Political Strategy

Here’s Why John Danforth’s Attack On Ed Martin Is So Bad for the GOP

Old Jack Danforth is a troubled man.

John Danforth Attacked Ed Martin for Supporting Rand Paul
“You once called me a ‘warped, frustrated old man.’ Well, what are you, but a warped, frustrated young man?”
John Danforth Attacked Ed Martin for Supporting Rand Paul

Danforth’s wiry frame got bent all out of shape because the chairman of Missouri’s GOP stated the uber-obvious in an email to friends: the McCain-Graham angry old man meme ain’t sellin’ no more. What is selling is Rand Paul’s courageous demand for a statement on the limits of executive power.

On Wednesday, Ed Martin sent an email to Missouri Republicans praising Paul’s courage and rebuking McCain and Graham’s defense of unlimited presidential power.

On Thursday, former Senator John Danforth responded with an email criticizing Martin and accusing the chairman of the Missouri GOP of kicking people out of the party.

Martin’s email praised the courage and consistency Senator Rand Paul displayed in his famous 13-hour filibuster. It also derided McCain and Graham for their childish and un-Senatorial attacks on fellow Republican Paul. Why Danforth felt a need to reply, and why he felt a need to exaggerate Ed Martin’s message, tells me there’s  more going on here than just an angry, irrelevant old man spouting off.

Missouri’s Republican Establishment Is At War With the Grassroots

You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter. In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider!

–George Bailey to Mr. Potter

When Ed Martin won the race for MOGOP chairman, the establishment was stunned and horrified. Martin appeals to conservative and libertarian grassroots activists, not the smoky room king makers that Danforth favors.

I think the Establishment believed they could intimidate Martin by threatening to cut off donations to the MOGOP and to Republican candidates who won’t do their bidding.

With Martin continuing to display his populist independent streak, the Establishment called out their version of Mr. Potter to play bad cop, keeping the others’ noses clean.

This Could All End In Disaster for Missouri Republicans

Danforth  and his cronies are playing with fire. In November 2012, 90,000 votes were cast for Libertarian candidates in Missouri. Most of those votes came at the expense of Republican votes.

If the grassroots–and especially young voters–get the feeling that the GOP is a private club for the rich, they’ll flee to the Libertarian Party in 2014. And if the RNC installs rules meant to block non-Establishment presidential candidates at their April meeting in Los Angeles, 2016 could be the Republican Party’s last national election.

It’s All Happened Before

Before the modern Republican Party emerged from the abolitionist movement in 1858, America’s other major party was the Whigs.  Abraham Lincoln led the Whig Party in Illinois. But the Whigs were never a cohesive party of consistency around some set of principles. Instead, they were united only by their opposition to an imperial presidency. From the History Channel:

The Whig party was founded by individuals united only in their antagonism to Jackson’s war on the Second Bank of the United States and his high-handed measures in waging that war and ignoring Supreme Court decisions, the Constitution, and Indian rights embodied in federal treaties. Beyond that, however, there were Whigs and Whigs. Some played the demagogic anti-Catholic game; others scorned it. Some spoke critically of working people; others, admiringly. Detailed studies of the Whig party in the states and biographies of such Whig leaders as Clay, William Seward, Daniel Webster, and Horace Greeley reveal dissimilar policies from one state to another and important differences in the character, beliefs, and actions of the leaders.

It seems that opposition to Barack Obama is the only thing that unifies Republicans. But many of us realize that Obama won’t be on the ballot in 2016. So what will the GOP stand for?

Within the GOP today, I see two large factions. One is the Establishment personified by McCain, Graham, and Danforth. The other is, for lack of a better term, the Tea Party faction united on the principles of free markets, Constitutionally limited government, and fiscal responsibility. The Establishment stood around befuddled in 2009 and 2010 as the Tea Party did the work to regain control of the House and dozens of state legislatures. And that Tea Party success is what started the current rift.

Leading up to 2012, the Establishment, recognizing that the rabble were within striking distance of seizing their  party, went on the offensive–not against the Democrats, and not in support of those basic, simple principles. The GOP Establishment went to war against its own grassroots base.

Like the Whigs of 1856, the Republicans of 2016 seem poised for a horrible fall. The millions of rabble who want the party to stand for three simple principles don’t understand why Danforth and his spiders insist on keeping the party a closed country club. We don’t understand why Danforth won’t invite in the libertarian kids. They won’t steal his millions, I promise.

Who’s Kicking Who Out, Mr. Danforth

With that background, isn’t it sad that Danforth’s vitriolic email to wealthy Republican donors accused Martin of doing exactly what Danforth and his scurvy spiders have been doing for years: deciding who may and may not call themselves Republicans.

In 2005, Danforth all but called for the expulsion of Christian conservatives from the GOP’s ranks. And he did so in that Republican of Republican rags, the New York Times.

Isn’t it sad that a man whose tent is closed to Christians and, now, libertarians accused Ed Martin of minding the gate?

Ed Martin understands that young people smell hypocrisy better than old men like Danforth. And even Bill Hennessy.  Ed’s email simply praised Rand Paul’s courage in raising a vital question that Danforth should also be asking: is there a limit to Executive Power?

McCain and Graham–and, by proxy, Danforth–seem okay with unlimited executive power to assassinate American citizens.  They apparently were content to leave the American President with absolute power. And if they oppose such tyrannical power, they are unwilling to confront the President on the matter.

That puts them at odds even with Attorney General Eric Holder.  Forced by Senator Paul’s 13-hour filibuster, Holder admitted that the President lacks the Constitutional authority to order the assassination of Americans on American soil.  That’s an admission the White House refused to make for months until Senator Paul forced its hand.

Neither McCain nor Graham nor Danforth lifted a finger to press this fundamental human right and this enormous Constitutional question. Rand Paul did, and Ed Martin was right to point out it out.

Those Scurvy Little Spiders

I’ll leave you with George Bailey’s speech to Mr. Potter as the board of Bailey Brothers Building and Loan met to dissolve the firm upon George’s dad’s death.

Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!

John Danforth and his nest of scurvy spiders should consider that their money can’t buy blind loyalty from the rabble they so despise. There are more of us than there are of them. Nothing guarantees that a political party will last forever, and the arrogance of the Establishment threatens to destroy the party that men like Danforth seem to love more than the country that party’s supposed to serve.

Author: William Hennessy

Co-founder of St. Louis Tea Party Coalition and Nationwide Chicago Tea Party Persuasive design expertLatest book: Turning On Trump: An Evolution (2016)Author of The Conservative Manifest (1993), Zen Conservatism (2009), Weaving the Roots (2011), and Fight to Evolve (2016)I believe every person deserves the dignity of meaningful work as the only path to human flourishing.

26 Comments on “Here’s Why John Danforth’s Attack On Ed Martin Is So Bad for the GOP

  1. Great thoughts, Fred. Thanks.

    If the RNC adopts a lot of the recommendations from the autopsy–eliminating caucuses and state conventions, clustering primaries, minimizing debates–Republican candidates could finish third in a lot of races in 2016.

    If the Republicans won’t accept grassroots, someone will.

  2. Thanks for this essay, Bill. It is right on target. Mostly what we’re hearing are the dying pangs of an old breed who can’t stand it that they no longer run the GOP the old way anymore, in the back of a smoke filled room. Today better, more thoughtful minds of the party are running away from them. Although the “old guard” of the Republican Party mocks the Tea Party, they fail to realize that the Tea Party is made up of mostly pissed off young Conservative Republicans and Libertarians who are horrified that the Republican Party was more bent on embracing internecine party tyranny than freedom and liberty. The old Guard has been “progressive” to the detriment of the party, the country, and the Constitution. Many are feckless appeasers who don’t understand that true leadership and power comes from courage, principle and the willingness when faced with defeat to get up and fight better, which is what we saw in the Rand Paul filibuster. It’s time we open the windows and doors and let in the light and fresh air. That’s what the likes of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, and yes, even Ed Martin are all about.

  3. Feelin’ like a Zombie.
    But I do not like tough, old meat anymore…and I am no Spring chicken, either!
    (H.C. in disguise)

  4. There is no reason to call each other names. Mr. Danforth represents a point of view that varies in a number of important ways from that of the Tea Party and constitutional conservatives, which have rejected some of the norms familiar to Mr. Danforth. He has a right to express his opinion, and Mr. Martin has a right to disagree. The idea is not to promote or destroy the GOP, but rather to promote candidates who stand for the smallest, least intrusive government that can do its constitutional duties effectively. I am not sure that either Mr. Danforth or Mr. Martin are credible to the electorate right now. I don’t think what either man says will move the GOP in MO. Mr. Martin was defeated in his last two bids for public office and Mr. Danforth got his experience in another era with generations older than I, and I am a senior citizen. .

  5. Bill,
    Excellent piece. Agreed with every word of it. But be careful not so much you, but who the Tea Party says is picking and choosing about who they want to let into the party. Two years ago when the after parties started I asked if my blog, The Conservative Cauldron could be put on the Tea Party website blogroll. I was told that they did not want to do it because I was Wiccan.
    In our quest to be a “big tent”, let’s be careful not to fall into the same trap that we are now so loudly, and rightly so, complaining about.
    Becky Noble

  6. If I recall rightly, wasn’t State Senator Brian Nieves attacked by the GOP in his primary election a few years ago. I’ve also heard that he continues to fight against his own GOP party as well as the Dems. He is a true Tea Party hero–they despise him.

    I also saw the establishment GOP in action at several caucuses in Missouri against the Ron Paul people.

    It is my personal opinion that when the establishment GOP disenfranchised the Ron Paul delegates at the national convention, the Ron Paul people stayed home instead of voting. That is why there were fewer Republicans voting and why we still have King Odumbo ruling over us.

    In addition, all you have to do to see the liberalism of the Danforth’s is walk through the campus of the bastion of liberalism-Washington University in St. Louis. There name is all over that place.

    Let’s not forget the stem cell proposition from a few years ago too. The Danforth’s funded that liberal cause.

    1. Yes, Nieves was attacked heavily and ruthlessly in his last election. Not only were the surface smears horrendous, but they launched a whisper campaign against him as well.

      People who use government as an ATM don’t like guys like Nieves.

  7. I received Ed Martin’s e-mail and didn’t read any mention of “throwing out” anyone. What I DID read was a preliminary plan of action to move the Missouri GOP back to its limited government principles The “old guard” of the Republican party have moved the party more and more left with their progressive policies to the point where it is impossible to tell the difference between the two main parties. The elite, establishment portion of the GOP are extremely worried they are losing the stranglehold on the power and wealth they once possessed and are acting accordingly. I once read, “You can tell if you are on the right side of an argument by those arguing against.” I feel satisfied standing with Ed Martin, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and thousands of grassroot activists. I am no longer voting the “letter”, I am voting the individual.

  8. You had it right – this is all about trying to dry up donors, no matter what price the party pays in the next election.

    The answer is to identify them by name, identify their causes, and put a spotlight on them. If their actions are above reproach, they won’t mind it. We’re not driving anyone out of the party. We’re being transparent about how things get done. That’s only frightening to those whose power comes from whispered conversations.

    I don’t believe Danforth acted alone. I don’t believe his email magically appeared in the Post Dispatch. Whoever coordinated this needs to be discovered and held up. Danforth’s staff needs to have a video camera held to their face, Russ Carnahan style.

    If you work for the Establishment, I want you worried that your next job won’t come from cronies paying you back for stabbing conservatives.

  9. Bill, I think you have nailed it, again. Ed Martin’s email was, I think, the beginning of a New Vision for the MO GOP. It will take a while for the old guard to see that vision, but they can choose to either ride the wave or be swept away by it.

    1. Thanks, Ron.

      I’m still mystified, though, about why the old guard chose Danforth to deliver this message. Did they think his august stature would drive us all into immediate compliance?

      Danforth’s stature was never as significant as a few people on the east side of Missouri believed. Today, he’s a footnote. No one under the age of 43 ever voted for Danforth whose last election was during the Reagan administration.

      1. In the world of big Republican donors and cocktail parties, Mr. Danforth is not a footnote, though. That’s why he’s the messenger.

        What they haven’t figured out, though, is that 1) Money is not enough to win elections these days, and 2) There is a huge donor base who are just waiting for the right “vision” before they’ll engage and replace the “old money”.

        The vision isn’t a new one, in fact, it’s as old as the Founders — it’s a vision of liberty.

        It’s a vision that eschews mercantilism and embraces true free-market capitalism. It’s a vision that understands the (limited) role of government and the evils of concentrated power. It’s a vision that truly believes that our basic human rights are bestowed by our Creator, and no man, or group of men — no matter how large the marble building housing them is — have the authority to deprive us of those rights.

        It’s a vision that more and more people are, once again, willing to fight and bleed and die for.

        Ed Martin gets it, Mr. Danforth does not seem to understand.

  10. Excellent article! It seems the movers in the Republican Party, the McCains, Grahams, and Roves, have more in common with Liberals than with their own base. Sure, they are more than willing to coddle Tea Party Conservatives come election time and also more than willing to kick their base to the curb when the election is over. We have known for a long time that our biggest battles would come from within the Republican Party. Looks like fightin time is here.

  11. Been there before. Jackoff Danforth and his kind were told long ago they were wrecking the Party. Their attitude was, “so what, as long as WE control the wreckage.” It’s always the same deal. Either generate enough income after taxes to be one of THEM, or get lost. But They and their libtard allies make that Impossible. Don’t they? We don’t care if the Danforths despise us. But they’re the source of Our frustration.

  12. I finally gave up on the Republican Party last summer when it finally dawned on me why its nominee was the favorite son of the Danforth-McCain-Rove coalition and pretty much rammed down our throats. Equally unhappy with the Libertarians because too many of them believe killing innocent unborn babies to be civilized free American behavior, I went in search of an alternative. I found the Constitution Party. It had a presidential ticket and a few candidates at the state level.

  13. We, the little people, are done with being ignored and trampled on by Establishment dinosaurs like McCain, Graham and Danforth. They no more stand for the Republican platform than Pelosi, Ried or Carter. We need brave and vocal souls like Ed Martin to bring this country back to it’s foundational principles of the people, for the people, by the people. It is time to take this country back to the original God-given purpose of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, not just for some as deemed fit by John Danforth et al!

  14. Another excellent, prophetic post. You called it correctly when you stated “Danforth and his cronies are playing with fire.” I’d see that fire burn the Republican party to the ground before I one more day support these irrelevant Constitution-shredding hacks. Playing politics the Danforth / McCain / Graham way has brought this country to its knees.

    1. You’re right, Corey. When the history of the Republican Party is written, I believe people like McCain, Graham, and Danforth will fare poorly. They offer value to a tiny, select few who want government money and protection for various endeavors. People who want to transfer risk to taxpayers the way the investment houses began transferring risk to stockholders in the late 80s.

      Eventually, that risk, multiplied and fermented, explodes back on them.

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