[Direction: to be spoken in desperate, panicked, breathy tones at quick cadence, in the superior “conservative” vocal affect of a Sean Hannity]
[Setting, 2004] If Bush isn’t reelected, John Kerry will destroy America and we will lose the war! This is the most important election in our lifetimes!
[Setting, 2008] This is the most important election in our lifetimes! America will be over if we don’t stop Hillary…uhm…uh…Obama!
[Setting, 2012] If we don’t defeat Obama in the most important election of our lifetimes, we won’t get rid of Obamacare and will lose the supreme court for decades!
[Setting, 2016 (a.k.a. 2008 rewind)] This is the most important election in our lifetimes! America will be over if we don’t stop Hillary…uhm Bernie…uh Hillary!
Sound familiar? It should. I could also toss in the same bits for the midterm elections of 2006, 2010, and 2014 – and for pre-2004 election cycles. And it’s all wrong. There is no one “most important election of our lifetimes”. Hyperbole is a very poor substitute for substance.
“Conservatives” are today every bit as caught up in cults of personality as progressives and Democrats have been during the age of Obama. Donald Trump’s cult is built around “He fights!”, and “He’s anti-establishment!”, even though his record across decades indicates something much different. Ted Cruz’s cult is built around “Only he is for the Constitution!”, except the Senator has this annoying habit of pushing social/moral statism for which there are no enumerated powers in, you know, the Constitution. There’s even a John Kasich cult (stop laughing!). Yes, there are really people who believe delegates at the Republican Convention will coalesce around him.
If November 2016 winds up being a contest between the current front-runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton can’t you just wait to make a voting decision between a big government-loving, influence peddling and purchasing progressive and…Hillary Clinton?
I had occasion to remark as follows on Facebook: “A choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is like being offered poison, and being offered a choice between arsenic and strychnine.”
Electing one person, or winning one single election cycle—or for that matter, defeating one candidate in one cycle—will change absolutely nothing long term. History tells us this: focusing on a single person at a single moment provides false hope. Calvin Coolidge’s presidency wound up being a minor speed bump to progressivism during the 1920s. Ronald Reagan provided even less of an application of brakes on expansive government in the 1980s.
Honestly, I’m about ready to write off 2016. We’ve moved beyond the circular firing squad, and have totally surrendered reason to rhetoric.
Making it all about winning on November 8, 2016 causes everyone to lose sight that we need to win on Tuesday, November 5, 2060 (or beyond) – and work backwards with winning strategies and tactics from there, which includes “How do we win in 2058, 2056, 2054, 2052, … ,2024, 2022, 2020, 2018, and now?”
There’s also a huge amount of irony in conservatives and Republicans claiming to want Washington, DC to have less import in our daily lives, or at least to pay more attention to the people and states (e.g. Ted Cruz, #MakeDCListen”), but every two years when a national election rolls around, the focus is entirely on Washington.
Isn’t “our side” supposed to be for bottom-up action and responsibility, not top-down authority? As my friend Taylor Millard recently noted, “our side” is all-too-susceptible to the “all-encompassing state” as the solution. We tend to be fine with statism, so long as it accomplishes an end we approve of, and that’s a problem.
I had Hot Air‘s Ed Morrissey on my Their Finest Hour program Saturday night (4/23/2016) to talk about his book Going Red: The Two Million Voters Who Will Elect the Next President—and How Conservatives Can Win Them. It was a great conversation, and I encourage you to listen. One of the themes of Going Red we kept coming back to is the need for the Republican Party to engage locally much more than nationally. Messaging that doesn’t sell nationally isn’t going to sell locally, and vice versa. That applies far beyond this election cycle, which may well already have been decided by what has preceded it.
Election Day 2016 isn’t an end; it’s a means to an end.
What’s a much more important election than 2016? How about 2017? Are you upset at the GOP? Think they ignore the grass roots? Can’t stand the “establishment”? In 2017, there will be thousands of local elections across America when local, county, and state-level GOP committee members will be chosen. The makeup of the “establishment” is up to you.
Mirror check: you have the Republican Party you have either asked for or failed to influence when given the direct opportunity. The “establishment” is you.
Do you want to start winning? Do you want to have lasting victories, and lasting, positive, change in the direction of liberty and limited government?