EDITOR OF REDSTATE
Conservatives Actually Suck at This
John Boehner can do whatever the heck he wants to. The GOP could be making the argument that the White House has offered nothing on spending and the American people want spending cuts as much as they are okay with tax increases, but instead John Boehner will publicly negotiate with himself.
And he can. He can throw conservatives off fiscal committees without consequence.
Conservatives can complain, moan, wail, and scream all they want. They can call for third parties or no parties or sit at home.
It doesn’t really matter. Conservatives suck at this and the leadership knows it.
Leaders of both parties only pay attention to money and serious primary challengers. They have the money advantage. As for conservative primary challengers, conservatives have put up quite a few, but most are terrible, few win, and even fewer win the general election. Conservatives have done better on the Senate side, but some of the folks tea party groups and others stood up to challenge incumbents on the House side were downright embarrassing.
That last bit just turns people off. There’s no sense in putting up primary challengers if they don’t have a shot to actually win. Eventually the bulk of Republican voters will get worn out and go back. In the meantime, the leaders are still leaders and have effective scapegoats to blame.
The fact is conservatives need to show conservatives can win. They can make a first stand in Virginia with Ken Cuccinelli. But they must do more — we must do more.
If conservatives want to show they are not paper tigers, they must actually make concerted efforts in 2014 beating Republican incumbents. Conservatives have a better track record of this than liberals, but have their share of clunkers. They need to give it a full go.
In the past decade, conservatives have also lost a lot of brand recognition. The GOP and “conservatives” are used interchangeably. People now read National Review to find out what Republican leaders are doing instead of conservatives. People check the American Conservative Union scorecard to see how Republican a person is, not how conservative they are. Too many conservative organizations are draining donors dry with no real results to speak of. A heck of a lot of conservative organizations will disappear overnight when their geriatric leaders die because they’ve become too wrapped up in the identity of their leader, not in the cause they have long claimed to serve.
Some of these groups are stifling the regeneration of the conservative movement through hoarding donors, co-opting the projects of younger groups only to fail at execution, and otherwise just taking up space as a conservative group when often it’s just an excuse for another cocktail party to give out more awards where the GOP establishment will come and kiss rear ends in the Beltway nonaggression club of uselessness on the right.
Conservatives need to take their brand back from the GOP and disentangle themselves from the ego driven side of conservative institutions that make it about the leaders of the organizations and not the ideas these claim they’re promoting once they get back off their next donor funded book tour selling books to other donors. Conservative organizations with older leaders need to begin honest assessments of their succession plans and ability to thrive after their current leader leaves or dies. In short, conservatives need to take it upon themselves to get rid of the dead wood and hangers on within their movement that suck up dollars and oxygen without adding a dimes bit of difference to the cause.
Then there are a few things extra they must do.
First, stop inviting squishy Republicans to take the flag flanked stage at conservative conferences thereby providing conservative bona fides to those who do not deserve it.
Second, conservatives should set up a super PAC dedicated to defeating Saxby Chambliss in Georgia and maybe Lindsey Graham in South Carolina. Don’t do a major super PAC to do both, but one for each.
Third, conservatives need to invest in their ground game. They need to begin tomorrow using technology like Political Gravity or similar software to organize and outmaneuver the GOP itself. They’ll need to work to unify early behind Senate challengers in Louisiana and elsewhere too.
Fourth, they need to use off year elections at the municipal level next year and ballot questions to begin testing the data.
Fifth, they are going to need to convince the grassroots that the GOP is salvageable by convincing the grassroots to clean house in primaries with credible challengers.
Sixth, they need to actually practice discernment. There are a lot of self-styled conservative groups and consultants out there not worth a warm bucket of spit. There are a lot of candidates who talk the talk, but are terrible candidates who cannot win general elections. Conservatives need to discern the good from the bad. They can start by taking direction from groups like Heritage Action for America, Senate Conservatives Fund, Club For Growth, American Majority, the Madison Project, and a few others that have solid records and are actually interested in winning, not just losing well, and then are willing to still stand on the ramparts fighting when everybody else is caving to the glow of orange tans.
Conservatives are either going to hang together or separately. Right now they are getting played because Boehner, McConnell, and the like are sure the conservative movement has become a paper tiger. And, to be honest, conservatives have shown them this is true.
The only way to change it is money or primary challengers or, better, both. Citizens United showed it doesn’t really work as the critics said it would in the Presidential cycle. But it worked in 2010 for conservative activists against the establishment.
Conservatives now need to work even harder in 2014. Either start blowing stuff up or shut up. Complaining just reinforces that conservatives are paper tigers.