Republicans have nominated moderate, cross-the-aisle candidates for president in two successive elections, John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. They lost both elections. While ascribing the defeat to a single cause — the GOP nominees’ centrist records and stances — would be folly, it surely contributed to the losses by depressing the party’s conservative base. A candidate has to inspire people to turn out and vote; moderates don’t inspire the grassroots of either party.
Many conservatives rightly conclude that a nominee who hasn’t fought for their values consistently is unlikely to fight for them under the pressures of the presidency. So they stay home, or decide not to donate their time and treasure to electing that candidate. They stay home rather than walk blocks or make phone calls. They don’t plant a yard sign. They sit out, feeling that their party isn’t representing their values. It’s an entirely rational choice.
The Associated Press’ Charles Babington doesn’t see things that way. He’s carrying water today for those establishment Republicans who think Romney was just too darn conservative to win.
WASHINGTON (AP) — After Mitt Romney‘s 2012 loss, many senior Republicans concluded the party must moderate its image on issues such as immigration and reproductive rights.
But some GOP lawmakers have done the opposite.
They imposed new restrictions on abortion in several states. They are strongly resisting a broad immigration bill in the U.S. House. They’re waging a steady assault on “Obamacare,” with some House and Senate Republicans vowing to shut down the government if that’s what it takes to choke off the health care law Congress enacted in 2010.
These trends worry establishment Republicans. And they expose a growing split in the GOP, which is driven more by campaign strategy than ideology.
That split has always been there. The establishment resisted Ronald Reagan back in the day. They resist Ted Cruz now. They’re freaked out by Allen West and think conservative blogs and talk radio are nothing but trouble. Same old same old.
They also fret when Republicans in red states get elected and then do what they campaigned on doing. The voter ID, abortion and anti-Obamacare bills that have won passage in state legislatures and the U.S. House reflect the will of the majority of voters who handed Republicans their majorities.
They fret when Republicans in blue states get elected and they do what they campaigned on doing. Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker all put establishment Republicans in panics to one degree or another. Their gaudy records count for far less than the fact that none of them tend to go along with everything the Beltway types deem within bounds.
A reasonable question never crosses their lips: Should Republican candidates just lie to voters, and immediately abandon their campaign promises and principles?
The mainstream media and establishment Republicans’ answer would be “yes,” but they’ll never be honest enough to say it.
What they’re rejecting are flyover country values. The MSM doesn’t understand them and doesn’t care to, and the Beltway GOP tends to avoid open fights with the MSM while casting its eye on flyover Americans as backward and embarrassing. We got a little glimpse of the values gap in the different reactions to rumors that the billionaire entrepreneur Koch brothers were considering buying the L.A. Times, versus the warm reaction that billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post is getting. The Koch brothers’ possible purchase was greeted as a scandal by itself. Bezos’ actual buy of the Post at a bargain price generated suck-up tweets from Post staff and mostly positive press elsewhere.
The Post itself noted that Bezos’ “values” played a role in the sale going forward.
Post publisher and CEO Katharine Weymouth noted the “values” at play in Monday’s letter announcing the sale.
Mr. Bezos has asked that I remain as Publisher and CEO of The Post. I am honored to continue in that role. Our mission does not change. Nor do the values that have been at the core of The Post’s enduring strength over many decades. Mr. Bezos shares the principles that have guided the Graham family’s proud stewardship of this great news organization.
The love-fest continued in Bezos’ letter to staff:
“The values of The Post do not need changing,” he wrote. “The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners. We will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistakes. When we do, we will own up to them quickly and completely.”
Those alleged values include trashing Mitt Romney, the man the media says Republicans should emulate, for boyhood antics in prep school, while avoiding any serious research into Barack Obama’s background. Just Google “Washington Post Romney school bully” and you’ll see the Post’s “values” on plain display. The Post is consistently hostile to traditional values, small government, individual responsibility, Christianity, and Second Amendment rights. Establishment Republicans are just as consistently hostile to Republicans who espouse those same values and ideals.
Now the media, the AP today and others on other days, want the Republicans to all be like Mitt.
Because they want a docile GOP that’s content to live rich in the Beltway, behave themselves, not upset the Hunger Games prosperity they have set up, and be impotent there and everywhere else.
Case in point: Michael Medved. He has a piece in the WSJ trashing Sen. Ted Cruz today. Cruz came to Washington just this year and has already established himself as a genuine conservative leader. So the establishments in both parties and the media automatically fear and loathe him, when they should be listening to him.
Medved tries building a case against Cruz’s call for conservatives to lead the party back to the presidency. He has to resort to obvious dishonesty to get there.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has most recently voiced this idea. “You know, if you look at the last 40 years, a consistent pattern emerges,” Mr. Cruz observed in a July interview with ABC. “Any time Republicans nominate a candidate for president who runs as a strong conservative, we win. And when we nominate a moderate who doesn’t run as a conservative, we lose.”
Really? In 1988, George H.W. Bush sought the presidency by promising to deliver a “kinder, gentler” America. Despite the opposition of most conservatives (who passionately preferred Jack Kemp, Pat Robertson or even Bob Dole in the primaries),Mr. Bush crushed Michael Dukakis in the general election and swept 40 states and 426 electoral votes—the last Republican candidate to win the presidency decisively.
There are some holes in that argument. Bush 41 rode on the coattails of the conservative that the establishment feared, Ronald Reagan. Reagan decisively won two terms, governed from the right, and was popular and effective. Bush won one term running as Reagan’s third term, broke his promise not to raise taxes, and got bounced out of a second term by Bill Clinton — who positioned himself to the right of the national Democrats in order to win. Everything about the 1988 and 1992 elections suggests that the voters wanted someone center-right, competent, trustworthy, inspiring, and capable of leading. Bush is a fine man who hit most of those, but his inability to inspire hurt, and his most ostentatious failure put him to the left of the center on taxes, and he lost.
Medved resorts to more selective history to make his case against a handful of more recent GOP candidates.
In crucial, statewide races in 2010 and 2012, uncompromising conservatives like Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Ken Buck in Colorado, Joe Miller in Alaska, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Todd Akin in Missouri won GOP nominations but lost badly in otherwise highly winnable Senate contests. Their experience illustrates the fallacy that stalwart conservatives always make the best candidates—if only Republican voters would be smart enough to nominate them.
No, their defeats illustrate the fact that the quality of candidates matters, a lot. O’Donnell, Angle, Mourdock and Akin all shot themselves and their own party in the foot to varying degrees. O’Donnell in particular lost because she had to claim she wasn’t a witch, and now, maybe, because the IRS and the state of Delaware conspired to derail her run from the beginning. Mr. Establishment Medved notes none of these facts, allowing him to paint these candidates as too conservative to win.
The establishment GOP-vs-conservatives is a tale nearly as old as the party. It’s at least as old as the conservative movement. It’s wrong now as it was in 1976 and 1980.
The truth that both sides omit in our internecine battles is that we need both conservatives and moderates. We don’t need either side trying to purge the other. You don’t add by subtracting, and you don’t win by doing the mainstream media’s bidding. You also don’t win by promising to be a lite version of the other side.