The Renegade Republican Party: Reclaiming What Is Ours

“This new Republican Party, this is the Renegade Republican party that goes after sellouts on both sides. Join the rebellion today; sign up, no experience necessary. Take it back.” With these words, Dan Bongino ignited a fire in the audience at FreePAC Kentucky Saturday, an event in Louisville hosted by FreedomWorks, a grassroots organization empowering voters to take action. Bongino, former NYPD officer and decorated Secret Service agent currently running for Congress in Maryland, tapped into the feelings of many in the audience with his speech on reclaiming the party from interlopers. For years, conservatives have struggled with the thought that the GOP was no longer reflecting the values they hold. As many have said, “We didn’t leave the party, the party left us.” So what’s a disillusioned Republican to do? Start a new party? Join another (Libertarian) party? Become apathetic and walk away from politics altogether? No. The rallying cry at FeedomWorks rang loudly: Fight back.

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Bongino began his speech at FreePAC by relaying a jarring experience he’d had a few months prior. Coming down to the kitchen with his one-year-old daughter one morning, he found that his home had been broken into. He noted, “I just felt completely violated. Someone was in my house while I was home. As a police officer I’d responded to a lot of these scenes before but it had never been me. Why do I tell you that story? Because your house has been broken into too…This is our party, we’re not leaving. We built this, not them.”

In an interview after his speech, I asked Bongino what he would say to those considering giving up or starting a third party out of frustration with the GOP. His response: “Why would anybody do that? We built this party. We are the people who built the house. Why are we abandoning it? If some guys came into your house and started messing it up would you leave your house? No. Kick these guys out–it’s not their party. It’s ours. Why are we giving it to them? Make them start a Big Government Big Spending RINO Establishment Party. See how well that goes.” I asked him how he feels about those who say the Republican Party is too damaged to reclaim. He was quick to make a distinction; as he put it, the brand has been tarnished by the people who tarnished the brand–not by the brand itself. Establishment sellouts have damaged the party more than any Democrats, and they are not ready for the fight ahead. That’s why they need to go.

In his speech, Bongino noted, “I started as a Secret Service agent under Bill Clinton; it was Bill Clinton who said, ‘The era of big government is over’. That wasn’t Ronald Reagan who said that, it was Bill Clinton…This ideology [of big government] had been put to sleep and Mother Liberty won…then they resurfaced with a vengeance and bloodied us up…we got hurt...but now we’re back…I’m not here to give you apocalyptic speeches, this is America, we can fix anything. But we can’t fix it without action.” Bongino stressed the importance of doing, noting “talk does nothing if it doesn’t motivate action. It is the ‘do’ that matters, not the talk.” He thanked the audience for showing up, not just talking about showing up, and tasked them with a mission: register ten voters, make ten phone calls for a candidate, and knock on ten doors. As he sees it, if we want the party to reflect our values, then we must become active within the party instead of sitting on the sidelines and complaining.

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FreePAC played host to a number of Republican candidates with a similar message and position. One such candidate, Igor Birman, emigrated from Russia at age 13 and is running for Congress in California. He told me that his family came to America for a chance at more freedom and liberty, and he is running to protect that freedom. This is a big part of what FreedomWorks does: they don’t recruit candidates for office, but when candidates emerge with a message of protecting and defending our fundamental liberty as Americans, they support them. More importantly, they host training sessions like the one that took place before the speakers took the stage on Saturday. These sessions train average citizens in how to work call centers, go door-to-door and otherwise campaign for candidates in whom they believe. I for one am tired of answering the question, “Oh, aren’t you Republican?” with something along the lines of, “Yes, but not like those people”, and I know that countless other conservatives are also tired of feeling apologetic or embarrassed by the direction party leadership has taken us.

With a new crop of Republican leaders running for office and with organizations like FreedomWorks encouraging citizens to get up and do something, there is hope that the Republican Party can become something we take pride in again. As Bongino said, “Every generation has its fight. You have yours right now…This is the Renegade Republican Party…join the rebellion–take it back.”