What DO Republicans Believe?


Our thinking is simple: When we act like us, we win. When we act like them, we lose.

That’s the thesis put forward by Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks – the PAC aligned with The Tea Party movement – in today’s Wall Street Journal:

Republicans seem particularly prone to doing the same thing again and again, expecting a different result. While grass-roots Americans seem more committed than ever to taking their country back from an entrenched political class, particularly those occupying the White House and the U.S. Senate, GOP cognoscenti seem reluctant to offer voters a clear choice in 2012.

President Obama’s re-election campaign is doubling down on the failed economic policies of tax, spend, borrow and print. It’s leaving little doubt in voters’ minds where the aggressively progressive Democratic Party stands.

But what do Republicans believe in? The party’s “experts” are retrenching to the defeatist view that a commitment to economic freedom and constitutionally limited government, particularly among the foot soldiers of the tea party, is a political liability. Indiana’s Sen. Richard Lugar even claims that “Republicans lost the seats [in 2010] in Nevada and New Jersey and Colorado where there were people who were claiming they wanted somebody who was more of their tea party aspect—but they killed off the Republican majority.”

The 36-year incumbent presumably meant to say Delaware, not New Jersey. But what Senate majority was killed off?

Before a resurgent commitment to principle from the bottom up, and the emergence of a new generation of fiscally conservative candidates turned things around, the party brass was trimming its sails. In the spring of 2010, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), seemed resigned to the prospect of a 60-vote Democratic supermajority. “We’ve not only got to play defense,” he said, “we’ve got to claw our way back in 2010. It’ll be a huge challenge.”

Establishment strategists have always relied on conventional thinking when it comes to voter turnout. So they embrace candidates based on shortsighted partisan political criteria, and not on long-term public policy grounds. This was the logic that saved Arlen Specter in 2004 against the insurgent Pennsylvania primary challenge of Pat Toomey. Six years later, Mr. Specter would switch parties and provide the 60th vote for ObamaCare. Even then, the GOP establishment showed little remorse about, and even less interest in, Mr. Toomey. “I don’t think there is anybody in the world who believes he can get elected senator there,” said NRSC co-chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch.

This same logic also produced an NRSC endorsement of Republican-in-name-only Charlie Crist against Marco Rubio in Florida’s 2010 Senate primary. At the time, Mr. Crist’s primary accomplishment as governor was the unilateral implementation of Al Gore’s radical cap-and-trade agenda.

Could it be that product differentiation—candidates who actually believe that the government is spending too much and stifling economic recovery with heavy-handed intrusions—might bring new customers out to vote?

We wouldn’t even be talking about a Republican majority in the Senate today if the tea party hadn’t bucked Beltway wisdom by backing strong fiscal conservatives in 2010. FreedomWorks-endorsed candidates took five races ranked as “toss-ups” by political pundit Charlie Cook: Mr. Toomey, John Boozman in Arkansas, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and Rob Portman in Ohio. Then there was Ron Johnson’s victory in Wisconsin, in a race where Mr. Cook once ranked him as a “solid D.” NRSC favorite Mr. Crist, meanwhile, abandoned the GOP and was promptly crushed by Mr. Rubio, by 19 points.

Today it seems like déjà vu all over again. Establishmentarians once more are lecturing activists and candidates—those who, in the words of Rand Paul, “actually believe in limited government and individual freedom”—on the practical limits of principles in politics. Sen. Lugar, facing a serious grass-roots challenge from Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, recycles the arguments once used by Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter: “If I was not the nominee it might be lost.”

What is the point of politics anyway? Is it really about power for power’s sake? Or are we trying to fix the very real economic problems facing Americans trying to find jobs? Is it about “holding a seat”? Or about whether we can still provide better, freer futures for our children and grandchildren?

Does anyone really believe that settling for more of the same will create a Republican majority with the principles and practical skills required to replace ObamaCare with a patient-centered approach? To stop the EPA’s destruction of American energy markets? To scrap the tax code, reform our broken entitlements, and balance the budget? Can 36-year incumbents now dismantle the big government they helped build? Are we going to once again do the same thing, expecting different results?

In closely watched Senate races, the top tea party candidates are state treasurers who have successfully won statewide elections. Mr. Mourdock won re-election in 2010 with 63% of the vote. Don Stenberg won in Nebraska in 2010 with 73% of the vote. Josh Mandel won 55-40 in 2010, receiving more votes than anyone else running for a statewide office in Ohio. Maybe voters are looking for someone with actual government-finance experience?

Building on the historic successes of 2010, we have an opportunity to take control of the Senate and dramatically increase the ranks of entrepreneurial fiscal conservatives, creating a dynamic new majority within the majority. That means taking on incumbents who have abandoned their principles. It means fighting for compelling candidates in primaries, like Ted Cruz in Texas. It means winning races in key battlegrounds like Florida, where Rep. Connie Mack is emerging as the most able fiscal conservative, and Ohio. […]

That last paragraph is in line with what I am hearing from Tea Partiers around the country.  The movement is sensing the inevitability of the establishment nominating Romney, and has decided to accept it and move on to what it sees as more significant tasks:  tuning-up the House and taking over the Senate with right-minded free-market types.  

In other words, Mission One is getting Jim DeMint and his merry band in the Senate some more help.