The Lesson of Utah

How can a Republican US senator from a conservative state who has an 84% rating from the American Conservative Union and who was re-elected to a third term in 2004 with 69% of the vote find himself out of contention for the 2010 election?


Ask the Republican state conventioneers in Utah, where incumbent US senator Bob Bennett, who is a Mormon, was eliminated from the GOP ballot for November in a vote that is reverberating around the nation.


What does Bennett’s defeat demonstrate?


It means either either that:


Conservatives indeed are on the march for more ideological purity in the Republican party. In Florida, popular liberal GOP governor Charlie Crist was being trounced in primary polls for the Republican nomination to the US Senate by conservative Marco Rubio, showing that conservatives are flexing muscle. So Crist quit the party and is running as in independent.


In Utah, Bennett was being held to account for supporting the TARP bank bailout plan and for co-sponsoring a health-care bill with liberal Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon.


The ouster of Bennett means that conservatives intend to create a counterweight to Obama and the Democrats so that people who vote Republican can rest assured that their candidate will oppose the leftist agenda with a firm hand.


Or, on the other hand, that Republicans are heading for smaller gains than expected in November because the conservative wing is trying to make the party purer. This prediction comes from Democrats who already have purged their party of any moderates and are themselves operating from the extreme, and who do not want conservative Republicans to challenge their dominance. Because they know that only conservatives will stop the leftist agenda from being implemented and so wish to taint any move by the party to the right.


This warning against ideological purity also comes from moderate Republicans who are more and more often acquiescing to the Obama agenda, like Colin Powell – who voted for Obama – or Crist who supported Obama’s stimulus and who vetoed a Florida bill that would have angered the teacher unions.


When the Tea Party movement was established, it was feared that conservatives would break away and create independent third-party candidacies, giving elections to Democrats. But in Florida, it was not a Tea Partier or conservative who broke off and created the independent candidacy, but moderate Republican Crist who was being beaten fair and square in the primary. So the concerns of the GOP over Tea Party candidates has been unfounded, while the reality of Crist’s independent run should be of great concern.


In other words, conservatives are keeping their word to cooperate with the Republican party – which is why they should be trusted to secure the party in Republican principles – while moderates like Crist are willing to take any position that fits their election whims.


Will Bennett too run as an independent?


He says he will not. And good for him.  Because if he did, it would be a bad omen for the GOP in the short run, and add to concern over more Crist-like dissenters.


But no matter what happens in Florida or Utah, conservatives must stick to their guns over the long run, because that is what the conservative movement is about.


The Utah June 22 GOP primary now will pit Tea Party candidate Mike Lee against businessman Tim Bridgewater. The Republican candidate is expected to win the seat easily in a conservative state like Utah.


Bennett, who is 76, acknowledged that the atmosphere is “toxic” and that “it’s very clear that some of the votes I have cast have added to the toxic environment.”


Said Lee: “We’re ready to end the era thinking that the federal government can be all things to all people, that it can solve all the world’s problems. It can’t, it doesn’t. It never will… There is a groundswell grassroots movement afoot that’s going to propel me to victory.”


The question is: Do the Utah and Florida contests mark a temporary surge for conservative Republicans to test the electorate in November? Or is it a long-term strategy?


It should be the latter. Because more and more Americans are frightened by the Obama agenda as the nation has been moving steadily to the left for decades. Now tens of millions of taxpaying voters recognize that fact. The conservative/independent backlash to Obama, coupled with the economic crisis and the reality of the collapse in Greece, have forced the hand of the right.


Today, the Republicans are in much the same place that they found themselves in 1978 when an unpopular Democrat president Jimmy Carter was dealing with a bad recession and the conservative GOP presidential nominee two years earlier (Ronald Reagan) had been defeated by a moderate (Gerald Ford).


Yet when Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 he had a strongly Democrat Congress to deal with, and Republicans had no inkling that they could get it back. It simply was assumed that Democrats forever controlled at least the House of Representatives, and it took until 1994 to get that back.  


Today Republicans see a strong chance of re-taking of the House this November, of possibly re-taking the Senate, and very possibly the White House in 2012. And so conservatives are pushing hard to do the job right and not to elect middle-of-the-roaders who will fall down on the job as Bush and congressional Republicans often did by overspending, and by failing to control the border, among other issues. Conservatives understand that our problems are deep and wide and are pushing for a strong revolt from the right to counter the country’s leftist drift.


The Bennett loss and the likely election of conservative candidate Douglas Hoffman in the controversial New York 23rd congressional district after a slim loss last year is part of a long-term strategy to take back not just the White House or the Congress, but the whole nation.


And this is not a test. This is the real thing.


Please visit my website at www.nikitas3.com for more. You can print out for free my book, Right Is Right, which explains why only conservatism can maintain our freedom and prosperity.