In the midst of the election chatter of the last week, I found myself observing some of the most futile and in some cases, ridiculous antics to date coming from what many Republicans would term as the hard right.
Lora Hubbel was busy being Lora, which by now qualifies for its own DSM Code. When he wasn’t attacking a long-dead Governor as being a career politician, Stace Nelson was on Facebook promoting an implausible conspiracy theory written by a guy in Iowa about a plot to deny him the US Senate seat.
It all has me asking the question – So, where have the ‘good’ strong conservative Republicans gone?
Let me start that conversation by noting that they’re still there. Conservative Republicans have long assumed the mantle of Republican leadership in this state. It’s been reflected in the party’s platform growing ever more conservative over the years. In fact, some use the term ‘conservative’ interchangeably with ‘Republican.’
When party leadership is as conservative as it is up and down the board; strongly pro-life, pro-gun, etcetera and so on, I’d argue that the divisions in the GOP are less a matter of philosophical divisions, and more a matter that those who are not in charge are busy trying to figure out how they can become the people in charge.
It’s not a matter of philosophy as much as it is of coalitions, and if you can break them by throwing enough rocks.
Organizationally, Gordon Howie attempted to circle the wagons for the harder right conservatives back in 2010. Howie’s coalition was probably the first one in recent years in Republican circles to try to divide the GOP up by those who were ‘real Republicans’ and those who did not fit his guidelines.
Howie tried to rally the most conservative in the GOP to his cause, but could not achieve the critical mass to get over the line in the 2010 GOP Gubernatorial Primary. In fact, he didn’t come even close, and only garnered a little over 12% when the votes were totaled.
His base further eroded when he supported Stace Nelson for US Senate in the 2014 GOP Primary, only to abandon Nelson’s candidacy before the primary to run himself as an Independent, where he got 3%. By 2017, Howie’s influence was almost nil, and has seemingly reached its aphelion.
2017 also found former State Senator Dan Lederman planning a bold gambit to attempt something that had not been done in nearly 50 years – direct selection of the State Republican Party Chair. It was an unheard of and audacious move.
Helping Lederman’s cause was a movement among conservative activists in the GOP that they wanted more of a direct voice in party affairs. They had come off of a term of office from the Governor’s choice for that office, Pam Roberts, who seemed ambivalent about another term, and who may have signaled she was not going to run.
Without getting into the details, Lederman was able to successfully build a Republican coalition and capture the Chairman’s seat, and in the time since for most all concerned, he has earned positive reviews among the GOP faithful for his performance.
Did I say most all?
Another factor cropped up in 2017, the year which marked a return to elected office for the same Stace Nelson who came in third in the US Senate Race in 2014. The same Stace Nelson who I noted earlier was promoting conspiracy theories about that Senate race this week.
During the near entirety of his political career, Nelson has always seemed be involved with attacks on Republican Leadership. If not doing so directly, at the least he’s been viewed as hanging out on the periphery of attacking leadership, and trying to insinuate that they’re not true conservatives or not Republican enough.
Since returning to office in 2017, his attacks seem to be mainly directed at State Party Chair Dan Lederman, as if Nelson is on a mission. And, he might be. That mission might be to try to derail a long-standing civil lawsuit against Nelson by Lederman’s Rushmore PAC for being involved in an illegal robocall scheme which seeks monetary damages for the unwanted phone calls.
But, the sometimes nonsensical attacks also seem to be an effort to try to break people off from the Lederman Republican party coalition. The word is Nelson may have enlisted his allies in former Howie group Citizens for Liberty to attack the party chair, at the same time he’s trying to gin up already settled nonsense over the chair of the party‘s near decades old voter registration.
But much like the Howie efforts of yore, the problem with trying to peel people away from the existing Republican coalition that Lederman has been able to assemble is that there’s unruly people bleating a lot of noise about ‘who is a true Republican.’ ….but there’s otherwise no reason to side with the people throwing rocks other than to be a rock thrower.
For most Republicans on the inside of party affairs, the truth of the matter is that they like organization, execution, cohesive planning and goals. As conservatives, most ignore the petty horsesh*t that comes with twitter attacks and Facebook conspiracies. They aren’t there to throw barbs 140 characters at a time. They’re taking part to get Republicans elected to office. And rock-throwing simply for the sake of rock-throwing does not appeal to them.
I think it’s safe to assume that no matter who is in charge, rock-throwers will always be there.
For the rest of the people in the GOP who are there to get the job done, the ‘real Republicans’ get the envelopes licked, go door to door, and to get their people elected. Despite all the drama from people throwing rocks and jockeying.