Activist versus Establishment: Constant Accountability
Over the past week, there has been a renewed interest in the fight for the heart and soul of the “right.” We recall the classic split in the movement in the 1950’s and 60’s with the Rockefeller vs. Goldwater (Reagan versus Ford) fights that broke down by Liberal Republican versus Conservative Republican. Abortion, War, and Tax divisions defined the debate. This is why Goldwater, Reagan and Phyllis Schlafly said that we needed a “Choice, not an Echo.”
The Conservative Wing won that fight; we had 12 pro-life candidates vying for the GOP nomination in 2012, no Republican ran on a tax-raising platform or for Nationalization of Housing and note the unified bloc of GOPers all but shouting down a national health insurance scheme called ObamaCare.
The new media-hyped “split” in the party and movement isn’t your grandfather’s schism. This is a new split that is best observed outside the beltway. The new split is inside vs outside; or Establishment versus Activist.
Those on the “inside” want to get re-elected at all costs and don’t mind spending borrowed money, raising taxes (which they occasionally call fees) and increasing government’s reach to do it As long as they stay to the “right” of the Democratic Party, they know they will stay on the Inside. Their defense to any criticism seems to be that they are “better than the alternative.”
The worst part is the Establishment Position toward activists: get out of the way until you are needed at the next election. Activist conservatives want to have a voice in their government – and not just at election time.
While the Constitution ensures the right to vote our opinions at the ballot box, the First Amendment re-affirms our God-given right to “petition for redress of grievances.” This doesn’t merely mean that we can circulate a petition for a new highway or against the sewage treatment plant; it means that we have an inalienable right to speak our opinions and directly tell our Representatives what we believe.
Many in Washington thought the Tea Party victories in 2010 was the end of the story. The Tea Party response was “What, you thought we’d just go away after November?” It was never enough to claim the majority. Conservatives expected their newly elected lawmakers to change Washington, not settle into an election-cycle-driven status quo.
The budget deal shows this difference starkly. Many House Republicans voted for the bill even though they “hate the way it’s written” and “dislike most elements.” They voted to increase spending because they alone know the only way to skin cats in Washington. The implication is that voters back home can’t be consulted because they are amateurs and they don’t see the long view. It was a collective rebuff to the citizens: “We know what we are doing, we are professionals.” Any criticism of the bill was characterized as an attack and “helping Democrats.”
We have seen what an establishment insider can do, but what can an activist do?
We can speak up, we can score votes, we can tell them that this is not limited government, we can publish our opinions for all to see, we can organize and we can talk to our neighbors. In short we can hold them accountable, and not just at election time. Insiders hate constant accountability.
Sure, conservatives always have the choice at election time to vote Democrat or to stay home, but this means that they now take away two Constitutional rights– the right to speak up and be heard; and the right to vote for a clear choice, not an echo.