The burden of proof. Who bears it? Having history show you to be astoundingly right or dismally wrong. Who remembers it? Spreading false discord among your Republican brethren. Who calls it a sin? Publicly attacking your own before privately attacking your enemies. Who purges such lunacy?
Such are questions the mainstream/establishment Republicans-in-Name Only cannot ask of themselves, cannot answer, and will not answer. Sadly, it’s time for me to admit that the Republican Party, at almost any level above the county central committees, is NOT a “Big Tent Party.” By virtue of its platform of conservative principles, it IS, but by virtue of its rulers, it is NOT. When the Tea Party conservatives/the Constitutionalists are in authority, the party rejoices: but when the RINOs beareth rule, the party mourns.
I’m a local GOP Co-Chair, but I also ran against the establishment in a primary two years ago. I thought if there is place in my state House district for the taxpayer funding of abortion, for surrendering authority to the Iowa Supreme Court’s unconstitutional judgment on gay marriage, and for calling “cuts in the increases” to be decreases… well then there must be a place for the opposite. After all, you would figure that planting yourself firmly in the middle of the local GOP platform would be a safe bet as far as your political positions go. I didn’t do terrible; in fact except for a fellow challenger in a state House district unseating an incumbent because the incumbent’s mug shots for DUI started showing up on Google searches, I came the closest to winning. Maybe I’ll do so again, maybe not. But that’s not the point. I’m sad to say it wasn’t a democrat who showed up at my house while I was away and screamed at my wife that I should get out of the race, it was a Republican. It also wasn’t a democrat who shouted “F*ck your husband!” as she walked down 7th Street. In fact, I never got a single bit of hate email from democrats, because they are smart enough to reserve all their firepower for the nominee. But I did get tons of hate mail from Republicans… who… later elected me to be Co-Chair?
I thought “How can this be a big tent party when it hates competition so much? I thought that’s what politicians loved to do: compete. That’s why we have partisan battles, gridlock, etc.” But no, today, at the state and federal level, most rulers of the GOP hate competition. Whether it’s Romney purging the delegate process before he’s elected president, Reagan being cut down by his own party, or Ted Cruz (et al) being lambasted by both parties more than any Iranian “Death to America/Israel” President, it all shows that the GOP is only a big tent party when those with courage of convictions beat out the milquetoast compromisers who keep SAYING it’s a big tent party. When the divisions serve to elect someone of passion and consistency, the division is worth it, folks. Because those leaders, like Reagan, bring the country together. They aren’t afraid of a big tent party, because they know over time and evidence, they can persuade others that there is a RIGHT and there is a WRONG; there is a BETTER, and there is a BEST.
Today, my local GOP central committee hosts some of its meetings with a cardboard cutout of Reagan. I’ll admit I sometimes think it’s weird, almost sacrilegious, but you can’t deny that he deserves to be loved and respected. In our age of political negativity, his reelection advertisements are almost soothing, like an inspiring Audiobook: “It’s morning in America…”
It’s not morning anymore, and Reagan wasn’t always respected. He was the black sheep. He was the trouble maker, the problem child of the GOP. He was the unelectable. Despite having the presence of mind to change parties in his life, he was supposedly biased. He was, as one “conservative” commentator said of him in what I call the “7 Fault Lines of Failure” below, worthy only to lead others into the outer darkness [of hell]. Nice. So again, my point is that the GOP was a tightened sphincter party before Reagan, a big tent party during Reagan, and is now again a tightened sphincter party. Enter Ted Cruz.
With the cannibalism of Ted Cruz from his own party, it’s important to remember who was WRONG and who was RIGHT in history. It is totally appropriate to compare his beginning stages to Ronald Reagan and his 1976 run, who was only ever respected by the party when he overcame the party, and became the most powerful spokesman of his party only by “taking over” the party… which some commentators are now tactlessly accusing Ted Cruz of doing (Thomas Sowell, Ann Coulter, etc.). As if the establishment doesn’t already rule their party with an iron fist. Below are “7 Fault Lines of Failure” of public record, which live on, to show us that stupid politicians, like historical blunders, repeat themselves.
Because our GOP ruling class experts sometimes speak in blabbermouth, I’ve provided translations for each one.
FAULT LINE 1: George Will was no stranger to writing contemptuous columns personally attacking Reagan. In the Washington Post (Nov. 12, 1974) he wrote: “But Reagan is 63, and looks it. His hair is still remarkably free of gray, but around the mouth and neck he looks like an old man. He’s never demonstrated substantial national appeal. His hardcore support today consists primarily of the kamikaze conservatives who thought the 1964 Goldwater campaign was jolly fun. And there’s a reason to doubt that Reagan is well suited to appeal to the electorate that just produced a democratic landslide. If a Reagan third party would just lead the “Nixon was lynched” crowd away from the Republican party, and into outer darkness where there is a wailing and gnashing of teeth, it might be at worst a mixed course for the Republican party. It would cost the party some support, but it would make the party seem cleansed.”
Translation: Get lost, Reagan. You’re an old, ugly disaster hanging out in the bowels of the party. And we need a cleansed party.
Note: “Kamikaze conservatives” is now “purists.”
FAULT LINE 2: Former Republican Senator Chuck Percy of Illinois in 1975 to the New York Times: “A Reagan nomination and the crushing defeat likely to follow could signal the beginning of the end of our party as an effective force in American life.”
Translation: (Like Cruz) Reagan is stopping us from addressing the topics we say we totally want to address, but never did before he came on the scene. Because he interrupted us. Now I’ve gone and lost my train of thought.
FAULT LINE 3: Representative John Rhodes, Republican of Arizona, who became leader of the Republicans in the House, in 1975 said, “As soon as Reagan gets away from his clichés and his campaign slogans, he’s in trouble.”
Translation: He’s an amateur. He’s not a scholar even though he’s read more books than us, and he’s uneducated even though he’s studied more than us. He’s not qualified to bring up any case to the American people, because we haven’t been able to do it already. Reminds me of all the people accusing Ted Cruz of utter ignorance about the Supreme Court’s Heller decision on gun control. Frothy-mouthed opponents demand he read the Heller decision, totally ignorant of the fact that HE WAS THE ATTORNEY WHO ARGUED HELLER AND WON. Sorry for raising my voice, I just hate it when we don’t do our homework before attacking each other. That would have made an awesome political commercial on the idiocy of his opponents, but I’m sure the GOP decided to make a commercial about how well they will run liberal programs when they win.
FAULT LINE 4: Republican Vice President Nelson Rockefeller warned Republicans governors in 1975: “No major American party can long endure by directing its appeal to a narrow minority. It will not serve the nation to have our major parties polarized at ideological extremes.”
Translation: Reagan can’t win, because he’s going to run in a primary. Running against an incumbent is unpatriotic, and if there are differences with the incumbent, it is the challenger who is to blame for the differences. Our party can’t handle differences, so our country clearly cannot either.
FAULT LINE 5: Republican Representative Pete McCloskey of California in 1976: “A Reagan win would be a disaster for the GOP.”
FAULT LINE 6: Republican Representative James Cleveland of New Hampshire predicted another Goldwater debacle if Reagan is the GOP nominee.
Translation: Reagan is not a good Republican, and yet he runs under the Republican Party. I’m jealous of such audacity, so I declare him a future disaster. Because change is hard.
FAULT LINE 7: In 1976, Reagan was publicly told by two Republican governors to get out of the race against Ford: Virginia Governor Mills Godwin and North Carolina Governor James Holshouser. On the eve of the North Carolina primary, the Ford White House prepared a telegram signed by a DOZEN Republican governors, telling Reagan to get out of the race. The dastardly Reagan ended up winning North Carolina, the little rascal. Later, Ford lost to Carter, and then the establishment Republicans blamed Reagan.
Translation: Reagan, you are weak, so you should get out. Also Reagan, you are strong, so you should get out. Just get out. If you stay in, we will blame you for our loses. Remind anyone of the Tea Party? The Tea Party is both trodden underfoot and utterly defeated, but also the taskmaster and cutthroat ruler of the Republican Party, holding hostage the other Republicans. PICK ONE! Cruz, Reagan, the Tea Party… are they pathetic losers, or are they masterfully strong winners?
If they are pathetic losers, stop attacking them. Unless you enjoy burning the feelers off ants with your magnifying glass on the Capitol steps. Then I can understand. But if they are masterfully strong winners, if they really did vault Boehner into the Speakership in the 2010 elections, if they really do poll higher than the Obama Administration, then back them up. Follow them, fund them, applaud them, or lead them, it really doesn’t matter. If the RINOs want to lead the Tea Party, I hardly think the Tea Partiers (many of which still register as Republicans) would refuse. But then they wouldn’t be RINOs anymore. They wouldn’t be contemptible failures in their historical ignorance of party politics. What on earth would we do? The Tea Party conservatives could stop waiting patiently for this legendary “big tent” to arrive from the sky, and we could create it again, together.
Then our life-sized cardboard cutouts of a smiling Reagan could be joined by a few other life-sized cardboard cutouts so it isn’t so embarrassing for everyone that we only have ONE leader we can all agree on.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 3.0)