Fall election splits GOP Senators – again
Essentially it is the same old process the GOP undergoes each election season - be pragmatic or be principled. And usually, pragmatic wins.
However, it seems, pragmatic hasn’t been to kind to them in the past. Their brand of pragmatism, the belief that only certain types of Republicans can win in particular parts of America, has yielded a party that has been characterized as “Democrat lite” by many and relegated to minority status in both the House and Senate. It has also left the base dissatisfied and unenergized.
One would think, based on outcome, that perhaps a different approach is called for. But no, that’s not the case if what the WSJ has to say about current GOP campaign to win seats in the Senate is any indication. Sen John Cornyn heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and he believes in that pragmatic theory:
Mr. Cornyn is no one’s idea of a squishy centrist. He rose through Texas politics in the 1990s as part of a Republican wave pushed by George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, and ascended to the U.S. Senate in 2002, becoming one of its most conservative members. Nevertheless, he believes that in some states a centrist Republican has the best chance of winning.
Sen. Jim DeMint, on the other hand, doesn’t buy into the theory and is running a insurgent campaign to back some anti-establishment candidates (such as Rubio in FL) that cleave more to the principles of conservatism than do the NRSC’s picks. As you might imagine that’s creating a certain bit of tension within Republican Senatorial ranks.
The WSJ entitles this piece on the conflict, “GOP Bid to Reclaim Senate Fuels Fight for Party’s Soul”. They may be more right than they think. In typical political and bureaucratic fashion, the NRSC is trying to direct, based on its premise represented by Cornyn’s belief that “centrist Republicans” are the best way to proceed in some states. But that may be ignoring the historic groundswell of support for less centrist and more conservative (defined as those who believe in a smaller, less intrusive and less costly government) politicians.
As it turns out, if the NRSC can get the egos out of the way, there is a fairly easy way to test the premise. Use the primary system and let the voters decide. It’s safe (it won’t split the vote) and, instead of a top down nominated candidate, you end up with a bottom-up supported candidate who has had the opportunity to develop and deliver his platform to the voters and get an up or down on it. If Cornyn is right, then these states he’s concerned with will pick the more centrist candidate. But if he’s wrong he may be dooming the GOP to losses (or less conservative Senators) it doesn’t have to suffer.
That’s what primaries are for, for heaven sake. Instead of trying to carefully select candidates they think best fit a particular area of the country, the NRSC should be endorsing a full slate of Republican Senatorial candidates from centrist to the conservatives and urging them to run in the primary elections. Mix it up, but get out of the endorsing candidates business (and that includes incumbents – that’s the business of the voters in the state). Challenge the voters – and members of the party in each state – to pick who they believe is appropriate for them. Let the best candidate win. That’s how you build a solid and energized – even excited – party that represents the grass-roots. From the bottom up, not the top down. Top down gets you those who are sitting in the Senate today – and I think the polls tell you how well the people think they represent their interests.
You’d think the GOP might take a lesson from that.