While it would certainly be cathartic to flog the GOP for the lousy omnibus bill House Republicans just passed, it seems more productive to tackle a bigger issue. After a historic, yet unearned (Obama was the real GOP MVP) election victory, isn’t it time for the Republican leadership to try to heal the rift with the base that’s tearing the party apart?
Do Republican leaders REALLY want to spend the next two years of a presidential election cycle getting trashed the way they are right now by activists, Tea Party leaders and radio talk show hosts? Anyone who thinks the base is going to sit down and shut up or that the GOP can thrive over the long-term with this kind of intra-party feuding going on is kidding himself.
So realistically, here’s what the Republican Party leaders need to do to help get everyone back on the same page.
1) They should never, ever, under any circumstances trash their base again. That means if the words "Tea Party, "Senate Conservatives Fund," "Mark Levin," “Rush Limbaugh,” “Club for Growth,” “Heritage Action,” etc., etc., come out of their mouths, then they better be saying something nice at best or neutral at worst. Additionally, staffers who mouth off about the base should be unceremoniously fired. At first, Republican politicians shouldn’t expect to have that favor to be returned, but if you’re a politician who wants unconditional love, go buy a dog.
2) The GOP has to keep its promises -- and quite frankly, more than a few Republicans seem to have a pre-YouTube era mentality about that. They think they can say anything they want on the campaign trail and then do something completely different in the office without people being any the wiser. For example, after the NRSC backed Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio, I fought it tooth-and-nail over that decision. After he won, Marco Rubio was one of my favorite politicians, but the moment he lied to us by breaking his campaign pledge to fight amnesty, he was dead to me. I will NEVER forgive Rubio for his dishonorable behavior, no matter what he does. Don’t lie through your teeth to people who took you at your word and then expect us to be stupid enough to trust you again.
3) It's fine for the Republican Party to recruit candidates, but it should ALMOST NEVER be involved in primaries. If you want to know what an exception looks like, Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. were right to endorse the guy running against David Duke back in 1989. Everybody has a role to play and an organization that is supposed to represent all Republicans absolutely should not be involved in a race between two Republicans. It creates an ocean of bad blood so big that there aren’t enough towels in Texas to clean it up.
4) The GOP leaders need to open up some lines of communication and if they have good motives, explain what they're trying to do and the strategy they're using with talk radio hosts, big websites, activist groups, etc. Locking influential conservative groups out of discussions of what the GOP should be doing BEGS for them to make trouble because it’s the only way they can get their opinion heard.
4A) A few years back, Republicans in leadership did reach out a bit and while it may have helped a little, it ultimately wasn’t very effective because they looked at it as a way to try to sell what they were doing instead of having a conversation about shared goals. A lot of people, myself included, suspect the reason this isn't done is because we don't have the same aims on a lot of major legislation any more. I don't think the GOP leaders have any intention of seriously trying to stop Obama’s executive amnesty. I don't believe they're committed to the repeal of Obamacare. I was even forced to agree with NANCY PELOSI and ELIZABETH WARREN (vomit) about the GOP’s omnibus bill decision to make it easier for big banks to gamble with derivatives and the sleazy campaign finance reform that was designed to undercut activist groups. Would the GOP leadership really want to explain something like that beforehand? Ultimately, it wouldn’t be that hard to get grassroots leaders to line up behind smart strategies to achieve conservative policy goals, but it’s an open question whether the GOP’s leadership believes in the Republican Party’s own platform enough to fight for it anymore.
5) Speaking of fights, the GOP leaders need to prove they're willing to fight and WIN on something that really matters to conservatives. At this point, the expectation of the Democrats, the mainstream media and even the GOP base is that the Republican Party is going to cave in every time. At some point, Republicans have to prove they can go head-to-head with the Democrats and win on something that matters. Of course, congressional aides could probably name 10 things that people don't care about that much where they’d claim to have "fought and won," but that’s like a football team that’s behind 70-0 complaining it isn’t being given enough credit for all the 1st downs it’s gotten in the game.
6) People feel so burned by Boehner and McConnell that it would take AN INCREDIBLE amount of work for them to ever be trusted again. If someone like Jeb Hensarling took over in the House or John Thune took over in the Senate, he’d immediately get a much longer leash from the base because he’d be given the benefit of the doubt while people evaluated his performance. On the other hand, when it comes to Boehner and McConnell, symbolic gestures aren't going to cut it because we’re at a Cold War level of trust. It doesn’t matter how much Castro tells you he loves democracy and freedom; you’ll believe it AFTER Cuba has a free election.
Last but not least, there's toxic residue in this area that goes all the way back to the end of Bush’s first term that has never been addressed by the GOP leadership in an effective manner. There are a lot of conservatives who feel like they've been SCREAMING at the GOP for a decade and haven't been respected or heard. As long as the GOP leadership insists on maintaining a system where the only way conservative activists can make an impact is by raining hell down on the GOP leaders, they better keep a lot of ice water handy because that’s exactly what they’re going to continue to get.