The Republican Party establishment, chastened by the realization that a string of unpredictable and unseasoned candidates cost them seats in Congress two elections in a row, is trying to head off potential political hazards wherever it can this year.There's some fun stuff in there, including a hilarious quote from the head of one conservative grift organization accusing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of having "essentially joined the I.R.S. in targeting conservative groups," which is absurd because (a) the I.R.S. hasn't targeted conservative groups and (b) conservative groups are targeting Mitch McConnell.
In House and Senate races across the country, many of the traditional and influential centers of power within the party are taking sides in primaries, overwhelming challengers on the right with television ads and, in some cases, retaliating against those who are helping the insurgents.
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But the thing that really leaps out is what wasn't said: Sure, Republicans politicos might be trying to turn down the volume on some of their crazier voices, but that's just about spin and appearances. As far as policy goes, the GOP is still way outside the mainstream. We're still only a few months removed from Republicans shutting down the government—and Republicans are still hewing to a far-right agenda.
So far this year, they've voted on yet another bill to restrict legal abortion, promised to hold even more Obamacare repeal votes, repeatedly refused to restore emergency unemployment benefits that they killed last year, blocked immigration reform while claiming to support it, and continue to drag out debt limit uncertainty even though everybody knows they will ultimately cave.
What the GOP establishment's primary pushback shows us is that they know their party is out of step with the country, but instead of actually trying to move back toward the mainstream in a substantive way, they just want candidates that are more clever and effective in cloaking their extremism. But as John McCain and Mitt Romney proved in 2008 (Sarah Palin) and 2012 (47 percent), while the Republican establishment may succeed in pushing "moderates" over the top in primaries, it really doesn't matter, because at its core, today's GOP is fundamentally a hard-line right-wing party.
The GOP establishment may want to soften the Republican Party's image, but they haven't shown any interest in changing what the party actually is.
Update: Steve Singiser has an excellent post on why Republicans are so desperate to avoid nominating freaks in 2014—and why they might not succeed. But whether or not they succeed, the price they pay for stopping candidates who wear their extremism on their sleeve is that the party as a whole moves to the right. In other words, to stop those that they fear, on a substantive level, Republicans become what they are claiming to stop.