Tim Dunkin: Illinois and Texas Demonstrate the Need for TEApublicanism

Previously, I have argued that conservatives both within and without the Republican Party need to band together, recapture the GOP, and use it as a vehicle for advancing our agenda. I call this strategy “TEApublicanism,” since it relies primarily upon the fusion of the robust conservative activism embodied in the Tea Party movement with the organizational structure and manpower of the Republican Party and its conservative grassroots – in essence, it is part Tea Party and part Republican Party. In this strategy, conservatives would use two things – primaries and the GOP apparatus at the local/county level – to drive out RINOs and replace them with conservative Party officers and candidates for elected office.

Recent events in two states where there have been contested Republican primaries for statewide offices help to demonstrate the need for this sort of strategy. These states are Illinois and Texas. The example from Illinois shows why the GOP desperately needs the Tea Partiers to act as a corrective force, restraining the GOP “leadership” from its tendency towards compromise and centrism. Texas, on the other hand, shows us why the Tea Partiers need mainstream conservatives from the GOP to act as a corrective, holding back the fringe elements who are seeking to hijack the Tea Parties and use them as vehicles for political agendas that often are not authentically conservative.

First, Illinois. If ever there was a state whose Republican Party organization was begging to be TEApublicanized, it is Illinois. The GOP in Illinois is in a near-moribund state, and this is largely due to the maladministration perpetrated by a clique of entrenched moderate, establishment types. The establishment choice of candidate for the Illinois Senate seat that is up for election this November was former Representative Mark Kirk. Kirk is an alpha male in the RINO herd – he voted for cap’n’trade, partial birth abortion, gun control, and supports gay marriage. In a perfect world, someone like Mark Kirk wouldn’t get within a million miles of a Republican nomination for dogcatcher, much less a US Senate seat. Unfortunately, the world created by the Illinois GOP leadership is anything but perfect. Years of apathy and cronyism have dispirited many Illinois Republicans from getting involved, which enabled the establishment types to get their handpicked RINO candidate into the spotlight early, presenting the picture that he had no significant opposition, that he was “inevitable.”

As a matter of fact, Kirk did have a credible conservative opponent who had the backing of the Tea Parties and conservatives – Patrick Hughes. Unfortunately, Hughes got into the race relatively late, and never did seem to make the push to get his name out until right at the end, the last two weeks before the February 2 primary. There seems to have been a distinct lack of organization in the Hughes camp, and while he did make tremendous gains those last two weeks (he doubled his support from 9% to 18%, much of this simply due to the fact that people started to realize that Kirk actually had an opponent), it was too little, too late. Conservatives, Tea Partiers, grassroots activists – they just didn’t get their linebacker into position to be able to take down Kirk until he had pretty much already ran the ball into the end zone

The Illinois Republicans need a good draught of TEApublicanism. What would have happened in this primary race if conservatives within the GOP had been able to organize and work with Tea Partiers and other independent grassroots conservative organizations to push for Hughes? We might be talking about nominee Hughes now. Even if Kirk had ended up winning, the race would definitely have been more competitive. Certainly, however, the Illinois GOP establishment would have had a run for its money.

But even more than just organizing to win a single primary election, Illinois needs grassroots conservatives to get involved and start taking the Illinois GOP over, one county at a time (especially with the massive and weighty Cook County Party). Flood the county conventions with numbers, and get conservatives put into place, regardless of the wishes of the current crop of establishment “leaders.” Taking the Illinois GOP back for conservatism would help to prevent mistakes like a Mark Kirk candidacy from taking place again.

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