RedState: Conservatives Actually Suck At This

…at what precisely?


Erick Erickson over at RedState reminds you why conservatives have failed to deserve victory:

Leaders of both parties only pay attention to money and serious primary challengers. They have the money advantage. As for conservative primary challengers, conservatives have put up quite a few, but most are terrible, few win, and even fewer win the general election. Conservatives have done better on the Senate side, but some of the folks tea party groups and others stood up to challenge incumbents on the House side were downright embarrassing.

That last bit just turns people off. There’s no sense in putting up primary challengers if they don’t have a shot to actually win. Eventually the bulk of Republican voters will get worn out and go back. In the meantime, the leaders are still leaders and have effective scapegoats to blame.

The fact is conservatives need to show conservatives can win. They can make a first stand in Virginia with Ken Cuccinelli. But they must do more — we must do more.

Amen to that.

So what is it that we must do nationally?  Erickson lays out six excellent points… the question is how do we apply them to Virginia?

I’ll take a stab at that.  But the diagnosis of the Republican Party is effectively laid out here by Erickson:

In the past decade, conservatives have also lost a lot of brand recognition. The GOP and “conservatives” are used interchangeably. People now read National Review to find out what Republican leaders are doing instead of conservatives. People check the American Conservative Union scorecard to see how Republican a person is, not how conservative they are. Too many conservative organizations are draining donors dry with no real results to speak of. A heck of a lot of conservative organizations will disappear overnight when their geriatric leaders die because they’ve become too wrapped up in the identity of their leader, not in the cause they have long claimed to serve.

Anyone question that at all?  Here’s the key lesson: Obama For America (or Organizing For America) is its own monster — self funded and pure, and completely divorced from the party structure.  The progressives on the left have their own echo chamber — lists, volunteers, news outlets, information, diagnosis, pressure groups, media, and so forth.  If conservatives and liberty-minded Americans ever intend to be victorious with a message of free markets, free minds, and a free society… then we must do likewise.

Here’s six steps that Erickson recommends:

First, stop inviting squishy Republicans to take the flag flanked stage at conservative conferences thereby providing conservative bona fides to those who do not deserve it.

Tired of seeing moderates take up the banner of Tea Party conservatism?  Me too.

Tired of seeing candidates who make losing a professional point of pride?  Me too.  

Tired of seeing “severe conservatism” at CPAC?  Or so-called “conservative” conventions hard wire themselves to political outsiders that are conservative one day, moderate statesmen the next, and then rock-ribbed Tea Party warriors the day after?  Me too.

Now this doesn’t mean we have to start booing them off the stage… but it does mean that conservatives statewide need to start thinking about the movement rather than the party.  Think process; not personalities.

Second, conservatives should set up a super PAC dedicated to defeating Saxby Chambliss in Georgia and maybe Lindsey Graham in South Carolina. Don’t do a major super PAC to do both, but one for each.

VCAP is an old idea.  But here’s the real kicker folks really need to consider.

Precisely what conservative groups are there in Virginia truly worth our support?

The Family Foundation comes to mind.  But in terms of a solid Heritage Foundation sort of group keeping tabs on Richmond — what do we have?

Third, conservatives need to invest in their ground game. They need to begin tomorrow using technology like Political Gravity or similar software to organize and outmaneuver the GOP itself. They’ll need to work to unify early behind Senate challengers in Louisiana and elsewhere too.

In Virginia, we have Voter Vault.  Or whatever its successor has been named, which takes an act of Congress to access and has even less tech support behind it than your run-of-the-mill MS Excel spreadsheet from the mid-90s.  Virginia conservatives would be well advised — once we get our Virginia-centric Heritage or OFA-clone operating, to tackle this first.

Fourth, they need to use off year elections at the municipal level next year and ballot questions to begin testing the data.

…provided we don’t then spray Roundup all over the green shoots of conservative leadership and force localities to raise taxes to meet state mandates such as VRS.

Fifth, they are going to need to convince the grassroots that the GOP is salvageable by convincing the grassroots to clean house in primaries with credible challengers.

There’s the real kicker.  How do you tell certain self-appointed “leaders” that they aren’t electable?  Egos last… the movement first.

Sixth, they need to actually practice discernment. There are a lot of self-styled conservative groups and consultants out there not worth a warm bucket of spit. There are a lot of candidates who talk the talk, but are terrible candidates who cannot win general elections. Conservatives need to discern the good from the bad. They can start by taking direction from groups like Heritage Action for America, Senate Conservatives Fund, Club For Growth, American Majority, the Madison Project, and a few others that have solid records and are actually interested in winning, not just losing well, and then are willing to still stand on the ramparts fighting when everybody else is caving to the glow of orange tans.

Well said — and there’s plenty of masquerading consultants and organizations out there that talk a good game… but do precious little when it comes to advancing the colors, so to speak.

So what practical steps should be taken?  If I could sit down a group of 150 volunteers and 15 conservatives willing to plunk down or raise $10K a piece?

(1)  Start creating a shadow party: our own lists, our own reps at unit committees, our own district reps, and our own network of volunteers.

(2)  In order to be a part of this movement, you must pay $10/mo to be in the family.  Go find out what the signers of the Declaration of Independence gave up… $10/mo is cheaper than taxes.

(3)  This shadow party needs to cultivate its own media, talking points, and issue papers.

(4)  …then it needs to start identifying, recruiting, and training candidates to run for local and state offices — including unit and district chairs at RPV.

(5)   …and tell the consulting class to take a flying leap — no more making money off of the hopes and aspirations of those who seek higher office.

(6)   Figure out this will be a six year fight… and then stick to winning via process rather than winning via election.  Elections don’t end the fight… and there’s tremendous work to do to turn back the socialist weeds that have grown in the garden of liberty over the last 80 years.

There is nothing worse in the world than a lazy conservative who thinks the fight is over once the elections are done.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  It’s why liberals are so successful at rolling conservatives in public office — every tax hike means a conservative has to work harder; every spending cut means a liberal loses their job.  Tell me… who has more to lose?  And is it any small wonder why liberals band together so quickly (and violently?) while conservatives passively take every hit that comes?

Churchill had it right.  Deserve Victory.

  • I feel compelled to point out that Erick Erickson over at RedState has been banning pro-liberty conservatives from his own blog for so long and with such intensity that he actually invented a brand new HTTP status code for being banned for expressing thoughts that differ from his own.

    • Not exactly a winning maneuver by Red State, for sure, but I think the larger point is that what the the TEA Party started needs to be continued. And there’s a smart way to do it. Now, more than ever, pro-liberty, freedom-minded people need to band together and figure out an effective strategy that will win elections and advance the movement.

      • EricMcGrane

        Wow, this is unexpected.

      • The strategy is clear and has already been laid out; it makes perfect sense, which is why it’s being adopted without attribution by those who often mocked the man who brought true Republican conservatism back to the GOP, despite every effort past present and future of the establishment and the legions of rent-seekers who cater to them.

  • Oh, also, he’s plagiarizing the liberty movement game plan without giving credit – again.

  • Greg L

    Spot on about Voter Vault. It’s nearly useless.

    I’m working with a unit right now to pilot a replacement that will be locally-owned and operated, includes data from a wide variety of public and commercial sources, and will replicate data to candidates that serve multiple localities. Got tired of waiting for a top-down solution, and the people adding quality to the data never having any ownership of the results, which was a disincentive to improvement.

    Ultimately the answers and solutions have to come from the grassroots, and of the multiple options those present, the best solutions can be more widely implemented.

  • Another winner from Shaun. Shared this on Facebook.

  • Darrell

    What you need is a new Declaration of Independents and tell Boner and Cantor to stick it. What more can you lose by having the slighted Reps declare themselves Independent? The GOP has been wobbling for years. Start the war and get it over with.

  • Radical Steve

    Well put Shaun. I don’t have $10K but if we’re going to save ourselves it’s time to get going. I’ll volunteer time, when do we get started?

  • MD Russ


    I am having a hard time understanding this post. On one hand, Erickson makes the point (correctly, I believe) that Tea Party and other ultra-conservative candidates have ranged from “terrible” to “downright embarrassing.” They don’t do well in the primaries and when they do win a primary, then they rarely win in the General Election.

    So, the solution is to organize a “shadow” Republican Party that can promote more Tea Party and ultra-conservative candidates? Isn’t that like leaning into a punch? The voters have made it clear that they will not elect ultra-conservative candidates with their intrusive social engineering agenda and anti-government rhetoric. Listen to them and heed the warning or the Republican Party will go the way of the Whigs. Like the Democrats in 2008, the conservative Republicans are over-playing their hand in 2012. The difference is that Democrats in 2008 had a few face cards. Republicans in 2012 have only jokers and deuces.

    • The solution is to start finding better communicators of the conservative message, is all. The reason why “Tea Party” candidates don’t do well is on a number of fronts: poor lists, poor consultants, poor candidates, or any combination of this and other reasons. The solution is to start creating our own resources and lean on those — training, fundraising, consulting, media, etc.

      Otherwise, we get to keep tasting defeat over and over again.

      • MD Russ


        The problem is not that the voters don’t understand the conservative message. The problem is that they understand it all too well. They want government out of their bedrooms and out of their doctor-patient relationships. They want reduced Federal spending that protects the middle class instead of the wealthy class. Most of all, they want compromise and not absolutism. The conservative message is a big “fail” on all three counts.

        • EricMcGrane

          Clearly conservative voters want their conservative candidates to be moderates and more like democrats. This is clearly the path to victory.

          • MD Russ

            You are finally beginning to get it. Conservatives must choose between being ideologically pure and losing or being moderate and winning. Democrats have figured that out and that is why they are kicking your ass.

          • EricMcGrane

            Yes, its “winning” to cave on one’s values, ‘cuz “winning” is the ultimate goal.

            I think that both major parties should adopt the exact same platforms. That way we can all be drone “thinkers” and feel equal doing it.

            I love reading your posts. When done, I then like to follow with a dash of reality.

          • If someone wants to vote for higher taxes, abortion, destroying marriage, and forfeiting their 2nd Amendment rights… there’s already a party out there that believes that.

            OTOH, if you want a party that believes in free markets, free minds, and a free society — a party that defends life, liberty, and property — welcome to the GOP.

          • It’s exactly that mentality that kills the opportunity to promote individual liberty, personal responsibility, and free markets within a political party – the Republican Party – Eric.

            We’re nowhere near ready to throw in the towel. Plenty of fight left in this dog to ensure the GOP remains true to its roots.

            The GOP remains the same party that has confronted “progressives” against nationalizing the banking system, continuing to count blacks as 3/5 of a human being. and forcing the union label onto the states.

            We will turn back the tide. But we must understand what needs to be done to make that happen.

          • MD Russ


            I agree. Higher taxes are a consequence of reckless spending by both Republican and Democratic Congresses. We cannot solve the deficit and debt problem by “reducing spending” alone, anymore than we can solve the energy problem by conserving our way out of it.

            As for abortion, that is black letter law that is almost 40 years old. It is deplorable but inevitable–get used to it. These Quixotic attempts to limit the procedure with government-mandated transvaginal ultrasounds and other silly legislative maneuvers are inconsistent with a conservative philosophy of limited government and only provide talking points for the liberals about the “war on women.”

            Destroying marriage? Heterosexual couples, with their rates of adultery and divorce, completed that mission long before gays decided that they wanted to get married. We don’t live in an Ozzie and Harriet America anymore and haven’t for almost half a century. You might not like the idea of gay couples, but they are entitled to the same civil protections as straight couples. Have you ever considered the legal jeopardy of an unmarried couple when one of them becomes terminally ill and dies?

            Second Amendment rights? They have never been stronger. With Heller v. DC and McDonald v. Chicago, the SCOTUS has affirmed an individual right to keep and bear arms versus only a collective right connected to participation in a militia. More states have concealed carry laws on the books than ever before and over 30 states now have “castle doctrine” laws, but regrettably not Virginia. We do need to fix that.

            You are right, JR. If conservatives want to make a difference then they need to choose their fights carefully and stop tilting with windmills.

      • EricMcGrane

        @Shaun: and its important to note that the “tea party candidate” designation is sometimes self-assigned. For example, many of the tea party groups in Arizona rejected Sharon Angle and didnt support her candidacy.

    • EricMcGrane

      Clearly the problem is that Romney was far too ultra-conservative.


      • MD Russ

        The problem with Romney was the same as the problem with McCain–both of them sold their soul to the ultra-conservative end of the Republican Party and were rightfully branded as unprincipled flip-floppers. Be who you are or be hanged as a fraud. Romney and McCain were frauds who pretended to be someone they were not to win the Republican right-wing base. The voters saw right thru their insincerity and punished them accordingly.

        The take-away? Anyone conservative enough to please the ultra-conservative base is not electable in the General Elections. Until the Tea Party and the ultra-conservatives come to grips with that reality, then Republicans had best get used to losing.

        • EricMcGrane

          Clearly Romney sold his soul to ultra-conservatives.


          Romney may have been the most conservative candidate we’ve ever seen.

    • Conservative candidates? What conservative candidates? On my ballot on the GOP line were Mr. Massachusetts Limousine Liberal, Mr. George “Big Government” Allen, and Colonel War-for-Profit. Had the GOP actually had a conservative on the ballot, I wouldn’t have had to write in the names of the REAL Republicans who should have had those nominations.

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