With the Tea Partiers

It’s Not Over by a Long Shot

Conservatives must wage a perpetual campaign.

By From the November 2012 issue

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FOR YEARS I'VE BEEN TALKING about the “Long War” and the need to prosecute a perpetual campaign against the progressive left. Many people scoff at the notion of perpetual campaigning and say it detracts from the business of governing. Those people are usually liberals, who don’t like it when conservatives look and sound as if they may actually put up a fight, or conservatives who shudder at the thought of real work when they think a white paper will do. But the perpetual war is necessary.

We just concluded yet another multi-billion- dollar presidential campaign—and it doesn’t much matter who won. Presidents don’t govern in a vacuum. They need partners, allies, and other elected officials willing—for whatever reason—to support their agendas. The problem we face in our country is the same today as it was on November 6: Too many “conservative” members of Congress are willing to support policies that lead to more spending and bigger government.

Hundreds of members over the last three decades have stood idly by while government outlays have doubled, while debt and deficits have ballooned, and while the challenges we face as a nation have been kicked down the road for other generations to handle. Many have been actively complicit in mortgaging our future. Yet in 2012, only three GOP members of Congress lost primary elections against fiscally conservative, liberty-minded challengers.

It’s easy to rail against liberal incumbents. We do it well, and often. But there remains a stigma among Republicans and conservatives that if you have the temerity to hold your own representatives accountable to the principles of limited government, you are an apostate. If America is to stay free and prosperous, this attitude must change.

Sure, we can say that we stand for limited government, less regulation, lower taxation, and more freedom from an expanding, intrusive government. But talk and white papers are cheap and easy. To solve our nation’s problems we need real reform. That takes the courage of conviction. It takes constant reinforcement.

We’ve spent the last year and a half focused on the presidential election because it’s a simple construction—two people from opposing parties in a contest for the most electoral votes. It’s flashy. It’s exciting. It’s hypnotic. And barring serious political courage, it’s about nothing more than choosing which party will stand at the helm of the American ship of state when it smashes into a massive iceberg of debt.

But we’ve been overlooking the hundreds of congressional, state, and local races whose outcomes have a far greater impact on the future of our country than the battle at the top. If real national, generational reform is to take place, it won’t happen at the top. It will start from the bottom, a groundswell that will bring about fundamental change.

The campaign isn’t over: For conservatives, it’s only beginning. Our fight is not just to maintain a majority position. Pro-life statists and RINOs, even self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives, must be exposed as frauds if they don’t put forth a real plan to reduce the tax burden and close the budget deficit—not in 10 years, but in four.

Our perpetual campaign must expose the bad behavior of the elected officials who claim to represent the conservative majority but sponsor the same failed policies of the left. Maybe those leaders aren’t radicals. Maybe they’re not true believers in the welfare state—they are statists with a smile. But so long as they nibble at the edges of our overgrown budget, they are part of the problem.

Political pundits love to ruminate about the future role of the Tea Party and the conservative grassroots. This is it. Ending the permanent protected class of unaccountable leadership in America isn’t just about beating the left. It’s also about reforming the right to make it effective.

Our leaders are creating a fiscal mess of historic proportions, and bold leadership is needed to right the ship. Liberals won’t do it. For them the campaign is never over and the beat goes on. They have the patience and endurance to wage a war of attrition. It has worked for them for decades. So no matter how weary conservatives are, we cannot rest.

We must develop a robust program to find credible, well-financed replacements for those whose records deserve to be challenged in 2014. Candidate recruitment starts now and is the responsibility of the grassroots even more than the establishment.

American politics must remain a free-fire zone for true fiscal conservatives. We must hit the progressives every day while striking fear in the hearts of “press release conservatives.” If we are truly to keep America free, and to get this nation back on a path of prosperity, we must dig in and prepare for the long war.

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About the Author

Ned Ryun is the founder and president of American Majority, a political training institution. His "With the Tea Partiers" column run each month in the The American Spectator's print edition. You can follow him on Twitter @nedryun.