After a long night of watching the election returns, I went to sleep extremely pleased with the House results. However, I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling of deep disappointment that was cast over the entire evening by the shortcomings of conservatives running for U.S. Senate. How is it that Harry Reid, one of the three legs propping up the Obamacare stool, could be reelected?
There are certainly bright spots that should not be ignored. Of them, the resounding victory by Marco Rubio (in my home state) coupled with wins by Pat Toomey and Rand Paul will be touted as major accomplishments. But what about Colorado, Delaware, Nevada, California, and Alaska? Each of these senate seats appeared to be eminently reachable for conservatives in this election of all elections. Wisconsin is a Democrat stronghold, yet Ron Johnson won easily. The failure of the Tea-dal wave to at least bring down Harry Reid deserves a thorough after action review. So what happened?
I will tell you what these failures were not. These defeats do not represent the defeat of conservatism or conservative ideas. They do not represent an endorsement of Harry Reid, Chris Coons, or Obama’s policies. Quite simply, I believe that these defeats represent the failure of the Tea Party and other conservatives to offer the general electorate a Republican candidate who is not only right and true on the issues, but who is also a prominent, accomplished, and widely respected member of the state community.
I am not talking about Joe Miller, for whom I have the utmost respect. Alaska obviously has a unique dynamic. I don’t know as much about Ken Buck, so I can’t speak to Colorado. However, I have read enough about Nevada and Delaware to form an opinion.
Let’s take Delaware as an example of what I mean. I know that this sounds like Monday morning quarterbacking. It isn’t. Unlike others, I held my tongue and gave my support to O’Donnell in the days after her primary win. However, in the week prior, I (like many others) was torn between supporting the compromise candidate “who could win” or the true conservative “without a shot.” After reading Erick’s take and listening to Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and others, I finally decided to support O’Donnell and made a donation to her campaign. I don’t regret that choice.
That said, I struggled with the decision. I struggled because I want to support candidates for office that are proven leaders outside of politics. The “perennial candidate” tag stuck to O’Donnell too easily. Other than the desire to oppose the Obama agenda, there was nothing that I could find about Christine O’Donnell that impressed me. What has she done in her life that qualifies her to be one of the most powerful individuals in the country, a United States Senator? She had neither proven her credentials in elected office, nor had accomplished anything else of significance. I want to vote for people who, in addition to being rock-solid limited government conservatives, have proven their leadership abilities in business, the military, lower elected office, civic organizations, or otherwise. Obviously, this doesn’t even scrape the surface of other problems with her candidacy. A poor candidate who makes a poor showing allows the media to draw illegitimate conclusions like this. Also, whining about ‘lack of establishment support’ after you lose decisively, whether it is justified or not, doesn’t help the narrative.
As an unapologetic conservative partisan, I will with rare exception always support the more conservative person running for political office. However, the general electorate will not vote for people like O’Donnell. As conservatives, we must offer the general electorate proven leaders and pillars of society who also hold true to conservative values. The two are not mutually exclusive, and there are many examples from yesterday’s results where liberal-leaning districts elected red blooded conservatives because we offered them a highly qualified, proven leader of immaculate character and judgment for them to choose.
As the Tea Party enters its adolescence, we must do a better job in selecting our standard-bearers. In 2012, we have the opportunity to expand our majority in the House and even reach a 60-vote margin in the Senate. Lets not let this next one pass us by.