Elites vs. Grassroots at CPAC

There is perhaps no more disturbing theme to come out of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) than the undercurrent of elitist commentary leaking out on some blogs and on Tweeter. The reactions of the establishment and the establishment wannabes to such people as Sarah Palin, Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, and other personalities within the party who appeal to the base have been remarkable. The criticism of Sarah and Joe was fairly mild by most political standards. But the message was clear: such people are in ill favor with the establishment.

One such respondent placed his objections within the framework of the Republican Party being the middle-class party and therefore not needing "gimmicks" to prove their middle-class bona fides. The problem, of course, is that once those middle-class symbols are removed, or limited in their impact and exposure, the Republican Party leadership tends to forget the values of the middle class that they claim to represent. The results are predictable:

  • In election seasons, such omissions lead to the near suicidal nomination of people like John McCain for president. McCain tried to sell us on the idea that he was a "maverick" when it came to bucking the party establishment. All too often, however, he was a very public rebel against true conservative values. Back in the day, the description we used for such people was "Rockefeller Republicans." These days, the most apt description is RINO ("Republican in Name Only"). The nomination of McCain resulted in the spectacle of Palin and Wurzelbacher gathering more people at their appearances than John McCain drew to his.
  • Under these conditions, when Republicans are in power they tend to spend more time in "go along to get along" mode than they do governing on conservative principles, essentially guaranteeing a loss at the next electoral opportunity.

In both situations, forgetting the grassroots is destructive and -- as with the most recent election cycle -- downright suicidal. It amazes me that this lesson has yet to be learned.

There is another factor, which I mentioned in a previous Pajamas Media article:

Those Americans traditionally supporting Republican candidates tend not to let their entire beings get wrapped up in letting one politician or another be the answer to all their problems -- or the cause of them.

By that same token, Republicans tend not to need an elite leadership to do their thinking for them. Rush Limbaugh (who spoke so eloquently of conservative values at CPAC) and the hosts of conservative talk shows across this country are extremely popular because they manage to articulate what ordinary voters are already thinking and, all too often, what the Republican Party leadership is ignoring. It comes as no shock then that Republican Party leaders find it harder, if not impossible, to maintain the "leader walks on water" meme that the Democrats promoted with Obama and Clinton.