For most of the past 50 years, Rockefeller Republicans, a.k.a. RINO’s today, have dominated the party, with conservatives relegated to menial supporting tasks every two years at election time. Only twice have conservatives broken free of their designated subservient position to take control of the party machinery. We did it once in 1964, when Goldwater beat Scranton, and again in 1980, when Reagan beat Bush.
In Southern states, particularly here in South Carolina, as conservatives like J. Strom Thurmond left the Democratic Party, our state, and our Republican Party, became more conservative. The GOP moderate establishment could hardly snub President Reagan or Sen. Thurmond, while each man held office. There was an unspoken truce. The country club establishment paid lip service to being conservative. Meanwhile the conservative grassroots majority allowed moderates to continue to occupy the levers of real power within the party apparatus.
Presidential campaigns were always a transient flash-in-the-pan. Emotional grass roots supporters of Reagan, Gingrich, and more recently of Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain, could be depended upon to evaporate once their candidate left the national stage.
In contrast, the moderate establishment stayed, decade after decade. The moderates did all the dull boring things. They wrote the party rules, decided credentials controversies, nominated members of all appointed or elected boards and committees, and above all controlled the party’s money.
The delicate balance between temporary campaigns [conservative] and the ruling moderate elites who control party machinery, was disrupted in 2009. Nationally, the moderate wing of the party, under the leadership of George W. Bush, drove our party, and our nation, off a fiscal cliff in 2007. This, in turn, led directly to the electoral disaster of 2008, and the tea party movement of 2009.
The tea party movement brought thousands of brand new conservative activists into the party starting in February of 2009. These new conservative activists tipped the balance of power away from the moderate elites who had run things for decades. Even worse for the moderates, the tea party did not go away between elections like the supporters of a defeated candidate. The tea partiers dug in, learned the rules, put down roots and challenged the establishment for control of the party machinery.
The moderate establishment fought back with a vengeance. They understood how to use the levers of power very well, and had an almost unlimited budget. They bought some people, intimidated others, rigged elections, and last year, managed to keep about 100 insurgent challengers off the GOP primary ballot, and railroaded the state convention. Pretended incompetence mysteriously seemed not to affect protected incumbents who are in positions to handsomely reward the party chairman.
Greenville County, the largest county in the state, hosted the first Tea Party in America to draw more than 10,000 participants in February of 2009. Greenville has also been the center of pushing back against the moderate hegemony inside the SC GOP. We refuse to buckle under, we will not be intimidated, and -- with one notable exception- - we cannot be bought off!
At the last state convention, the Greenville County delegation was treated the same way Nazis and communists once treated dissenters. We were railroaded, denied the right to speak, or meaningfully participate, and our elected leaders were threatened with arrest. Last month, our executive committee voted 73 to 9, with only 2 abstentions, to censure the former state chairman for egregious conduct toward us at the state convention.
Now there are some well-meaning, but uninformed, people suggesting perhaps we should make an effort to get along with the moderate country club crowd. The same crowd that has laughed at us, called us names, trampled our rights, and wrecked our state party. Those folks don’t understand the conservative movement, the tea party movement, or the will of the grass roots activists in Greenville County.
The censure of Chad Connelly was not the end of the matter. Rather it was our version of the shot heard around the world. The censure was the opening salvo in a long war against a moderate faction backed by out-of-state money. This is a battle to the death to determine who will control the heart and soul of the Republican Party in South Carolina.
The SC GOP establishment is not just more moderate than our grass roots. They are also inept and corrupt. They destroyed the primaries last year and bankrupted a once fiscally sound, and debt free, political party. They made South Carolina the laughing stock of the nation. We, the conservative majority, are not interested in “working with” Chad Connelly, Matt Moore, and the rest of the crowd that has run the SCGOP into the ground.
We want them out of power. Because we had the temerity to point out the emperor is wearing no clothes, they resorted to name-calling. We have been called “libertarians” and “borderline anarchists.”
Because we have grown the party, embracing thousands of tea party activists, we have been accused of “tearing down” the Republican Party. The reality is, the conservative majority in Greenville County is composed of mainstream Republicans, who like Ronald Reagan, believe in free enterprise, Judeo-Christian ethics, and peace through strength.
I strongly urge the defeat of the moderate faction, bought and paid for by out-of-state money.