Given our current situation, it’s deeply ironic that moderate Republicans spent the last few years completely ignoring conservative concerns and insisting that if only the ignorant right-wingers would listen to them, they’d create a majority that would last for 40 years.
First there was campaign finance reform, followed by the Medicare prescription drug program, No Child Left Behind, the Gang of 14, Harriet Miers, the Dubai port deal, illegal immigration, out-of-control earmarking, deficit spending, the bailout, and probably another half dozen additional disasters that I’m blocking out because they’re too painful to think about.
Then, after all of that, these RINOs helped to nominate John McCain, the least conservative GOP nominee since Richard Nixon. Only a few months later, many of those same people turned right around and supported his opponent, the most liberal Democratic nominee in American history.
You know their names: Lincoln Chafee, William Weld, Colin Powell, Christopher Buckley, Wayne Gilchrest, Richard Riordan, Douglas Kmiec, Scott McClellan, Ken Adelman, and Michael Smerconish, among others.
At least one of them should have the common decency to reprise that great line from Animal House,
You can’t spend your whole life worrying about your mistakes! You [screwed] up — you trusted us! Hey, make the best of it!
But, no — the very same people who systematically, methodically advocated positions that have destroyed the Republican brand with the American people are once again preparing to deflect the blame if John McCain loses the election.
There are a couple of stories out there that foreshadow the “blame Palin” strategy they’re going to use to do it. The first is from the widely quoted CNN story over the weekend regarding Palin’s allegedly “roguish” attitude.
“She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone,” said this McCain adviser. “She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.
“Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom.”
Here’s David Frum spinning the Republican squish narrative with a bit more specificity:
So in August, McCain tried a bold new gambit: He would reach out to independents and women with an exciting and unexpected vice-presidential choice.
That didn’t work out so well either. Gov. Sarah Palin connected with neither independents nor women. She did, however, ignite the Republican base, which has come to support her passionately. And so, in this last month, the McCain campaign has Palinized itself to make the most of its last asset. To fire up the Republican base, the McCain team has hit at Barack Obama as an alien, a radical, and a socialist.
Sure enough, the base has responded. After months and months of wan enthusiasm among Republicans, these last weeks have at last energized the core of the party. But there’s a downside: The very same campaign strategy that has belatedly mobilized the Republican core has alienated and offended the great national middle, which was the only place where the 2008 election could have been won. …
The themes and messages that are galvanizing the crowds for Palin are bleeding Sens. John Sununu in New Hampshire, Gordon Smith in Oregon, Norm Coleman in Minnesota, and Susan Collins in Maine. The Palin approach might have been expected to work better in more traditionally conservative states such as Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, but they have not worked well enough to compensate for the weak Republican economic message at a moment of global financial crisis. Result: the certain loss of John Warner’s Senate seat in Virginia, the probable loss of Elizabeth Dole’s in North Carolina, an unexpectedly tough fight for Saxby Chambliss’s in Georgia — and an apparent GOP surrender in Colorado, where it looks as if the National Republican Senatorial Committee has already pulled its ads from the air.
The problem with this is that practically every word of it is designed to be deceptive, including the ofs and thes.
The senators he names that are in trouble? They’ve been in trouble all year long.
Furthermore, the campaign hasn’t gone negative because it has been “Palinized”; it has been negative because McCain doesn’t have enough credibility on conservative issues like gay marriage, affirmative action, illegal immigration, and deficit spending, to eviscerate Obama with them. When you’re behind in the polls and you don’t have any positive messages to push you over the top, you have no other choice but to go negative.
It was McCain’s support for the bailout, not his selection of Palin — who has been an asset and a breath of fresh air — that caused his campaign to crater.
Incidentally, some of us predicted exactly that outcome. Here’s what I wrote back on September 29:
Let me make a simple prediction: John McCain backs the bailout, he loses the election. The Republicans in Congress back this bailout and they lose five seats in the Senate and 20 in the House — minimum.
It didn’t exactly take Nostradamus to figure out it was a bad idea politically — Jim DeMint was telling me the calls to his office were running 100-to-1 against the bailout, so it was clear.
Anybody who understands conservatives knew it would be a disaster if McCain signed on to the bailout, because the Republican base hates socialism and they loathe deficit spending. So, how can a candidate — who’s keeping conservatives on board primarily via his reputation for fiscal conservatism — possibly sign onto a socialistic, $700 billion bailout, with a month to go before the end of the election, without having his campaign take a major hit as a result?
Why doesn’t Frum see this? Well, here’s Frum’s take on the bailout:
I say “aye” to the proposed national debt bailout — and a big shout out to Rep. Barney Frank, one of its early authors, who has been a prescient early voice on the need for a big solution to a big problem.
In other words, it’s the “same old, same old” from the people who have ruined the Republican Party. They give horrible advice, predictably it leads to disaster, and then they always find some excuse to blame conservatives for the party’s misfortune.
That being said, I still believe McCain has an outside shot to win and I hope he does. He is a flawed candidate, but he would be immeasurably better than Barack Obama.
But whether McCain wins or not there must be some big changes made in the Republican Party. We don’t need a purge — political parties that are losing elections need to add more people, not to kick them out.
Instead, we need to take a page out of the other team’s playbook. There are plenty of moderates in the Democratic Party, but the Dems take care of their core supporters first and the people in the middle have very little political say. That should be even more the case in the Republican Party, where conservatives make up a larger share of the party faithful than liberals do in the Democratic Party.
We’ve gone the “compassionate conservative,” “Democrat lite” route for eight years and it has been an unmitigated political disaster.
It’s time to stop listening to the same people who’ve burnt the Republican Party down to the ground. We need to retool our agenda using the conservative principles that have been at the root of every success the Republican Party has had over the last 30 years.
Once we do, the American people will regain confidence in the GOP and the slide into oblivion the party has been experiencing will finally be reversed.