It’s far from clear what Tom DeLay’s departure means for House Republicans. One academic in today’s papers offered the excellent metaphor of Marshall Tito’s fall from power in Yugoslavia and the resulting civil war there. (Which raises the pressing question: who shall be the House GOP’s Slobodan Milosevic?) Others expect Republicans to circle their wagons and for Blunt to continue the same ruthless discipline as his predecessor.
My first hunch is the latter. As this Post piece indicates, Blunt seems to have modelled himself after DeLay in every way — with perhaps less of the Texan’s mean-spirited partisan vitriol. But that was never what made DeLay effective anyway.
No, I think the fundamental basis for DeLay’s unprecedented reign of terror has been his phenomenal K Street power base, cultivated over many years through unchecked access-peddling and sheer intimidation. This network serves as part fund-raising juggernaut, part patronage machine, and part political-advocacy operation. And so DeLay commanded the loyalty of House Republicans not just because he’s a real Texas sh*tkicker, but because his K Street empire is one of the most fearsome tools in Washington history — a kind of awe-inspiring political Death Star whose reactor shaft Democrats have never been able to locate.
And to read the Post article, it seems Blunt learned that lesson well. As Thomas Edsall puts it:
Blunt’s organization in scope has begun to rival “DeLay Inc.” — the political fundraising committees, extensive favor-giving and alliances with Republican lobbyists that the majority leader has used to become one of the most influential leaders in memory.
In other words, Blunt, Inc. is the new DeLay, Inc. Or put another way: “The king is dead. Long live the king!”