What the Virginia governor’s race means to conservatives

I decided to conduct my own research as to why Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, was abandoned by the national Republican Party establishment.  For me, the pattern seemed all too familiar – the grass roots of the party finds a candidate to rally behind and instead of joining in on the efforts to get him or her elected, the party establishment will halfheartedly help with a campaign and when an opportunity arises, they pull out, citing that the election is lost – as often as four weeks out from election day.  I first noticed this pattern during the 2012 election cycle as then Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney simply was not supported to the extent that Senator John McCain had been during his campaign against then Senator Barack H. Obama.  As we approach the mid term elections of 2014, it is already becoming obvious that the Republican Party establishment had rather lose an election to a Democratic candidate than to have a true conservative or Tea Party member elected into office.

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Within a few minutes of searching on Google for Cuccinelli, I discovered a candidate for governor that is not only a devoted family man, a devout Roman Catholic, and who happens to hold a view that all life – from conception through the twilight years – is precious.  He is a man that is strongly anti-statist and believes in the balance of shared sovereignty between the states and national government.  He is also a man that has more in common with the conservative grass roots small town Republican than the Republican Party establishment.  My personal opinion is that the reason the Republican Party leadership did not want him to win (and essentially allowed the Democratic Party to tinker with the election) is because Cuccinelli is a threat to the party leadership.  He could actually be the candidate that not only unites a broad coalition of Republicans, Libertarians, and Conservatives under the GOP banner, but could threaten the establishment’s choice for the party nomination in the 2016 election.

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One of the largest problems faced but the Republican Party establishment is the attempt to control and harnessing of the Tea Party – a grass roots movement that encompasses both conservative Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians who are concerned about the growing consolidation of power that began under Republican President George W. Bush with the passage of the Patriot Act.  As the 2008 presidential campaign was underway, it became apparent to many that the Republican Presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, had not been selected by the Republican Party base but by the party’s established leadership.  Not only did Senator McCain not have the support of the base but his campaign failed because it was also not vigorously supported by the very party leadership that selected him.  At this point, the Tea Party set out to reform the Republican Party from within.

What the Virginia governor’s race taught the conservative elements and Tea Party of the Republican Party is this: 1) The party leadership would rather see a Democratic Candidate win than to see a conservative candidate win an election. 2) Even if the grass roots base is generating sufficient support for a candidate that indicates a possible win, the party leadership will not support a conservative candidate. 3) The Republican Party establishment would be completely happy if the conservatives and Tea Party members of its base left the party; to them, the Tea Party and conservative grass roots movement is the sole reason that the party loses elections.  Even today, as the establishment celebrates the election of Governor Chris Christie, an establishment Rhino Republican, the establishment leadership is proclaiming that Cuccinelli was far too right in his ideology (in other words, the Tea Party and Conservatives) and that was why he lost the election.  Unfortunately, the ultimate lesson that learned by Conservatives and Tea Party members is that the Republican Party leadership wants our money, wants our support (for their hand-selected candidates), but doesn’t care if it actually represents our interests.

Alan Simmons

Alan Simmons is an adjunct instructor of history at Henderson Community College. He has been teaching at the college/university level since 2004. Within the scope of his degrees, his areas of emphasis are U.S. foreign policy, public policy history, political history, and U.S. history.

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