By Kelly Sloan
From most political indicators, it would appear that this election year is living up the hype of being different. Experience, and so-called “establishment” credentials and backing are being chucked aside in favor of ideological, political freshmen. The primary victories of the likes of Rand Paul and Sharon Angle, coupled with a rampant anti-incumbency fervor throughout the nation appear to substantiate this. Here in the Centennial State, the better than expected performances of the likes of Dan Maes, Bob McConnell, and Ken Buck, particularly at the Republican Assemblies held last month, would seem to suggest that similar sentiment is erupting in Colorado as well.
But just how reflective and foretelling of November reality is this populist upsurge? Well, for starters, it is undeniable that there is a great deal of concern, bordering in many cases on outrage, among the American people as a whole. The unprecedented government involvement in the economy, the unrestrained binge-spending and correlating debt burden, the looming specter of cripplingly high tax rates, the skewed and dangerous approach to foreign policy, and the self-evident failure of virtually every policy leveled on the American public since the great Democrat takeover of 06-08 , has left a rather bitter taste in the collective American mouth.
The initial, knee-jerk reaction centers on the idea that the solution lies in merely uprooting the entire system, and replacing every elected official , ideally with a political neophyte who is nonetheless sympathetically angry, and ideologically pure. This is not just a phenomenon of the right, either, as Andrew Romanoff’s trouncing of the incumbent Michael Bennet at the Colorado Democrat State Assembly revealed. Hard core liberals, unable (or unwilling) to concede that their policies have failed, tendentiously revert to form and insist that those policies were simply not implemented by the right people, or to the extent necessary, to ensure success. Ergo, a similar, in style if not in substance, anti-incumbency movement on the left.
The problem with such thinking among conservatives is that in many respects it is fundamentally antithetical to conservatism; Conservatism is not about radical change; we have had quite enough of that already, thank you very much. Nor is it about revolution, or installing some utopic ideal. Rather, conservatism is about preserving, or restoring, the traditions, institutions, and ideas that have been proven to work (hence our faith in free markets, constitutionally limited government, ordered liberty, etc) and approaching change, if required, with analysis and circumspection, guided always by ancestral wisdom and institutional memory. Above all, conservatism adheres to reality.
It is in this light that Republicans must tread cautiously, heading into their remaining primaries, and the general election. The results from the State caucuses and assemblies are an adumbration of neither the overall primary vote nor, certainly, the general election. The delegates who make up the assembly process are the ideological hard core of their respective parties – the activists, the political junkies, the party insiders – and increasingly, especially on the right, newcomers, people who have never been involved before, but were recently motivated by concern, fear, or disgust to immerse themselves in the mechanics, if not, in many cases, the details and nuances of the overall process.
The average voter, even the typical primary voter, will be influenced by many of the same things that have always influenced voters: name recognition; the ability to get a good, solid, concise message across; the ability to counter the opponents weapons; and an intangible, yet vital quality best described as “electability” – the sense that the candidate looks, acts, and projects the role he or she is vying for. Missing any one is a recipe for disaster.
Therein lays the danger of the current anti “establishment” rancor. Whether claiming the mantle through being a true political greenhorn, like McConnell, or through seizing control of the narrative early on, regardless of qualification, like Ken Buck, the potential result is the same – losing an election in favor of winning a convention.
The equation remains the constant; support the most conservative candidate who can be elected. Republicans - the likes of Jane Norton, Scott McInnis, Corey Gartner, Ryan Frazier, and Scott Tipton - win by being conservative in ALL aspects. While the likes of Buck and Angle may be doing relatively well in polls for now - enjoying their post assembly/post primary bounce – the real question is do they possess the ability to carry that over into a general election, or, as Karl Rove suggests, did Nevada Republicans just hand Harry Reid his seat back by campaigning for a convention?