“If you kick your core voters hard enough, Mr. Cameron, they might kick back.”
That was former Conservative Party chairman and Margaret Thatcher cabinet minister Norman Tebbit’s take on the very poor showing by the Tories in a Feb. 28 special election for the Eastleigh of Hampshire seat in the British House of Commons, behind the UK Independence Party and Liberal Democrat candidates.
Tories in the United Kingdom were shocked when their candidate placed a distant third.
Particularly, the showing is troubling for the Conservative Party led by Prime Minister David Cameron, who had just gotten through calling UK Independence Party members “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists.” Shrewd.
Voters responded by awarding the UK Independents some 27.8 percent of the vote, better than the Tories’ 25.4 percent and the Labour Party’s pathetic 9.8 percent. The Liberal Democrat candidate, Mike Thorton led the way with 32.1 percent.
But that was in a district the Liberal Democrats had won with 46.5 percent of the vote the last go around in 2010, a more than 14 point drop. Tories similarly nearly lost 14 points of support. Labour actually did slightly better than they had in 2010.
The UK Independents, running an anti-European Union message, were just 1771 votes short of winning the Eastleigh seat.
What is most remarkable is that they only had 3.2 percent of the vote in that district in 2010. That means they pulled equally from both of the two leading parties that share a coalition government at the moment under Cameron.
An elated Nigel Farage, UK Independence party leader, called it a “surge” and explained the difficulty in leading a third party against the establishment: “You have to be bold and you have to be brave to fight from the sidelines and come out swinging. The media, hugely loyal to their party of choice, will seek to destroy you. All the other parties will not hesitate to club together to attack. The underdog became a threat to them all.”
Those words of wisdom likely ring true here across the pond to tea party and conservatives who, having been consigned to the fringe of the Republican Party by the likes of Karl Rove, John Boehner, and other establishment types, are feeling more than a little disgruntled.
Particularly since those supporters were more than instrumental in assisting the GOP takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010.
But even more so because of the way Republicans have been governing. They promised to cut spending by $100 billion in 2011. Instead spending increased by $146 billion that year.
They helped Obama to raise taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year, and couples making more than $450,000, which includes many small businesses who they swore to protect in the midst of our current recession.
They promised to defund Obamacare. They failed. At the state level, things are even worse. In Ohio, Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, Virginia, and Michigan, Republican governors have all opened the door to or outright committed to expanding Medicaid by more than 3 million enrollees under Obamacare.
That’s 3 million more government dependents in some of the most contentious presidential election states in the country, particularly in Florida, Virginia, and Ohio, without which Republicans will never reclaim the White House. The only hope now for those states is that legislatures have the courage to correct their governors’ mistakes.
That may be a hard slog. Here in Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell secured pretty wide Republican support not only for the Medicaid expansion, but a $1 billion a year tax increase — the largest in the Commonwealth’s history — to fund his massive increase in the transportation budget.
In response, nationally syndicated radio talk show host Mark Levin, based locally in Leesburg, promised primary challenges to every single legislator who voted for the deal.
Just to throw some more fuel on the fire, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling here toys openly with the idea of running as an independent for governor for no other reason than to pull votes away from conservative Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s successful current Attorney General.
If Bolling runs, it could hand the seat to Democrat nominee Terry McAuliffe unless Cuccinelli can repeat the performance of Senator Marco Rubio who beat an independent run by Charlie Crist and the Democrat running for the Florida Senate seat in 2010.
In the meantime, Karl Rove has launched a Super PAC with the apparent singular purpose to raise money, not to defeat Democrats, but tea party candidates in Republican primaries.
This nonsense needs to come to an end right now, and Republican establishment better start paying attention to what is happening in Britain. To paraphrase Lord Tebbit, if you kick your core voters hard enough, Mr. Rove, they might kick back.
The UK Independents are poised to shove the Conservative Party to the side and assume the role of loyal opposition. If the establishment continues with its attacks on the base of the GOP, if they continue their surrender moves and policy surrenders, if they attack real conservatives with their liberals in drag, the GOP could find itself in the same position as the Tories.
All across Europe new political gatherings are forming and rejecting the status quo parties, the hacks and thieves that have fed off the work of the people for more than a generation. The U.S. is not immune from this. And if Rove and his henchmen continue their attacks, they will be the ones responsible for the death of the GOP and the rise of a truly conservative voice in American politics.
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