As an objective, quantifiable matter, the House Republican caucus has been radicalized to such an extent, we haven't seen anything like it since the dawn of the major two-party system. The extremism comes with consequences -- not only is the majority party in the House unwilling to compromise, as we were reminded yesterday, it also struggles with basic governance.
According to National Review's Jonathan Strong, however, there is a moderate contingent within the House Republican caucus -- known as the "Tuesday Group" -- that is dissatisfied and wants to be heard (via Jed Lewison).
The Tuesday Group, a moderate-Republican caucus long ignored within the House GOP, is quietly starting to fight back against the conference's right turn. [...]"It's an ongoing feeling that our party has some external influences that are putting political purity well ahead ... of our ability to basically hold the majority that we currently have," [Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas] told National Review Online in an interview.
It's not too surprising that these folks exist -- indeed, there's been occasional talk about the Tuesday Group for years -- and their voices occasionally pop up. Last week, for example, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), was obviously unhappy his party was investing more time in a 20-week abortion ban that had no chance of becoming law. "Clearly the economy is on everyone's minds, we're seeing very stagnant job numbers, confidence in the institution of government is eroding and now we're going to have a debate on rape and abortion," Dent said. "The stupidity is simply staggering."
A few days later, the bill was easily approved, with 97% of House Republicans voting for it.
And therein lies the point.
From the National Review piece:
Tuesday Group members will "get up in a [meeting of the Republican caucus] and express a point of view and basically, the leaders listen to them, but everybody else sort of tunes out," said former representative Steven LaTourette of Ohio, now the president of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership."It's a question of numbers," LaTourette says. "If you think that the Republican Study Committee has 150 members out of 233 and the Tuesday Group's sitting at 36, 40 -- well, the math doesn't work in their favor." But, he points out, "without the 40" from the Tuesday Group, Republicans don't have a majority. He laments, "you call 'em RINOs and squishes and all this other business," but they're "people who represent [their] districts."
There are currently 234 House Republicans. According to LaTourette, who is no longer in Congress, the moderates of the Tuesday Group number about 40 -- a little less than a fifth of the caucus. With numbers like those, does this group have a realistic chance of influencing the direction of the party? Probably not.
But I have a few doubts about the premise. There are 40 House Republicans who see themselves as relative moderates? Moderate as compared to whom, exactly? If they exist, why do they maintain such an incredibly low profile?
The National Review also noted that Tuesday Group members are "starting to fight back," but I'm also interested in knowing what that means in practical terms. In the piece, the anecdotal evidence included a member complaining privately to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
That's nice, I suppose, though I'm not sure I'd characterize it as "fighting" much of anything.
One GOP aide told National Review, "I wish the Tuesday Group were more active. It would help fight the caricature that we are all a bunch of right-wing nutjobs."
That's very likely true, though the group would clearly have quite a bit of work to do.
And if it were "more active," that's when the party's institutional forces would kick in -- these members would be condemned as RINOs, face primary opponents, and feel the weight of pressure from FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth, and Heritage Action until (a) they fell back in line; (b) lost; or (c) felt the need to change parties.
It's a system problem in Republican politics for which there is no quick fix.