Conservatives are very despondent today following the wave election of extremely leftist Democrats last night. But our brand was never on the ballot in any of these races. The question conservatives must ask themselves, headed into the next major election cycle, is: At what point will we finally die on our own hills? At what point will we succeed or fail on our own merits and stop losing for the other SOB’s ideology, to paraphrase George Patton.
Last night, Democrats flipped the governor’s mansion in New Jersey, won the Virginia gubernatorial race by eight points, flipped a presumed insurmountable GOP supermajority in the Virginia House of Delegates, won local races all over the country, and won a referendum on Medicaid expansion in Maine.
But does this mean the majority of America has suddenly embraced the cultural Marxism of the alt-Left?
We never had a chance in New Jersey because we were tarnished by Chris Christie, a man who is antithetical to everything conservatives believe in. Ed Gillespie in Virginia is the dictionary definition of a “stand for nothing” generic Republican who just very inauthentically latched onto one of our issues at the very end of the campaign.
Exit polls showed that voters in Virginia, which is now a clear blue state, barely cared about the Confederate monuments, and to the extent they do, voters overwhelmingly oppose tearing them down.
The truth is, there’s no way for public opinion to naturally go from 2:1 opposed to Obamacare and the Iran deal to 2:1 in support. The polls are a superficial reflection of the pendulum swing between the two personalities of the unibrow party. Everything that is perceived as being associated with the side of the unibrow that is now out of favor suddenly becomes unpopular, at least superficially.
It’s worse than just getting nothing done
Here’s the reality: It’s not just that Republicans stand for nothing and have no narrative. They have spent their time in office championing, validating, and exalting every principle of the Left.
It’s not just that they failed to repeal Obamacare; it’s that they have championed every premise of Obamacare as an imperative to society and have made it popular. Meanwhile, they refuse to even utter a word about $2,100 premiums.
It’s not just that they have failed to cut spending, shrink the federal government, and devolve power to the states. They have increased spending by $130 billion.
They talk about “tax reform” and then promote a bill that is so muddled, random, and gratuitous that more people are worried about getting a tax increase. Remember, this has been the top policy issue in the media during this election week, and Republicans are actually on the side of tax increases for the first time since George H.W. Bush. Democrats are now using our arguments to show how Republicans are raising taxes on middle-income families.
Every time there is violence in the country, Republicans use their megaphone to validate the Democrat premise on guns but will never lift a finger to shut down dangerous immigration.
Thus, conservatives are stuck in the worst predicament imaginable. On the one hand, on paper, Republicans have complete control of Washington. In this era of mass media and hyper-polarization, this automatically enrages, excites, and unites the opposition party to come to the polls. But on the other hand, the GOP has done nothing good with that control to excite its base and in fact has used its platform to promote every Democrat idea. Whereas Obama was able to match the GOP’s “anti” intensity by exciting his own base with his liberal policies, Trump will have one-sided “anti” intensity against him headed into the next election.
It doesn’t have to be this way
Conservatives are like pure souls trapped in the radioactive body of the Republican Party. Thus, even when we can get establishment candidates to half-heartedly latch onto one of our issues or even if we can nominate a few conservatives down the ballot, they are all sullied by the broader perception of the Republican Party. And they are hurt by being attached to the party that controls the status quo, yet ironically is allowing Democrats and their legacy to continue the leftist status quo.
Imagine if we had an entire new party and movement dedicated to new policies and messaging for returning power to the people from the courts?
Imagine a party running on restoring the pyramid of governance and championing localism to make state legislatures great again? This is exactly the narrative we needed last night in state and local elections, but it was lacking from a party that suffers from a crisis of intellect, initiative, and values.
Imagine a party running on creating a new tax system where localism would reign supreme and states would take the lead in setting the overall structure of the code?
Imagine a party that used its entire messaging apparatus to give a vision for an immigration system that enriches America rather than one that turns our communities into dumping grounds?
Imagine a party that is able to speak about our 16 years of foreign policy failures engaging in Muslim urban renewal projects overseas rather than a vision of peace through strength that always puts our interests first?
Imagine a party that ran on rooting out crony capitalism and venture socialism, such as the ethanol mandate, which raises the cost of food and fuel in order to enrich wealthy lobbyists?
Imagine a party that ran on system reforms to our entire government, such as an Article V Convention, balanced budgets, and term limits?
And imagine a party that gave a vision of health care that eliminated the insurance cartel from getting between you and your doctor?
Yet almost none of the issues and ideas we discuss here at CR are ever introduced into the public debate. The few Republicans who mention some of these ideas are completely undermined by the tarnished brand of the GOP.
The Republican Party has become for conservatives what the prophet Haggai described to the Israelites: “You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” [Haggai 1:6]
Health care was, by far, the top issue of the Virginia election, according to exit polls, and Northam was favored over Gillespie among those voters by a margin of 77 to 23! That is unconscionable! Democrats have destroyed health care in America. Yet Republicans have managed to succeed in political black magic — undermining our messaging on health care to the point that Obamacare is now popular, even as it is more expensive than a mortgage.
The worst of all worlds
Yes, President Trump has touched on some of these ideas, and indeed, that is why he swept the Rust Belt and won the presidency. Yet, because of his horrible personnel choices, his often conflicting messages on some issues, his lack of attention to details, and the fact that the entire party structure is rotten to the core, we are faced with a perverse dynamic whereby we are incurring all the liabilities of his persona but obtaining none of the benefits of his brand. He’s become a lightning rod for Democrat turnout and converting some Independent voters into the Democrat camp, but we are left with none of the changed policies to electrify our base and convert some independent voters to our way of thinking.
Here’s what’s going to happen in the coming years. Democrats will come roaring back to power. They will do so at the worst time because they will win state elections that will determine reapportionment for a decade. Given how radical they are and how the voters don’t really want their policies (when the GOP is not in power to give them cover), the American people will turn against them within a few months. The pendulum will swing back the other way; 2020 or 2022 will be a repeat of 2010. Republicans will all sound like conservative reformers on the campaign trail, and the charlatans, who run the party and secure most of the nominations, will be indistinguishable from the authentic conservatives.
Repeat and rinse.
To what end?
Speaking for myself, I have no plans to spend the next 30 years of my life playing this phony Red vs. Blue game with an Orwellian opposition. It’s time to break out of this vicious cycle. Americans are starving for something new, but until we make our move, that “something new” will always be the party out of power — even if, ironically, the two parties are one in the same.
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Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.