Some people just have no interest in their future credibility as long as it helps them win the election of the moment. As long as movement conservatives have railed at “the establishment” of being guilty of this sin, they now find themselves to be some of the biggest offenders.
Here is just one example: over the weekend, South Carolina congressman and bane of Hillary Clinton’s existence Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) announced that he will endorse and campaign with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Now, prior to this last weekend, if you had asked virtually anyone in the conservative movement about their opinion of Gowdy, it would have been at least generally positive, even if some few people had minor nits to pick with his voting record. Overall, while Gowdy isn’t the most doctrinaire Republican in Congress, he has been close, and he has meaningfully advanced the ball on a Benghazi investigation that many (including myself) left for dead over a year ago, indicating both a fighting spirit and political effectiveness that our caucus is desperately lacking.
Still, just because Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) endorses Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) does not mean that anyone at all has to be convinced by Gowdy’s endorsement. I have written here previously that with the coming of the Internet, where every citizen feels more empowered in their own ability to sift through information to choose the best candidate, endorsements matter probably less than they ever have before. I don’t really know of anyone who was sitting around waiting to hear who Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) was going to back before making up their mind on who to vote for for President, even within the relatively important state of South Carolina.
In light of all that, it would have been eminently reasonable to respond to Gowdy’s endorsement of Rubio in any number of ways, including:
- “Who cares?”
- “I respect Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), but he is wrong about this.”
- “I really think the Benghazi thing is overblown and I see no reason why Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) should have special expertise on who should be President.”
- “[Some other candidate] has the endorsement of [whoever they have the endorsement of], which I find more compelling.”
And so on and so on.
Here is how stupid our 2016 campaign dialogue has become – instead of any of these rebuttals to Gowdy’s endorsement, we are treated to the endlessly circular argument from supporters of other candidates that Gowdy isn’t conservative because he’s endorsed Rubio, who obviously isn’t a conservative, and one of the proofs of that is that Rubio has the endorsement of Gowdy.
Gowdy’s additional sin? Giving the (completely pro forma) official nominating speech for Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)‘s election for speaker in 2013, in which he won well over 200 votes and did not face a serious challenger.
I am not kidding.
No mention is of course made of the fact that Ted Cruz voted for Mitch McConnell for majority leader twice and is also thus by this standard an establishment squish.
I won’t link to the piece I have seen going around, or the Facebook pages of prominent conservatives (many of whom happen to be my real life friends), because the intention here is not to call anyone out or to single someone (or even a whole block of someones) out for ridicule.
My point is this – Do we all remember Jim Demint at all? The guy who basically started the revolt against Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and business-as-usual in DC by singlehandedly calling attention to some of the first challengers who stunned incumbent/establishment candidates? When Demint left the Senate, he went to Heritage Action for America and one of the projects he set up there was a new rating system for members of Congress that would expose the fraud of the American Conservative Union’s ratings (which Republican members of the Senate had long ago figured out how to game without angering their moderate constituents or hurting their position at the feeding trough).
When HAFA announced that they were scoring procedural votes, and holding failure theater against elected Republicans instead of for them, Republicans in Congress were furious. HAFA’s ratings exposed some of the most corporatist, Chamber of Commerce-captive Republicans in DC, such as Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who has somehow amassed a lifetime ACU rating of 96%, but only scrapes by with a 69% from HAFA. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)‘s HAFA rating (31) is less than half his lifetime ACU rating. HAFA’s ratings, which we feature here, are not designed to be an easy test for a go-along, get along Republican to pass.
Gowdy, as you’ll see in the post repeatedly, has a HAFA rating of 80, placing him about 50th in Congress, or in the top 25% of the Republican caucus, in terms of being a conservative. Rubio, you will note, is the fourth most conservative member of the entire Senate – admittedly behind Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (may we elect 99 more just like him), but ahead of everyone else in the Senate not named Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) or Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).
I think it’s fair game to say about such people that they are not as conservative as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX); however, to say that they are not conservative at all is to indicate that maybe you need some hobbies, not including inventing reasons to dislike a politician (as rewarding and fulfilling as that particular hobby might be).
A movement that causes Glenn Beck to get off the bus because things are getting a little bit crazy on board cannot expect to end in anything but an especially ugly form of self-destruction.
I don’t have a problem with people saying that they would prefer Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to Rubio – I’ve said it myself. But to suggest that the acceptable spectrum of nominees for a nationwide election against Hillary Clinton begins on the left with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and ends on the right with Donald Trump suggests a total and complete loss of perspective. The end result of this kind of rhetoric that makes no discernment between someone who commits one electoral transgression and one who commits 100 is that no one who ‘s ever been elected to any office before and served for even a single term will be satisfactory.
Thus, our primary field is led by a clown. But hey, at least the clown has never cast a vote on an appropriation rider that paid peddlers of outrage didn’t like.
No candidate – including Rubio – is beyond criticism, and no one should be chastised for having a dedicated preference for any other candidate in the race. But much of the tone of disagreement this time around within the GOP primary reflects the same “take no prisoners” mentality that Republican primary voters take in the general election against Democrats. When that attitude is reflected against candidates who have active disdain for the conservative base (like John Kasich), it’s an understandable reaction.
When it’s turned against literally everyone except for my favored candidate, it might be time to take a deep breath.