Hardball Panic Attack: Tea Party Victories Will Make GOP More Conservative

There was almost a full-fledged panic attack on Thursday's "Hardball" as three devout liberal media members fretted over the possibility that Tea Party success at the polls next month could make the GOP more conservative.


So worried about this was MSNBC's Chris Matthews that he opined at the end of the segment, "At some point, they`ll become not the party of the elephant but the party of the barking dogs as the cars go by" (video follows with commentary and full transcript at end of the article):

The first thing that should jump out at readers is the absurdity at play here. The Republicans got clobbered in the past two election cycles because their members abandoned conservative principles and moved to the left of most of their constituents.

As a result, many establishment GOPers and Tea Party candidates have tacked to the right to capture Republican and Independent voters that were either ignored in 2006 or 2008 or angered by moderate Republican policies in George W. Bush's second term. 

This rightward shift has proved highly successful and appears to have positioned the GOP for a possibly historic victory on November 2. Yet Matthews and guests David Corn of Mother Jones and Sam Stein of the Huffington Post see this as damaging the Republican brand.

What's most hysterical here is that all three of these so-called journalists have scolded Obama and the Democrats for trying at all to work with Republicans the past 20 months, and are angered that legislation signed by this President wasn't progressive enough.

In fact, if Democrat candidates around the country had primary success by moving further to the left, Matthews, Corn, and Stein would be having a hard time hiding their glea. 

As such, it's highly desirable and not at all harmful for Democrats to shift far to the left in their policy proposals, but catastrophic for Republicans to do a similar pivot to the right.  

In the end, for these liberal press members, a good Republican is a RINO, and anything else is just far too dangerous for the GOP and this nation.

Full transcript follows:


With just 26 days now to go before the elections this year, there are a bunch of Tea Party Senate candidates who could end up winning. Today`s "Wall Street Journal" has a headline sure to scare senators who aren`t on the ballot this November. Tea Party wants to ambush more GOP senators in 2012. But who`s "The Journal" talking about? Well, people like Utah`s Orrin Hatch, Maine`s Olympia Snowe, Tennessee`s Bob Corker and Indiana`s Dick Lugar. Should they be worried?

David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" magazine and a columnist for PoliticsDaily.com. And Sam Stein covers politics for "The Huffington Post."

David first, and then Sam.

Should they be worried? Should Orrin Hatch be scared a little bit that he`s not conservative enough and certainly Bob Corker in Tennessee and people like that?

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Yes, I think all Republicans should be concerned. I think Ronald Reagan wouldn`t be conservative enough for some of these Tea Party types. And as we`ve seen in the past few months, Chris, that if you have these small Republican primaries, this group of very angry, you know, far-right Tea Partiers can have tremendous impact. We don`t know if they`re going to have a big impact on the general election, but we do know in the Republican primary, they have a lot of weight to pull.

So, if I was -- you know, if I were Orrin Hatch or any of these others, I`d be running to the right and we already see that happening as "The Wall Street Journal" reported.

MATTHEWS: You know, it`s hard to launch a defense in this game, Sam, because if you`ve got a 95 percent conservative voting record, they`ll just say, but you voted for TARP.


MATTHEWS: Or you made a deal with somebody on health care that looked, you know, dicey. So, it`s this weird way that people are engaging in politics now. They find one way and then they obsess over it like a tooth abscess. That`s all they talk or think or feel is that one thing you did.

STEIN: Yes. And, you know, I hate to say it, I agree with David on this one. The institutional hurdles that usually exist for grassroots` candidates to run for office have been sort of leveled down. And if a lot of these Tea Party candidates win in 2010, it`s going to incentivize a lot more of them to run in 2012.

And I was at a briefing just now with David Plouffe, the Obama
Enhanced Coverage Linking
Obama -Search using:

* News, Most Recent 60 Days
* Biographies Plus News

campaign manager. He said, if you are a moderate Republican thinking of running for office in 2012, you need to have to have your head examined. There`s no reason to do it. You have to spend a lot of money, you come under attack, and you`d likely lose.

MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s the cutting question. You can go Sam -- you, Sam, first. How does the Republican Party build itself as a governing party, a majority party, which really needs to get the middle if it carves out its own middle?

STEIN: It`s a good question and there`s people within the party who are really wondering that. I was an event earlier this week with Mel Martinez, the former senator for Florida, and he expressed real angst about the future of the party. He said, if everyone`s going to be lockstep with Jim DeMint, there`s going to be really no room for governance. And he said actually bluntly that he thinks it`d be better that the party didn`t win the Senate because they wouldn`t be held to standards of governance and would still be the Democrats who are held to standards by voters.

And so, they`re going to have real problems figure out how to actually govern if they take power, and like you said, the middle has been moved -- or hijacked way over to the right on this one.

MATTHEWS: I want to ask the same question to, David.

What do you think, buddy? What happens here if the party basically says if you`re a middle-of-the-road or even a moderate conservative, you`re gone? At the same time, they go after the Reagan Democrats, the independent voters, the people that are a little upset with Obama
Enhanced Coverage Linking
Obama -Search using:

* News, Most Recent 60 Days
* Biographies Plus News

or angry at him right now, and they want them to join a party which is only going to be a right wing party.

CORN: I think they`ve turned into a zombie party. They`re just not going to be interested in governing. We saw already in the last two years the obstructionism on the right. And if you get Rand Paul in the Senate with Jim DeMint, they will just say no and they`ll stop everything. You know Senate rules basically allow that, they don`t believe in governance. They believe --

MATTHEWS: OK, let me try something by you guys.

CORN: -- reinventing, right?

MATTHEWS: This is serious business.

CORN: It is serious business, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Supposed a gay person in your family or someone you care about or you just didn`t care about human rights, suppose you think -- you live in a suburban, you`re not armed at home and therefore you believe in gun control. Supposed you are pro-choice on abortion rights, is there a Republican Party for you, Sam, if you have any of these? Because they don`t want you in the party apparently if you believe any of these things?

STEIN: Well, let`s be careful here because it`s not across the board -- there have been interceptions to the rule. You look at Mark Kirk for instance. He`s not their choice in Illinois but he ended up there.

My theory is that in 2012, once all these Tea Party candidates win if 2010, you`re going to see real pressure on people like Olympia Snowe to actually make a party switch a la Charlie Crist.

MATTHEWS: OK. You`re making my point. You`re making my point.

STEIN: Yes. No, I`m making your point. That said, you know, we have to wait until 2010. We have to see how these results play out in the general election because if some of these Tea Party candidates actually lose, for instance, Christine O`Donnell or Sharron Angle, maybe there will be a backlash against the Jim DeMints of the world.

MATTHEWS: Well, Christine O`Donnell, you`re setting up a strawman.

STEIN: I`m not.

MATTHEWS: Christine O`Donnell is going to lose.

STEIN: Yes, of course.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, here`s the question, suppose Mark Kirk gets in this time because they need a candidate, they`ll be gunning for him next time, David?

CORN: Yes, well --


MATTHEWS: Corker just got in and they`re after him already.

CORN: He`ll have six years to move to the right the Tea Party doesn`t end up exploding the Republican Party to bits and pieces. But the senators that you just mentioned, some of those people, like Orrin Hatch and Bob Corker, you know, not my favorite guys, politically, but they have shown in the past the willingness to try to work with Democrats on governing issues, whether it`s health care or financial reform.

And there`s going to be so much pressure on these guys -- to get to your earlier point, Chris -- to do nothing with any Democrat, not even to sit down and -- in the cafeteria with them that will make things really impossible. And then you know, the Republican Party will become the party of not just of no, but of anti-government and people like that to a certain degree, but it won`t solve any of the problems that we have.

MATTHEWS: Yes, at some point, they`ll become not the party of the elephant but the party of the barking dogs as the cars go by.

Anyway, thank you, David Corn. And thank you, Sam Stein.

STEIN: Thanks, Chris.

2010 Congressional Tea Parties MSNBC Hardball Sam Stein David Corn
Noel Sheppard's picture