One of the most repellent features of state and national politics is the proprietary control the major parties exert over elections and governance.
Rather than advancing candidates who are primarily and firmly committed to representing constituents in their districts and states, party brokers seek out and support candidates who are faithful to and controllable by party leadership. The result is a two-tier system of loyalties that often elbows out the people’s interests in favor of a party’s.
That’s especially noticeable in Republican congressional and presidential politics in which the GOP establishment has been dismissive of the party’s conservative wing, an amorphous, engaged assortment of mostly middle-class, normally-reliable voters who share an interest in governmental fiscal and moral responsibility.
In rationalizing their efforts to control the presidential nominating process while merely paying lip service to conservatives, institutional Republicans ask, "Who else they gonna vote for?"
If that old bromide were persuasive, then President Romney would be seeking his second term. The answer is "no one," and, in 2016, if an establishment favorite is imposed on the electorate by GOP party regulars and big money insiders, conservatives will vote for "no one" again.
Unimaginative, uninspiring presidential candidates selected and backed by Republican insiders and moneymen lost winnable races in 1996, 2008 and 2012. Now the GOP establishment tells us that the party’s conservative "insurgency" is foolish. But if the establishment had been more attentive to and respectful of the party’s conservative voting potential, there wouldn’t be an insurgency. So, who’s being foolish?
In an article, "The Republican Party’s Surrender Politics," Senator Ted Cruz, a conservative Republican presidential candidate, wrote: "In 2010, we were told that Republicans would stand and fight if only we had a Republican House. In 2014, we were told that Republicans would stand and fight…as soon as we won a majority in the Senate… In both instances, the American people obliged."
But, then…nothing. The president has prevailed on every substantive issue.
Cruz: "Now we’re told that we must wait until 2017 when we have a Republican president."
Blaming "conservative extremists" is a lame excuse. The party’s problems stem from the contempt GOP insiders have shown for the people who delivered their majorities.
The party has structure; conservatives have energy and determination. Accordingly, their needs are symbiotic. Our system doesn’t favor third parties, but, if conservatives are stiffed again, there may very well be one. Then, in the shorter term, only Democrats will win.
The GOP must rethink its approach to conservatives. If the party is genuinely interested in winning elections, then relinquishing some traditional party prerogatives may be a small price to pay to make these active, energized, but alienated voters more trustful of the party.
However, if the GOP’s primary concerns remain party fundraising, preserving party perks and insider control of the process, the party will lose conservative engagement, support and votes.
Republican Party insiders must decide which is more important. The GOP’s long-term success – and America’s – may very well depend on the choice they make.