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Conservative Activists Shut Down Talk of Keeping Parts of Obamacare Within 30 Minutes

I’ve been on quite a few listservs in my career, including ones that were supposed to wield supreme influence. But I can assure you that I’ve never been involved with any listserv as effective as this. Basically, within 30 minutes of a story in Politico about how House Republicans may try to reinstate parts of Obamacare if it were overturned by the Supreme Court, pushback – at the Google group level – got the Speaker of the House to repudiate the article.

Rather than sending out news releases or rushing to cable TV for a rant, conservatives blasted House Republican leadership on a private Google email group called The Repeal Coalition. The group is chock- full of think tank types, some Republican leadership staffers, health care policy staffers and conservative activists, according to sources in the group.

The behind-the-scenes fight among Republicans richly illustrates why House GOP leadership is so cautious, sensitive and calculating when it comes to dealing with the conservative right. POLITICO obtained the email chain, the contents of which show that health care reform remains just as emotional an issue as ever.

Wesley Denton, an aide to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), questioned whether the “GOP now against full repeal?”

“Should we change the name of this [listserv] to ‘partialrepealcoalition’ or ‘someofobamacareisprettygood’?” Denton wrote to the group […]

Russ Vought, a former House Republican staffer who is now at Heritage Action for America, bluntly said… “House GOP is going to cave after winning an election on full repeal … and before winning the next election to finish the job.”

A couple things. First of all, the participation of legislative aides on these kinds of groups is somewhat rare, though not completely. I think it’s telling that Wesley Denton knew to simply post in that Google group rather than send Jim DeMint out in front of cameras to blast the Speaker. And it was effective. Boehner issued a statement later in the day saying “The only way to change this is by repealing ObamaCare in its entirety… Anything short of that is unacceptable.”

Basically, the conservative movement at this point is so directly tied into the Republican establishment that they can object to pretty much anything and get their desired outcome. The establishment has functionally no power. This is a far cry from the progressive movement. I often hear talk of how conservatives take their marching orders, while liberals are more rebellious, but looking at politics over the last few years, you have to conclude that the exact opposite is true. As Digby writes, “We can only dream of a ‘professional left’ that is as influential and connected as this.”

We can spend plenty of time debating why it is that the conservative movement wields ferocious power in Washington and the progressive movement doesn’t. One reason is that the conservative movement has been at this for almost 50 years. Another is that progressive movement independence has waned in the era of Obama. And then there’s the donor funding. Anyway, this is the kind of discussion that can take us fully through the weekend, so have at it.

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David Dayen

David Dayen