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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Establishment takes a whipping at the whims of the grassroots in 2018

It didn’t receive a tremendous amount of notice or comment from the news media last week, but Democrat voters in Nebraska and Pennsylvania might have just made it harder for the minority party to take over the House after this year’s midterm elections.

The media loves to chortle whenever the Republican grassroots nominates (through a primary) what they Flag(liberal establishment journalists) deem an electorally-challenged candidate, but when Democrats do the same it just doesn’t engender the same degree of anticipatory hilarity.

Steven Shepard and Elena Schneider of Politico reported last week, “If last week’s primaries focused on GOP efforts to maintain or expand their majority in the Senate, the second big primary night of 2018 was all about Democrats and their chances to win back the House this November. And in both Nebraska and Pennsylvania, Democratic voters picked nominees for battleground seats that the national party didn’t expect — and may not have wanted.

“In Nebraska, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wanted former Rep. Brad Ashford as its nominee for an Omaha-based seat. But Tuesday night ended with liberal Kara Eastman, a social worker, proclaimed the winner by more than 1,000 votes.

“The results weren’t as clear-cut in Pennsylvania, but the victors in a handful of competitive or Democratic-leaning seats speak to the intraparty fights Democrats are having as the party attempts to work its way out of the electoral wilderness.”

Alas, the ideological schism (establishment limousine liberals versus the new breed of rabid #resistance socialists) that bared its ugly head two years ago in the 2016 Democrat presidential primaries is once again revealing that the party isn’t close to solving its main dilemma. Democrat voters can’t seem to decide between so-called “moderate” candidates who might appeal to a broader base of support (a.k.a. Trump backers) and redistributionist true believers in the Bernie Sanders mold who demand single payer healthcare and a higher federal minimum wage.

Needless to say, if you’re not a militant abortion-monger or open-borders amnesty-for-all illegal immigration proponent then don’t bother running as a Democrat any longer.

The Politico writers did point out that last Tuesday’s primaries weren’t great for conservative groups either, as establishment candidates managed to defeat conservative favorites in Idaho (Raul Labrador running for Idaho governor) and in Pennsylvania’s ruby red 13th district. The losses will hurt but the ongoing conservative “war” with the ruling class will go on regardless.

And it’s obvious the Democrats have problems of their own. There’s no such thing as perfection in a two-party system where various coalitions are strung together to constitute an electoral majority.

Another positive development for Republicans’ chances this year is the formation of specialized advocacy groups determined to elect GOP candidates in November. Rachel Bade of Politico reported on one such entity, “Republicans have amassed a sprawling shadow field organization to defend the House this fall, spending tens of millions of dollars in an unprecedented effort to protect dozens of battleground districts that will determine control of the chamber.

“The initiative by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), now includes 34 offices running mini-campaigns for vulnerable Republicans throughout the country. It has built its own in-house research and data teams and recruited 4,000 student volunteers, who have knocked on more than 10 million doors since February 2017.

“The operation far eclipses the group’s activity in any previous election, when CLF didn’t have a single volunteer or field office. At this time last election cycle, the group had raised $2 million. As of Tuesday, CLF — which markets itself to donors as a super PAC dedicated to saving the House majority and can collect contributions with no dollar limit — had hauled in more than $71 million.”

For their part Democrats don’t appear to be taking this GOP “shadow campaign” all that seriously, pointing to their already impressive lead in leftist grassroots outfits. It’s true – big donors like George Soros have dumped hundreds of millions into seed organizations that grow like weeds thanks to their ability to pay “volunteers” to do the hard work of campaigning. Whereas Democrats always have a tough time getting lazy liberal unmotivated snowflakes to give up hours on their smartphones to do real and mundane work – so they pay them -- Republicans and conservative groups have typically relied on enthusiasm to close the gap.

Sometimes it’s worked, sometimes it hasn’t. Now the largely establishment-backed CLF seeks to compete with the Democrats at the ground level instead of having PAC money almost exclusively devoted to TV spots. The effectiveness of such ads has come into question in recent elections as the national parties now focus more and more on data microtargeting and emphasizing local concerns of voters who’ve been polled and contacted multiple times about the issues they care most about.

Young people do the work in these CLF field offices too. “Students have become the focal point of the operation, staffing the offices Monday through Saturday in rotating shifts. CLF actually chose its field office locations by looking for the largest number of high schools within a 25-minute radius. Staff members recruit volunteers at career fairs or in civics classes, then give them a list of neighborhoods to hit over and over again,” Bade additionally reported.

Brilliant? Earth shattering? Maybe not. But it sure beats hitting up the same big donors over and over to hire establishment media firms that only use the dough for TV time when many voters don’t even watch the tube anymore. The money is much better spent bringing in a bunch of kids to try and get to know the at-risk voters in these districts a little better. We’ll see how it turns out on Election Day in November (the leader of the CLF group says their efforts will result in a 3-point boost in each race).

There’s another benefit here -- this type of operation could get conservative youth a little more invested in the party as well, something the GOP could surely use. Jonah Goldberg wrote at National Review, “Young people understand that some of the things old people see as ‘political correctness’ aren’t necessarily the product of a Marxist virus that somehow escaped a laboratory at Berkeley. Some of it reflects an attempt to craft decent manners in the increasingly diverse and egalitarian society that young people actually live in.

“It may be time to play some Buffalo Springfield, because there is something happening here. As pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson notes, also in the Standard, the GOP has a grave problem with younger voters in part because it is almost wholly dependent on white voters, and white Americans represent an ever-shrinking slice of the youth vote, which will only become more important as the baby boomers throw off this mortal coil.

“If the GOP has any hope of winning over non-conservative younger voters, it will be because young conservatives continue to break with their traditional role as dutiful soldiers for their movement’s elders.”

As usual Goldberg’s brought up some interesting points in his piece. He begins by suggesting young conservatives have always followed the lead of their elders in furthering the movement, whereas young leftists haven’t given much credence to anyone but themselves and therefore forged a path on their own. Then Goldberg moves to talk about Ben Shapiro’s Weekly Standard article where polling found a huge age-related gap in support for President Trump. You could sum it up as: old folks think Trump is awesome and young turks can’t stand the guy.

Essentially Goldberg argues that if the conservative movement and the GOP are to survive and thrive, they’re going to need leaders who are more sensitive to today’s youth culture.

No one disputes that youth involvement is vital to sustaining any effort (political or otherwise), but conservatives are different than the left. The left’s passion is completely emotion-based – if you don’t believe it, look at the rise of Bernie Sanders. 2016’s “Bernie bros” came into being because they naively believed a socialist revolution on American soil would bring about all of their economic and social aims – namely, punishing corporations, income redistribution, free healthcare for all, free college education, virtually open borders and who knows, maybe even legalized drugs subsidized by rich people and Uncle Sam.

California is their ultimate role model society…how’s that working out?

Conservatives are driven by a different philosophy even if the end results wouldn’t be so much different. Conservatives believe government is a necessary evil rather than a partner that helps people achieve and accumulate wealth (which includes necessities like healthcare, etc.). A rising tide lifts all boats – if the economy is strong and more people have jobs they won’t need government benefits. All in all, it breeds a better society to have citizens paying for themselves.

And for those who still can’t manage, a social safety net is in place (in an ideal world religious and private charities would support the poor – they do a better job of it and it’s much less expensive). But the safety net isn’t meant to be huge – and likewise, government assistance isn’t intended to be permanent.

Life’s experience is the best teacher of these concepts, so this fact alone would tend to encourage older, more seasoned people to do the leading and the young left to learn as they go – almost like an “apprenticeship” in the founding principles. Everyone’s idealistic when they’re young – but when you eventually discover that someone (invariably the middle class) must pay for all of Bernie’s crackpot socialist ideas, they become a lot less attractive.

So Goldberg is indeed wrong – but that doesn’t mean conservatives should ignore the younger generation entirely. It just suggests the GOP and conservative leaders must do a better job of engaging today’s youth and bringing people onboard who can work to spread the message. Yes, conservatism is still leadership driven.

Another group Republicans and conservatives can’t afford to overlook is the working class. Michael Balzano wrote at the Washington Examiner, “Industrial workers understand that the progressive leadership of the Democratic Party is not the party of John Kennedy, Scoop Jackson, Warren Magnuson, Hubert Humphrey or Sam Nunn, all of whom understood the relationship between a strong industrial base and America’s national security. Local unions know that, if progressive Democrats win, industrial workers will likely lose their jobs. But they also fear that if anti-union Republicans win, they could lose their union.

“We have a president committed to rebuilding America's industrial base, thus providing opportunities for American workers. Having grown up a in a Democratic union household and seen who benefited from mid-twentieth century industrial opportunities, I am concerned that the president's industrial agenda will be lost if progressive Democrats are elected. Despite their campaign promises, they are no longer friendly to industrial workers.

“And this could be the outcome if pro-industrial Republicans scare workers away with their anti-union rhetoric that threatens the loss of worker protections.”

Balzano was a former aide to Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan on labor issues, so he’s seen the changes in the workforce over the decades. Balzano understands that if radical Bernie Sanders-type Democrats (the same ones who won primaries in Nebraska and Pennsylvania last week) return to power in the House it will likely mean curtains to Trump’s MAGA efforts to shore up American businesses and create jobs.

Democrats must experience repercussions for the leftward lurch of their party. This year’s midterms could be the vehicle to show them.

Both parties appear to be searching for an identity (between the establishment forces of the swamp who resist change and the newer movements) and to make political leaders accountable for their promises. The internal fights will continue long after this year’s midterms – and that’s a good thing.

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