The GOP in Tennessee — A Model for Getting it Right
Winning versus Whining
“Experience [has] long taught me the reasonableness of mutual sacrifices of opinion among those who are to act together for any common object, and the expediency of doing what good we can; when we cannot do all we would wish.” –Thomas Jefferson (1803)
The perennial fratricidal infighting between conservatives and moderates in the Republican Party is assured to undermine any chance of ever establishing conservative majorities (as opposed to just GOP majorities) in the House and Senate, much less seating another conservative president of Ronald Reagan’s stature. It most certainly undermined the opportunity to seat a Republican president in the 2012 election, and will so again in 2016 – after eroding the possibility of a Republican Senate majority in 2014, and increasing the House majority.
Too many Republican conservatives and moderates refuse to abide by President Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Republicans shall not ever speak ill of their fellow Republicans.” They ignore this advice at great peril to the objective of ever achieving any redress to the Left’s relentless assault on Liberty. (Stay with me – I’m going to provide irrefutable evidence of Reagan’s wisdom in practice.)
Unfortunately that “ignorance” has been on full display for the last three weeks, in the self-defeating spectacle of Republican infighting over the House’s Continuing Resolution and its use as a tool to force votes on defunding, delaying or amending ObamaCare (better now referred to as “DemoCare”).
I got a taste of that circular firing squad last week, when I dared to question the wisdom of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s unilateral box-canyon tactics as a follow-up to my outline of the conservative strategy published two weeks ago. I asserted that Cruz, however good his intentions might have been, undermined the conservative Continuing Resolution strategy, and I stand by that assertion. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Cruz’s actions have been nothing short of fatalistic, a sabotage of a very good House strategy, in effect throwing House conservatives under the bus.
Now, for my fellow Patriots who identify with the grassroots Tea Party devotion to Liberty, as do I, but who make a practice of forming circular firing squads and shooting from the hip, read on before jumping down to the comments section and applying to me the same scorched-earth labels some have been so quick pin on anyone questioning Cruz’s orthodoxy.
Of course, Cruz has been on the receiving end of intraparty insults. Rep. Peter King (D-NY) played right into the hands of Democrats and the Leftmedia by calling Cruz a “fraud” and a “con man” and blaming him for “hijacking the party.” But he has also issued a few, even likening Republicans opposed to his faux-filibuster tactic to “Nazi sympathizers,” but I can assure you, if the U.S. fought WWII using his tactical template, there would be a lot more German and Japanese spoken around the world today.
Unfortunately, Cruz failed to distinguishing between tactics and strategy – essentially having no attainable strategic objective or endgame associated with his tactics.
That being said, the purpose of this column is not to revisit the pros and cons of Cruz’s tactics – I actually admire Cruz’s tenacity, if not his methodology.
My purpose is to plainly lay out the strategic implications of all the fratricidal infighting, too much of which is instigated by self-anointed “Tea Party leaders” across the nation. Their caustic rhetoric, mostly focusing on who and what they’re against rather than who and what they support, is largely antithetical to the objectives of the genuine grassroots Tea Party movement, which is to establish conservative congressional majorities which can defend Liberty against legislative assaults.
Now, anyone who’s been reading this column for the past 20 years can readily attest to the fact that I am no “moderate” when it comes to defending Liberty, and, more recently, when aggressively refuting the socialist agenda of Barack Hussein Obama and his Leftist NeoCom cadres. Nor do I classify myself as a “Republican,” though the Republican platform aligns much more closely with the pursuit of Liberty than the Democrat platform.
Longtime readers also know that I am not a Beltway dweller, but reside with my family in the mountains of East Tennessee, as my ancestors have since before Tennessee statehood in 1796. I am a proud Tennessean for many reasons, including the remarkable transformation in Tennessee politics over the last decade.
That transformation is due to the efforts of two of my colleagues, and friends, current Tennessee GOP Chairman, Chris Devaney, and his immediate predecessor, Robin Smith. Let me tell you how they, and elected Republicans across our state, have used the unity principle of Reagan’s 11th Commandment to transform Tennessee politics, and why that transformation should be a model for the rest of our great nation.
If nothing else that I here write garners your attention, then this should:
Tennessee is now among the most conservative states in America. Our governor is a moderate Republican, our State Legislature has a conservative Republican super-majority and conservative Republicans have firm control of our State Senate. Consequently, our economy is rapidly recovering despite Obama’s failed economic policies. We are fourth in the nation in job creation. We are a “right to work” state and our economy is driven by entrepreneurial ingenuity and hard work. We have the lowest debt of any state in the nation, even though we have no income tax. Our congressional delegation is largely conservative, and we have one conservative senator and one moderate, whom we are endeavoring to replace.
Does that sound like something Republicans of all stripes should strive to achieve in every state, and moreover, inside the Beltway?
When Robin, who was very instrumental in this transformation, began her GOP state term, we had a Democrat governor, and Democrats outnumbered Republicans 53-46 in the State Legislature. The Tennessee Senate was split 16-16.
We’ve come a long way in the last six years under the leadership of Robin and Chris, and elected Republican leaders.
Robin told me this week that the key to Tennessee’s “conservative revolution” was focusing on party-building – promoting what we are for, rather than what we are against – and avoiding the incessant party infighting which has characterized national Republican politics in recent years – particularly between conservatives and moderates. “We focused on defeating Democrats to create a GOP majority, not purging our own base of moderates. The very public conflict between conservative and moderate Republicans at the national level will ensure that Republican minority status is maintained. We had principled tactical battles when and where appropriate. But the high-profile personal attacks within our national party are disastrous to our strategic objective of establishing a conservative majority. In fact, a key Democrat strategy is fomenting the Republican infighting to undermine any chance of a Republican majority.”
Now, some of my Tea Party friends may disagree with Robin and me, but the result of party unity in Tennessee is indisputable. They can disagree with our assessment as they circle the drain on their way to the complete demise of what started as an outstanding grassroots movement in 2010.
Regarding all the dissension and party disunity being generated by some national Tea Party and other “conservative” groups, one of the Senate’s most conservative leaders, Tom Coburn (R-OK), notes, “Isn’t it interesting that every dollar that is spent [attacking] good conservative Republicans is a dollar that isn’t spent on winning the majority? If your strategy is to think that you can get 60 hard-core conservative senators in this country [by attacking Republicans] I don’t think it works.”
John Cornyn, the senior senator from Texas and Senate minority whip, concurs: “I think it’s completely destructive. They are spending most of their money going after Republicans and making it harder for us to nominate and elect Republicans and regain the majority.”
For sure, I understand the motivation and passion behind the dissension, but strategically, it is terribly misdirected.
Finally, regarding my questions about Cruz’s tactics this past week, I had one reader comment, “Perhaps Cruz’s tactic is laying the groundwork for the removal and replacement of the GOP moderates.” I responded, “No question about that, if you mean replacing them with Democrats.”
A retired military officer, with considerable knowledge about strategy and tactics, wrote of Cruz’s tactics: “To win the war, you must win the battles. To win the battles you must pick the battles and battlefield. Better to move the budget debate to more advantageous issues and positions than to loose the war.” Another concluded, “Some of our fellow conservatives either can’t or won’t accept the distinction between strategy and tactics, and can’t see the forest for the trees.”
Ronald Reagan said of choosing battles, “There are some people who would have you so stand on principle that if you don’t get all that you’ve asked for … you jump off the cliff with the flag flying. I have always figured that a half a loaf is better than none, and I know that in the democratic process you’re not going to always get everything you want.”
Bottom line, Republicans, both conservative and moderate, must form a unified front and focus all energy and resources on defeating Democrats. If you are among those who think that undermining those in our own ranks because they are too moderate or too conservative on some issues, is a winning strategy, then I refer you to this tidbit of timeless wisdom: “If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25)
If division and the inevitable defeat which follows, is your objective, then keep up the infighting. You certainly have the full and unconditional support of the socialists in the Democrat Party!
Footnote: According to analysis by the Wall Street Journal, when Sen. Ted Cruz unwittingly derailed the conservative House CR strategy, he may have boosted his own political capital, but the shutdown is taking a heavy toll on House and Senate Republicans. According to the Journal, the shutdown eclipsed Obama’s IRS, Benghazi and Syrian scandals, and now has Republicans on the run. For example, in July, Republicans had a 12-point lead with independents. Now Demos lead by nine. And GOP’s favorability rating has dropped by 10 points to 28%.
My esteemed colleague Thomas Sowell, summed up Cruz’s tactics: “The most charitable interpretation of Ted Cruz and his supporters is that they are willing to see the Republican Party weakened in the short run, in hopes that they will be able to take it over in the long run, and set it on a different path as a more purified conservative party. … But there are already disquieting signs that he is looking out for Ted Cruz – even if that sets back the causes he claims to be serving.”
Indeed there are.
Pro Deo et Constitutione – Libertas aut Mors
Semper Fortis Vigilate Paratus et Fidelis