November 15, 2013
Rules for all Republicans
By Sally Zelikovsky
Yes, Virginia. There really is a split in the Republican Party. There always has been and always will be. But the acrimony is spinning out of control and the only people benefitting are the Democrats.
It disturbs me when I'm labeled a sellout if I say something positive about an "establishment" Republican and it's equally infuriating when I'm lectured that Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are part of a "suicide coalition." When I write something favorable to the GOP, my inbox is flooded with angry emails from tea partiers but accolades from party loyalists and, vice versa, if I write something critical of the base or Tea Party. It's insulting when grassroots activists tell me I'm not a true conservative and aggravating when I'm dismissed as "just a tea partier" and flicked off like a fly.
These personal accounts simply mirror what is happening party-wide. If conservatives are ever to regain power in Washington, change has to come from all camps within the GOP.
Obama won by only 5 million votes. Three million Republicans didn't vote in the 2012 Obama-Romney face-off and a hefty number of disgruntled Republicans voted for libertarian Gary Johnson, who garnered 1.5 million votes. Millions of conservatives -- who are not registered Republicans -- also withheld their votes. Imagine if all of those protest votes had gone to Romney?
Conservatives who have "had it" with the GOP and stay home or cast a protest vote might experience a certain amount of self-satisfaction in the short run. But, in the long run, this inhibits the ability of conservatives to gain power in DC as we continue to lose winnable seats. The more GOPers we get into office today, the greater the pressure the conservative wing can exert and the closer we can inch towards our goals.
In a perfect world, we could stop the overspending, graft and waste today, harmoniously agree on effective policies and elect ideal candidates. But we don't live in that world. Republicans deal in realities and the reality is this: political viewpoints are as varied as human behavior. It is this diversity that feeds the marketplace of ideas protected by the First Amendment -- allowing for the full expression of the individual.
We have to work within those confines of human behavior and understand that the road to conservative success is paved on coalition building -- not running to our little corners surrounded only by those with whom we agree 100%. There is no end to the number of ways we could balkanize if we follow that path.
Conservatives don't have consensus on the social issues, approaches to our immigration problems and national security policy. Tea Party leaders instinctively knew this and, at the Tea Party's conception, were careful to focus on the areas of agreement: fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, constitutionally limited government, and free markets.
There was also an implicit understanding among most (but not all) Tea Party leaders, that a third party was not the goal nor was infiltrating and taking over the GOP to make it our own (although some Campaign for Liberty supporters did openly advocate for that). We were in it for the long haul and our intentions were to get the GOP to stay true to its conservative roots, impact policy, help elect conservatives, and effectuate change in the GOP through participation.
Some Tea Party groups were at odds with their local central committees and state parties, but many worked in tandem with the various GOP entities.Then, in the wake of the Romney loss, both sides started to play the blame game. Moderates pointed to Akin and Mourdock as having played a big part in the defeat by fueling the "war on women" mantra -- ushering in calls to moderate. Grassroots conservatives cast Romney as yet another northeast-establishment moderate who wasn't conservative enough to win --leading the frustrated grassroots to threaten to withhold votes in the absence of more conservative candidates.
This was all amplified when moderates tied Cuccinelli's loss to his being a rabid, right-wing extremist and Christie's win to his being a moderate. Tea Partiers countered that the establishment sold Cuccinelli down the river and Christie was a sell-out. And so the cycle of rebuke and rendgoes on and on.
I understand the eye-rolling from moderates when the Todd Akins of the world muck up. And I understand Tea Party frustration when yet another moderate is running. I know how it doesn't look like it will ever end unless we send an unmistakably powerful message to GOP leaders that we will throw in the towel with our support.
But this is a misreading of reality. Five years ago the Tea Party didn't exist -- it was an amorphous part of the Republican base which overlapped with Reagan-type Democrats and Independents. In five years, we have become a force in American politics with a cadre of strong candidates elected to all levels of government. Weare making inroads... slowly, but surely.
It's too early in the game to give up. It's too early to completely dismiss less-than-ideal Republican candidates. If you are playing the long game, then you know we haven't been doing this for so long that it's time to stay home.
The Tea Party has to be reminded of their long-term goals and be prepared to sacrifice some principles in the short run to vote for moderates and prevent the left from amassing more political clout. And the "establishment" has to stop demonizing its own and freezing out candidates they believe are too darn conservative.
If we cannot work together, the GOP will rip apart. Many of you want that. And most establishment Republicans don't think this will happen because conservatives have nowhere else to go. But this is no bluff -- conservatives are serious about defecting. I, for one, do not want that to happen.
We cannot change each other but we can do the following:
(1) Duke it out in the primaries and whole-heartedly support your candidate of choice.
(2) Do not support your preferred candidate by stooping to Democrat levels.
Ex: Do not call Romney a "vulture capitalist" as Newt did. Do not call moderates "RINOs" and do not call Tea Party candidates "extreme or radical."
(3) Never forfeit a "sure thing" candidate for a high risk one.
Ex: When it is clear that a Mike Castle-type Republican can get re-elected in Delaware and a Christine O'Donnell type cannot, cut your losses and go for the strategic win. If O'Donnell was truly such a great candidate, she was young and new enough to be groomed for the next go around but don't gamble away a secure seat with a risky replacement.
(4) Unless an incontrovertible liability, never abandon a viable candidate especially in an important race.
Ex: When there is a Cuccinelli-type candidate running, do not abandon him especially as the race tightens.
(5) In extreme cases, when a candidate is hurting other races, it's okay to withdraw support.
Ex: Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
(6) Do not use outliers to formulate strategies for the entire country.
Ex: Christie is a win to celebrate and study but he shouldn't necessarily become the template for all races in the country any more than Cuccinelli's loss or Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock's disgraces should.
(7) Make protest votes a thing of the past -- at least until we regain power and the Republicans have at least one presidential term to right this sinking ship. This means moderates vote for social conservatives and tea partiers; social conservatives and tea partiers vote for moderates.
(8) Think of the end game.
Ex: If Lindsay Graham and Mitch McConnell win their primaries, the grassroots must support them. This is unacceptable to many, but if McConnell's vote is the one to repeal ObamaCare and a liberal occupies his seat, you just cut off your nose to spite your face. Same for moderates -- if Cuccinelli had been supported and won, that would have been one more red governor in a very strategic state.
(9) Social conservatives and tea partiers should hold any elected Republican's feet to the fire.
(10) Moderates should expect social conservatives and tea partiers to hold their feet to the fire.
(11) Do not air our collective dirty laundry.
Ex: Let's say you don't agree with a tactic being employed by one arm of the party, i.e., the Cruz-Lee tactic to defund or delay or else.
(a) Do not provide the media with your commentary;
(b) If you must comment, find a way to spin it favorably;
(c) If you can't, express that Republicans are doing their best to represent the interests of the people who elected them and, while there might be some disagreement about this tactic, they are doing the will of the People.
(d) If you just can't do that, never, ever call your compatriots -- no matter how much you disagree with them -- wack jobs or insult their intelligence.
(12) Always anticipate the leftwing response, think through your story, then stick to it.
Ex: Quietly withdraw support for a candidate like Todd Akin but don't feed into the Democrat-Media Complex myth that this wack job represents everyone in the GOP. Respond instead: Republicans do not hate women. Millions of Republicans are women and millions of Republican men have wives, sisters, mothers and daughters they love and respect. Republicans are focused on the issues that really matter to women: education, healthcare, job security and the economy. Lay out a few statistics to show how Democrat leadership has hurt women whereas Republican policies support them and their families. Say it over and over no matter how many times the press asks if you agree with or support Todd Akin. Why? Because every time they ask and you give the above answer, someone out there in the audience is listening to the substance of what you are saying. It's free PR. Sure, they'll say you didn't answer the question, but you will get your message out like the left does 24/7.
(13) In politics, as in life, there are people in any group or organization who have varying degrees of commitment. Do not judge them according to your standards of purity. As Hugh Hewitt recently said on his radio show, do not discard Republicans just because you disagree with them and do not disparage them by saying they are not true conservatives. Life and politics just aren't that simple.
Ex: Karl Rove might have missed the mark in 2012 and might not be your cup of tea as a conservative, but he has worked tirelessly for the cause and his knowledge about the Party, elections, and the electoral landscape is encyclopedic. You just don't throw that away. A few weeks ago 600+ San Francisco conservatives heard Charles Krauthammer speak. Not everyone agrees with him on everything, especially in recent months. But we are aligned on 80% of the issues and there was no denying that this was a brilliant mind that had something to offer. Neither men are oracles to be followed blindly but anger over their opinions (or performance, in cases of elected officials like Mitch McConnell) must be tempered.
(14) Use the media to communicate with the PEOPLE. This is your chance to be a PR person for conservatism, even though the press is never on your side.
(a) Don't be too technical or too cerebral. Speak in common terms. Remember you are speaking to the PEOPLE not the reporter.
(b) Focus on the takeaway for the average American if conservative policies are employed. Think "Kitchen Table" conversation.
(c) Use concrete evidence to support your points.
(d) Choose your language carefully.
Ex: "ObamaCare is unfair" by treating different people differently.
(15) Always promote the improved quality of life in Republican-run states andcontrast this with the diminished quality of life in true blue states.
(16) Speak with one voice on the issues where there is consensus.
(17) Where there is no consensus, speak to the fact that we are a diverse party that welcomes debate but, in the end, we are all guided by time-tested conservative principles that promote freedom.
In writing Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky gave a solemn head nod to Lucifer -- "the very first radical...who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom." Although he claimed to be the harbinger of optimism, his entire philosophy is based on dark, evil, destructive politics where demonization, lying, and division rule. Conservatives aren't cut from that cloth but we seem to have lost our way. It's time to be the light to their darkness, the solutions to their conundrums, the sense to their inanity, and the creation to their destruction.