“No one’s life is a waste,” a colleague wrote me in reaction to Dede Scozzafava’s withdrawal from the NY-23 congressional election. “You can always serve as a bad example.”
While we can certainly agree with this statement, it is about time we ask, how many bad examples does the Republican establishment need before it learns its lesson?
In 2004, strong support from the Republican establishment allowed liberal senator Arlen Specter to survive a Republican primary challenge from conservative congressman Pat Toomey by a minuscule margin.
The GOP continued to support Specter until he decided that it would be more convenient for him to simply become a Democrat. With a multitude of Senate bills now hinging on a single vote, one can only wonder where we would be had the Republican establishment not gone all out to defeat Toomey, a man whose name would have now been going hand-in-hand with that of Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn.
In 2006, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) wholeheartedly catapulted itself into a Rhode Island Republican primary, where it spent $1.2 million on behalf of left-wing senator Lincoln Chafee and against his conservative opponent, Steve Laffey, while the Republican National Committee (RNC) deployed the 72-hour get-out-the-vote drive it usually saves for general elections against Democrats. At around the same time, conservative Virginia Senator George Allen lost reelection by a razor-thin margin, handing the Senate over to the Democrats. To say that all the resources wasted by the Republican establishment in Rhode Island would not have had a good chance of giving Allen an extra 0.2 percent of the vote in Virginia would be naïve, to say the least.
In incredible irony, conservatives who had contributed money both to Laffey and to the Republican Party (with the assumption that the money would be used to protect conservative policies against liberal ones) were now seeing their hard-earned cash fighting itself on the airwaves of Rhode Island. Chafee won the primary, lost the general election, and when he no longer needed the Republican establishment, he predictably left the Republican Party and endorsed Barack Obama for President.
It did not appear that the GOP leadership had learned its lesson by 2008, when the establishment backed incumbent congressman Wayne Gilchrest in a Maryland congressional race, although he had been ranked by the National Journal as the most liberal Republican that year. When he nonetheless lost to his conservative challenger, Andy Harris, Gilchrest proceeded to endorse the Democrat in the race, helping the latter beat Harris by less than 1 percent. Oh, and Gilchrest voted for Obama too. Boy, those party bosses sure know how to pick’em.
Jim Jeffords. Lincoln Chafee. Arlen Specter. Wayne Gilchrest. How many more bad examples do they need? How many RINOs does the Republican establishment need to support, over conservatives’ strenuous objections, before learning how untrustworthy and unreliable the fakers are, both legislatively and politically?
At least one more, apparently.
Enter Dede Scozzafava, the candidate handpicked by the local Republican establishment to run in this month’s special congressional election. The party bosses meticulously perused her record and unearthed an individual who is pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, pro-tax increases, pro-porkulus, pro-card check, a recipient of a “Margaret Sanger Award,” once endorsed by ACORN, and in possession of a voting record that would place her to the left of almost half of Democratic state legislators. So naturally, the establishment decided that she would be the perfect candidate to run in a conservative district where even the Democrat would attack her for wanting to raise taxes.
Equally naturally, grassroots conservatives rallied around Doug Hoffman, a conservative businessman who, rejected by the Republican establishment, elected to run on the Conservative Party ticket. Yet the RNC and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) enthusiastically embraced Scozzafava, showering her with nearly $1 million that were once collected from conservative Americans who believed the GOP would channel their principles in Congress.
The NRCC unapologetically praised her: “(Scozzafava) remains the only candidate in this race with the principled record and cross-party appeal to represent the values of central and northern New Yorkers.” They unapologetically trashed Hoffman, who incidentally was far more faithful to the Republican Party platform than Scozzafava could every conceivably be: “Fortunately, the local Republican county chairs had the foresight to see that Doug Hoffman lacked the integrity and qualities needed to be elected to anything — let alone Congress.”
The stubbornness did not wear off even when it became clear that Hoffman was performing better than Scozzafava in the polls, and that conservatives in the district and around the country were rallying around their ideological ally. A Politico article dated October 25 (only one week ago), announced that the NRCC planned to spend between $200,000 and $300,000 on behalf of Scozzafava in just the 10 final days of the campaign, and intended to maintain a “near relentless barrage of press releases slamming Hoffman.”
Yet despite the Republican establishment’s most passionate efforts, the conservative candidate outplayed the left-wing appointee, and Scozzafava quit the race due to her low poll numbers. And – surprise surprise – a single day later, she endorsed the Democrat in the race over Hoffman.
Was any of your money in the pile of $900,000 that the Republican establishment utterly squandered in this unprincipled disaster of an experiment? Mine wasn’t. I started shredding Republican Party solicitations the moment I learned that my money was being wasted on Lincoln Chafee in 2006.
Of course, this does not mean conservatives should withhold their money from all elections. There are alternatives. They can contribute to individual candidates. They can contribute to a variety of PACs that support conservative candidates. They can contribute to the Senate Conservatives Fund, or, of course, the Club for Growth, without which Hoffman would have possibly never gathered any real momentum.
But enough with the blind contributions to the Republican Party, and with the blind voting for establishment-backed candidates. That the establishment attempts to save face every time it loses, at it is doing now by supporting Hoffman two days before the election, should not blind anyone from the fact that only hours ago, it was throwing money at a genuine leftist while trashing Hoffman, and that in the coming months, it will be supporting a decidedly non-conservative Charlie Crist over a perfectly conservative and perfectly electable Marco Rubio in the Florida Republican Senate primary.
Like those before her, Scozzafava was a Democrat in everything but her label, yet the establishment oddly pursued not the rescue of Republican values, but the rescue of Republican politicians regardless of their values. If this one-dimensional electoral strategy is left unchecked, every congressional Democrat would call himself a Republican and thus ensure that he would never again be challenged from the right. Now there is certainly something to be said about running moderate (not left-wing) Republicans in very liberal districts, but nothing described here even approximately deserves the benefit of such an excuse.
Thus, until the Republican establishment truly gets it – and it might take a long time – conservatives must unite in pledging not one more cent to the Republican Party. There is no sense in subsidizing a permanent Republican minority – and one that isn’t even true to its principles.