What should conservatives do now that Republicans have majorities in both the US House of Representatives and the Senate? Let me say at the outset that I am not equating conservatives and Republicans. Far from it. But there is a conservative core in the Republican Party that is large enough that the establishment leadership cannot and should not ignore it. So how should it be deployed?
I spent two days in Washington this week meeting with conservative leaders and legislators and attending numerous receptions for Members of the 114th Congress. They're not unified, and there's nothing that the left-leaning mainstream media loves more than stories of Republican factionalism and infighting, actively trying to bring the fight out of the caucus rooms and into the open where public opinion is affected. Look how they played up the ill-advised and worse planned last-minute challenge to John Boehner's speakership.
I have a simple plea to citizen activists, commentators and party leaders alike: let's keep one eye on the future, and the other eye on the American people. That leaves no eye left to focus on ourselves. Can we do that — just this once — and see if it works?
I'm really quite serious. Even if neither John Boehner nor Mitch McConnell is exactly the kind of leader we might find ideal, they are who we have, and we ought to get behind them instead of taking shots at them. The Republican Party has a rare opportunity to contrast its leadership of Congress with the heavy-handed dictatorial and obstructive style of Harry Reid in the Senate and the dysfunctional pass-it-to-see-what's-in-it style of Nancy Pelosi in the House.
Republicans now have the chance to pass bills that are genuinely popular with the American people but that may not be supported by this President. That's perfect — let HIM be the one who is out of step with the public. That will set the stage for a positive Presidential campaign in 2016 — as well as a defense of the GOP Senate majority in what will be a much tougher year than 2014. That means passing one or two easy bills like the Keystone Pipeline, but also tougher, more complex ones like a workable border security bill, trimming back the regulatory overreaches of the Obama administration by using the Congressional Review Act the way it was intended, unshackling the burdens on small business in particular, focusing on economic growth rather than government job creation programs, and progress towards tax reform that results in a simpler, fairer system of taxation than the current tax code that is so complex and so riddled with special deals for special interests that no ordinary citizen with average intelligence can even begin to understand it.
Every one of those initiatives enjoys wide public support, and every one of them can be supported by conservatives and moderates alike. They're all consistent with Boehner and McConnell's agendas as well. As citizen activists, let's not fall into squabbling factions that oppose incremental progress because it's not bold enough. Let's limit our legislative ambitions to those issues that are supported by 60% or more of the public. And if most of those are opposed by the President, so much the better, from a political standpoint. That's the long game, and that's the game strategy that we as activists should be supporting. Obama's overreaches gave us the tea party in 2010. Harry Reid's overreach with the nuclear option helped give Republicans the Senate in 2014. Let's not fall into the same trap. Let's not push conservatives to overreach in the new Congress. It may hurt, it may seem like giving into the establishment, but let's apply some discipline. One eye on the public, and one eye on the future. Fight with Boehner and McConnell quietly, if you must, through internal communications — not through public charges of surrender. Then we will set the stage for getting control of the White House as well the Congress.