There is a great deal of talk on both sides of the Atlantic about the plight of the right as the face the almost certain nomination of John McCain for the Republican Party.
The debate rages on about what committed conservatives should do.
Should they suck it up and do what is best for the party and the country? Should they admit that McCain, with all his ideological and policy faults, is better than either of the two likely nominees from the Democratic side of the fence? He might not be the most conservative Republican to run for that office but he is indisputably more conservative than Hillary and most especially Obama.
Or should they, as some are suggesting, take their toys and go home after Huckabee drops out? Not, of course, that Huckabee is that conservative either; he is merely more so than McCain in the social policy sense.
Does the toy analogy sound a bit harsh? Not if you read what some are saying on the social right. It isn’t difficult to understand how they feel. We have all been marginalized politically by better organized and more convincing forces. It comes with the territory of being a political activist.
One can look to the UK and the plight of the Conservative Party to see what happens when the latter strategy is adopted by a large number of those on the right.
Obviously the systems are rather different — unlike Britain, it is possible in the US to have a party control Congress and not the Presidency.
But that does not mean that the behavior of the various stripes of the right within the British Conservative Party is not food for thought and might be a note of caution for those truly considering doing something rash this November.
The trouble with “sitting a cycle out” or even sniping from the sidelines is that one can find that it is impossible to ever come in from the cold. Over the past decade of Labour rule in the UK, the Tory right has been ever so gradually marginalized in their own party to such an certain extent that many no longer find any place in the party at all.
The authoritarian right of the Tory Party, who go under the banner of the Monday Club, found themselves unceremoniously removed from the party and banned after the election of David Cameron.
Libertarian Conservatives and those who would consider themselves Thatcherite were harshly culled from the list of potential parliamentary candidates.
It used to be that it was possible to be selected to run for Parliament and not be on the approved list; but it was rare. Now it is not possible at all. These hard working party members were told they were not longer needed on the list and because of the change in the nature of the party there was no one there to make the case against the cull.
The rot set in when many on the right decided that the various leaders before David Cameron, whether it be William Hague or Iain Duncan Smith, were not what they would have liked.
This is, of course, after the crushing defeat in 1997 when many Tory voters voted “for change” (sound familiar) and drove their party out of power. Many of these voters and activists who did not help now regret the fact that they were an integral part of ensuring the Conservatives were kept out of office for over a decade.
There is no sign that the British right’s sojourn outside of running the country will end any time soon either. Despite the fact the country is sinking into recession, rising crime, sky high taxes and a complete malaise, the Conservatives are hard-pressed to find themselves more than five points ahead in the polls. In order to take power they need a far higher poll rating.
This lack of ability to return to power comes despite the fact that David Cameron has taken the party by force to the center of British politics, far preferring slight variations on the underlying centrist consensus on the environment, tax and other policy to that of true Conservative values of his predecessors.
And for those on the right in the US please note that David Cameron’s centrism makes McCain look like a solid right-of-center type.
Some of his cabinet ministers are expressing openly their admiration for both Obama and Clinton.
The reason the various ilks of the right lost their foothold in the Conservative Party is that they didn’t stick around enough to fight their corner and keep their ideas in the mix. They allowed their frustration and angst to get the better of them. They flirted with the various minor fringe parties of the right like the Referendum Party and UKIP; in some case losing the Conservatives seats that were held by similar minded Members of Parliament.
I was among those on the right who got fed up and frustrated enough to go home and not bother.
Before they make the same mistake, the social and fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party should ask themselves if they really want to relinquish their party apparatus to RINOS/centrists for the foreseeable future? Do they really think it would be a good idea to have Clinton or worse, the socialist Obama in power for four or maybe even eight years? Losing is never fun but there are times, like this one, that one has to look at the whole picture.
And for a conservative, the picture clearly shows that McCain on his worst day is far better than Obama or Clinton.
Andrew Ian Dodge blogs at Dodgeblogium.