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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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(Special to the American Press)

(Special to the American Press)

How conservative is enough?

Last Modified: Monday, February 10, 2014 10:35 AM

By Jim Beam / American Press

You can’t help thinking about a 1946 Irving Berlin song when you read about Republicans in Baton Rouge and Washington, D.C., who are trying to be more conservative than their fellow party members. It’s titled, “Anything You Can Do,” and was written by Berlin for the musical, “Annie Get Your Gun.”

Here’s how it goes:

“Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything, Better than you.

“No, you can’t. Yes, I can. No, you can’t. Yes, I can. No, you can’t. Yes, I can, Yes, I can.”

In effect, that is exactly what conservative Republicans are saying to one another in their quest to be the truest of the true conservatives. John Maginnis and Jeremy Alford in their LaPolitics Weekly report talked about 13 state legislators who have formed the Louisiana Legislative Conservative Coalition. Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, explained the new group’s mission.

“We want to pull (the Louisiana Republican legislative delegation) to the right and make sure it supports the core values we ran for office on,” Seabaugh said.

As you would expect, Gov. Bobby Jindal and U.S. Sen. David Vitter are heroes to members of the new group. Seabaugh makes it clear he hopes Vitter becomes the state’s next governor, so you know how far right Seabaugh has gone.

Members of the coalition consider anyone who does business with Democrats traitors to the conservative cause. Some of the Fiscal Hawks who helped reform the budgeting process at last year’s legislative session are in their sights. Seabaugh told LaPolitics Weekly there has been some drift to the left within the GOP delegation.

“I’m not naming names,” he said, “but there are some people who sit in those delegation meetings who wouldn’t know a conservative thought if it popped in their heads.”

A similar situation has developed in the nation’s capital. Ultra-conservative Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are unhappy with their Republican Study Committee and have formed the House Liberty Caucus. National Journal, a political news magazine, said the new caucus “is rapidly becoming an ideological home base for those ‘core’ House conservatives who say the RSC’s swelling membership is diluting its ideological intensity.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, is chairman of the RSC, and the new caucus makes it clear they approve of the job he is doing. National Journal said he is tied for fourth place in the list of House members who are the most conservative members of their party.

The creation of new caucuses and other organizations at the state and national levels demonstrates the belief by conservatives that too many Republicans aren’t conservative enough. We saw that play out in Arizona when the Republican Party there formally censured U.S. Sen. John McCain, saying his voting record is insufficiently conservative. McCain has served five terms and is thinking about running for a sixth in 2016. The Liberty Caucus said he has supported issues “associated with liberal Democrats,” which is obviously an unpardonable sin.

McCain isn’t the only one who is being targeted by a new Super political action committee called the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund. Others include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

Public officials who are under the gun aren’t sitting still. National Journal last October talked about a new political group called Defending Main Street. It is described as a “center-right, business-oriented wing of the Republican Party.” Its goal is to fight the tea party challenges against more mainstream members of the GOP who are often called RINOs (Republicans in name only).

Former U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio told the magazine, “Hopefully we’ll go into eight to 10 races and beat the snot out of them. We’re going to be very aggressive and we’re going to get in their faces.”

You would think that Democrats, who are looking at all of this infighting by Republicans, would be dancing in the streets. However, they know they have their own problems, primarily President Obama’s low job approval rating and the president’s signature health care plan. Both are unpopular at the moment.

What can we conclude from all of this Republican in-party dissension? National Journal had the answer when it released its 2013 Congressional Vote Ratings Special Report Thursday. It said the results show Congress is more divided than ever, and explained why.

“For the fourth straight year, no Senate Democrat is more conservative than a Senate Republican — and no Senate Republican is more liberal than a Senate Democrat,” the magazine said. “In the House, only two Democrats are more conservative than a Republican — and only two Republicans are more liberal than a Democrat.”

Conservatism has become so cherished these days that candidates need only express their views to win public approval. Why, for example, does a candidate for lieutenant governor in Texas keep talking about how, if elected, he’s going to close down the border with Mexico and fight everything President Obama stands for? There isn’t a lieutenant governor in this country who can accomplish either one.

To paraphrase that Irving Berlin song, conservative Republicans are saying to one another, “I’m a better conservative than you are. No, you’re not. Yes, I am. No, you’re not. Yes, I am.”

What a wild and wacky political world we seem to be living in.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com.

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