In House GOP leadership elections, the establishment way prevails

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by Dana Milbank,

from The Washington Post,

If this week’s House Republican leadership elections told us anything, it’s that we should put to bed this tired meme about a civil war between the tea party and establishment Republicans.

On June 10, when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was toppled by a libertarian challenger in the Republican primary, the word went forth throughout the land that the tea party was resurgent and that House Republicans would tack even more to the right.

Nine days later, Cantor’s colleagues held an election to replace him, and the winner was California’s Kevin McCarthy — who has a voting record more liberal than Cantor’s. McCarthy became majority leader by clobbering a tea party challenger, Raúl Labrador (Idaho). A more reliable conservative, Steve Scalise (La.) won the No. 3 leadership slot by beating not only a more moderate challenger but also a tea party opponent who regarded him as too cozy with the establishment.

How to explain the contradiction? Simple: Ideology had little to do with the elections.

For all the talk of the struggle between the tea party and the GOP establishment, it has become a false dichotomy. In ideological terms, the tea party has already won the battle; Republican lawmakers new and old have shifted so far to the right that the differences among them are minor. What divides Republicans now is temperament — and here the establishment has prevailed.

The real split among congressional Republicans is between the bomb-throwers and the legislators. On Thursday, the bomb-throwers lost badly. Those who followed the old-fashioned rules of politics — building relationships, trading favors, balancing regional interests — prevailed.

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