The people have spoken and the results are in. I’m not talking about the electoral victories—and defeats—racked up by various presidential candidates in the last several weeks, but rather about the deeper motivations behind these voting patterns.
Exit polling from recent presidential primary contests in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina tells a clear story about the state of the electorate: Republican voters are dissatisfied with their own party. In Ohio, 57 percent of Republicans said they felt betrayed by the party. In North Carolina, it was 56 percent.
It’s increasingly clear that the GOP establishment can’t be trusted to deliver on its campaign promises, or even to adhere to the party’s official platform. This realization is translating into big trouble at the ballot box; just ask Marco Rubio.
Frustration with the Washington establishment underscores the importance of the House Freedom Caucus, the 40 or so Republicans who have had enough of the broken promises, the constant surrenders, and the abject failure of leadership to stand up and fight for anything meaningful. Despite heavy arm-twisting, these members are refusing to support a budget that doesn’t cut spending, much to the chagrin of the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.
An unwillingness to push for real solutions to the troubles plaguing our economy is a widespread source of frustration. Voters of both parties overwhelmingly told pollsters that they were worried about the economy, understandable given that we are currently mired in the weakest recovery in more than 50 years, where jobs continue to be scarce and take home pay has flatlined.
Instead of listening to voter concerns and working to fix these problems, the White House has prioritized slapping new regulatory burdens on businesses, from the ongoing war on coal, to the biggest job killer of them all—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Anyone not employed by the Obama administration could be forgiven for thinking that the president is actively trying to hurt the economy, when he should be doing the opposite.
Congress is no better. After winning hard-fought majorities in both the House and the Senate, Republicans promptly decided to sit on their hands and ignore all of the country’s most pressing problems. As the national debt surges past $19 trillion, House leadership has announced that they can’t even find a measly $30 billion to cut in the current budget negotiations—a number that would represent a return to spending levels of less than one year ago. Members of the House Freedom Caucus are the only ones willing to oppose this madness, and for that they should be congratulated.
If there is to be any hope of curing the Republican Party of what ails it, dragging voters out of the doldrums and back to a place where they can once more be proud Republicans, the House Freedom Caucus needs to grow, both in size and in influence. And although a handful or retirements this year may take a toll on the caucus’ numbers, voters seem to be getting the message. Last week, Ohioans voted to nominate businessman and veteran Warren Davidson to replace John Boehner in the state’s Eighth Congressional District. Davidson is a principled conservative certain to be a fearless and effective member of the House Freedom Caucus; his nomination is the real icing on the cake of Boehner’s retirement, and represents an important gain for the freedom movement.
Davidson is only the beginning; there are still a lot of important upcoming elections this cycle. One good thing to come out of voters’ disillusionment with the party may be the selection of actual liberty candidates in the primaries, candidates who will not cave to political pressure and cronyism as soon as they arrive in Washington.
It’s easy to dismiss voters as angry—it’s a narrative the mainstream media, in its laziness and latent disdain for Republicans has fully embraced. But the truth is they just want to be listened to. The message is clear, it just requires people who are willing to hear it.
Adam Brandon is the president and CEO of FreedomWorks.