Over the last eleven years since I've been covering politics on C&L, HuffPost, radio and television, one thing has stood out on the Republican side among all others. They have a mantra for their failures and it goes something like this (via Rick Perlstein):
In conservative intellectual discourse there is no such thing as a bad conservative. Conservatism never fails. It is only failed.
Digby noted this back in 2005:
There is no such thing as a bad conservative. "Conservative" is a magic word that applies to those who are in other conservatives' good graces. Until they aren't. At which point they are liberals.
Get used to the hearing about how the Republicans failed because they weren't true conservatives. Conservatism can never fail. It can only be failed by weak-minded souls who refuse to properly follow its tenets. It's a lot like communism that way.
When George Bush was elected, he was a considered a true Christian conservative warrior by the GOP base, but as soon as his presidency began to fail, he supposedly abandoned conservative principles and became some form of a statist.
In 2008, when John McCain won the nomination, there was plenty of caterwauling over his victory by conservatives because they felt betrayed by him for passing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws. The idea that he called himself a "maverick" did not make them feel all warm and cuddly towards the Arizona Senator.
In 2012, Mitt Romney was at first championed by Rush Limbaugh and the conservarazzi as the One True Conservative candidate:
"I think now, based on the way the campaign has shaken out, that there probably is a candidate on our side who does embody all three legs of the conservative stool, and that's Romney," Rush Limbaugh told his huge audience. "The three legs of the stool are national security/foreign policy, the social conservatives, and the fiscal conservatives."
After Rush highlighted the de facto endorsement in his newsletter under the headline "One Candidate Now Represents All Three Legs of Conservatism," the rest of syndicated talk radio--Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck--largely followed suit. Laura Ingraham introduced Romney at CPAC as a "true conservative" and "a conservative's conservative." (Alone among the top-rated national hosts, I openly dissented and proudly endorsed McCain.) Even Jim DeMint, the most conservative member of the U.S. Senate, fell in line behind the Mittster.
However, it didn't take them long before they all turned against him.
Instead of praising Romney as the perfectly balanced, three-legged-stool conservative dream candidate, El Rushbo said just last month: "Romney is not a conservative. He's not, folks. You can argue with me all day long on that, but he isn't." Erick Erickson of RedState.com goes even further, wailing, "Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee. And his general election campaign will be an utter disaster for conservatives as he takes the GOP down with him and burns up what it means to be a conservative in the process ... He is neither liberal nor conservative. He is simply unprincipled."
And why did they turn on him so quickly? Conservative Michael Medved put it this way back in November, 2011.
In other words, a moment of aspiration has given way to an era of anger, while hope and change morphed into rage and paranoia. Some measure of the sad state of the nation, and of the conservative movement, can be gathered from the desperate weeks that the preening demagogue Donald Trump actually received serious consideration as a presidential possibility.
In this atmosphere Romney looks suspect to many activists on the right not because he isn't conservative enough but because he isn't angry enough. His real problem isn't a question of ideology, it's a matter of attitude.
There you have it. If only Romney had started calling Obama a weak-kneed liar with small hands, he'd have been a rock star. Who knew?
Anger is the driving force behind modern conservatism. And anger pays off handsomely. Just look at the numbers.
Bill O'Reilly - $18 million per year
Rush Limbaugh - $79 million in 2015
Glenn Beck's Net Worth -- Over $100 million
Now you understand why Donald Trump's rise to the top of the ticket seemingly came out of nowhere to the media. The Beltway media has spent the last decade either apologizing for or ignoring the rise of extremism in the Republican party and their constituency.
It's not Trump's conservative bona fides that made him the Republican frontrunner; it's because he voiced his rage in the kind of simplistic AM talk radio jargon the GOP base has longed to hear a candidate express.
Trump boiled immigration and terrorism down to its simplest forms by telling his conservative followers that undocumented workers coming in from Mexico were rapists and murders and taking away your jobs while Muslim terrorists are chopping, chopping, chopping heads off and we don't even waterboard anymore. It's right in their wheelhouse.
Senator Ted Cruz also espouses that same anger, only in a different form than Trump does. He's framed his outrage around staunch, religious right wing conservatism. He's had his life portrayed by being hated by those he's been close to and he wears the hatred against him as a badge of honor. He even paints himself as an outsider because of that hatred, which is nonsense since he's been inside the political bubble for many years.
He's a talented debater and a master at telling half truths like no other candidate can. The entire AM hate talk radio circuit from Rush Limbaugh to Mark Levin love Ted Cruz and have more than once told Donald Trump not to smear him.
Whenever a Republican or conservative attacks a fellow Republican or conservative using the same language or the same approach that Democrats and liberals would, that's a huge red flag," he said.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, talk-show host Mark Levin told Trump to "cut the crap" or risk losing conservative voters.
"Either cut the crap -- your accusations this morning that Cruz is Canadian, a criminal, owned by big banks, etc. ... -- or you will lose lots and lots of conservatives," Levin said on Facebook. "Save the liberal New York City bully tactics for the New York City liberals.
"Put down your computer keyboard for a few hours, think before you tweet, and collect yourself. You're not politically invincible, regardless of the polls and media.
After many months, Rush Limbaugh finally proclaimed to the world that Ted Cruz is the heir apparent to Ronald Reagan.
"If conservatism is your bag, if conservatism is the dominating factor in how you vote, there is no other choice for you in this campaign than Ted Cruz, because you are exactly right: This is the closest in our lifetimes we have ever been to Ronald Reagan,"
Others quickly followed suit, as talk show host Mark Levin then endorsed Ted Cruz:
"I decided today was the day ultimately because of Nancy Reagan's death," he said on "LevinTV."
"If you're 45 years old or younger, you've never had the opportunity to vote for a conservative for president of the United States," Levin continued. "You don't know what it's like -- how invigorating it is, how exciting it is, how you become an activist even when you weren't planning to be," he added.
I shouldn't forget that Glenn Beck was the first of the radio hosts to endorse Ted:
"We need a new George Washington. Today's Washington will not be found in the garish light of gold but rather in the bold service of a man who stands tirelessly for what he deeply believes. That government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people. That is why I'm endorsing Sen. Ted Cruz as the next President of the United States of America," Beck said in a statement released as he spoke, noting that he had not previously endorsed a candidate in 40 years of broadcasting.
The NRO were the first group of the conservative establishment to rally others to their cause and finally declared Donald Trump a giant behemoth, who will destroy the Republican party.
They begrudgingly endorsed the Texas Senator for president shortly after forming the anti-Trump movement.
Conservatives have had difficulty choosing a champion in the presidential race in part because it has featured so many candidates with very good claims on our support. As their number has dwindled, the right choice has become clear: Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
The establishment GOP is pulling every trick they have to block Trump from getting the required 1237 delegates to win the nomination before the summer convention and if they succeed, anything can happen.
If Trump does hold on and become the de facto 2016 presidential nominee, conservatives will eventually rally around a Trump nomination to win the Oval office, but will always have their get-out-of-jail card right in their back pockets. They've already expressed in no certain terms that Donald Trump is not a conservative, so when he is resoundingly beaten in the general election they can wash their hands of him and say once again, conservatism doesn't fail, only the candidate does.
However, if Cruz gets the nomination then that card in their back pocket is null and void. When he loses they will have nothing to complain about except maybe to blame the mainstream media for the loss.
Since the left wing blogosphere exploded onto the scene, self identified Liberals in the Democratic party finally moved to the head of the pack in 2015.
And on social issues, for the first time since Gallup began polling on social issues in 1999, the left has caught up with the right.
Thirty-one percent of Americans describe their views on social issues as generally liberal, matching the percentage who identify as social conservatives for the first time in Gallup records dating back to 1999.
You may remember Bill O'Reilly's epic meltdown about the results from this poll.
"More Americans are simply ignorant of the consequences involving social behavior," he explained. "The rise of the Net has taken people away from the real world and put them in a fantasy world."
"I believe only about 50 percent of the American people take the time to understand important issues," O'Reilly continued. "Half the country does not. They are simpletons, unwilling and unable to discipline themselves into formulating a philosophy of life."
Now here comes Ted Cruz, full of conservative rage, hidden behind a facade of family values, whose beliefs would send us back into the 1940s.
I want Ted Cruz to be the nominee so the conservative movement cannot deny the reality of America.
It's not the candidates that are failing conservatism, it's that conservatism is failing America.