Do Mainstream Republicans Have the Courage to Take Back their Party?

Published August 15, 2013

By Tom Campbell

by Tom Campbell, Executive Producer and Moderator of NC SPIN, August 15, 2013.

Republican Congressman Robert Pittenger, home for the summer recess, has been holding Town Hall Meetings in his district. In a recent one, a Tea Partier rose to ask Pittenger what he described as an easy question, requesting a simple yes or no answer. Would Pittenger vote to defund Obamacare, he asked?

When Pittenger asked the Tea Partier if he was willing to listen to the thoughtful answer to his question, he was abruptly told, “No.” So just as quickly Pittenger responded “No” to the question.

The Congressman’s very thoughtful reason and the debate over repealing or defunding The Affordable Care Act is worthy of more conversation but the vehemence in which the question was posed and the refusal to hear anything but a black-or-white response illustrates the growing schism between the mainstream and Tea Party extremists in the North Carolina Republican Party, a schism more threatening to continued GOP control of North Carolina than any threat posed by the disorganized Democrats.

Those who identify themselves with the Tea Party apparently have as poster boys, Barry Goldwater and Grover Norquist. Some still remember Goldwater, in his acceptance speech for the 1964 Republican presidential nomination, saying, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” The extreme element’s definition of the defense of liberty is to be unyielding, anti-government, in fact just about anti-everything. Am I wrong or do they appear to have no use for any government program, public infrastructure or the common good? It seems they define liberty as the freedom to be able to do what they want without question, obligation or responsibility for others.

Tea Partiers are angry, sometimes with justification, over the current state of government and they clearly don’t like today’s culture. They have learned from Grover Norquist to use threats and intimidation tactics to get their way. Norquist’s Americans For Tax Reform coerces candidates to sign “no tax hike” pledges, then he turns on them and sees to their defeat if they vote for anything that even smells like a tax increase after being elected.

Tea Partiers are using these same tactics to effectively silence and make impotent those within their own party who are willing to seek consensus and compromise; leaders who heretofore have included the likes of Jim Broyhill, Jim Holshouser, Jim Martin and others. Today’s mainstream Republicans are conservatives but they are also pragmatist,s willing to include others, to get far more accomplished with cooperation than by being unyielding, threatening or mean-spirited.

One doesn’t have to be a political expert to understand reality. The continued domination by those on the far right is a sure recipe for defeat. They do not speak for the majority of North Carolinians. Both political parties have large numbers of members neither far right nor far left in their convictions, and the fastest growing registrations come from unaffiliated voters, now consisting of 24 percent.

The question North Carolina Republicans face is whether they will allow this extreme hardline element to dominate their party or whether they have the courage to stand up to them and regain control. They need to know the bullying will continue until someone stands up to the bully. The mainstream’s response will determine their party’s future and will impact our state.

August 15, 2013 at 8:24 am
Michael Kornegay says:

So Tom Campbell pines for the good ol'days when "mainstream" Republicans knew their place as the nice 100-year go-along-get-along minority party who accepted their role as subservient legislatures to the liberal Democrat agenda? For over 100 years, when the Democrats held the majority, they ruled to the left without recourse from liberal pundits like Campbell. But, when Republicans were placed into the majority by an informed electorate, these liberal pundits cry foul and call the Republicans "terrorists" and "mean-spirited". Sorry, Mr. Campbell, it's a new day in North Carolina, and your caucus of jolly impotent Democrat-light Republicanism has been swept away by the voters.

August 16, 2013 at 11:19 am
NC SPIN says:

Sorry to burst your bubble Michael but I am neither a Democrat nor a liberal. I don't like the extremists in either party and have a long track record to demonstrate this. If you don't believe it purchase my book "Tom's Columns," which you can find on the site. Sorry for the shameless self-promotion but it will prove what I'm saying.

But since you seem such a stalwart supporter of the Tea Party perhaps you can tell me exactly what they DO stand for. I am ready to be further enlightened.

August 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm
Richard Bunce says:

Tom, I have noticed a real change in the show this year with folks who seemed reasonable when their guys were in the majority have now become rabid dogs. Chris has lost all control. That education special several months back was the most biased piece I have seen in some time.

August 15, 2013 at 8:40 am
Richard Bunce says:

Tom, you might remember last year there were primaries and general elections in which the VOTERS decided who would be members of the general assembly.

August 15, 2013 at 8:40 am
Pat Johnson says:

August 17, 2013 at 12:46 am
Norm Kelly says:

Compromise became a dirty word when it changed to Democrats always stand their ground, get just a little bit of what they want each year, and Republicans need to go along with what Dems want. After all, it's just a little change so why fight it. Compromise has come to mean it's what is expected/demanded of Republicans. Repubs are supposed to compromise on their beliefs & policies. Dems only have the good of the people in mind/at heart.

When compromise means that both sides give a little, it MAY not be so bad. But that's no longer what it means.

And sometimes the best thing is to stand on principle. When any politicians desire violates either the state or national constitution, should the other politicians simply go along with it in order to compromise? At some point, when the 4th amendment is violated, and it's provable, do we compromise and simply say "it wasn't all that bad, and nothing bad was done with the info"? When I get an exam at the airport that's more intrusive than the average exam at the doctors office, do I compromise and simply say "it's for national security"? Even though it's a violation of search & seizure? Compromise on this point is wrong (even though it's already been done, it's still wrong and should be changed). Should the Repubs simply roll over on Obamacare? Would that be considered compromise? When thinking people know, absolutely factually provable, that socialized medicine (aka Obamacare!) fails every time, every where it is tried, should we be willing to compromise? When we all know that SCOTUS allowed a violation of, and justified a violation of, the constitution, do we compromise and let it go? Or do we take a stand and try to correct the situation?

At some point it is worth standing up for what is right. Sometimes compromise is a good thing. But when we are darn near $17 trillion dollars in debt, we can not afford socialized medicine. (i know; even with no debt we couldn't afford socialized medicine.) When we have no money of our own, should we be sending money all over the world? Compromise has it's place. Standing on principle does also.

I stand with libertarians more often than any other single group.

August 15, 2013 at 2:53 pm
David Knox says:


Didn't we just pass a voter ID law to restore faith in the electorate? If we needed to restore faith, that presumes that the electorate was not to be trusted. Either the NCGA acted on the will of the people, or they were elected by an untrustworthy rabble that needs to show ID to be believed. You can't have both situations be true at the same time.

August 15, 2013 at 6:14 pm
Richard Bunce says:

Their guys are good, its the other guys guys that are cheatin'... of course a single ballot cast by someone who is not eligible to vote cancels my eligible vote. Either we check to see that voters meet the eligibility requirement or we drop the facade and anyone can vote anytime, anywhere, as often as they want. Just require reliable proof at registration and then put the photo on the voter registration card and require that card be shown to vote.

August 15, 2013 at 11:09 pm
dj anderson says:

I thought, as I read Tom's appeal for moderation from Republicans, how those same pleas could be said to the now hysterical, Democrats led by Rev. Barber into protests demanding arrests.

Moderate Democrats are out there waiting for leadership to give them direction, and I don't mean reactive finger pointing, threats of decline and comparisons to Nazi's and Islamic mobs.

Teachers are starting to wonder why the NCAE's political action arm did not see the writing on the wall in 2010 and woe at least the 6 Republican NC Senate votes to get a pay raise?

Did any of the GA democratic members even consider supporting Republican legislation IF the Republicans had given something in return, say, leaving the same number of early voting days, or straight ticket voting -- just getting something instead of nothing? Was it better to be able to cry 'crazy' and exaggerate wildly than to have salvaged something?