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The 'Electability' Myth

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Much has been said and written regarding Karl Rove and the Republican Party establishment's latest plan to go harder after conservatives than they ever would Democrats. And I’ve had much to say about it myself.


But I’ve yet to see anyone question the premise of the phony argument Rove is hiding behind to justify his crusade to purge the GOP of anybody that won’t grovel at the feet of the ruling class (which is what Rove’s pro-establishment Jihad is really all about). See, in Rove’s world if you actually have principles and want to defeat Democrats and not just negotiate the terms of liberty’s surrender, you’re a “nutcase.”

Rove claims he’s out to find “electable” candidates. Well, who isn’t? Of course, all of us want to win elections. The candidate you’re supporting doesn’t get to act on any of the principles he’s running on if he doesn’t win. Nothing in politics is more crushing than losing on election night when you’ve spent your time, talent, and treasure on behalf of a candidate who’s a champion of your principles. So for Rove and the establishment to claim they’re the only ones concerned about “electability” is patronizing at best and disingenuous at worst.

Besides, how do we define “electability?” Furthermore, how come we allow the very people who oppose our ideas and principles to define who is and who isn’t “electable?” Should the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox consult with the New York Yankees front office on personnel decisions? Maybe Auburn’s new football coach should call Alabama’s Nick Saban and get his take on whom to recruit?


“Electability” is a ruling class fallacy, both on the right and the left. It’s essentially the political equivalent to Jim Crow laws, aimed at stifling the potential for upward mobility of those in the grassroots who would challenge the ruling class’ status quo. Despite all their public hand-wringing and pandering, they don’t really reach out to minorities for all the same reasons they don’t really reach out to their own base. They are adherents to the “Golden Rule,” which is he who has the gold gets to make all the rules. They may speak of a “big tent” but really they crave the small tent where they remain in charge of their own little fiefdom, crumbling infrastructure and all. Ironically, it’s been we in the base they hate that has diversified the GOP. Where did Ted Cruz, Allen West, and Tim Scott (just to name a few) come from?

Rove and his cronies are like modern day “old money” blue-bloods, condescendingly peering down their noses at the emerging “new money” entrepreneurs who weren’t born into the aristocracy as they were. That’s why they go after us harder than they go after them. We are a threat to their power base in a way they aren’t, because we actually want to topple a spoils system both sides of the ruling class are profiteering from. The only argument Rove and his Boss Tweed-wannabes have with the Left is who the check with the people’s money gets written out to. They don’t see this as a clash of worldviews with the very survival of the Constitutional Republic at stake. They see this merely as a battle of dueling self-interests.


Thus, to allow Rove and those supporting his efforts by funding them or providing a platform for them to determine who is and who isn’t “electable” isn’t just dangerous, it’s also as foolish as allowing the liberal media to do it. In fact, you’ll notice that Rove and his cabal often draw the same conclusions about “electability” as the liberal media.

That’s not a coincidence.

Both sides have a mutual interest in not challenging the status quo. Both sides range from skeptical to hostile to our moral viewpoint. Then there’s simple economics. The media has lots of unsold ad inventory nowadays, and Rove and his kind of candidates can provide the revenue to purchase it. In this last election cycle Rove’s cabal spent over $100 million on various establishment candidates, with just a 1% success rate. That means Rove and his acolytes are the perfect clientele for the liberal media. They help sell-out their spot blocks and lose elections to Democrats at the same time.

The late P.T. Barnum would have a word for Rove and (especially) those underwriting his failed efforts—suckers.

I remember sharing a green room with Rick Santorum at the National Federation of Republican Assemblies conference about six weeks before the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. As we were each waiting for our opportunity to speak, Santorum shared with me his lament that his former employer, Fox News, didn’t think he was electable enough to send a reporter to cover his campaign. At that point Santorum was mired in the low single digits in the polls.


Six weeks later Santorum won the Iowa Caucuses, and then went on to win 11 states during the 2012 Republican presidential primary campaign.

Again, who gets to determine who is and who isn’t “electable?” Is there an objective standard for “electability” as there is for many of the principles and causes we believe in? The answer is no, which is why Rove and the establishment like that subjective standard. It’s a moving target they can alter at their whim, aided and abetted by liberals who for different reasons want us defeated as well.

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