The False Myth of the 80% Conservative


The danger is this:  In the USA’s upcoming 2014 elections, Republican elites assume that everyone all now agrees that conservatives ‘must’ support non-conservative candidates to win more elections.  The GOP is operating on the belief that everyone is on board, simply because insiders have officially decreed it to be so.

However, the grassroots in the USA remains unconvinced.  Worse, the Republican establishment has no plan for truly healing the actual wounds.  Elites want to avoid change more fervently than they do want to win elections.  Elites violated trust by advancing liberal policies in the U.S. Congress, but they won’t apologize or reform.  The GOP will do anything to win elections – except change.

It simply doesn’t matter what you or I think.  Activists are going to sit on their hands whether you like it or not, whether I like it or not, unless the GOP fields conservative nominees.  Elites can denounce such thinking all day long, but that changes nothing.   So the Republican Party is heading into the 2014 elections with the establishment deceiving itself into thinking that grassroots volunteers agree with Party plans.

Also, the grassroots acts independently in the US. Washington insiders suffer from the delusion that the tea party follows tea party “leaders.”  But the tea party came first.  Self-appointed “leaders” later on tried to rush in front of the parade.  Many tea party “leaders” are cooperative this year.  But that does not mean grassroots activists, donors, and voters will fall into line with Republican Party strategists.

The crucial debate threatening to tear the GOP apart is this:  Ronald Reagan said:  “Somebody who agrees with you 80% of the time is an 80% friend not a 20% enemy.”   Therefore, conservatives must bite their tongue and support Republican candidates and office-holders who are not conservative.  That’s the thesis.  That’s the huge argument.

Then we see John Warner, apparently 80% our friend.  The former Republican U.S. Senator from Virginia just endorsed the Democrat incumbent Mark Warner for re-election this November.  Republican John Warner earned a 79.2% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union.  Democrat Mark Warner votes with Barack Obama 97% of the time.  (The Warners are not related in any way.)

So how can Republican voters tell when a candidate truly is “80% conservative” or when he is going to endorse a liberal Democrat?  Ed Gillespie is the establishment’s great hope for taking back the Virginia US Senate seat.   An establishment leader himself, John Warner stabbed Gillespie in the back.  Gillespie is the former Chairman of the Republican National Committee and senior adviser to George W. Bush. 

I don’t think anyone expects or demands a 100% perfect conservative.  I rub a lot of shoulders with tea party leaders and activists.  What they want is to not be lied to and betrayed.  Conservatives realize that “80% conservatives” usually vote only 50% conservative once in office.   The problem is betrayal.

For years, John Warner and Tom Davis were the quarterbacks for attacking Virginia conservatives.  John Warner led the campaign to sabotage Ollie North’s nearly-successful campaign for U.S. Senate in 1994.  John Warner arranged for Marshall Coleman to run as an independent.  North lost by only 2.7% running as the Republican nominee while former Congressman Coleman took 11.4% running as an Independent. 

Mainly, ‘Big Tent’ strategists offer no motivation for volunteers (who actually win elections).   Why should conservatives donate their time, work, and money to Republicans who ignore or even openly insult their conservative beliefs?  Millions of conservative activists, donors, and voters are going to stay home and watch TV or spend time with their spouse, children, grandchildren, repairs around the house, their church, civic and community groups, career enhancement, hobbies, or recreation or just sleep late on Saturday.  When volunteers look their children or grandchildren in the eye, will it be the quality time that the children remember or how the adults helped elect a sell-out to office?

Delaware State legislator Rep. Danny Short proclaimed at the last Sussex County GOP meeting “Squandering assets to exchange one Republican for another does nothing to erode the super-majorities Democrats currently enjoy in both chambers of the [Delaware] General Assembly and ensures that Republican influence on the crafting of state public policy will remain minimal.” 

Sounds like a strong argument, at first glance, until you remember how Republicans actually win elections.  Volunteers will not campaign for any candidate unless they have a reason.  It is fatal poison for the GOP to tolerate even a trace of the feeling that “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the parties.”

But is there any such thing as an ‘80% conservative, ’anyway? 

First, would you buy birth control that promises 80% success?  It only takes one time to have big consequences.  Legislation is rarely repealed.  Once a bad bill slips through, it will continue doing damage for decades.  Once bad legislation becomes law, it stays that way forever.  So the 20% bad votes are more significant than Reagan’s comment suggests. 

Second, candidates promise to vote conservative but break those promises once they are elected.  How do I know if a Republican is “80% my friend” if I cannot trust his promises?  President Harry Truman joked that if you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog. 

Third, votes on legislation are not all equal.  The 80% of votes may be insignificant.  A Republican who stabs us in the back on the issues that hurt the most is not 80% my friend. 

Fourth, how do you measure an “80% conservative?”  Each rating organization handpicks a different small sample of votes that they consider significant.   Some are more generous than others.

Fifth, the damage is not always measured in votes.  Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) master-minded attacks on tea party candidates in 2010 primaries as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.  The NRSC not only intervened in primaries, but engaged in dishonest and disreputable lies and smears. 

Elites are telling grassroots conservatives what they ‘should’ do.  But as my friend once said at the Value Voters Summit, “There is something in our national DNA that shouts ‘You’re not the boss of me!’”  Grassroots volunteers are not going to do what they are told.

The Republican establishment needs to deal with reality:  The grassroots feels betrayed and doesn’t trust GOP leaders.  So the grassroots will continue rejecting big-spending, big-government, higher-taxes candidates —euphemistically known as “fiscal conservatives.”   They’re just not listening.  Sorry.

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