Rules for all Republicans

Yes, Virginia. There really is a split in the Republican Party. There always has been and always will be. But the acrimony is spinning out of control and the only people benefitting are the Democrats. It disturbs me when I'm labeled a sellout if I say something positive about an "establishment" Republican and it's equally infuriating when I'm lectured that Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are part of a "suicide coalition." When I write something favorable to the GOP, my inbox is flooded with angry emails from tea partiers but accolades from party loyalists and, vice versa, if I write something critical of the base or Tea Party. It's insulting when grassroots activists tell me I'm not a true conservative and aggravating when I'm dismissed as "just a tea partier" and flicked off like a fly. These personal accounts simply mirror what is happening party-wide. If conservatives are ever to regain power in Washington, change has to come from all camps within the GOP.

Obama won by only 5 million votes. Three million Republicans didn't vote in the 2012 Obama-Romney face-off and a hefty number of disgruntled Republicans voted for libertarian Gary Johnson, who garnered 1.5 million votes. Millions of conservatives -- who are not registered Republicans -- also withheld their votes. Imagine if all of those protest votes had gone to Romney?

Conservatives who have "had it" with the GOP and stay home or cast a protest vote might experience a certain amount of self-satisfaction in the short run. But, in the long run, this inhibits the ability of conservatives to gain power in DC as we continue to lose winnable seats. The more GOPers we get into office today, the greater the pressure the conservative wing can exert and the closer we can inch towards our goals.

In a perfect world, we could stop the overspending, graft and waste today, harmoniously agree on effective policies and elect ideal candidates. But we don't live in that world. Republicans deal in realities and the reality is this: political viewpoints are as varied as human behavior. It is this diversity that feeds the marketplace of ideas protected by the First Amendment -- allowing for the full expression of the individual.

We have to work within those confines of human behavior and understand that the road to conservative success is paved on coalition building -- not running to our little corners surrounded only by those with whom we agree 100%. There is no end to the number of ways we could balkanize if we follow that path.

Conservatives don't have consensus on the social issues, approaches to our immigration problems and national security policy. Tea Party leaders instinctively knew this and, at the Tea Party's conception, were careful to focus on the areas of agreement: fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, constitutionally limited government, and free markets.

There was also an implicit understanding among most (but not all) Tea Party leaders, that a third party was not the goal nor was infiltrating and taking over the GOP to make it our own (although some Campaign for Liberty supporters did openly advocate for that). We were in it for the long haul and our intentions were to get the GOP to stay true to its conservative roots, impact policy, help elect conservatives, and effectuate change in the GOP through participation.

Some Tea Party groups were at odds with their local central committees and state parties, but many worked in tandem with the various GOP entities.Then, in the wake of the Romney loss, both sides started to play the blame game. Moderates pointed to Akin and Mourdock as having played a big part in the defeat by fueling the "war on women" mantra -- ushering in calls to moderate. Grassroots conservatives cast Romney as yet another northeast-establishment moderate who wasn't conservative enough to win --leading the frustrated grassroots to threaten to withhold votes in the absence of more conservative candidates.

This was all amplified when moderates tied Cuccinelli's loss to his being a rabid, right-wing extremist and Christie's win to his being a moderate. Tea Partiers countered that the establishment sold Cuccinelli down the river and Christie was a sell-out. And so the cycle of rebuke and rendgoes on and on.

I understand the eye-rolling from moderates when the Todd Akins of the world muck up. And I understand Tea Party frustration when yet another moderate is running. I know how it doesn't look like it will ever end unless we send an unmistakably powerful message to GOP leaders that we will throw in the towel with our support.

But this is a misreading of reality. Five years ago the Tea Party didn't exist -- it was an amorphous part of the Republican base which overlapped with Reagan-type Democrats and Independents. In five years, we have become a force in American politics with a cadre of strong candidates elected to all levels of government. Weare making inroads... slowly, but surely.

It's too early in the game to give up. It's too early to completely dismiss less-than-ideal Republican candidates. If you are playing the long game, then you know we haven't been doing this for so long that it's time to stay home.
The Tea Party has to be reminded of their long-term goals and be prepared to sacrifice some principles in the short run to vote for moderates and prevent the left from amassing more political clout. And the "establishment" has to stop demonizing its own and freezing out candidates they believe are too darn conservative.

If we cannot work together, the GOP will rip apart. Many of you want that. And most establishment Republicans don't think this will happen because conservatives have nowhere else to go. But this is no bluff -- conservatives are serious about defecting. I, for one, do not want that to happen.


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