With the GOP all but licking its wounds after last night’s gubernatorial losses in New Jersey and Virginia, it may be well to note a few trends as conservatives move forward towards the midterm elections. Firstly, the trend in the 2016 Presidential Elections prove that “everyday” conservatives are, more than ever, growing impatient with “establishment” water-carriers. Although the election was tight, Virginia GOP candidate Ed Gillespie tried to “straddle the fence” --disavowing the current sitting president while claiming he was exactly the type of conservative needed to unite the Virginia Party. He had an additional Achilles heel of engaging in centrist-establishment issues, while his opponent easily exploited his career lobbying the same elites he claimed he rejected. The resulting turnout was as lukewarm as his politics. As Breitbart’s Tony Lee wrote, “Gillespie and his band of virtue-signaling Bush loyalists in the GOP love when political and media elites pat them on their heads for being ‘good Republicans’ (translation: useful idiots).”
The clarion call of the GOP, almost as soon as the polls closed in the hotly contested Presidential Election, has been for “unity” in a very ununited party—and with little foundation to unite upon. Why are all the pundits howling in response at the latest elections? New Jersey voted against President Donald Trump and the party in the presidential election (and Chris Christie, with all his bloviating, was no conservative in action). Virginia, likewise, would have been a surprise gain of a GOP governor by breaking the liberal chokehold that NoVA has maintained against the rest of the Commonwealth. As it is, however, both races were lost to the Dems. Really, though-- in the infamous words of Hillary Clinton--“what difference does it make”?
American Conservatives have been split on social issues, with many concerned about leftist ideology forced upon them, all the while accepting their gaslighting tactics of passive aggressive guilt—aptly labeled “virtue-signaling”. The uniting factor, if one is to look at the calls from centrists to far-right conservatives, has been a desire for governmental decentralization. Where liberals would give more power and money to the Washington Elites, conservatives want them to stay the hell out of their pockets, their morals and their lives.
For a while, now, the “establishment” GOP has been gasping a guttural death rattle. One may consider the political cartoon drawn by Benjamin Franklin, entitled “Unite or Die” when looking at the state of the party as is. If conservatives seek to continue the run made by President Trump, they need only look to the recent past. In the military, after conducting exercises, studies known as “After-Action Reports” are done to document successes and failures, to learn from and improve upon them. To survive and thrive this next year, it would be well for the GOP to do likewise. The last year of internal fighting amongst the Legislative and Executive Branches can be considered a healthy thing, but only if such fighting results in actual legislation. For the “everyman” American, if you’re being paid to do a job—and you don’t come with results—you are a failure and should be fired. There should be no exception for political representative, as this would occur to “everyman” in his career.
No individual working a blue-collar job has the time to be interested in the inner-workings of political punditry, but with easy access to information, he does see how much the salary is of the elected official representing his concerns. To try and explain how you are representing him without palatable results affecting him not only makes the constituent distrust you—with high taxes, lack of affordable/available healthcare, immigration concerns and cost of living--it now makes your constituent angry. This anger, in its most irrational form, has been exploited by the Left-- but it also has fueled the fire of the Right. If the GOP is to succeed this next year, a reflection on why the “Tea Party” movement gained momentum during the Obama years must be done, and without any agenda but to build upon the foundation of this united cause. With the “fly-over states” all trending Trump in the elections, it’s no wonder that the geriatric establishment, who failed to learn from this grass-roots movement, was left scratching their heads. Why was it that a non-establishment, boisterous (even crass!) New York business tycoon—who funded the majority of his campaign—outpaced even the “conservative” establishment candidates? Indeed, why did such a man take on and defeat the Clintons (Democratic establishment royalty)?
The answer is simple: Our President is not a “squeamish” political invertebrate, whose career was built on shaking hands, kissing babies and fundraising. And neither were our Founding Fathers. That isn’t to say our Founders were not wealthy, or educated. They were established gentlemen, but established in their own businesses, farms and trade—and left these to serve. Once they deemed their service sufficient, they returned to their lives, farms and businesses.
Perhaps the main reason President Trump is so popular with the middle-class is that he understands a day’s work to equal a day’s wage? That is to say, despite being a millionaire, Trump earned his wealth the old-fashioned way: by having an actual job. Political careerists would argue that it is neigh impossible to win elections without having a foothold in the inner-wheeling’s and dealings of Washington—but our President did just that! Not only that, but he recalled to the “everyman” the notion that our political class was never really supposed to exist. There were never supposed to be lifetime pensions for public service, nor millions to be made off the taxpayer’s dime. Cost of living in DC, alone, speaks to the very essence of this “swamp” of thieves, and yet the GOP continues to support the political careerist over those who run for public service. It seems, nowadays, that the only way an outsider is elected is through a death or a scandal—and neither speak to how the GOP differs from the Democrats. In fact, one might argue that the Democrats are trying to establish a very similar foundation of “non-careerists”, but because of their ideology trending towards centralization and socialism, such “comradeship” will only lead towards corruption.
As the 2018 midterm elections start ramping up, the GOP should take a long, hard look at the exiting Baby Boomers, their successes and especially their failures. Salute their efforts, but abandon their swampland. In doing so, and appealing to the new generation of leaders—the generation who has been fighting their “war against terrorism”—the GOP will have prime opportunity to reignite its base. The first step? Simply reinstating the Founder’s principles towards public service, and following through in accountability and transparency.
Bree A. Dail
Bree A. Dail holds a Masters of Diplomacy, focusing on Conflict Management from Norwich University and a Bachelor of Arts from Christendom College. She is a veteran Naval Surface Warfare Officer, and has published various academic and AP articles on Military Affairs and Policy. She currently works as Consultant for a major DOD Contractor