Attendees at CPAC Friday were treated to 13 minutes of vacuous remarks and awkward one-liners by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, the highlight of which was his announcement that the RNC was now in control of how the presidential debates will be handled in the media during the 2016 presidential cycle. Matt Nye, National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus, wrote this open letter to Chairman Priebus in response:
Dear Chairman Priebus,
First of all, I commend you on appearing at CPAC to speak to the conservative activists in attendance there. It took guts to appear in front of the same conservative activists who have been repeatedly insulted and betrayed by the Republican Party under your leadership the last few years.
I also appreciate the fact the RNC has finally decided to take control of the debates after decades of letting the liberal media drive the bus, although I expect the rules adopted probably don’t bode well for candidates who don’t have the blessing of the consultant/donor class. Regardless, the change in policy is progress in the right direction, and I applaud you for it.
One of the criticisms most often leveled against Republicans is that we have become the party of “no”. At an event with 11,000 grassroots activists in attendance from all over the country, you had the opportunity to set the tone for the 2016 cycle by stating, for once, not what Republicans are against, but what we are for.
Sadly, instead of talking about how the principles that made this country great can solve all our problems – how cutting spending, lowering taxes, reducing regulations and eliminating wasteful government agencies would result in great economic prosperity for both the country as a whole and individual households nationwide – you spent almost all of your time poking fun at Hillary’s decadent lifestyle and painting her as another Barack Obama.
Chairman Priebus, I don’t disagree that Hillary is out of touch with the average American, and would make a terrible Commander In Chief. However, the same case was easily made against Obama in 2012, yet the Republicans failed to capture the White House that year.
I’ve got some bad news for you Mr. Chairman – the “we’re not the Democrats” strategy that seemed to work so well for the Republicans in 2014 isn’t going to work again in 2016, and the reason is actually quite ironic. The reason is the leadership of the Republican Party is almost as out of touch with the average Republican voter as Hillary is with the average American.
The American people gave Republicans the House in 2010, and the Senate in 2014. The clear message was “stop the Obama agenda!” The Republicans who won campaigned on things like repealing Obamacare, reigning in out of control spending, fighting the Executive Branch’s over-reaches in regards to things like amnesty for illegals, and getting justice for scandals like Fast and Furious, Benghazi and the IRS targeting conservatives. And it worked. They got elected.
Unfortunately, even with control of both houses, the Republicans have failed to do any of those things, and still behave as though they are in the minority. They have failed to take a principled stand on a single issue when there was a chance it would be more than symbolic.
At one point in your CPAC address you made the statement “we know what we stand for.” What you should have said is: “we know what to campaign on.” Because so far the Republicans have done nothing but pay lip service to the issues and voters that put them in office in 2010 and 2014. And therein lies the problem for the Republican Party in 2016 and beyond.
Activists will walk over hot coals for candidates if they believe them to be people of principle who offer a genuine alternative to the opposition and will follow through on their promises. Likewise, voters will reward candidates who keep their promises and follow through by electing them to office again and again. The key words in the prior sentences are “follow through” and “keep their promises”; unfortunately those are precisely the two things the Republicans haven’t done.
Mr. Chairman, if the Republicans fail to follow through on their promises now that they control both houses, they will fail to take the White House in 2016. Why am I so sure of this? Because we’ve already seen a slightly different version of that movie in the 2012 elections.
While activists and voters will turn out en masse for a candidate who both espouses the same principles they believe in and acts on them, they won’t get out of bed for a candidate who shares the same basic philosophy of the opposition and differs only in regards to how to implement the plan. As proof of this phenomenon I offer the 2012 defeat of Mitt Romney by President Obama.
The primary reason the Republicans failed to capture the White House in 2012 was because the signature issue was socialized medicine (Obamacare), and the Republican establishment put up the only Republican candidate who had socialized medicine in his home state. Rather than choose between full blown government controlled socialized medicine under Obama, and socialized medicine “lite” under a crony capitalism model via a Romney Republican administration, millions of disenchanted Republican voters simply decided to sit it out and stay home.
This, Mr. Chairman, was in spite of the fact many of the same charges you made against Hillary in your speech were as applicable to Obama in 2012 – and more so. This type of apathy exhibited by disillusioned Republican voters is exactly what the Republicans can look forward to in 2016 if the latter doesn’t follow through on the promises they made to the voters in 2014. The House controls spending, and the Republicans now control both houses, so the only possible explanation for the fact the outrageous spending continues can be is: the Republicans want it that way. Unfortunately for the Republicans, the American people don’t want it that way.
Given that we have the exact same Republican leadership in place at the National level now that we had after the 2010 elections, I don’t expect we will see any change, and given what we’ve seen in regards to the Republicans folding on the Cromnibus spending bill a couple months ago and the current sell-out on Obama’s executive action on amnesty, I think it’s safe to say leadership has learned nothing from Romney’s loss in 2012, and is tone deaf to the message just sent in 2014.
In closing, you mentioned you were in charge of “the boring stuff” like databases and the ground game. If that is all you are in charge of, this letter may be misguided, but if you have any sway or voice with those who control the direction of the party – and as Chairman I would expect you to have some – I urge you to listen to the voters that gave you the seats you now have, and follow through on the commitments that were made to win them. Failure to do so makes the party as a whole look like a fraud, and that could prove fatal to both the party and our Republic.
Republican Liberty Caucus