Two ism’s in one headline. I think that may be a first.
In what could only be described as the irony of all ironies, it appears I am Mr. Party Unity guy right now.
My least favorite thing about the 2024 Iowa Caucus cycle has been the tribalism on display by the various sects of campaign supporters. Some people love Trump. Some people hate Trump. Some people love DeSantis. Some people hate DeSantis. Some people love Vivek. Some people hate Vivek. Some people love Haley. Some people…
Well, other than my friends at Americans For Prosperity and the Bush/Cheney/McCain wing of the GOP nobody likes Haley.
I’m kidding. Kind of. Maybe.
I’m also trying to illustrate my point.
This tribalism is not helpful nor healthy for conservatives. There simply aren’t enough of us around to burn bridges over candidates who will be here today and gone tomorrow. Candidates who will call you by name today when they meet you and then tell you it is nice to meet you the next time they see you.
It’s enough to make a guy wonder if being first in the nation is worth the cost.
I don’t remember it being like this in 2012 or 2016. I mean, yes, I really didn’t like Mitt Romney — but that was based on policies. And if we’re being honest — I was right, and that has to count for something.
In the last month, I’ve been accused of supporting Trump, DeSantis and Vivek. No worries though, I have no intention on committing voter fraud and voting for all three on Jan. 15. Although technically the caucus is a function of the party not the state, so maybe I could get away with it…
Again, I’m kidding. Kind of. Maybe.
No, seriously. This time I am kidding. While I have seen every episode of The Good Wife, I’m not yet ready to represent myself in a court of law.
I’ll say this again at the risk of alienating some of you guys. There are conservative reasons people support Trump. There are conservative reasons people support DeSantis. There are conservative reasons people support Vivek.
And guess what — there are conservative reasons not to support all three of them.
Making matters even more complicated, people who support Trump can still say something positive about another candidate while continuing to support Trump. Same with DeSantis and same with Vivek.
It is possible. It doesn’t hurt, I promise. Just take the leap.
Here is the deal — in politics, policy should always matter. It should always guide us. Policy. Not personality. Not political affiliation. Policy.
So if a candidate is promoting a good, conservative policy, celebrate it. Don’t disown good policy because it’s coming from a person you aren’t supporting. This isn’t a middle school playground. This is real life. These policies are going to actually impact your life, unlike most things that happen on your middle school playground.
But for some reason, there’s a sense of tribalism I’ve never experienced. And often it is Trump supporters who are accused of this. How many times have we heard about the “Trump Cult.” This is the result of people being unable to identify or acknowledge anything negative about the former President, despite the fact we all have our faults.
But if we’re being honest, I mean, yesterday we witnessed the same DeSantis camp that clobbered Trump for the last week over being a whiner regarding endorsements he didn’t get whine about not getting the endorsement from Americans for Prosperity Action.
I’m not a Nikki Haley fan. I think most of you know that. But I understand why others are. And I understand why AFP went the route it did. All along they’ve claimed Trump can’t win and they want to back the candidate with the best chance at beating Joe Biden.
Agree or disagree, that is their logic. That is their priority. We can disagree, but we can’t tell them their priority shouldn’t be their priority. In reality, it seems to check out. By all accounts Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is struggling to gain traction in the early states despite spending millions of dollars, knocking on hundreds of thousands of doors and receiving endorsements from prominent Republicans.
So they endorsed Nikki Haley — at the national level, mind you. Does this mean I should write off the Iowa chapter as not worth working with in the future?
I don’t know. How do you feel about Education Savings Accounts? How do you feel about fewer government regulations? How do you feel about lower taxes? How do you feel about moderate Republicans losing to conservative Republicans in primary elections?
They aren’t perfect. There are things they don’t care about as much as I do. But guess what, that is perfectly fine. I can be an ally for them when we agree. And they can be an ally for conservatives when we agree. It’s called an adult understanding of an adult partnership.
We can’t demand all of what we want from everyone and expect to achieve much. There has to be room for disagreement. There has to be room for give and take.
Yet in this Iowa Caucus season, I’ve seen a member of Iowa House Republican leadership torch Donald Trump for his comments on a Heartbeat Bill just months after this same member of Iowa House Republican leadership endorsed a Republican who voted against the Heartbeat Bill. I’ve seen a member of Iowa House Republican leadership rip criminal justice reform efforts as ‘pro-jail break’ policies after supporting criminal justice reform efforts in Iowa.
Never in a million years did I think I’d be the person sort of lecturing others about “party unity.” And actually, I don’t like that term. Forget “party unity.” I’m not interested in that. I’m more interested in “policy unity.”
The reality is the policy most important to me may not be the most important to you. I have to decide for myself what policies are dealbreakers and nonnegotiable. I don’t have to agree with it, but I should at least be able to respect it.
Keep in mind I stress there are some policies for all of us that should be non-negotiable.
There is a reality that we shouldn’t forget in the midst of a competitive caucus cycle. After Jan. 15, we will need each other. We will need each other to beat Joe Biden — or whoever the Democrats run in 2024. We will need each other to pass meaningful policy at the Capitol.
I believe 41 legislators have endorsed DeSantis between the two chambers. Well, that isn’t a majority in either chamber. Trump has half of that, give or take. Haley has a sliver of it. Vivek has a handful.
Yet if you look at us in this snapshot in time, it appears many of us are of the mindset we’ll take our ball and go home if others don’t support who we want them to support.
This is a crazy idea, so just give me a chance…but what if instead of torching supporters of other candidates, we engaged them to find out why they’re supporting that person? And then what if they listened to us about why we’re supporting who we are supporting?
Sure, we may not agree at the end of the conversation. But aren’t we adults enough to respect those differences? Heck, we may just flip people every once in a while too. You know, actually help the candidate we profess to support rather than turn people off?
I’ll be honest. I’ve probably been turned off by supporters of candidates more than I’ve been encouraged to take a second look. And that cuts across the spectrum of candidates. Except for the one guy supporting Asa Hutchinson. He’s a pretty positive guy. And I’m pretty positive he’s wrong.
It only took me 40 years to figure this out, but the 2024 Iowa Caucus will end eventually. And once the ballots are counted and results are announced — which I guarantee will be more efficient than whatever the Democrats decide to do — politics, and life, will go on.
If we’re not adult enough to handle these disagreements and differences throughout the caucus process, maybe we’re not adult enough to be first in the nation anymore.
Again, if a candidate violates enough of your priorities or nonnegotiables, then you of course are not obligated to vote for them and support them in November. That’s totally your call. I’m not going to answer to anyone for how you vote. I have enough to worry about trying to figure out how I will answer for how I vote.
But I do know this, there will be times down the road that as conservatives we’ll need allies on issues who may have preferred someone else in 2024. The sooner we realize this, the better off we will all be. And the more likely those people we will need down the road will be there to help because we treated them with respect and the realization that the right candidate for us might not be the right candidate for them.
And, as fate would have it, that’s OK.