If all Republicans ran honest campaigns like Jeb Bush, we would actually have a Republican Party. Most GOP primary voters agree with conservatives on the issues, but almost always elect non-conservative candidates because those candidates dishonestly run on our issues and smear their conservative challengers. Jeb Bush was an exception. He ran an honest campaign and presented himself as the tepid brand of Republicanism the voters disliked. As such, he barely gained traction. Sadly, no other establishment Republican runs that way and they always get away with it.
It is for this reason why conservatives should push reforms to the primary system in key red states and switch to a state convention process to choose party nominees, at least for congressional races.
There is no way around the reality that state conventions provide conservatives with the only path to defeating fossils like Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Bob Corker and a host of problematic House members. Many Trump supporters, helped by the media ignorance of representative republicanism, are claiming that state conventions thwart the will of the people. They also contend that the only reason Cruz won state conventions is because Trump had no ground game and Cruz had an amazing operation. Some even scandalously suggest that Cruz stole the delegates. The reality is that this much-vaunted Cruz organization was overrated.
The Truth about State Conventions
Cruz did not win the delegate selection process because of his superior top-down organization; he won the delegates and the states with conventions instead of primaries because the nature of those individuals who dominate these conventions align with his values. A friend of mine who is a statewide delegate for Cruz in Colorado told me that “the same grassroots folks who seem to be involved every time something good happens for conservatives in this state” were the ones who by and large showed up and supported Cruz.
I heard a similar story from a friend who is one of the top social conservative activists involved in North Carolina grassroots activism for years. She told me she was giving up her vacation to attend this week’s North Carolina state convention, even though Cruz has already dropped out. She and her friends were instrumental in dominating the district conventions on behalf of Cruz, even though they often had little or muddled contact with the campaign.
It is for this reason why so few people turned out for Trump at the district and state conventions. This same North Carolina activist told me that a prominent Trump campaign leader in her district declined to even attend the precinct meeting. This process is bottom-up, not top-down.
Clearly, those who care deeply enough to organize these conventions are movement conservatives – the same people who are fighting the transgender fascism pushed by the corporate cronies against North Carolina. That is why Cruz did so well at conventions in states like Colorado and North Carolina.
While the Cruz campaign worked the conventions from their end, they only succeeded because the same grassroots activists who give up their time to fight tax increases, gun grabbing, illegal immigration, and Common Core, and are high information voters, are motivated enough to show up. These are the same type of people who won delegate slots in the 1964 and 1980 conventions for Goldwater and Reagan. They are not establishment party hacks.
The Problem with Primaries
It is the primary system, on the other hand, which requires candidates to reach millions of low information voters via costly ads and an unfriendly media, that reflects the will of the party hacks and the elites championed by Fox News.
Given that non-conservative Republicans always run as conservatives in primaries (except in subtle ways), have the name recognition and support of the media, including Fox News, and use the media to paint our candidates as either corrupt or less than conservative, I’ve concluded that it is nearly impossible to win a primary. This, despite the fact that voters agree with us on the issues now more than ever. In my latest podcast I shared some of my experiences in congressional primaries and why it is nearly impossible to knock off an incumbent.
This phenomenon is not only limited to races with incumbents. The establishment has been winning most of the open seats as well. They always run as conservatives and have more firepower to buy themselves universal name recognition. They have so much money, backing from the media, and organizational power, that even when they challenge our few incumbents, they can always mount a serious challenge, as we are seeing with Boehner’s effort to take out Jim Bridenstine in OK-1.
There is a reason Jeb Bush performed so poorly, and being the lead establishment candidate in the presidential field, destroyed the chances of the party elites from winning. Jeb was one of the rare individuals who honorably ran as a moderate and accurately communicated his positions to the public. They didn’t buy it. Yet, every single incumbent down the ballot who is in the mold of Jeb Bush and most of those running in open seats are winning their races. That is because those candidates are not honest about their views, but have the money, name recognition, and media support to succeed in a campaign of disinformation.
In three years from now the establishment will not make the same mistake. They will run a “fresh face” who campaigns as a conservative and is promoted endlessly by Fox News. That same faux news network will relentlessly assail anyone who challenges that individual. At that point, you Trump supporters will understand why we need state conventions instead of primaries.
We could squabble over whether to vote for Trump or not in the general election, but the more important question for all conservatives is how we plan to create a conservative party in the long run when the other side is still winning every election, despite this unusual environment.
Even Trump supporters would have to agree the only way to put all the candidates on an equal playing field is through a representative convention process whereby anyone can participate, but naturally only those who know the candidates, and are largely inoculated from the earned or paid media, show up to participate. Hence, republicanism always trumps democracy when it comes to truly representing the will of the people.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.