Friday, November 7, 2008

The Blame Game

That more Republicans were routed was expected and sadly, Lindsey Graham was not among them. The damage could have been worse but it was done nonetheless. In the days since the historic election of our country’s first mulatto president, the GOP has been scrambling to figure out why the results were so catastrophic. They have been playing every loser’s favorite pastime: the blame game.

As I have previously conjectured, the biggest problem for the Republican presidential ticket was its nominee, John McCain. However, that is not the news that has been wafting out of what is the remainder of the McCain Camp. Not 24 hours after Mr. McCain’s concession speech did anonymous sources from the McCain campaign begin leaking to the press about how scatter-brained, unprepared, and bitchy vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin turned out to be. This after John McCain himself defended her time and again in the past two months and insisted that he really knew her well.

One of the popular reasons given for John McCain’s loss was the dismal selection of this running mate. From spring through the last weeks of summer, the McCain campaign was spinning its wheels. The freshman senator from Illinois was the toast of the liberal media. He made an even bigger splash by selecting Joe “Big Mouth” Biden, a veteran Washington bureaucrat if there ever was one. Mr. Obama was praised for acknowledging his deficiencies in foreign affairs and picked a supposed expert to help guide him. It smacked of the selection of one Richard Cheney.

So, with the media continuing to drool all over the Great Purveyor of White Guilt, John McCain, trailing in every poll, struggling with a despondent party base, had to do something bold and drastic, and did. The selection of the Alaska governor energized the reluctant conservatives who have never been comfortable with Mr. McCain. They wanted to hear the Democrats’ favorite Republican talk about abortion, gay marriage, and traditional values, Mac’s least favorite talking points. Sarah Palin became the voice to pacify those dissidents and she ended up bringing almost all of them into the Republican fold. She was the greatest gift possible for John McCain’s campaign.

But after a few dismal interviews with the elite liberal media and after her attack dog shtick got old, there were grumblings, even from Republicans, that the good lady had to go. And thus were the first signs that if the Republican ticket lost, the blame would fall on the VP.

And so it has. Never mind that John McCain’s margin of loss was probably smaller, yes smaller, than it would have been had he not selected Mrs. Palin. Had Joe “Partial-Birth” Lieberman or Tom “Terror Level” Ridge been selected, none of the conservatives would have gone with the GOP this year. While Mr. Obama ended up with a hefty electoral vote total, the electoral map was far more red than blue. A McCain-Lieberman or McCain-Ridge ticket would have resulted in a McGovern-like loss and political marginalization for the Republicans. The Religious Right, and its sympathizers like myself, are the most reliable voters the party has. Remove abortion from the platform and the Reagan Democrats will return to their otherwise natural home.

The second scapegoat of the GOP loss arises out of the first one. The charge there is that the religious and values voters of the party are preventing the party from having a bigger tent. The folks over at jumped on David “Axis of Evil” Frum’s recent suggestion that an overhaul to the party platform is needed from “abortion to the environment.” He would have been less obvious in his Christian-bashing if he had just demanded the values voters to “get out and stay out!” What is ironic is that this suggestion comes from a chief neoconservative theorist. Mr. Frum blames the values voters for keeping the GOP a small party. But this is the same man who exiled antiwar conservatives in 2003 who dared to question the party’s decision to uproot Iraqi society. He complains the tent is too small but he’s responsible for kicking out a contingent of intellectuals who did not fit into his narrow ideology. Even if conditions appear marginally better in Iraq today than in 2006, that does not change the fact that it is still an unpopular war that most in this country do not believe should have been launched in the first place. Based on this, is the GOP a small tent party because of those stupid and ignorant Christian voters, or because the party adopted a utopian ideology: wars for democracy. Are Christians shrinking the party or was it the policies that David Frum himself promoted and then fed through the president during his tenure as President Bush’s speechwriter?

Surely a change is needed for the Republican Party. However, kowtowing to Democratic talking points is not the solution. Republicans imitated Democrats in their spending habits for the first six years of the Bush administration and were perceived as corrupt as the Democrats of the early 1990s. For it, they were almost unanimously repudiated. For all the fuss made by the moderates and neoconservatives in the party about expanding beyond the base, they are the principal reason the party is in grave danger of losing the base itself.

Have Republicans not noticed that playing like Democrats does not win elections for Republicans? The country has not moved from Center-Right to Center-Left just because democratic socialist Barack Obama thumped donkey-in-elephant’s clothes John McCain. If it was Center-Left, would the gay marriage ban have been passed in California? The country has gotten tired of the Bush years and, rightly or wrongly, John McCain was painted as more of that.

Ron Paul and his message electrified the GOP before and during the primaries in ways no other candidate did. He wanted to bring the troops home, cut the budget, eliminate superfluous departments, replace government intervention with more personal freedom, protect one’s right to life, and return to the Constitution. It was a campaign that put Americans and America first, not corporations and false ideologies. Returning to these bedrock conservative principles should be a good place for the party to start if they wish to return to political relevance.

That is, now that the Republicans have time to sit back and reflect.


Daniel Bergquist said...

Once again I find us mostly in agreement, the main point of contention I will not retread here.

I was wondering what your reaction to this is.

Carl Wicklander said...

Still mulling a little, but it includes an observation I have made before. I know that in 1968 Reagan was really pushed to pursue the GOP nomination, but didn't stand a chance. It was still too close to the Goldwater disaster. But that makes the opposite point: Goldwater is not McCain. People were afraid Goldwater was too dangerous as a conservative, McCain is too much of a waffler and more of a Democrat than a Republican. Centrism and Bush Republicanism are still the main culprits for this defeat.

Even as an old-time conservative ideologue and an occasional piner for a major conservative party, I don't object to having moderates in the party. Congressmen of both the Right and Center were voted out this year. The last remaining moderate Northeastern Republicans, John Sununu and Chris Shays, were voted out. So I don't believe it's a problem with conservatism.

I also don't believe a move to the Center is necessary to win voters back. That was the point of David Frum that I mentioned. Returning to some of the old themes would be most advantageous for the Republicans especially if a liberal Congress and liberal President preside over ruins for the next 2-4 years.

It's not identical, but the party is in a position like in 1992-94 to make a comeback. Being perceived as moderate would not be my prescription for the party.