As a father to six, I vividly remember those wonderful road trips with my wife and kids. When the miles to our destination seemed endless, our young passengers would impatiently ask: “Are we there yet?”
One full year since the first Republican formed a presidential exploratory committee — the official beginning of this interminable primary election campaign — it’s time for my fellow conservatives to come to grips with the answer to that same question.
Frustratingly, the mainstream media remains determined to prolong a horserace among the Republican candidates, rather than focus on the dismal record of the current White House occupant. Every week the primary continues, Republican chances for victory in November diminish because our sights are not set on our chief goal — defeating President Obama.
The lure of the contest seems to have replaced the passion which united all conservatives in the 2010 cycle, when commitment to our shared principles and goals trumped individual agendas. But our predicament is not solely the candidates’ or the media’s fault. The dynamics of the 2012 race are unprecedented — a late start in the primary season, new proportional delegate selection rules, innumerable, tide-shifting debates and the massive impact of well-funded super PACs.
All the while, President Obama, unchallenged, continues to build his war chest, grow his campaign team and organize the greatest get-out-the-vote effort the Democrats have ever undertaken. His unsuccessful record and policies go unvetted and uncontested while his campaign advisors foretell a likelier and likelier second term.
Since the president’s inauguration, the national debt, the size of our government, its ever expanding reach into our private lives and the war on our traditional values and religious freedom have only grown and worsened. Yet, our attention is easily shifted. Cable shows and water cooler conversations remain inexplicably dominated by delegate counts, minor gaffes and inconsequential campaign-related fixations.
Are conservatives really distracted this easily?
At the American Conservative Union, we have issued our Ratings of Congress for 41 years. Our annual guide has become the gold standard in identifying true conservatives — those with a lifetime rating of 80 percent or more. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Congressman Ron Paul and former Senator Rick Santorum all meet that criteria based on their voting records. Although former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has never served in Congress, we have similarly reviewed his gubernatorial record and campaign positions — both of which earn him bona fides as a true conservative.
Every conservative likely has had his or her favorite candidate, but this lingering primary is not to be mistaken as a fight over the soul of the conservative movement. It’s about preferences and style, not a true ideological gulf of differences on principles. It has been a very competitive, very enthralling, very hard-fought primary campaign — one that’s time should and must come to an end.