One of the more trenchant lines delivered from the podium at CPAC last week was Sarah Palin’s zinger regarding the GOP “Beltway Boys”: “You didn’t build that. The Tea Party did.” Palin was referring to the GOP House majority acquired through the 2010 midterm elections, but the same observation is apropos for the potential to win a Senate majority this year.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met someone who shares the worldview of the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin or Senator Mitch McConnell’s NRSC minions at a phone bank or door-to-door canvassing event for Republican candidates. And I’m referring to general elections as well as primaries.
The relationship between the grassroots and the establishment during elections years has always been one-directional. When we beat the establishment in primaries, they often decline to endorse our candidates in the general election and actively work against them. However, when our candidates lose, we work our tails off to ensure that the Democrat is defeated.
We all united behind the goal of defeating Pelosi in 2010, even in states where the Republican candidate was a hackneyed old-bull or establishment tool.
In 2012, when the GOP nominee was an anathema to everything we have been fighting for, we mustered the gumption to organize for him/her in a united effort to defeat Obama. Ironically, it was some of the biggest establishment cheerleaders who turned on Romney when the going got rough in the general election.
This year we stand at the precipice with the united goal of defeating Senator Harry Reid, the worst Senate leader in American history, a man who has completely gutted the Senate as a deliberative body. We all know that when the chips are down in the fall, it is the grassroots who will be working indefatigably to defeat Democrats, even in states with milquetoast Republican candidates.
We have always built the majorities, yet the GOP beltway boys have always dismantled our majorities and disenfranchised us by voting with Democrats on key policy initiatives. As such, it’s only fair that we have a say in choosing the nominees for whom we will work our butts off to elect in the fall.
An indeed, if we don’t work hard in the primaries, Republicans might still win back the majority (although if McConnell wins the primary, he might cost us the majority by losing his seat), but here is what to expect from the anointed leader:
“This election season, Republicans led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are taking a much harder line as they sense the majority within reach. Top congressional Republicans and their allies are challenging the advocacy groups head on in an aggressive effort to undermine their credibility. The goal is to deny them any Senate primary victories, cut into their fund-raising and diminish them as a future force in Republican politics.
“I think we are going to crush them everywhere,” Mr. McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said in an interview, referring to the network of activist organizations working against him and two Republican incumbents in Kansas and Mississippi while engaging in a handful of other contests. “I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.”
If only McConnell showed such moxie against Reid and Obama on passing liberal legislation and raising the debt ceiling!
But let’s travel together into a fantasy land for a moment and assume that McConnell is personally a genuine conservative. Let’s assume that he is merely hamstrung by being in the minority, but will fight like hell for conservatives as the newly-minted majority leader. At best, he is likely to preside over a tenuous majority of 51-52 seats. Facing such a united Democrat opposition, wouldn’t he want the most reliable conservative votes in order to navigate through the legislative process?
Yet, McConnell has said he will work to reelect every single liberal incumbent and ensure that conservative grassroots are defeated “anywhere in the country.” Again, let’s assume that McConnell is chomping at the bit to push a conservative legislative agenda; why in the world would he want to reelect Senators like Lamar Alexander, Thad Cochran, and Lindsey Graham from bright red states like Tennessee, Mississippi, and South Carolina?
Putting aside those “troublesome” groups like Heritage Action for a moment, these members have terrible scores even from McConnell’s pro-amnesty allies at the American “Conservative” Union. Cochran and Alexander each scored a 60 and Graham scored a 68. And in the case of Graham, not only does he often vote with Democrats, he actually relishes dissenting from the party and spearheading liberal initiatives while whipping votes for Senator Chuck Schumer. Lindsey Graham is a nightmare for any party leader who wants to push a united conservative front.
The other backbenchers can be picked off at any moment. And even those like Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) will clearly revert to his Kathleen Sebelius days were he to win his primary and no longer fear a reprisal from conservatives. Wouldn’t a committed conservative leader of a small majority – even one who is not necessarily a Tea Party type – want reliable fighters like Milton Wolf and Chris McDaniel, especially given the fact that they hail from states with no viable Democrat challenger?
But, alas, we must relinquish that tantalizing thought and return to reality. Indeed Mitch McConnell is not committed to one iota of a conservative agenda.
It is precisely because he is a finger lickin’ fraud – one who evinces a conservative image back home but stabs us in the back in D.C. – that he wants people like Graham, Alexander, and Cochran to remain in the Senate. He wants them to be reliable votes for “must-pass” Democrat bills that he doesn’t want to publicly support.
It is precisely because, as George Will has suggested, McConnell wants to pass amnesty, that he would never support real conservative candidates.
It is precisely because he supports the agenda of K Street and his money-bundlers that he needs liberal Republicans to muddle up the conference.
It is precisely because McConnell becomes even more liberal when in the majority that he doesn’t want any bold reformers pushing bold legislation during a presidential cycle.
And it is precisely because of the prospect of McConnell presiding over a majority populated by failed politicians that we must take action now.
It’s time to build an enduring majority.
Cross-posted from The Madison Project