Karl Rove's courage

This post originally appeared on Slate.

When Karl Rove's critics--his conservative critics--learned of his new effort to shape Republican politics, the hashtag #crushrove popped up on Twitter. Rove's intraparty foes insisted that his Conservative Victory Project be stopped: It was an effort to sideline the tea party, protect incumbents, and bleach conservatism out of the GOP.

But Rove's critics are wrong. If the Republican Party wants to evolve and the tea party wants a place in it, don't #crushrove, #hugrove.

Almost everyone connected to the GOP has opined recently about how the Republican Party needs to evolve after the 2012 election defeats. Gov. Bobby Jindal has given speeches, Rep. Paul Ryan has offered views, and this week House Majority Leader Eric Cantor invited everyone down to AEI to offer a few thin policy proposals aimed at rebranding. This paddling around in the shallow end is fine, but if there's going to be transformation, the Republican Party needs leadership and clear choices. Rove is offering both.

The other would-be visionaries are playing it safe, but Rove has joined Sen. Marco Rubio in actually putting action behind the talk. The idea of the Victory Project is that Rove and his allies will pick sides in Republican primary campaigns, supporting candidates who can win in the general election.

This idea has infuriated many conservatives, and prompted an outpouring of ridicule. "In 2012, they spent hundreds of millions of rich donors' money and had jack to show for it," wrote RedState's Erick Erickson. Town Hall's Terry Jeffrey cataloged every conservative sin of the Bush administration in a piece titled "Karl Rove is Not a Conservative." Influential conservative radio host Mark Levin referred to him as "doughboy" and levied a series of charming attacks, including a critique of Rove's penmanship.

Rove says he has been badly misunderstood (I know the feeling). He's not trying to protect incumbents, he says, but to make sure that the best conservatives can get elected. He points out that his 2012 Crossroads super PAC supported lots of tea party candidates. This hasn't calmed the anti-Rove fury.