The current debate within the Republican Party boils down to one question: is politics a means for promoting liberty and economic growth through the confines of the U.S. Constitution or is it an end to itself?
Democrats don’t have to answer this question because their policies of creating dependency, paying off special interests, and class warfare also benefit their individual members politically and help cement their power. They can have their cake and eat it too.
Republicans, on the other hand, are presented with the dilemma of pursuing policies that don’t empower themselves or playing the special interest political game. The special interest political game consists of a candidate or member failing to take a potent position on any major issue, telling each special interest what they want to hear, collecting millions of dollars so they can further say a bunch of nothing, and rinse and repeat for the next election cycle.
Almost every elected official from both parties either starts out playing the political game from day one or is quickly sucked into it upon taking office. Aside from a few flag-waving issues, most politicians are not motivated to run for office because of core convictions that burn inside their soul. They are motivated to run because their mothers told them they were fit to be a senator one day. That becomes an ends to itself.
And that is exactly what everyone hates about politics. That is why these elections have had such low turnout. That is why Congress has such a low approval rating.
This sense of apathy is bipartisan and clearly cuts across all ideological lines. Yet, a grassroots conservative movement that has, more or less, been labeled as the Tea Party, is the only faction dedicated to changing the political system and throwing out the career politicians.
But it is precisely because they desire not to play the political game that these candidates are confronted with an almost insurmountable task. Everybody in the system, including the talking heads and thumb-sucking pundits, feel threatened by the movement. Every business interest is motivated to destroy the movement. As such, it is so difficult to raise enough money for the challenger to define themselves before they are defined by the incumbent.
It is not very hard to run against the tea party movement. Again, if politics is an ends to itself, career politicians will make themselves scarce, never take a stand on a contentious issue, and only put out carefully-crafted statements through professional staff – statements that are meaningless. See Mitch McConnell for an example. But the path of least resistance is always the easiest path to power if that is the ultimate goal.
As we’ve noted before, these career politicians hide behind slick ads aired on the backs of special interests money, often promoting a message antithetical to the one privately espoused in order to obtain that level of campaign funding in the first place. Hence, the path to victory is keep the candidate scarce, lie to the voters through the filter of a high-dollar campaign apparatus, define your opponent with lies, and celebrate on election night with a speech full of platitudes.
Some of the political class pundits seem to be impressed by this process, but this is the very system that has helped create a post-constitutional country. It’s not impressive, it’s immoral.
On the one hand, we’ve made so much progress over the past five years that establishment candidates, even those universally recognized as moderates, are forced to run on our platform. This would have never been the case if not for the constant threat of primary challenges. But to actually expose these people and raise enough money to throw out the political class is a long process. It will not happen in one election cycle, but we must start somewhere. People tend to forget how hard it is to actually succeed in throwing out an incumbent in a primary. It has only been done once in the Senate in recent years when Senator Richard Lugar was downed in Indiana (Mike Lee won in a convention dynamic).
Seats with no incumbent Republican are not any easier. The establishment candidates always have exponentially more money and they run as conservative challengers against the status quo. It’s not that the conservative choices lost; it’s that they never got on the field. Thom Tillis was the only candidate in North Carolina up with sustained penetration media buys. His allies bought him ubiquitous name ID. Greg Brannon and Mark Harris never cracked 30% in name ID.
In Georgia, David Purdue and Rep. Jack Kingston spent over $5 million apiece between their campaigns and outside groups. As of the last FEC filings, Karen Handel – the third-place finisher – spent just over $700,000. And more importantly, the two establishment candidates ran away from party leadership and even signed a hard-core pledge against amnesty and open borders. You spend the most money and run as a conservative you will always win the primary.
But to what end? That is the unanswered question.
If the ultimate goal is just to win an elected office with no intention of fulfilling their campaign promises, in other words, governing like establishment Republicans, their game will come to an end at some point. You can’t fool the people all the time.