Sunday, October 19, 2008

Getting ugly

Nothing like the whiff of defeat to make people get angry and start hunting around for scapegoats, and the sense of an impending Maverick meltdown has led to lots of recriminations among people who, truth be told, had nothing to do with this mess.

That's a big part of why so many conservatives are angry to begin with -- we had nothing to do with it. John McCain was never our candidate, and when he locked up the GOP nomination back in February, a lot of conservatives declared that they would never, under any circumstances, vote for McCain. Most have since walked back from that stance, and the Greater Evil of Obama caused a rally-'round effect among Republicans who just months earlier had been vehemently denouncing John McCain.

Now, as hope of a miracle comeback fades among Republicans, the long knives are coming out. Allow me to suggest that the real problem to be confronted goes back to how John McCain got the nomination to begin with. Once Romney dropped out, the remaining alternatives were Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul. On economic issues, Huckabee was actually worse than McCain, and he wasn't really any better on immigration.

Why wasn't there a candidate in the field with a credible record, the right stance on the major domestic issues, and strong enough financial backing to act as the vehicle for the ABM (Anybody But McCain) Republicans? In spring/summer 2007, a lot of people thought it was going to be Fred Thompson, but after a promising start, Fred just couldn't seem to make it happen.

Allow me to suggest this explanation: After a party gains and holds the White House for two terms, the mechanism by which the party chooses its presidential nominees becomes rusty from disuse. Remember that LBJ cruised to re-election in 1964, only to be blindsided by Eugene McCarthy in the '68 New Hampshire primary. LBJ's vice president, Hubert Humphrey, picked up the mantle of incumbency and went down to defeat. The next time out, the Democrats nominated George McGovern -- the mechanism was rusty.

A very similar thing happened after Reagan's two-term presidency. Reagna succeeded in handing off the incumbency to Bush in 1988, but Bush got blindsided by Buchanan in the New Hampshire primary, then undermined by Ross Perot in the general election. And then in '96, Bob Dole (who was never a conservative favorite) got the nomination and lost in the general election.

If past is prologue, then, and McCain loses Nov. 4, it's unlikely that the GOP's primary system will produce a winning candidate in 2012. To overcome that historic pattern, conservatives will need to begin in 2009 trying to identify and promote several potential 2012 hopefuls who are generally acceptable to a broad coalition of Republican constituencies. Obviously, Sarah Palin's on that list, but there need to be a number of alternative names, since it's difficult to know what the situation is going to be like 4 years hence. And there needs to be a plan to ensure that the party coalesces around a consensus conservative candidate by fall of 2011, to prevent any future "Maverick" scenarios.


  1. You explain why Huckabee was not a good choice, but not Ron Paul. On the economy, immigration, and foreign policy he was fine. The charge leveled at him during the primary was the he was unelectable. Hindsight being 20/20 this has become obviously untrue. Ron Paul would have been very electable in the current climate, whereas John McCain is clearly the unelectable one.

  2. Your assertion that it's all a matter of mechanics may be comforting to you, but I think you're talking you're talking yourself into something that isn't true.

    You're fighting the last war--the war you won.

    In 1964, people thought the ruling party was adequate, so they retained them.

    In '68, people thought the ruling party inadequate, so they replaced them.

    So on, I think it safe to say, to the year 2000. It's the year 2000 that is the outlier.

    It's also a year in which mechanics triumphed. Since this was a triumph for your party, you are, I think, overly attached to what happened there. You think it would be easy--or at least possible--to replicate it, given the proper mechanics.

    You might also consider 2004 a triumph of mechanics. I think it more accurately considered a case of luck. It would not have taken many votes the other way--if they came in the right place--to have changed the results. So, luck. Good for your side then, not so good for your side now.

    That's because you're fighting the last war--the war you won. Followed by the war you lucked out on when you used the same mechanics.

    In '68, people looked at Johnson and said, No more. They looked at Bush in '92 and said, No more.

    The problem with my model, if you'll allow me dress it up as such, is the year 2000. Things were pretty good then. Why look at Clinton and say, No more?

    I'd guess it was the incredible, unprecedented, non-stop eight year campaign to trash the Clintons, which softened up the electorate to the campaign to mock Gore without mercy. Lots of money, lots of very, very smart people, lots of commitment.

    Times were unusually good then. Maybe people didn't have to be so serious? Times are not so good now. Do you think, as a famous Republican once asked, most people will say they're better off than they were when Bush took office?

    I'm amazed Bush won again in 2004. But all that did was postpone the day of reckoning.

    Seriously, do you think the fact that Obama worked with some stupid hippie at some do-gooding charity deserves to win you this election?

    You're fighting the last war.

    I'm sure this won't persuade you of anything. And I appreciate your willingness to take guff from some anonymous dog on the internet like me.

  3. About the best news I've read in recent days is that Bobby Jindal is scheduled to visit Iowa in late November. We can only hope that this is a part of laying the foundation for the sort of primaries we want to see in 2012.

    No venerated fossils, no baby-boomers with their politics-is-war attitude, no beltway-blessed-bipartisans. Get us some sincere conservative candidates who don't need a focus group to learn how to talk to the American people.

    In the meanwhile, vote for the old guy, it's that important.

  4. Stacy,

    I think it's simpler than that. Outside the ranks of political addicts like us, how many core Conservatives,(NOT GOP party people), actually follow the news close enough for name recognition of conservatives? The only time the MSN mentions a conservative politician is when there is a scandal, or they take an obviously WRONG, (from the democrat's/MSN), point of view, and are chastised for it.

    That's why Newt was successful. He got name recognition from the grassroots, and made sure all his core group were known locally.

    People like Obama grew up understanding this! Acorn's primary purpose is to get that name recognition out to the dregs,(and everyone else they find), the registration is just a reason to get out there.

    Obama/vote, repeat 40 million times. Preferably with pictures for the illiterate.

    We just finished a national election in Canada. Our candidate, Randy Kamp, (CPC),is very uncharismatic, almost stoic. We won by almost 10,000 votes over a charismatic dipper, (NDP). Both candidates have run against each other 3 times now. Randy has won all three times. Ironically the dipper is the president of the local newspaper guild,(union).

    Our riding has grown by about 20,000 new potential voters per year, forced out here by availability of buying smaller, cheaper housing,(think sub-prime profile, though we didn't go quite down that road), this gives rise to a large pool of new voters registering to vote.

    While some success must be due to Party success in iterating policy in ads, I strongly believe Randy's success is due to his high visibility in the community. He is almost always in his office when he's not in Ottawa, he's walking around, pops in to meetings, he's active on community issues, ran a passport clinic in his office, and puts a mail out in every mailbox at least monthly, and ALWAYS ask our opinion on 5- 10 current issues. Randy calls back people with strong view on issues, and welcomes dialogues with constituents by phone or email.

    I see a parallel here. I was active for years for the old Progressive Conservatives, found them to be mostly old liberals too tired to fight. Every election, they'd put out the signs, sit around and waste campaign money, lose and go home. I fought them for years until Reform came along with it's grass-roots style, and we ended up marginalizing and then absorbing the actual conservatives in the PC.

    My point? If the GOP wants to win again nationally, they need someone like Newt to get back to grass-roots organizing. Nominate candidates NOW, make them spend their years in the wilderness in the wilderness they want to win in!


  5. There will be no need for a GOP primary in 2012.

    The Republican Party would be absolutely insane not to nominate Sarah.

    In fact, we ought to think about canceling the whole process for 2012 altogether. Let's annoint her starting on Nov. 5, if McCain doesn't make it.