It's not just the Tea Party that can launch a revolt. Establishment conservatives are in an uproar, too, since they watched Sen. Ted Cruz drive Republicans through budget negotiations that ended in a 16-day government shutdown and left the party tanking in the polls. The Chamber of Commerce has had enough of Cruz's antics and so has a big money group linked to Karl Rove, American Crossroads–and they're both gearing up to play in Republican primary races across the country. Combined the two groups represent the establishment and business wings of the Republican Party, who are fighting back in what's become a full blown civil war ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is keeping awfully busy. In addition to serving his constituents, raising money, and recruiting candidate, the New York Democrat has begun reaching out to over 1,000 business leaders, urging them to reconsider their relationships with the Republican Party.
The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the DCCC sees an opportunity to exploit divisions within the Republican coalition. With Wall Street and corporate leaders apparently annoyed by their lack of influence in Republican circles, coupled with the rise of Tea Party dominance among GOP lawmakers, Democratic leaders are reminding the business community that it was Dems who were doing what's right for the economy, while it's Republicans who shut down the government and threatened a sovereign debt crisis.
"If you are as frustrated as we are, we hope you will remember that it is House Democrats who stood with you," Israel's letter said. "There is currently only one party in the House that is working to create an environment where our economy can grow and thriving businesses can create jobs."
Is it realistic to think these efforts will pay dividends? There's no obvious answer. In recent weeks, reports from the New York Times, Bloomberg News, and the Washington Post all concluded that simmering tensions between Corporate America and Tea Party Republicans are boiling over. My MSNBC colleagues Jessica Taylor and Suzy Khimm moved the ball forward with an overnight piece.
Dave Weigel had a good piece the other day, expressing skepticism about whether this apparent conflict will fully materialize. The GOP's corporate wing is talking tough, and even raising the specter of organizing primary challenges, but their electoral goals appear limited -- while Tea Partiers have grand ambitions, Big Business has reportedly taken an interest in a small handful of races.
For that matter, Weigel added, the corporate wing isn't exactly speaking with one voice. While the Chamber, Business Roundtable, and National Federation of Independent Businesses are frustrated with right-wing extremism and its impact on the economic climate, we also see Tea Party groups financed by -- you guessed it -- Big Business interests.
The larger takeaway, then, is a challenge for mainstream private-sector leaders who want to return the Republican Party to some semblance of normalcy. The party is ignoring the business community on issues like immigration, jobs, infrastructure, and the debt ceiling? Then it's up to the corporate wing to step up in a more serious way.
If it doesn't, it can expect more of the same for the indefinite future.