2018 primaries — candidates who couldn’t care less about the party platform.
As such, why should conservatives sell out their principles and take ownership of an Obamacare bailout bill just to placate members who were only elected thanks to the work of McConnell and Company? Let him reap what he sows.
The problem with the Republican Party is not that there are a few fringe Republicans on the Left who like to vote with the Democrats. It’s that, unlike with Democrats, there are only a few “fringe” Republicans who actually believe in the platform of the party.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.