So, we have this great big circular firing squad going about whether to purge moderates, or socons, or fiscons, or libertarians, or Methodists, whatever. No, Virginia, there isn’t a smoke filled room somewhere where a bunch of Ivy League, Wall Street, K Street elitists conspired to deprive the Republican Party of a victory in the last two elections. We lost because nobody in their right mind would trust us to run a government. That we did as well as we did is a tribute to the fact that they don’t trust the Democrats much either.
We’ve long been the Party of fiscal restraint, but when we had all three branches we went on a spending binge that would embarrass a drunken sailor. We’ve long been the Party of smaller government, yet we let the government grow like Topsy and added new intrusive, expensive programs such as NCLB and Prescription Drug coverage. We’ve long been the Party of the people who worked hard and played by the rules, to borrow WJC’s phrase, but we almost enacted an amnesty bill for illegal aliens and would have had there not been such an uproar from the folks.
In seven years we demonstrated to the American people that we really didn’t mean what we’d said for all those years; we weren’t against spending, we were against Democrat spending. We weren’t against big government, we just wanted it big in the places we like. The people caught us in the lie and held us responsible for it.
We’ve long been the Party of cool-handed problem solvers and we poked fun at the Ds who govern solely on emotion and self interest. Our sober steadiness probably meant more to the middle of the electorate than any position we might have taken on policy. Well, Katrina destroyed that. I know, it wasn’t right, wasn’t fair, was a media lynching of GWB; all of that is true, but we laid ourselves open for it. When you run as the adults of the group, you don’t put the former general counsel of a horsebreeding association in charge of a high profile federal agency.
They trusted us with national defense. That more than anything else got GWB re-elected and let us hold on a little longer. Well, we blew that too. Kicking Rumsfeld to the curb right after the election and changing the whole strategy is a pretty compelling case for having had the wrong strategy for some time and not being willing to admit it for political reasons. There went our credibility on national defense.
We’ve long held ourselves up as the Party of family values and personal responsibility. Well, we demonstrated to America that we too can’t keep our hands out of the cookie jars and our body parts to ourselves. We point at Democrat misdeeds but fail to understand; they don’t put themselves up as paragons of virtue, as we define virtue, and their constituents don’t care. Our base and that middle that we need in order to win DO CARE. So, since we hold ourselves up as the virtuous party, and have demonstrated that we certainly have no monopoly on virtue, it is we and not the Democrats who are branded the hypocrits.
It wasn’t a bunch of tweed jacketed elitists in DC who did these things. It was the good old boys and girls elected and appointed by Republicans from Tennessee to Texas, Alaska to Florida, and Maine to California. It wasn’t the media that did this to us. They spun it, they overemphasised the negative, and often gave more favorable coverage to the Democrats, but we gave them the ammunition. They didn’t make up the tone deaf and ham-fisted Katrina response. They didn’t make up the years of ever-increasing casualties and seemingly nothing for it but to keep doing it in Iraq. They didn’t make up the porking. In fact, the now archetypal “bridge to nowhere” is a self-inflicted wound from one Republican complaining about another Republican; the Ds didn’t have to do a thing. The media didn’t make up Duke Cunningham, Craig, or Foley.
We need to disband the firing squads. The calls to get rid of this faction or another are simply the result of losing. The socons and capital C conservatives lost not in the General but in the primaries. You never had a candidate that was viable. FDT never got his campaign in gear. Huckabee sent the fiscons into orbit. Romney never established a believable identity. Giuliani would have shattered the base. So, we got what we could hold our strained coaltion together with; John McCain, and John McCain ran a terrible campaign that basically said of the Democrats, they suck more. Kind of a hard platform to run on, huh?
We need to get back to work at rebuilding a functioning party from the precinct up. If we do that, we can sort out which of the many factions in our Party has how much influence in the next two years. And hopefully by then we’ll have a Party that is strong enough to from time to time remind our candidates and officeholders of who elected them and why.