Chris McDaniel’s narrow loss to 41-year incumbent Senator Thad Cochran, R-Miss., will undoubtedly fuel wishful thinking about the death of the grassroots liberty movement. But even in the wake of defeat, the sheer enthusiasm and grassroots dedication we saw over the last few weeks proves that our community is now a permanent force in American politics — the most successful social movement since the Civil Rights movement in the fifties and sixties.
The spectacle of the K Street Wing of the GOP running on pork barrel spending and openly soliciting Democratic votes in a GOP primary is a sure sign of their intellectual bankruptcy. It’s disgraceful that self-described GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell, John McCain, the Chamber of Commerce and the NRSC would champion a campaign platform of pork barrel spending and insider deal-making, while recruiting Democrats to show up at the polls.
If the only way the K Street wing of the GOP establishment can win is by courting Democrats to vote in GOP primaries, then we’ve already won.
The Republican Party, and the political landscape in general, is changing. It has been changing for some time, but only recently are we seeing the full fruits of what champions of freedom have been building for years.
Back in 1975, Ronald Reagan told Reason Magazine that “the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” That remains as true today as it was then, and more and more of the American people are beginning to realize it. They are tired of well-connected insiders who keep voting for more taxes, more spending, and more debt, and they are demanding a seat at the table.
Activists across the state of Mississippi knocked on 140,000 doors, put up 60,000 yard signs, distributed 14,000 bumper stickers, and 350,000 conversations with voters through phone banks in order to push Chris McDaniel over the finish line. People don’t get that excited and motivated about Washington connections. They were campaigning for the things that make America exceptional — individual freedom and economic opportunity.
There is no stopping this trend, fueled as it is by voters with better information and empowering social media tools. The winning model of political organizing has changed, and we will continue to see more underfunded candidates like Dave Brat — sound economic thinkers with strong principles and a clear message — emerge to take down career seat-warmers like Eric Cantor.
The days when liberty candidates were caricatured as “wacko birds” wearing tri-corn hats on street corners are over. We’re all grown up now, and we’re not going anywhere.
This is because even when we lose, we grow stronger. While the media loves to focus on our defeats rather than our victories, every race we enter helps us build an on-the-ground network of passionate activists who will come back to fight again and again. Money can buy fancy television ads and media coverage, but no amount of spending can buy an educated and enthusiastic grassroots community. While establishment candidates may eke out a few wins by draining their coffers, we are the ones building for the long run.
Chris McDaniel’s campaign may not have carried the day, but the journey is only just beginning.Matt Kibbe is the president of FreedomWorks for America and author of the New York Times bestseller, “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff.”