Steve Kornacki of the New York Observer has a piece entitled “It’s Palin’s Party Now.” Mr. Kornacki attempts to make the case that Palin’s popularity in the party is the result of a “shrinking” GOP and nothing more:
To brand Mrs. Palin the front-runner for the ’12 nomination, as opposed to calling her one of several top-tier contenders, isn’t a stretch at all. But don’t be fooled: this status has nothing to do with anything Mrs. Palin’s done since November and everything to do with what the Republican Party has become. Her improving odds of winning the next G.O.P. nomination are a symptom of the party’s rapidly shrinking base – not of an expanding appetite for Mrs. Palin among the general public.
Mr. Kornacki is right on one point, the Republican party is beginning a shift to the right. But his notion that this is a negative for the party is preposterous. In recent history, when the party shifts to the right … we win. Reagan shifted the party to the right in 1976 and Newt Gingrich did it again in 1994.
Also, the cross tabs from the most recent Rasmussen poll has Palin with a 61% approval rating with “independents.”
Ever since Barry Goldwater’s forces beat out Nelson Rockefeller and his Eastern Establishment backers for the 1964 G.O.P. nomination, the core of the Republican electorate has been defined by its conservatism. But, as Goldwater’s horrific showing in the ’64 general election established, a party must be inclusive and expansive enough to welcome voters who aren’t so ideologically rigorous.
I just love how Kornacki brings up the Goldwater defeat as his example. Let us take a closer look at Goldwater and 1964. If Goldwater had proven victorious, that would mean three presidents for the United States in a two year period. Lyndon Johnson was viewed by many as the one to carry out President Kennedy’s agenda. Americans were still in mourning after Kennedy’s assassination and were not ready to throw out his successor. Also, the economy in 1964 was pretty good for most Americans and Vietnam was not yet the huge issue it would become later in the decade. Goldwater himself was not a very good Presidential candidate and he lacked the charisma and appeal of a Ronald Reagan or Sarah Palin. There are many comparisons one can make between Sarah Palin and Barry Goldwater, but their impact as a Presidential candidate is not one of them.
It is the shrinking size and appeal of the G.O.P. that accounts for Mrs. Palin’s strong position within the party.
The old tradition among Republicans is to hand the next open presidential nomination to the runner-up for the last one. By that logic, Mitt Romney would be the favorite heading into ’12. Mr. Romney, whose cynical transformation from outspoken moderate to avowed conservative mirrors that of George H.W. Bush years ago, fits the old model of G.O.P. nominee – willing and eager to pander to the base, but equally ready to wink to “soft” Republicans and the party’s non-ideological establishment.
But the soft voters are gone, leaving a rabidly conservative base that now is the party’s establishment. These are the voters who adore Mrs. Palin, mostly because she doesn’t even pretend to be interested in what non-conservatives have to say. With soft Republicans vanishing, the influence of the base is growing by the day. This is the perfect recipe for Sarah Palin to win the Republican nomination in 2012 – and for the party to suffer a thorough defeat in the fall.
We don’t want to simply hand the nomination to the “next in line.” That strategy has never proven successful for the Republican party. The “next in line,” last time, was John McCain…
A party that has been decimated should be forced to shrink in size for a period of time. The GOP needs to get back to its roots and find itself. What do we stand for? What will we bring to the next national election? One can argue that under Ronald Reagan’s guidance the party did shrink and then expanded. In fact, Ronald Reagan told moderates and soft Republicans to go their own way:
Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?
A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.
I do not believe I have proposed anything that is contrary to what has been considered Republican principle. It is at the same time the very basis of conservatism. It is time to reassert that principle and raise it to full view. And if there are those who cannot subscribe to these principles, then let them go their way.
The GOP has lost badly in the last two elections because we have strayed from conservatism. If shrinking the party means that we have the chance to reorganize and come back better and stronger than ever before, then so be it.