Axis of Right

Three Native Rhode Islanders Commenting From the Right on Politics and Anything Else

The Republican Problem

Posted by Sal on January 22, 2008

The Republican Party over the course of my lifetime has been a source of both hope and frustration.  Hope because it represents the best chance for a return to the ideals of our Constitution, and for advancing the cause of Conservatism.  Even our moderate Presidents have helped to stem the tide of liberalism by blocking what the Democrats would do if they had complete power. 

The frustration comes in because, since 1980, the Republican party has not nominated a truly conservative candidate in the mold of Ronald Reagan for the office of President.  In 1988, George H. W. Bush succeed Reagan as leader of the party, even though there were more conservative candidates in the race (Jack Kemp, Alexander Hague).  In 1996, Bob Dole, a moderate, won out over the more moderate Lamar Alexander, and the more conservative Phil Graham, Pat Buchanan, and Steve Forbes.  In 2000, the seemed-to-be conservative-but-really-a-moderate George W. Bush won out over John McCain. 

Now, in 2004, the most viable Conservative candidate in the race, Fred Thompson, has lost what appears to be a critical defeat (although even Fred has his problems of not being a pure conservative which give one pause — his support for McCain-Feingold and his vote against convicting President Bill Clinton in the impeachment trial — the Constitution is important).  The remaining field is made up of candidates who appeal to one or two legs of the Conservative movement, but not all three, with the exception of Mitt Romney.  Romney’s problem is that he does not always appear credible on the issues and sincere, as he has had a history of changing his views on some issues to get elected (although not nearly as much as the press would have you believe).  He also does not inspire on a regular basis the way Reagan did (with the exception of his speech on Mormonism.  If we saw more of that, Romney would be leading the pack).  Rudy appeals to the fiscal and security legs, but throws off the social conservatives.  Huckabee appeals only to the social conservatives, and preaches a new-brand of populism that attempts to replace true Conservatism.  McCain appeals to security conservatives, as well as Democrats and independents. 

How did we get here today?  First, it has been difficult to find a candidate that truly inspires and leads in the way Ronald Reagan did, and who treats Conservatism as a guiding philosophy rather than a political necessity.  Even those who are close to being true Conservatives don’t inspire a movement like Reagan did.  Second, the party is fractured.  The true Conservatives make up a portion of the party, and a large portion, but not the majority.  The rest of the party is made up of people who support one or two of the legs (Social, Fiscal, and Security) but not all three, as well as establishment “Rockafeller Republicans”. Finding a true conservative that can appeal to all but the establishment is difficult, as one or another of the elements is usually missing. 

The open primary system is also a major problem for the Republican party electing a true conservative.  In this election, the results may have been drastically different if not for the open primary system.  For example, assume Huckabee wins Iowa.  New Hampshire comes around, and McCain is nowhere to be found, as he did not do well at all among Republicans in that race, and probably drops out.  Romney wins New Hampshire and Michigan, and we head to South Carolina.  With McCain not in the race, South Carolina decides between Huckabee, Thompson, and Romney.  McCain’s Republican voters probably do not go to Huckabee, so they would most likely go to Thompson or Romney, making it a very different primary. 

Finally, for the Republican party to succeed beyond 2008, it needs to get back to Conservatism.  To do that, a leader must be found who is both a true Conservative and who can inspire the base to vote for them.  I’m not sure if there are any out there right now, but one always has to keep hope.  The road to defeating liberalism may be long, but it can be achieved.  There will be missteps, elections won and lost, and two steps back for every three steps forward, but in the end Conservatism will defeat Liberalism. 

 Correction:  Mike pointed out that Thompson did indeed vote to convict Clinton on the charge of Obstruction of Justice, but not on the charge of Perjury.  While I still think that the vote to not convict on Perjury is questionable, it has a bit more credibility than a vote to not convict at all.  I stand corrected.   

3 Responses to “The Republican Problem”

  1. Mike said

    Welcome back Salinger.

    I need to correct the record. Thompson voted to convict President Clinton in the impeachment trial, just not on both counts. That characterization of his vote is as inaccurate as it is unfair. On McCain-Feingold, he has recanted on the part of the bill limiting ads prior to an election. Admittedly that is a flip but I think you’d agree that one flip is not nearly as offensive as Mitt Romney’s multiple changes, including his stance on parts of McCain-Feingold.

    I agree that we haven’t nominated a conservative since 1980 but this year is different. in 1988, VP Bush was running on the idea of Reagan’s third term and in 2000, there was no indication that W would be as moderate as he turned out to be. In those years, our party chose a conservative option. This year, our voters expressly rejected the only conservative option. I agree that our party needs to get back to conservatism, but rejecting conservatives in favor of moderates, the flip=flopping kind or otherwise, is not the way to do it. We have no conservative party.

  2. Salinger said

    Point taken on the conviction, I was going off an article that I had read, not on actually looking up the senate record. The article conventiently left out that he did vote to convict on obstruction of justice.

    On McCain-Feingold, he still has not recanted on the rest of McCain-Feingold, which in my mind is still an attack on the First Amendment, and something that gives me pause. Additionally, he supported McCain for President in 2000, and his voting rating by the American Conservative Union is only 86%, as compared to 89% for Bill Frist and 82% for John McCain.

    Finally, on the idea of a conservative party. Many people consider Mitt Romney a conservative. Whether or not you consider him one or not, the fact remains that the vast majority of his support comes from people who believe that he is indeed a conservative. You cannot deny that the positions he is outlining, the stances he is taking on the issues, are all conservative, and almost as conservative (but not quite) as Thompson. Whether you choose to believe him or not, or accept his conversion on abortion as real or not, is really a matter of judgement or personal opinion. I know many people such as yourself who choose not to believe him. I personally give him the benefit of the doubt, and hope that in the next election, we can find a person who can embody the Conservative philosophy and lead in the way that Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s.

  3. Ryan said

    I hope that this election doesn’t turn out to be like 1976. Though I was too young to remember, I’ve heard from many that America couldn’t take or shouldn’t have to face another Jimmah Carter simply because the Republicans are shying away from a winning strategy.

    I think that the rejection of Thompson in the race is a result of multiple factors:
    –For one, it turns out he got in too late and didn’t live up to the hype for those Republicans who dont follow the race too closely.

    –Also, he seemed to fairly or unfairly fit the mold the MSM and his Republican opponents threw at him early: that he was lazy and simply not that into it. I do not believe he is a lazy man, but his profile was definitely under the radar for most of the last three months and the press didn’t like him, especially Fox News.

    –Most importantly was the open primary/caucus system in the early states that allowed Independents and Democrats to pick our candidates, giving the wrong people early momentum and not letting the decision be made by solely Republicans for Republicans. McCain would have already dropped out, Huckabee would be third or fourth and in the final analysis, Thompson could probably have emerged as a top tier competitive candidate.

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