Having been an elected Republican and someone who routinely takes the position of supporting conservatives in primaries and Republicans in general elections, the recent Mississippi runoff between Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel does crystallize for me the desires of many to start a third party.
In essence, tea party activists are the RINOs (Republican In Name Only). A Republican Party campaigning on making the Senate “conservative,” used liberal Democrats to preserve an incumbent Republican and defeat a conservative. The actual conservatives are the outsiders with the GOP establishment doing all it could to preserve its power at the expense of its principles.
The problem for those who call themselves Republicans is that it is harder and harder to say exactly what a Republican is these days. The great lesson from Mississippi is that Republican means, more or less, that if elected the party will reward its major donors, who are just different than the Democrats’ major donors. Policy differences are about different donors, not an actual agenda to shift the country in a different direction.
The Republicans have become the party of lobbyists, most of whom were on twitter celebrating their purchase. Thad Cochran is, for all intents and purposes, a marionette. His strings are pulled by staffers and lobbyists. They drop him onto the stage of the Senate and pull up a string to raise his hand. These puppeteers are so invested in keeping their gravy train going that they will, while claiming to be Republicans, flood a Republican primary with Obama voters to ensure their gravy train continues. There is nothing wrong with that. They won fair and square. They changed who the electorate was, which was allowed under the rules.
But this becomes a longer term problem for the Republican Party. Its core activists hate its leadership more and more. But its leadership are dependent more and more on large check writers to keep their power. Those large check writers are further and further removed from the interests of both the base of the party and Main Street. So to keep power, the GOP focuses more and more on a smaller and smaller band of puppeteers to keep their marionettes upright. At some point there will be more people with knives out to cut the strings than there will be puppeteers with checkbooks. And at some point those people with knives become more intent on cutting the strings than taking the place of the marionettes.
It is a system that cannot perpetuate itself. Conservatives lost in Mississippi and it hurt. The establishment plays for keeps. Their income is dependent on doing so. A McDaniel win would have disrupted the flow of money and redirected a crony capitalist agenda through which many make millions of dollars. The establishment had far more to lose than conservatives had to gain and it showed.
Unfortunately for the Republican Party the fight continues. As grassroots activists feel further and further removed and alienated from the party, it will become harder and harder to win. The slaughter the GOP will inflict on the Democrats in November will be a band-aid of built in momentum. When the GOP inevitably caves on repealing Obamacare, opting instead to reform it in favor of their donors’ interests, we may just see an irreparable split. Then, and even worse, if party leaders and party base voters cannot reconcile themselves to a common candidate in 2016, God help us.
I am not sure what the Republican Party really stands for anymore other than telling Obama no and telling our own corporate interests yes. That’s not much of a platform.
Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.