If there was ever a meeting in a church parking lot where incumbent politicians wish the state police had been there to photograph license plates and discourage attendance, it was the 5th District Republican Convention held at the Tree of Life Ministries in Lynchburg, Va.
That was the location where Virginia conservatives won a small victory and defeated incumbent GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman by denying him re-nomination. Bob Good – a former fundraiser for Liberty University – won a unique China Flu drive-thru convention where 3,500 delegates cast votes from within their cars. After the defeat Riggleman considered it a drive-by.
Riggleman served only a single term, but that was enough for 5th District voters. Most politicians who campaign as conservatives become cocktail conservatives in Congress. They use the word “fighting,” sprinkle a few “conservative values” in news releases and mouth meaningless clichés in C-SPAN speeches.
They accomplish nothing for their conservative base.
Riggleman was silent while Gov. Ralph ‘Blackface’ Northam instituted his erratic Flu Manchu lockdown on Virginia. And Riggleman didn’t defend the rule of law while Black Lives Matter protesters were “mostly peacefully” burning down cities.
That’s not what defeated him. Incumbent political cowards are usually a lock to win renomination. What beat Riggleman was a calculated insult to his conservative base. He performed a same-pronoun marriage for two of his campaign volunteers.
His defense of that insult to Bible-believing voters could have been written by any of the consonant crusading NGOs. He told the WoePost, “My real belief is that government shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all, but if it is, everybody has to be treated equally before the law. And that is part of our Republican creed. And it also comes down to love is love. I’m happy to join two people together who obviously love each other.”
Voters should have seen this coming. Riggleman is a Libertarian on social issues. Libertarian infiltration of the Republican party is responsible for many if not all of the regular betrayals of the base in Washington. The conservatives who supported fusionism and welcomed libertarians into the fold clasped a viper to their breast.
Libertarianism is the strange belief that a stable, limited, rule-of-law respecting government can be built on a foundation of people with the personal moral practices of Woodstock attendees.
Libertarians support all the social pathologies currently facilitating our cultural decline. Their policy on drug use, abortion, alternate lifestyles, immigration and amnesty is let it all hang out – just keep your hands off my money.
In actual practice, just as the personal becomes the political, the personal also undermines the fiscal – which is why Libertarianism can never succeed and Libertarians are never true conservatives. They are collaborators with the left on all the social issues important to the base. They take base votes while rejecting base beliefs.
Riggleman’s defeat means one down and about 200 more to go.
There are three key lessons in the demise of Denver Riggleman. Conventions are the best way to defeat incumbents for renomination. Unless the conservative insurgent is independently wealthy, the challenger is always going to be outspent in a primary. It’s a fact of life and you must plan your strategy accordingly.
It’s cheaper to run a successful convention campaign because recruiting and persuading delegates is retail politics. It rewards hard work on the part of the challenger. A primary plays to the strength of the incumbent and his budget. It’s expensive to buy media, produce ads, run a vote-by-mail absentee program, harvest votes and hire lawyers to bail you out. Challengers never have enough money, which is why genuine conservatives are routinely betrayed without consequence by the country club conservatives that supposedly represent us in Congress.
Riggleman spent $1.3 million in his losing campaign. Good spent approximately a tenth of that with a total of $151,821. In a primary Good probably would have lost. At a convention that meager amount was enough to pass the threshold of credibility and give him a 58 percent victory.
The second lesson is if you want to defeat a collaborationist conservative, coalesce behind a single candidate. That way voters who are unhappy with the incumbent concentrate their vote in a single alternative. Multiple challengers split the discontented vote and allow the incumbent to skate through with a plurality because his vote isn’t split.
The only exception to this rule is a state with runoffs, which Virginia does not have. Incumbents forced into a runoff are very vulnerable.
The third lesson is for incumbents who feel the need to grow in office and expand their base. While your hand is reaching out, make sure your thumb doesn’t hit the eye of those rubes who originally elected you.
Michael Shannon is a commentator and public relations consultant, and is the author of “A Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times.” He can be reached at email@example.com.