The Rove Wing v The Reagan Wing: A History Lesson

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The Rove Wing is alive and well in Utah as the “Caucus System” is once again under fire.

Let’s be honest.  Some in the Republican Party are more liberal than others and would like to influence the outcome of the election process to allow more liberal representation.  Especially in Utah.

Ronald ReaganThe Republican Party has had a long history of what my parents in Hollywood, California used to call the “Rockefeller Wing” v the Grassroots.  My parents were solid, well-known and respected conservatives in the Hollywood-Los Feliz community who helped many candidates with Republican fundraising events on their estate in the Hollywood Hills.  Among them was Ronald Reagan.  My parents helped him get on the agenda at the California Medical Association to give his now famous speech on the dangers of socialized medicine. May I remind you that it was Medicare-Medicaid he was addressing?

Reagan ran against the Rockefeller Republican Wing in California.  Today I call the struggle the GOP is having the Rove Wing v. the Reagan Wing.

Karl Rove
Karl Rove

Karl Rove has become a powerful and wealthy media consultant who has fine-tuned his strategy of electing candidates with media sound bites.  He owns the market on effectively positioning his candidates as conservatives, but they are typically the moderate candidates in the races.

Case in Point:  Todd Akin

Akin was a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri in 2012.  For weeks the Republican media was entirely focused on re-stating his faux pas over and over and over all day long, right along with the liberal media.  Todd AkinFox and virtually every conservative talk show host were pressuring him to get out of the race and let someone else step in.

But who?  No one talked about that.

From a strategic viewpoint, a consultant or supporter would never repeat a negative if the candidate had misspoken. Todd Akin’s a decent man.  I’ve been in the same room with him on several occasions and he has been in the audience on more than one occasion when I’ve been speaking on the platform.

Something was not right, and I suspected that Karl Rove was involved.  So I called Akin’s campaign and asked what was happening.  I learned that Rove had a more moderate horse in the Primary race against Akin.  For Rove, Akin was too conservative.  So Rove used all the power of his media buys and influence to force Akin out of the race with the goal of putting his horse back in.

Meanwhile, Rove destroyed the GOP candidate and in a critically important race to turn the U.S. Senate, the liberal Democrat Claire McCaskill won.

Todd Akin’s defeat was not his fault. Every candidate says things they wish they hadn’t.  As politically incorrect as this might be, I place the blame squarely at the feet of King Karl.

You may disagree. You may truly believe Karl Rove is the savior of the GOP.  Let me refresh your memory.

Reagan-Ford-Bush 1980In 1976 and in 1980, Karl Rove did not support Ronald Reagan in the Primary either time.  He was a young and brilliant consultant on Gerry Ford’s 1976 campaign and then on George Bush’s 1980 and 1988 campaigns.  He was a major influence on Reagan’s choice of a running mate. When it became clear Reagan was the favorite to win at the convention, Rove wrangled his rope around Reagan and Bush became the VP, securing that winning bloc of delegates.

Reagan and the Right Wing

When Reagan ran in the early years in California, he was criticized from within the party and from without as being “too conservative,” and “the far right wing.”  His opponents, including Jack Kemp, used these labels against him throughout his presidential runs as well.

Since then, Karl Rove has been known as the GOP Chief Architect, supporting candidates that want to moderate the Party and get rid of the planks that truly set us apart from the Democrats.  Yet look at the history of the boring and uninspiring candidates Rove has given us:  Gerry Ford (yawn), George Bush I (read my lips), Bob Dole (nice man, but…dull Dole), George Bush II (No Child Left Behind), John McCain (another yawn) – candidates that have not been strong on the conservative principles that draw in the undecided and unaffiliated.

Conversely, the consummate conservative of our time, Ronald Reagan, was masterful and sincere. Although not perfect, Reagan had a record to prove his sincerity and a gift for using unassuming and self-deprecating humor along with honest and passionate rhetoric.  After he was president, he followed through on as much of his platform as he could, given the Democratic majority in both houses and the spinning wheels of a bureaucratic environment over-run with lobbyists.

As a Reagan conservative I have watched the Republican Party despondently as it has been driven to near extinction during this Rove Era – making and breaking contracts and promises, and electing candidates that are more “moderate” – often branding the best conservative candidates as “extremists” just as they did Reagan.

As a result, at least in the minds of the pundits – we are now being read our autopsy.  The Left – and Rove – would like nothing more than to see an early death with all these premature autopsy reports so that the grassroots will believe we need to move even further to the Left than we already have.

Rove has been so powerfully influential in this demise that he must be held accountable, even here on the ground in Utah.  If we were to do the right thing, a resolution would be passed to call for his retirement from Republican politics.

We do not need to follow Rove’s lead any longer, if we hope to resurrect ourselves as the conservative option of the two parties in America.  History is on our side.

The Real Lesson from Goldwater: 1964

Goldwater in your heart you know he's rightAfter the 1964 election, the response to the GOP was similar.  With such a resounding defeat, Goldwater was the hot potato to the moderates and liberals – the Rockefeller Wing of the Republican Party.  They too went along with the liberal press declaring conservatism in the GOP as DOA.

However, that defeat sparked a revival of conservative thought, and the Conservative Movement was born: A Reagan Revolution. If you are not familiar with this revival, a must-read is the best-seller of that time- which actually ignited that revolution –  A Choice Not An Echo written by one of Reagan’s long time friends and advisors Phyllis Schlafly, also my lifelong friend and mentor.

Reagan Rising

We are once again on the cusp of a new conservative movement, if we will embrace it and take that message out across all the social networks we are able to access.  We must listen to the right voices.  What we do here on the ground on April 13, 2013 and May 18, 2013 will chart our future course.  We cannot get this one wrong. 

I plead with those candidates and their supporters who have been wronged by this caucus-convention to put those sore feelings aside.  Do not seek changes simply to assuage hard feelings because your favorite candidate or incumbent lost a big loss or was treated poorly in past conventions.

I have been there myself.  My mother’s most enduring words to me when I was growing up were, “Let it go.  Just go on.”

Do not vote to set up a system to strategically help one or another individual get elected by going to a Primary system – or a Dual Primary system that will set Utah out of balance with the founders’ original intent: a republican form of government.  That is embodied in Utah’s caucus-convention system.  Our decision must be a long-term, fair and balanced decision.

Do vote support a system that will allow the grassroots to attend neighborhood caucuses and that will allow the Republican Party – the party of conservative principles – the party of Reagan – to elect solid conservative candidates.

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