The Good, The Bad, The Discordant, and the Uncomfortable

Posted by Erick Erickson

“Conservatism is on the ascendency. But it will ascend within the GOP, not via a third party.”

Now that I’ve had twelve hours of sleep after four days of three hour nights, I can settle in and focus on the CPAC that was and was not. There was no dominant theme at CPAC this year, which was surprising. The Ron Paul kids were out in force leading him to the straw poll, there was not a great deal of buzz on Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney was more the establishment guy than last time, etc. About the only significant buzz was at the beginning and the end — Rubio and Beck.

This morning I was greeted to close to 100 emails of mixed reviews on Glenn Beck’s speech. There seem to be a lot of people who did not like Glenn Beck equating the Republicans to the Democrats. For an example, let me refer you to Bill Bennett. Secretary Bennett and I had an encounter on CNN the other night sounding out similar themes. He did not like me batting down the establishment GOP as something less than he thought they were.

Glenn Beck’s speech gave resonance to what a lot of the tea party activists and conservatives at CPAC feel — the GOP is as bad as the Democrats. But we have to have a very careful caveat here: the GOP has not been good on spending and portions of economic policy. We cannot make it, however, a blanket statement. As Glenn Beck said last night, “One party says it will tax and spend. The other party says it won’t tax and will spend.” We have to be careful in our zeal to clean up Washington not to take that for more than what it is.

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Therein lies much of the concern. There is real angst that some people are agitating for a third party because of what they see as an unrepentant GOP. And the fear is that Glenn Beck is feeding this. I hope he is not. I would have to part ways if that were the case. History shows that neither the most popular third party candidate, Teddy Roosevelt, nor the richest, Ross Perot, were ever able to get elected. All they did was get the Democrat elected.

And for those of you who think that is no big deal, let me ask you again: how many Americans are going to die because of Barack Obama’s handling of our national security? If you think the GOP would be as bad on this issue, you need a reality check.

It is the GOP that wants to cut the costs of health care through expanding the free market. It is the GOP that wants to fight the enemy instead of compromising with them. It is the GOP that wants to upend our failing public schools and make them actually teach instead of function as a retirement home for teachers union employees. It is the GOP that stands in defense of freedom against tyranny. It was, for example, the GOP that stood with Honduras against Hugo Chavez while Barack Obama gave a full throated embrace of the communist dictator and the thugs of South America.

But the GOP still does have problems. My position and that of this site is to go conservative in primaries and Republican in generals. That will not change. There are a few points worth mentioning in this regard.

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In his post on Glenn Beck’s speech, Bill Bennett wrote, “From Jim DeMint to Tom Coburn to Mike Pence to Paul Ryan, any number of Republicans have admitted the excesses of the party and done constructive and serious work to correct them.” The problem is that Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn are not in leadership. Certainly the House guys are in a better position come 2010. But DeMint and Coburn are regularly marginalized by a Senate GOP not run on Republican principles, but run on appropriator principles.

Consider that the Republican leadership is still backing Charlie Crist against Marco Rubio in Florida. Consider that the Senate GOP, save for Jim DeMint, lovingly embraced Arlen Specter to the bitter end and then desperately tried to find someone other than Toomey to take him on. Consider Orrin Hatch praising the tea party activists back in August for the health care town hall protests, then turning on them this week and saying they risk electing liberals if they take on moderate Republicans.

No they don’t. But therein lies the problem and I think Glenn Beck did not address it. Maybe he thought it was not relevant to his points last night.

But it is not the Republican Party that is the problem. It is the Republican leadership that, when it compromises with the Democrats, compromises in favor of expanded government. You never see the Democrats compromise in favor of the free market.

But these people are not the party at large. When Bill Bennett and others criticize Beck for saying the GOP has not had its “Tiger Woods moment,” they inevitably list a great many Republicans who have had those moments. But you rarely hear this list John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, Lamar Alexander, Jerry Lewis, Thad Cochran — the leaders calling the daily shots.

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There is a very real and very substantive difference between the parties. From social to fiscal issues, the differences are real. I am a Republican before I am a Democrat. But at the end of the day, I am a conservative before I am a Republican.

The Republican Party is where I make my home for advancing my conservative agenda. And when I think the party needs to be changed, I get involved in primaries recognizing I will win some and lose some in the give and take of American politics.

If you are troubled, if you agree with Glenn Beck, if you are tempted to go with a third party, don’t. Instead, get involved in the Republican Party. Change it. Support people like Mike Lee in Utah, Danny Tarkanian in Nevada, Marlin Stutzman in Indiana, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Ken Buck in Colorado, MIchael Williams in Texas, and of course Marco Rubio in Florida.

Support women like Karen Handel in Georgia and Nikki Haley in South Carolina, both running for Governor.

Support guys like Jeff Duncan, Tim Huelskamp, and Sean Duffy in the House.

All of these candidates are good. And there are others. They are out there. As I said the other day, 2010 is not like 2008. The dynamics are different. This year conservatives must take risks instead of staying with the status quo just because it is easier. Conservatism is on the ascendency. But it will ascend within the GOP, not via a third party.

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