Since 2008, conservatives like myself have been waiting, indeed, almost hoping, to finally hit rock bottom.
At first, we thought our nadir was reached in 2008 when we watched in horror as Sarah Palin made a mockery of the entire conservative movement. We figured that after getting beaten like a drum by one Sen. Barack Obama, conservatives would wise up and pick more appealing candidates. Even move to the center, if you will.
We knew we were wrong, though, when, in 2010, we witnessed Christine O'Donnell tell us she was not a witch, Sharron Angle lose an unlosable race to Harry Reid, and of course, that wrestling guy's wife (Linda McMahon) throw away any shot of the GOP taking back a winnable Senate seat in Connecticut.
But we were quickly proven wrong again. Mitt Romney ran a miserable campaign and was stomped by a ridiculously unpopular president in 2012, one of our Senate candidates derailed the entire national debate by making a comment about some concept he termed legitimate rape, and again that McMahon woman blew our chances of taking back a Connecticut Senate seat.
But things were looking up this year. The return of the establishment was upon us... until Thad Cochran couldn't get the job done in his primary (and is now poised to lose his runoff), a talk radio host with a sketchy background and a fake name (Dan Patrick) emphatically seized the reins to become the second-most-powerful man in the state of Texas (lieutenant governor), and now, Eric Cantor (ERIC CANTOR!) has lost a primary to some obscure economics professor who ran to his right.
In other words, moderates are losing the battle for the soul of the Republican Party and we (the "establishment" Republicans) are losing it badly. If we do not reverse this trend, the results, for the party and for the country, are going to be catastrophic. The Tea Party will continue to drive the most dynamic political narrative in Washington, and GOP candidates will continue to run scared, saying and doing crazy things to avoid getting primaried.
As a result, Democrats will vilify the party as run by fringe wing nuts, all but guaranteeing a Hillary Clinton win in 2016, which in turn will energize the most enthusiastic conservatives while demoralizing the establishment voters. And on and on it will go — and we will never, ever find the bottom.
Right now, we so-called moderates are getting outhustled by the Tea Party. The reason they win and we lose is simple: Their people care more than ours. We can deride Tea Party voters as crazy, as zealots. We can make fun of them all we want, but in the end, they care about the issues more than we do. Elections discriminate ruthlessly against laziness and reward hustle — and last night, yet again, the Tea Party voters showed that they take democracy seriously in a way that our people simply do not. That makes them potent. That makes them powerful. And in some ways, it makes them worthy, since if we are too lazy to mobilize like-minded voters, maybe we don't deserve to win.
So no, the Tea Party is not going away, and if big-tent conservatives ever want to take the party back, we'll have to take it from them. That means donating money to candidates you believe in. That means getting involved in your local party and going door to door talking about issues during election time. Mostly, though, it means putting on our ponchos, getting off our butts, and voting in primaries. Until we start doing that, we are just going to keep on losing.