(By John Andrews, Centennial Fellow) Split the Republican party if the primary or convention process doesn't produce the nominee you want? Destroy the village in order to save it, as some mad zealot said in Vietnam? No way. Colorado Republicans have seen this sore-loser purity pageant before, and it doesn't end well. The year was 2010, and an ill-qualified dark horse ran to the GOP nomination for Governor as Democrats and the media egged on a fed-up Republican base. Then came a massive walkout to a doomed third-party ticket, followed by victories for the left and lasting wounds on the right.
How foolish if opponents or proponents of Donald Trump trigger a replay of that folly in this year's presidential race. I'm having no part of it, thank you. This Republican stays put. My reasoning is spelled out in this remarkably evergreen chapter from my new book Backbone Colorado USA, a piece originally published by the Denver Post in August 2010. The collection is full of nuggets just like this one, applied conservative wisdom for today's tough challenges. Order the book here.
“I don’t know what the future holds,” my biblically-minded friends will say, “but I know Who holds the future.” Thus grounded, they’re able to be calm, courageous, confident, and cheerful in the face of adversity.
Amidst a Republican base disheartened over the struggle to pick our nominee for governor, I am of good courage for a similar reason – political rather than theological. Even though I don’t know who will stand for my party this fall, I know what my party stands for. So division or defeatism is not an option for me over the next 11 weeks.
Former state Sen. Cliff Dodge resigning as president of the Arapahoe Republican Men’s Club in order to join Tom Tancredo’s third-party bid, the morning after primary voters nominated Dan Maes, wasn’t quite Robert E. Lee choosing gray over blue – but it dramatized the deep fracture in GOP ranks. The kind of year we’re having, Maes and Tancredo may both be out of the race by the time you read this; no matter.
Each is a good man, neither is the next Lincoln, and the point here is bigger than either of them. Simply put, our state needs a unified Republican party to anchor the center-right. Sustaining the vitality and viability of this “grand old” institution of self-government in Colorado, 150 years and counting, is more important than winning any one election for any one office. Far more.
Shattering the state’s only vehicle for conservative governance in a petty power struggle, a summer fit of petulance, pique, and panic – and handing a plurality win to liberal John Hickenlooper as liberal Bill Ritter’s successor, at a time when liberalism is ever more discredited – would be an act of self-destructive folly with few parallels in modern history. My fellow Republicans shouldn’t do it, though many are tempted.
Not me, because I know what my party stands for. To say this is to assert two things. One is about principles. Republicans stand for individual liberty, personal responsibility, economic freedom, limited government, strong defense, traditional morality, recognition of human imperfectibility, and the understanding of rights as God-given, not manmade.
The other assertion is about process. My party stands (as in fact do our opponents, the Democrats) for the proven superiority of two well-established and diversified competitors vying for the consent of the governed, in preference to three or 23 splintered rivals, evanescent and narrow in the European style. Breakaway factions have occasional value if driven by issues; but the current Chicken Little outcry of “not electable,” opportunistically roosting on the Constitution ticket, hardly qualifies.
I voted for rookie-of-the-year Dan Maes in the primary. Barring the unforeseen, you can expect I’ll be for him again in November. He may not win; but nobody expected him to get this far. As noted here on August 1, Maes for Governor 2010 has echoes of Andrews for Governor 1990, another darkhorse nominee. Though I lost that year, the GOP began a decade and a half of dominance – which never could have occurred if someone like, say, Ted Strickland had gone third-party against me and toppled the temple.
Conservatives conserve. We’re the sensible ant to the liberals’ impulsive grasshopper. We don’t eat the seed corn. We don’t burn the house down for firewood. We don’t trash time-tested institutions for transitory whims, as too many Colorado Republicans now seem inclined to do. Think twice, compadres. Stop before it’s too late. Wake up.
Conservatives know, as Thomas Ferril’s poem in the Capitol rotunda has it, that “today is going to be long, long ago.” A single executive term is nothing – a robust and durable two-party system in this state, everything by comparison. Gov. Hickenlooper or no, my Republican devotion is immovable. My faith in Colorado self-government, unsinkable.
John Andrews led the Centennial Institute during its first seven years, 2009-2015. He is now a Centennial Fellow in American Thought, an affiliate of both the Center for Security Policy and the Claremont Institute, and author of the new book Backbone Colorado USA: Dispatches from the Divide. Order here.