The Republican party, currently America’s “opposition” party, has an interesting journey ahead of it. The GOP is at a crossroads. One path take the party towards the Republican establishment; moderate Washington elites. The other takes the party to middle America; the Tea Party, conservaties, and libertarians. One journey is set to be led by George W Bush advisor, Karl Rove. The other is to be led by no one. Just as there is no “leader” of the Tea Party, there is no leader of the movement to kick GOP pretty-boys out of office and replace them with constitutional conservatives.
If there was any leader behind the Tea Party, perhaps it would be one of the politicians who was elected because of the Tea Party. Take your pick – Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Allen West, or countless others. These are not just the run of the mill Republican politicians. Rather, these are men carrying a message from the American people. Government growth needs to be stopped and reversed. Men who have been in office for a mere two years – Rubio and Paul, are already becoming the leaders of their party in the Senate, with or without the official title of “Minority Leader”.
Compare these office holders with the Republican establishment; politicians the likes of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Eric Cantor. Can anyone name a time when these politicians actually stood for something? Was there ever a moment when their constituents said, “Way to go, Boehner!”, the way Kentuckians support Rand Paul, the way Floridians support Marco Rubio, or the way Wisconsinites support their Governor, Scott Walker? The strength of the party, the balls of the party, reside not with the career politicians who are more concerned with keeping their jobs than with the national debt, but with the Tea Party and the grassroots conservative movement.
But after the latest round of elections, which delivered Barack Obama another 4 years in office, as well as a Democrat majority in the Senate, Karl Rove is upset. The “architect” (as he likes to be called) was among those quietly pulling for Mitt Romney during the 2011-2012 Republican primaries. Low and behold, the candidate who was seen by most Republicans as “moderate”, lost against Obama. The problem to begin with was that Romney didn’t connect with people. I often make the remark that Romney acted as if he was made of wood – bland, boring, a Massachusetts moderate. But with millions of dollars in campaign money, both from his own war chest as well as the backing of the Republican establishment, Romney bulldozed his way past Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
Months later, the news came – Obama won the election. Why, if Mitt Romney could not beat John McCain in 2008, and if John McCain could not beat Obama in 2008, did people believe that Mitt Romney could beat Obama in 2012? How many more Bob Doles, John McCains, and Mitt Romneys will have to lose before Republicans realize that moderates do not necessarily attract “independent” and “swing” voters? The last landslide election for a Republican came in 1980, when Ronald Reagan won in a landslide, and then did so again in 1984.
The Republicans who opposed Reagan in the 1976 and 1980 Republican primaries are the same ones who oppose Tea Party candidates today. The “Grand Old Party” is just that – old. The American people are seeking something different from Barack Obama, but Mitt Romney didn’t really offer that. He made no play for evangelical voters. He made no play for Tea Party voters. He made no play for gun owners. Romney’s message was simple – Obama is failing on the economy, and I’m a rich businessman, so I must know more than he does. Is this an emotional argument that is going to get people out to vote in droves? The polls say tell the story.
The Republican party is up for grabs. Either it will go the way of moderate Republican establishment hacks like Karl Rove (who, by the way, LOST the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000. Some “architect”!), or it can go the way of the Tea Party. Think of the candidates that both teams have put forth – Mitch McConnell vs Rand Paul. John Boehner vs Marco Rubio. After elections are over, who would you trust more to get the country back on track?