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This Primary Season Will Be More Important for Conservatives Than the Actual Midterms

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Things are looking great for the Republican Party in 2022. Unless they manage to do something incredibly stupid, their prospects for retaking the House and possibly the Senate in November are quite favorable. Put simply, these upcoming elections are theirs to screw up.

Even the Democrats understand that their fate is sealed and are scrambling to limit the level of damage this election will cause them. This year, there can be no doubt they will do their darnedest to ram through as much legislation as possible – and they will fail miserably due to their tenuous hold on the Senate.

It might be tempting to engage in a bit of schadenfreude at the Democrats’ plight. Indeed, the fact that the GOP will likely trounce the left in the upcoming elections might be cause for hope in the conservative movement, which desperately wishes to stop the hard left from advancing their agenda.

Allow me to throw a wet blanket on this situation.

These Republican victories will likely mean very little in terms of pushing a conservative agenda at the federal, state, and local levels. Indeed, it is highly possible that we won’t see much change even when GOP controls Congress.

To put it simply, a Republican victory won’t matter.

Why am I saying this? Because we typically neglect primary elections, which will arguably be more important than the midterm races themselves. If conservatives do not significantly increase turnout during the primaries this year, we can probably expect to see more of the same from a Republican establishment that has always managed to get in office after making sweeping promises only to be almost completely impotent when it comes to affecting change.

How often have we complained about do-nothing Republicans? I’m old enough to remember the Tea Party, which was formed largely because of this issue. They attacked squishy GOP types who failed to mount effective challenges against the left and put forth actual conservative solutions to fix the problems the nation was facing.

In 2016, former President Donald Trump was nominated largely as a repudiation of the GOP establishment, which failed to understand, or even respect, its constituency. It was he who rendered the Mitt Romneys and Bill Kristols of the world irrelevant on the right. This was seen as a step in the right direction.

Nevertheless, we know what happened next, don’t we? What exactly did the GOP, with Trump at the helm, accomplish when it had control over both chambers of Congress and the White House?

Not a whole hell of a lot.

Sure, they got the tax cuts passed, which was helpful. But what about other priorities? What about immigration? What about healthcare?

Indeed, when it comes to healthcare, the former Party of Lincoln had a prime opportunity to repeal and replace Obamacare. Republican lawmakers and candidates ran on promises to do just that. What did they do when they had the chance?

Bupkus.

And no, we can’t blame it all on John McCain, whose TDS prompted him to vote against the proposed bill. If the GOP had their you-know-what together, his pettiness would not have mattered one iota. The fact of the matter is that these people lied to us. They told us sweet little lies and whispered sweet nothings in our ears, promising to push for our interests to get our votes, and once they were in office, they quietly left in the middle of the night without at least bothering to leave some cash on the nightstand.

They do this because they know we will not hold them accountable. They know that when the primaries come up, we will stay home watching “Cobra Kai” instead of showing up at the polls to vote them out. These dishonest hacks think they can continue lying to you while still getting your votes – and so far, they have been 100% correct.

However, there might be some encouraging signs on the horizon.

The 2018 midterm elections saw a huge increase in voter turnout during primary season. Pew Research reported:

Nearly a fifth (19.6%) of registered voters – about 37 million – cast ballots in House primary elections, according to the analysis of state election results. That may not sound like a lot, but it was a 56% increase over the 23.7 million who voted in 2014’s House primaries; turnout that year was 13.7% of registered voters.

While the battle for control of the House has gotten a lot of public and media attention, turnout rates were also substantially higher in this year’s Senate (22.2%) and gubernatorial (26.5%) primaries than in 2014 (16.6% and 18.6%, respectively), though the increases were relatively similar for both parties.

The report noted that “the elevated primary turnout levels are further evidence that Americans are unusually engaged with this year’s midterms.”

If Americans remain engaged – which seems probable – then perhaps we can encourage more conservatives to show up at the polls during primary season. Leaders in the conservative movement must use their platforms to motivate Republican voters to show up at the polls during primary season to make sure they send authentic conservatives to Washington instead of people who talk loud without doing anything.

Not only will this increase the likelihood that Republicans in government will actually work for their constituents, it will send a message to those already in office. These people need to know they risk losing their jobs if they do not fight for the priorities for which they were elected. The only way they will grow a pair is if they know they will get fired if they don’t. The conservative base must learn this lesson sooner rather than later. Otherwise, we will only see more of the same in the coming years.

Besides, Cobra Kai can wait, can’t it?