Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Defying Self-interest: GOP Politics in 2008

By Garry J. Moes

There are two perplexing examples in modern life of people acting against what Lord Woodhouselee in 1836 called democracy’s "predominant principle of self-interest." One is why battered women tend to stay with the men that batter them. The other is the voting habits of Republicans.

With the tide of Super Tuesday now receding into the sea, the footprints of anything conservative on American political shores seem all but effaced. The Republican Party can no longer credibly be called a conservative party if its members continue to be so blind to conservative principles or to the blessings which these principles have provided to the nation’s best interests. In the words of the new Pepsi Max advertising slogan: "Wake Up, People!"

Will somebody please tell me what is the attraction of this crabby old curmudgeon John McCain. Clearly, there is no attraction other than that the GOP (Good Old Pals) Establishment continues to do what it always does — reward the next stalwart in line, oblivious to the nation’s needs and the current political climate and careless of the consequences for both the party and the nation. Welcome back, Bob Dole! We sure enjoyed your delightful campaign back in the day when the country was whooping it up with the Good Time Charlie from Arkansas, hoping to go on sinning with impunity like he was. That sure was great how you zinged the Clintons with your wit and war record. And we were sure that, with your Viagra and all, you would put Bill’s stuff back in its place. Maybe your reincarnation McCain can put his wife in her place, which won’t be in the kitchen baking cookies. But then, maybe we shouldn’t expect as much from McCain as we did from you, Bob. As Ann Coulter puts it, "John McCain is Bob Dole minus the charm, conservatism and youth."

If you watch campaign stuff on the TV, you have probably noticed that in just about every appearance of John McCain the Maverick on a stage somewhere, he’s surrounded by some or all of the really hip guys in politics these days — forward-looking, cutting-edge visionaries like John Warner, Lindsey Graham, Jack Kemp, Joe Lieberman, Sam Brownback, Bob Dole, Susan Collins, Olympia Snow, Trent Lott, Gordon Smith, Chuck Hagel and . . . well, just go down the Senate cloakroom list and the roster of the Gang of 14 and the Who’s Who of Washed-up Washington pols and you’ll see what I mean. And look at the conservative stalwarts to whom he has so successfully reached out to accomplish great bipartisan boons for the nation, guys like Russ Feingold and Teddy Kennedy. As one blogger so aptly put it, "It never ceases to amaze me how Republicans can keep recycling the same old warhorses, no matter what kind of . . . universal disapprobation they receive from the outside world." (To be sure, there’s that other Kennedy, Maria Shriver, who doesn’t like McCain so much, having now endorsed Barack Obama. But then there’s her husband, Arnold, the Terminator of all things conservative on the Left Coast, who thinks McCain’s the Man.) As one commentator on The Hotline put it: "McCain thinks he was doomed by a powerful, insular cabal of Republican insiders [in 2000], so he's building a powerful, insular cabal of his own. . . . McCain is running a 2000 strategy in a 2008 world. Once again, he'll likely discover his misfire two years too late."

The Hotline blogger went on to ask, "What happens when the establishment leads in a direction the grassroots won't follow? You have full scale revolts over issues like immigration...." We can only hope! I’m more worried right now about what happens when the grass-lacking-roots just happily follows along with the Big Tent Establishment down the broad primrose path that leadeth to destruction — the destruction of the golden conservative truth and disintegration of the national foundations that will surely follow.

Okay, conservative Republican voters, which of these McCain positions has you so enamored with him:

  • Supports expanded prescription drug coverage under Medicare.
  • Supports stem cell research on embryonic stem cells.
  • Would relax restrictions barring legal immigrants from using social programs (e.g. public housing, food stamps).
  • The United States should maintain its financial support of the United Nations and commit troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions.
  • Does not agree that a nation's human rights record should affect its normal trade relations (most favored nation) status with the United States. Trade agreements should not include provisions to protect workers' rights.
  • The United States should not grant law enforcement agencies greater discretion to read mail and e-mail, tap phones, and conduct random searches to prevent future terrorist attacks.
  • The Guantanamo Bay detention camp for terrorists should be closed, and virtually no physical coercion should ever be used to extract information from our bloodthirsty enemies.
  • Supports increased funding for child care programs.
  • Supports housing assistance for low-income families.
  • Supports austere global warming legislation.
  • Opposes oil independence that could come from extracting America’s own vast, vast oil resources when they lie under a far-flung seldom-seen frozen land crust in the world’s far north.
  • I could to on....

Hillary Clinton, if she is the Democratic nominee, will make mincemeat of old McCain as her husband did of old Dole. If Obama poses the opposition, old vet McCain will become a laughingstock among the young builders of the new Black Camelot into which the White House will be transformed. The Grand OLD Party doesn’t seem to have tumbled onto the fact that there is a motivated new generation of citizens who have been schooled their whole lives in the world-view of their molders from the Fabian Socialist government school system. These are the children of the children of the Sixties, who spit upon those warmongers who traumatized the good people of Vietnam, even including those like McCain who were traumatized right back by the good people of Vietnam. This generation of leftists and their progeny, of course, never need true answers or intelligent thought, logic or ideas. They just know their feelings must lean left or they will lose their balance, and whoever can make their feelings swoon will have their swooning support in return.

Still — may God so grant — there must be enough real Americans out there who can recognize a proven American idea, give it some real weight in the midst of a blathering election campaign and throw their support to someone who is willing to communicate it forthrightly. I think Mitt Romney could still do so if he could stop being distracted by the urge to gut-fight his gut-fight-baiting opposition and if some conscience-stricken evangelicals could get past his Mormonism to see his admirable understanding of religious freedom. ("Conscience is that still, small voice that is sometimes too loud for comfort," one Bert Murray (?) once said.)

Could we start (quickly, please), perhaps, with Newt Gingrich’s "American Solutions for Winning the Future" and identify a solid, winning individual to run with these ideas, even if it means as an independent presidential candidate, or someone bold enough to be willing to say, "I will lead a new Conservative Party for these United States." I am convinced there is no better year for an independent to actually win the White House. In fact, it may take Newt himself to salvage conservatism in the mainstream of American politics. I like what Michael Reagan wrote last month on the subject:

Who is advocating common sense solutions to the most pressing problems America faces?

Newt Gingrich, that's who. He was out of the race for a long time; he toyed with the idea of running until Fred Thompson entered the race; and then he more or less pulled back. Why Newt? Ask yourself why Ronald Reagan won. He won because he was able to excite a group of people in America that the liberal wing of the Republican Party has never excited – the grass roots.

Newt Gingrich is the last Republican to do that — to reach out to the grass roots, to all those conservative Republicans and Reagan Democrats. Remember, it was Newt who engineered the miraculous Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 — something that was deemed impossible two years after Bill Clinton won the White House.

I wouldn't be surprised if he was out there quietly working the phones and hoping for a wide-open convention where the delegates, and not the primaries that selected many of them, decide for themselves who they want to carry the GOP banner in the presidential election in November.

If Newt throws his hat in the ring he knows that in the blink of an eye he's got the grass roots behind him.

Did I see an eye blink? I’m in. Don’t let my winter-browned lawn fool you. My grass still has roots. Does yours?