No, I'm not talking about the rush to anoint Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee. I'm talking about a mistake I've made, in my lack of vision. I'm talking about how we treat each other in a critical phase of the political process.
To lay my cards on the table: I'm a Rick Santorum delegate to the Republican National Convention, having been elected in the Illinois primary March 20. I'll see you in Tampa, and intend to live tweet the convention both from the floor and from any smoke-filled rooms I find there.
We at Redstate have been saying for years that we need to grow the conservative movement. We have come a long way here, starting from a smallish group of dedicated navel gazers to become a much larger group of real-world activists.
And we've done that with the leadership of Erick Erickson, Coldwarrior, Steven Foley, and many others who have stepped up to the plate to enter the Republican Party as Precinct Committeemen, launch other web sites or become active in paid media, and run for office ourselves.
But now we come to crunch time, and we're losing sight of the big picture. This site's mission is to grow the conservative movement within the Republican Party, and what are we doing? We're missing the single best opportunity to do so that we've had during its entire existence.
As the primaries have gone on, we've slowly drifted into five camps:
- The Romney faction of those resolved to accept inevitability
- Rick's Army
- The Gingrich camp
- The Paulites
- The Defeated, who may vote but will not be active
This post is not about the merits of the candidates.
What it's about is capturing fervor. We've got a brief moment now, while there is still reasonable doubt of who the nominee will be, to engage the supporters of each candidate and get them to commit to supporting the Republican nominee.
The way to do that is specifically not to say who it's going to be.
This is the perfect time for people in the remaining states to turn their volunteer energy into permanent, real involvement. We don't have to fight to coalesce behind one guy just yet. That will naturally happen as the delegates pile up, or it won't. Why push it? Let the voters decide.
For us in the states that have already had our primaries, we can begin organizing our November effort "for whomever the nominee will be" and leave it at that. We should not squelch the volunteer spirit of the Romney or Newt or Santorum or Paul fans by telling them their guy can't win the nomination or a particular state. What on Earth is the point of that? Get them to commit to act now, while they can hold out hope that it will be their guy.
And yes, I include the Paulites in that. If Ron Paul were just a little bit different, I'd vote for him and so would you. His fans are just able to ignore stuff we can't. They should be in the Party.
Doing otherwise, by being condescending or insulting the candidates you believe cannot win, will result in people moving into the Defeated camp, or worse: becoming disillusioned and leaving politics to jerks like you.
Doing otherwise runs directly counter to the mission of this site. There is no better time than now to grow the movement for the long term. But we must harness the energy candidates have created for the good of the movement overall. Convince people that even if their guy doesn't win, his ideals will be represented in the Party and are best furthered by joining the coalition.
Failure to do so risks disillusionment and disappointment, or worse: the kind of formal break we all want desperately to avoid.