On March 18, the release of the Republican National Committee’s report on the party’s failures of the 2012 election is sparking a feud with grassroots conservatives about the reasons for defeat and the path for renewing its political prospects in future elections, as reported on the Politico.com website.
Conservative public relations executive Greg Mueller called the election post-mortem report’s proposed changes to the party’s presidential nominating process and convention timetables an exercise in self-dealing by the RNC, when he said:
“It looks like a system of the establishment, by the establishment, and for the establishment.”
After the historic 2010 election victories, the GOP seemed to be in the ascendancy and poised to make Barack Obama a one-term president. The 2012 election debacle stopped the GOP’s progress cold as the nomination of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney simultaneously splintered the Tea Party and alienated women, Latinos, and young voters.
The emergence of grassroots Tea Party groups, fueled by libertarian ideals and ready to take on the political forces in Washington D.C. that jammed Obamacare through the U.S. Congress by using budget reconciliation rules and questionable backroom deals, seemed to show in 2010 that the GOP had turned the page on the contentious era of former President George W. Bush and his brand of establishment Republicanism.
All that remained was to defeat President Barack Obama and take back the U.S. Senate, then establishment Republicans could return to power with the likes of House Speaker John Boehner, Sen. Mitch McConnell, and a technocratic manager like Mitt Romney as president.
As the Republican establishment learned in 2012, however, it turns out that the Tea Party, libertarians, and grassroots conservatives cannot be motivated simply by the idea of sending Democrat politicians to the unemployment line.
These Tea Party voters actually do require an affirmative ideological vision from the candidates they support, not merely focus-group tested mantras and cleverly blurring the lines between Republican and Democrat policies in an effort to appeal to people that do not hold strong beliefs.
The clear message to establishment Republicans should be to place greater trust in the grassroots activists.
Instead of a post-mortem on the 2012 election, Reince Priebus and the RNC would benefit more from reading author James Surowiecki’s insightful book “The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations,” which describes the power of information derived from large groups of people.
The Warning Signal of 2012
Rather than listen and learn from the valuable lessons of the 2010 election cycle, establishment Republicans set about the process of stifling the party’s grassroots activists and silencing the voices of the next generation of movement conservatives in an effort to continue the reign of expensive political consultants and party bosses from bygone eras.
During the 2012 GOP presidential primaries, at some point nearly every candidate in the field had a turn as the top challenger to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Since none of the candidates were particularly compelling – and all had substantial flaws and transgressions from conservative ideals – the grassroots of the party were unable to find a strong enough alternative to Mitt Romney, who had spent the previous six years running for the presidency.
The fact that so many candidates of such questionable presidential timber would present so challenging an obstacle to the extremely well-financed Romney, with all the organizational advantages and endorsements of longtime Republican officeholders that he held over his opponents, should have been the biggest red flag of all to the party bosses.
Amazingly, it was the man who polled in single digits for most of 2011 and lost his reelection bid to the U.S. Senate by almost 18 percentage points in Pennsylvania that nearly defeated Romney in the latter stages of the nominating process.
Establishment Republicans still did not wake up and realize that Mitt Romney was so weak that former Sen. Rick Santorum nearly beat him in Michigan, despite having a fraction of the campaign resources, and Romney’s father being the former governor of the state.
Throughout the 2012 presidential primaries, movement conservatives and Tea Party voters were practically begging the GOP not to foist Mitt Romney on them as the alternative to Barack Obama.
Republican Establishment Owns The 2012 Debacle
Far from drawing on the momentum seized by the Tea Party insurgency of the 2010 elections, the Republican establishment compounded Mitt Romney’s failures by pushing the nominations of a series of longtime party insiders, big spending moderate officeholders, and self-financed business executives for U.S. Senate races in 2012.
As detailed in “Top 10 establishment Republicans who lost Senate races in 2012,” it was the collection of candidates favored by the party bosses in Washington D.C. who were defeated in numerous winnable campaigns that are to blame for Democrats expanding their majority in the U.S. Senate in 2012.
While discredited strategists and consultants ran failed campaigns that essentially handed the Democrats two more years of majority power in the U.S. Senate, the mantra from many of the elite Republican professional political advisers is to blame the grassroots.
In particular, the ringleader of the establishment Republican consultant culture is former Bush strategist Karl Rove, who famously spent over $300 million with his American Crossroads Super PAC on behalf of failed U.S. Senate candidates across the nation.
Rove’s answer to the embarrassing defeats in 2012 is to blame candidates in Missouri and Indiana for the senate losses to Democrats and cast doubt on Tea Party candidates from the 2010 and 2012 election cycle.
Despite the spin out of Karl Rove, the grassroots activists and movement conservatives are not buying the establishment Republican line.
Media Research Council founder Brent Bozell summed up the sentiments of many movement conservatives and grassroots activists about Karl Rove and his cohorts by saying:
“Rove knee-capped Christine O’Donnell. He’s called Rick Perry’s ideas ‘toxic.’ Says Sarah Palin ‘lacks gravitas.’ He’s declared publicly that Rand Paul ‘causes the GOP squeamishness.’ Do you know what he’s called you? The party’s ‘nutty fringe.’ And now he says he wants to protect the GOP from ‘challenges by far-right conservatives’ and Tea Party enthusiasts…The last thing the GOP needs is for the anti-conservative professional political consultant class infecting its ranks. And the last thing we conservatives want is them infiltrating ours.”
The Republican National Committee hired a team of party insiders – many of whom had strong connections and their own credibility riding on the 2012 elections – to tell them what went wrong with their political party.
They could have saved a lot of money and learned a lot more by simply listening to their own voters and what they were trying to tell the Republican Party during the 2012 presidential primaries.
Steven Holmes is the Los Angeles Political Buzz Examiner.