How to Take Back the GOP
Yesterday, I wrote about how the Republican party has gradually drifted left, and how conservatives were in part responsible for letting that happen. It’s hard to disagree with the idea that nonconservatives have taken control of much of the party—the de facto Republican position on the proper role of government, immigration, and spending is at odds with the conservative one. But what’s done is done, and conservatives must now take back the GOP.
Before conservatives “take back” the GOP, however, they should realize that it was never very conservative to begin with. With the exceptions of Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, the Republican party has never nominated anyone for president who was a true ideological conservative, and the GOP Congressional leadership has never been particularly strong from a conservative standpoint. (The 1994 Congress had some good conservative ideas, but it mostly squandered whatever promise it may have had). It would probably be more accurate to say that conservatives must “take over” the Republican party.
The first step, and the most obvious one, is to support conservative candidates at the grassroots level. There are a great many Republican Congressmen who are not conservative (Arlen Specter), or corrupt (Don Young, or the Ohio state government pre-2006), or both. It seems obvious the conservatives should oppose them in the primaries, but that really hasn’t happened, at least not enough to make a difference. (One exception is the attempt by some Pennsylvania conservatives to unseat liberal Republican Arlen Specter in favor of Pat Toomey in the primary. George Bush undercut them by endorsing Specter).
This does seem to be changing. There are now grassroots movements such as The Next Right and Down the Ticket that actively promote conservative GOP candidates. This is a necessary step, and the first phase of remaking the GOP.
Another, less obvious answer is ensuring that the Republican leadership is conservative. The key leaders of the GOP are not always politicians—some of the most influential people in the party are the directors of the Republican National Committee. The RNC is very powerful—it organizes the party platform, helps with fundraising, and decides which candidates get funds. The ideology of the RNC goes a long way towards deciding the ideology of the party as a whole.
Mike Duncan is the RNC head right now, and I honestly don’t know how conservative he is, and Google doesn’t have many answers. He was head of the Committee during the whole amnesty fiasco, though, which might tell us something. I imagine that he is a Republican first, and a conservative second; the GOP position will always be his.
Pre-Duncan, the RNC did both a very good and very poor job. Very good, because it really was quite good at such things as micotargeting and message delivery to help get its candidates elected, but poor because those candidates weren’t always worth helping. For years, the RNC basically ignored pork fiends like Ted Stevens—had it cracked down on corrupt candidates, perhaps the Republican party would be stronger today.
There are some people who feel that the best way to turn the Republican party back to its conservative ways is to throw the 2008 election. This, they feel, will so alarm the Republican leadership that they will instantly move the party to the right. Actually, there is a fifty-fifty chance that the leadership would just give up conservatives as a lost cause and move left to attract center-left moderates, but no one ever thinks of that. And anyhow, Obama is far too liberal, and the damage he would do too the country would be too great. He would withdraw precipitately from Iraq, would appoint at least one and probably two Supreme Court justices, and would increase federal spending maybe almost as much as George W. Bush. It’s not worth it. (Although given the incompetence of the GOP, I can understand the temptation).
Taking back (or taking over) the Republican party won’t be easy. But it is necessary—if conservatism is to remain a functioning political philosophy, it will have to be represented by the GOP. And since the country needs conservative principles now, changing the GOP is an essential task.