Why isn’t every Republican on Capital Hill at CPAC this weekend? It’s the biggest gathering of conservative thinkers, activists, bloggers and the press will be there, too. Why wouldn’t every press-loving, voting-getting, power-lusting politician not just be setting up shop and hanging with the peeps? Over 60% of the American public self-identifies as conservative and yet, here at CPAC among the bloggers and activists I’ve spoken to, it’s like “conservative” is a dirty word. Why aren’t these politicians here?
What, pray tell, are Republicans afraid of exactly? Are they afraid that they’ll be at the same gathering where conservative entertainer Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and man-of-the-moment Joe Wurtzlebacher will be? And yet, the Democratic party somehow survives their affiliations with Michael Moore, Ma Sheehan, the Kos Kids, and Jimmy Carter. Please.
Patrick Ruffini, in a must-read piece today (even though I disagree with much of it) says:
Conservatives should not need Joe the Plumber to prove their middle class bona fides. We are naturally the party of the middle, and we don’t need gimmicks to prove it. Demographically, Democrats rely on being the party of the upper sixth and the lower third, while Republicans tend to do better with everyone in between. When we start losing the middle class and the suburbs, we lose big like we did in 2008.
Put another way, Republicans thrive as the party of normal Americans — the people in the middle culturally and economically. This is true of our leadership as well — we have a history of nominating figures who came first from outside politics. Our base is the common-sense voter in the middle who bought a house she could afford and didn’t lavishly overspend in good times and who is now subsidizing the person who didn’t.
Patrick is frustrated that Joe the Plumber gets elevated at the expense of more elegant thought. Well, here’s my deal: If one Republican could articulate as clearly as Joe the Plumber the issues of tax unfairness (hello John McCain), Joe the Plumber wouldn’t have been necessary. Joe’s ideas are so completely, utterly self-evident, that Every Single Republican should be able to simply and easily articulate how taxation enslaves the masses.
But our elected officials are not articulate. [Help us. I mean, help us, if Bobby Jindal is the next leader of the Republican movement. My 8th grade math teacher was more interesting. He and Sarah Palin have some work to do.] They have not been leading. They undermined their credibility by looking, sounding, acting and governing like liberals. They became power-hungry and manipulative Washington power-brokers and they haven’t lost badly enough yet to give a hot damn about what the 60+% of Conservative Americans think.
This is the problem: Republicans come to Washington, get baked in the liberal casserole and come out believing they’re fighters for the new American way when they act like moderates…or worse like big-spending liberals. They’re terrified of the press. But most of all, they just want to be liked and it’s by all the wrong people.
The Republican party is big enough for Joe the Plumber if the Republican party actually has some leadership. The Republicans in Congress will not win the confidence of the grassroots and activists if they avoid them. What kind of strength does avoidance demonstrate?
Patrick is right about the psychology of the party. Forever suspicious and defensive, they concede moral ground by acting guilty for holding conservative and libertarian values. You know, the offensive values of self-determination, freedom, liberty, life, pursuit of happiness, strength, and on and on. We are the party (or used to be) of “normal” middle-class families. We are the party that represents higher and rational thought.
If Patrick doesn’t want a guy like Joe the Plumber to be such a representation of our party, then guys like John McCain should do a better job after spending his whole blasted life in public service, articulating Republicanism. Joe would have been a media flash. Instead, he’s managed to better say and represent the values that the “moderate” and “reasonable” Republicans seem afraid to represent and say.
How many Congressmen will be at CPAC? Their absence speaks volumes and leaves guys like Joe to do the communicating for them. Somebody needs to lead. Someone needs to craft a conservative message that speaks to all Americans.
America is a center-right country. They’re just waiting for a leader who truly represents them.
NOTE: Senators Jim DeMint, Mitch McConnell, Tom Coburn and John Cornyn and Representatives John Boehner and Tom Price and many others will be here at CPAC. That is to their credit. I hope they will embrace conservatism as an idea that appeals to all Americans. And I hope, one of these guys gives a barn-burner of a speech that puts a clear, positive, hopeful conservative message into the arena. We need it now more than ever.
Cross-posted at MelissaClouthier.com