It is a maxim of business and sports that you are “only as good as your bench.”
That means you’d better have younger, talented people coming up the ranks who can jump in and take over when the time comes. Without them, you will lose or fail to perform. It is that simple. Many a team and company, in my experience, has put all their eggs in one basket, so to speak, only to find that they get injured, lose it, are traded away, or just don’t live up to high expectations. I could give you hundreds of examples. The landscape is littered with also-rans.
This is even more true in the hypercompetitive blood sport of politics.
The pipeline of young candidates coming up and through the ranks, at every level and for every office, determines the quality and quantity of seats a political party will hold—not just in the next election but far into the future.
Recall Edmund Burke, who championed what he called “a manly, moral, regulated liberty.” Liberty well understood, he argued, recognizes the power of self-interest but emphasizes self-restraint. I know “manly” is now considered sexist, but Burke lived in the 18th century of greater gentility. Just think of it as muscular.
Political liberty values calculation, planning, and ambitious state undertakings but attaches great significance to the steady development of sentiments, manners, and morals over centuries. Such liberty depends on a “science of government—of constructing, conserving, and reforming the state”—that according to Burke, involves “a deep knowledge of human nature and human necessities, and of the things which facilitate or obstruct the various ends which are to be pursued by the mechanism of civil institutions.” It recognizes that “the little platoons we belong to in society”—family, religious community, village, or town—are the original source of “public affections” and furnish the schools in which we develop “a love to our country and to mankind.” Today, we would sum this up as patriotism and, in Americans’ experience recently, Trumpism.
This kind of conservatism rejects theoreticians’ and intellectuals’ definitions of “the rights of men,” when they endorse license without limits. Instead, liberty well understood affirms “the real natural rights of men,” grounded in the advantages for which civil society was formed, including the right to live under the rule of law; to own and acquire property and to pass it on to one’s children; and generally, to live with one’s family as “one sees fit provided one does not trespass on the rights of others.”
Where are the young, patriotic candidates in 2022? The National Republican Congressional Committee announced that 32 candidates in 24 House districts have qualified for the first tier of its “Young Guns” recruitment and support program. The list includes more than a dozen candidates who ran and lost in 2020 and two former members, Maine’s Bruce Poliquin and Montana’s Ryan Zinke, who are attempting comebacks.
“Recruitment is very strong across the board for Republicans, and this number of candidates this early, signals that,” NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams said.
Republicans are largely on offense this election cycle as they attempt to capitalize on historical midterm trends and advantages in the redistricting process to win back the House of Representatives. They only need five seats to do that but with a Red Wave coming, they could take 50 to 75 seats in a midterm rout and realignment based on the failure of the Biden presidency and the out-of-touch leftward-bound Democratic Party on every policy front. We hear that a full 85 percent of all Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Something has to change.
As an illustration, let’s look at a handful of these races and candidates as possibilities for what is coming.
Monica De La Cruz grew up in the Rio Grande Valley in the border town of Brownsville, Texas. She and her brother were raised by a single mom. She had a simple life that was built around faith, hard work, and family. Her mother raised her with a strong love of country as her grandfather served in the Navy in World War II and her brother served honorably 20 years in the Air Force. Monica and her husband own three successful small businesses and are examples of the American Dream. She believes in giving back to her community and has strong ties through her work with various community service organizations. Monica has three children and resides in Edinburg, Texas. She looks like just one of three Hispanic Republican women who will sweep into office this November. She is a real Top Gun.
Zach Nunn and his family have a track record of serving with action and delivering results for the country. Zach is a combat veteran who served three deployments to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, where he led forces in battle. He served as chief of operations for counterintelligence on Russia and China, helping to forge national security policy on the White House’s National Security Council. When government stopped caring about his community, Zach ran for office and won a seat in the state legislature, beating an entrenched Democratic incumbent by 12 points. Zach stuck to his principles: leading and passing Iowa’s largest tax cut for working families, protecting Second Amendment rights for Iowans, and delivering Iowa as the “#1 Best-Managed” state in the country, with a vibrant economic forecast and rainy-day surplus in the state’s budget.
Zach is a grateful husband and devoted father. He and his wife, Kelly, have four kids, and when called upon, fostered two more. Together, Kelly and Zach own and operate a small business serving their hometown community. He understands and lives American Greatness.
John James, an African American, has lived his life placing service before self. As a teenager, John decided to serve his country in the U.S Army. He became a Ranger-qualified aviation officer after graduating from West Point. John served with distinction in Operation Iraqi Freedom where he logged more than 753 combat flight hours, leading two Apache helicopter platoons. He earned a Combat Action Badge (CAB) and two Air Medals during his service. During his time in Iraq, John began taking graduate courses, and later graduated with a master’s degree in supply chain management from Penn State University and an MBA from the University of Michigan. After eight years of service to the nation, James was honorably discharged and returned to Michigan to work in the family business, James Group International. James grew the company into a major logistics and supply chain partner with Michigan’s auto industry. John and his wife, Liz, love raising their three boys together. Throughout his life, John James found ways to serve his nation and his community, as a soldier, job creator, and Christian. Now, John looks forward to serving his community in Congress for Michigan’s new 10th Congressional District. He is the real thing.
Jen Kiggans is a state senator, geriatric nurse practitioner, U.S. Navy veteran, mother, Navy wife, and Republican candidate for Congress in Virginia’s 2nd District. In 2019, Jen was elected to the Virginia State Senate representing District 7, which includes parts of both Virginia Beach and Norfolk. In Richmond, Jen has stood up to the liberal one-party rule and has been a champion for veterans, active-duty military, the unborn, seniors, patients, and working families. She has fought for local job creation, lower healthcare costs, less wasteful spending, and more secure elections. Jen is a member of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Virginia Geriatrics Society, American Nurses Association, and the American Legion Post 110. She is a recipient of the Boston University Scarlet Key Award for exceptional leadership and is a graduate of the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia with her four kids and husband, Steve, who is a retired U.S. Navy F-18 pilot.
My favorite addition to this list is Corey Gustafson, running in California’s reformatted 50th Congressional District, which is heavily Democrat. Since he was a former student of mine and a Claremont graduate under the great conservative, Charles Kesler, he is well qualified and very sure on his feet. He is a lifelong San Diegan who remembers when families could afford to live there, when they could count on the schools to provide quality education to their children, and when they could trust the local leaders to put San Diegans first. And in that process, they loved America and put it first, as well. San Diego has a rich Navy history and Corey honors it.
Corey is running for Congress because he believes we need change. He has never run for office before. Instead of pursuing a career in politics, he co-founded a small business that provides good jobs for local workers. He has the kind of real-world experience needed in Congress. He can balance a profit-and-loss statement. He is also a university lecturer, teaching students the truth of the American Dream and the importance of American civics and history. His beliefs are grounded in individual liberty, opportunity, limited government, and American Exceptionalism.
It is tough to find younger candidates who embody the right philosophy, who have the ability to win a hard campaign, and who will excel for their constituents and country when they reach office. Tough, but not impossible. As Lord Acton bemoaned, it is the rare politician, who doesn’t let power or privilege go to their head. Neither party in America has done a perfectly splendid job in this regard and incumbency and indeed, senility, seem to rule the day when it comes to elected officials from the president to the Congress. All the more critical to find and elect capable young blood.
And all the more important for the future of conservatism also that the party, the Republican National Committee, and all its local and state appendages, go out of their way to cultivate and nurture such future leaders. The “Young Guns” program is one way the party attempts to do precisely that.