I had used the term hyper-conservative, but I like this better.
Reagan, a plain conservative (as am I), resisted conservatives on his right flank whom he labels in his autobiography: “Right wingers” (p. 153); “radical” (p. 171); “diehards” (p. 206); “hard core” (p. 322); and “ultra pure” (p. 322).
Let’s call them turbo-conservatives.
The turbo-conservative will never win the White House. He will stand outside the fence, yearning for an invisible conservative army to vote for his mythical True and Pure Conservative, who is never quite defined, even vaguely and certainly not in detail.
Or he is angrily optimistic. The White House shall be his in 2016. But reality shall always be just out of reach, like the top of the hill was to Sisyphus and the water and fruit were to Tantalus.
You don’t have to believe in all ten to be a turbo-conservative, maybe around five. Under each point, I provide a look into the real world to counter his beliefs.
1. The national electorate is eager for a super-charged True and Pure Conservative.
A vast, invisible army of conservative voters is waiting for secret signals, dog whistles, to rise up and vote for the True and Pure Conservative. He likes all attempts to shut down (sorry, “slow down”) government, to accomplish … what? … to show his True and Pure Conservatism is truer and purer than thy diluted conservatism and to draw millions into Reagan’s Big Tent.
Real World: Shutting down government is a political loser because it scares off voters. Seventy-two to eighty percent of the public said they don’t like shutdowns and blame Republicans. (See Ten reasons for not shutting down the government.)
As for a vast, invisible, conservative army, I don’t know who they are, but centrists need to be won with serious ideas and policy proposals.
2. Fundamentally transforming America in one election cycle can be done.
The turbo-conservative intends to use a rusty, smoky chainsaw to cut the fat off of obese Uncle Sam. If a conservative—as opposed to a turbo-conservative—even hints that we need to cut government incrementally, and only while we grow the economy by a minimum of four percent, then the turbo-conservative will call him a compromiser and weakling.
Real World: Democrats and other liberals have fundamentally transformed America gradually, starting with the Progressives and then FDR and LBJ and one or two liberal Republican presidents. Obama is just the latest transformer.
The turbo-conservative fails to recognize that after many decades of big government, people love it. To slow it down, Reagan still had to work with Democrat Tip O’Neill to reform Social Security, for example. The big programs that people pay into are here to stay; they need to be reformed, not eliminated or threatened with angry rhetoric.
If Republicans win the White House in 2016 (not out of the question before Trump came along), and the party cuts too much too fast, then they will lose the Senate and probably the House in 2018. Count on it.
It takes time to turn a gigantic ship around.
3. Thou shalt abandon the only party that can win and vote for a third party to make a statement of purity and frustration.
Real World: A third party has never won the White House. Teddy Roosevelt, campaigning as a Progressive, won 27% (he was a former president), ushered in Democrat Wilson and denied it to Republican Taft. Ross Perot got 19% and cost Bush the presidency, state by state.
4. Anger and frustration, not critical thinking, is the coin of his utopian realm.
Anger clouds his mind. The “Establishment” candidates are too polite and classy. Being classless and tacky is how to win nationally.
Real World: I dare an angry turbo-conservative, especially a radio talker, to move to a swing state and run for the senate on shutting down the government and saving America from “third-world hellholes” and “mad cow” liberals. For sure he needs to campaign on rounding up millions of people. Maybe his campaign song could be Rawhide! “Head ‘em up and move ‘em out!” He must treat Hispanics like cattle.
He would get trounced. Being classy and polite and respectful is good for the country. The only hope in the long run, the marathon, is to present our case calmly and rationally, and yes, with inspirational passion (not angry passion).
5. To win elections, scaring people is the best tactic.
He proposes to deport 11 million people (or more), spending billions of dollars on “round-up” armored buses and on hiring immigration police; worst of all he doesn’t care about the inhumanity of ripping them from their homes in the middle of the night (or in broad daylight).
Real World: To win elections, we need voters. Voters are people. And “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The turbo-conservative is bound to lose millions of Evangelicals, with such inhumanity to man. Scaring ain’t caring.
6. It feels good to show the “Establishment” a thing or two, because the cabal forever hinders the True and Pure Conservative from winning the nomination or elections.
Somehow the Professional Political Class is stopping millions of individual private donors from giving to the True and Pure Conservative and preventing his ideas from getting out there.
Real World: Political parties need leaders. They do the daily-grind, hard work of coming up with a strategy and platform. No one is stopping the turbo-conservative’s pure candidate. We have live streaming, twitter, Facebook, email blasts, and youtube.com. Everyone’s ideas can get out there. In fact the angrier the turbo-conservative candidate, the more news media attention he’ll get (hint: the media know he can’t win).
7. His version of utopia shall be done on earth, which is better than the Leftist utopia.
The turbo-conservative has in the back of his skull an itch, some vague vision of Perfection, the implementation of True and Pure Conservatism, though he can’t define what it is. He’s like the Left, who shall one day bring heaven on earth—big government.
8. There’s no difference between the RNC and DNC.
True and Pure Doctrine can be self-deceptive and unyielding. Hillary or Biden? Jeb is the real enemy.
Real World: There is a huge difference between the DNC and RNC. Just pick an issue—private gun ownership, military, budgets, tax rates, deficit spending, pro-business entrepreneurship.
As for Republicans being the enemy, didn’t Reagan say a man who believes as he does eighty percent of the time is not his enemy, but a friend?
9. Losing on True and Pure Principle teaches the political world a good lesson about purity.
Perhaps in his more reflective, cautious moments the turbo-conservative intuitively knows his undefined True and Pure Conservative can’t win the White House, but it doesn’t matter. Sisyphus and Tantalus are his mascots. Purity has to count for something.
Real World: It’s better to win inside Reagan’s Big Tent than to huddle and suffer outside in the cold with the Pure, Elect Few and lose every time. With purity the vote count doesn’t add up to victory.
10. The most exciting and newest Messiah who will “get things done” is the path to election victory.
Behold! Here’s the political messiah! He’s angrier than ever! The turbo-conservative looks around for the perfect charismatic figure who can explain True and Pure Conservatism and draw the vast, invisible, conservative army to his side. Maybe Reagan will come back.
A bonus: If the political messiah has extreme and unspecific proposals, then so much the better for the turbo-conservative.
Trump is the latest thing right now. He’s a “business messiah” who built “things” (except a winning electoral coalition in his past runs for the presidency). He knows how to round up immigrants through his management style.
Real World: It’s time to think critically. There are no messianic figures. Leave that to the Left and their Obama. And Reagan ain’t comin’ back. The wheels of good governance, according to the Constitution, grind slowly. For that reason the latest things never win the White House, but they do create chaos. Just ask Ross Perot, who never won even one election, but who built “things” and promised “no business as usual” in Washington (never mind the Constitution).
Let’s wrap it up.
Here are possible solutions. These suggestions are shorter than a Twelve Step Program.
One writer correctly says we need the RINO and turbo-conservative to work together and be friends.
It’s time for him to lay aside his anger and frustration, to think critically, and to get a long-range vision.
You win elections by building coalitions of diverse voters within political parties, not by turning your laptop into a flamethrower and burning down Reagan’s Big Tent.
Building a big party is hard work, takes a long time, and means you have to rub shoulders with people with whom you may disagree twenty percent (or more) of the time. It’s what real-world grownups do.
The only path to victory is to get the most voters, not scare them away.
Update: This article was once titled What WHINO’s believe–a primer.