As public approval of the President and Congress wanes, Republicans eagerly anticipate major gains in next year’s elections. But they equally fear that even a Republican majority will operate as the Hastert Congresses did, feasting on pork barrel spending and allowing the nanny state to govern unchecked. The failure of the 1994 revolution was the presence of old-guard softcore New Dealers who locked down committee chairmanships and could only be controlled by the cult of personality that was Newt Gingrich. Exit Gingrich, enter chaos. Can conservative voters afford to replace a bad Congress with a slightly less bad one, especially with our current Debt-monger in Chief?
The sad reality is that conservative voters cannot expect a Congressional cohort to respect the wishes of their voters. A third party is a recipe for disaster. However, there is an existing vehicle by which real change can be brought to Washington, albeit a vehicle which needs to be cleaned, detailed, and sanitized: the Republican Party.
Like the title character in Tom Wolfe’s I am Charlotte Simmons, even the most honest and most conservative Republican freshman is ruined by immersion in a culture of amorality. The longer he stays, the deeper the corruption goes (see: Ted Stevens), until he becomes the corrupter of the next generation. The only recourse that right-wing voters have is to gut and rebuild the Party from the inside, by voting against incumbents in primaries.
This idea has been floated before, even tried by organizations like Club for Growth. But it has never been attempted on a national scale, or under conditions of such discontent among the public. With only 178 Republicans in Congress, and turnout in off-year elections naturally lower, I would bet (without having yet run the numbers) that turning out all current Republican Congressmen can be done with fewer voters than either Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck has weekly listeners.
There are, of course, risks. I cannot predict what kind of people will get elected. William F. Buckley once famously said that he would rather be governed by the first 100 names in the Boston phonebook than by the Harvard faculty (though it should be noted he was a Yalie). We could end up with a birther or a truther or an unrepentant sleazebag here and there. But conservatism is fundamentally about faith in the individual, and the majority of new nominees would be solid citizens, engaged in their government. Further, good representatives would be lost; Paul Ryan, or Michelle Bachmann, and Ron Paul would water our tree of liberty with their metaphorical blood.
But beyond the obvious detoxification of the party, such a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment in a primary election would send an unmistakable message to the President, the Speaker, and the press, that the world has changed, and not to their benefit.
I’m interested to hear any thoughts on the subject, as well as opinions on its practicality.