If you were a conservative with a modicum of influence over Republican voters, would you spend your time on air discussing the Democrat primaries all day, or would you try to influence Republican congressional primaries that will actually matter to conservatives? That is the choice in the coming weeks and months confronting anyone who considers himself a movement conservative.
Conservatives were universally shocked and appalled by Mitt Romney’s vote to convict the president on impeachment charges, thereby giving cover to vulnerable Democrats. However, anyone who has cared about any major policy issue aside form impeachment shouldn’t be shocked at all. They should be appalled that liberal Republicans like Romney, who seem to be numberless, continue to be welcome in the party despite dissenting from the party platform on almost every important issue.
As I wrote last week, Romney was running in an open seat in 2018 and had a challenger from the Utah state legislature who was actually the pick of delegates at the state convention. Trump, as he has done in numerous races, pulled the rug out from under his most ardent supporters and endorsed Romney, even though both his liberal policy views and his personal disdain for Trump were well known and articulated for years.
The question now is whether conservatives and the president himself will learn from these mistakes and actually endorse the right people in primaries. The first GOP primaries begin on March 3 in several states including Alabama, Texas, and North Carolina. Early voting begins even sooner. There are numerous House, Senate, and gubernatorial races that feature clear contrasts between conservatives and Romney-style Republicans. Yet there is no focus in conservative media on these primaries, as Trump endorses NeverTrumpers. Instead, they focus on taking sides between Bernie and Biden.
Just take a look at the opportunities ahead of us this cycle. Here is a list of GOP Senate seats that are either vacant or have weak incumbents, providing us an opportunity to move these seats to the right in solid Trump states.
Look at Tennessee, for example. This is a state Trump carried by 26 points statewide and won 92 of 95 counties. Yet for years, it has been run by “Rockefeller” Romney-style Republicans, from Bill Haslam and Bill Lee as governors to Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander as senators. However, with Alexander retiring, Trump endorsed the most liberal candidate from day one – Bill Hagerty. He was a delegate for Jeb Bush, of all people, during the 2016 presidential primary. Hagerty is also a longtime friend and adviser to … Mitt Romney!
Tennessee loving Bill Hagerty, who was my Tennessee Victoy Chair and is now the very outstanding Ambassador to Japan, will be running for the U.S. Senate. He is strong on crime, borders & our 2nd A. Loves our Military & our Vets. Has my Complete & Total Endorsement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2019
Trump seems to have a penchant for endorsing the most globalist candidates and, of all things, touting them as being “tough on the border and crime,” which are actually the last issues these people will be tough on.
This is not even an incumbent race. Why is Trump so quick to endorse in an open seat against conservatives so early on and on behalf of the very swamp he promised to drain?
Additionally, there are plenty of races where MAGA candidates are likely dissuaded from even entering the race, knowing that Trump will reflexively back the candidates McConnell and McCarthy want, thereby giving them no chance to even mount a campaign.
If every time a RINO feels threatened by a viable challenge, they know that they can count on Trump’s help, this is not only failing to drain the swamp, it’s propping it up against conservatives.
When and how are we ever going to nominate better Republicans?
It’s truly breathtaking to observe the wide gulf between the ideological consistency of members of both parties. Even Democrats deep in “enemy territory” never meaningfully dissent from their party. Both Doug Jones from Alabama and Joe Manchin from West Virginia voted against Kavanaugh and for impeachment. Trump carried those states by 28 and 41 points respectively. Yet the Democrats from those states are dyed-in-the-wool liberals on immigration, health care, transgendersim, judicial nominees, and pretty much anything the Left wants to do.
Contrast that with Republicans, and you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of elected officials even in the friendliest of states who adhere to the conservative position on even a few issues. None of this has changed during the era of Trump, and now, with him lending his golden reputation among primary voters to swamp candidates, they have an easier time getting elected and even re-elected after betraying us.
Conservatives have a choice to make. As February turns into March, each week will bring with it a new act of the drama that is the Democratic primaries. The drama will have no bearing on conservatives, nor can any conservative figure wield any influence over that outcome. The real question is this: Will Republicans finally build a bench of elected officials who will provide a bold contrast to whichever radical emerges from the Democrat primaries?
Time is running out, and the primary schedule is very compact. It’s time to get to work or consign the Republican Party to Mitt Romney and his numerous well-funded allies.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.