Ralph Benko

Open warfare has broken out inside the GOP between Tea Party Insurgents and the Republican Party Regulars. It revolves around tactics, more than policy. It’s an old-fashioned power struggle.

The Insurgents’ protagonist is charismatic freshman U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. Behind him are a handful of powerful Insurgent leaders. Insurgent leaders need political boots on the ground. They’ve got them. Their most important generalissimo is Jim DeMint, with his ability to direct Heritage Action. Also important is the Tea Party Patriots’ Jenny Beth Martin. On the equally important money side there is FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth. Together these command potentially huge sums on behalf of potential primary challengers.

The party Regulars — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner — are in command but not, at the moment, in control. But this fight isn’t about principle. Both factions oppose Obamacare, and seriously. It’s about power.

The Insurgents demand a head-on confrontation: “defunding.” Of course, the power to defund most of Obamacare is out of the Congress’s hands. The Regulars intend, primarily, to let it capsize of its own misshapen design (taking down the Democratic Senate with it).

The Regulars have the approval of many principled, rock-ribbed, strategically proficient conservatives … such as Grover Norquist. Norquist is Obama’s bête noire, in many ways as rock-ribbed as they come. Norquist recently provided an acid critique of Cruz, telling the Washington Post:

“… Cruz stood on the side and confused people about the fact that every Republican agrees. He said if you don’t agree with my tactic and with the specific structure of my idea, you’re bad. … Cruz said he would deliver the votes and he didn’t deliver any Democratic votes. He pushed House Republicans into traffic and wandered away.”

The Insurgents control vast sums of political money. They have platoons of hardened activists. They are willing (even prefer) to field — and back — primary challengers. This has the Regulars temporarily paralyzed… to the Democratic Party’s glee.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world. He serves as an advisor to and editor of the Lehrman Institute's thegoldstandardnow.org and senior advisor to the American Principles Project.