When the Base Stays Home

US Political Ideology

An item that has captured the interest of both the left and the right this week has been the RNC’s so-called “autopsy” report”. This report is an examination (from the RNC’s standpoint) about what went wrong for the Republican Party in 2012. The minute I heard about it I knew what it was going to say and I knew I would be unimpressed. Why?

As I wrote in a post last week, The GOP’s Shiny, New Object, this was all bound to be just more of the same. As details of the report have now been released, my initial thoughts have been born out. What’s most significant about the report is not so much as what’s in it, but what’s not.

Tony Lee, from Breitbart.com, has a pretty good synopsis of the reaction of conservative leaders and Tea Party activists in a post titled “Tea Partiers Express Concerns over RNC ‘Autopsy’ Report”. In the article, Lee notes Brent Bozell’s comments to The Hill. Bozell, Chairman of ForAmerica, said that the Republican establishment is “obsessed with identifying problems and solutions from the top-down instead of from the bottom-up.” Bozell went on to say “It’s the exact same thing as (GOP strategist) Karl Rove saying they’re going to pick candidates. That ensures that establishment candidates are the only ones with a chance.” Lee went on the quote other conservative activists, but in a nutshell, he demonstrates that the conservative base of the Republican Party is not happy with the mindset behind the report.

So, why is it important to acknowledge the disappointment of the conservative base? It’s because this conservative base is predominately the “boots on the ground” for the Republican Party. It’s the conservative base that volunteers its’ time to help at the precinct level, which is where the GOP has been failing miserably. If you further dispirit the base, you’re going to see your volunteer support staffs continue to shrink.

There are numerous cases where a GOP candidate wooed Tea Party activists to help with campaign efforts, but then immediately turned a blind eye toward issues important to those activists once elected. One of the biggest examples of this is Republican Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia. While campaigning as a Tea Party supported candidate, after being elected McDonnell decided to accept federal funding to set up state-run insurance exchanges to support Obamacare. Nothing, I repeat NOTHING could be more radioactive to the Tea Party base!

In a telling article posted on The PJ Tatler, Bryan Preston had this to say (emphasis mine):

People get into politics and organize with a party to support some policies and oppose others. What happens to a party’s activist base, though, when it signals abandonment of the policies that have brought its activists out? I’m not talking about occasional voters, but core supporters.

An activist friend of mine in Virginia explains it all very clearly in an email today.

“I’m so disgusted with the R’s at this point, especially my governor, who has worked to pass the largest tax increase in VA history. What’s the point of wasting good shoe leather for these a**holes?”

What’s the point, indeed?

The only way to hold these politicians to account is by having access to voter information that the candidates accumulate during a campaign, closely guard and then use for reelection. If this voter information is given to the conservative base to augment and enhance outside of a political election cycle, the candidate would be forced to keep the interest of that conservative base in mind during their tenure in office. Otherwise, their misguided intentions will be broadcast to every single one of the conservative, activist voters, creating massive, public backlashes.

This is a similar tactic that keeps every Democrat politician in line. Stray from the far-left base, which controls the database of voter information, and you’ll be deluged with seemingly angry calls and emails from voters in your district. This is what happened to Blanche Lincoln, past Democrat Senator from Arkansas. Her office was inundated with calls to support the passage of Obamacare, which she did, under the impression that it was supported by her constituents. Unfortunately, the silent majority of true voters in her state thought otherwise and common sense prevailed, defeating Blanche in her next primary election.

Contrast the far-left’s actions with the Tea Party, which is almost synonymous with common sense, and you have a recipe for disaster. In the case of Bob McDonnell in Virginia, he has pretty much guaranteed that he will have a primary opponent in the next election, supported by even greater numbers from the conservative base. To ere is human, but you sure better ere on the side of common sense. Otherwise, your base may stay home for your next election, or, even worse, it may mobilize for your primary opponent.