Well, that grand old elephant honeymoon didn't last long. And as 2012 began, that became crystal clear. What was supposed to be Nevada Republicans' special moment in the spotlight instead became a total train wreck. And what was supposed to be "Mitt Romney's big night" instead became #CaucusFracas2012.
Funny enough, he unintentionally pointed out the greatest weakness of Nevada Republicans. Ever since 2008, they've been obsessing over ideological purity instead of even attempting to show any real interest in governing. We saw it in 2010, when they embraced extremism and tried to shove the most radical US Senate candidate we've ever seen down our throats. And we saw it again last year, when they were more interested in playing political games than solving our state's problems. It's really all about their radical "tea party" ideology for them. And by making Mitt Romney embrace it, they're only sowing the seeds of their own defeat this fall.
Oh, and by the way, NBC News now officially projects Mitt Romney to win the G-O-TEA Caucus tonight. Wow. What a surprise! ;-)
But again, this "victory" is looking increasingly pyrrhic. As we talked about yesterday, President Obama is proving that his vision of economic recovery and rebuilding is one that really works. So what does Mitt Romney have to compete with this? Lies? Radical right extremism? Donald Trump?
My prediction actually did come true. For one, Rick Santorum managed to upstage Romney by turning a trio of supposedly "meaningless beauty contests" into a "game change" moment that forced Romney to actually compete for the Republican nomination. And while that ultimately wasn't enough to keep Romney from claiming the nomination, what happened in February forced Romney to run so far to the radical right that he made himself unelectable in the general election.
And if that didn't add enough insult to injury, this most certainly did.
The caucus process itself melted into pure chaos as voters were being turned away, counting turned into controversy, and out-of-state media looked in horror as the Nevada Republican Party began to unravel. But perhaps above all else, this was a major turning point for Nevada Republicans... As we saw the beginnings of "The Second Ron Paul Revolution.
So they succeeded in hijacking the Nevada Republican Party. They then failed at actually leading it somewhere (other than abject failure). We saw the writing on the wall back in May.
[... W]inning elections doesn't happen by just demanding "purity" and throwing a temper tantrum when that doesn't happen. Believe it or not, temper tantrums don't win elections.
This is something we often have to grapple with on the left, but now we're seeing this unfold on the right at a level that I've never seen before. As much as some grassroots folks on the left and the right love to see epic ideological battles unfold at party conventions and purge all "unsavory moderates" out of their respective parties, the fact of the matter is that doing that gets us no closer to winning elections. (If anything, that HURTS efforts to win elections.) While it's always important to promote the values we believe in and hold fast to them, we can't punish political parties for focus[ing] on party building while perhaps shirking "ideology enforcement" duties. After all, the first responsibility of a political party is to build the infrastructure necessary to win elections.
At times, we on the left have not seen eye to eye with Nevada State Democratic Party leaders. And yes, we sometimes get irritated when they seem to favor moderate candidates over "BOLD PROGRESSIVES!!!" However, most of us also realize that getting 70-90% of what we want is far better than getting nothing, so we leave Fantasy-land behind and return to the real world & return to working the field to win elections.
And this is why Orrin Johnson is panicking. Ron Paul's supporters care deeply for their libertarian beliefs, and they're set to accept nothing less than full fealty to those beliefs. But in pursuing complete ideological purity, they're also set to lose a whole lot of elections because they simply don't care about that stuff. This is why Nevada Republicans are in such dire straits. And it should serve as an important lesson to all the rest of us trying to balance ideological wishes with political reality.
Again, we could see what was coming. So while "The 'New New' Nevada GOP" focused on such important matters as worshipping at the altar of Ron Paul, the top money people, the "consultant class", and even the entire Washoe County Republican Party proceeded to obtain a "divorce" from "The Real Nevada Republican Party" in order for the RNC to "make it rain" on them. And while the Ron Paul Party succeeded in revering their "dear leader" in their own special way, Dean Heller and other top Nevada Republican politicians just ran away from the entire party.
That's why they could not stop this from happening. And that's ultimately why they could not stop this from happening. And that's why Nevada Republicans may be resigned to this for a while (longer).
Back in September, we noticed Nevada Republicans' glaring lack of field. The "power player" consultants ultimately opted to spend more on media advertising while "the real Nevada Republican Party" continued its increasingly time-honored tradition of extraordinary infighting. The few victories Republicans enjoyed on November 6 were more despite the party, not because of it.
So what will Nevada Republicans do to move forward? The above mentioned consultants are floating around the idea of some sort of "permanent Team Nevada" to circumvent the real state party. Others want to continue plotting a plan to finally wrest control from the Ron Paul acolytes who have been spinning the party out of control (perhaps because they're ideologically opposed to any kind of central control?). Meanwhile, the Ron Paul acolytes and their teabagger allies are already threatening primary challenges to Brian Sandoval and all other Republicans they deem "impure". So basically, get ready for another cycle full of G-O-TEA mayhem. [...]
But can Republicans ultimately remain relevant with this level of chaos continuing indefinitely? I have my doubts. It's just not sustainable to set up a "shadow party" to get out the vote, outsource other party functions (like sending mailers and producing yard signs) out of state, and allow "top of the ticket" candidates to continue running their own operations completely separated from the party while avoiding the actual party like the plague. Something's got to give. We'll just have to wait and see what happens in the coming months as the Nevada Republican Party nears its final implosion (and first chance of actual rebuilding).
And this, my dears, is the sad and sordid tale of the Nevada Republican Party in the 2012 Presidential Cycle. We can only sit back, grab some popcorn, and see what kind of spectacular drama unfolds in G-O-TEA Land in 2013.