Belmont Club

Starting the Insurgency

Conservative pundits have reacted to news that Dinesh D’Souza was arrested and James O’Keefe was subpoenaed with suggestions that the actions are politically motivated.  D’Souza is charged with  facilitating straw-man campaign contributions to a losing Republican candidate and O’Keefe whose infiltration of Democratic Party operations with secret cameras is the stuff of legend, is facing a routine subpoena from Andrew Cuomo.


In both cases the investigators just happened to stumble onto their suspect activities. “The Indictment [of D’Souza] is the result of a routine review by the FBI of campaign filings with the FEC by various candidates after the 2012 election for United States Senator in New York”.  The Daily Beast notes the similarly routine provenance of the inquiries into O’Keefe.

O’Keefe says that the state’s Department of Labor is now demanding two and a half years worth of financial and payroll documents and threatening them with a subpoena….

A spokesman for the state’s Department of Labor said that they are required by law to make sure that businesses pay into an unemployment insurance fund, and that whenever businesses use outside contractors the state requests routine information about those employees. When employers do not respond to multiple requests for information, they must as a matter of law face a subpoena for further information.

None of this is to say that D’Souza or O’Keefe are factually innocent or guilty of any putative irregularities.  Politics was never in the best of circumstances ever too clean. But even if the accused are hypothetically guilty of something it is hard to imagine that politics did not play a role in landing them in a pickle. Political considerations and factual innocence are not correlated. They operate independently of each other. Guilt is a circumstance while political considerations are the circumstance that gets things noticed.  For as the saying goes, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”


Although fears that a witch-hunt is on will be dismissed as tin-foil hat conspiracy theory by the MSM, that is probably the intended effect of the administration.  They would love to send a chill down every conservative’s spine. It would be seemingly to their advantage for every conservative activist wake up in a sweat; to regard each delivery of mail, each peek into their email inbox with trepidation. Which administration hack would not enjoying watching their rivals react to each knock at the door like the summons of doom? “Thank God … I’m not James O’Keefe”. And as for the conservative activists, if they are not “moderate” already then many will hasten to be. The backtracking, the penances, the confessions of past immoderation are already being drafted. Which would be the point, wouldn’t it, to as Mao said, “kill the chicken to scare the monkey”?

But since the subject is hypotheticals, what should the hypothetical response of conservatives be to a hypothetical crackdown? Most people would advocate demonstrations and petitions and letters to the editor denouncing the administration. And that’s all fine, but there is one counterintuitive response: to redouble the grassroots revolt against the institutional Republican Party, a strategy that is not as crazy as it sounds.

Why respond to an administration crackdown with the rebellion against the RINOs?

One can imagine — hypothetically of course — that the attacks are a way of saving the RINOs from the ‘Tea Party’ threat. A kind of favor from a friend in power. The phrase ‘Tea Party’ is used in this context as a catch-all term to describe all conservative groups that are wroth with the institutional Republicans. If these pestilential provocateurs can be split off the Republican moderates, then the DC set can return to the good old days of the gentleman’s game. There might even be institutional Republicans muttering to themselves, “well I knew that those ill-mannered fellows would come to no good! They should have joined the Democratic Party! Not to get back to reaching across the aisle.”


At any rate little help can be expected from that quarter. The institutional Republicans would under no circumstances have marched to the aid of D’Souza or O’Keefe. It might have been improper in any case. Nor would they have counterattacked by launching similar investigations against the galaxy of Democratic fraudsters, which would have been proper at all events. Because that’s not what they do.

But in any case the actions against D’Souze and O’Keefe are an indirect attack on institutional Republicans by the administration in its very nature, for it conveys the impression that the institutional GOP is inutile.  If it can’t protect it’s side then what good is it?  It demonstrates to the world that if you want to rely on the RINOs — don’t. So it’s not such a favor from friends in power as it seems. The administration will unavoidably have diminished the RINOs, shown them to be midgets.

The Democrats at least, hound their political opponents and protect their friends, for that is the whole point of their organization. By contrast the institutional Republicans are much more likely to hound their friends and protect their opponents.

Sparing the institutional Republicans from attack brings no benefit to conservative activists. But what does attacking the RINOs buy?

First of all, what choice have they? The conservative activists have no direct power over the Democratic Party. Nor are they strong enough to guarantee a Republican win over the Democrats in a general election. But they are strong enough to guarantee a Republican loss in many cases because the Republican margins of victory in a general election are so small that without the conservative base the race becomes uncompetitive. The major source of conservative activists power is the power to damage the RINOs. That’s the weapon they have, and nearly all that they have. So how to use it?


The power of the conservative base is akin to the concept of a fleet in being; not strong enough to control the seas but strong enough to tie up major portions of the enemy fleet. In this case the Teas can’t beat the Democrats directly but they can tie up the RINOs. Or failing that, they can shift the balance of power from one set of Republican leaders to another.

In the last election a number of PACs pursued the strategy of primary-ing the incumbents based on an analogous line of reasoning. The major arena of political action is not usually the enemy camp but one’s own broad coalition. The road to influencing politics occurs not in the general election, but in the primary selection process.  It is the fulcrum that can move the earth. And thus, it is where conservative activists who fear they are being marked for slaughter can most effectively respond. They can inflict pain, if nothing else; they can tie down the RINO fleet and keep them from sailing.  Here is where they can hold the RINOs political hostage: defend or else you’ll never be elected in a general again. It is now acknowledged that the election of 2010 brought in a whole new set of Republican leaders, not by itself enough perhaps, but proof of concept.

There is no way to affect the machinery of the Department of Justice — no legal way at least — but there is a definite path to punishing institutional Republicans who won’t even put up a political fight. And it’s only a matter of time before conservative activists notice this club lying around. None of these musings are new. Every student of counterinsurgency knows the narrative by heart. Every time a regime in power begins to crack down hard it nearly always destroys the moderate opposition because the rank and file of the opposition see that their “moderate leaders” cannot protect them. And if they cannot protect them, then they will look for another set of leaders.


The Obama administration used to like to lecture the world about the dangers of radicalizing their foes. And yet they are unable to heed the lesson themselves, for if the Obama administration is engaged on a witch-hunt, it is doing exactly that: it is radicalizing those who might otherwise have followed the RINOs to an election.

It’s interesting that Obama most respects those who have the greatest contempt for him.  All of his “partner’s for peace” loathe him.  By contrast Israel, which tried to accommodate him at every turn, has only earned his contempt. That’s the clue. If the RINOs could see things aright, they’d see the Obama administration has no actual respect for anyone who does his bidding. The only entities he respects are those who put up a fight.

So if the administration is out to get conservative activists, then in some strange way, it will guarantee meeting them. For the one riposte of the conservative activists is to evict the institutional Republicans and sit in their place.  There’s a widespread myth that “public service” is for idealists. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s for cynics.  That’s why the Founders hoped that every man would come to Washington and perhaps be president. Once. And then return, banished to their farms sated, never to hold office again.

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