Monday, October 27, 2008

GOP in Crisis.

As the prospect of a John McCain presidency looks less and less likely to many people, the trickle of conservatives distancing themselves from the GOP ticket has turned into a steady stream. Over the last few weeks we've heard of prominent Republicans turning their back on the McCain/Palin ticket. It must be noted that there was no consensus candidate for the party during the primaries. The coalition that coalesced under the Bush banner began to show fissures as early as 2007. Christian Conservatives looked at the field with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, as one after another of their hopefuls fell away. James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family and arguably the leader of his faction, expressed his unwillingness to back the horses that seemed to be running strong.

Meanwhile the Neoconservative Movement, which had seen its cabal rise to power behind the scenes of the Bush Administration, increasingly saw its policy recommendations maligned and discredited by real-world consequences. The nation had seemed to lose its stomach for "spreading democracy" with a strategy of forceful aggression. Finally, fiscal conservatives began to wonder what happened to their approach to governance. They wondered who was representing the old school values of their fathers' GOP. Gradually John McCain reemerged from the bankruptcy of his campaign and began to challenge seriously for the nomination. While he didn't inspire genuine excitement, he seemed like the most acceptable compromise candidate.

McCain was in the odd position of being the only high-profile Republican who was seen as both a genuine counterbalance to George W. Bush (whose administration had sunk to its lowest approval ratings in seven plus years), and at the same time experienced enough to be trusted to carry the Red State banner. The only problem was that he had alienated the Christian Right in his bid for the presidency in 2000, a minority group that consistently generated the energy believed necessary to capture the nation's top office. The solution to that problem was generated by influential Neocon Bill Kristol and a Karl Rove-protégé named Steve Schmidt. They urged McCain to select a little-known socially conservative governor from Alaska named Sarah Palin.

As is patently clear by now, Palin was able to fire up a crucial part of the Right-wing base. Out of what now appears to have been an increasing sense of desperation, they billed this newcomer on the national political scene as The Future of the Republican Party. It was a hell of a gamble, and at first (in the wake of an effective RNC Convention speech) seemed to pay off dividends. But quite obviously that pivotal decision looks to have been short-sighted. Palin did not live up to her initial hype, and many within the GOP appear to be experiencing "buyer's remorse". The single most frequently-cited reason by prominent conservative figures for abandoning McCain is his ill-advised choice of a running mate.

While it would be too simplistic to lay the responsibility for the crisis that the GOP is facing solely at Palin's feet (she is simply the manifestation of forces that have been at play for the last thirty years), it's no secret that she has become a symbol for the displeasure that so many lifelong Republicans have recently expressed. She is not the unifying figure that the party needs to consolidate the power it has generated over the last several decades. I don't believe I am alone in this assessment either. If you have doubts, just ask Colin Powell, William Weld, Charles Fried, Kenneth Adelman, Scott McClellan, Susan Collins, Senator Chuck Hagel, Lilibet Hagel, Jim Leach, Lincoln Chafee, Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, Larry Pressler, Lowell Weicker, Matthew Dowd, Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Buckley, Christopher Hitchens, Susan Eisenhower, Arne Carlson, Francis Fukuyama, Bill Ruckelshaus, Jeffrey Hart, Linwood Holton, Jackson M. Andrews, Rita Hauser, Mike Murphy, Douglas Kmiec, Peggy Noonan, Michael Smerconish, Larry Hunter, Jim Whitaker, Wick Allison, Andrew J. Bacevich, or the host of "ordinary" Americans who want a change.

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Blogger Warm Apple Pie said...

Not only did McCain have a phoenix-like rise from financial bankruptcy, but from the doctrinal bankruptcy of the Republican party. He becamse the presumptive nominee-survivor as the competing factions of the GOP began to eat each other. The brew-haha bubbling between Palin's loyalists and McCain's rag-tag patchwork of supporters is the end game.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Pasadena Closet Conservative said...

I've seen a few Democrats change their minds. They're voting for McCain because there are too many unanswered questions associated with Obama. Perhaps a few will turn into many. Let us pray.

12:25 AM  
Blogger the WIZARD, fkap said...

First, thanks for stopping by my blog and your comments there. As is often the case with 2 million plus bloggers out there, we only find new blogs of interest by following comments from blog to blog to blog.

Your essay here is excellent and the analysis is certianly correct.

The very selection of McCain in the Republican primaries was very odd and reflected a nearly complete lack of viable candidates more than an endorsement of McCain.

I endorsed the McCain candidacy for the Republican Nomination early on (as a Democrat) because he was the most liberal and open minded of the Republicans in the primary process. I never thought he would win the nomination.

I endorsed Obama for the Democrat Nomination in the primaries the same day I endorsed McCain fir the Republican nod.

All that is water long under the bridge. I really do appreciate your very intelligent analysis of the current political landscape.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Pasadena Closet Conservative,

I find your implication that God is a McCain supporter heretical, offensive, and disgusting.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

the wizard,

Thanks for the kudos. I agree with you regarding the selection of McCain in the primaries. The GOP field was especially weak this time around. Chuck Hagel should have run.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

The Republican Party is indeed in crisis. Mary Matalin used to trumpet the GOP as having an inclusive "Big Tent".

But it seems the Big Top has become more of a pup tent.

Victor Gold, former press aid to Barry Goldwater and speech writer for George H. W. Bush, wrote a provoctative book "Invasion of the Party Snatchers", published in 2007.
In the book's Reader's Advisory Gold wrote this obituary for the GOP.

"Born Ripon, WI 1856; died Washington D.C., circa 2001-2006 (though a party by that name, principally operated by Neo-Cons and Theo-Cons, continues to appear on the ballots of fifty states and the District of Columbia".

In a nutshell, the GOP of Goldwater, Reagan and "Pa" Bush doesn't exist anymore. Victor Gold is correct in his assessment that the Neo-Cons and the Religious Right have taken the GOP to a place where those in the center are no longer comfortable with the party.

Sarah Palin isn't the cause of the problem- she's merely a symptom of what happened to the Republican Party.

In the interest of full disclosure, yes I am a lifelong Democrat (but with many Republican friends and family).

And I'm also a firm believer that most wounds suffered in one's life are usually self inflicted.

That being said, its time for the GOP to gaze into that mirror, and hope Dorian Gray isn't looking back at them.

11:01 AM  

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