The GOP Establishment we keep hearing about is real, and it is also doomed.
That will not change whether the Establishment’s candidate Mitt Romney wins in November or not. After the election, the battle really starts; what is happening now are just skirmishes in a fight for control of the Republican Party. Not the soul of the party – if it had one, it auctioned it off long ago – but the mechanism of the party. The Grand Old Party matters only as a vehicle to carry our banner forward.
To do that, we need to seize control, and we do that by destroying the Establishment starting next November 7th.
Superficially, it might seem that we – the outsiders, the Tea Party, the conservatives, whatever the label – are outgunned by opponents with their hands on the reins of power, money in amounts we can’t hope to match, and pals in the media backing them. But if we understand our strengths, and our opponents’ weaknesses, we can not only compete but eventually prevail.
First, let’s understand our opponent.
The GOP Establishment
is an amorphous entity composed of politicians, media types, consultants, writers, lobbyists, party hacks and donors whose first priority is protecting their positions and privileges. Power, and holding onto it, is more important than ideology. That’s where we conservatives differ – we have no formal power or position, so changing the power structure doesn't scare us. We have nothing to lose; the GOP Establishment has everything to lose.
So, how do we beat it?
The Oscar-nominated film Moneyball
tells the story of the Oakland A’s of the early 2000’s and how it had to adapt to compete with clubs like the Yankees with payrolls four times its size. Under manager Billy Beane, the club reassessed what it thought it knew about baseball, gained a clear understanding of what made a team successful, and then focused ruthlessly on the long game to build a winning team.
What is the key to winning? In baseball, it is runs – you get enough runs over the course of a year, you tend to be a winning team. That’s the long game; the short game is the game tomorrow afternoon. It's nice to win that fight too, but the secret of moneyball is building success over time by playing the numbers.
In politics, winning takes the form of offices. You win enough political offices, you eventually become the establishment. And that’s what we want - numbers, as in numbers of offices our people hold. We want our vision of a free market, Constitution-based, strong America to become the nation’s social paradigm – the right wing equivalent of the left’s current campaign to turn America into a western European welfarocracy. We do that by getting our people into office in ever greater numbers over time.
That’s the long game, and we won’t lose it.
We won’t lose it because, despite what you see in the media and the rise of moderate Mitt, all of the energy and all of the excitement is with us. All of it – a bunch of BYU kids bussed into Florida to yell at a Romney rally is not “excitement.” It’s an admission of defeat.
The most important part of the Tea Party/conservatives’ rise since 2009 has not been its remarkably rapid rise to significance and its ability to affect marquee elections in 2010. That’s the short game, and while it matters, what matters more is that it drew huge numbers of conservatives into the political process.
The next generation of GOP leaders will be Tea Party/conservatives. They are the folks starting out now to compete for the kind of local and state party and political offices that lay the foundation for the party’s future. These offices are vital – they are our farm team, a place for future congressional and senate candidates to gain experience and build resumes while implementing Constitutional conservative policies right now that will improve voters’ lives and win them over to our cause.
Billy Beane’s strategy was to find undervalued players – essentially, to sign players who got a lot of hits but didn’t cost much. Why pay $7 million for a guy who gets on base 35% of the time when you can pay $600,000 for two guys who each do it 30% of the time? He bought runs; we "buy" offices, and our currency is commitment, passion and effort.
We are uniquely positioned to do it. In this environment, the moderates and squishy pseudo-cons that for so long dominated GOP lower offices will be scared off by the volatility of the Tea Party/conservative base. It’s the Tea Party/conservatives who will be motivated to run, who have the excited backers to man phone banks and walk precincts, who have the passion for it. Being a precinct captain or central committee member is a pain - you need to really want to do it. And we do.
Of course, there is no way to centrally implement the strategy like Billy Beane did – he picked the players and built his team. As the Tea Party/conservatives have shown, they are self-organizing – they don’t need a centralized organization to operate. Conservative groups can facilitate the trend – running candidate boot camps, perhaps throwing a few dollars to down-ticket races – but this trend is happening on its own. It’s grassroots, not astroturf.
The GOP establishment, by definition, is centralized. That can be an advantage, at least in the major races. There’s no question that the GOP Establishment has the edge in the short game – the money Mitt used to nuke his opponents proves that. But the Establishment has little ability to influence anything except the most important and visible races – it’s neither that powerful, nor that rich, nor that organized. This leaves a void that only we Tea Party/conservatives can fill.
So, in the long game, we will take over the GOP from the current GOP Establishment. The old guard will die out, whether retiring, getting primaried out or being caught tap dancing in airport restrooms. There’s no coming wave of button-down, “sensible” moderates honing their skills as school board members and rural water panel commissioners.
We are the future. That’s the long game. In a decade, the GOP Establishment we know today will be gone, swept away by time, disillusionment and voter disgust. The nomination of Romney – which seems likely – will be its last hurrah.
Yes, if Romney wins, expect the GOP Establishment to decide that it didn’t need us. And if it loses, expect it to blame us. Who cares? Let it revise history all it likes; its denial and smugness will only keep it from undertaking the kind of serious intropsection that might save it.
The GOP Establishment is a zombie, a dead power structure walking. It will get a few punches in before it goes down – Exhibit A is Mitt, Exhibit B the pile of bodies that were the Not-Mitts – but go down it will.
The short game is important too as a supporting effort. Understanding your strategic situation is a key to success, and that sometimes requires accepting hard truths. The fact is that we are probably only a slight majority of a minority political party. America is not a Tea Party/conservative nation – not yet. That’s another critical reason to work at the grassroots and locally, to start implementing policies that will sway more Americans to our banner. But in the short term, we simply are not strong enough to seize and hold the reins of power at the highest levels of government.
The Tea Party/Constitutional conservative movement is still an immature movement, not in the sense that it is childish but in the sense that we have not yet fully grown to our full strength. We are having growing pains. Candidates like the ridiculous Christine O’Donnell or failed Joe Miller in Alaska in 2010 were simply sub-par, but that was not because Tea Partiers are inherently incompetent but because we lacked experience and ended up with some flakes.
That will happen less and less as we grow savvier. And conservatives will have less need to rally around massively flawed candidates with questionable non-Establishment credentials like Newt Gingrich. We can and will do better.
That is not to say we should not fight in the short term; we can and should. The conservative alternatives to Mitt, while each failed for their own reasons, still forced him to the right and are keeping him there. The threat to Orrin Hatch, who saw his squish buddy Bob Bennett tossed out by Tea Party/conservative backers of the awesome Senator Mike Lee, has turned him sharply back to the right. This is good.
Richard Lugar is now learning the Tea Party/conservatives are not to be trifled with as Richard Mourdock hits him with a primary challenge. Also good. Fear is our friend – if these spineless weather vanes are afraid of us at election time, maybe they’ll vote like conservatives in the off-years.
We need to start planning now for the battle after the election. If Barack Obama was not such a fundamental threat to the foundation of our democracy, it might be conceivable not to support likely nominee Mitt Romney. As it is, not voting for Romney is a vote for Obama, and the situation is simply too perilous not to do everything possible to toss Obama out in November. We need to back Mitt even though we will get no credit for doing so.
If Romney wins, the focus needs to be on keeping him on the right despite his squishy instincts. The best way to do that is to elect the most conservative Congress possible – and to draw a line in the sand on compromises over issues like repealing Obamacare. We need to not be shy about the potential for a conservative primary challenger in 2016.
If Obama wins, our goal needs to be to steel the limp noodle spines of the GOP Establishment to fight a no quarter rearguard action against this lawless administration until 2016 rolls around with a crop of potential candidates who won’t seem to have piled out of a clown car.
The key to leveraging wimpy senators and representatives? The 2014 elections and the ruthless primarying of non-performers. There is nothing an incumbent hates more than the specter of a brutal primary – and at age five years, the Tea Party/conservatives will have a lot more experienced, savvy candidates looking to move up and ready to strike if they sense weakness in the guy holding what they see as their next job. Again, fear of the ballot box is our ally.
Besides political offices, the Tea Party has a unique capability to undercut the current GOP-oriented media/think tank establishment. Much of the conservative media and academia are already Tea Party/conservative-friendly. The rest will find themselves marginalized more and more if they continue to distance themselves from the Tea Party/conservative insurgency. And the Tea Party/conservative insurgency is, of course, actively creating its own outlets (like Big Government and the other Breitbart sites) as well as institutions and events, like BlogCon 2012
Here are the facts: We are getting stronger every day. They are getting weaker. And a little political moneyball – putting our strengths against their weaknesses in the long game – will do a great deal to hasten the GOP Establishment’s demise.
And no one will miss it.