Yesterday’s stunning primary upset should be a wakeup call for… the conservative Right. So far, pundits seem to be explaining away House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) loss in his primary as a nod to voters looking to come down harder on the amnesty issue. They say Cantor wasn’t tough enough, his Young Gun buddies didn’t come in with legislation fast enough to control America’s borders.
Ironically, the Cantor defeat is being used as a show of unity among Republicans, pointing to a strong coalition of conservative voices. Yes, the Tea Party is far from defunct, as its detractors tried to claim after the 2012 election cycle. Its members and supporters are circling their wagons. Speaker Boehner is probably next on the chopping block, and has been for some time. His family-values policies have not been sharp enough for the conservatives in his party, to say the least.
This is understandable. But the loss of an Eric Cantor is more than that – and less. It represents a party that cannot find a way to come together under one ideological roof. His defeat reflects the desire to leave no room for compromise on issues across the board. It is a dangerous sign of the inability of the GOP elected body to understand the intricacies of leadership. To lead, one must indeed be true to ideology – and then find a way to move mountains. Intransigence and extremism are derogatory words that the Left tends to throw at the Republican party when they are uncomfortable with the fact that a commitment to ideals can indeed shape policy.
Put simply: Compromise is not a bad word. It is a way to implement ideology in a political environment that is democracy. Unity is good, and building coalitions is necessary. Still, the GOP would be wise to take note of the need to expand these coalitions to include those who may not be purists on all the issues – yet have the personal conviction, combined with the gall and talent to push through and actually implement policy change – and retain them as leaders of a party that can bring America back from the brink.
We need a strong GOP – and an effective one. Let’s hope they can figure out how to rally around that call for unity before it’s too late.
Ruth Jaffe Lieberman is also political consultant to Republicans Abroad Israel