There has been a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking about whether the strategy of Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and other ‘tea party’ Republicans has damaged the Republican brand. It seems the mainstream media, (MSM) and the Democrats have all agreed: the GOP was crippled by the actions of those on the right flank. And truthfully, the brand probably has been diminished but, those guilty of hurting the brand are not Ted Cruz and his allies.
What needs to be understood by the MSM is that courageous individuals like Cruz and Lee, et al. are not trying to destroy the party. They are trying RESTORE the GOP. They and countless conservatives across America are frustrated by what the GOP has become. The GOP was generally considered to be the party of limited government, low taxes, individual liberty and personal responsibility. Lately, the name GOP, which used to stand for ‘Grand Old Party’, has looked more like the ‘Government Over People’ party.
The Republican Party has become ‘Democrat light.’ Moderates like John McCain and Mitch McConnell seem to have forgotten the mission of the GOP: to make government smaller.
This battle is no longer about Conservative vs. Liberal, Republican vs. Democrat, or Left vs. Right. The conflict we see in Washington (and to a growing extent in Lansing) is one of ‘The Ruling Class’ vs. ‘The People.’ We who are in the trenches, working hard, paying the bills and asking government to leave us alone, have come to realize that we are getting no better deal with many Republicans in Congress than we are from the Democrats.
Ted Cruz and company are very popular with rank and file Republicans because they represent what the Republican Party is supposed to stand for. Case in point; look at the election for U.S. Senate in New Jersey last week. ‘Tea Party’ conservative and former Americans for Prosperity State Director, Steve Lonegan ran against heavily favored Democrat Cory Booker. The ‘party’ did not give him any support or assistance. Why would they? He is a ‘right wing extremist’ who is destroying the GOP brand.
In spite of the fact that Lonegan was outspent 8 to 1, he still garnered 44% of the vote and lost by just over ten points. Of note is the fact that eleven months ago, Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in New Jersey by 18 points. Steve Lonegan campaigned unapologetically as a limited government conservative, as his website clearly demonstrates, not as a mainstream, Mitt Romney Republican.
Republican voters are getting weary of Republican candidates who do not fulfill the true Republican ideal of less government; as a result, they are staying home. They would never vote for a Democrat but, they see no point in voting for a candidate with no conservative credentials. When they do see a candidate with real conservative chops like Steve Lonegan, they go out and vote. If only the party had helped him match his opponent financially.
I believe what constitutional conservatives like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Steve Lonegan are doing is not unlike what reformers like Martin Luther did almost exactly 496 years ago. Luther was trying to reform ‘the church’ back to its original teachings. He had visited Rome and recognized that the the church was becoming corrupted by leaders who were seeking power and personal enrichment by enlarging the role of the church in the lives of the people. Luther did not try to create a ‘new’ church. He was committed to change and reformation from within. He felt the best way to accomplish his goals was through reformation, not separation. He was branded a heretic. The treatment he received was not unlike what Ted Cruz is getting from his own party today. His GOP colleagues are calling him ‘wacko bird’ and ‘fraud.’ How do Mr. Cruz’ constituents see him? He received an eight-minute standing ovation when he returned to his native Texas. His favorability among ‘tea party’ Republicans is 74% and among mainstream Republicans it is at 56%.
‘Tea party’ conservatives today are joining with Ted Cruz in an effort to remind the party what it should stand for. They love the ideals and principles of the GOP. What they do not like is how the party has become tainted by power-hungry politicians. True conservatives are not interested in starting a new party; they want to reform the party by electing ‘Ted Cruz Republicans’ to office in 2014. This is really a replay of what Ronald Reagan talked about in 1975. Watch this 2-minute video clip. It’s amazing; this speech could have been delivered yesterday.
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Can Republicans win seats in 2014? Can they restore the Republic? Yes, they can. But they will only be successful if they are willing to run against the ruling class and commit themselves to making government once again a servant of the people.