Robert Robb’s most recent article in the AZ Republic sums up a lot of my frustration over the past several months (The smart money’s on Gary Johnson, so why are donors sitting out?). My friends in GOP donor and pundit circles throw around the word “can’t” about the Johnson campaign constantly but then give no reasoning for it. The fact is, they are embarrassed to admit that it’s only their choice to withhold support and promotion of Johnson and Weld, that makes it possible that they won’t win.
Robb’s right… Those out there who talk a big limited government game are missing a huge opportunity. The willfulness of this failure should undermine trust that those talkers ever really believed what they were saying in the first place.
I came to believe a long time ago that the GOP (at the Federal level) carried the flag of principles in which they didn’t really believe… The era of Bush-Style Big Government put the final nail in for me… But for those who still clung to hope that the national GOP still represents a constitutional / limited government vision, what does the almost total silence of support from serious pundits and credible endorsers, and the tepid investment by donors, for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld (two, 2-term, Republican governors, from blue states, with impeccable records of fiscal responsibility, and on the ballot in all 50 states) say to you?
Personally, I think it’s disgraceful. But worse than that, it’s the same short term, tactically focused thinking that has gotten them into this sinkhole to begin with.
The GOP reminds me of a church I was at once which more or less abandoned its family and youth ministries. They still nominally had something, but it was weak and unenergetic, lacked focus and investment. The church had chosen to plow most of their time and resources into senior programs, a group that was most active in the church and provided most of the financial support.
The problem with this thinking was that it undermined the church in the medium to long term. It left families feeling disconnected. It left high school kids unministered to. There was no program for college and career age individuals. It’s one major reason families (including mine) left the church in droves for years.
You may not notice that flight at the beginning, the offering plate looks basically as full as before, but give it 5-10 years and you will start seeing it, 10-20 and it will start becoming very apparent, 20-30 and it may well be a crisis from which you can’t recover. Because when you decide to neglect the youth and families, you lose your next generation of foundational supporters and the generation after that.
Democrats never lose sight of the importance of young voters, and good for them… But when I talk to my GOP insiders most (not all) give me the tired and destructive line that, “Young voters don’t matter… They don’t show up on Election Day.”
I’ve also been hearing a lot of that other old saying, “If you’re not a Democrat when you’re young you have no heart, and if you’re not a Republican when you get older you have no brain.” Democrats love to hear Republicans say that, because it’s a lovely little lie the GOP tells themselves. Reality, unfortunately for Republicans, doesn’t line up with that little phrase. The foundational political identity we form in our youth generally DOES stay with us most of our lives.
The opportunity that is being missed this year is not about just this election, it’s about the future of a credible limited government coalition in this country. The failure so far of GOP media and contributors to help Johnson and Weld build a platform from which to speak, to make it into the debates, to get out a principled message of smaller, fiscally responsible, Constitutionally restrained government, a message that powerfully resonates with Gen-X and Millennial voters, is astonishing to me. I mean for God’s sake, Johnson and Weld are the top polling ticket with active duty military service members!
I do hope Robb’s article is a wake up call to many politically active people in Arizona. You may “win” this election (Lord knows The Donald is up against the only opponent he could beat). But when “winning” means a Trump presidency and the ascendancy of the core coalition that brought him up, I wonder whether “winning” matters anymore.