When Republicans lost the last presidential election to a weak president amidst an unprecedentedly lethargic economic recovery, Republicans of all stripes engaged in some soul-searching about what went wrong and what needs to change within the party.
The party establishment issued an “autopsy” report in which they searched everywhere for the culprit of electoral failure. They looked under the bed; they looked under the covers. They blamed our losses on conservatives and conservative ideas. They suggested we need to adopt Democrat positions on issues like marriage and amnesty.
Yet, they failed to examine the one obvious culprit – the failed leadership within the party. They never even entertained the idea that, perhaps, it is the current crop of elected officials – people who stand for nothing and appeal to nobody – who were responsible for our electoral losses. Ironically, the very people who are pushing a pale-pastel agenda for the party in pursuit of new voters – the stuffed-shirt, country club consultant class and their elected officials – will never appeal to younger voters and minorities. They certainly won’t appeal to Reagan Democrats – the most reachable constituency for conservatives. That should have been the obvious moral of running a candidate like Mitt Romney.
Look down the roster of the 45 elected Republicans in the Senate. Putting ideology aside for a moment, how many of them represent a vibrant fresh voice for a new generation? You can count them all on one or two hands. This needs to change if we ever hope to grow our party. As Milton Wolf (Obama’s second cousin from Kansas) said at the Red State Gathering on Friday, “if the GOP establishment can’t fight for the Constitution and for the American Idea in a small tent then they can’t fight for them in a large tent either.”
Beginning this year, we are starting a new paradigm in Republican politics. Gone are the days when every sitting Republican is the defacto nominee for the duration of his or her life, barring any egregious scandal. Every six years, each Republican will have to stand on his record and vouch for why he is the best person to represent Republicans, especially in a conservative state. If nobody comes along to challenge them and we are stuck with a weak Republican, then so be it. But if and when we find viable challengers, we will not sit back and rubber stamp another six years of rudderless leadership.
Those of you who attended the Red State Gathering in New Orleans got a glimpse of a new cadre of 21st century conservatives – candidates and potential candidates who will not just vote with conservatives but give voice to conservatives and fight to the death for our values. The theme of the gathering was really punctuated by Ted Cruz himself when he spoke of a new paradigm in Washington – one in which conservatives fight and win battles both in the halls of Congress and outside of Washington on social media and in the streets. One in which conservatives in the Senate band together to filibuster odious legislation supported by both parties and conservatives in the House vote down the rule for bad legislation backed by GOP leadership.
The Red State Gathering featured an unprecedented array of 21st century conservatives in the mold of Ted Cruz. They were mainly political neophytes with impressive success stories in the private sector; all with their own unique talents, but all committed to standing for our core values and countermanding the cycle of failure, capitulation, and defeat that has plagued the GOP for almost a century – sans a few years of success here and there.
The message emanating from this year’s Gathering was quite clear: once we’ve become acculturated to conservative fighters like Ted Cruz, there is no turning back.
If the people running the NRSC were smart, they would work on raising money for the general election. But, alas, they are the stupid party, and are planning to dump millions into protecting failed moss-covered incumbents in primaries. If that’s the game they want to play, then it’s game on.