Win or lose in November, the Republican Party has learned an awful lot about itself over the last 16 months. We’ve learned that there is a much larger anti-establishment presence in the party than previously believed, and that this presence is neither libertarian nor conservative. We’ve learned that constitutional issues are a low priority, but that social and racial issues weigh heavily on the minds of a surprising number of Republican voters. We’ve learned that money doesn’t buy elections and that Republican voters won’t simply rollover for the candidate with the largest campaign chest.
The most interesting thing that the Republican Party has learned is that it isn’t anywhere close to figuring out how to craft a platform acceptable to a significant majority of its voters.
Unfortunately, these are lessons that we’ll wish the Republican Party never learned. The Republican Party has learned that the factions that oppose its leadership are hopelessly divided, and that the best way to secure nominations for unpopular incumbents is to hold primaries with at least four candidates and only one representing the more pragmatic, business-oriented Republican center. They’ll let conservatives, libertarians, and populists fight among themselves, sowing the seeds of bad blood which will carry on from election to election.
The Republican Party does not have to move to the right to win elections and the anti-establishment factions have absolutely no chance of uniting under one banner or candidate. These are the kinds of lessons that you do not want an establishment to learn after years of spending their electoral capital fighting off challenges from “the right”.
What’s worse, is that these right-leaning factions will vote for newcomers with no history of supporting “the cause”. How difficult would it be to covertly finance anti-establishment “conservative” and “populist” candidates to pit against one another, when there is no vetting process in place? How many “TEA Party” candidates have turned out to be stellar soldiers for McConnell and Boehner? Over half? That’s without the establishment even trying. We can’t even trust “conservatives” running for statewide party offices not to join the other side within months of their victory.
With all this knowledge in the hands of the party, it is easy to imagine that 2017-2020 will be known as “The Establishment Strikes Back”; and when any serious conservative or populist opposition appears to become untenable, watch how quickly all the leaders of the anti-establishment factions begin to pander to party bosses to keep their seats at the table.
I am not writing this to spread negativity, but simply to paint a picture for you to stow away in the back of your minds. For the last three years, I have written articles that addressed “conservatives, constitutionalists, and libertarians”, hoping to establish an intellectual framework for a more unified grassroots movement. The rise of populism has made any future effort laughable at best.
To build a conservative movement capable of dominating Republican Party politics and winning elections against popular Democrat candidates, we require a shared philosophy to which we (the currently anti-establishment folks) adhere. What both we and the Republican Party leadership have learned over the last 16 months, is that no such philosophy exists or is likely to exist. Until it does it exist, there seems to be little advantage in being a “grassroots conservative” charging at windmills; and while I will never berate the quixotic (I love the quixotic), I do want to lay before you a challenge.
Establish a framework upon which you can build a conservative Republican Party. Weed out the fringe, the ridiculous, the dishonest, and the revolting elements which will inevitably attempt to infect your alliance, and stand on principle and principle alone. Be right. Don’t pass around untrue, unverified, or overly exaggerated propaganda. Shake hands, not fists. Realize that it is easy to condemn anyone as not being pure enough, but that it is much harder and more virtuous to succeed in building a truly republican majority in America.
While I do not expect to see such a thing develop over the next decade, I will be on the lookout for those sowing the seeds of responsible and thoughtful conservative politics in Virginia. If such a method were to take root in Virginia, who knows how far it could spread?
Personally, I’m placing my faith in the Rising Generation.