We have witnessed something very disturbing this week. The Republican establishment which fought Ronald Reagan in the 1970s and which continues to fight the grassroots Tea Party movement today has adopted the tactics of the left in using the media and the politics of personal destruction to attack an opponent.

We will look back on this week and realize that something changed. I have given numerous interviews wherein I espoused the benefits of thorough vetting during aggressive contested primary elections, but this week’s tactics aren’t what I meant. Those who claim allegiance to Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment should stop and think about where we are today. Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, the fathers of the modern conservative movement, would be ashamed of us in this primary. Let me make clear that I have no problem with the routine rough and tumble of a heated campaign. As I said at the first Tea Party convention two years ago, I am in favor of contested primaries and healthy, pointed debate. They help focus candidates and the electorate. I have fought in tough and heated contested primaries myself. But what we have seen in Florida this week is beyond the pale. It was unprecedented in GOP primaries. I’ve seen it before – heck, I lived it before – but not in a GOP primary race.

I am sadly too familiar with these tactics because they were used against the GOP ticket in 2008. The left seeks to single someone out and destroy his or her record and reputation and family using the media as a channel to dump handpicked and half-baked campaign opposition research on the public. The difference in 2008 was that I was largely unknown to the American public, so they had no way of differentiating between the lies and the truth. All of it came at them at once as “facts” about me. But Newt Gingrich is known to us – both the good and the bad.

We know that Newt fought in the trenches during the Reagan Revolution. As Rush Limbaugh pointed out, Newt was among a handful of Republican Congressman who would regularly take to the House floor to defend Reagan at a time when conservatives didn’t have Fox News or talk radio or conservative blogs to give any balance to the liberal mainstream media. Newt actually came at Reagan’s administration “from the right” to remind Americans that freer markets and tougher national defense would win our future. But this week a few handpicked and selectively edited comments which Newt made during his 40-year career were used to claim that Newt was somehow anti-Reagan and isn’t conservative enough to go against the accepted moderate in the primary race. (I know, it makes no sense, and the GOP establishment hopes you won’t stop and think about this nonsense. Mark Levinand others have shown the ridiculousness of this.) To add insult to injury, this “anti-Reagan” claim was made by a candidate who admitted to not even supporting or voting for Reagan. He actually was against the Reagan movement, donated to liberal candidates, and said he didn’t want to go back to the Reagan days. You can’t change history. We know that Newt Gingrich brought the Reagan Revolution into the 1990s. We know it because none other than Nancy Reagan herself announced this when she presented Newt with an award, telling us, “The dramatic movement of 1995 is an outgrowth of a much earlier crusade that goes back half a century.  Barry Goldwater handed the torch to Ronnie, and in turn Ronnie turned that torch over to Newt and the Republican members of Congress to keep that dream alive.” As Rush and others pointed out, if Nancy Reagan had ever thought that Newt was in any way an opponent of her beloved husband, she would never have even appeared on a stage with him, let alone presented him with an award and said such kind things about him. Nor would Reagan’s son, Michael Reagan, have chosen to endorse Newt in this primary race. There are no two greater keepers of the Reagan legacy than Nancy and Michael Reagan. What we saw with this ridiculous opposition dump on Newt was nothing short of Stalin-esque rewriting of history. It was Alinsky tactics at their worst.

But this whole thing isn’t really about Newt Gingrich vs. Mitt Romney. It is about the GOP establishment vs. the Tea Party grassroots and independent Americans who are sick of the politics of personal destruction used now by both parties’ operatives with a complicit media egging it on. In fact, the establishment has been just as dismissive of Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Newt is an imperfect vessel for Tea Party support, but in South Carolina the Tea Party chose to get behind him instead of the old guard’s choice. In response, the GOP establishment voices denounced South Carolinian voters with the same vitriol we usually see from the left when they spew hatred at everyday Americans “bitterly clinging” to their faith and their Second Amendment rights. The Tea Party was once again told to sit down and shut up and listen to the “wisdom” of their betters. We were reminded of the litany of Tea Party endorsed candidates in 2010 who didn’t win. Well, here’s a little newsflash to the establishment: without the Tea Party there would have been no historic 2010 victory at all.

I spoke up before the South Carolina primary to urge voters there to keep this primary going because I have great concern about the GOP establishment trying to anoint a candidate without the blessing of the grassroots and all the needed energy and resources we as commonsense constitutional conservatives could bring to the general election in order to defeat President Obama. Now, I respect Governor Romney and his success. But there are serious concerns about his record and whether as a politician he consistently applied conservative principles and how this impacts the agenda moving forward. The questions need answers now. That is why this primary should not be rushed to an end. We need to vet this. Pundits in the Beltway are gleefully proclaiming that this primary race is over after Florida, despite 46 states still not having chimed in. Well, perhaps it’s possible that it will come to a speedy end in just four days; but with these questions left unanswered, it will not have come to a satisfactory conclusion. Without this necessary vetting process, the unanswered question of Governor Romney’s conservative bona fides and the unanswered and false attacks on Newt Gingrich will hang in the air to demoralize many in the electorate. The Tea Party grassroots will certainly feel disenfranchised and disenchanted with the perceived orchestrated outcome from self-proclaimed movers and shakers trying to sew this all up. And, trust me, during the general election, Governor Romney’s statements and record in the private sector will be relentlessly parsed over by the opposition in excruciating detail to frighten off swing voters. This is why we need a fair primary that is not prematurely cut short by the GOP establishment using Alinsky tactics to kneecap Governor Romney’s chief rival.

As I said in my speech in Iowa last September, the challenge of this election is not simply to replace President Obama. The real challenge is who and what we will replace him with. It’s not enough to just change up the uniform. If we don’t change the team and the game plan, we won’t save our country. We truly need sudden and relentless reform in Washington to defend our republic, though it’s becoming clearer that the old guard wants anything but that. That is why we should all be concerned by the tactics employed by the establishment this week. We will not save our country by becoming like the left. And I question whether the GOP establishment would ever employ the same harsh tactics they used on Newt against Obama. I didn’t see it in 2008. Many of these same characters sat on their thumbs in ‘08 and let Obama escape unvetted. Oddly, they’re now using every available microscope and endoscope – along with rewriting history – in attempts to character assassinate anyone challenging their chosen one in their own party’s primary. So, one must ask, who are they really running against?

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

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