Most readers of this blog don’t want to hear it, but Karl Rove has a point: Tea Party nominees for the last three cycles have put Democrats in charge of the US Senate, and those of us who nominated them deserve the blame. To be sure, the establishment has supported more than its fair share of failures, but that’s for another discussion.
Let’s review. Over the last two cycles, we’ve had a candidate who ran an ad proclaiming “I am not a witch”, another who got angry with the media for covering his ethics violations, a candidate from a science committee making patently false statements about rape, another who implied that rape was “God’s will”, a paranoid schizophrenic who wouldn’t speak with the media in the weeks running up to her election, and one who gave away a seat by using an ethnic slur on the campaign trail. Their losses are the reasons that Sens. Coons, Begich, McCaskill, Donnelly, Reid and Kaine are currently in office. That’s not a great track record. We can’t do this to ourselves anymore.
The whole reason that people have reacted so angrily to Rove’s announcement is that they no longer view electing just anybody with an “R” next to his name as a victory. They’re right. It’s not.
Nor is it a victory, however, to nominate people who actually believe in constitutional restrictions on government, fiscal responsibility, and reigning in the courts only to have them lose to Democrats. A warm body who checks all the right boxes just doesn’t cut it anymore. Candidates who cannot ably explain and advocate their principles do more harm than good. In that sense, Karl Rove’s stated goal is a good one. It is absolutely critical that every Republican nominated to what should be a competitive race is not someone who will throw it away by saying something stupid. Doing so harms us not only in that election but in others around the country and in general public perception.
That having been said, I have no doubt that Rove intends to use his organization to support candidates who are part of the problem. Stop whining about it and learn from it. The quality of Tea Party candidates has to improve – considerably – plain and simple. Most of those in the Leadership – and I use that in the loosest possible sense of the word – have been in Washington too long and consider Tea Party activists, as well as conservatives and libertarians more generally, backwater rubes who exist for the sole purpose of returning them to Washington and forking over half of their paychecks. Based on the above, can you really blame them?
If you’re really worried about what Rove is doing, then I would suggest you step up to the plate and either run yourself or do a better job of vetting potential candidates in your state. Work with your local organizations to find people who understand and can articulate your principles. Get in touch with the Leadership Institute and the SBA List and make sure that your candidates go through their campaign schools before getting your support. If a Tea Party candidate who can’t intelligently explain his positions emerges, find another one. If there are ethical issues, make it abundantly clear that just won’t cut it.
“Electability” has become a dirty word among activists because career strategists and politicians have often used it to push candidates who won’t rock the boat. While that is an understandable reaction, it doesn’t change the reality that a candidate is useless if he doesn’t win. If the right is to get anywhere legislatively, then it’s time to stop acting like a bunch of McGovern-supporting hippies and start acting like principled versions of Karl Rove.