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I’d like to think I might have some idea of what Bob Bennett’s defeat means and does not mean.After all, as with Marco Rubio, Doug Hoffman, and Marlin Stutzman, before others noticed, I was beating the drum — all the way back to September of last year on Bob Bennett.Pay attention now you media types who look for great meaning in all things considered. Sometimes you must confront the bold truths you do not naturally recognize because you have been trained up in the ways of a lazier time, an old reality when you could get by with simple shortcuts, and no one would call you on it.Your shibboleths are crumbling around you and you grasp it not. As you struggle to interpret what the tea parties do and do not mean, you media types and others are getting Utah all wrong.It’s not about a purge. It’s about an insurrection.
A long time ago in a Washington far, far removed from present politics a man named Ronald Reagan took over and with him came hell . . . or at least that’s what everybody thought of the conservatives who came with him.But with them came others who had an “R” next to their name, and to get the attention that came with the Reagan Revolution, they called themselves conservatives too. In fact, some were. But many were not. And of those who were, many got complacent in cushy Washington, and discovered they enjoyed being liked on the cocktail circuit.Some got big egos and liked those Washington Post editorials singing their praises for bipartisan transcendence. Never mind that bipartisan transcendence always means compromising in the direction of the Democrats.You see, the Reagan Revolution was so profound that the media developed a mental shortcut — Republican equals Conservative. The exception to prove the rule was the New England Republican, which is why to this day the media always laments the death of the Northeastern Republican (don’t mention names like Carcieri or Christie, it makes their head hurt). The media gets aroused by exceptions to fit the rule in ways some Senators can only get by knocking on stalls at Union Station.Once the rule was in place it did not matter how conservative a Republican was or was not — and this is important — nor did it matter that one could start on the right and move to the left over time. A Republican was always a conservative.That made it easy for Newt Gingrich to lead the Republican Revolution of 1994 and still be considered a paragon of conservatism in 1998 when all the conservatives in the House of Representatives were trying to oust him and moderates like Nancy Johnson were the ones defending him.People change. The media does not.Bob Bennett changed. He went into office promising to cut the spending and leaves office having collaborated in the fleecing of America.
The media wants to boil this down to TARP. It is the arrogance of the media that thinks it can encapsulate an entire story into one nugget, as if it was just the image of Charlie Crist hugging Barack Obama that made the good people of Florida reject him.Ousting Bob Bennett had nothing to do with TARP per se. It had everything to do with Bob Bennett being one of those Republicans who hid behind the safety of an 80% American Conservative Union rating without realizing he was still the 8th most liberal Republican in the United States Senate, even though he’s from the most conservative state in the nation.Thus we arrive to what this is about. For a long time conservatives entangled themselves with the Republican Party. Everyone got cushy. And when conservatives started being sold out by the Republicans in favor of greater government expansion, conservatives sucked it up. By 2006, the balance was getting out of whack, but the media so long used to the short cut of Republican = Conservative failed to realize that the tangled mess was starting to come loose.What sealed the deal was President Bush’s actions in 2008 and the arrogance of people like Bob Bennett to lash out at conservatives for daring to disagree with the policy prescription of killing the free market to save it.The media gets this story wrong because the media is collectively lazy. They live on a playbook adopted in the 80’s and left unchanged. Republicans are conservatives according to the media. A move by conservatives against Republicans must therefore be to push already existing conservatives even further to the right.The media has gone on for so long collaborating with the left, it has missed not just one, but two of the biggest political stories of the past decade. (1) Conservatives effectively marginalized themselves within the Republican Party except on the issues of judges and abortion and (2) conservatives are now fighting to disentangle themselves from the Republican Party, leaving some of their own behind as too far gone to be helped.But that is too complex a narrative for the media. So they will keep up the nonsense about this somehow being a purge. In the meantime, the great disentangling of the conservative movement from the Republican Party continues.Conservatives had had enough. Bob Bennett was easy pickings. Long thought of as conservative just because of his state of origin and his votes on judicial nominees, Bennett had in fact bent over backward time and again in favor of big government and pork, all at the expense of Utah’s values. As one of Mitch McConnell’s “wise old men,” Bennett is one of the people largely responsible for the bastardization of conservatism.Now, the great disentangling of conservatism has begun. Conservatives have had enough of being just a token of a Republican Party that never actually opts for smaller government and never actually believes in the limited powers of a federal government.Bob Bennett, for example, voted that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, but he refused to take it out of his own health care alternative because notwithstanding its unconstitutionality, he thought it was needed. He also famously declared the constitution “an outmoded document of an agrarian society”.If you want a nutshell explanation of Utah, it is this: Bob Bennett decided he was smarter than all the folks back home and the folks back home decided he needed to be humbled.
Here’s what Bob Bennett’s loss does not mean — conservatives have not won a huge victory. Yes, it was great. But it was one battle in a larger war of disentangling relationships. If Bob Bennett is replaced by Tim Bridgewater, a rent seeker disguised as a businessman, conservatives will not have advanced on the battlefield.It is not, as some like to say, a purge. It never has been. It is an insurrection and a necessary fight. For too long conservatives have given their money and votes to Republicans who, every election year, whip out a red cloth with the word “judges” written on one side and “abortion” written on the other and wave it in front of the grassroots.But the grassroots have realized they’ve been had. They were disappointed in Harriet Miers. They were disappointed in immigration. But the handling of the financial mess in 2008 broke their hearts. Compounding that is the Senate Republicans going around the country defending the status quo and choosing sides with a bunch of moderates.Conservatives have nothing else to do but fight back, in defense of their values. And they are doing so today – because despite what the elites in Washington believe, conservatism is not just a set of talking points. It is not what you say at rallies to take money from the pockets of conservative Americans. It is not what other people tell you to say when you’re in public, and laugh about when you’re in private.Conservatism is a philosophy of the proper role of government rooted firmly in the values free people across the world have believed in for centuries, and Americans have fought and died to defend. And it is not for sale.This is our new reality.