Why the GOP is So Divided
The following is an excerpt from the new book Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.
Several times during the 2012 campaign I had newspaper reporters from across the country contact me for my take on what Mitt Romney has to do to rally his base for the general election. I always told them they were asking the wrong question.
The question isn’t whether or not Romney would be able to successfully rally his base—the question is whether or not he actually wants to.
His people demanded Republican National Committee members sign some ham-fisted “loyalty pledge” that smacks of a George Orwell plot device. His people tried to alter the party rules to stifle the increasing Tea Party/liberty influence. If this was Romney wanting to woo us, he had a funny way of showing it. Romney wouldn’t even eat a chicken sandwich with his base.
Ladies, imagine for a second the guy you’re interested in rarely if ever calls, takes no initiative to show you he cares, but then turns around and demands you give him the attention he desires whenever the mood suits him. After a while your girlfriends would urge you to salvage whatever shred of dignity you had left and admit that “he’s just not that into you.”
Let me share with you what I have learned fighting the Republican Party establishment through two presidential primary cycles, and what I shared with these reporters.
At best the Republican Party establishment views its grassroots base as what kids today would refer to as a hook-up or a booty call. At worst they outright hate us, because we’re the reason GOP cronyists don’t get away with pillaging and plundering the public trough for their buddies with the same reckless abandon as the Democrats.
The golden rule to them is “he who has the gold gets to make the rules.” I’m not saying they don’t care about the future of the country, it’s just they define what’s best for the future a lot differently than you or I do. We must come to grips with the fact the Party of Reagan isn’t the party of Reagan. Reagan was the Republican Party’s aberration. From Ford, to Reagan, to both Bushes, to Dole, to McCain, and to Romney – one of these things is not like the other.
And it’s Reagan.
These people tolerate us at best, and despise us at worst. They define their leadership by our followership. To them leadership isn’t about setting an example of boldness and courage in advancing our principles; it’s about getting the people and constituencies you presume to be under your control to do what you want them to do. A mainstream media reporter once told me off the record, “These ruling class Republicans you speak of really do think they’re entitled to your vote.”
But that’s the Republican Party establishment: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory since 1976.
This brings me to the sixth commandment: never, ever abandon your base (unless they’re morally wrong).
The Republican Party establishment always ends up fighting a two-front war between its own base and the Democrats. Meanwhile, the Democrats come across as a united front. While that’s not always the case, it appears that way because the Republican Party establishment consistently violates this commandment.
An example from my own state’s legislature illustrates my point.
The Democrat state senate leader in my state is a fearless, hard-left ideologue. The sort of leader you love when he’s on your team, hate when he’s not. I can’t recall a single time he’s backed down to the Republicans on anything in the last five years. He ruthlessly pushes his agenda and rules with an iron fist. If any somewhat moderate Democrats (hey, I live in the heartland, there might still be a few) get squishy, they get rolled. On the other hand, he protects the true believers with all his might. This sends a message: if you’re on board with the ideological agenda we’ve got your back, if you’re not we don’t.
Wouldn’t you love this guy to be a conservative?
Then there was the Republican speaker in my statehouse. He views himself as a consensus builder, not an ideologue—which really means he’s middle management. He doesn’t like to bring things up for a vote unless they’ll pass and everyone in his majority is on the same page. His number one goal is not to advance the issues in the party platform, rather it is to maintain a “family atmosphere” and turn conservatives into “team players.” He’s not a general, he’s a babysitter.
You know, like John Boehner.
After getting the majority, he backed down on allowing votes on protecting Second Amendment rights and the sanctity of life in an effort to protect the squishiest in his own caucus, who didn’t want grassroots conservatives to know where they truly stood on the issues in order to avoid being primaried. He put consensus ahead of convictions, and by doing so drove a wedge right through the middle of his own base.
His problem is the newly elected conservatives of 2010 didn’t go to my state capitol to play footsy with Democrats and hold a never-ending schedule of fundraisers. They went there to get things done and go home. So instead of falling in line with the rest of the groupthink, they used procedural motions to force Second Amendment and pro-life votes over the leadership’s wishes.
By standing for unity for unity’s sake, and not unifying his caucus around the principles that make us Republicans in the first place, my Republican speaker ended up fanning the very flames of conservative insurrection he was trying to douse. In the spring of 2012 my state had a record number of primaries, and the Republicrats lost almost all of them. The Republican Party establishment tried to blame it on redistricting, but the Democrats faced redistricting, too, and didn’t face this level of internal turmoil.
Why is that?
Because their leader was leading on their issues. Our leader was the blind leading the blind. The Democrat leadership in my state legislature united around holding the line for the child killers, moral depravity lobby, educrats, and statists. The Republican leadership in my state legislature united around how they could diffuse conservative zeal so as to not offend the child killers, moral depravity lobby, educrats, and statists. One approach leads to a united base. The other abandons your base and leads to a two-front war.
A similar scene played out nationally during the great, overhyped government shutdown of 2013. Rather than hold the line on defunding Obamacare, a majority of Senate Republicans sided with Harry Reid and against Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and the American people. Rather than holding the line on defunding Obamacare, House Speaker John Boehner used Democrat votes to cave.
This is what happens when you don’t stand united on principle, but are a movement run by shills, gutless cowards, and feckless bureaucrats. There is no other way to spin this. Obama completely routed Republican “leadership.” He removed the manly parts of the Republican leadership and showed it to them on a national stage. He completely de-panted them.
Obama hasn’t done much right during his presidency, which is why when the chips are down he knows he can always pick a fight with Republican “leadership.” They have acted as his reliable slump-buster throughout his presidency, and this time they came through big time.
Begrudgingly, give the devil his due. These statist progressives really know how to play the game. Then again, it helps when you actually believe in your cause. Right now, the people running “our side” don’t believe in ours.
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