By Josh May
One of the most common criticisms of the right by the left is something along the lines of, “There go the Republicans again, same old same old.” The attack is meant to imply that the GOP has no fresh ideas, sticks to the same outdated philosophy, election after election and offers nothing new or positive for the country. As a conservative, I would be expected to refute this. I do not.
I’m not talking about the GOP platform- on the whole, I’m rather pleased with it, and anyone saying the GOP is out of ingenious ideas clearly hasn’t taken the time to read any budget Paul Ryan has ever made. I am referring, instead, to the particular fetish that the GOP establishment has of purposefully sabotaging its own candidates and their electoral chances. Recently, this has come down to a death struggle between the establishment (I’m looking at you, Boehner, Priebus and McConnell) and their cronies (McCain and Romney, inter alia) against the genuine conservatives of the party: Tea Party warriors like Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, and Ken Cuccinelli. Going against both the traditional roots of the party and the ever-increasing groundswell of popular support, the establishment appears to have made it their goal in life to torpedo the campaigns of anyone who does not fit the bland, boring, moderate mold.
The rationale is perfectly clear. Most Republican voters are, wonder of all wonders, conservative and proud of it. They look fondly upon the legacies of Ronald Reagan, Calvin Coolidge and Barry Goldwater, and they hold dear the bedrock constitutional principles our nation was founded on. Faced with such an intimidating forbearance of power, the moderates who run the party rightfully fear for their jobs. Their power base is in money, not voters, but all too frequently they have found a profitable exchange rate between the two. So, with moderates clasping desperately to power and conservatives hell-bent on getting it back, a confrontation is inevitable, and in a proper democratic system, healthy. What is not healthy, however, is the extent to which the establishment has gone to attack the “enemy.”
The 2012 Republican primary was my first election. I remember watching the very first debate and knowing very few, if any, of the men onstage. I took notes after each man answered, taking care to thoroughly research each one of them to see who I liked. After a few weeks and lots of investigation, I settled on Senator Rick Santorum, who I think everyone can agree was the most conservative of the bunch by a mile. I was delighted to see his success in debate, and I kept the faith even when 3% in the polls was a miracle. As time went on and successive candidates dropped out of the race, and Santorum’s poll numbers slowly grew, I prayed for a miracle. The Iowa Caucuses, however, soon shattered any illusion I had had about party politics. Although Santorum was declared the eventual winner, attempts by the media (about whose leanings I nursed no illusions) and the GOP establishment, particularly Romney, to besmirch, degrade and belittle the campaign ended up costing Rick his momentum. As the campaign turned into an unquestioned Santorum-Romney two-man show (just please go away, Newt), I watched as big money and Establishment reactionaries shut Rick out on every front. As we all know, Romney eventually won, and Santorum had to settle for increased name recognition.
Still, I was naive enough to hope that this was a one-off thing, that the establishment truly believed that Romney was (ahem) “severely conservative.” I didn’t really remember the particulars of the 2008 election, but hearing other conservatives describe Romney as “just another McCain and Dole” really got me thinking about the disturbing tendency of moderates winning nomination of the premier right-wing party. I wouldn’t have to wait long to see the results of that awful primary season- Romney was trounced in the polls against a very beatable and very vulnerable president, and he had only himself to blame for it. The key factor, I would read in later days, may have been the fact that many conservatives and values voters had stayed home rather than vote for someone they saw as no different than Obama- a collective decision that may have made the difference in Ohio and Virginia. I, myself came very close to voting third party but decided finally that almost anything was better than Obama, and voted Romney.
I have come to regret that choice following the 2013 gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia. There was never a doubt that Christie would win resoundingly (I never once even heard the name of his opponent), and the GOP stood a very good chance of keeping the critical swing state of Virginia in GOP hands. But where did the vast majority of the funding, clout and attention of the establishment go to? New Jersey. Terrified of Ken Cuccinelli’s rising star, the moderates in power knew they had to act decisively against him as they had Santorum. Something about those Italian Catholic family men just doesn’t sit right with the likes of Boehner and Priebus. So, effectively abandoning Cuccinelli to the slaughterhouse of the Clintons’ advertising machine, the GOP washed their hands a la Pontius Pilate. The Democrats have now taken Virginia, rubber stamping their 2016 victory there and losing us a crucial swing state.
This is an untenable and unacceptable situation. Conservatives and the American population at large appreciate bold colors, not pale pastels, and they will only be moved by great visionaries, men of resolute character and standing in stark contrast to the incumbent. That’s how Ronald Reagan pulled off the greatest landslides in our country’s history, winning 49 states and causing a huge amount of Democrats to defect. If strong conservatives cannot win elections, as the liberals and the establishment may claim, then they have yet to explain the Reagan Revolution.
Therefore, I have made a pledge never again to vote for the establishment hacks. If we are truly to put the country back on a path to prosperity, which I believe only time-honored conservative policies can do, then we need a truly conservative candidate leading a truly conservative party. We cannot give in to the lie of moderates being “our only hope,” that Doles, McCains and Romneys are the last hope of a dying party. I contend that the Romneys are not the cure but the cancer, and it’s time to amputate the limb once and for all. Do your party and your country a favor- vote conservative.