You can’t argue for unity and a big tent at the same time.
What does unity mean in the context of the Republican Party? If unity means that we’re all supposed to agree with one another, locked arm in arm, singing Kumbaya, then unity is a dream. Unity doesn’t have to mean that though. Unity doesn’t even have to mean that we all sit around hating Democrats for being Democrats, because Democrats “are bad, m’kay”. Unity could refer to a cooperation of similar principles or philosophies. Though that’s just as unlikely because some people don’t actually have principles or philosophies, no matter how much Fox News, West Wing, or Daily Show they watch. The ones who do are less tractable and cooperative with people holding any set of principles other than their own.
I want to work with activists within the Republican Party, but to do so I have to work with people who are nationalists, populists, conservatives, libertarians, Nixon/Ford Republicans, constitutionalists, and apolitical folks just looking for some responsible government. In this contentious GOP Primary, I am committed to working on behalf of whomever wins the Republican Party Nomination to defeat the Democrat Nominee – how do I do that without offending all the people who might have supported one of the other 87 Republican candidates who ran for that nomination?
Everyone complains about how there is no unity in the Republican Party, but every once in a while folks all start tossing around the word “unity”, either as a threat (you better unify behind our candidate!) or out of desperation (if you don’t, the Democrat will win!). The Republican Party has progressive populists, libertarians, nationalists, conservatives, corporatists, southern democrats, and moderates, all voting for republican candidates seeking their votes. We’re not a big tent. We’re a really, really big tent. So big that all the folks who hate all the other folks can find their own comfortable echo chambers in the great hall, without ever having to be brought to task by those who disagree.
So, if The Republican Party is a big tent full of small echo chambers, then we should not be surprised that none of us get along. We don’t talk to each other anymore. Sometimes, even the polemic doesn’t help when people are so utterly intolerant of views other than their own.
In Virginia, we’ve got divisions that aren’t even related to principles or philosophies. The most conservative Republican in the State could be targeted simply because they support open or closed primaries. Yet, Congressman Dave Brat defeated the second most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives in an open primary (not in a convention). Some of the worst beatings I’ve taken have been over comments sympathetic to primaries. Conventions aren’t fiscally responsible, I’d say. Commence beating. I’ve proven myself to be an evil RINO unworthy of the title “grassroots”.
I’ve spent the better part of this year reaching out to activists who simply no longer want to be involved. They are horrified by the vitriol and contention. Now, a lot of that is politics being politics, but not all of it is necessary.
An equally malevolent crime could be failing to oppose a moderate nominee for one elected office or another. I used to feel quite differently about this issue. Looking over the voting records of many of our Republican Representatives, I’ve often wondered what’s the point in supporting these Republicans when they vote with the Democrats half the time (or worse, MORE than half the time). However, I am also a fan of reality and data. So when I see data proving to me that conservatives or even moderate Republicans are a minority in a particular district, then I have to ask myself, “What’s the virtue in opposing a moderate Republican in a Democrat district”? Even if, by a stroke of luck or an expensive convention, we managed to nominate a real conservative in one of those districts, we’d lose in a landslide.
What’s the virtue in losing to a Democrat who will vote with Pelosi 100% of time, when we could have had a squishy Republican who would have voted with Pelosi 50% of the time? Sometimes, as conservatives, we forget that it’s not just about nominating conservatives. Our job is to actually persuade voters to be conservative – then, they might actually vote for someone we like.
I am not happy with the Leadership in the Republican Party nationally, in the House of Representatives, nor in the Senate. I’m often frustrated with the Republican Leadership in Richmond and their constant assaults on local government; and we’ve all watched the controversies between the RPV and the grassroots in the 7th District.
That said, in order to build a platform for conservative policy and legislation, I require a strong Republican Party – because we all know that there is a zero percent chance of getting conservative legislation passed through Democrat controlled governments. That means that I have to work with the sorts of people who support Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal and Jim Gilmore, Ted Cruz and John Kasich. I have to work with and dialogue with everyone within this big tent of ours, because screaming into an echo chamber hurts my ears. Also, everyone within my own echo chamber already agrees with me. I’m not moving the needle with my own people.
We’ve all fought so long and so hard against an establishment that has made it clear they don’t want us in their party, nor do they want our voices in their own echo chambers in the capital, that we’ve become more obsessed with defeating them, then winning elections in our own right. To do that, we must invade the echo chambers of others, make arguments we believe to be strong, and offer olive branches where and when appropriate.
Every day we move closer to President Hillary R. Clinton – why? Pride? Anger? If all our considerable pride and anger get us is Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office, then again, I must ask, what the hell is the virtue in that? Unity, when it comes to the Republican Party, is the recognition that this party is a party of minorities working together to defeat authoritarianism and collectivism in America, while promoting our own alternative philosophies. If we don’t work together, we lose. That’s not a call for absolute unity, friends; that’s a call for accepting reality and actually dealing with it.