TL;DR: Mitch McConnell feels threatened by principled conservatives and feels that they’re ruining the “Republican brand” by challenging him and other establishment Republicans. But really, the “Republican brand” is in shambles, and it’s time to re-define that brand to return to small-government principles.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) isn’t a happy camper these days. He’s locked in both a contentious primary and general election fight, losing rule battles against his Democratic counterpart, and has to contend with some members of his own party who are constantly willing to stand on principle, rather than the party line.
The rise of the Tea Party movement and conservative organizations have created havoc for McConnell and Republican leadership in the chamber, who enjoyed mostly distant rumblings from the political right in the past. But over the last few months, there has been a tiff between the Kentucky Republican and the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) that has now boiled over into the public.
Remember those commercials featuring a classroom full of Chinese students, listening to a lecture about the fall of the United States of America? As of this latest agreement on a “not-really-a-debt-ceiling,” we are headed in that direction. Don’t be alarmed, of course. It will all work out in the end. We really do need all the things that the government is doing with all that money that we’re borrowing from anyone around the world that is foolish enough to keep investing in us.
The concept of Obama spending more in one day that George W. Bush did in an entire year was brought to my attention today on Facebook by Dr. James S. Robbins. The context was that he was bemoaning the fact that he could no longer make the comparison between a month of Obama spending, and a full year of Bush deficit spending. Obama had reached the one day mark.
True, that’s the fault of some interesting accounting procedures that the government uses to deal with what used to be debt ceilings. This particular radical increase was the result of repaying various governmental accounts that have been tapped since May, in an attempt to not hit the debt ceiling. The increase put the national debt over $17 trillion for the first time in United States history ($17,075,590,107,963.57, to be exact).
Back in March, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) propelled himself to the forefront of Republican politics when he led an inspiring 13-hour filibuster against the confirmation of CIA nominee John Brennan.
For the entirety of his procedural protest, Paul and several of his colleagues, most notably Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT), highlighted the constitutional problems with President Barack Obama’s drones policy, which is largely consistent with the views of his hawkish predecessor and many of today’s conservatives. Paul would go onto win the CPAC straw poll the following week and has been a frequent voice of opposition to the Washington political establishment on foreign policy.
The reaction from the Old Guard Republicans was expected. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) both sided with President Obama on drones and foreign policy and admonished Paul from the Senate floor with the latter referring to his colleague from Kentucky a “wacko bird.” Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, called Paul’s foreign policy views “dangerous” and tried to label him as an “neo-isolationist.” Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s token Republican, has also taken shots at Paul on foreign policy, though with little effect.
The rise of the so-called “liberty movement,” which sprang out of the early days of Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, and of the tea party movement, which was a reaction to the one-party Democrat rule in Washington after the 2008 elections (with Obama’s victory being the likely spark) has forced the Republican Party to wrestle with warring factions in an attempt to establish a winning coalition.
Those in the media love to paint the GOP’s internal struggle as evidence of a party in the throes of extinction; as a party out-of-touch with mainstream America. But I think the “growing pains” the GOP are experiencing could potentially strengthen the Republican Party.
I am of the opinion that we have two political parties in our first-past-the-post electoral system. Few candidates have won major office in recent history under the banner of any party other than the Republican or Democrat parties. There are exceptions, but they’re rare, and those candidates usually win because of their personality, rather than a set of ideals on which a party platform could be constructed. Think Maine’s Angus King or Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman.
It is with that understanding that many within the “liberty movement” in Virginia have begun working within the Republican Party to move it in a more (small-L) libertarian direction. Our reasoning is that political parties do not hold a certain philosophy; they are vessels through which their members advance a set of ideas and beliefs. As the GOP looks for a path forward, it should look to the way the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) has embraced liberty activists.
After RNC Chairman Reince Priebus unveiled the Republican Party’s Growth and Opportunity Project last month, conservatives were hopeful this marked a fundamental change in the direction of the party. The 100-page document’s emphasis on engaging the grassroots and broadening party appeal seemed to indicate GOP leaders were looking to make amends with their base. Less than a month later however, the RNC renounced these claims and once again revealed the greatest hindrance to the GOP’s success: the party itself.
Many Republicans were aghast to witness the blatant political theater that took place last year during the Republican National Convention. Not only were controversial rules changes ushered in by Romney supporters and the establishment but video was released shortly thereafter revealing that the votes were rigged.
As an attempt to quell the growing animosity among grassroots conservatives, the RNC launched the Growth and Opportunity Project and offered to further discuss the rules changes at the RNC’s Spring Meeting.
Initially, it was believed the RNC was sincere in their efforts to overturn the recent powergrabs that rendered delegates nothing more than pawns being used in a chess match that had long been decided without them. As FreedomWorks New Media Director Kristina Ribali noted however, this was hardly the case:
This week, the Republican National Committee (RNC) will hold its spring meeting in Los Angeles in what could be a defining moment for the party. Many committee members are looking to overturn rules that were adopted at last year’s Republican National Convention which disenfranchised many grassroots delegates.
Back in August, Dean Clancy of FreedomWorks explained the rule changes at length, noting the profound affect they have on the process by “shift[ing] power from the state parties and the grassroots to the RNC and the GOP presidential nominee.”
There were two specific changes — Rule 12 and Rule 16 — pushed by Ben Ginsberg at the behest of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
Rule 12 allowed the RNC to change its rules at any time or any place in between party conventions. Clancy called this move “unprecedented,” and explained that the change gives the RNC the ability to completely ignore the convention on a whim, if it so chooses.
Rule 16 is also problematic because it targets delegates who vote their conscience in convention. For example, if somone ran as a delegate and pledged to vote for Mitt Romney, but then finds out something unsavory about him and they switched to another candidate; they would have been stripped of their delegate status.
While there may be states that require delegates to vote a certain way, they’re typically not bound to a particular presidential candidate. This rule change was clearly aimed at Ron Paul supporters and conservative activists skeptical of Romney’s record — forcing them to choose party over principle — and it help gives GOP insiders more leverage at picking the nominee.
AJ Delgado had a piece in Mediaite last weekend asking whether conservatism was dead or not. She cites three major policy “defeats” as she sees them for conservatism this month.
1) Immigration reform is all but a foregone conclusion.
2) The gay marriage debate is essentially over.
3) The plan to defund ObamaCare — conservatives’ last stand after the Supreme Court failed to throw out the Act — is over
I think Miss Delgado misses a lot in construing all of these as catastrophic defeats for conservatives. A look at each issue on its own shows that it is not as catastrophic as it first appears.
Firstly, I wouldn’t put my money on comprehensive immigration reform becoming law. After Rand Paul outlined his position on the issue last week, he has been very careful to walk back certain aspects of it. Plus, the GOP House has shown exactly no interest in this issue. Finally, this is an issue that divides Democrats as well. Blue collar unions, African Americans, and many environmentalists want to kill immigration reform as well for their own reasons.
As for gay marriage, this is probably her strongest argument. Yes the gay marriage is over. It will become the law of the land in every state in the country within 20 years, if that. What conservatives need to is rebrand on this issue. What conservatives need to fight for on this issue is to make sure adequate religious liberty and conscience protections are in place for churches, businesses, adoption agencies and others opposed to gay marriage.
Following the 2012 presidential election, many Republicans found themselves in a state of shock. To lose to a president whose policies had not only been controversial but had failed to stifle an enduring economic downturn seemed implausible. There were no doubt countless conservative voters who joined an incredulous Bill O’Reilly the next day asking, “What the heck happened last night?” In recent weeks, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has provided an answer.
In the wake of his 13-hour filibuster and narrow victory in CPAC’s presidential straw poll last weekend, the freshmen senator has become an overnight sensation in American politics. Though much of the support for his dramatic defense of due process may have been partisan at first, it has generated a groundswell of soul-searching within the Republican Party.Conservatives have failed to provide a message that resonated with voters since the Bush administration and they have two failed presidential campaigns to show for it.
Lindsey Graham has declared war on the Constitution (on the same day Kim Jong Un declared war on his enemies… hmm…). What’s especially funny is that he couldn’t have chosen a less popular time to do so, as the Constitution — courtesy of #StandwithRand — is trending. With overwhelming support for Rand Paul’s filibuster coming from conservatives, libertarians, and even many Democrats; Graham, joined by John McCain, has decided that the possibility of the government killing Americans on American soil without due process is a non-issue.
Graham told POLITICO:
“I do mind our party taking a position completely different than we had with President Bush. I didn’t hear any of these people say anything during the Bush administration. Where were they? I just think it’s politics. I think it’s creating a straw man, creating a situation that doesn’t exist.”
First of all, let’s look at the issue of droning under President Bush. Not once did Senator Paul praise President Bush during his filibuster. Unlike his colleague, Senator Graham, Paul is able to look at an issue based on constitutionality instead of on which political party is at stake. If Senator Graham cared to remember those “good old days”, he might remember the huge anti-war movement that arose during Bush’s War on Terror. Much of that movement was directed at tactics such as waterboarding and use of drones, but the movement was against a Republican president. As a party-line opportunist, I guess it’s not all that surprising that there’s a bit of a memory gap for the senator.
I was intrigued by the question posed by Jim Geraghty at National Review Online yesterday, “Do We on the Right Still Trust the People?” My first instinct was to respond “yes, of course we do,” because after all the idea that we as individuals can take care of ourselves better than the government can is one of the reasons we believe in limited government. The problem is, the American people have not been voting as though they really believe that themselves. So really, this question is two questions:
- Do we trust the American people to take care of themselves?; and
- Do we trust the American people to vote in ways that allow them to take care of themselves?
The answer to the first is obvious, as I’ve already mentioned. We do believe that the people are better at taking care of themselves than the government is. When left alone by government, individuals will be more empowered to make a living for themselves and pursue happiness as they wish. Society as a whole would be happier and more prosperous under a limited government than it currently is under big government.
The second question is much more difficult, because the American people have not voted for liberty. Instead, they have voted for the much easier relative security of the cradle-to-grave welfare/entitlement state and the nurturing of big government statism. Clearly the American electorate has not given us reason to have faith in them to vote against the largesse, as the welfare state has continued to grow. The question is: Why? And as a secondary question, how do we reach out to voters to get them to understand that they will be better off under smaller government than they are under big government?