Earlier this year, the conventional wisdom was that the moderate establishment had taken control of the GOP back from the Tea Party and other “extremists.” With Dave Brat defeating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Chris McDaniel receiving the plurality of the votes in the primary for Senate in Mississippi earlier this month it appeared to be reversed. Now, with Cochran’s defeat of McDaniel in the runoff and my loss to Bob Beauprez in the Colorado gubernatorial primary, many are calling the deaths again.
The Cook Political Report argued, “Reports of [the Tea Party’s] death were premature and reports of their resurgence are premature.” Politico now says that Eric Cantor’s defeat was an “exception in a year that’s otherwise gone well for the establishment.”
While I don’t think the importance of Cantor’s defeat can be underestimated, it’s hard to argue with these statements. The establishment candidates won many primaries, even in very conservative states. However, I believe that the scorched earth tactics they used against candidates such as McDaniel and me may make these victories pyrrhic.
I am the first to admit that I am not the greatest campaign strategist or political analyst. My policy has always been to say what I believe to be in the best interest of the American people and hope the voters agree, or at least will respect my honesty.
So I will not make any claims about how these tactics will discourage the GOP grassroots and reduce turnout in November, though this may very well be the case.
Rather, why I believe these victories will ultimately harm the Republican Party’s prospects is that the establishment has accepted, and in some cases utilized, left-wing tactics against their conservative opponents, which will legitimize these claims when they are ultimately used against other Republicans in November.
What do I mean by this?
In my race, former GOP Chair Dick Wadhams claimed that if I won, I would become the “defining face” of the GOP and bring down the party because of the many “outrageous” things I’ve supposedly said. Calling me a toxic racist then makes it much easier for the Democrats to attack every single Republican who has ever said anything nice about me. Currently, the left is hounding Congressman Mike Coffman, who has been redistricted into a heavily Hispanic district, for his praise of me. They will no doubt use this against Bob Beauprez, who did not engage in any of the ad hominem attacks against me, and who I fully support in the general election.
The negative attacks on me pale in comparison to the establishment attacks on McDaniel. As most people know by now, the Cochran campaigned encouraged African American Democratic voters to vote in the Republican primary by running race-baiting ads against McDaniels. One stated, “the Tea Party intends to prevent blacks from voting on Tuesday.” The ad claims that when McDaniel spoke of preventing Democrats from voting in the Republican primary, “We all know the Tea Party uses ‘Democrats’ as code for ‘African Americans'” and then accused McDaniel of making “racist comments” (presumably referring to his opposition to reparations for slavery) and opposing increased funding for food stamps.
Cochran’s campaign even used attenuated guilt by association techniques against donors. One McDaniel contributor, an attorney named Carl Ford, is apparently a member of the pro-Confederate group called the League of the South and once defended a Klansmen in a murder trial. Cochran’s spokesman said it was “troubling” because of it was indicative of “Chris McDaniel and the company he keeps.”
I had never heard of Mr. Ford before this became a campaign issue. Ford responded that he never supported the Klan and that he was just an associate who was assigned the case of a Klansman. Regardless of whether he is telling the truth, he had no connection to McDaniel beyond that contribution. He also contributed to other Republican politicians like Rand Paul and Alan Nunlee. He even supported Thad Cochran in the past.
In 2006, the Southern Poverty Law Center attacked me for speaking at a meeting which they wrongly stated was organized by the League of the South. However, apparently a large number of League of the South as well as fellow “hate group” the Council of Conservative Citizens showed up, as did many prominent Republicans, including the state’s Lt. Governor.
Both Cochran and his biggest backer Haley Barbour have spoken at events organized by the Council of Conservative Citizens. By engaging in this type of attenuated guilt by association, they are helping open up every single Republican who has received a contribution from someone who was allegedly “racist” for more smears.
As November 4 approaches, expect to hear more Democrats and their media allies attacking Republicans, both conservative and establishment, for using “racial codewords,” receiving contributions from supposed racists, and calling opposition to various liberal policies as racist.
Republicans will rightly denounce these accusations as spurious and divisive, but the GOP establishment’s use of these same techniques and tactics will give them unnecessary legitimacy.