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Noemie Emery: Conservative crisis management

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When in a hole, keep right on digging. That's the attitude of a number of movement conservatives, who, in reaction to last year's shellacking, seem to want to make certain they never climb out.

The plan, should there be one, seems to come in three parts: First, whine, lament and rend garments in public; second, blame everyone else for your failure to win much since Reagan left office, and third, having come out of a cycle in which you lost increasing numbers of various people, do try your hardest to lose even more.

As to point one, shut up, because nobody cares what a pundit is feeling. As to point two, don't complain about Republicans running the Bushes, John McCain, Bob Dole and Mitt Romney, when you run Alan Keyes, Pat Buchanan and Rick Santorum against them. If you want to win nominations, you might try running candidates. (And a better message might help matters, too.)

As to point three, check the urge to purge heretics, which died out long ago in most of the world. Movement conservatives now scourge their party's most popular governors. Yes, blue- and swing-state Republicans always enrage some conservatives; the problem is that conservatives need them if they want to become a national party. If they like to throw tantrums, they should keep on what they're doing. If not, they should throw them some slack.

Why? Andrew Cline explained this two years ago, just after Scott Brown, having thrilled conservatives by winning the seat of Ted Kennedy, enraged them with one of his first Senate votes. "Scott Brown does not represent the Republican National Committee in the United States Senate. He represents Massachusetts," Cline said then, correctly. "If Scott Brown voted as though he were from Alabama, the voters of Massachusetts would send him there."

Earlier, Brown said in an interview that he was "the closest thing ... to a Reagan Democrat" Massachusetts was likely to get. Chris Christie, with his Ralph Kramden vibe, is the closest thing they are likely to get in New Jersey -- and, though conservatives would prefer a Reagan conservative, in those states this is not in the cards. Christie and Bob McDonnell represent their blue and swing states, not Utah or Texas, and the alternatives to them are not stronger conservatives.

The alternative to Olympia Snowe isn't Ted Cruz, it's Angus King, who votes with the Democrats. The alternative to Scott Brown isn't Rand Paul, it's Elizabeth Warren. We have Obamacare now because of the Club for Growth and Pat Toomey, whose primary threat scared Arlen Specter back to the Democrats, where he became the 60th vote for Obamacare's passage. Conservatives swooned when Jim DeMint said he'd rather have 30 Republican senators who shared his beliefs than 60 who didn't, which sounds OK, until you wonder what the Democrats would have done with this supermajority. What would have been left of his principles then?

This is why National Review and Jonah Goldberg chose to slap the Conservative Political Action Conference lightly when it read Christie out of its gabfest this month. "CPAC is the first bottleneck in the Republican presidential pipeline, and at the moment the party should be making every effort to be -- or at least seem! -- as open as possible ... it's chosen to exclude the most popular governor," Goldberg opined. Thus speaks reason, and thus also spoke Reagan, who said no movement thrives by contracting its membership. Perhaps conservatives, who may contract themselves into oblivion, will finally listen to him.

Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."

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