Tea Party candidates headed for Washington after winning on November 2nd should know three things about that often cynical and corrupt town.
First is that Harry Truman was wrong. One can have a friend in Washington because he’s the one who will stab you in the chest.
Second is the political establishment of the Republicans and Democrats are heavily invested in the notion that the more things stay the same, the more things will stay the same. In other words, don’t mess with their status quo.
The third is that, as flamed by the national media, a fight is coming within the GOP after the election pitting the establishment Republicans versus the Tea Party-populist-Reaganites.
The Democrats will certainly have their own brouhaha, but it will be nothing compared to the looming brawl in the GOP. Democrats since the New Deal have been comfortable in their belief in government.
Republicans, on the other hand, have been more bi-polar on government having instead devolved into an all-tactics organization. Political tactics are their organizing principle. Can anyone recall a Washington GOP insider talking about ideology?
Meanwhile, the Tea Party is all philosophy, uninterested in “the politics of politics” but instead motivated by a higher purpose. Freedom is their organizing principle and that’s what motivates them to action.
See where this is going?
This new war over the future of the Republican Party will not begin after the election. It has already begun.
Just ask Christine O’Donnell of Delaware, surprise winner of that state’s GOP primary for the US Senate. (In the interest of full disclosure, our firm has been assisting Miss O’Donnell for months).
O’Donnell and the Tea Party of today—much like the conservative movement of the 60’s and 70’s—was at first ignored by the Establishment Axis of the national media, K Street lobbyists and the political consulting class, then later mocked, and finally feared. Just as Christine and other Tea Party candidates have been treated in this election cycle.
On the night of her primary victory O’Donnell was dismissed. Then she found the doors of the GOP establishment slammed in her face—-excepting Michael Steele, who stumped for her last week—because she represented a direct threat to them, as do those who call themselves “conservative” or “Tea Party” before they call themselves “Republican.” These conservatives, according to major Republican establishmentarians, are “unsophisticated.” Angelo Codevilla, in his new book “The Ruling Class,” refers to them as the “Country Class.”
Audaciously, O’Donnell upset the Ruling Class’ plans for power by defeating Mike Castle, a career politician who has been in office since Lyndon Johnson roamed the White House. In doing so, she invited the establishment’s criticism and she got it. They attacked her—gratuitously—and have since undermined her at every turn.
The GOP establishment could be counted on in the early days of the Tea Party movement to issue puerile statements, mocking grassroots activists, dismissing their “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper stickers and their American flag hats and T-shirts. But that was only after ignoring them.
Now some Washington Republican consultants are finding they can profiteer off of the contributions of Tea Party activists and many are, pocketing untold dollars, claiming they share the same values as they sup on chateaubriand and sip wine at some fancy D.C. watering hole. Previously, they helped government and corrupt bankers on Wall Street lift the wallets of Americans in the TARP heist; the biggest wealth transfer in American history, or worked to implement steel tariffs or Medicare prescription drug benefits.
Where the GOP elites get their power and money is irrelevant. The point is, they want to stay in power and, invariably, will find a way to do it. Their devotion to principles is as strong as a used Kleenex. Their devotion to money and power is as strong as steel.
Meanwhile, some traditional Republican consultants are advising—with a straight face— that newly elected Republican members of Congress “reach across the aisle…and “work with the Democrats.” Historically, these are the same people who urged “detente” with the Soviets, the same ones who belittled Reagan when he called America’s support for freedom in Southeast Asia a “noble cause.”
These are the same consultants, many of whom had a direct hand in the destruction of conservatism within the GOP, who are once again being celebrated by the mainstream media. The same ones who have time and again advised jettisoning long-held and time-tested conservative principles to “try to be more like Democrats.”
After winning in November, the third member of the Axis—the K Street lobbyists, many of whom are already rehiring some of the Republicans they let go in 2008—will once again assume the position so familiar to them, at the trough of the American taxpayers.
As with Reagan versus Ford, as with the Panama Canal Treaties, as with George H. W. Bush’s tax increases, as with the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers and so-called “immigration reform,” Tea Party activists won’t easily or quickly forget who was—and who was not—with them in this election.
Conservatives are going to remember who was there to cross the Rubicon—or in this case, to cross the Delaware—for a long time to come.
But if Tea Party candidates like O’Donnell lose, the refrain “Who Lost Delaware?” and “Who lost Middle America?” will be heard across the conservative spectrum and will be a debate the Establishment Republicans created, ironically, by themselves.
Miss Banister and Mr. Shirley are partners in Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, an influential conservative and private sector marketing firm. Mr. Shirley is the author of two books on Ronald Reagan including Reagan’s Revolution and Rendezvous with Destiny. He is now writing three more books on Reagan’s political career as well as a book on Newt Gingrich.