Two years ago I found myself in the unlikeliest of positions: the Republican nominee for Congress in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District and the frontrunner in the general election. An ordinary citizen, I did not put my name on the ballot to be famous or powerful. I simply hadn’t gotten a response from my congressman about a veteran’s issue that affected my men in the National Guard. I hoped to grab his attention.
Winning a seat in Congress felt like drinking water out of a fire hose. I went from a sergeant in the Guard calling every general “sir” to having three- and four-star generals calling me “sir.” I went from trying to hear back from my member of Congress to being able to have a cigarette break with the Speaker of the House. For someone who had forever been on the outside of the fishbowl, it was pretty amazing to find myself all of a sudden in the water.
I also learned something else, as well. The establishment does not care if conservatives hate what they do, or how they lead. Their only concern involves whether or not you hate the Democratic leaders more. This is not to say that John Boehner or Kevin McCarthy and the rest of those in charge of the Republican Party are not good people. They are (really). They serve their country the best they can, but they operate under a different set of expectations than we often do. They still practice an old way of thinking, but that’s changing because conservative activists are forcing them to.
Whether the establishment wants to admit it, a revolution is occurring inside the Republican Party. The seeds sewn by President Reagan are blooming. His heirs are prepared and unafraid to tackle our nation’s problems and we have been offering solutions based in the ideas of limited government. Whether it’s Mike Lee and Tim Scott promoting ideas to shrink our welfare system while maintaining a strong and effective social safety net or Scott Walker challenging corrupt unions that bilk the taxpayers for millions of dollars, a new conservatism has arrived. We’re unwilling to let liberalism in both parties to drive our country off of a fiscal cliff.
Just this week we saw how the new conservatives can affect Congress. When leadership wanted to enact a weakened immigration bill, the conservative caucus rose up and demanded more be done. We won the battle and the House passed an effective conservative solution to the border crisis happening in the Southwest. We can create positive change in the party.
I’m facing an extremely well-funded opponent backed by the establishment in the primary on Tuesday and, quite frankly, it’s going to be tough to win. Even if I don’t get to come back, however, I’ll be content. I’ve seen behind the curtain and I know that the ideas of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are winning. I can attest that my friends Justin Amash, Mark Meadows, and the other conservative members of the House are slowly, but surely, gaining control. Principled conservative leadership can change minds and gain support. The revolution in the Republican Party is going to continue, and it’s not going to be based on hating the other guys worse. It’s going to be founded on loving the country more.
Kerry Bentivolio is a conservative member of Congress from Michigan in his first term. You can visit his campaign website at bentivolioforcongress.com