There is a lot of finger-pointing nationally about the outcome of the 2022 general election, and rightly so. The economy is in shambles, we’ve dumped a $100 billion this year on a war in eastern Europe without any clear objectives, and parents are horrified to learn what leftists have been pushing on kids in schools.

Seems like Republicans should have done better. Seems like, but didn’t.

Everyone wants to blame someone. It was Mitch McConnell’s fault! It was Donald Trump’s fault! It was Kevin McCarthy, Rona McDaniel, the Freedom Caucus… Yes, sure. Blame all of them.

Except, maybe, we’re misdirecting where the lionshare of the blame should fall. I would humbly suggest the problem is less with those people I’ve just named as it is with the candidates and, excuse me, but the voters.

And I can say this with some confidence, because in Texas for conservatives the November races all went pretty well. Could have been better, but there were few glaringly horrendous outcomes. Statewide, Republicans earned double-digit victories, whether you are talking about our cautiously establishmentarian governor or our rabble-rousing, Biden-suing attorney general.

Texas voters grew the lead of Republicans in the congressional delegation as well as in the state house. The Texas Senate could have seen a pick up, but only in a swing seat where the narrow margin almost makes it an elusive moral victory if nothing else.

That was most definitely not the case elsewhere in the union.

I am going to set aside, for this discussion only, the very real problem of election shenanigans that took place in places like Arizona. The corruption, or even just the appearance of corruption, is a different beast that must be addressed separately.

In too many other races nationally, races were plagued by big-spending candidates picked by outside forces who overwhelmed the better judgment of an often-lazy voting public.

It is not without reason that D.C. used to be called Hollywood for ugly people. We are a celebrity-obsessed culture, and politicians lean heavily into that and trade off it. In our quest for “interesting” candidates, we end up with sub-par – if high-profile – losers as a result. (For what it is worth, the Democrats also have this problem; see Robert “Beto” O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams, for example.)

What gets traded, more often than not, are the citizens’ rights and liberties.

The worst candidates are those whose true loyalties reside away from the people whom they seek to serve.

The best candidates should be those intent on upsetting the crony culture, not becoming a cog within it. Instead of courting lobbyists, we need intelligent candidates who put individual liberty ahead of political convenience.

Good candidates are those with whom voters identify. It’s not so much about what they say, but how they make voters feel; candidates who make the election about the voters, rather than themselves, are more likely to govern that way. Voters deserve to be heard, and not talked past. Voters don’t need candidates who use them as props, but candidate who will fight to disrupt the status quo.

Rather than seek to serve themselves and pad their own political pockets, we need candidates with a record of serving God and their neighbors. We should be less interested in being friends with candidates, than knowing how familiar they are with the issues of the day. We should promote men and women willing to disrupt the plans of establishmentarians and self-serving cronies.

We must stop asking ourselves if we’d want to have dinner or a beer with a candidate, and ask instead if we believe they are committed to constitutional principles. If voters are going to pick better candidates, we must better understand our own expectations. Rather than meekly accept the policy pablum we’re offered, voters must choose candidates willing to fight for the citizens’ priorities.

For Republicans and conservatives, the problem is less “RINO” or “MAGA” than it is cults of personality and the worship of power. As citizens, we must stop voting as if we’re judges in a talent show. Instead, we must view ourselves as the hiring officers on the committee to save the republic.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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