The general election of 2018 is over. The GOP primaries of 2020 should begin now if we ever hope to build a meaningful majority in Congress.
While disappointed with the results from the House races, conservatives are likely happy that Republicans appear to have netted three Senate seats and flipped the de facto Democrat seat of Bob Corker from Tennessee with the election of Marsha Blackburn. Rather than going back into our caves like a bunch of Election Day groundhogs, we should begin focusing on the 2020 Senate primaries now.
The inconvenient reality for conservatives is that we are nowhere close to a majority in the Senate. More than half of the GOP senators passionately support the amnesty agenda, are weak on crime, never saw a government program or spending bill they didn’t want to expand, are ardent proponents of judicial supremacy, fundamentally adopted the Democrat view on health care, and have generally eschewed any semblance of fiscal or social conservatism the day after they win primaries. Every election year we are stuck with this nonsense of voting for “the lesser of two evils” in November.
This is why it’s so important to start the primary season as early as possible so that we can actually aspire to something greater than the lesser of two evils. We are now as far away as possible from the next general election. Let’s stop this Election Day-only talk of “we can’t let the Democrats win” and actually focus on correcting the problems among our own ranks so that we can actually provide a bold contrast to the other side during the next election. Let’s ensure that Democrat policies don’t win every day from now through the next election and thereafter. There actually is a good theory to voting for any Republican in a general election no matter how liberal they are, simply because we can pressure them with public shaming on the legislative issues and with the threat of a primary challenge. But that is only if we actually stay awake and alert after the election and use that leverage.
Here’s a political aptitude test I’d like you all to take. Pull out two sheets of paper, and on both of them, list at the top the 10 or so most important policy issues – from health care and welfare to immigration, crime, religious liberty, life, education, etc. On the first sheet of paper, just under your top issues list, jot down the number of Democrat senators who dissent from their party’s platform in any meaningful way on a single one of those issues. Now, turn to the second sheet of paper and jot down the number of Republicans who dissent from their party’s platform on major issues.
Your first sheet of paper will likely be blank, while your second sheet of paper will be full before you even scrape the surface of the GOP Senate roster. It might be easier if you simply listed the GOP senators who, indeed, adhere to the platform on all or most of the major issues.
The sad reality is that the liberal Republicans who spend every day undermining the conservative position on a given issue are not just from swing states. Many of them are from states that Trump won, often by wide margins. Democrats don’t have senators who dissent from their party in a meaningful way even from states that are bright red, yet Republicans barely have senators who enthusiastically promote conservatism even from friendly territory.
There’s a unique Senate map for 2020. Unlike this year, most of the senators up for re-election are Republicans. However, the overwhelming majority of them are from red states in a presidential year with Trump on the ballot and likely to carry these states, in most cases, by large margins. God forbid we should actually only nominate conservatives like Democrats only nominate uber-liberals in their primaries. I might get called a “purist” for such a suggestion. But is it too much to ask that we at least try to nominate someone as conservative as, say, a Marsha Blackburn in every state that Trump carried in 2016, or at least the ones he carried by a substantial margin? Do we really need to rubber-stamp the nomination of Lamar Alexander, a passionate supporter of government-run health care and education and open borders, from a state like Tennessee? It would be nice to try to find a Ron DeSantis, but I’ll take another Marsha Blackburn.
Here is just a selection of senators up in red states, as juxtaposed to Trump’s margin of victory and their Liberty Scores:
Is this the best we can do?
Remember, the Liberty Scores don’t fully account for how subversive some of these members are to the conservative agenda. Each one of these members either fundamentally doesn’t share our values on the issues within their respective committee jurisdictions, or they value working with the Left more than with conservatives.
This is evident with many of the committee chairs, such as Lamar Alexander being in charge of health care and education. What about energy? We have Lisa Murkowski as the quarterback on all issues pertaining to energy. She has a 22% Liberty Score and has bought into the global warming agenda. Reform food stamps and farm subsidies? Over the dead body of big spender Pat Roberts. Fighting the Pelosi-led House on budget bills? Good luck approving that idea with go-along-to-get-along Mike Enzi chairing the Senate Budget Committee.
And what about the Judiciary Committee? Guess who is slated to take the gavel from Chuck Grassley? None other than Lindsey Grahamnesty. Yes, I know the clickservatives are now obsessed with him because of his macho talk during the Kavanaugh hearings. Great for clicks on internet videos, but he is still terrible on immigration and crime, two of the main areas of the committee. Almost everyone is good on judicial nominees, but few Republicans are good on immigration, most certainly not Lindsey Graham.
Is pro-abortion and pro-amnesty Shelly Moore Capito the best we can do in West Virginia, one of the most pro-life and pro-sovereignty states in America?
It’s not just their voting record that is a problem. After all, they barely take any votes of substance any more. They are not just votes, but voices for the other side’s agenda on any given legislative battle or news cycle. Just watch what Mitt Romney will do for the Left at every turn now that he’s been elected to the Senate from a state we usually win by 35 points.
Obviously, it’s a monumental task to defeat RINOs in popular primaries driven by money and name recognition, unless we switch to representative conventions. But we can at least begin with open seats. I put Oklahoma on the list because it’s very likely that Inhofe will retire. We should be preparing now. Why shouldn’t we get someone from this state, which gave Trump the vote in every single county, as conservative as the Democrats’ California pick is liberal?
Let’s also keep in mind that often the way to push a member out the door through retirement, thereby opening up the seat, is by threatening a primary challenge. This is likely what paved the road for Corker and Flake to retire this year.
One easy pickup is Alabama. Sen. Doug Jones is up in 2020 and will easily lose to any Republican. What better person to run than Jeff Sessions? With a dearth of leadership in the Senate on immigration and crime (and everything else), Sessions could reclaim his seniority and bump Lindsey Grahamnesty for the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
We must also mobilize to fill the seat of John McCain with someone in the mold of Rep. Andy Biggs, not some McConnell drone who is being prepared to run once interim Sen. Jon Kyl retires.
Political parties are like football teams. All men on the field must be committed to driving the ball forward in the same direction. Could you imagine a team where half or two-thirds of its members are running or throwing the ball in the opposite direction, failing to make catches, too distracted to block the rush, or declining to make tackles? That doesn’t work for a minute. Which is why the GOP, particularly in the Senate, has never worked for conservatives.
Clearly, Senate Republicans, if committed to a smart and winning conservative agenda, can still accomplish a lot against the Democrat-held House if they used the leverage of must-pass legislation. At the very least they can use these moments to expose the radicalism of Democrats elected in red-leaning districts and draw a sharp contrast. But that won’t happen with much of the current roster.
We need to begin building for the future, but that construction will not work if built on quicksand of aimless Republicans from the most conservative states. Let’s say we succeed in winning back the House in 2020, along with the re-election of President Trump. How will we be more successful in the second term than we were in the first two years of this do-nothing Congress if we don’t shake up the Senate? If you are willing to ignore the nature of the Republicans we nominate and merely hope for 60 warm bodies of any stripe with Rs next to their names in 2020, you are high on political heroin. A quick glance at the Senate map in 2020 shows there is no way they could net six Democrat seats or anything close to it. But even if the GOP got 65 seats one year, if we build that majority on quicksand, we will immediately see we don’t even have 51 votes for the critical reforms we want on health care, budget, and immigration.
Here’s the reality going forward: Democrats will have to spend all their time and money on their presidential primary. Republicans won’t have any presidential primary of consequence. Therefore, we should begin focusing on congressional primaries, which begin earlier in a presidential year, now. I would encourage my colleagues that, rather than using their platforms to focus incessantly on the soap opera of the Democrat primary, they should worry about cleaning our own house so that at this time in two years we have a slate of senators to vote for without the clothespin on our noses.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.