He Said, She Said

Why The Finger Pointing Aids Democrats

We have gone through the first round of internal recriminations with the recent excoriation of Governor Palin by those “unnamed” McCain staffers. We are also starting to see a few hints of the slaps for John McCain more of which will soon come from amongst GOP faithful. But, while the media loves the bashing, this internal carping does nothing to help us at all. And most especially, breaking out the long knives for our own will only strengthen Barack Obama by cementing in the voter’s minds that the GOP is in permanent disarray setting Obama up to create a Democratic majority that will be difficult to defeat.

First of all, the attacks on Governor Palin are sure to cleave this party in half if they continue. The candidacy of Palin highlighted the split in the Republican Party that has been there since Reagan forged a new GOP majority to support his bid for the White House in 1980. Palin does not appeal to what used to be called the country club Republicans but she appeals very much to the family values voters that Reagan brought into the Party. In fact, she doesn’t just appeal to them, she excites them.

It is clear that Governor Palin excited many hundreds of thousands of Republicans that initially had little interest in the election. The rallies at which she attended featured an incredible wave of fervor for her that the party would be foolish to cast aside. If the party does not take advantage of Palin’s appeal it risks losing a large, energetic mass of voters that it will need to rely on in the coming years. Palin should be given a leading role in the GOP.

Unfortunately, we are seeing the calls for the party to become “moderates,” to shed the Palins and the religious right from the GOP. This would turn the GOP right back into the permanent minority of the 1960s. Far from being too conservative, John McCain was forever pretending to be the moderate that the left leaners of the GOP are saying will now save us. It obviously did not work in November and there is no reason to think it will work in the future.

As to John McCain, we all know what a flawed candidate he was. There truly is no reason whatever to discuss it further. After all, he cannot run again. He’s just too old to lead the party from this point so we don’t have to go through the pain of defeating him again. In McCain’s case we have the luxury of just letting it go and we should do so.

One of the main reasons that Ronald Reagan won was his sunny optimism. Reagan never shied from the hard line or the dire warnings of over indulgent gubbmint (as he famously pronounced it), but he balanced that sternness with what is called his “happy warrior” attitude, a sunny optimism that won the American people. Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan, of course, but it cannot escape notice that his version of Reagan’s sunny optimist narrative was a key ingredient of his campaign.

However, with constant finger pointing and internal recriminations we decimate any ability at sunny optimism. Instead of happy warriors we appear as grumbling, bitter, and suspicious. These internal fights also say one more negative thing not only to ourselves, but also to any possible voters that don’t already firmly associate themselves with the Republican Party. It says we are disloyal even to each other. If we cannot be expected to respect each other, what makes a voter imagine that we’ll respect him?

At this point, we must reapply Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” We have to move ahead, not look behind. This is not to say that no one should be allowed to evaluate and critically discuss what happened in this last election. But we need to do it without rancor and we need to do it quietly amongst ourselves, and most especially not in the Old Media.

We are at a very delicate time in Republican history. Barack Obama deserves the love and adulation he’s received for “breaking the color barrier.” It is wholly understandable that he, being the first black president, will be given a very wide margin of error. But error he will. And we have to be there, organized, and ready to exploit it with firmness and seriousness, not wild-eyed attacks. We cannot do that if we are still attacking each other.

So, we need to impress on Mark Sanford (the new leader of the Republican Governor’s Association) and Michael Steele (if he is to become the head of the Republican National Committee) that they must corral both sides of the party to a quiet resolve. Both Steele and Sanford — and especially Sanford — are solid conservatives and they need to firmly lead this party back toward a less fractious state.

And one last thing. We need to stop playing the game of politics-of-the-possible to the extent that we go for things that we can win just for the sake of winning. This leads to a compromise of principle and this compromise of principle was the worst part of the Bush years. Reagan won when he could, sometimes compromised when he had to, but was always led by his principle. The so-called compassionate conservatism concept was to win. Period. There was no principle, no values behind it. Just win and show the voters that we can do so. This led to an abrogation of our conservative ideals, turned our congressmen into spendthrifts and led to defeat.

It’s great to win, yes. But we must do so within our principles, not despite them.

So, let’s stop giving the press the Republican vs. Republican fights they love. Let’s lie low and wait for Barack’s mistakes and let’s get this party on track. If we do not do this quickly, we will be on the outside looking in for a long, long time.

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