Exactly the same…only different…

October 19, 2011

I get this all the time from clients. “I want the same thing you built for me the last time, except…” and it never seems to dawn on them that the word “except” means that it isn’t going to be the same. Politics are no different. Nothing is ever the “same”, at least not for long.

There are still a few things rattling around my old blog at Townhall and when I started thinking about the upcoming election and how much the Republicans have seemed to have drifted since 2010, I thought of this that I wrote in September, prior to the election:

Is 2010 Really Different?

Posted by Utahprez on Monday, September 06, 2010 8:54:38 AM

There is a lot of data out there that suggests a Republican avalanche forming up to tumble down the mountain on November 2nd.  There are scores of pundits that are comparing this potential electoral tsunami to the “Republican Revolution” of 1994 or even the rise of conservatism under Ronald Reagan in 1980. I would politely disagree. There is something very, very different this time. I think that we are witnessing the most unusual combination of events and environments that many of us will see in our lifetimes – maybe even our children’s lifetimes. I’m certainly no pundit and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night but I have been voting and politically active for 33 years and I have never seen anything like this.

1980 was a revolution of necessity. It was largely an “individual” revolution based on the leadership, drive and infectious optimism of Ronald Reagan. The disaster that was the Carter presidency, with the attendant economic malaise leading to the coining of the phrase “stagflation”, weakness in foreign policy that lead to 441 days of the Iranian hostage crisis (lack of support for the Shah was one of the first signals that our strategic partners cannot trust a Democratic administration), a disastrous rescue effort, and an oil embargo, gave the American public enough reason to change. Where Carter offered pessimism, more government, high taxes and shared misery, Reagan offered optimism, hope and a plan to recover based on reliance in the free and independent spirit of America. Where Carter was resigned to America’s decline – Reagan was having none of it.

The 1994 “Contract with America” smacked of Madison Avenue. 1994 was about politicians, not the people. We had a slick marketing plan, brochures and handpicked and market tested slogans. This was a revolution in political advertising. Quite frankly, I think that even Newt Gingrich believed it for the first few years, but Republicans of the time who sold themselves as conservatives and later morphed into something quite different that we were sold – they became “Conservative Lite”. They did so because they never really believed in the core principles of the CWA. They became more interested in holding on to their offices and many adopted the same “elitist” view as our friends from across the aisle. The establishment took over, the meat grinder that is the DC scene, and just ground them into a paste of Washington sameness, the “go along to get along” crowd.

2010 is starkly different. 2010 is not about politicians, it is about citizens – regular people who are fed up with the direction of our country and the arrogance of a ruling class who ignore the will of the people. Where 1980 and 1994 were “top down” revolutions created by leadership and supported by the people, essentially political leadership crafting a slick plan first then selling it to the people, 2010 appears to be just the opposite – citizens are rising up to tell their representatives that they expect them to act in accordance with the will of the people, in essence the people are telling the politicians what their priorities need to be – a “bottom up” revolution.

It is different this time because the people who got burned after working their butts off prior to 1994 to get what turned out to be “faux” conservatives elected know better this time. Having an “R” next to your name on the ballot isn’t going to cut it this election cycle and it is being proven in every local party organization, every caucus and every primary. Just look at the number of non-career politicians who are running – and winning and the established candidates who aren’t. Joe Miller in Alaska, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman in California are all non-politicians who have won party nominations and are all waging strong campaigns to unseat entrenched Democrats…and RINOs. Memorable examples of the successful 2010 RINO hunt are incumbents Bob Bennett of UT and Lisa Murkowski getting “primaried” out and Mike Castle having a fight on his hands with the Tea Party supported Christine O’Donnell in Delaware.

The truth is that neither of the major party establishments knows how to stop the wave. They are like the mythical King Canute, standing at the water’s edge and commanding the tide not to come in, the tide keeps coming. They can’t define who to attack because every time they try, they attack themselves because movements like the Tea Party aren’t “parties” at all; they are just people – individual citizens who have banded together for a common purpose. This is the equivalent of a political guerilla movement and it does explain a lot about the Democratic/Liberal and Republican establishment’s frustration with the TPM, as it has no defined national leadership – no figure head to go after, it is like a hydra with many heads all attached to one body.

It is precisely for this reason that we keep hearing the mainstream media and Liberals/Democrats shed crocodile tears over a Republican “civil war” and lament that “moderate” Republicans (RINOS) are losing their seats due to party purity “litmus tests” and political “ethnic cleansing”.  I don’t deny that this is exactly what is going on. The Republican Party adopted conservatism as part of its political identity and now is being held accountable for living up to those principles.  Conservatives have chosen the Republicans as the vehicle to deliver their beliefs and have decided that it is now time to drive.

You just have to watch the Washington Post and New York Times for a temperature check, when you hear columnists like Charles Blow lament about the electorate throwing a “temper tantrum”, you know that the Left is worried. When they dig Jimmy Breslin out of his crypt to pen a nasty screed comparing Glenn Beck’s rally to the incitement of assassins and then drag out Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe to say that Rush, Beck, and Palin are currently the leaders of the Republican Party and this somehow represents a long-term problem for the GOP, when you hear partisanship lamented by the most monolithically partisan group since the PRC in China (the Congressional  Democrats) you know that things are unstable for them and fear is in the air.

The TPM is a microcosm of what a citizen government would look like, people – not politicians – in control. It has been and will be successful as long as it remains a true citizen’s movement, a grassroots effort started from the bottom up. It can’t morph into a “top down” organization or a “party” or it will die – look at every “top down” effort that they have made to stop it – the “coffee party”, organized cries of racism, etc. – nothing works because these are regular folks – they are our neighbors and friends.

It is different this time…

But is t still different? Will we be able to hold true to the policies and fervor that won back the House and put us in striking distance of control of the Senate? I hope so. We can’t forget how important it is to have the Senate along with the House, somehow we have to have total control of at least two of the three lawmaking/regulatory branches (House, Senate, Executive branch) because the judicial branch is a toss up at best. We may well have Obama or a “moderate” (RINO) Republican – Mitt Romney – that still will need adult supervision.

Can we win the Senate?

At least in September of this year, Larry Sabato still thought so:

The recent decision by ex-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) not to seek the seat of his retiring colleague, Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl, was a big moment for Republicans because it gave them yet another clean shot at a Democratic-held Senate seat. Feingold, still popular despite his reelection loss last year, would have been a favored quasi-incumbent had he run. Instead, his decision is just another piece of miserable news for Democrats in this cycle’s race for the Senate.

Remember, there are 23 Democratic-held Senate seats up for grabs this year, versus only 10 Republican-held seats. Realistically, only two of those 10 Republicans seats will be competitive next year: Nevada, a purple state where appointed Republican Sen. Dean Heller faces a tough challenge from Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley; and Massachusetts, a deep Blue state where Republican Sen. Scott Brown will try to hold on against an as-yet unknown Democratic challenger. Both Republicans are vulnerable, but favored.

We shall see, grasshopper, we shall see.

One Response to Exactly the same…only different…

  1. unclefred on October 19, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Is it still different?
    Yes and in a sense it is even more different. Regular people, as opposed to politicians, their handlers, political pundits, and media hacks, are very adaptive. When the TPM got started most of those involved really had any idea how to proceed. They learned on the fly. Won a bunch of contests almost despite their lack of understanding. They made mistakes, learned fast and adapted. They lost a few they might have otherwise won but won several that surprised the hell out of the professionals. That was 2010.

    The conventional political wisdom was that the TPM would dissipate, because it had no central leadership. That wisdom was dead wrong. The people that make up the TEA party have not gone away, they have gone to school. They have been paying attention, learning from their mistakes, and picking new battles. In 2012 they will be better prepared and more effective. They will do a better job of vetting their picks. These people are all still attending meetings with their congress persons. Reminding them of WHY they are in DC and that their actions and votes are being watched.

    We will win the Senate and, barring a real aberration in the nominating process, the WH in 2012.

    I’ll go a step further, not only is the TPM around today it is not going away any time soon. In 2015 we’ll hold more than 60 seats in the Senate, a house majority, and the WH. Consider that many of the posters here are emblematic of the TEA party. We understand that this is a long road back to sane governance. We’ve know this a long time. The TEA party folks have learned this as well and, like us, are in it for the long haul.