Conservative Leaders: Tea Party vs. Establishment Is Part of GOP 'Civil War'

Barbara Hollingsworth | April 4, 2014 | 4:19pm EDT
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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) (left), and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) (right) (AP photo)

( –  The increasingly open “civil war” now raging between a Republican establishment that favors big government and members of the Tea Party is a necessary evil that will eventually force the GOP back to its limited government principles, conservative leaders say.

“This is part of a literally 102-year-old civil war that’s been going on in the Republican Party since 1912, when Teddy Roosevelt leaves the Republican Party, splits the party, starts the Bull Moose Party, which leads directly to Woodrow Wilson’s election with less than 42 percent of the vote,” Conservative HQ chairman Richard Viguerie told

“It’s a major fault line in the Republican Party and it’s been coming to a head since 2009, when the Tea Party was launched,” he added. “Even though the Republicans in the House owe their majority status to the Tea Party, they want it to do what they did, which is to change once they got to Washington.

“The Tea Party is finally waking up much of America,” Viguerie pointed out, predicting that the Republican Party will have a Tea Party presidential nominee in 2016.

But that won’t happen without a fight. Last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told The New York Times that the GOP was going to “crush” Tea Party challengers.

And later this month, both House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are scheduled to speak at the Main Street Partnership PAC’s April 11-13thretreat at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Fla. The PAC, which is run by former Ohio GOP Congressman Steve LaTourette, is targeting Tea Party candidates who challenge Republican incumbents in party primaries.

“LaTourette is probably the best friend of organized labor than any other Republican in a long time,” Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, told

LaTourette also heads another group funded by a union in Chicago that spent $1 million to run pro-union candidates in Republican primaries, Mix said.  But with the public’s awareness of the issue of compulsory unionism growing stronger every day, he added, “I wonder what Cantor and McCarthy are going to say to these folks.”

Viguerie says he is not surprised that members of the GOP leadership are courting union-backed groups while turning on the Tea Party.

“That’s who they are. They’re big government Republicans,” Viguerie told “They’re not misled, they’re not being deceived. They’re very comfortable being part of the ruling class, the big government wing of the Republican Party. There’s not that much difference ideologically between them and big government Democrats. And they’re just panicked that limited government, constitutional conservatives are going to govern America.

“These people all ran, most of them, as principled conservatives, abandoned limited government, constitutional government and became part of the ruling class. And so it’s a battle that now is coming to a head. And I think after 102 years, probably one side or the other will prevail in the next three years, and I’m betting on the Tea Party taking over the Republican Party and governing America by 2017,” Viguerie said.

“The most important political battle in America is not between Republicans and Democrats. In my opinion, it’s inside the Republican Party because conservative Republicans are like the biblical Jews who could not get to the Promised Land until that generation of failed, flawed leaders had passed from the scene.

"And conservatives are not going to get to the political Promised Land until we get new leadership, because the American people do not like big government Establishment Republicans, whether they’re George Bush or Karl Rove or Bob Dole or John McCain or Mitt Romney or John Boehner. They just don’t like them. And whenever they are the face of the opposition to the Democrats, Republicans lose elections.”

Viguerie, whose new book, Takeover: The 100-Year War For the Soul of the GOP, will be published later this month, predicted that the 2014 mid-terms will be a “wave election” that will result in “the worst defeat for Democrats in 100 years.”

“A big part of the book is to encourage Tea Party members to run for political and party offices to take advantage of the unique opportunity 2014 presents,” he said, adding that “the opposition…is very focused on the Tea Party because they see it as a threat to their governing. They’re just attacking, attacking, attacking the Tea Party, and you don’t attack people who are ineffective, who don’t matter.”

Tom Borelli, senior fellow at FreedomWorks, which has also been targeted by LaTourette’s PAC, agreed that Cantor and McCarthy are “reliable parts of the big government establishment, as you can see from the last budget deal.”

“We’re the leading Tea Party organization that is challenging both political parties. We’re a threat to the big government establishment and that’s why he’s targeting us,” Borelli said, adding that “this is a necessary battle in the process of retaking the Republican Party.”

Historian: Tea Party Perfect Expression of American Revolution

“The problem with the Main Street society is its fundamental misunderstanding of the original Republican Party and the tradition of American conservatism,” political and presidential historian Craig Shirley told "That's why the proper state of American conservatism is perfectly expressed by the Tea Party."

Presidential historian Craig Shirley (Wikipedia)

“The Establishment insiders always hurl invectives and personal insults at those they consider outsiders in order to retain power,” he continued. “I think they still believe in Karl Rove’s statement that conservatives have no choice. But they always have a choice.

“In 2012, four million conservatives stayed home. And in 2006, the last time Republicans controlled the House and Senate, 1 out of 5 self-identified conservatives didn’t vote to punish the Republican Party.”

However, Shirley believes that the current conflict within the GOP is a “long-term civil war” that will not be resolved anytime soon and may ultimately prove to be insoluble because “ever since the Bush administration, the Republican Party has had two different governing philosophies.”

“Ronald Reagan stressed freedom for the individual. When George W. Bush was elected, he introduced the concept of security. But freedom and security are, most of the time, in conflict with each other. The more big government, aggressive courts and large police state presence you have, the less freedom you have.”

The Republican rift will initially benefit Democrats, who are more unified around their own governing philosophy of justice, Shirley predicted, because although “the Tea Party is winning the intellectual argument, it still doesn’t control the levels of power. And recognizing that its power is waning, the establishment’s corrupt political consulting class still continues to rig the system in its favor.”

But establishment Republicans’ attempts to crush the Tea Party are self-defeating, he said.

“Ronald Reagan was the last revolutionary nominee to challenge the establishment,” he pointed out, “and Republicans haven’t had a sizable win since 1988, which polling data show voters considered Reagan’s third term.

“If Republicans run an insider candidate like John McCain or Mitt Romney in 2016, they will not win. They need to pick an anti-establishment candidate like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Mike Pence who understand the argument,” he said.

“The irony is that in order for establishment Republicans to retain their power, they need to lose” their party's civil war.

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