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Tea v. the GOP: Getting it right

By Mark Alexander
web posted October 7, 2013

The title of this column should read "Tea and the GOP." Unfortunately -- no, tragically -- "Tea versus the GOP" is more accurate.

The infighting between conservatives and moderates in the Republican Party is undermining any chance of ever establishing conservative majorities in the House and Senate, much less seating another conservative president of Ronald Reagan's stature.

Too many Republican conservatives and moderates refuse to abide by President Reagan's 11th Commandment: "Republicans shall not ever speak ill of their fellow Republicans." They ignore this advice at great peril to the objective of ever achieving any redress to the Left's relentless assault on Liberty. (Stay with me -- I'm going to provide irrefutable evidence of Reagan's wisdom in practice.)

Unfortunately that "ignorance" has been on full display for the last three weeks, in the self-mutilating spectacle of Republican infighting over the House's Continuing Resolution and its use as a tool to force votes on defunding, delaying or amending ObamaCare (better now referred to as "DemoCare").

I got a taste of the circular firing squad last week, when I dared to question the wisdom of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz's unilateral tactics as a follow-up to my outline of the conservative strategy published two weeks ago. I asserted that Cruz, however good his intentions might have been, undermined the conservative strategy, and I stand by that assertion. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Now, for my fellow Patriots who identify with the "Tea Party" devotion to Liberty, as do I, but who make a practice of "shooting from the hip," read on before jumping down to the comments section and applying to me the same labels some have been so quick to publicly apply to anyone else questioning Cruz's orthodoxy. Cruz himself even likened Republicans opposed to his faux-filibuster tactic to "Nazi sympathizers," but I can assure you, if the U.S. fought WWII using his tactical template, there would be a lot more German and Japanese spoken around the world today.

Of course, Cruz has also been on the receiving end of intraparty insults. Rep. Peter King (D-NY) played right into the hands of Democrats and the Leftmedia by calling Cruz a "fraud" and a "con man" and blaming him for "hijacking the party."

That being said, the purpose of this column is not to revisit the pros and cons of Cruz's tactics -- I actually admire Cruz's tenacity, if not his methodology. However, let's consider the strategic implications of all the self-defeating Republican infighting, too much of which is instigated by self-anointed "Tea Party leaders" across the nation. Their caustic rhetoric, mostly focusing on what they're against rather than what they support, is largely antithetical to the objectives of the genuine grassroots Tea Party movement.

Now, anyone who's been reading this column for the past 20 years can readily attest to the fact that I am no "moderate" when it comes to defending Liberty, and, more recently, when aggressively refuting the socialist agenda of Barack Hussein Obama and his Leftist NeoCom cadres. Nor do I classify myself as a "Republican," though the Republican platform aligns much more closely with the pursuit of Liberty than the Democrat platform.

Longtime readers also know that I reside with my family in the mountains of East Tennessee, as my ancestors have since before Tennessee statehood in 1796. I am a proud Tennessean for many reasons, including the remarkable transition in Tennessee politics over the last decade.

The current Tennessee GOP Chairman, Chris Devaney, and his immediate predecessor, Robin Smith, are close friends. Let me tell you how they have used the unity principle of Reagan's 11th Commandment to transform Tennessee politics, and why that transformation should be a model for the rest of our great nation.

If nothing else that I here write garners your attention, then this should:

Tennessee is now among the most conservative states in America. Our governor is a conservative Republican, our State Legislature has a conservative Republican super-majority and conservative Republicans have firm control of our State Senate. Consequently, our economy is rapidly recovering despite Obama's failed economic policies. We are fourth in the nation in job creation. We are a "right to work" state and our economy is driven by entrepreneurial ingenuity and hard work. We have the lowest debt of any state in the nation, even though we have no income tax. Our congressional delegation is largely conservative, and we have one conservative senator and one moderate, whom we are endeavoring to replace.

Does that sound like something conservatives of all stripes should strive to achieve in every state, and especially inside the Beltway?

When Robin, who was most instrumental in this transformation, began her GOP state term, we had a Democrat governor, and Democrats outnumbered Republicans 53-46 in the State Legislature. The Tennessee Senate was split 16-16.

We've come a long way in the last six years under the leadership of Robin and Chris.

Robin told me last week that the key to Tennessee's "conservative revolution" was focusing on party-building -- promoting what we are for, rather than what we are against -- and avoiding the incessant party infighting which has characterized national Republican politics in recent years -- particularly between conservatives and moderates. "We focused on defeating Democrats to create a GOP majority, not purging our own base of moderates. The very public conflict between conservative and moderate Republicans at the national level will ensure that Republican minority status is maintained. We had principled tactical battles when and where appropriate. But the high-profile personal attacks within our national party are disastrous to our strategic objective of establishing a conservative majority. In fact, a key Democrat strategy is fomenting the Republican infighting to undermine any chance of a Republican majority."

Now, some of my Tea Party friends may disagree with Robin and me, but the result of party unity in Tennessee is indisputable. They can disagree with our assessment as they circle the drain on their way to the complete demise of what started as an outstanding grassroots movement in 2010.

Regarding all the dissension and party disunity being generated by some national "conservative" groups, one of the Senate's most conservative leaders, Tom Coburn (R-OK), notes, "Isn't it interesting that every dollar that is spent [attacking] good conservative Republicans is a dollar that isn't spent on winning the majority? If your strategy is to think that you can get 60 hard-core conservative senators in this country [by attacking Republicans] I don't think it works."

John Cornyn, the senior senator from Texas and Senate minority whip, concurs: "I think it's completely destructive. They are spending most of their money going after Republicans and making it harder for us to nominate and elect Republicans and regain the majority."

Finally, regarding my questions about Cruz's tactics, I had one reader comment, "Perhaps Cruz's tactic is laying the groundwork for the removal and replacement of the GOP moderates." I responded, "No question about that, if you mean replacing them with Democrats."

A retired military officer, with considerable knowledge about strategy and tactics, wrote of Cruz's tactics: "To win the war, you must win the battles. To win the battles you must pick the battles and battlefield. Better to move the budget debate to more advantageous issues and positions than to lose the war." Another concluded, "Some of our fellow conservatives either can't or won't accept the distinction between strategy and tactics."

Ronald Reagan said of choosing battles, "There are some people who would have you so stand on principle that if you don't get all that you've asked for ... you jump off the cliff with the flag flying. I have always figured that a half a loaf is better than none, and I know that in the democratic process you're not going to always get everything you want."

Bottom line, Republicans, both conservative and moderate, must form a unified front and focus all energy and resources on defeating Democrats. If you are among those who think that undermining those in our own ranks because they are too moderate on some issues is a winning strategy, then I refer you to this tidbit of timeless wisdom: "If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand." (Mark 3:25) ESR

Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.





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