Conservative Response to Cochran Win
Conservatives are hopping mad – with very good reason – at the way Thad Cochran used voters who have no intention of ever supporting a conservative candidate to win a primary from the political party that is supposed to be the home of conservatives. Some conservatives suggested that they will vote for his opponent in the general election, or even not vote at all. They feel completely frustrated by the result and see no other option other than, perhaps, a third party.
There is a better conservative response to this sort of situation. Conservatives in Mississippi are the overwhelming majority of the voters. One of the two party candidates ought always to be a true conservative in the Mississippi general election. So if the left wishes to persuade its supporters to enter the Republican primary and vote for the least conservative option, conservatives ought to make sure that there is always someone in the Democrat primary who is a credible conservative, and the conservative majority in Mississippi should throw their much greater muscle behind that candidate so that in November, the Democrats are left with a very conservative nominee.
Indeed, conservatives ought to be recruiting and supporting – or at least keeping alive as alternatives – true conservatives in as many Democrat primaries for as many offices as possible. If that had been done in Mississippi, today Senator Cochran would be facing in the general election a very conservative Democrat who would be supported by all those conservatives in Mississippi who are so angry today. Indeed, today conservatives could be lecturing leftists about this Democrat nominee.
Why not do this? Why not do to the Democrats what they have done to the Republicans, and use primaries to pressure the Democratic Party to move to the right – or, at least, to keep Democrats on the defensive? There is nothing illegal or immoral about this tactic. Pursuing it aggressively forces the left, the movement which today manipulates the Democratic Party with impunity, to choose which primary to defend.
Conservatives who insist that only a third party will work are half-right: a third party, like Senator James Buckley running and winning on the Conservative Party ticket in 1976, succeeded because the infiltrated New York Republican Party had a left-leaning nominee and the New York Democratic Party had an even more leftist nominee. That created an opportunity for a conservative to win in a strongly Democrat and left-leaning state.
But there is no need for a third party in states in which conservatives are much more numerous that leftists. United conservatives could insure, if they wished, that the next senator from Mississippi was a very conservative Democrat. In fact, conservatives could make sure that a half-dozen or so senators in the Democrat caucus were overtly conservative legislators who could create bipartisan support on issues like investigating the IRS corruption, passing the Keystone Pipeline bills, pushing a hard investigation of Benghazi, repealing ObamaCare, and so on.
Think also what genuinely conservative Democrat governors could do to upset the left’s apple cart. (Think, for example, of Zell Miller, who was a very popular Georgia governor before he served in the Senate.) Not only could these governors endorse with Republican governors restraint of federal power, but, as governors, these conservatives could exert a powerful influence on the Democratic National Convention.
There is another consequence of this approach: “moderate” Republicans now in Congress, who know that, aside from a third party, they can make themselves the only real choice for conservatives, would have to think again if conservatives had legitimate conservative Democrats to vote for instead. Electoral politics would drift in the direction we want, as both political parties suddenly have to take conservative seriously, and the candidate who was the most clearly conservative, regardless of party, would win conservative votes in the general election.
I know the response of many conservatives to this idea. The left would never “let” us do that. Truly conservative Democrats could never win primaries or caucuses. This is, to put it bluntly, defeatism. Strategies never tried always fail. If we are afraid to try a thing that will offend the left, then we lose. If we are afraid that trying a new tactic might fail, then we lose. There is no reason – none at all – why a state as conservative as Mississippi should end up sending a milquetoast conservative to Washington. We want true conservatives in Washington, and party labels mean less and less. So let’s start competing in both primaries and begin to push both parties toward conservative governance.