Finding Your Way Out Of The Wilderness: Republicans Are Doing It Wrong
by Kyle Moore
This post is crossposted from Comments From Left Field. As such, I apologize in advance if some of the rhetoric and phrasing is a little too fiery and partisan for the purposes of this site–antagonism or no, I still think that the basic precepts here are worthy of the League.
Two other things before I drop the Italics. Above the fold will be content unique to the League as a means of an introduction that may not necessarily be needed at CFLF. Also, by now it has been confirmed that the movie in question below is Bull Durham. Yes, I know this, but I’m leaving the original article written as is for style purposes.
If you know me as well as I know myself, and at this stage of the game, a few other people as well, then you would understand that the biggest thing that draws me to politics is a love of puzzles. This is why I gravitate towards the electoral side of politics as opposed to the gossip side, or the actual governance side. Neither aspect of modern American politics tweaks my puzzle nerves quite like electoral analysis.
This has unfortunately led to a severe downshift in my political writing overall considering that all of the elections are over for now (with the exception of Minnesota). But in the ashes of the 2008 elections cycle, an interesting phoenix has arisen.
That phoenix takes the shape of the Republican party, and its first few months in what we like to call “the wilderness,” a political limbo that my party has dwelled in for some time as navel gazing is doled out in generous proportions as those doomed to the wilderness attempt to figure out how they got their in the first place, and how in the hell to get out.
After the first publication of this essay, I had an interesting and enlightening conversation with an old friend who is a self-identified conservative, but not one who pays nearly the attention to politics that I do. He said that the problem with the Republican party is that it has abandoned conservative principles and that’s why it is currently in the wilderness.
The only problem with that is that that is what EVERYONE in the Republican party is saying. There is, of course, a question as to what is convservatism? Is it the modern movement conservatism coalition of neoconservatives, fiscal conservatives, or social conservatives, or are we talking about the more Jeffersonian/Libertarian precepts of limited government. The two general classifications of conservatism do not, as you know, necessarily equal each other.
But it would seem that the implied meaning of conservatism would be the former three-legged stool version. To me this comes as somewhat ironic because President Bush was in many ways a perfect embodiment of said three-legged stool. In any case, the people that we are seeing rising to the top of the Republican party at this stage; Sam Wurzelbacher, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal (though his star seems to have collected quite a bit of tarnish over the past few days, hasn’t it?), Eric Cantor, Rush Limbaugh, etc., when these become the stars of the movement, it is hard to take seriously anyone who says that the Republican party has “abandoned” conservative principles (of course assuming conservative in this instance means modern movement conservatism).
What this has to do with the rest of the post is, I suppose, up to you. Consider it perhaps a little background; the establishment that the thoughts that follow have a twofold foundation:
1) The Republican party at this time is, if anything, becoming more dogmatic than ever before.
2) This Republican dogmatism stems directly from a desire to return back to power as quickly as possible.
“Don’t think, Meat.”
It was my dad’s favorite movie line of all time and comes from one of those Kevin Costner baseball movies… Field of Dreams? Bull Durham? I don’t know, I’m neither a Kevin Costner, nor a Baseball fan.
The point behind the quote was that wise catcher Kevin Costner was telling the young but talented pitcher not to think about his pitches. When the kid did what came natural, he was fine, but when he stopped to think about the pitch, he was terrible. Something like that anyway, and I think something that is important to this story.
Getting out of movies I don’t care about, on my way in to the office, NPR had some guy who I guess is integral to CPAC talking about an oft debated topic these days: how can conservatives and Republicans find their way out of the wilderness? He went on and on about conservative values and articulating those conservative values in a way that is attractive to the electorate and the most important part of the discussion struck me like a kick to the head…
…he was talking about all of this in the context of finding the conservative’s way out of the “Wilderness.” Political redemption was the end game, and this strikes me as a losing strategy, especially if Republicans hope to find their way out of the wilderness any time soon.
Let us hop in our intertube powered time machines to late last year. The general election was in full swing when the economy flashed all of America the bird before doing a swan dive. It was at this time that Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain did something that left many political watchers stunned and scratching their heads…
…he suspended his campaign to save the economy. A cynical person might have mistaken this for a last ditch attempt to improve his electoral chances against a Democratic opponent that was continuously out performing him on virtually every measure.
A gullible person might have taken John McCain at his word that this was nothing to do with presidential campaigning. Or, they would have had McCain not turned around and continued campaigning for president, doing a whole bunch of media interviews and deploying his vice presidential candidate to keep up the stump speeches.
Now I don’t profess to know exactly what McCain was thinking at this period of time. It is, I suppose, feasible that he really did intend to suspend his campaign to save the economy, and all these reporters and interviews and the Bill Clinton thing all got in the way. But let’s assume that the “campaign suspension” was, as some not so trusting of McCain’s motives may believe, just a stunt to drag up failing poll numbers.
Can anyone guess what McCain might have done wrong? If your answer was that he kept on campaigning and reminding everyone that he was suspending his campaign to save the country, then you get a gold star (which I guess I can draw and email to you or something at a later time and date).
Doing what was right for the country in order to save his political skin may have been a nifty idea, but the problem that got in the way was that John McCain couldn’t let go of the fact that he was trying to save his political skin. In the end, the campaign suspension looked like a poorly executed political ploy and solidified McCain as someone who was erratic and not of the temperament that belongs in the Oval Office.
So what does all of this have to do with Republicans and conservatives finding their way out of the wilderness? Easy; they are thinking about finding their way out of the wilderness. While most Americans are worried about keeping their jobs, or finding new jobs, or whether they get to keep their house, or if they’ll be able to afford their kids’ school supplies (shorter: the ECONOMY), Republicans are worried about how to unbrand themselves as the party of suckage.
Their focus is on political leverage and chess games, and they are playing these games against a popular president who is better than the whole lot of them at expressing himself as being concerned with the same problems the rest of the country is concerned with.
Put another way, the country is facing a time of peril, but the curious thing about perilous times is that opportunities for political redemption are always lurking just around the corner. The trick is to not worry about political redemption, but instead worry about the problems we’re actually facing.
No one cares if the people who face the problem have a D or an R behind their name, they just care that the government is working to fix things, and at this stage of the game, the R’s in the equation seem only concerned with fixing their own party.
So, to my Republican… friends. A bit of advice where for once I won’t tell you to move to the middle (like I normally do). Nope, no preaching about your messed up principles. Just a simple morsel for you to chew on; quit worrying about the fate of your party, and start worrying about the fate of your country. If you work hard enough, political redemption and a way out of the wilderness may just follow.
Or, put another way, “Don’t think, Meat.”