It’s been over a week since Eric Cantor got thumped in the Virginia GOP primary. In the time since, I’ve read pieces from dozens of pundits. They typically run along one of two themes:
- The Tea Party is killing any chance of Republicans returning to national power.
- Conservatism is at war with itself.
This is because the establishment GOP – who have taken to calling themselves “Movement Conservatives” or “Reform Conservatives” (the conservative part of the label is questionable, at the very least) – cannot imagine a political party that exists without the benefit of their favorite cronyist pals; Big Finance, Big Oil and military contractors. And they very much would like to pry away Big Tech from the Democrats. The idea of “their” party – which has been bought and paid for by those interests for two decades now – returning to the coalition built by Goldwater and Reagan and actually putting those ideals into action scares the living snot out of them.
That palpable fear was perfectly expressed by Greg Sargent:
“Almost all the internal preoccupations of the Republican Party — in primary battles, intra-movement arguments, conservative media tropes — have nothing to do with the party’s main external challenges: appealing to young people, to the middle class, to the working class and to rising demographic groups.”
For some reason, this argument is the establishment’s favorite: that a principled, conservative approach to governance can’t attract voters. The idea that those under 30, those in the middle class (or aspiring to the middle class) and legal immigrants can’t find common ground with a party that actually works towards reducing the size and scope of an overreaching government, or a party that actively works to strengthen national security is absurd on the face of it.
Don’t let anyone fool you. The GOP establishment, or movement wing, or reform wing, or whatever other hair-brained name they decide to call themselves, is not conservative. Oh, they all talk a great game about reducing the size of government, getting our debt and deficit under control, blah, blah, blah. But let’s not forget it was the Republican Party of GWB that shredded the Constitution by passing the Patriot Act, that exploded the size of the federal government by creating the Department of Homeland Security, that passed No Child Left Behind, that first proposed TARP. It was establishment figures like John McCain, Lindsay Graham and John Boehner (and yes, Eric Cantor) who first proposed legislation that would legalize criminal border crossings, and establishment, “conservative” pundits from Ann Coulter to David Brooks who told us Mitt Romney was just a s conservative as, well, Ronald Reagan. Somehow, the fact that Romney had introduced a socialist medical care system in Massachusetts* didn’t matter. For all of the evils Barack Obama has visited on American liberty, he couldn’t have implemented them as quickly and with as little backlash as he has without the Republican Party of 1993-present first laying the groundwork to make it happen.
But having spent 20 years becoming, essentially, the Democrat Party, the party bigwigs are in a tizzy with a true conservative movement afoot. Yes, you read that right: establishment Republicans are no different from establishment Democrats. The only difference is who signs their paychecks. Dems are signed by Big Labor and Big Tech. Republicans are signed by the groups I mentioned above, along with Big Religion. Neither party actually stands for the groups Sargent outlines. The difference between 2012 and 2000 is simply that the Republicans let themselves be played in the last election. How? By running a candidate that exactly fit the narrative Dems created: that conservatives are nothing more than Big Business hacks out to screw the common man.
Yet, here’s the funny thing: the common man knows he’s getting screwed by the government AND Big Business AND Big Labor. And he’s getting tired of it. Doesn’t matter if he’s 18 or 72, black or white, rich or poor – he wakes up every morning knowing that somebody in “authority” is going to do their best to undermine his best efforts. He knows those forces arrayed against the common man are conspiring to make mere survival almost impossible, much less actually getting ahead. Those are the people that voted to turn Eric Cantor out of office.
And those are the same people that voted the last true conservative into the White House. In 1980, the political class – especially the entrenched Republican interests – thought the Reagan Revolution was suicide for the party. But Reagan captured the votes of the young. He got majorities of traditionally Democrat voting blocs, including Big Labor. He won a majority of the Latino vote, the last Republican Presidential candidate to do so. And he did so by campaigning on a platform of conservative values. Unfortunately for the nation, Reagan made one HUGE mistake in 1980 when he accepted George Herbert Walker Bush as his running mate. The establishment had their backdoor into the seat of power. By 1988, Bush was being touted as a conservative, and the label hasn’t meant what it did for Reagan since then.
This, if anything, is the disconnect that the pundits and professional pols haven’t come to realize. The rise of the Tea Parties in 2009 was less about Republican voters who had decided to become activists. I was about conservative voters who were tired of being lied to and taken for granted becoming activists. Conservatives have found their voice. The genie is out of the bottle – and the phony conservatives populating the Republican Party are unhappy.
That’s a good thing.
*BTW, RomneyCare has turned into such a colossal failure the state has asked the feds to take it over.