What is one to make of all the hubbub this Republican primary season? Most of the talk has centered around the tea party, Sarah Palin, Republicans in name only (RINOs), and the reaction of the Republican establishment. Well, there is much to talk about.
The Republican establishment has clearly been shocked by the rapid ascension and influence of the tea-party and more general tea-party sentiment during the primary season. And rank and file conservatives new to the political process have been shocked at the unfriendly welcome they have received in Republican circles.
For a long time the mantra has been that for the Republican party to succeed, the party needs to engage and motivate the base. You need to get them involved. Or so they said.
As it turns out, the Republicans wanted the base to get involved—just not so much. What they really wanted is for real conservatives to turn out to vote but certainly not run. Newly involved fiscal conservatives are finding out that the Republican party wants their votes, just not them.
Welcome to the club.
This is the position that culture-of-life conservatives, like me, have found ourselves in for a generation. I know that many culture-of-life conservatives feel that the Republican party has expected us to get out and vote for candidates of their choosing in return for the privilege of lip service to the life issues we care most about. But many of us COL conservatives have come to the conclusion that much of the Republican leadership does not really care about these issues, at least not enough to really do anything about it.
Now fiscal conservatives find themselves in the same situation. Motivated by record spending, record deficits, the loss of liberty, and a floundering economy, many people have come to realize that they are convicted about the need for smaller government, less spending, and enforced constitutional limits on the power of government. So convicted are these people that they have turned out to townhall meetings, rallies, and now primaries. They really want these things and they are prepared to act to get them. In short, in the cause of fiscal conservatism, they have become true believers.
That is the problem, the Republican party has never been very comfortable with true believers. Culture-of-life conservatives know this from experience.
The fiscal true believers received invitations to the party only to find out that the hosts would have preferred if they just sent gifts and stayed home.
The Republican establishment may have thought that they would be able to treat these newly minted politicos the same way they have treated pro-life true believers. They seemed to judge that they could give just enough lip service to these fiscal issues to get the needed votes in order to return to the status quo ante. They may have judged poorly.
This time the true believers are showing up to the party and don’t seem ready to go home any time soon and many of them also have common cause with the culture-of-life conservatives as well. The Republican establishment may just have to accept this new reality. The true believers might be around a while.
So if they want the gifts (votes), it is time to make room at the party for the newcomers. Put away the martinis and crack open a few kegs.
Let’s get this party started.