In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt gave what would become the most widely quoted speech of his career. “It is not the critic who counts,” he said. The credit, rather, “belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”
During my time in public service, I’ve been honored to work beside conservatives in Washington and citizen-leaders around the country who have rolled up their sleeves to fight for freedom “in the arena.” Now I’ve dedicated my time to continue fighting with these courageous men and women in two critical ways.
One is working around the country with state and local leaders, and conservative heroes like Tom Coburn and Mark Levin, to harness the power of the people to reign in our out-of-control federal government with an Article V Convention of the States. The second is filling a gap that has long existed in the conservative movement: a support structure to help conservatives in Washington succeed, and avoid being consumed by the DC swamp.
Conservatives Need a Ground Game in Washington
Since the Tea Party arose, conservatives have shown they can get new leaders elected to Congress and important organizations now exist to hold politicians accountable when they go astray from constitutional principles. However, being a conservative, especially a conservative in Washington, can be a tough and lonely road. It’s not enough to know the right solutions. If conservatives don’t have the knowledge, strategies, and allies to succeed, this town will beat you down until you give in.
That’s why I’m proud to announce the formation of the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), which will support, train, and encourage congressional members, staff, and other conservative leaders to be confident in standing for their principles. As chairman of CPI, I will direct a dream team of talented Capitol Hill and conservative movement veterans.
Our mission is to educate the public and the conservative movement on how Washington really works and how to avoid the pitfalls of the swamp to achieve policy victories. We will provide workshops on the best practices, rules, and procedures of the House and Senate. We will help congressmen and senators hire and train conservative staff, connect them with top conservative scholars on critical national issues, and advance the best communication practices that will make conservatives more effective.
We Can Do It, But We’re Not — Yet
We’ve proven it can be done. President Reagan rebuilt the military to win the Cold War and revitalized the economy with pro-growth tax cuts. In the ’90s, we reformed welfare with work requirements and balanced the budget. In recent years, with little help from Republican party leaders, conservatives banned earmarks, stopped the push for massive amnesty, and enacted fiscal restraints with the sequester.
But we all know it’s not been enough. With the election of President Trump and Republican majorities in Congress, we’re seeing that the DC Empire strikes back with a vengeance.
We will not succeed in the future unless the conservative leaders are united and strengthened. Conservatives in Washington face enormous, unrelenting institutional and liberal media pressures to bend to the status quo of big government.
When I first served in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999, I worked quickly on legislation to reform Social Security, simplify the tax code, and enact health savings accounts. However, the more Republican member meetings I attended, the more I noticed that policy solutions weren’t the focus. Raising K Street money and securing parochial spending for reelection was the focus. Finally, I raised my hand and pointed out that this was “completely illogical.” I met silence, until someone from the back of the room yelled, “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.”
But I never did. Instead, I’ve watched my fellow conservatives struggle against the same swamp that I faced. Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado) detailed some of these same pressures in his recent book, “Drain the Swamp: How Washington is Worse Than You Think.” According to Buck, things have gotten so bad that premier committee assignments—like a seat on the Ways and Means Committee—are no longer given to those with the best principles or policy expertise, but to those who can raise money for the party machine—$450,000, to be exact.
And when conservatives refuse to play the DC game, they feel the wrath. They are kicked off committees, refused help by party structures, and even primaried by leadership-picked candidates funded by establishment groups like the Chamber of Commerce.
These fights take their toll on those in the arena. Trust me, I’ve been there. That’s why in addition to training, education, and resourcing, CPI will also work to foster relationships between and among conservatives, so that we can encourage, strengthen, and mentor one another in the midst of the fight.
I’m excited to help conservatives to, as Teddy Roosevelt put it, “strive to do the deeds.” As our nation stands abreast of new tests and challenges, I look forward to standing beside and uniting conservatives in the arena in Washington and around to the country to strive valiantly, and dare greatly.