Country club Republicans seem to be clueless about Democrats. Although country-club Republicans are reluctant to criticize Democrats of any stripe, they don’t mind attacking other Republicans, like Ted Cruz. Some Republicans provided Chris Wallace with opposition research against Cruz. As Sarah Palin noted, country club Republicans eat other Republicans.
John McCain’s assault on Ted Cruz in the Senate after Cruz’s filibuster against Obamacare shows just how far “moderate” Republicans will go to eat other Republicans.
Country clubbers’ tendency to fold before Democrats is so frequent that it no longer occasions much comment. McCain’s blast against Cruz, however, has made GOP country clubbers’ proclivity for doing Democrats’ bidding impossible to ignore.
We need to understand why GOP country clubbers are hostile to conservatives, and then recommend a reasonable course of action for conservatives to take. A successful strategy for conservatives (within the Republican Party) hinges on understanding why clubbers don’t like Rightists.
There are two, probably related, reasons for country clubbers’ hostility toward conservatives.
Rush Limbaugh has noted that country-club Republicans are embarrassed by conservatives. Conservatives’ advocacy of social issues such as abortion, the Second Amendment, and defense of marriage seems especially galling to country clubbers. (For clubbers, Rightists stand guilty of being… conservative.) Moreover, clubbers equate conservatism with Goldwater’s defeat. Even after Reagan won two landslide victories, GOP clubbers kept Reaganites at a long arm’s length. Unhappily, by naming George H. W. Bush his vice presidential running mate, Reagan virtually guaranteed the clubbers would resume control of the GOP once “the Gipper” was no longer president.
Angelo Codevilla notes another reason in an op-ed piece in the February, 2013 issue of Forbes. Aspiring to be allied with America’s Democrat “ruling class,” country-club Republicans don’t mind being junior partners in running the country.
How are the two explanations related? If country-club Republicans seek to ally with the Democrat ruling class, it is no wonder they dislike conservatives. Country clubbers accept Democrats’ belief that the ruling class knows what’s best for the country.
Consequently, millions of voters, especially conservatives, are orphaned. It’s not surprising that, although most Democrats are satisfied their party represents them, only a quarter of Republicans believe the GOP reflects their views.
At first blush, an obvious course of action for conservatives who feel orphaned is formally to depart the GOP and form a new political party.
Opting for the “third” party route, however, would be a colossal mistake. It is unlikely that a new political party could successfully compete against the Democrat ruling class.
There have been “third” parties in America, of course, but only once — when the newly-formed Republicans supplanted the Whigs in the late 1850s — has a minor party achieved major party status. America has had a two-party system for most of its history.
What explains America’ history of two-parties dominating our politics? One reason is the single-member legislative districts with the “first-past-the-post” principle determining the victor. Equally important is the Electoral College, which puts a premium on a party’s ability to appeal to a wide range of voters in 50 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, state statutes governing ballot access generally benefit established parties and disadvantage “third” parties.
What might conservatives do? Barry Goldwater (and his backers) provides an excellent model. After losing the GOP’s presidential nomination in 1960, Goldwater urged conservatives to “grow up,” and work to take over the GOP’s local, county, and state units.
By 1964, the Goldwaterites were in charge of the party’s nominating machinery. They first took over local GOP entities, and then moved on to county and then to state organizations. The Goldwaterites’ bottom-up strategy provides an excellent template for contemporary conservatives.
After LBJ and the mainstream media devastated Goldwater, country-club Republicans regained control of the GOP. Reaganites also had a long, hard slog between 1976 and 1980 to get the Gipper nominated. (Country-club Republicans’ distaste for the Reaganites has already been noted.)
There are lessons in the GOP’s history after Goldwater and Reagan. First, conservatives once again have to do the hard work of taking over the Republican Party. Second, once in control of the party, keep it!
Are contemporary conservatives as willing to work as hard as the Goldwaterites in the early 1960s? Probably, but they need allies. Fortunately, the Tea Partiers exist, and press reports indicate restoration of funding for ObamaCare has “re-energized” them.
Country clubbers are trying to purge Tea Partiers from the GOP. Turnabout is fair play. Nonaffiliated conservatives and Tea Partiers should jettison the clubbers.
There is no need to defend Tea Partiers, who have been accused of everything from “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” to “not being very nice.” The recent book by Leftist academics Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson reveals that Tea Partiers are not ogres.
Since Tea Partiers have shown themselves ready, willing, and able to put their bodies and checkbooks where their ideas are, they would make good allies for non-affiliated conservatives in retaking the GOP.
As conservatives embark on this crusade, they need to learn from those who’ve gone before. Talk to veterans of the Goldwater and Reagan movements. Read their memoirs. See what they did to win, and adopt their tactics, always acknowledging that this is not the early 1960s or the late 1970s.
Conservatives’ effort to capture the GOP needs a media strategy, mostly to offset the nearly hysterical efforts by Democrats and the mainstream media to demonize the movement. Conservatives must start now to tell people: (a) who they are, and (b) why they’re engaged in this effort.
Mainstream media will attack conservatives’ efforts to capture the GOP, but Rightists have electronic devices and venues that did not exist 15 or 20 years ago. The media monopoly enjoyed by Walter Cronkite and those of his ilk 50 years ago is gone. PCs, laptops, smart phones, I-Pads, etc., provide individuals with communication speed and power undreamed of 50 years ago. Space limitations preclude mentioning all electronic venues, but Fox Cable News, political talk radio, the Internet, and social media outlets such as blogs, YouTube, and Twitter are some of the most “popular.”
In their movement’s earliest days, Tea Partiers used the Internet and social media quickly to forge communication networks, and conservatives can draw on their experiences to develop electronic networks much faster than the Goldwaterites were able to do a half-century ago.
It won’t be easy, and the hour is late, but if conservatives can capture the GOP, they avoid the hurdles facing “third” parties. Given Americans’ growing disenchantment with liberal Democrats — look at what happened to gun-grabbing Democrats in Colorado – if conservatives get control of the GOP and campaign smart, they may not have to spend a long time in the political wilderness.
Country-club Republicans should leave politics to those who are serious about opposing the Democrat ruling class.