How Do We Get There From Here?
Achieving principles and objectives requires tactics and strategy.
Let’s face it: We who support the American ideals of individual liberty, a strong national defense, and limited government are not in the best of positions right now. Globally, many hard-won advances in the War on Terror have been lost. At home, we see an ascendant Left taking direct aim at our constitutional rights. It’s bad — and the situation is worse because of poor execution.
In a sense, the real problem Republicans have had for the last 26 years is that they’ve placed ideology over execution. In the War on Terror, we’ve seen it come back to bite the GOP. Despite a clear vision of how things should be (democracy in the Middle East), we haven’t delivered the goods. And this has (rightly) undermined the support of the American people.
Iraq is the best example. Taking out Saddam Hussein and replacing his dangerous regime was the right idea. The problem was that we not only underestimated the difficulty of the task (after all, the other side has a vote), the Bush administration allowed the media to ignore the broad-based rationale for removing Saddam and to frame the WMD intelligence failure as enough to delegitimize the entire operation. Worse, the administration failed to vigorously challenge those opposed to an aggressive approach to radical Islamic terrorism.
Ultimately, that failure to prioritize the War on Terror has cost America dearly. Obama has derailed our entire national security policy. Only a resolute commander in chief — one who is unafraid of engaging the political opposition — can put us back on track. Electing that president is essential.
The problem is that too many on the Right over the last 25 years have focused on ideology (many using the word “principles”) and objectives while missing the execution needed, particularly in the areas of tactical and strategic competence. Having the right principles and the right objectives is all well and good, but they are of little use when you have no idea how to get there from here. Worse, tactical and strategic incompetence may do great harm to those principles and objectives. Barry Goldwater’s loss in 1964 — garnering only 38.5% of the vote — is one such example. Goldwater is held up as a conservative hero. Arguably, he shouldn’t be, because his tactical and strategic incompetence in the 1964 election gave LBJ the “mandate” to balloon the size and scope of the federal government. That created many of the problems we face in this country today, including a massive debt and a soul-crushing cycle of poverty and dependency via the “Great Society.”
The lack of tactical and strategic competence has hit particularly hard over the last decade or so. Two areas of note stand out, and they call for some accountability from the powers that be on the “Never Trump” Right. Their tactical and strategic incompetence did a lot to help create the conditions that led to the rise of Donald Trump.
The first was a poor selection of Senate candidates. In 2010, certain conservative websites, RedState most prominent among them, were particularly vocal about defeating Charlie Crist (Florida), Sue Lowden (Nevada), Gale Norton (Colorado) and Mike Castle (Delaware). While defeating the future party-switcher in the Florida primary gave the GOP Marco Rubio, who has a bright future despite these same folks turning on him now, the primary defeats of Lowden, Norton and Castle handed the Democrats three Senate seats. The Nevada seat — held by Harry Reid — was particularly important, given how Reid proved to be a very effective political bodyguard for Obama, circular-filing any decent legislation the Republican-controlled House passed.
In 2012, those same groups set their sights on defeating Richard Lugar. The RedState-preferred candidate, Richard Mourdock, then proceeded to make some indescribably stupid comments about rape, which while not as bad as those of Missouri’s Senate candidate, Todd Akin, still provided ammo for the “War on Women” meme. Meanwhile, the failure to recruit Ken Cuccinelli, who was Virginia’s attorney general in 2012, to run against Tim Kaine not only meant the GOP was running George Allen (whose “macaca” comment killed his career), but also created a logjam for the governor’s race in 2013.
RedState and company also came in with unreasonable expectations as to what could be accomplished. In the fall of 2013, even though Harry Reid buried every good piece of legislation, these folks cheered as Senator Ted Cruz pushed for a shutdown strategy that was doomed to fail. The shutdown torpedoed Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign that year — and that failure put Terry McAuliffe in a position to help Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign by restoring voting rights to as many as 200,000 convicted felons. But rather than re-examining their approach, these groups blamed “the establishment” and doubled down on the same tactics. That did ultimately force out the failed John Boehner in favor of Paul Ryan, but now, one-time conservative hero Paul Ryan (remember the excitement about his budgets?) is derided as a RINO. Lather, rinse, repeat … and the cycle continues.
Today, these groups proclaim themselves “Never Trump” as a matter of principle. Even the actions of senators and attorneys general seeking to use RICO laws against so-called “climate change deniers” or the move by Democrats on the Federal Election Commission to outlaw conservative media have not prompted them to re-think their opposition to Trump. The news from earlier this month that the Ninth Circuit Court upheld a California law requiring pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to promote abortion clinics hasn’t made a dent, either.
A Hillary Clinton administration would likely support those measures, and Clinton-appointed judges would uphold them. Let’s be very clear: These measures are not “substantial setbacks”; these are kill shots intended to outlaw even making the case for conservatism. That doesn’t even begin to take into account the hundreds — if not thousands — of bureaucratic Lois Lerners who would be unleashed with the tacit approval of those at the highest levels of a Hillary Clinton administration.
How do conservatives expect to mount a comeback when even making the argument becomes illegal? For all of Trump’s ideological deviations from conservatism (and they are far greater than those of Mitt Romney, derided as a “RINO” five years ago) and his repugnant character issues, four (or eight) years of Trump would be far more palatable than the converse with Hillary Clinton.
While we work tirelessly toward the ultimate objectives of limited government, a strong national defense, and individual liberty, the tactical and strategic incompetence of some on the Right has impeded and will continue to impede our progress toward those objectives. At some point, we need more than shared principles and objectives. We need the tactical and strategic competence to put those principles into practice toward achieving those objectives.