Those of us who follow the tenets of conservatism know the tired, worn-out campaign catchwords and phrases well: extremist, radical, fanatic, zealot, racist, arsonist.
And the sad part is that most of these insults originate not from Democrats but from our fellow Republicans, who engender despicable primary disputes, making the Left’s job much easier in general elections.
This is precisely why Ronald Reagan crafted his famous 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.
Reagan, however, was not implying that we should never criticize or even challenge other Republicans, as he himself challenged a sitting GOP President in 1976, only that we should refrain from the kind of harsh and vile attack lines that Democrats utilize against us.
Although the 2016 presidential race is more than a year away, anti-conservative mudslinging is already in full swing. Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign was minutes old when the establishment piled on him with full force and vigor, with the essence of their assaults being that he was too extreme to win the nomination or the general election. And when Senator Rand Paul announced his candidacy, he too was immediately ridiculed.
Unfortunately, I am familiar with such tactics. In my 2014 campaign for US Senate, I did not denigrate Thad Cochran with attack words. I respected him and showed him the courtesy he deserved. But in his few public remarks, Cochran used harsh rhetoric, calling me an “extremist” who was too “dangerous” to serve in Washington, an attack promoted by the Huffington Post.
The Cochran camp then took the smear strategy to new heights during the three week run-off in June and convinced thousands of our fellow Mississippians, mostly Democrats who crossed over to save his candidacy, that I was somehow a racist who wanted to throw the poorest people out in the street, take away all government programs, and even close down the shipbuilding industry on the coast. Nothing could be further from the truth.
With such vile accusations, it appears some of our fellow Republicans would prefer to see a Democrat in office rather than those who follow conservative principles without apology.
So, that begs the question, since they never define the term: What does it mean to be an extremist?
What is more “extreme,” a desire to balance the budget quickly by eliminating unnecessary and wasteful spending, thereby stopping the spiraling national debt; or an insistence on continuing the current level of spending without regard to future generations until our economy collapses because of a Keynesian belief that government has a major role to play in the economy?
Who is more “zealous,” a conservative who wants to reform entitlements so that they will exist for youth of today; or an establishment politician who sides with Democrats in denouncing as “extreme” any conservative plans to institute true reform?
Who is more “radical,” an officeholder who desires to uphold his oath of office and follow all of the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, as written by our Founders and ratified by every state in the Union; or one who employs a cafeteria approach and believes we can choose which parts of the Constitution to follow and which ones to ignore, choosing only to value liberty when it is convenient?
Who should be considered an “arsonist,” a candidate who believes in the rule of law, that America is a nation governed by laws and not men; or one who believes appointed federal judges can and should fabricate law at will?
Who is more “dangerous,” a candidate who believes that every child, born or unborn, is a gift from God and who has a longing to save the life of every child in the womb, ensuring unborn children all the rights enumerated in the Constitution; or one who compromises such sacred principles in order to win an election?
What is more “fanatical,” one who wants to gradually end our unsustainable welfare state and improve our economy so that those on public assistance can obtain good, high-paying jobs, climb the ladder of opportunity, and achieve the American Dream; or one who wants to keep a failed system in place and mire the poor in more poverty, misery, and squalor with no way to escape?
To accept the argument that Cruz and Paul are radicals is to abandon common sense and traditional conservative thought, not to mention the national GOP platform. To believe the smear of their “unelectability” is to effectively acknowledge the end of the Reagan revolution.
So why the internal strife? Why are conservatives vilified?
Candidates like Cruz and Paul love and value our country more than our party, while the established order often places the party above the country. Put simply, some see the party as an engine that can help them get rich off the backs of the taxpayers, and it shows with their policies. Even worse, establishment politicians tend to worship power, prestige, personalities and large corporate donors more than they value the party’s core principles.
But conservatives adhere to principles and see the party not as a machine for self-aggrandizement and personal advancement but as a means of promoting liberty, the lasting interests of all the people.
Adherence to conviction makes us targets.
But it is a worthwhile fight and one we must win.