I’ve written about this topic before, and will probably do so again. I’m writing about it today because this piece by DrewM at Ace’s really resonated with me:
The internecine fighting we see today on the right isn’t simply on how we should react to what Jim [Geraghty] describes as “swarms of voters who believe that government – the very same government who had disappointed them and failed them time and again – will solve their problems.” Our problem is we don’t trust each other as conservatives. It’s the “grassroots” vs. “establishment” fight were seeing and it predates “fiscal cliffs” and sequestration.
The Gingrich Revolution of 1994 eventually became the Hastert-Bush conservative malaise. Yes, the War on Terror dominated the Bush presidency but from No Child Left Behind to Medicare Part D and across the board spending hikes, many conservative felt betrayed. You can even argue it goes further back than that. The Reagan Revolutionizes saw their hard work to move the GOP to the right rewarded with…George H.W. Bush.
One reason so many on the right are unwilling to allow the governing part of the GOP/conservative coalition any room for strategic retreats is we’ve simply seen that when you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.
Conservatives hear how the GOP is a wholly owned subsidiary of the far, far right, we look at H.W. Bush, Dole, W. Bush, McCain, Romney (along with Lott, Frist, McConnell, Hastert and Boehner) and say, “if only!”.
You can say, well they were elected and nominated by Republicans (including conservatives) and you’d be right. That’s the problem. Most conservatives don’t trust other conservatives or Republicans let alone moderates or liberals.
Until we find a solution to the fractured nature of the center-right coalition (beyond “we hate Obama”), the Obamabots are a secondary problem.
I say, “Hear, hear!” I would merely add that it goes back even further, certainly to Goldwater vs. Rockefeller—and probably even further than that as well; that’s just as far back as I remember.
Typically, posts on this topic here call forth a fusillade of angry responses to the effect of, “I’m not gonna fall for those effing RINO losers any more!” Well, I share the dilemma, actually. I can’t remember the last time a candidate ran for president whom I though was a good one—but I can tell you it was a long long time ago, and that goes for candidates on both sides. If I were construcing the candidate of my dreams at the Build-a-Candidate store, he/she would be conservative, articulate, personable, experienced, feisty, intelligent, wise, a natural leader, likeable—well, you get the idea. And perhaps even those qualities wouldn’t be enough to lead to victory, with the MSM and the left in lockstep, and critical thinking among the populace at such a low ebb.
Perhaps this is as good as good a time as any to try to respond to a tendency I’ve seen recently in the comments section here whenever the 2012 election is discussed, which is that a number of people seem to misremember what I wrote during the 2012 election campaign. The tendency is to recall, wrongly, that I was optimistic about Romney’s chances of winning. Now, a lot of bloggers and pundits were, but I most definitely was not one of them. From beginning to end, I saw him as the best candidate in an unusually weak field of declared candidates.
Perhaps the confusion arises because I most definitely did energetically support him, and strongly, for the above reason, and I also tried to convince my readers that he was more conservative (and a better person) than they had initially thought he was. I continue to stand by those assertions, and I think time has proven me right. He even was a better candidate than I had first thought; he just was not good enough, certainly not to meet what Obama was dishing out. Here’s something I wrote about that back in January of 2012, when the Republican primaries were hot and heavy:
My observation is that people vote at least 75% with their guts, on impressions they have of the candidates. Romney and Gingrich both are unfortunate in that regard, in almost entirely different ways. Romney is bland and goodlooking, and he doesn’t seem to have much fire in the belly or much conviction. Gingrich is quite different, but his personality is offputting to most people who are not already in his camp, and when I say “offputting” I mean it in the most forceful way possible. He repels people on a visceral level. At least, that’s my observation.
The only other president in my memory who won despite a personally repellent quality (although of a somewhat different type) was Nixon. Americans like to vote for people who seem likable. For neither Romney nor Gingrich is that a strong suit, but Gingrich is the more unlikable. Perhaps not to you or to many of the readers of this blog, to a lot of people.
There’s been a lot of post-election talk here about what needs to be done before 2016 in order to have even a chance for a resurgence of conservatism. I would wager we’ll discuss that further, ad nauseam. But one thing we cannot do is design a candidate to order; we have to deal with the ones we have who are willing to enter the fray.
I believe a conservative can win on a national level (although only one ever has so far since the 1930s: Ronald Reagan). But not just any conservative; he/she has to have a more universal human appeal in order to articulate the more-harsh-sounding conservative message (as compared to the “I am Santa Claus” liberal message) in a way that can be understood and supported by a majority of people.
I don’t have a solution for the problem, but I doubt that will happen if we remain so divided and bitter—exactly and precisely what the left wants.
[NOTE: Discussions like this also typically engender responses of the "but the Democrats won because they cheated!" variety. On looking at the evidence I have, I actually don't think that's what happened, for a number of reasons. But let's not argue about that now, because the point I really want to make is that, whether I'm right about it or whether I'm wrong, other than passing more stringent laws about things like voter-ID (which I favor, but whose future seems to be threatened lately), there's not much to be done about it except follow the old Hugh Hewitt adage, "If it's not close, they can't cheat."]