OK. Let's say we wake up the morning of November third and discover that Dick Morris was correct in his bold predictions. The Republicans take back the Senate and not only win the House, but garner a historic mandate of 260-270 seats. The electoral battlefield is riddled with the dead carcasses of socialist giants like Barbara Boxer, Dingy Reid, Patty Murray, Russ Feingold, Lisa Murkowski, Charlie Crist, and scores of others. In addition, we pick up a dozen governorships and state legislature chambers in key battleground states that provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to control the redistricting process. This places the Republican Party in a strong position to maintain their control over key house seats and have the upper hand over the battleground states during the Presidential election of 2012.
However, after the dust settles from the election,the million dollar question will be, then what? How do we turn a Republican victory into a conservative triumph? How do we ensure that it will be the DeMints, Millers, Bucks, and other tea party members in the House who will control the legislative process and the ensuing political narrative, and not the antiquated RINO dinosaurs of the land of Mitch McConnell? How do we ensure that we don't repeat the same disastrous cycle of '94-'06, when the Republican brand tarnished the value of conservatism and set us up for the socialist takeover of the radical left?
One of the few tangible benefits of taking control of the Senate without obtaining 60 seats is the right to control the confirmation process of Supreme Court nominees. It is very likely that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg will retire before Obama gets canned in 2012 and many would argue that Republican control of the Senate would ensure that we won't get another Elana Kagen. The problem with that optimistic prediction is that we won't have anywhere near 51 votes against any nominee whom Obama picks. In fact, aside for the plethora of RINOs in the Senate who will vote to confirm anyone, even a conservative like Pat Toomey expressed his principled support for any qualified nominee, irrespective of their perverted jurisprudence. Also, we can't count on blocking a nominee in the Judiciary Committee (even one that is run by Jeff Sessions) because of Lindsey Graham. So again, if nothing is done to hold their feet to the fire, how would a Republican-held Senate benefit us once we already have control of the House?
This is something that conservative activists need to begin contemplating as we near the end of the election season. We have harnessed the greatest grassroots energy of freedom-loving Americans through the tea party since the American Revolution to achieve a great electoral victory. But we must continue to apply this energy to hold their feet to the fire after the election; otherwise the whole revolution would be wasted. Here are several things that we must look into immediately.
1. Congressional Leadership
As it stands know, we are benefiting from the fact that there is no particular leader of our movement whom the media can use to taint our conservative image. If we were to capture both houses of congress, then all of that changes immediately. The question that we all need to contemplate is this; do we really need to work so hard to win back the Senate only to have it led by the likes of Mitch McConnell and Lamar Alexander? We need to pull a Harriet Myers on him and demand that we have a conservative represent us. A McConnell leadership will simply perpetuate the cycle of frustration and disappointment that was the hallmark of our last tenure as majority in the Senate. Unfortunately, it appears that nobody will challenge Boehner and Cantor in the House, but we need to fight for a better leadership in the Senate. Keep in mind that right now we are defined by the constitutional and principled stances of the tea party. If we don't focus on the post election Senate leadership then we will be defined by Mitch McConnell.
We also need to shed light on the backroom decisions that are made in the Senate Republican Conference. We must make sure that the right people are chosen to sit on the right committees. The new tea party folks cannot be relegated only to such committees like Veterans Affairs and Agriculture.
2. Committee Chairmen
Many establishment Republicans lecture us about the need to support RINO blue state Republicans so that red state conservatives can become committee chairman. The problem is that many of the committees will be chaired by both red and blue state liberals and moderates. In 2004, we were baffled at how Arlen Specter was able to become Judiciary Committee Chairman in an era when grassroots conservatives hold such power and influence. Again, we must ask ourselves, do we really want to fight for a Senate majority if it will be run by RINOs? Here is a list of committees which we need to fight to ensure that the following members don't become Chairmen:
Appropriations- Thad Cochran
Armed Services- John McCain
Banking- Richard Shelby
Budget- Judd Gregg is currently Ranking member but is retiring. It's a very mixed committee and we must make sure one of the good guys becomes chairman.
Commerce- Kay Bailey Hutchison
Finance- We can do better than Chuck Grassley
Foreign Relations- Dick Lugar- enough said
Homeland Security- Susan Collins- the chair should go to Coburn
Rules- Bennett- He will be gone. This committee is full of squishes. There is no current solid member.
Small Business- Olympia Snowe- Vitter should get the chair
Appropriations- Jerry Lewis
3. 2012 Senate Elections
There are three types of Senate races in every cycle that provide conservatives with opportunities to increase our ranks; Incumbent Democrats, Open seats (R and D) and Incumbent RINOs who need to be challenged in a primary. We achieved an unprecedented degree of success this year in all three categories. However, we didn't have a perfect record. In most of the examples where we were unsuccessful it was due to a lack of mobilization behind the right candidate while we still had a chance to make a difference (Indiana and Illinois Senate races come to mind).
2012 will be an amazing year in which there are no Republican vulnerable seats to defend, while the Democrats will be forced to defend all of their red state seats that they acquired in 2006. Democrats will have to defend 23 seats (including the two "independents"), while the Republicans will have to defend only 10. It's important to note that unlike 2010, next election cycle will be fought mainly on red state territory. That means that we shouldn't have to contend with complaints of "well, the conservative can't win". We need to stay ahead of the curve and work on these seats immediately. Again, even if we win the Senate, we will be far short of a conservative majority and will need major pickups in 2012 to accompany a (hopefully) Republican president. Here are the States in which we must recruit strong tea party candidates:
Sitting Republicans that need Primary challengers
- IN-Richard Lugar
- ME-Olympia Snowe
- TN- Bob Corker
- TX-Kay Baily Hutchison
- UT-Orin Hatch
FL- Bill Nelson
MI- Debbie Stabenow
Minn- Amy Klobuchar
MO- Claire McCaskill
MT- Jon Tester
NE- Ben Nelson
ND- Kent Conrad
PA- Bob Casey
VA- Jim Webb
WA- Maria Cantwell
WI- Herb Kohl
There are definitely others that we could possibly unseat, but those listed will be the most obvious targets. Webb, Conrad, Nelson, Tester, and McCaskill will have to run in states where Obama will be toxic on the top of the ballot. Kohl, Bill Nelson, Brown, and Casey won't have it much better.
4. We need to hold their feet to the fire. Many good conservatives will be elected this November, but inevitably there will be those who don't deliver. We need to track their voting records consistently and make sure they know that we are watching. A new website that focuses on the voting record of the "2010 Freshmen" would be indispensable. We should especially monitor who signs onto the bills that would repeal the Obama agenda.
5. Presidential Nominee
After November, the 800 pound gorilla (or Elephant, hopefully not Rhino) in the political circus will be the race for the Republican nomination for President. Whoever become the eventual nominee will instantly become the face of the Republican Party and by extension, the conservative movement. This is what happened to us with Bush for nine years. It is vital that we pick one of us to become the de facto leader of the movement. The field of candidates has not even begun to materialize, but we need to be vigilant of several things.
1. We need to examine the past records of potential candidates and not let the media define them for us like they did in 2008. The media will try to pick our nominee and disseminate false information concerning their governing philosophy. We will never get a perfect candidate, and will always have to compromise on something, but we should not let the media pick a self proclaimed conservative who has undergone a presidential election foxhole conversion to conservatism.
2. Something needs to be done about the open primaries that take place in some of the early states. We simply cannot go through another cycle of Democrats picking our nominee. Keep in mind that barring any unforeseeable circumstances, Obama will not draw serious primary opposition. This will allow the Democrats to crash the party and attempt to saddle us with another McCain.
3. Let's not make any rash and premature judgments about who is electable (especially as dictated by the media). If there is anything to learn from this election, it is that you can never tell who will take off and resonate with the electorate once they obtain some name recognition.
4. Debates- We have already ceded over the general election debates to be controlled and orchestrated by the Democrat media. Do we need to have them moderate our own primary debates as well? Keep in mind that these media types live in a very different world than we do, and their policy premises and understanding of the political dynamic makes them unqualified to moderate a debate among conservatives. We should have at least one debate that is moderated by a panel of respected conservative journalists, talk radio figures, and others who would frame the debate in a meaningful way to conservatives.