Where Do We Go From Here?

Part II:  Political Observations and Ideas

In the last 20 years, it has become obvious that the GOP ( as well as the conservative movement) has become collectivist in nature and in purpose.  What used to be an organization reliant on bottom-to-top ideas and movement has become DC-centric; where DC tells the state and local operations what to do and what is acceptable.  This gives rise to the dreaded political consultant/strategist whose inane ramblings become marching orders. Even sadder, it is apparent that many of the Reaganites who came to DC when Ronald Reagan became president have also been co-opted into the mindset that power and money trump principles.  During the Reagan years, the joke going around the White House was, “how many people work at the RNC?  Oh, about half of them.”  I would bet that during the Bush years it was greater than half.

Thus, the GOP needs to return the political power, talent, and money back to the states and local operations.  The states have a better idea how to allocate money and resources.  Let the states and local organizations conduct their own voter registration drives and recruit candidates.  The RNC needs to only provide guidance and knowledge.

Another problem is the primary process.  This is the area which creates the greatest havoc and provides very little benefit for the general election.  We have seen this occur in three-way races for US Senate seats held by Democrats. In 2010, three candidates ran for the GOP nomination against Harry Reid.  Sue Lowden was probably the best of the three candidates, but she was savagely attacked for every faux pas.  Meanwhile, one of her opponents, Sharon Angle, received favorable media coverage.  Sharon Angle was probably the worst of the three candidates. Angle won the primary, but did not garner 50% of the vote.  In the general election, the flawed Angle candidacy was exposed and Harry Reid easily won reelection. In 2012, we saw the same thing happen in Missouri and Florida.  In the end, two Senate seats that should have gone to the GOP remained Democrat.

The problem is even greater in the primary process for president.  The first race is the Iowa caucus.  With so much media attention focused on the Iowa caucus, a candidate must cozy up to the social conservative base or play footsies with the ethanol interests.  There were rumors this year that certain influential social conservatives were asking candidates to pay $1 million for their endorsement.  It is a small price to pay for a great showing and momentum going into the New Hampshire primary. The New Hampshire primary is beset with problems.  The current New Hampshire electorate does not resemble the electorate of William Loeb and Meldrim Thompson.  It is less conservative.  A bigger problem is that it is an open primary.  This certainly is an invitation for crossover mischief.  Thus, by the time the results of the Iowa and New Hampshire races are known, the conservative candidates are behind with little momentum going into the next primary races.

First, there needs to be closed primaries for the GOP.  They should not be open to independents and Democrats.  It is common sense only allow members of the GOP to select the GOP candidate.  If independents and Democrats desire to cross over, they need to wait two years from the date of their last ballot cast.  The next thing for the non-presidential primaries is to have an automatic runoff between the top two contenders.  This will cut down on the mischief of an opposition party trying to influence the outcome in favor of a preferred opponent.  In the end, the GOP must close ranks.  There should be no toleration for petulance from either the conservatives or the GOP establishment.  The behavior of folks like Mike Castle in 2010 and Richard Lugar in 2012 are an embarrassment.  Such divisions doom  the candidate that remains in the race.



The Ghost of Moderates Past

A wise historian once claimed, “those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. As I look at the results of the 2012 election, I am amused by the number of excuses why Mitt Romney lost this election. They range from the usual suspects, the TEA Party, the social conservatives, hard-line conservatives, a lot of dumb people who don’t know any better, to complete fantasies like Obama “stole” the election, Obama “bribed” the American people, and the Democrats hacked into Romney’s Orca GOTV system on election day, causing the GOP to lose Ohio. They never blame Romney and excuse all of his tactical and strategic mistakes; nor do they ever provide direct proof of their fantasies.

You see, many of these folks have no sense of reality and history. The GOP have nominated folks like Mitt Romney since Herbert Hoover and none of them have ever been elected. The one exception was Dwight Eisenhower. I doubt even the foolish of fools could compare Romney to Ike but I am sure some blonde will try. Even Nixon, who ran as a moderate in 1960, learned his lesson and became a “conservative” in 1968. Unfortunately, for the American people, Nixon left us a legacy of a greater bureaucracy with such acronyms as OSHA and EPA.

The problem is, the Republicans have slowly dismantled the Reagan coalition of fiscal, foreign-policy, and social conservatives.

The fiscal conservatives are frustrated. When the GOP did some very fine work ( thanks in large part to Bob Livingston) paring the budget during the 1990s, they were overshadowed by Newt Gingrich’s inarticulate sound bites. After the loss of Livingston from the GOP caucus, the GOP spent like drunken sailors during the Bush years. They abandoned fiscal responsibility and past bad laws like the Medicare prescription drug benefit (which is the largest new entitlement program since the 1960s) , and No Child Left Behind (which federalized our K-12 schools). They are also frustrated over the lack of respect and understanding what the midterm elections of 2010 meant. Since the election, John Boehner has signaled his willingness to work a deal with President Obama and some members of Congress want to break their pledge not to raise taxes. This will not sit well with the fiscal conservatives.

The foreign-policy conservatives are in disarray. On one hand, they embrace our venture into Libya and hope for intervention in Syria. On the other hand, they embrace the Muslim Brotherhood brokered peace plan between Hamas and Israel but they cannot articulate a good reason why.

As for the social conservatives, they are the most maligned of the Reagan coalition. They are the bogeyman of modern American politics. Yet, their influence within the GOP has greatly diminished since 1988. 1988 is the year when many either retired or were pushed out by the George HW Bush folks. They have also lost two of their most articulate spokesmen with the passing of Paul Weyrich and Father John Neuhaus.

I believe the seminal point for social conservatives was the passing of Terri Schiavo in 2005. Subsequently, they failed to vote in 2006, 2008, probably 2010, and in spite of exit poll data, I believe they failed to vote in 2012. As long as the GOP ignores the concerns of social conservatives, I believe the GOP will be relegated to, at best, mediocre candidates with inarticulate positions.

Mitt Romney could not articulate any position beyond creating jobs. He never discussed any specifics as to spending cuts. In fact, on several occasions, he took swipes at the Paul Ryan plan. It makes one wonder why he bothered making Paul Ryan his Vice President. Mitt Romney did not articulate the events surrounding the killing of our ambassador at Benghazi or the feckless response of the Obama administration in the aftermath. He could not articulate how the Obama foreign-policy, more particularly the concept of “soft power”, has been a disaster.

Most of all, Mitt Romney never used the C word to hammer the Obama administration; corruption. From ‘Fast and Furious’ to Solyndra, Romney wouldn’t make an issue of this administration’s ethical issues. In many ways, the last two debates seemed more of a love fest than a competition to be the next president of the United States. Mitt Romney failed to heed the advice of Ronald Reagan of “raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all the issues troubling the people”.

Mitt Romney now takes his place with other such GOP luminaries as Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, Thomas Dewey, Bob Dole, John McCain; all ghosts of moderate past.