Elephants, Rhinos, and Jackasses
Back during the 2012 election cycle, I had the good fortune to attend a meeting in Washington DC sponsored by Herman Cain. He had withdrawn from the presidential race and felt that the tea party needed to come together behind Mitt Romney. There were a number of attendees from around the country to include some of the larger tea party organizations.
What ensued during that meeting was remarkable in what it didn’t achieve. The visceral and open anger towards a Romney bid was palpable. There was very little talk about defeating Obama. In fact, most of the time was spent by folks complaining about the “establishment” Republicans and their grievances with the party. Reince Priebus, RNC Chairman, stopped by to no avail. While he was graciously received, no real support was forthcoming.
Indeed, there were a few leaders who supported Romney, including me. After surveying the Memphis TEA Party, we backed Romney through a formal endorsement. And in full disclosure, I had supported Romney in 2008 as well as through my syndicated radio show. So my comments are not without an obvious bias. Of course the rest is history and without a groundswell of endorsements by tea party leaders everywhere, we ended up with four more years of Obama. Remember, only 240,000 plus total votes spread across the states of Florida, Virginia, Ohio, and New Hampshire would have handed Romney the Electoral College and the presidency. The tea party would have mattered in what it could have done! To turn a phrase, I didn’t leave the tea party, the tea party left me. The Gallup Poll results confirm the downward trend in this once vibrant movement. (Tea Party Favorability Falls To Lowest Point)
But as I reflect on the current state of affairs this election cycle, sitting in Mississippi, I am once again amazed at the visceral comments about sitting Republicans. Not that some of this isn’t well deserved. But we should temper the anger with a pragmatic and informed point of view. In my current state of Mississippi, Senator Thad Cochran is being pilloried for his lack of “true” conservatism. He is, in the vernacular, a Republican In Name Only (RINO) Never mind that he brought home the bacon to a state that gets $2.02 of Federal spending for every $1.00 in Federal Taxes paid. (Tax Foundation) My point here is that when folks look at their representatives, they need to consider the state of their state. The aforementioned dollar flow makes Mississippi the number two state in the nation for federal dollars.
Now, this largesse isn’t reason for celebration. The lack of a vibrant economy in combination with the crushing poverty of the Delta drive much of this dollar flow in services and entitlements. But the broader issue I find, as the movement celebrates five years since the first Tax Day Tea Party, is that there is little agreement as to solutions in the dialogue between tea party, establishment and plain on the rails Republicans. I am a socially and fiscally uber-conservative. Yet I have to recognize that most people in this country do not share my views. So while I won’t compromise my non-negotiable principles, embraced through my own faith, I will open a dialogue with any Republican who cares to talk. Democrats, for all intent and purpose have moved so far left as to be nearly unreachable, in my view.
So when looking at the current Democrat Party and election cycle, there is no group agitating against DINOs – Democrats In Name Only. And that’s because they recognize that the Democrat coalition would be unable to win elections if it broke ranks. Where government largesse is critical, these coalitions form through all the payoffs and entitlements that are expanded to ensure conformity to the party standards, whatever those may be. The disparate groups -- African-Americans; Hispanics; single (unwed) mothers; LGBTs; Hollywood; environmentalists; and true liberals all form the core constituents of the Democrat Party. Yet with this diverse crowd, nary a peep comes forward during election cycles. The Democrat incumbents only defend themselves against Republicans.
However, the tea party, which started out with real conservative values focused on positive change, now becomes the adversary of incumbent Republicans everywhere. It’s not because the grassroots organization is automatically antagonistic, but I believe it is driven by frustration and a lack of leadership that is able to more effectively frame the discussion. The energy is there, albeit diminished, and so we see agitation for change without clarity of mission. Personally, I believe this is due to the fact that the tea party was purely secular in its early days. Lacking a spiritual view, the tea party was not aligned with the liberty and justice message of our Founders.
So today, we find angry attacks against incumbent Republicans not from the left, but from the right. RINO hunting becomes the call to arms. But what the tea party seems to miss is that those Republicans, with all their failings, will at least talk with us. They are after all aligned with the tea party and conservatives through the Republican Platform, if not perfectly through their representation. And that’s the point. Instead of hunting RINOs and elephants, we should be slaughtering jackasses! Rhinos [sic] and elephants are protected in most of Africa, jackasses, not so much. (Kenya Gets Donkey Slaughterhouse) Now before you raise your objections, I am not calling for violence against Democrats, but I am calling for political attacks against all Democrats. They are the real problem facing the tea party movement, conservatives and center-right voters.
Of course, if you have a real beef with your representatives, replace them. But do so by offering a vision that is broader and better, not by tearing down their service to their constituents. Remember, you might not win the election! All too often, the tea party has floated lousy candidates based on nothing more than pure emotionalism. So stop hunting endangered species and get to driving out the jackasses from Congress. The fight has always been about a multi-election cycle transition of ideas and leadership. And while DC is the proverbial zoo, I prefer to visit the rhinos and elephants; not the jackasses!
Mark A. Skoda is a founding member of the Reagan Lincoln movement within A Shining City On A Hill. The organization is made up of self-described conservatives, Tea Party activists, Independents, Libertarians, disillusioned Democrats, and even traditional Establishment Republicans who are truly oriented in the tradition of Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln. In addition, he is active in politics on the local and national level advocating for fiscal responsibility and improved government. He has spoken at numerous trade and political events, and provided commentary while appearing on television and radio. Mark has been featured in print nationally and has appeared on CNN, FOX Business, Glenn Beck, CBS, MSNBC, ABC, Associated Press, LA Times; internationally on BBC Radio and TV, NHK Japan, Dutch National TV, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, France and Australia.