Every experienced conservative activist knows the twin pillars of Ronald Reagan’s Rules for Conservatives. First, the co-called 11th Commandment to not speak ill of a fellow Republican. Secondly, that someone who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is your ally, not your enemy.
Let’s look at both as they apply to Nevada Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller.
The problem with the 11th Commandment is that establishment Republicans have been twisting its meaning to protect moderate incumbent Republicans from conservative primary challengers. But if avoiding primaries was the actual intent of the 11th Commandment, conservative Reagan wouldn’t have challenged moderate incumbent President Gerald Ford in 1976.
So to the extent that Sen. Heller may draw a primary challenge next year, the 11th Commandment is no shield. Now about that 80 percent rule.
The fact is, from a conservative point of view, not all votes are created equal. For example, a non-ideological vote to name a post office is simply not the same as, say, a vote to raise the debt limit. Some bills, by their very nature, carry considerably more weight than others.
Such is the case with repealing-and-replacing the disaster known as ObamaCare.
ObamaCare was shoved down the nation’s throat in 2009 as a perverted Christmas present from then-Sen. Harry Reid without a single Republican vote.
Republicans in Congress have been calling for and voting for repeal ever since — including Sen. Heller, who voted against the bill as a member of the House. Indeed, Heller is on record in the past saying “I think it needs to be replaced,” while asserting that “the law never should have been passed to begin with.”
Now’s his chance to actually do something about it.
The 2016 Republican Party platform unambiguously calls for ObamaCare repeal. And Republican candidates up and down the ballot campaigned last year on repealing it. And voters gave the GOP an inarguable mandate to repeal it by awarding them control of both the White House and Congress.
This ain’t no bill to name a post office.
So when Sen. Heller appeared at that press conference next to Nevada’s tax-hiking/ESA-killing/Medicaid-expanding Gov. Brian Sandoval to publicly declare his opposition to the Senate’s repeal and replace bill, not on conservative grounds, but on the false, liberal argument that it cuts Medicaid handouts, that was nothing short of spitting in the face of every GOP voter who’s been fighting this fight for eight long years.
That public statement need not and should not have been made. It gave aid-and-comfort to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. It gave the liberal news all the grist they needed for reports of Republican dissension in the ranks.
We still won’t know for a while yet whether or not Senate Republicans blow this opportunity to rip the disastrous ObamaCare program out by its roots, or how Sen. Heller will ultimately vote on an amended bill. But even if a Senate bill passes, and even if Sen. Heller votes for it, the damage is already done.
No matter how many other non-consequential bills Sen. Heller votes for, that press conference permanently knocked a lot of conservatives off the fence about him. And it will likely result in a viable, credible primary opponent next year.
Because naming a post office ain’t the same as repealing ObamaCare.