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Post Primary Depression: So You Lost, Now What?


GOP-Civil-WarIf you’ve ever felt the rush of emotions that having your team in the “big game” can bring, then you have an idea of what campaign season is like for political activists…with a few exceptions. Imagine if the Super Bowl lasted for eight months, the fans played the game, and neither side knew the score until it was all over. That friends, is campaign season in a nutshell.

With the end of the 2014 primary season last week, an important and ever contentious discussion is now taking place among the activist volunteers. It’s a debate that needs to be had, and while it instills a great deal of passion, both sides have valid positions. At issue is what to do if your candidate lost the primary: get on board with the winner or sit out the election. The dueling perspectives represent the clash of a short term versus long term strategy.

Those with the short term view recognize that their particular candidate lost and that reality dictates either they get on board with the winner of the primary or risk another six years of the other side’s incumbent. They may not like it, but they are “team players” and they believe the lesser evil should be supported.

This is a completely legitimate viewpoint. It is entirely likely that the winning primary candidate, if elected to office, will cast votes more aligned with the beliefs held by supporters of the losing primary candidate than with the incumbent. Certainly there will be differences as well, but it is logical to rally behind someone who agrees with you 70% of the time as opposed to accepting victory of someone who only agrees with you 30% of the time.

Some would disagree, but they are not “sore losers”.

Those with a long term view recognize that not all Republicans are created equal. Indeed, the Party label itself is not altogether a definitive answer to the question “what do you believe”.

There are “good” Republicans and “bad” Republicans and the branding of the Party is of significant importance to its future…if it has one. Having “bad” Republicans elected to office does long term damage not only to the conservative brand the Republican Party tries to capitalize on, but to the future success of principled limited government philosophy.

During the tenure of the “bad” Republican, Party loyalists will find ways to defend the actions of the elected official even if they violate very basic conservative principles. “You can’t criticize members of your own Party” they’ll say. The end result is that it serves to legitimize wrong headed behavior, creates confusion in the public as to what the GOP actually stands for, makes hypocrites of many, and is altogether uninspiring to the base, leading necessarily to future losses.

A short term loss by a “bad” Republican may ultimately save the Party long term by keeping conservatives focused on the issues and allowing a good candidate to be the standard bearer in the next election. There is power in incumbency, and being stuck with a “bad” Republican is a long term detriment to the limited government movement.

Furthermore, the election of “bad” Republicans serves to embolden the consultant class that gets them elected in the first place. It teaches them the lesson that they really and truly do not have to listen to conservatives; rather, all they have to do is raise enough special interest money to blanket the airwaves with their names, get nominated, and get conservative support no matter what they advocate.

It is logical to put principle over party. Like pruning back a living plant, sometimes a little short term destruction is the proper remedy to ensure a more fruitful future.

This debate is part and parcel of why the continuance of the domination of the party driven political system is dangerous. The party duopoly has convinced too many people that their access to government is via the party structure. “Loyalty” to ones club begins to take precedence over the actual beliefs espoused by its representatives. The people end up with an “either / or” choice that doesn’t necessarily reflect their values or beliefs, but they are led to feel like traitors if they happen to voice opposition.

This is leading many to abandon the party structure and become political “free agents” with no obligation other than fighting for their beliefs. Most will still support “good” Republicans, but will feel no shame in not supporting “bad” Republicans.

Your decision is up to you. Do what makes you feel comfortable and allows you to sleep at night.

In terms of the current race, would Thom Tillis be more likely to vote right than Kay Hagan on a number of issues? Yes, he would. That is a short term gain. However, does his victory make long term trouble for more limited government conservatives? Does it empower those who could continue to shut out the Liber-Tea movement? Yes, it does.

It really is short term vs long term thinking here. It’s up to you to decide which is more important to you. There is no right or wrong answer, but never begrudge anyone for voting their conscience.

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