The DC GOP and its attendants in the punditry are bent on diminishing the influence of conservatism generally and the tea party specifically. Its been this way for a long time. The DC GOP establishment mobilized all its resources, for example, to stop Ronald Reagan from winning the nomination in 1980. This opposition is mostly because adherence to conservative principles would force them to take positions that are unpopular in Washington’s salons.
They will use virtually any election result to argue that GOP candidates need to “moderate” their position away from strict conservative beliefs. Even after the GOP wave election in 2010, the DC GOP argued that conservative, tea-party backed candidates had prevented the GOP from posting even more wins. After the Party’s epic loss last week, conservatives are again being blamed for costing the GOP victory. It is utter bunk.
The truth is, conservative, tea-party backed nominees make terrible candidates–except when they don’t. For every Sharon Angle or Christine O’Donnell, there is a Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) or Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Yes, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock were flawed candidates, but so were establishment figures like Connie Mack and Linda McMahon. Bad campaigns lose. Sometimes these bad campaigns are headed by conservative candidates. Other times, by moderate, establishment candidates. Congressmen Dennie Rehberg and Rick Berg both lost high-profile, very winnable Senate races. Neither would ever be confused with a conservative, tea-party candidate.
And if the more moderate Republican loses a primary, that should be an indictment on their campaign or their record, not some negative reflection of the party’s most loyal voters. Dick Lugar was on track to win his primary against Mourdock this year, until it was discovered that Lugar didn’t actually have a home in Indiana. Only in Washington does it seem reasonable that an elected official can represent a state without actually living there. According to the DC GOP, Indiana primary voters “blew” a safe seat because they took offense that their Senator didn’t live in the state. This thinking is exactly backward.
Conservatives and the tea party are the most misunderstood phenomenon in American politics. The overwhelming majority of us just want to be damn well left alone. The growth of the tea party was a gift to the Republican party. It provided an active and energized base of activists and volunteers who could be utilized in campaigns. In 2010, this organic outpouring produced the most decisive GOP victory in history. The GOP won seats up and down the ballot, capturing Governors’ offices, state legislative chambers and an innumerable host of local offices.
And, then, the DC GOP squandered it.
By the end of 2011, the DC GOP was avoiding the tea party. Never fully understanding that the mainstream media is an active participant against them, the GOP bought into its narrative that the tea party were “extremists” who didn’t fully appreciate how politics is supposed to work.
The GOP and the Romney campaign not only ignored their base; they neglected to even try to turn out their base. Worse, they didn’t press any of their advantages against Obama. Fast and Furious? Never heard of it. Insider Trading? Yawn. Solyndra and GM/Delphi pension theft? Move along.
2012 represented a strategic mis-calculation by the GOP and the Romney campaign. They based their entire appeal to the mythical “center” of the American electorate. They would base their campaign on winning the support of low-information, low-propensity voters who are among the more fickle people in the world.
In short, the GOP ignored its base. In return, the base ignored them on election day.