Dan Riehl is not happy with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today. Why, you might ask? It’s not as if Christie has been a milquetoast conservative. He has gone head-up against public sector unions and beaten them. He is regularly combative with the MSM in his own state and around the nation yet does not come off as bitter or furious. He’s also won over enough reluctant Democrats in his own state legislature to get his budgets, which are heavy with spending cuts and light on tax increases, passed. These are all valuable lessons the GOP will need if it’s going to bring our runaway Federal government to heel, yet Riehl would like to exile Christie to the outer darkness of “establishment Republicans” where there is only the bitter snarkiness of the right-wing commentariat.
The answer is simple. Christie dared to suggest that Mike Castle, who lost the primary battle to Tea Party Express darling Christine O’Donnell, would not have made a terrible Senator. See, in some conservative circles, any suggestion that Castle would have been anything but a dirty turncoat liberal, that he could have been useful to the conservative movement, is met with all the calm rationality of Regan MacNeil listening to the Lord’s Prayer.
While a Republican, a corporatist, or a governmentalist might describe Castle as potentially a good Senator, no honest, serious thinking Conservative ever would. That does not mean that O’Donnell was an ideal candidate. But it is imperative that the conservative movement learn from 2010, come to understand why we lost where we did, and reject the conventional Republican wisdom that only serves to undermine our cause. Surrendering to liberalism, while claiming victory as a Republican, is a defeat for conservatism. And it is precisely those types of defeats Republicans have been fostering for too long, damaging our movement and, ultimately, their own brand in the process.
If Dan had been able to pull in his claws here he would have realized that Christie wasn’t talking about O’Donnell at all but of the man who easily beat her, Chris Coons. It is obvious that Castle would make a far better Senator compared to Chris Coons who will be the Senator. In other words, had the Tea Parties shows a bit more discretion and wisdom, they most likely would not be looking at a reliable progressive vote in the Senate but someone who would side with Republicans at least as often as he would Democrats.
That’s not to say that Castle would have been our bestest buddy. We would have had to fight with him at least as often as we would with the Maine sisters, but we wouldn’t have to fight him all the time. I’m not big-shot blogger like my friend Dan, but even I know that someone who votes with conservatives half the time is much better than one who will never vote with conservatives. It’s better to have someone you have to drag to your side five or six times a year rather than someone you will have to pluck from the lap of Harry Reid. I might even describe such a person as really good compared to the alternative.
Let’s be clear here. The Tea Party was an unalloyed good for conservatism and, so far as I can see, it will continue to be so. However, with increased power must come at least as much increased wisdom. Tea Parties bring a great amount of energy, stubbornness, and willingness to go toe-to-toe with progressives and, Lord knows, the GOP needs all of those things. However, the GOP has a wealth of political experience, technical know-how, and money the Tea Parties sorely lack. If we conservatives ever hope to remain in the majority for more than an election or two, we are going have to figure out how to marry the outsiders with the establishment without blunting the strengths of either one. If we can do that, then perhaps we can figure out how to capitalize on the wins of candidates like outsiders Marco Rubio and Ron Johnson and insiders like Dan Coates and Rob Portman to grow a majority. That will not happen so long as we continue to snipe over a candidate who carried more baggage into her Senate race than Lovey and Thurston Howell III going on a three-hour tour. It certainly will not happen so long as Riehl, and folks like him, continue to throw crotch-punches at the most innocent provocation.
We have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to get it done. Riehl’s silly tirade against “corporatist” Republicans is not going to get Obamacare repealed, Medicare reformed, or Social Security reined in. What it will do is make us all look like a bunch of ungrateful brats who can’t accept a historic gift from the electorate without whining about how it wasn’t the super deluxe extra historic win we really wanted. The voters are watching how we handle this. If we can show them a little competence and some willingness to blends our strengths in order to give them back their lives and liberties, they’ll give us more next time around. If we can’t avoid bickering like a bunch of undisciplined brats, they’ll yank away what we have and park us in the corner for a while longer. And we will deserve it.