Republicans’ opportunity to reclaim the mantle of leadership will be squandered if party leadership, conservative media and voters on the far-right continue to demand reflexive adherence to unachievable standards for ideological purity.
There are nearly 300 Republican members of Congress and governors. There are hundreds more state legislators and local leaders. They serve vastly different constituencies in a massive nation of unmatched diversity that spreads across a continent.
There is nothing wrong with being a big tent party so long as members adhere to certain basic tenets. You can be pro-Second Amendment and be responsive to a constituency that supports certain aspects of gun control. You can be pro-life while allowing for certain exceptions that a constituency may find reasonably acceptable. You can be conservative and vote for common-sense measures to protect the environment.
For good measure, you can also be a legitimate conservative and not agree totally with former President Donald Trump or Sen. Mitch McConnell or whomever.
A Republican Party that is intransigent, internally intolerant and monolithic will be easily branded as radicals who control the Democrat Party today.
With the militant left becoming more aggressive and having more tools and resources at their disposal, calls for more backbone within the Republican Party are necessary.
Holding officials to account is important if they stray too far from the party platform, but the whole notion that every member of the Republican caucus in the House, for instance, must agree 100% of the time on every issue is simply ludicrous.
Since the advent of Trumpism, it has become vogue to conflate conservatism with an almost cultish obedience to political orthodoxy. That’s not the way to build the party or make progress on key issues. Each of these legislators and governors have a duty to the Constitution, but within that framework also be responsive to their constituencies.
It’s a delicate balance, especially for swing district Republicans. Demanding absolute fidelity to any position on any issue ignores the nuances of public policy and smacks of extremism. Voters will recognize that.
Looking at it by the numbers, there are 210 GOP members of the Republican caucus in the House and 50 in the Senate for a total of 260.
The percentage of Republican House Members who voted for the post-Uvalde gun package this month amounted to a mere 2.38% of the caucus. Yet those members have been vilified.
Only 12.3% of all GOP members voted for the infrastructure deal last year, which ended up being some 50% smaller than the package originally proposed by Democrats and the one considered by the Trump administration. They’ve been branded as RINOs.
GOP extremists in Texas yelled “eyepatch McCain” at war hero congressman Dan Crenshaw this month. Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska, a reliable conservative and former Air Force General, was attacked for voting for the infrastructure bill. One of the most conservative members of Congress, Rep. Mo Brooks was just defeated because Mr. Trump bizarrely branded him “woke” during the Alabama Senate primary.
The list is seemingly endless. In a year when Republicans should be coalescing around a single message, the right-wing is making news for all the wrong reasons.
It’s not a coincidence but a failure of leadership on the part of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Mr. McConnell and Ronna McDaniel. They should have a message that drowns out the fringe and gets candidates and leadership alike all singing from the same sheet music. The wedge between McConnell and Senator Rick Scott is another example of this condition.
That message vacuum allows an extreme minority to make more noise.
Litmus tests sound great because they make the party sound more principled, but demanding this kind of orthodoxy endangers marginal seats. Kneejerk right-wing criticism online that’s boosted by the left-wing media can depress conservative turnout.
Those on the far-right who say they would rather have a Left-wing Democrat than a moderate Republican a present threat to the pro-freedom cause.
To add to the confusion, many of these conservative sentries claim to speak for the MAGA movement even though the former president’s preferred candidates are often not the most conservative in the field.
It’s bad enough that some GOP voters have acceded to the notion that if you have the temerity to disagree with Mr. Trump about virtually anything you should be run out of office. That kind of fidelity to personality is akin to idolatry and should be avoided in a democratic society, let alone in life.
This muddle has become like the social justice movement for the right. It’s misguided, hollow and won’t strengthen American freedom.
• Tom Basile is the host of “America Right Now” on Newsmax Television, an author and a former Bush administration official.
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