Sunday, May 11, 2008

Where we went wrong

From The Washington Post:

Since losing 30 seats and their 12-year stranglehold on power in 2006, House Republicans have kept asking themselves the same question: Can it get any worse?

On Tuesday, they may get another answer they won't like.

With lots of help from Washington -- including more than $1.3 million in campaign cash and a last-minute visit by Vice President Cheney -- Mississippi Republicans are desperately trying to retain a congressional seat in one of the most reliably conservative districts in the nation.

The stakes in the 1st District special election couldn't be higher, strategically or symbolically. The loss of a traditionally GOP seat to a Democrat would be the third in a special election this spring and the second in the Deep South after the May 3 victory of Rep. Don Cazayoux (D-La.).

Rank-and-file Republicans say that would force a day of reckoning for their leadership.

"When you connect three dots in anything, that's a bad thing. This connects the dots. At that point, everybody's got to come together and have a come-to-Jesus meeting," said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), a retiring centrist who will help form a new advisory panel at the National Republican Congressional Committee.

"It's a time of sober reflection and, to some extent, resolve. I hope these special elections are a wake-up call," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), the leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

Democratic leaders have stopped tamping down expectations and instead have set a new goal for the November elections of establishing a long-lasting majority that could dominate the chamber.

"We will have a strong, confident, predictable Democratic majority to take us forward, and then we will be in 2010, 2012, on the path to a strong Democratic leadership for a long time to come," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Ronald Reagan showed anyone with even an average IQ how to turn the Republican party into a permanent majority by the consistent application of conservative principles.

Since Reagan there hasn't been one Republican president who has even attempted to apply Reagan's conservative principles across the board - not one.

That doesn't mean that Republicans have done nothing right since Reagan, after all the Republican congress that was seated in 1994 did a very good job of holding Bill Clinton in check and that is what was primarily responsible for the good economy of the 1990's. However just as soon as a non-conservative Republican president was elected in 2000 it seemed that most traces of conservatism were lost to the Republican legislature.

The result was the loss of control of both the House and the Senate.

After the disastrous 2006 election someone observed that the Republican party got a wake-up call and elected to hit the snooze button. They did that and they have been slumbering ever since.

How else to explain the party's choice of John McCain as its candidate this year?

The Republican party cannot achieve majority status if its program is simply to run along behind the Democrats calling out "me too, me too - but just not quite as much".

For far too long Republicans and "conservatives" have been mainly occupied with looking at whichever bit of socialism the Democrats are currently pushing and coming up with their own plan which goes in the same direction, but just not as far.

They have attempted to sell this to the public as a valid alternative to the Democrat party.

The public has proven over and over again that when given the choice between a democrat and a Democrat they will pick the Democrat.

I believe they will do this in November by electing Barack Obama president of the United States.
If and when this happens fingers of blame will furiously point, first at conservatives who would not support McCain then at McCain for running a losing campaign. However the true fault will lie with the entire spectrum of the Republican party and the beginning of the rot goes all the way back to 1988 when the Republican party nominated George H.W. Bush to head the Republican ticket.

It was obvious that the elder Bush was not a conservative even before he called for a "kinder, gentler nation" (as opposed to the "meanness" of the Reagan years). During the 1980 primary where he opposed Reagan he called conservative supply-side economics "voodoo economics" and attempted to position himself as the "sane and moderate" alternative to Reagan.

Reagan was forced to accept him on the ticket in order to avoid a full blown rebellion by the liberal "country club" wing of the party (they had risen up against Goldwater and helped defeat him in 1964). However necessary it was for Reagan to put Bush on the ticket with him it was not necessary, but only a blind and mistaken sense of loyalty, which caused him to endorse Bush for president in 1988. And it was a blind and mistaken sense of loyalty to Reagan which led the Republican party to ignore the fact that Bush was almost certain to turn his back upon everything that Reagan stood for once elected - as he in fact did.

That was the beginning of the end. Every time a conservative Republican has held his nose and voted for a "moderate" like George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W Bush and soon John McCain he has pounded a nail into the coffin of the Republican party. We never learned the lesson that a tent big enough to hold everyone will stand for anything - or nothing.

Of course the fault also lies with the "moderate" (read liberal) Republicans like Arlen Specter and the elder Bush and McCain who have been and still are straining with all their might to return the party to what is was before Goldwater and Reagan - a minority with 30 seats in the Senate and 140 seats in the House.

We Republicans are all to blame. The moderates are to blame for not learning from history that their way produces nothing but defeat and for refusing to abandon their spinelessness and join the conservatives. Conservatives are to blame for tolerating the presence of unrepentant moderates and even liberals in their ranks.

The RNC is to blame for not applying any kind of ideological test to candidates and offering the party's support to out and out liberals like Specter and "mavericks" like McCain.

Elected Republican officials like Rick Santorum are to blame for rushing to the aid of any Republican incumbent no matter how little he deserves to have the support of conservatives. Santorum, you will remember, threw his weight behind left-liberal Arlen Specter and helped him survive a primary challenge from genuine conservative Pat Toomey. Santorum's efforts were successful in saving Specter, but they left such a bad taste in conservative Pennsylvanians' mouths that they failed to turn out to support Santorum when he was up for reelection and he went down to an 18 point defeat.

The Republican party has worked hard for 20 and more years to earn its coming defeat. It is my hope that the party will at long last learn its lesson and understand that it must be a conservative party. I pray that it comes to understand that the Republican tent must be large enough to hold everyone who upholds the three pillars of conservatism, social conservatism, fiscal conservatism and foreign policy conservatism. But not one square inch larger.

We must come to understand that efforts to grow the party must be built around convincing people that our core beliefs are correct and persuading them to join us rather than modifying our beliefs in order to accommodate persons who hold different core principles.

The only thing that "me too" Republicanism will ever get our nation is the same decline, defeat and poverty that the Democrats are offering, but on a slower timetable. And that, my friends, is not worth voting for.