If one listens to the narrative advanced by rent-seeking, parasitic Washington political establishment, conservatives were “trounced,” as one publication put it, in Republican congressional primaries this cycle. This narrative could not be further from the truth.
Certainly, there were some disappointments in this election cycle. The loss of Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), one of the most principled conservative members of the House, was a huge blow. Of course, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other crony special interests spent heavily to boost his moderate Republican primary opponent.
Former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE (R-Ohio), who, rather than be spurned by the conservative members of his conference and lose his the speakership, resigned his House seat. He may have toasted a glass of red wine when Rep. Huelskamp lost, but this old House seat is now in the hands of a member of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio).
The House Freedom Caucus’ win in BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE’s backyard was not the only victory for conservatives in 2016. Principled conservatives like Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeTikTok, Snapchat seek to distance themselves from Facebook Cawthorn, Lee introduce bills banning interstate travel vaccine mandate Retreating economy creates new hurdle for Democrats in 2022 MORE (R-Utah) and Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), and Dave Brat (R-Va.) avoided primary challenges by sticking to their limited government, constitutionalist principles.
Rep. Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarAnti-Trump Republicans target McCarthy, Scalise, other high-profile conservatives Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems eye legislative deal by the end of the week MORE (R-Ariz.) won more than 71 percent of the vote against his establishment-backed primary challenger, despite more than $500,000 in outside spending against him, proving that the model that may have worked in one race may not work in another. In Arizona’s 5th District, Andy Biggs won the Republican primary over a challenger favored by the D.C. political elite.
Conservatives are playing the long game, not that the House Republican leadership and the self-important pundit class have noticed. The fact of the matter is, we are winning. Although success may not always be defined by year-by-year primary election results, conservatives are advancing the ball down the field, a few yards at a time.
In the 1990s, there were only a handful of House conservatives -- including Reps. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), Ron Paul (R-Texas), and Steve Largent (R-Okla.) -- who stuck to their principles when under pressure from Republican leadership. Today, we can count on the nearly 40-member House Freedom Caucus, as well as several other conservatives who aren’t members of the group, who consistently stay true to the limited government values.
The influence and importance of conservatives in the House Republican Conference is increasing, and, as the United States’ fiscal challenges continue to grow and the expansive federal bureaucracy strangles entrepreneurs with red tape, the power they wield to move the GOP in a pro-economic growth direction is happening at the right time.
Another definition of success is a shift in the voting habits of Republican incumbents. The very same publication which declared that conservatives were “trounced” during this election cycle noted that conservative challengers are “making [Republican incumbents] think harder about their primaries, and making them work harder to keep their base happy than in the recent past.” Although this particular point was made in reference to current members of the Senate Republican Conference, the same is true of House Republican incumbents.
Evolution is not an overnight process. It takes time. What the evolution of congressional Republicans has showed is that conservatives have more influence than ever before. That doesn’t mean that challenges, both electoral and legislative, won’t arise. And, of course, evolution is a slow process. With every passing moment, the national debt continues to rise, the regulatory state continues to grow, and rent-seeking, parasitic special interests are concocting the next scheme in their playbook to try to defeat principled conservatives in Congress.
In order to preserve the Republic, we absolutely must work to defend and strengthen conservatism on Capitol Hill and speed up the evolutionary process.Adam Brandon is the president and CEO of FreedomWorks.
The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.