We have just climbed a mountain that seemed insurmountable not so long ago. In 2009, an overly euphoric and optimistic James Carville released a book called 40 More Years: How the Democrats will Rule the Next Generation. Thankfully, we have only had to suffer through two years of Democratic control of our government because the American people chose to give the Republican Party another chance at acting conservatively. Absolute power early in the decade seemed to corrupt some Republicans absolutely. But if we as conservatives and Republicans want to reach the next generation and preserve a positive, lasting legacy, then we need to find a way to unite our efforts and goals.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus warned in a well-known passage that “if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:25).
In George Washington’s Farewell Address in 1796, he famously cautioned Americans against “the spirit of party”, or forming political parties and factions:
“Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another; foments occasional riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passion. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”
The rise of the TEA Party movement was one of the main energizing forces behind recent GOP victories. Despite being demonized and constantly attacked by the mainstream media, many Americans found an avenue to participate and make their voices heard through their own local or state Tea Party organization. As many as 40 newly elected members of Congress and 5 new U.S. Senators are affiliated in some way with the tea party movement. The Tea Party participants united primarily around fiscal issues of stopping out of control spending sprees that were crafted in the last two years. Two of the main examples are Obamacare and wasteful, ineffective stimulus packages.
Recently, stories about bitter clashes between the new tea partiers and the Republican establishment have been in the spotlight. Politico reported that members of the national GOP establishment as well as advisers to contenders for the presidency in 2012 are focused on “an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin.” They aim to stop her “momentum and credibility” that she gained with conservative activists. While Palin has maintained a firm base of support, she has also emerged as a divisive figure even among conservatives and Republicans.
In a recent article, In Victory, the GOP Will Turn on Each Other, Jonah Goldberg wrote:
“Here’s some good news for Democrats who’ve been blue lately: The coming GOP congressional surge will inevitably lead to a lot of disarray on the right. There will be infighting, bickering and charges of betrayal aplenty. The tea-infused populists will bark at — and sometimes bite — the so-called elitists. Many in the Republican establishment will, in turn, show no small amount of ingratitude to the populists who breathed new life into it….”
“Republicans are going to start turning on each other like drag queens at a wig sale. It’s the nature of politics that when you’re out of power, everyone can agree on what the top priority should be: Get back in power. But, the only way to get back in power is to attract people who might not share all of your goals or your passion. Majority coalitions by definition have diverse groups within them.”
Simultaneously with the new U.S. Representatives taking office, Republicans will have to focus in earnest on deciding on a presidential candidate for 2012. The worst possible outcome for conservatives would be for a third party candidate to enter the presidential race. Most of us remember the charts and chortling of Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. Ironically, his supporters formed an organization called United We Stand America. In the 1992 election, he garnered 18.9% of the popular vote. In 1996, he ran again under the banner of the newly formed Reform Party and received only 8% of the popular vote, but even this total was a successful showing for a third party candidate. Republicans lost both of those elections. And yes, we can still hear that “giant sucking sound” of American jobs heading south as well as in every other direction. Perot and his visual props and colorful language were a great wake up call for many Americans; but his third party runs at the presidency were far from victorious or uniting.
Republicans have now taken control of the House of Representatives. I look forward to hearing the united message of conservatives seeking to halt an out of control administration that has willfully defied the clearly articulated desires of the American citizenry. However, without the control of the Senate and the support of a likeminded president, there is little that can be done outside of attempts at defunding unwanted programs or holding hearings to sway the opinions of voters in the next election. Still, we cannot be discouraged if we want total victory in 2012. We must somehow find our way to agreeing on ONE candidate for President. It may help to remember the “Gipper” and his “big tent”, but it will take a new discipline and integrity to get there from here.
While “party passions” can breathe new life into the electorate, they can also be destructive. As George Washington so wisely noted,
“the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”
While we begin the arduous process of selecting a presidential candidate, I hope that we will act wisely and in our best interest as fellow citizens. Soon we must begin the conversations and debates that will lead to a strong, highly qualified candidate for president who will be able to decisively defeat Barack Obama and his radical liberal agenda that, left unchecked, will likely bankrupt our country.