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2018 House Election Results: Clearing Out The Dead Wood

The failure of Speaker Paul Ryan and his House Republican leadership team to maintain their majority saw the defeat of at least 27 House Republicans, including some good limited government constitutional conservatives, such as our friend Rep. Dave Brat in Virginia’s Seventh District and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in California’s Forty-Eighth District.

But it also cleared out a lot of dead wood – establishment Republicans who decided they no longer wanted to serve once their six-year tenure as a committee chairman had passed and a number of others whose anti-Democrats win Houseconservative and anti-Trump views were out of synch with President Trump’s brand of conservative populism.

Rather than bemoan the clearing of this dead wood conservatives should look back at history and recognize the opportunity the 2018 midterms offer.

As CHQ Chairman Richard A. Viguerie observed in his book TAKEOVER, those of us who have been around the conservative movement for many years don’t root for Republicans to lose, but we understand history well enough not to fear defeat:

We recognized that the defeat of Republican senator Barry Goldwater in 1964, the resignation, in light of the Watergate scandal, of President Richard Nixon in 1974, and the defeat of President Gerald Ford in 1976, and in 1992 the defeat of George H. W. Bush, each swept away many of the older Republican leaders of the time.

[In 2006] As I saw things from the perspective of my then forty-plus years (now fifty-plus years) in conservative politics at the national level, when Republicans were defeated, it has invariably led to the growth of the conservative movement.

The resounding defeat suffered by Goldwater at the hands of President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 cleared a lot of dead wood out of the Republican Party, which made it easier for us to increase our influence on the GOP, utilizing new technology, more effective techniques, and fresh ideas.

Likewise, the Watergate scandal in 1974 eliminated more Republican officeholders who stood in the way of creating a more broad-based party. It dramatically weakened the Party establishment, making it much easier for Ronald Reagan to mount a nearly successful challenge, just two years later, to an incumbent Republican president. And the 1992 election of Bill Clinton led directly to the conservative “Contract with America” and the Republican takeover of Congress two years later.

Those defeats allowed younger leaders, like former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, Bob Walker, and other young conservatives, to rise to positions of leadership that normally would have taken them another twenty years.

Such is the case today with the loss of the House Republican majority in the 2018 midterms.

While more than a dozen #NeverTrump and squishy Republicans were defeated, every one of the House Freedom Caucus’s 11 target candidates won, bringing 11 new, energized limited government constitutional conservatives to the House.

Mr. Viguerie is fond of saying that today conservatives are like the Biblical Jews who had to wander through the desert for 40 years until that generation of failed and flawed leaders had passed away. Conservatives and Republicans will never get to the political promised land until we get new leadership in the House of Representatives.

The disastrous results of the Ryan – McCarthy leadership team’s campaign fundraising and strategy and their abysmal performance in advancing President Trump’s agenda discredited them to the point that, in a House Republican Conference that wishes to regain the majority, every one of them should be replaced by principled limited government constitutional conservatives, such as Ohio’s Rep. Jim Jordan, who has already declared for Speaker.

This means limited government constitutional conservatives must step up and put themselves forward to replace each member of the existing House Republican leadership team, from Speaker, to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, to Deputy House Majority Whip Patrick McHenry and the feckless Chairman of National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Steve Stivers.

As an abstract principle, it is always better for conservatives when Republicans hold the majority in the House than it is when Democrats hold the majority in the House.

However, in the real world of what went on in Congress during the Speakership of Paul Ryan, the difference between what might be expected from Democrats and what was produced by Republicans receded to the horizon as government grew, spending and the deficit increased, and the legislative goals of President Trump and the conservative coalition that elected him were ignored – and when the Republican establishment fails, as it most certainly did in the 2018 House midterms, conservatism advances.

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