Has anyone noticed what Karl Rove is up to these days? He may not be able to call Ohio for Obama in a prompt and professional manner, but I think he has opened a whole new front in the partisan wars in Congress.
In my line of work, there are many opportunities to describe “the responsible party model” of politics and to lament our failure to approximate its severe logic. In fact, the U. S. has never had a responsible party system and cannot have one now without a lot of new legislation, but the model does serve a purpose now and then. This is one of those times.
In the Responsible Party Model (RPM) the party is dominant: it chooses the candidates, it gives them the complete list of talking points (which used to be called a party platform), and it funds the campaign. The candidates aren’t really “persons” as much as they are little atoms of party-ness.
Here’s the intriguing part. If all the candidates are hewing to the party line and if the party wins a majority, then there is a majority to actually enact these “talking points.” The Democratic party campaigns on ending torture. All Democrats are in favor, by definition. They win a majority and pass a law eliminating the use of torture. At the next election—here’s where the “responsible” part comes in—the party returns to the public with a record of accomplishment of the items on party platform and this question: “Do you want us to keep doing this?”
The theory is that “the people” aren’t all that good as evaluating theories and promises, but they are really good at evaluating policy effects. You campaign on redistributing income through taxation and at the next election, I watch to see whether it has happened and if it has, whether I like it the way I thought I would.
Now you might be wondering what brought that to mind. Here’s the article that started me thinking about it. If you look at the RPM, you can see that Karl Rove’s new push really doesn’t recruit Republican candidates. Rove wants to “vet them” and the criterion he admits to is “as conservative a candidate as can be elected.” Rove doesn’t want to establish uniform “talking points.” Rove doesn’t want to fund the candidates in the sense that Crossroads America is the only source of funds. In fact, you could argue that all he really has in mind is to neutralize the political contributions of people like the Koch brothers.
Rove’s initiative is as close to the RPM plan as we have seen on the political right. It chooses the candidates (vets them) and it funds them (by counter-funding the primary election opponents). And really, you have to wonder what else he could do.
There has been a powerful and recent alliance between angry conservative voters (Tea Party) and strategic conservative donors. The combination has elected a “Tea Party Caucus” in the House of Representatives. Speaker of the House John Boehner doesn’t have a Republican majority without them. And, since they have resisted his calls for Republican unity, he doesn’t have a majority with them either. That means that the power of the Republican party in Congress has waned considerably. Further, the success of Tea Party Republicans in winning primary elections, then losing to Democrats in the general elections has led to the worst of all possible worlds—Democrats have been winning seats that should have been won by Republicans.
So Rove has swung into action. Maybe he remember the RPM lecture an otherwise undistinguished professor gave at the University of Utah. Maybe he would rather see moderate Republicans elected than conservative (Blue Dog) Democrats. Maybe he is sick and tired of seeing very wealthy conservative donors skewing the ideology of his party and screwing the Republican leaders in the Congress.
We really don’t know. What we know is that Rove has the RPM somewhere in his mind and he is doing what he can to keep the Republican party from committing suicide.
 Rove believes that things really don’t go better with Koch.