The 2010 primary season was, for the most part, a good one for limited government, freedom-loving conservatives. Most of the high profile challenges against the incumbent or establishment candidates, with Mike Lee, Ken Buck, Joe Miller, and Sharron Angle ended with the grassroots candidate winning. The American people clearly demonstrated that they are tired of long time incumbents, the ruling class, ignoring the will of the people and growing government spending and the role of government in people’s lives.
But we need to put things into perspective: the 2010 primary season must be seen as simply the opening salvo in the American people’s war against statism. It is the first battle in many to come in the war over whether the American people, or the ruling class, will control the American system of government.
Sure, there are reasons to celebrate, but let’s be honest: nothing has been won yet. The primary victories are just that: primary, not general election, victories. And while it’s humorous to see the befuddlement of the establishment as yet another one of its candidates goes down in defeat, think about this: of the 472 U.S. Representatives and Senators running this fall, it is almost guaranteed, in a supposed “anti-incumbent, anti-establishment” election that 80% or more of the incumbents will win this year.
Those statistics are just at the federal level, but they hold true even at the state level: roughly 80% of state house and state senate incumbents will win this fall. The good people over at Ballotpedia.org have even compiled a list of state legislators who will not even be challenged in the general election. The list is uncomfortably long, which is staggering given that this is a Congressional re-districting year due to the census.
All of this to say to the grassroots: there have been great victories, and progress in the right direction. But we must be honest: in 2010, with 80% of the incumbents winning, the ruling class will actually win the first battle in the war. What will be the true test is what the grassroots, and I would say the American people, will do in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014; quite frankly for every election, every year, for the next 10-15 years.
What it comes to is this: If the American people are truly interested in winning the battle over who will run our form of government, if they truly believe that all power inheres in the people, not the ruling class, then they must break the power of the incumbents at all levels of government. If the American people can control the nomination process of a party, or parties, they will control the party, and quite frankly, the system of government.
What those of us who believe in free enterprise and limited government are confronting; an out-of-control bureaucracy, out-of-touch leaders, and fiscal irresponsibility, did not materialize overnight, and will not be changed overnight. It will take time to shift the massive ship of the American state and get it back on course.
I would say that until we see a losing percentage of 50% or more for incumbents at all levels of government we cannot truly say that there is an anti-incumbent wave and that the American people are winning the war against the ruling class. That percentage will not happen in the next election, or even the next after that, but I believe it should the conservative movement’s goal to increase by 5-10% every year the number of incumbents beaten. The starting point is to simply challenge incumbents in primaries (between 2000-2008, a GOP U.S. House member had a 98.3-99.5% chance of winning his or her primary).
I was asked by a reporter the other day if the “civil war” in the Republican Party was over. I told him I didn’t believe that there was a civil war: what’s taking place is people expecting Republican leaders to actually adhere to the principles of the party, and if they don’t, we can find leaders that do. He asked if I thought we’d see more of what took place in the 2010 primary season play out in the future. I told him we were just getting warmed up and to expect more of the same in 2012 and beyond. There are six Republican U.S. Senators that might need to be challenged in 2012. There are dozens of House members, and untold numbers of state legislators, county commissioners, city council and school board members who should also be primaried.
The process of breaking the incumbents’ hold over the American system of government will not be an easy one, but it will be well worth it. A farm team of conservative leaders at all levels of government needs to be identified and groomed, and American Majority is in the process of doing just that. But that is only part of the solution: the American people have to stay engaged and demand greater transparency and accountability from their leaders and government. Furthermore, we must have leaders sent to Washington, DC who believe that power should be devolved from DC and back to as local a level as possible-concentrated power was never what the Founders intended, and in fact, it is precisely what the Founders feared.
If the American people can beat the ruling class, and regain control of the government of “We the People,” they can renew the Founders’ vision for America. If we will renew the great principles of free enterprise and limited government, then we as a nation can rise to even greater heights of freedom and prosperity for all in the 21st century.