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October 29, 2013

Reminder: Conservative Grassroots Have Been Right A Lot Of Times And The "Establishment" Has Been Wrong An Awful Lot

Gabe linked the National Review piece by Ramesh Ponurru and Rich Lowery in the morning headline post. Basically it's the same piece we've seen dozens of times in the last month or two...grassroots conservatives need to focus less on "purity", stop being so strident and let the adults run things.

It is a politics of perpetual intra-Republican denunciation. It focuses its fire on other conservatives as much as on liberals. It takes more satisfaction in a complete loss on supposed principle than in a partial victory, let alone in the mere avoidance of worse outcomes. It has only one tactic — raise the stakes, hope to lower the boom — and treats any prudential disagreement with that tactic as a betrayal. Adherents of this brand of conservative politics are investing considerable time, energy, and money in it, locking themselves in unending intra-party battle.

As I've written more than once, the GOP has earned the distrust of conservatives and needs to accept the reality that they are going to be held to their rhetoric from now on.

In retrospect, it was pretty clear that electing Republicans was simply the first step in the process. Holding them to their word and keeping them on the straight and narrow was going to be a near full time job.

This concern about Republican betrayal of conservative promises and positions is no mere paranoia. Republican control of the House, the White House and the Senate (precariously at times) had not produced conservative results. In fact thanks to No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and bloated domestic spending in areas like Agriculture and Transportation, conservatives had begun their rebellion during the Bush years. Remember Pork Busters?

The biggest issue I have with Ponurru and Lowery article (and the rather common argument it recycles) is that the conservative base is bad at winning elections and fights battles it can't win. This seems an odd critique to me given the "tea party" wing of the GOP not only wasn't responsible for the losses of 2006, 2008 and 2012 but was actually the driving force behind the one major electoral success the GOP has had recently...taking back the House in 2010 after the "establishment" lost it 4 years prior.

Have there been setbacks in Senate races? Yes. Have some "tea party" favorites been disasters? Obviously. But let's not pretend that "establishment" candidates haven't lost races either. Connie Mack in Florida, Pete Hoekstra in Michigan (not only wasn't he a "tea party" guy he ran an ad that was worse than Christine O'Donnell's notorious "I'm Not A Witch" ad), Denny Rehberg in Montana, George Allen in Virginia, and Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin all were "establishment" picks and all lost.

And had the "establishment" had its way Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz wouldn't be in the Senate. Nor would Marco Rubio or Pat Toomey (mixed though they have been).

At the presidential level, no one can say with a straight face that John McCain and Mitt Romney were "tea party" darlings. How'd they work out for everyone? Granted the "tea party" couldn't produce a reasonable alternative in 2012 but that doesn't absolve the "establishment" from failing to produce a candidate that actually was "electable".

Something that gets left out of the already tired "those crazy defunder types are killing the GOP and conservatism" is the actual governing accomplishments of the "tea party" types.Were it not for those crazy conservatives Manchin-Toomey gun control would have passed the Senate and amnesty probably would have passed the House.

We keep hearing how the only thing the GOP can do with "1/2 of 1/3 of the government" is to stop bad things from happening. Well, the group responsible from keeping those bad things from happening wasn't a GOP leadership that was running scared on both issues but rather it was those wacky "tea party" types who stood firm and won.

The main shot against the "tea party"/"defunder" wing is that the recent partial government shutdown was a disaster for the GOP. Well, there's actually ZERO evidence of that at this point (Spare me the "but the polls" stuff).

If you think politics is a minute to minute to thing you can make a case the GOP "lost" the shutdown. I'd argue the reality is these things are part of a longer narrative. In isolation the shutdown might have been bad for the GOP but given the on-going meltdown of ObamaCare, it's very likely that taking a firm (but poorly organized) stand against it for 2 weeks will help the GOP in the long run. Only time will tell.

I'd score the shutdown a draw at best but even if you count it as a loss that still makes those crazy "tea party" types 2-1 this year. That's a far better record than the GOP "establishment" has run up lately.

That gets to the bottom line of this, "the conservative base is killing the GOP" nonsense...The Republican Party has been a miserable failure at the federal level for the better part of a decade (longer really but let's be charitable). It's not like a baseball manager taking out his ace who is throwing a perfect game through 8 innings to bring in some high school kid to pitch the 9th. The GOP is more like a washed up, soft tossing lefty who has walked a bunch of guys and given up a few homer runs. The "tea party" is like a hard throwing rookie who has come into the game and while he's thrown a few balls and maybe even a wild pitch, he's also gotten a few outs and kept the team in the game.

We know what we get when we let the GOP "establishment" run things and quite frankly if you're a conservative, it's nothing you want. I'm willing to live with the growing pains of the conservative grassroots. Yes, there have been mistakes that need to be corrected and learned from but let's not ignore the very real wins either.

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posted by DrewM. at 10:19 AM

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