In 2006, the moderate-wing of the Republican Party was excoriated by the American People as the GOP lost both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Republicans, in a bid to appease Democrat voters focused on the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 and Comprehensive Immigration Reform. While Karl Rove’s gamble with Medicare Reform helped secure Florida for President George W. Bush in 2004, it royally pissed off the conservative base of the party.
Tossing in a failed amnesty platform proposed by Bush and McCain was simply more than the conservative base could bear. An ailing economy pushed Independents into the blue and the Democrats began to set the stage for 2008 and the ascendancy of a young Illinois Senator, Barack Obama.
I understand what Karl Rove and George W. Bush were doing. They wanted to secure control over Baby Boomers and Hispanics. What they didn’t anticipate was the TEA Party revolution and a movement to shrug off the ever-expanding federal government by the Republican Base.
The Affordable Care Act and the total war waged on conservatives by Obama, Pelosi, and Reid helped grow the TEA Party ranks, leading to sweeping electoral defeats for Democrats in 2010 and 2014. However, by 2015, conservatives were so frustrated with failure after failure, betrayal after betrayal, that they were ready to embrace the Democratic theory of emotional populism. Conservatives lost faith in intellectualism, public policy, and enlightenment philosophy. Instead, they embraced the liberal ideology of total political warfare. It was no surprise that they embraced the repugnant, burn-it-to-the-ground rhetoric of Donald Trump in 2016.
However, these “Trumpers” have discovered the same reality that modern Democrats have run into for decades: that populism may help you win an election, but it doesn’t help you govern. In fact, it makes governing damn near impossible.
Hate can only get you so far. Eventually you have to secure the capacity to implement policies beneficial to the American People. Trump, McConnell, and Ryan simply cannot get their way back to policy through the burdensome arrogance of populist rhetoric that has sent women, young people, and independents running from the GOP with great haste and frustration.
Populists are scared to death of public policy. Facts, cause and effect, trial and error, and science frustrate their pursuit of anti-Republican rhetoric. What they really believe in is authoritarianism. They want to force their ideals on everyone else regardless of how the majority of Americans feel about it. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton feel your “conservative” populist pain.
I know that my advice and warnings will fall on deaf ears – I’ll be condemned as a NeverTrumper and dismissed for my arrogant pursuit of rationality. I even had a close friend condemn me for my arrogant pursuit of logic and reason as proof that I no longer ascribe to a true conservative ideology. When logic and reason are stigmatized by a faction within your national party, it is time to run like hell from those individuals repudiating reason. Run fast. Run hard. Don’t look back and don’t feel guilt or shame as your old friends turn against you for using your God-given faculties of thought.
If Republicans want to be successful nationally, then they need to embrace the conservative tradition. What does that mean? Well, it means that Republicans need to embrace the Enlightenment, Community, Natural Law, Individualism, Reason, and Capitalism. Outside of these six societal principles, there is no wisdom.
We have got to stop hating people. We have got to stop judging people. We condemn everyone that disagrees with us and then condemn public schools. Well, if public education is so inept, of course there are millions of people that disagree with a reasonable point of view. Is that their fault? How many of you have chosen to be public school teachers? Or did you concede education to liberals? That’s your choice.
How many of you have become social workers? Or did you concede social work to liberals? How many of you have pursued work in the bureaucracy? Or have you conceded the bureaucracy to the Democrat Party?
Public Policy isn’t easy. In fact, it’s quite difficult. Purity and idealism always lose in a field where pragmatic compromise is standard fare.
If you hate Democrats, then you are contributing to the culture of division that makes progress impossible. If you hate Republicans, then you are contributing to the culture of division that makes progress impossible.
If you want progress, then you need to focus on policy and bringing people together, holding elected officials accountable to results-based analysis, not rhetoric or ideological purity.
I don’t hold out much hope for change and I think that the populism that has infected the Republican Party will lead to defeat after defeat for a decade or more. Maybe longer.
When you get sick of losing, stop and consider your tactics.
When you get tired of Democrats winning by virtue of being the lesser of two evils, give my perspective a second thought. Consider embracing objective, rational, logical avenues to government. Consider focusing on policy. Consider supporting statewide candidates that embrace the reality that all politics are local. Gillespie shouldn’t have had to run on a national platform. He should have run on issues that mattered to folks in NOVA, Richmond, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Roanoke, and Southwest Virginia without worrying that the populists would crucify him. He shouldn’t have had to pass a populist purity test. He should have been able to run to win. We didn’t let him. He lost. We have no one to blame but ourselves.