Conservatives refusing to leave the Republican Party after being repeatedly abused by the establishment leadership exhibit the classic symptoms of battered wife syndrome more afraid of their independence than their abusers.
Launched by CNBC reporter Rick Santelli in February 2009 after his rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the TEA Party movement swept across America fueled by frustration with the big government expansionist policies of the progressive Democrats and establishment GOP. A nationwide series of demonstrations on April 15 lent momentum to the movement resulting in the formation of local TEA Party chapters across the country with a desire to channel this frustration into political action.
Energized by their momentum, these groups poured out to take on the unglamorous grassroots work required to win elections and propelled the Republican Party into the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010. TEA Party conservatives justifiably proud of the hard work they had poured into the 2010 elections expected to gain a seat at the leadership table of the GOP and have conservative priorities addressed in the new Congress only to be disappointed to hear the establishment insist they leave the governing to more seasoned professionals. We were told to sit down and shut up while the establishment GOP leadership went about the business of governing. Our conservative priorities were brushed aside because the GOP lacked tactical advantage.
Surprised by the rise of the TEA Party phenomenon in 2009 and its success in the 2010 elections, the establishment GOP leadership first sought to co-opt the TEA Party movement as an energetic base to be used for grassroots work in the business of winning elections. We were courted by the GOP leadership who listened attentively as if we mattered, all while plotting how to use our energy for future election wins. Our demands that the GOP adopt a more conservative tact were met with explanations of tactical advantage and how we must work together to build a substantial majority. We were disappointed and vowed to nominate more TEA Party conservatives in 2012 to build upon the conservative base in Congress.
The 2012 election cycle saw TEA Party wins in Texas Senator Ted Cruz and GOP control of the House, but setbacks were suffered in Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock and Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin who were trapped by gotcha questions on abortion. The establishment GOP took offense at having their handpicked candidates defeated by TEA Party candidates in the primaries and refused to properly support these TEA Party candidates. Failing to co-opt the TEA Party and smarting from TEA Party primary losses they felt cost them control of the Senate, the establishment GOP retreated from their attempts to co-opt the TEA Party to declare open war on the TEA Party movement as a threat to their control of the Republican Party leadership.
Political pundits from the right began to subtly question the TEA Party and the benefits it was supposed that they brought to the Republican Party. They questioned the TEA Party’s effectiveness for the GOP and blamed its failure to capture the Senate on weak, untested TEA Party candidates despite the fact that Richard Mourdock served as Indiana Treasurer since 2007 and Todd Akin had served six terms in the House for Missouri. Both were seasoned politicians who received little support from a Republican Party bitter at having their handpicked candidates defeated in the primaries. As the smear campaign against the TEA Party gained momentum on the right to the delight of the progressive Democrats who also feared the TEA Party for attracting substantial support among more conservative Democrats, it culminated in the establishment GOP announcement by Karl Rove that his American Crossroads super PAC would be raising funds for the 2014 election cycle to defend Republican seats against TEA Party challengers whom he described as “unelectable.”
Conservatives have stubbornly clung to the Republican Party seduced by establishment claims that formation of a third party would dilute the ability of conservatives to prevent progressive Democrats from winning for the foreseeable future. This establishment logic neglects several important facts that conservatives have failed to consider. First, the establishment GOP has abandoned conservative principles to tacitly support the progressive agenda as inevitable. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner have refused to aggressively challenge President Obama’s progressive agenda declaring that they are forced to deal from a position of weakness because they lack the tactical advantage of a Senate majority. Their lack of fortitude in challenging President Obama has resulted in his refusal to even consider bargaining with the Republican opposition as if they are somehow beneath his consideration.
Second, the establishment GOP lives with the fear of shutting down the government due to the perceived failure of their challenge to President Clinton in 1995 which was really the fault of Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole rushing to cave in to Clinton’s demands just one day to prior to Clinton’s admission that he was one day from conceding the fight himself. Senator Dole was the epitome of the establishment GOP in the 1990s, and relished his role as a deal maker beholden to the bipartisanship fallacy thrust upon America by progressives seeking to portray bipartisanship as the ultimate seal of legislative approval. Republicans have lived with this self-imposed fear for far too long and were finally convinced by Senator Ted Cruz to challenge President Obama by shutting down the government over defunding his hated ObamaCare legislation. Unfortunately, establishment conservatives were unable to shake the fears of the past and finally caved in with a deal that gave Obama everything he wanted and then some.
Third, the American political landscape is changing in fundamental ways that promise to leave the establishment GOP timidity in the past as Americans look to bold leadership that transforms the political stalemate and attrition currently underway. The progressive Democrats and establishment Republicans both occupy the same portion of the political spectrum on the big issue of government expansion. The establishment GOP sees progressive government expansion as inevitable and does not truly believe in conservative principles of smaller government since they also have armies of consultants to support between elections through government jobs. The historical precedent of this situation occurred in 1856 over the issue of slavery when the Whig Party was dissolved and the Republican Party was formed by Northern Whigs who favored the abolition of slavery. Republican Abraham Lincoln was swept into the White House in 1860 precisely because the Republican Party occupied a different portion of the political spectrum than the Whigs and Democrats.
Fourth, there is no reason why TEA Party elected officials can’t continue to caucus with the Republicans and vote in Republican coalitions on issues in which they share the same position. Currently, Maine Senator Angus King and Vermont Senator Bernie Saunders are both Independents who caucus with the Democrat Party. In areas where there is strong TEA Party support, there is no reason not to run candidates as TEA Party nominees to distinguish their conservatism from the squishy moderateness of establishment Republicans. The open warfare of the establishment has tarnished the Republican brand as no longer being conservative leaving voters confused as to where they actually stand on the issues.
After all of this, conservatives still believe the exhortations of their establishment abusers that they can’t make it on their own and shouldn’t contemplate leaving the GOP lest the risk handing power to the progressive Democrats forever. Even after the establishment has told them to shut up and be compliant; even after the establishment has declared open war on TEA Party conservatives and signaled their abandonment of conservative principles; even after the establishment tacitly supports the progressive agenda of big government expansion and continued socialism; even after all of this, conservatives still cling to the GOP like battered wives unable to leave their abusers. They offer the same excuses as battered wives that we must face reality and accept the need to gain tactical advantage, and that it’s a scary world out there all on our own.
Conservatives still clinging to the GOP refuse to even consider abandoning the sinking Republican ship to form the TEA Party as a viable third party ready to capitalize on the pent up angst of Americans frustrated by the war of attrition currently being waged between two parties with no discernible differences at their expense. We continue to suffer through an abysmal economy marred by inflation, continued high unemployment, unnecessary underperformance, and record public debt that chokes its potential. We live under an administration marred by multiple scandals that ignores the Constitution to rule by decree and spy on us through an elaborate NSA apparatus whose full capability remains shrouded in government secrecy.
Our Founding Fathers intended Americans to be self-sufficient and independent, and intended the government to have just enough power to accomplish the functions specified in the Constitution without threatening the liberty they intended Americans to retain. The progressive infiltration of the institutions which underpin America has threatened this proposition by aiding and abetting the progressive agenda which seeks destruction of American capitalism in favor of European socialism. The establishment GOP has succumbed to the allure of the progressive agenda to the complete abandonment of conservative principles leaving conservatives with no natural home to express their political views.
The progressives have amply demonstrated that they are committed to winning at all costs even to the point of burning down the country to prevail. President Obama’s refusal to even consider negotiating with his Republican opposition highlighted this attitude in stark terms. The only counter to such an attitude completely devoted to winning at all costs is to meet it with an even more committed attitude to winning. Adolf Hitler was willing to burn down Europe to win, and the Allies had to be even more committed to winning in order to prevail. Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement was no match for Hitler’s aggressive desire to win and only resulted in emboldening Hitler making the fight to defeat him that much harder. Conservatives must be more committed to winning that Obama if we are to have any chance at defeating his progressive agenda. They must be willing to pull the trigger upon drawing their weapon of shutting down the government and holding out to the bitter end no matter what the cost. The Republican failure to keep the government shut down until Obama capitulated, means they will never be taken seriously by Obama or conservatives again. They need not ever try again as they have completely lost the respect of both their opposition and their conservative base.
If conservatives continue to cling to such a weak and tarnished political party as the GOP after all they have suffered over the past five years with more suffering promised in their future, they can only be because they suffer from battered wife syndrome fearing their independence more than their abusers. Conservatives sent the establishment GOP a clear message in the 2012 election cycle by declaring they would not support Mitt Romney as the handpicked establishment candidate, and they followed through on their promise to stay home on election night. There is little difference between losing to progressive Democrats and electing establishment Republicans who support the progressive agenda other than having to suffer through establishment lies of tactical advantage as they sell conservatives down the river once again. There are at least a few of us conservatives bold enough to leave the Republican Party behind and seize upon the pending transformation in American politics by declaring ourselves as members of the TEA Party.