A modern rehashing.
Long ago, a group of angry American — some landowners, many lawyers, some merchants and all great statesmen of incomparable quality — banded together in Philadelphia and forged the great American charter known as the Declaration of Independence, and for six years and six months after Lexington and Concord fought and bloodied the British until they ended their miserable slog in the swamps of the Virginia Tidewater, surrendering to General Washington’s army at Yorktown on October 19th, 1781 and thus ushering in an era of peace and liberty that interrupted only be “the recent unpleasantness” and ended when the Federal Reserve was organized in 1917, thus starting the United States on its long and intolerable slide towards dependence, indebtedness, and ultimately everything wrong with today’s America.
Except it didn’t quite happen that way, as most every reader knows. The British had the Americans nearly beaten by June 1781. Charlestown, New York, Wilmington, and Norfolk were all safely in the hands of the British. Cornwallis had burnt Richmond and sacked Monticello, chasing the Virginia General Assembly to Staunton and scattering them to the four winds…
Enter the Marquis de Lafayette in early June 1781 and the join forces of the Comte de Rochambeau and General George Washington in August. Together, they trapped Cornwallis at Yorktown, laid siege, and with the help of the French navy blockading the relief attempts of the British Royal Navy at the mouth of the Chesapeake, the American Revolution was won in a lark.
Our American Founding Fathers — inflexible patriots all — could not beat the British without those darned establishmentarian French.
Fast forward to October 2013…
Let’s be very plain and honest about this: with the notable exception of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (who as a conservative successfully took on the teacher’s union, hugged Obama, was seen to lead after Hurricane Sandy, and is now going to cruise to a second term as governor) the Republican Party is not merely in disarray — we are in divorce court. Conservatism as a political philosophy in America is so elastic as to be meaningless, with few defenders and even fewer definitions. Worse still, consultants and those knowing that even straw seems like a liferaft to a drowning movement are cashing in, selling hope to a thirsty electorate and laughing all the way to the bank as mainstream Americans stare first in anguish, then in marvel in incredulity as the Grand Old Party grandly caves in almost to a script over the course of three weeks, and presumably in resistance to a bill that every Republican claimed to want to defeat yet no one seemed to have the guts to do so.
Yet Obamacare survives, and now the Republicans are in a worse position today than what they were if they had merely passed the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling three weeks ago. Yes folks, now the debt ceiling must survive a presidential veto… and should it not, then the debt ceiling is removed and the spending continues unabated. Federalist 58, that little gem written by Mr. James Madison?
The House of Representatives can not only refuse, but they alone can propose the supplies requisite for the support of Government. They, in a word, hold the purse; that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representation of the People gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the Government. This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon, with which any Constitution can arm the immediate Representatives of the People, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.
…ball it up and throw it away.
Folks are a little confused about my angst, nay — my outright anger — directed towards freshman Senator Ted Cruz and his grab for the spotlight. The gameplan was simple: Obamacare was and would collapse under its own weight. Give it one year to do so, and Obamacare would become a 2014 campaign year election issue. True, I would have rather seen its outright demolition… but Senate and House Republicans united under the leadership of Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell would keep the moderates and rogue conservatives in line, hold the line, and we’d get a delay — a reasonable enough trade on spending demands, right?
And who cracked first? Evil moderate weenie John McCain? Olympia Snowe? Pete King! No no no… it would be that slimy, slippery, moderate in all things Eric Cantor!!! Yes, describe for me this topsy-turvy world where Eric Freakin’ Cantor is a liberal… no wait, don’t. I’ve seen shades of it… leave it be.
…no ladies and gentlemen, the first person to crack is none other than Tea Party light Senator Ted Cruz, who in his fauxbuster for 21 hours preened and lauded himself on such intellectual topics as… well, nevermind the content. It was a stand for liberty, dammit! After 21 hours of speaking, and after being politely asked by Majority Leader Harry Reid whether Cruz would like to continue before the U.S. Senate carried on with the business of the day, Cruz buckled… and sat down. Then watched the cash roll in.
Because that was the plan all along.
The crisis became real at that point. So-called “statesmen” such as Senator McCain began playing their part. The 20 or so House Republican moderates began working on their deal. Meanwhile on the right, Rep. Paul Ryan attempted to craft a budget, but instead positioned himself for 2016. Senator Marco Rubio, seeing what Cruz had done, dropped his cards and… positioned himself for 2016. The typical set of boo-birds in the House Republican caucus began polishing up the long knives for Speaker Boehner to plunge into his back in front of the statue of Newt Gingrich just in time for the Ides of October… and so the game goes on.
…and so because the Republican Party could not get along, we could not play along. All sides lost, and because all sides lost, the American people lost.
Thus the recriminations begin in earnest back home.
* * *
In case no one else has heard it yet, Ken Cuccinelli is cruising to a catastrophic loss on November 5th.
Possibly all of the worst elements from Allen ’06, Allen ’12, Kilgore ’05, Katzen ’05, and North ’94 have been rolled into one particular effort. The grassroots are not just blase about Cuccinelli’s prospects — heck, they’re not even angry at Cuccinelli — they are livid at the complete at total disrespect and unprofessionalism that has marked the Cuccinelli campaign itself from top to bottom. Cuccinelli for Governor 2013 will be removed from the resumes of every Virginia field op for the next 20 years like Sethi striking the name of Moses from every tablet, statue, and scroll in The Ten Commandments:
May the employees of Cuccinelli for Governor 2013 be stricken from the payrolls…
…and let’s be honest about this too. Cuccinelli’s defeat, should conventional wisdom prove true, will have a thousand fathers. Shall we review?
** Bolling supporters will be first in line to talk about how their candidate should have won the nomination as heir and title… so Bolling could have lost to McAuliffe by 20pts.
** …and Tea Party activists will be right behind them to crow about how Cuccinelli abandoned his principles by refusing to make them an issue.
** Pro-lifers are mystified as to why Ken never ran on the issues that made him a conservative warrior to begin with, as Cuccinelli’s campaign has been all but silent on women’s rights, the rights of children in the womb, and the right to exist.
** Is defense of marriage your issue? Pfft… guess that didn’t poll well either.
** Second amendment and constitutional carry? Ouch fellas… the VCDL endorsement debacle did not work in Cuccinelli’s favor, and though I personally believe that VCDL made the right call, there’s no question that Libertarian gubernatorial nominee Robert Sarvis benefited mightily from that debacle. Consider this: the vaunted Cuccinelli press team couldn’t even put that fire out…
** TAXES? Cuccinelli had a golden opportunity to contrast McAuliffe’s $1,700 tax grab against his $700 tax cut for working families. How much have you heard about this? What? You haven’t?? Well… blame the campaign for some of the worst messaging in a generation.
** Repealing the McDonnell transportation tax hike? Nope — no leadership there from the Cuccinelli campaign, either.
** Standing tall with Sen. Ted Cruz? Now hold on, Mr. Kenney… didn’t you just bash the heck out of ol’ Senator Ted Cruz? Well yes I did — he made a boneheaded play in the Senate… but Cuccinelli has long lauded Cruz as a leader in the U.S. Senate, and is quoted as saying the Senate needs more. You do not — under any circumstances — run away from a photo op with Senator Ted Cruz at the Virginia Family Foundation dinner. EVER.
** How’s about some leadership during the government shutdown? Quick — name the number of times you saw Cuccinelli at a “barrycade” with our veterans pushed out by the campaign? Guess that didn’t poll well either…
** Moderation for its own sake!! Hell folks… I mean, all this squishiness advised by these consultants must mean the moderate, independent votes are just flocking to the battle standards… right?
I’ve said it once before, and I will say it again.
In May, I was excited. Ken Cuccinelli was our nominee, and the Dems? Terry McAuliffe. We were going to have an honest policy debate this time, folks… against the worst possible candidate the Democrats could have fielded against the best candidate the GOP had to offer. It was going to be a contest of ideas. Virginia was going to shine. The GOP had finally come around. We were going to go toe to toe with the Clinton machine, and dammit — we were going to win.
…and we got the precise opposite, didn’t we?
* * *
The Atlantic has this little ditty about the conservative civil war within the GOP. Tea Partiers, presumably fed up with the Republican Party, are now signalling that they are ready to walk away and go third party — better to reign in obsolescent Hell than serve in establishment Heaven and merely perform delaying actions against socialism, they would say. To wit:
To Deace, “political-party disintegration” is on the horizon. And he’s not alone: Sean Hannity, on his radio show on Monday, said he’d previously opposed a third party, but “I’m not so sure anymore. It may be time for a new conservative party in America. I’m sick of these guys.” Ann Coulter’s new book is titled Never Trust a Liberal Over 3—Especially a Republican. Groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund and Heritage Action wear their contempt for GOP elites as a point of pride, and spend the bulk of their resources campaigning against rather than for Republican officeholders.
. . .
To some Republican institutionalists who have long seen the Tea Party as a destructive force, the talk of a schism merely confirms what they’ve always suspected—that these activists are a radical, destabilizing force, nihilists devoid of loyalty. Some, like the renegade moderate David Frum, urge the Tea Party to go ahead and leave: “Right now, tea party extremism contaminates the whole Republican brand,” Frum wrote on CNN.com this week, wondering “whether a tea party bolt from the GOP might not just liberate the party to slide back to the political center.” Representative Charles Boustany of Louisiana lashed out at his intransigent colleagues Wednesday, telling National Journal, “I’m not sure they’re Republicans and I’m not sure they’re conservative.”
But most party loyalists seek to placate and explain the Tea Party fervor, and to urge the rebels back into the fold. Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman and George W. Bush aide, said he understood where they were coming from. “A lot of them are new to the process,” Gillespie told me. “They weren’t Young Republicans or College Republicans. They didn’t come up through Republican clubs, and they feel that the Republican Party in the past has not fought hard enough or stood firm enough on these issues.”
Gillespie chalked the tensions up to the party being out of power and lacking a unifying leader; he pointed to similar dislocations in the past, including Ross Perot’s third-party candidacies in the 1990s. “I would rather have them trying to shake up the existing party than run as third-party candidates—that would be completely self-defeating,” he said. “We live in a two-party system in the United States. If you’re going to translate your ideas, your beliefs, your principles into policy, it’s got to be done through the electoral process, and that involves participating in a political party.”
Gillespie and others said party institutions have been weakened by changes in campaign-finance law. (The ostensible head of the Republican Party, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, did not respond to requests for comment for this story.) They noted that the pragmatists and the Tea Partiers don’t disagree on policy, only on what tactics will make the most progress possible toward goals like reducing spending and reversing Obamacare. And they pointed out that conservatives stand little chance of winning elections outside the two-party framework—though their pleas for unity signaled an awareness that Republicans might be equally crippled by the loss of their ideological base.
Gillespie was once the Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia (full disclosure: I worked as Communications Director under Ed Gillespie while at RPV) during similar times. In 2006, the party was fractured. Bush was in the White House, but the king was dead in the middle of the court — George Allen had been narrowly defeated by a Jim Webb campaign that fell ass-backwards into victory thanks to an ill-timed and frankly stupid decision by Allen’s advisors to run Jim Webb’s book excerpts in the last 96 hours of the campaign.
Gillespie was the paperweight that kept the coalition together for a time. It worked… until duty called and Gillespie went to work for the White House, in which case former Lieutenant Governor John Hager stepped into the role as RPV Chairman and began crisscrossing the Commonwealth.
The point of what Gillespie is saying rings true. Coalitions win elections. Third parties don’t. Divisions in the liberty movement — and yes, we are diverse — spell doom for the cause.
This was something that our Founders understood all too well…
…and back to our history lesson.
* * *
On October 19th, 1781 a band of British redcoats marched out over the road at Yorktown. To one side stood American regulars and Virginia militia, to the other stood French regulars. The British, chagrined after trying to surrender to the French instead of the British, stacked their arms to the tune of “The World Turned Upside Down” and trudged themselves off into captivity.
Four months before, British cavalrymen were enjoying themselves to Governor Thomas Jefferson’s wine at Monticello.
Four months before, Simcoe had sacked the Virginia state arsenal at Point of Fork.
Four months before, America was divided.
Four months before, Washington was in New York pursuing a very different strategy.
Four months before, Virginia would not come to the aid of Greene in North Carolina.
Four months before, the British were on the verge of winning.
Four months before, the American revolution was to go down in history as a footnote.
So what changed? What brought 13 squabbling factions together under the leadership of Washington and the assistance of the French — assistance the Patriots did not want but realized they could not win without?
Anyone else seeing some Tea Party/establishment parallels here?
Of course, the specter of defeat is always a compelling reason to get various factions to work together. But even as late as 1781, Governor Jefferson refused to take the advice of General Baron von Steuben and call up the Virginia militia to deal the death blow to Cornwallis and Arnold at Wilmington, North Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia respectively. Virginia required her own defense was the rationale, and besides… would North Carolina come to the defense of Virginia? Where was Washington? Where were the French? The Virginians, so it would seem, would fight it out as their own party…
Only united did the Americans and the French defeat the British redcoats. Only united will the Reagan coalition of conservatives, the establishment, libertarians, moderates, pragmatists, Austrians, distributists, Tea Partiers, pro-lifers, and all those in between be able to assert those old values of Jeffersonian republicanism that we once embraced.
Yorktown is an example of what happens when republicanism unites for common cause.
Last week was an example of what happens when Republicans lose sight of Yorktown and the principles of ’76… and divide for their own personal gain.
It’s your call, folks.