Where did they go?

Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Radicals Outflank Conservatives

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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This has to be the most stereotype-confirming story of the Boehner House Republican era:

House conservatives are plotting a mass exodus from the Republican Study Committee as soon as next week over simmering dissatisfaction with the group's direction.

The members have been talking for weeks, and they met Monday night to formalize their plans to institutionalize a competing, invitation-only organization that they see as a real conservative caucus that can push Speaker John Boehner rightward.

As Dave Weigel of Bloomberg Politics immediately quipped: “I really want the breakaway RSC to call itself The Peoples’ Front of Judea.”

The RSC has been an effective force in recent Congresses, keeping the Republican agenda on a conservative path. But it hasn't been conservative enough for the splitters. Although the National Journal’s reporting doesn’t mention any specific differences on issues, it does note that the splitters have lost a couple of elections for the committee's chairman and that they are working with Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

The advantage of an invitation-only caucus is that the members can differentiate themselves from the bulk of House Republicans and thus claim to be the True Conservatives. Even better, by embracing every self-defeating, hare-brained idea that they (and Tailgunner Ted) come up with but that sensible conservatives will reject, they can manufacture evidence that True Conservatives are an oppressed minority within the Republican Party.

Maintaining this distance appears to be the goal of many House Republicans -- a goal that is constantly threatened by mainstream conservatives who are terrified of primary challenges from the right if they allow any air between themselves and the radicals. Indeed, membership in the RSC has steadily increased over the last decade. This might increase its influence in the House, but ruins it as a signal of differentiation and oppression. 

So, nice work, Peoples’ Front (or whatever they’ll call themselves). They’ve found a way to stay one step ahead of their true enemies.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net