It seems as though the Republican Party is constantly consumed with the size of their “tent”, and no, no euphemism is intended. We seem as concerned with ideological purity as the most zealous 3rd Party member is of his tiny party membership. It makes perfect sense for a small 3rd Party to covetously guard party ideology because the only opportunity for the party to grow or affect change is to preach a cohesive and clear message. However, no major party has ever been of singular thought or pure ideology. Beginning with the Federalists and anti-Federalists there has been party division over particular issues, even the birth of the Republican Party was hardly a signal towards singular ideology. The inception of the Republican Party came as a moral response to the horror of slavery – the death groans of the Whig Party combined with anti-slavery Democrats and various other 3rd Party members to birth the Republican Party. The only monolithic belief among these new Party members was the belief that slavery was abhorrent and that plantation ownership in the south was crippling to economic equality.
What can this history of “Big Tent” politics teach us as modern Republicans? What it should say is that there is room for conservatives, neo-conservatives, social conservatives, Tea Partiers, libertarians and other smaller divisions within our Party. To be sure there are certain members of the Party who would fit just as easily within the Democrat opposition as they do now within our ranks, but if we are honest most of these “RINO’s” are political animals not true partisans. Men like Arlen Specter are more concerned with political survival than with ideology or truth. The rank and file members of our party would not be swayed into the opposition camp so easily, because we are not politicians, we are real people who have the strength of our convictions. With this being said, it saddens me to see yet another attack on our Party’s diversity. Recently Karl Rove and his failed Crossroads PAC have announced that they will begin helping weed out the Republican Primary field to make sure only “electable” candidates come out of the primaries. What a wonderful idea (note the sarcasm), a group of Beltway Republicans trying to influence elections by telling local populations who they should vote for. It’s the height of hubris. Dear reader, Georgia Republicans are nothing like Maine Republicans, and Texas Republicans are nothing like Iowa Republicans… and in those differences lays strength. Iowa Republicans fight hard for the rights of the unborn – Texas Republicans fight hard for fiscal responsibility – New Hampshire Republicans fight hard for our freedom from an oppressive nanny state government. We need these disparate groups to fight for the things they care about, because if they don’t these causes may be forgotten. Occasionally this leads to the nomination of Christine O’Donnell or Todd Akin, but this is who the local Republicans prefer, this is not a problem but is actually our system working properly! Delaware and Missouri Republicans should vote for who they prefer, not who Republicans in Florida or Washington prefer.
See what Mr. Rove (and many in the media who decry the Tea Party) don’t understand is that conservatism unlike liberalism must be fiercely guarded, because once lost it is very hard to recover. A list of examples of subjects once anathema to conservatives but now commonly beloved even among conservatives; social security, Medicare, Medicaid, a large standing army, Executive Power, public education, the Seventeenth Amendment and the list continues. On the opposite end of the spectrum? Are there any beloved notions among liberals that have been lost and are likely impossible to reclaim? The Bush tax cuts have been made permanent, but we did just raise taxes on the “wealthy”. Is there anyone who thinks that it is realistic to believe that taxes won’t be raised again in the very near future? How about gun control measures? Gun ownership in America is more popular than ever, but there has been a growing cacophony among the political elite that more gun control is needed. Even with a large majority of Americans preferring the government do nothing more to regulate guns, bipartisan laws that deal with more gun control look likely to be passed. I think it very realistic to see our political leaders continuing to chip away at gun rights until it is politically expedient (as it was in 1994) to pass a larger overarching gun ban. The best way to defend our values is to allow the local populations to fight for those causes close to their hearts, because we can’t count on nationally elected officials to fight for conservative issues which could cause them to lose elections.
Which is why Mr. Rove must be educated on this issue. The way to stem the bleeding from the Republicans recent thumping in the 2012 election is not to marginalize the Tea Party (or other conservative groups) but to champion local politics. We have become enamored with the national election, and forgotten that the real place to enact change is on the local level. In 2010 the Republicans pummeled the Democrat Party but did not learn the right lesson… they thought that the 2010 victory was a national endorsement of the Republican Party in 2012, and they were wrong. The lesson of 2010 was everything is local. If in 2012 the Republicans had focused more of their effort on local elections, we would have still lost the White House but the gains in the House and Senate might have been tremendous! Imagine a Republican super-majority in the House and majority in the Senate… but instead we lost our sense of self and spent most of our money on the national race. President Obama would be a neutered prince had we learned the lesson of 2010 – diversity in the party is a good thing. Let each Republican fight the fight that they are called to; whether socially, fiscally, or freedom oriented. The numbers are stacked against us at a national level but our forefathers saw the dangers of majority rule, and designed a system that built control out of local populations and not from majority rule. We can control the legislature which is where the true power lies, but we have to embrace diversity of thought and leave Mr. Rove and his Washington Beltway boys behind.