Conservatives and other liberty lovers turn out for the Party, only to be rolled after the elections that we worked so hard to try to win.
Repeal and Replace the Republican Party
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Many conservatives and liberty lovers have long thought that the Republican Party takes them for granted. We don’t get the respect we deserve as the rank-and-file, the foot soldiers who actually try to make things happen for the Party at the local level – running the phones, donating the time and energy, going door to door in canvassing, and turning out to vote. Conservatives believe the Republican Party exists within our two-party system as the vehicle for promoting their views and advancing our agenda. Yet, this rarely seems to happen in practice, at least at the national level. Instead, conservatives and other liberty lovers turn out for the Party, only to be rolled after the elections that we worked so hard to try to win.
I think the evidences for the redheaded stepchildness of conservatives and small government supporters within the GOP are pretty apparent. Witness the marginalization and neutralization of Sarah Palin after 2008, not just by the leftist media, but also by moles and termites within the establishment apparatus of her own Party. Witness the effort by the Romneyites to block, or at least dilute, Tea Party influence at the 2012 national convention.
Observe how the GOP “leadership” apparatus has worked in times past to undercut conservatives in legislative races across the country, even to the point of helping its own candidates lose their elections, such as they did to Tim Walberg in Michigan, Joe Miller in Alaska, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania (his first Senate race, when he ran against Arlen Specter), and like they’ve tried to do to others, such as Marco Rubio in Florida and Ted Cruz in Texas. Many in the GOP establishment, such as this former RNC research director, opine for the days when the Tea Party – which he grossly mischaracterizes and caricatures in his article – will disappear and the “moderate voices” can be back in control.
Most recently – and most openly – has been the purge of genuine, small-government conservatives from committee leadership positions in the US House of Representatives by none other than Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and other GOP “leaders” in that body. Earlier this week, several conservative legislators were removed from their positions leading important House committees, apparently because they had been consistent in bucking House leadership on a number of votes – votes where the GOP leadership was pushing for more and bigger government, and the individual Congressmen voted their principles. This list includes Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), David Schweikart (R-AZ), Justin Amash (R-MI), and Walter Jones (R-NC) – each having voted for principles over politics too often for Weepin’ John Boehner to be comfortable with them. Scuttlebutt suggests that these conservatives were purged from their committee positions ahead of a proposed “compromise” by Republican House leadership with the Obama administration over taxes, spending, and the looming “fiscal cliff,” one in which Boehner and Co. plan to largely accede to the President’s demands without receiving much in return.
This turn of events got a lot of attention – much more than such power plays by establishment types usually do. This is because it represented a nearly unprecedented step by the leadership with the GOP to openly punish conservatives for, well, being and acting conservative. This represents a new line breached, a moral event horizon that has been crossed, from which the GOP may not be able to return no matter how much energy it applies in rescuing itself. Conservative activists nationwide were not slow in seeing what was done, and in drawing the intended conclusions from it. The Republican leadership was telling conservatives, liberty lovers, and Tea Partiers that they will not, under any circumstances, be allowed to oppose the establishment or to actually act on the conservative principles that they were elected to Washington D.C. to represent. In effect, it wasn’t just conservative legislators who were being telegraphed this message, but all the conservative voters back home in flyover country as well.
Conservatives – we only need you to vote us back into office. After that, sit down and shut up.
Keep in mind, it was the entire conservative movement being told this, too. Social conservatives have complained for years that they are marginalized. Well, this move by Boehner was aimed at fiscal conservatives as well. If you’re a fiscal conservative who cares about smaller, less-expensive government, lower taxes, and other pocketbook issues – the GOP is shuffling you off to the great beyond as well. In essence, there seems to be no place for genuine, Reagan-style movement conservatism in the Republican Party.
Of course, if the establishment had been able to have its way previously, this would have happened decades ago. Looking back, the GOP since the 1950s has been largely controlled at the leadership level by a self-perpetuating cadre of Rockefeller-type Republicans. These were the same ones who refused to stand up for Goldwater against the scurrilous attacks made on him in the 1964 election, and they’re the same ones who tried to kneecap Ronald Reagan’s chance at the Presidency. They tried to overthrow Newt Gingrich from the Speakership in 1997 (Boehner was in on that one, too), and though they failed, they managed to damage his credibility and leadership enough that he left the House after the next election. The evidence is clear – the leadership of the Republican Party has consistently sought to find common cause with Democrats, even at the expense of the more principled conservative members of its party and elected officials.
Politicians like Boehner, Cantor, and McCarthy (the three involved with the recent purge), as well as more well-known “moderate” Republicans are often labeled with the derisive term “RINO” (Republican in Name Only). I don’t believe this is really an accurate term, however. Calling someone a “RINO” implies that this person, because of their squishiness or their overt liberalism, is an outlier in the Party, that they are a small minority floating among a sea of principles conservatives who are the “real” Republicans. Yet, this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Instead, the “RINOs” seem to be the mainstream in the Republican Party. In the very least, they seem to be the only people who count for anything in the Party anymore, unlike the “base” which has no apparent power or influence. Indeed, conservatives are the RINOs – people who are out of step with the Republican Party by virtue of their stand on conservative, small-government, constitutional, pro-America principles.
All of this brings up the obvious question – why should conservatives and liberty lovers continue to support a Party that not only takes us for granted (that would be bad enough), but which, in reality, actively works against us when it gets the chance?
It is high time to repeal and replace the Republican Party. During the 2012 election season, there were many people who were unhappy that the GOP had stuck us with yet another squishy, spineless centrist-pretending-to-be-a-conservative and who were calling for conservatives to support third party candidates of various types. Initially, I was one of these, until I thought better of it after contemplating Benghazi and imagining what four more years of Obama would be like. The middle of an election is not the time to try to deconstruct a political party and build another on its foundation.
But now…now, things are different. The GOP lost the election because it gave nothing but platitudes and empty promises to conservatives. In the post-election fallout, the Republican punditocracy and establishment elite have consistently drawn the wrong conclusions on just about everything: immigration, abortion, the budget, spending, taxes, as it rushes to remain “relevant” in the eyes of Democrats and the media by giving away the farm across the board. Refusing to even consider the possibility that the election was defrauded (as suggested by the more than 70,000 known “irregularities” in the process across the country), they instead want to refrain from “rocking the boat” and focus on pinning the electoral loss on conservatism – if only we’d pushed for amnesty, we could have won the Hispanic vote (not actually true) or if we’d have just shut up about abortion, we could have won the youth vote (also not true). The establishment never stops to consider that driving its own base away while diluting its message and thus appearing weak and wishy-washy to low-information voters is a sure-fire formula for losing elections.
So let’s be done with the Republican Party. It is an institution that is well past its prime, and for anyone who cares about America and who wants to put principles above politics it can have no sentimental hold on our loyalties. The Republican brand is now the New Coke of the political world, outwardly and vocally promoted by a few hard-core loyalists, but otherwise leaving a bad taste in the mouths of everybody who partake.
I know there are some who will argue that we just have to “recapture” the GOP for conservatism (itself a false premise that assumes that conservatives ever “had” the GOP in the first place). Really? We’ve been trying to do that since the Reagan years – and it hasn’t worked. Indeed, the squishy politicos have a firmer hold on the GOP now than they have ever had before – which is why they feel confident enough to purge conservatives the way they did earlier this week. The notion that we’re going to be able to pursue some grand scheme of “capturing the county Parties, then moving up to the state Parties, and from there taking the national Party over” is simply wishful thinking. I no longer believe it will happen. People who think they can do this are the same people who find themselves outmaneuvered time and time again by sneaky, gavel-wielding convention chairs who use every rule at their disposal to make sure this exact thing never happens. Seriously folks, don’t you think the GOP elite has already thought about the possibility that people might try this, and taken steps to make sure it doesn’t happen? What do you think the rules-legerdemain at the national convention that cut Tea Partiers out of decision-making power was all about? While we may sometimes be able to snag control of a county Party apparatus, anything higher has more or less automatic controls put in place by the GOP elite to prevent such demotic uprisings from going any further. No people, the GOP elite is there to stay, and the only turnover is going be the bringing in of new blood who can be corrupted by the inside-the-beltway ways of the GOP-E.
The obvious answer is to create a new organization over which the GOP-E has no control, either directly or indirectly through its tentacles of extra-partisan associations. This wouldn’t be as tough as some might think. The main impediment is simply the institutional “drag” that the GOP has on the minds of conservatives who still labor under the delusion that the GOP “has” to be their political vehicle. Hithertofore, conservatives have allowed their political battered wife syndrome to make them keep coming back to the Republican Party, no matter how badly it treats them. This has to end – and when it does, I think we would see a shift to this hypothetical new party a lot faster and more extensively than many would think possible.
After all, who is it that really makes up the body of the Republican Party? The base – rank-and-file conservatives at the local, grass-roots level. My proposal would really amount to simply keeping the body but replacing the head. It would be great if entire local and county GOP groups would migrate to the new party in toto. Funding could come from Tea Party groups and other organizations that are with us institutionally. Once the break becomes serious enough, we’d probably even see a number of conservative elected Republicans jump ship to a Party that would be their more natural home and which would offer them opportunities that the GOP leadership currently denies them.
What should the platform for this proposed new Party be? Simply put – constitutionalism, fiscal soundness, traditional values, and peace through strength. In other words, the combination built by Ronald Reagan that got him into office, despite the machinations of the GOP-E in his day. The focus of this party must be on personal liberty – making the case that the government is simply too large, too intrusive, and too overweening. It must make the case that opposition to abortion and gay marriage is not the threat to liberty, but the Party that seeks to tell you what kind of light bulbs you can buy, what kind of toilets you can have, what you can build on your own property, whether you can have salt and trans-fats in your food, forces you to buy health insurance at inflated prices or pay a fine, whether you can grow food on your own land, how many miles per gallon your car has to get, how you have to raise and educate your children, denies religious liberty, tries to take away your means of self-defense, and censors publications that it disagrees with – it is the threat to liberty. A new Party must be a Party that stands for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Any new party that conservatives build must seek to find ways to circumvent the information blockade that the mainstream media has on the flow of knowledge in this country. Create our own news media. Reach out to low information voters directly by pamphlet, by mail, by word of mouth, instead of trying to weave our way through the media roadblocks. Expend the energy needed to educate Americans in the principles of liberty. Don’t just tell them we want tax cuts, explain to them why tax cuts stimulate economic growth, and that even “tax cuts for the rich” end up helping everyone. Make the case for the social issues we hold dear. Any ideological movement – even one that is intrinsically correct – will wither and desiccate if it simply rests on its laurels and expects victories three decades previous to continue to make the case for it today.
As I pointed out in a previous essay, any new conservative Party will have to find ways to reach out to the “mushy middle,” as much as some of the more hard-core conservative activist types don’t like to contemplate such a move. The difference, then, must be in the way this is done. The wrong way – which the GOP has been doing (I think purposefully, with the intention of further diluting conservative power) – is to simply water down your ideological principles until they are meaningless, and hence non-threatening to our ideological opponents. This has been the premise and result of the decades-long “big tent” approach. The right way is to demonstrate strong leadership in standing on principles and advancing our agenda, while concurrently reaching out to those in “the middle” by explaining, enlightening, and engaging them. We can neither kowtow to them nor ignore them. Psychologically, people respond to strong leadership. This was part of Reagan’s secret. When a person or Party stands for what it says it does and doesn’t waver and waffle, people respect this, and it draws people to them. When they are constantly reneging on what they say they believe, or otherwise demonstrating weakness, people hold this in contempt. This is why the term “flipflopper” is one of the more potent insults in American political vocabulary.
We have a seemingly unique opportunity for conservatives and liberty lovers to bring about a sea change in the American political system. Because the way our system is set up virtually guarantees that we will have a two-Party system, the answer is not simply to generate yet another third party while refusing to engage the real problem of the Republican Party’s continued existence. Instead, we must seek to encourage a broad-based shift to a genuine second Party that will present a true alternative to the current two-headed big-government Party currently in power in D.C. We have roughly two years in which to accomplish this. Let’s make it happen.