News Center

May 19th, 2010

Kentucky Primary Should Wake Up the GOP

By James Johnson

Iowa’s Republican primary elections are less than three weeks away. But the first big GOP contest has already taken place — in Kentucky. Yesterday, the winner of the United States Senate primary election was the Tea Party-recruited candidate, Dr. Rand Paul, an eye surgeon and the son of Texas Congressman and former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

But there was more than one loser on Tuesday. The official loser was the candidate, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson. The unofficial losers were U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican National Committee, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Basically, the GOP establishment.

The old Kentucky bull and his cohorts got behind Secretary Grayson several months ago. And while McConnell went across the state campaigning for him, the RNC and NRSC did everything they could to ensure a Grayson victory. But it did not work. It backfired. Grayson would have done better had McConnell and Company stayed away.

In his victory speech on Tuesday night, Rand Paul said, “I have a message from the Tea Party. We have come to take our government back.” Just rhetoric? Hardly. Look at the numbers. They are not just embarrassing for the GOP establishment. They are humiliating. Paul won 59 percent of the vote. Grayson won only 36 percent. It is impossible to interpret the results as anything other than a complete rejection of the “business as usual” attitude of Republican power brokers.

The Kentucky primary was not just an election. It was a sign of the times. A new wind is blowing. With hurricane force. And it is bringing with it a tremendous zeal — perhaps even zeal without wisdom.

Rand Paul is not a conservative. He is a libertarian. On foreign policy, he is reckless. His naivete about the Iranian nuclear threat is shocking. And his “let-the-states-decide” attitude on moral issues like abortion is akin to Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas’s position on slavery in the nineteenth century.

Libertarianism is not the answer to America’s political problems. Conservatism is. Its five points (moral virtue, individual liberty, free enterprise, limited government, and national security) are the answer for America’s present crisis. But passionate libertarianism will beat passionless moderatism any day of the week, especially in this current political climate, when anger toward All Things Washington defines the day.

The real message coming out of Kentucky is that the GOP does not need a face lift. It needs a blood transfusion! It is not a matter of cutting, lifting, and tucking old, sagging, colorless flesh. It is a matter of getting new vitality, new energy, new vision.

If Republicans are serious about recapturing Congress and winning back the White House, then they should do two things right away. First, the RNC should replace Michael Steele as Chairman. And second, Senate Republicans should replace Mitch McConnell with South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, and then elect one of the Oklahoma Boys — Tom Coburn or James Inhoffe — as the new Republican Whip.

These two moves would send a strong signal that the GOP gets it. If the party does not make some bold moves before the November midterm elections, it will risk falling short in its bid to recapture Congress this year.

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About the Author

James M. Johnson
James M. Johnson is the president of the Iowa Republican Assembly, which works to get constitutionally minded conservatives elected to leadership positions in the Republican Party, and to elective office on the local, state, and federal level. He has worked on over 50 political campaigns and holds an M.A. in public policy with a concentration in political communication.

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