The State of the GOP

by Bill Hennessy and Jim Durbin

John Knowles’s classic novel, A Separate Peace, begins memorably:

I went back to the Devon School not long ago, and found it looking oddly newer than when I was a student there fifteen years before . . . as if a coat of varnish had been put over everything for better preservation.

I get precisely the opposite feel when I look at the Republican Party.

Republicans Return to Disarray

Less than two years after the Tea Party carried Republicans to historic gains in Congress and state housesTea Party 2009 around the country, the Grand Old Party looks much older than grand. Its skin is coarse and leathery. Pachyderm-ish.Or like the broken, bleeding hands of a North Dakota railroad worker in January. It’s as if a coat of Elmer’s Glue had been put over everything to blister and peel and crack like mud under the burning sun.

Across Missouri, people were driven away by heavy-handed party regulars. The disenchanted were mostly newcomers to politics.

Most infamous of these events was the St. Charles County debacle in which the county chairman ruled with an iron fist, inspiring a rebellion that ended with police riot squads clearing the premises and arresting two caucus-goers. Ready to lead, indeed.

In Illinois, a wealthy young man from a prominent family unleashed a tidal wave of lies—flat out, ridiculous, and cruel lies—against a decent and honest opponent.  Meanwhile, the Illinois GOP insiders threatened and cajoled anyone who dared support the young heir’s opponent. At a Lincoln Days dinner in Madison County, I heard a small business owner explain the sticker on his chest: “I’m not supporting him, but they’ll go after my business if I don’t wear this.”

Liberty my foot. The Illinois GOP is every bit as capable of totalitarian control as the Obama administration. It feels like the Republican Party is more interested in protecting the power and redistributive entitlements of its long-time insiders than in growing its base. The party fears new blood (except their properly schooled off-spring), the way closed country clubs of the 1970s feared blacks, Jews, and Catholics.

Where Does the Money Go?

Did I say “redistributive entitlements?”  Yes, I did. When it comes to government spending, the biggest difference between the Republicans and Democrats is to whom they redistribute our money. Democrats buy votes with tax dollars; Republicans buy donors.

Now, I admit, I’d rather live in a nation led by Republicans than one ruled by Democrats. Republicans tolerate more personal liberty and more economic growth. They are more open to learning and to experimenting with better methods than are Democrats. Republicans remain naturally skeptical of experts who’ve never accomplished anything in real life.

But only slightly.

Republicans do not tolerate real competition between businesses. They championed TARP as much the Democrats did, and TARP was the crown jewel of anti-competitive legislation. Nor do they welcome newcomers into the party—at least not newcomers who want an equal say in things.

I realize that people who’ve worked on Township committees for 20 years want to have more influence than some guy who accidentally wanders into his first caucus looking for a public toilet. But rigging the process to produce results that were predetermined by a small cadre of insiders doesn’t help Republicans win or grow the base—it helps launch third parties.

After the Tea Party dragged the GOP across the finish line in 2010, to borrow Mike Leahy’s line, the GOP wanted nothing more to do with us. They’ve quietly toiled to let us know our kind isn’t welcome.  We’re like Irish and Italian immigrants a century and a quarter ago. “We’re going to vote now, dear. Be a good little immigrant and take out the trash.”

If the Republicans don’t wake up and grow up quickly, come November they will find themselves the most exclusive club in America—on their way to joining the Whigs.

Who Held the Line?

The GOP in Missouri wasted the biggest influx of new blood into the political fight in 30 years. Now you understand why so many young people support Ron Paul.  The Democrats are destroying the country, but who has the stomach to work with Republicans?

In 2008 and 2009, Republicans across the country gave up. They let Al Franken steal a seat. They let Arlen Specter slip through their fingers. They embraced the idea of 40 years of Democratic Rule.  Heck, even Roy Blunt was touring the state hoping to stop Robin Carnahan from being the 60th Senator.  They had given up.

  • While the Republican Establishment cut deals with Democrats, The Tea Party stood in the gap and said “No more.”
  • While the Republican Establishment cowered behind city walls, we charged into the streets and parks and hearings and town halls declaring, “we created this government, not the other way around.”
  • While the Republican Establishment ducked its head and buried its wallet and worried about its political future, our flesh and blood held back and reversed the tide to historic victories across the country.

It was the Tea Party that held back Obamacare from fast track implementation in August of 2009.  They were ready to pass it, and we stepped up in the townhalls and said HELL NO!  We were telling them it was costly and unconstitutional long before the CBO and the Supreme Court got involved.  We were right then.  Do you remember?

It was the Tea Party that made a national mission out of Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts. And if the Supreme Court overturns ObamaCare, it will be because the Democrats rushed the bill through the Senate knowing Brown was the 41st vote for freedom.

It wasn’t just healthcare shoved down our throats.  The Republicans couldn’t stop the stimulus. They put up token resistance and then a bunch of them voted for the omnibus budget a few weeks later (allowing Claire McCaskill to vote against it because Kit Bond voted for it). They ducked the debt ceiling fight.  They refused to defund Obamacare or the czars.  They were given a huge majority in the House of Representatives – the power of the purse, and what have they have done with it?  The debt continues to grow as the Senate refuses to even consider a budget.

Now it’s March, 2012. In Missouri, the Tea Party candidates have been driven out and redistricted and co-opted.  What exactly is a Tea Partier supposed to fight for in Missouri?  Where’s our skin in the game?  Who can we stand behind?

The Republicans don’t appreciate what was done for them.  They will.  They will wake up this fall to empty phone banks, small events, and the full attention of a press eager to prove 2010 a historical anomaly.

Come October, the Occupy Crowd will hound them at local events, and the social media will be all leftwing, all the time.  The Republicans will have lost the narrative, and they will once again be playing defense.

And they’ll put a coat of varnish on the state capitol and talk about the ebb and flow of politics, as the debt tsunami approaches.  The Tea Party was willing to fight alongside Republicans.  We never signed up to fight for them.  The danger is not that Tea Party voters sit on their hands and let Obama stay into office.  It’s that across the nation, publicly funded groups like the unions and the new ACORN and Occupy and Color for Change are preparing for 2012.  The Republicans, in their arrogance, have decided to tell a million volunteers and donors to stay home.

As patriots with families and businesses, we have choices on how to use the limited time God has granted us.  We are forced to choose where to apply our time and attention.  Is that focus to be placed on working with candidates and fighting the mainstream media?  Or is it shoring up our homes, finances, families, and communities for whatever comes next?