The GOP is having a psychological identity crisis.
Last election, I wrote and spoke constantly about how important it is to work within the framework of the GOP. A third party in our system simply doesn’t work and only hands elections to the other side, again and again. I believe in doing what works. Third-party voting doesn’t work. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some way to send a clear message to the GOP leadership that we are a new breed of conservatives and, frankly, we aren’t going to take it anymore.
This week, I received a letter from a well-respected opinion leader in San Diego asking me to quietly withdraw my California registration with the GOP. She reasoned that the new congressional nominee that the local party is supporting is both pro-choice and a gay-rights activist. She wanted to make a statement to the local party that when they put candidates on the GOP ticket, they need to reflect the GOP platform.
Platforms are an arcane but critical part of how the grassroots in the party maintain control over the elite. Regardless of what anyone thinks about the planks in the platform, they are created and voted upon by people elected by the grassroots. Thus, to ignore the platform is to act tyrannically, something the GOP says it opposes, but it doesn’t.
Again and again, the GOP demonstrates from the state to the national level that it has little allegiance to the platform when it comes to choosing candidates.
As the wife of a former senator from Missouri, I feel the pain of the party chairs who have to recruit palatable and willing candidates. Many well-qualified people don’t want to run today.
My husband is asked at least weekly to run, and I joke that he will need to sign divorce papers first. I personally like this side of politics (writing about it and talking about it on radio and TV) and don’t have any desire to put my family through the constant battles of politics on the inside anytime again soon.
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Party chairs don’t always get to recruit their favorite candidates, and sometimes you have a person who really wants to run that you don’t care for at all, but you can’t find anyone else. If your job is to fill out the GOP ticket, then you take what you can find. This is why I did not withdraw my support for my local party this week. But there is something insidious here.
I included what I believe is a critical chapter and warning to both the grassroots, and the GOP in my new book, “What Women Really Want,” co-written with Ann Marie Murrell and Morgan Brittany. The chapter is called “Platforms and Stilettos,” and it lays out the case (mostly championed by the sage wisdom of Phyllis Schlafly until now) for adherence to the party platform. This may not seem important until you consider the accountability for candidates.
If GOP candidates knew they would have to pass the platform smell test, they might behave better or not force their candidacy to begin with. As I wrote in our book, “Grassroots activists know that the only power they have over a candidate once he or she is elected is that individual’s loyalty to the party platform. The party platform is the grassroots’ contract with their elected officials. The platform establishes a party from the grassroots up rather than having the power trickle down from the elected officials.”
Some are using the label “conservative” in lieu of Republican these days because they are embarrassed of a party that says it opposes tyranny and then ignores the voice of its base. Some are creating new labels, and some are shifting to more obscure terms like objectivist, libertarian or conservatarian. The party is having a psychological identity crisis.
Consider this: In the 2012 election, Karl Rove and Reince Priebus discouraged then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney from remaining loyal to the GOP platform. In an interview with MSNBC during the Tampa convention, Priebus declared:
“This is the platform of the Republican Party. It is not the platform of Mitt Romney.”
I argue in my book that this is the moment where Mitt Romney permanently and inextricably alienated the grassroots of the party and sealed his doom. When the leader of the GOP excuses the nominee for president from adherence to the grassroots’ elected platform, it essentially tells the base of the party that it can go to hell.
That leaves the GOP candidates with their paid staff, a lot of consultants and those who stand to profit from an election as their most loyal supporters. It happened with McCain and Dole before that. Without the motivated support of the grassroots, the best candidate on paper is wholly unelectable.
That is the tragic story of the GOP at this moment in history. She has lost her base.
The base distrusts, disrespects and feels disconnected from the party so much so, that few except those who are on the payroll today want to identify themselves as Republican. This has to change before the next election. Focusing on the economy (again) isn’t going to win the hearts of the grassroots or motivate them to get out there and fight to win. Moderating the message is not the answer. Accountability to the platform is the way we win.
I had an interview recently with a mainstream network, and one of their first questions to me was, “I read that you are a Republican, but are you a Republican like Karl Rove and John McCain, or are you one of those ‘new Republicans’?”
I guess if the question is asked like that, I am a “new Republican,” but that is ironic considering I have been so for most of my life. I don’t know how to label myself any longer because I am so disgusted with the elitism I see inside the beltway. I am committed to the grassroots having the power, and the politicians being held accountable to it, regardless of party. I say we make a case to return to the party platforms.