Who Destroyed the Republican Party?
Billy Hollis joins Rush Limbaugh, Peggy Noonan, and other conservative commenters in trying to figure out who is responsible for destroying the Republican Party and which of the potential nominees would destroy it even more.
He thinks that nominating Mike Huckabee would likely lead to “a loss of Goldwater-McGovern proportions.” I’m inclined to agree, especially if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee; I think it would be closer if Hillary Clinton is his opponent. At any rate, Huckabee isn’t going to be the nominee.
John McCain might, though, and that scares the hell out of Hollis:
Nominating McCain signifies the end of the GOP as it’s been envisioned by many since the Reagan years, and only a serious rebuilding effort or a dramatic realignment of political parties will bring back any significant emphasis on freedom, the free market, individual responsibility, and the other principles most of the folks who come around here believe in.
But there’s no point in blaming McCain. He’s just following the pattern laid down by the Bush pair. Talk a good game, pander, arrange “grand compromises” which inevitably lead to expansion of government, and get your place in the history book. Limited government principles? Who needs ’em?
And the GOP faithful are still out there attempting to scare folks with “What? Any Republican is better than Hillary! If you small-government types know what’s good for you, you’ll get behind the GOP nominee, whoever it is. Otherwise, it will be a disaster!”
Well, it will be a disaster – for the political insiders and those whose life revolves around winning. The Democrats already suffered through theirs. In 1994, the entire Democratic political establishment was shell shocked when the GOP took Congress, by a big margin. The GOP has not yet faced their own disaster, mostly because they’ve been blessed with stupid enemies.
But I think it’s coming, sooner or later. Sooner, if McCain or Huckabee are the standard bearer. Later, if the GOP squeezes out one more victory, but just can’t internalize the need to stop selling the spending, stop the earmarks, and get serious about their core small-government principles.
You would think that their most successful president of the last century showed them the template they need to succeed, and that they would therefore adopt it. Apparently not. As the old saw goes, they might do the right thing – after they’ve exhausted all other possibilities.
First off, McCain is the fiercest opponent of earmarks and runaway spending in the field by a rather wide margin. He’s the guy who opposed the Bush tax cuts, for example, because they weren’t offset by cuts in discretionary spending.
More importantly, though, I reject the idea that McCain — or Bushes 41 and 43, for that matter — are amoral politicians who simply tack in whichever direction the polls tell them to go. Hell, McCain’s positions on immigration, campaign finance, taxes, global warming, torture and a variety of other hot button issues would certainly seem to provide plenty of evidence for that. Rather, he’s an 82 percent conservative (if you take the American Conservative Union’s rating system as the proper measure) who simply disagrees with the Movement on some issues.
We have only two political parties in this country and even its leaders don’t agree with everything in the platform. Every deviation from the Holy Writ isn’t apostasy; it’s life under the big tent.
Ronald Reagan last ran for president 24 years ago. A lot has changed since then — partly thanks to his policies. We’re not fighting the commies any more. We don’t have marginal tax rates of 70 percent. It’s now been 35 years since Roe v. Wade rather than 11. It stands to reason, then, that the policy prescriptions of 1980 are going to need some updating.
And, frankly, Reagan’s record — as opposed to his rhetoric — isn’t exactly what those who pine for the Good Ole Days seem to think it was. Reagan did virtually nothing to advance the socially conservative agenda he talked about. He appointed Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, two moderate swing votes, to the Supreme Court to go along with Antonin Scalia, his lone conservative appointee*. And he signed the biggest illegal immigrant amnesty bill in the country’s history. He allowed spending to skyrocket under his administration, leaving the country saddled with historic debt.
It’s 2008, not 1980. Most women work outside the home. There hasn’t been a military draft in more than a generation. There are significantly more than three television channels. We’ve completed the shift from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. Our political climate has, understandably, changed a little. Goodness, there’s a serious chance that a woman or a black man will be our next president; that was the stuff of stand-up comedy routines in Reagan’s day.
The campaigns of Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, Tommy Thompson, and Fred Thompson never got off the ground. If you thought they’d be great presidents, you were virtually alone. Sorry for your loss but it’s time to move on.
The president represents 300 million-odd Americans and is selected through a grueling process that ensures he’s vetted by widely varying constituencies. The primary process runs potential nominees through a gauntlet and then the general election requires appealing to pluralities in enough states to get at least half of the votes in the Electoral College.
Not surprisingly, this means it’s pretty rare for a truly ideological candidate to win the thing. Most Americans aren’t particularly ideological, for one thing, and different parts of the country have very different concerns. So, yes, pragmatism and compromise tends to win the day. That’s not very exciting, to be sure, and it can be frustrating for those of us who have very strong ideas about government. But that’s life.
Unless something very odd happens, the winners of the Romney-McCain and Obama-Clinton fights will emerge to duke it out during the summer and fall. Nobody on that list inspires me to do cartwheels. Nonetheless, I’ll pick from among them and live with the outcome.
*Well, he did appoint Robert Bork. Kennedy was actually his third choice for that seat after Bork was, well, Borked, and Douglas Ginsburg was found to be an active dope smoker.