Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Who are the Republicans?

At some point, while I was watching the returns last night and listening to the pundits as they chattered about the division in the Republican party when compared to the unity of the Democrats, I began to ask myself if this whole narrative of Republican division isn’t just a bit too tidy. The division itself cannot be denied. Just look at the map of many colors and you can see it. And it’s true that no single Republican candidate has been able to generate the level of enthusiasm that Obama or, even, the Clinton Machine has produced. The standard talking point today (and also most of yesterday) from every MSM pundit I’ve heard speak on the subject, is how Democrats can’t decide because they "like both choices" and Republicans can’t decide because they don’t really like any of them.

That analysis is cute, neat, (in its way) true, and completely beside the point.

Today the question we all ought to be asking ourselves is not so much "Who is John McCain?" or "Who is Mike Huckabee?" or "Who is Mitt Romney?" Today we ought to be asking ourselves, "Who are the Republicans?" What are we all about? How are we different from the opposition? Those who see no difference or are inclined to be petulant because "their guy" didn’t get (or appears unlikely to get) the nod, need to focus--HARD--on this question. There’s a huge difference and the patchwork quilt of our electoral map last night is the first, most obvious and perhaps most important evidence of this difference.

The difference between Republicans and Democrats that our division demonstrates is the degree to which Republicans (and especially, perhaps, conservatives) are inclined to deliberate (and, yes, fight) about our principles. Hillary and Obama spar . . . but about what? Who’s the most authentic candidate for female voters? Who deserves the Hispanic vote? Who can get the biggest payoff for the labor unions or the old folks? There’s never any talk about the purposes and the ends of government. That’s all assumed. The only time you’ll hear the word "should" is when they’re leveling some insult at a Neanderthal Republican who is not yet on board with their program. To be a Democrat today is to acknowledge that you believe in the "End of Political Thought"--or, to be less generous, that you don’t believe in thought at all. The only thought is that given to the means to achieve pre-determined ends. That’s why their politics is almost always more wonkish and less interesting and fascinating only when it is more Machiavellian and internal.

Today Republicans should hold their heads up high. We have been engaged in a long and serious conversation with each other. We have acted like Americans--which is to say free and thinking human beings. We have deliberated and now--it appears--we are closer to a choice. All of us are not going to be happy with the choice and no one ought to be forced to accept a choice he does not like. But it is within the power of those who argued on behalf of the choice now before us to persuade the reluctant. McCain tried hard to be gracious in his victory last night. He should continue this effort and--considering only the things that unite us--begin to set his sights on the real opposition. The warrior candidate needs to understand that the terms of the battle have now shifted. He will have to move to a different front and save his fighting for there. Within his own ranks he needs to work more on persuasion--and, perhaps after a bit of penance--to give us a rousing Agincourt speech. We can be happy warriors together. But if McCain wants to keep us happy he must respect our independent spirits and our penchant for thoughtful disagreement.

Discussions - 31 Comments

Obama is rhetorically more moderate, but policy-wise, it's plain that Hillary is less to the left, on a a whole slew of issues. The long-term goal is the same, but Hillary's focus on the median voter moderates her, cc. w/ Obama. A succesful Obama presidency can only happen if he 1) spell-binds 60% of the nation like FDR, or if 2) he learns early on to be a Clinton New Democrat in substance, but clothed in his special brand of liberal political religion. 1) is impossible, 2) is pretty unlikely.

I don't know what McCain-ism is. Or if it is anything except the man. I do know it is not conservative, that it has little claim to be part of any faction (i.e., it is not one of the four conservative "hearts"--paleo, neo, libertarian, religious right--to use Jim Ceaser's schema) of the conservative coalition. At best, it is a sort of waffling neo-conservatism. Whether it is Republican is a slightly different, but significantly different, question. I think the answer is yes...but again, even the McCain-ites may be forced to choose McCainism over McCain at certain points, so the question is almost impossible. That is, if a President McCain makes policy from a centrist coalition that includes more Democratic representatives (or more key appointees) than Republicans, which seems a real possibility, one will have to suspect that McCainism, if it is more than the man, is an incipient third party, poised between the Dems and Republicans.

For an otherwise good person, Julie, you say such nasty things about Democrats!

I thought this post would be a "team" post, but it was thoughtful Julie. The problem is of course when you say "we", as in "we are closer to a choice". Republicans will not be materially different from Democrats if we are simply the "thoughtful" or deliberative team. If in the end we come together around principles that are not ours, then our deliberations (no matter how thoughtful) are for nothing. This is called principle. It is conservativism first, GOP second. That is why so many thoughtful conservatives and libertarians will be going third party or staying home this year, and why Obama will be our next president.

This is a good thing, as the Rockefellers (who actually control the GOP, and why all this deliberation is a side show), the McCain's (as Mr. Scott says an incipient third party), etc. will not have the upper hand. The actual conservative forces in the GOP will have a chance (though only a chance) to do the right thing and oppose Mr. Obama...

When it comes to generating enthusiasm, neither Obama or Clinton can produce the level of enthusiasm shown by Ron Paul's supporters. With 4000 turning out for a Paul rally in frigid Minneapolis, and caucus support running five to ten times his national support level, to say that no Republican generates enthusiasm belies either ignorance or a deliberate attempt to marginalize the only anti-war candidate in the Republican race.

In response to Carl Scott's question about McCain:

I wonder if McCain is not a lot like Eisenhower? Both were in the military and seem pretty moderate. I don't know too much about Eisenhower, but I guess he is considered to have been a decent president. I think his only serious flaw were his appointments to the Supreme Court.

Something to ponder about Eisenrhower is how the USSR was quiet during his term (unless I have forgot some major event). I believe Korea was wrapping up when he entered office, and Vietnam didn't really start until JFK (though the French were having troubles during the 50s I suppose).

I believe having a military man in the White House would give America's enemies cause for concern and would make them behave. If this is true then it seems pretty clear to me that it has to be McCain, neither Romney, Huckabee, Clinton, or Obama is going to make any terrorist quake, but I think McCain would frighten them greatly, and we'd have at least another 4 years of quiet inside the US.

Julie, I don't think you are right about Democrats. Theirs is a different perspective of what it is to have individual rights - think FDR's freedom from want. Yes, I think it absurd to believe that bigger, more government means greater freedom for any citizen, but that is the presumption - we will democratically bind together to protect the weak. The idea that we ALL have a responsibility to all might be a matter of being a good neighbor to a Republican and mean something about democracy to a Democrat. It is not thought-less. It is just a different train of thought.

Their politics must not be all that uninteresting to the American people. Roughly half of the American people support that party. Maybe more than half if I look at the polling data out of the recent primaries. Republicans have not been particularly effective at presenting alternatives - at provoking thought that runs along conservative lines.


Therefore, I really do not think I can hold my head up as a Republican. I do not think the party has done a good job of persuading the American people of conservative principles of governance, not for the last many years. Then, too, here we have been deliberating about a candidate for more than a year and are not going to be happy, as a group, no matter which of the candidates at hand wins the party's nomination. Excuse me. What's to be proud about?

Ike got us out of Korea by threatening to nuke them.

That was what did it.

Historians have loved to blast MacArthur for his nuclear proposals, which were just that, proposals. But they've consistently overlooked Eisenhower who told them that he would make North Korea a nuclear wasteland, and much of Manchuria to boot.

Korea was not "wrapping up," rather Korea was settling down to endless warfare in the World War I style, where fierce and costly battles occurred for largely meaningless hilltops, which lacked any decisive or strategic importance. The Communists had successfully finagled us into a old fashioned meat grinder. Their vast superiority in manpower was going to grind down our own forces, as well as our will power.. That was their plan. And it was working. Morale in the Army was bad. Presented with that situation, where MacArthur was prohibited from carving into the enemy by flanking and enveloping them, and thus crushing and annihilating them, it was that which caused him to to confront not just Truman, but the State Department.

For MacArthur, it was a case where all of his genius for war, was nullified. It was like he was forced to relive the Great War.

For him it was morally repugnant, completely repugnant.

And Eisenhower ultimately saw it that way too, and that's why he threatened to vaporize them all under a shower of atomic bombs.

That was why his tenure seemed somewhat tranquil. Moscow and Peking recalled his threat, and understood that he meant every word of it. They recalled they were they were dealing with the former commander of SHAEF, who did not hesitate to order American bombers by day, and British by night, to utterly pulverize Germany's ability to wage war.

Which they did.

He commanded Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris, who commanded Bomber Command, who when asked what were the ethics of bombing, promptly and succinctly replied, "There are none."

Our forefathers were very capable of making themselves feared. Eisenhower was one of them.

To my mind, the only thing that McCain has to recommend him for the Presidency is his volcanic temper, his well known and well chronicled hot-headedness.

While we're praising Ike, let's not forget that he also pretty much single-handedly turned NATO from something that existed only on a piece of paper into a true defensive alliance to which many still-war-rattled European nations were firmly committed, and that he accomplished this feat in a remarkably short time. Ike's efforts in getting NATO off the ground were truly tireless, and have been well chronicled by the late Stephen Ambrose. See the chapter on Ike in Ambrose's collection Americans at War.

Who are the Republicans?


Perhaps an equally good or better question is "Who are the Americans?" The only thing we seem to have in common is our collective locations in a certain (fairly large) geographical spot.

Maybe this country has outlived its time and is due to break into fragments.

I do not think the party has done a good job of persuading the American people of conservative principles of governance, not for the last many years.


Looking at the people leading the party, I'm pretty sure that they do not want to persuade the American people of the virtue of conservative principles. Most of them seem to be liberals themselves.

Kate, your points are fair ones and you pose a good challenge but I think, in the end, you make my case stronger. Democrats, since the time of FDR at least (perhaps even earlier), have considered it a settled point that government should grow and expand in order to meet the "needs" of the people. In their conception of things, there are no needs that government cannot or should not try to meet if a sufficient number of people wish to see them met. Their politics, therefore, is about preferences and interests only. There is a long history among them of appearing to favor the weak over the strong. And I suppose that we ought to be grateful that they still have enough of a sense of shame to wish to convey that perception. But as time passes and the expansion of government continues apace, we have seen many examples of their professed concern for the weak actually working against the weak and in favor of the strong (dare I say, "special interests?"). And it is hard, really hard, to conceive of anything that Bill and Hillary Clinton do as being grounded in the service of the weak. It is in the service of the Clintons and their cronies--people who, though they may be many things, are hardly weaklings. So while it may certainly be true that the original thinkers who put the Democratic machine into motion were thoughtful and deliberate engineers, and had an articulate view of the ends of government it is also true that they set something into motion that no longer seems to require much thought beyond method.

Of course, this is part of its appeal. This is what makes it easy to be a Democrat or a liberal and, it's probably also why so many young people are attracted to its offerings. That, and the added benefit that comes from knowing that if you say the right things you will be given a pass when you don't do the right things. In their world, political virtue is saying and thinking "correctly" and it is almost always held to be superior to private virtue. And that, too, is easier to achieve. (Steve Thomas: When I say this, of course, I am talking about Democrats and liberals as a class and what they do together as a class and I am not talking about what they do or think as individuals . . . there are and certainly can be very intelligent Democrats and there are plenty of them who respect private virtue--at least in private. But when it comes to public arguments, their voices are united with these underlying assumptions of old. They call them principles, I say they're dogma.)

Republicans (especially conservative Republicans) have a much harder job to do. See the Bill Kristol article I linked to a few days ago about the "Happy Warriors" we need to be if we mean to accomplish anything. We're up against the guys who offer freedom from thought and freedom from private virtue. They promise that you can chuck both of these difficult and annoying things and still be considered intelligent and virtuous! How do you argue against such seduction? Thinking is difficult and it makes people angry when all don't think as they do. So thinking can be unpleasant if your constitution is weak. Our party is charged with the burden of doing this thinking and persuading people to think along with us. We do not expect that after they are persuaded to try it on their own that they are going to be our disciples. Similarly, ordering your life in such a way as to promote virtue and happiness is difficult. It is even more difficult than working toward clear thinking. Our party is charged with the burden of persuading people to be good instead of just telling them to be "free" and "hope" and look good while you're doing both by chanting the right mantra--and then, when we fall (as all of us do)--we have the additional burden of answering to the charge of hypocrisy. And then we have try and explain the virtue of forgiveness? I mean . . . forget it! God's still working on persuading most of us of that one, isn't he? It's not even close. It's a wonder we don't all kill each other every election. And yet, we don't. And isn't that amazing? Shouldn't we remember that--especially when we reflect about the condition of the rest of the world? We're worried about McCain?! Are you kidding me? How would you like to be in Kenya right now? Or Pakistan?

So we've all had a terrible fight and our feelings are pretty sore. So what? We don't have to get married to McCain. Gosh, we don't even have to sleep with him! We just have to work with him. And, yes, sometimes we can even (and surely will) work against him. I know I'm looking forward to giving him a few black eyes. But not now.

You asked what we can be proud about in being Republicans now. Well, I tried to show that we can start by being proud of being Americans who think for ourselves and often against each other. My grandmother is fond of saying that she wouldn't give a nickel for a kid who didn't buck some, and I wouldn't give a nickel for a party that didn't either. Fighting in this way is a good and a dynamic thing. It keeps us alive and it keeps us healthy. We know that marriages last longer if the couple engages in healthy fighting--but, of course, we should be careful that fighting does not lead to contempt or silence. Those are deadly. We need to remember that the virtues of all the various parts of our coalition outweigh their vices and that, combined, we can do more good for the country and for each other than we'll ever do on our own. We can be proud that even as we pull a lever for he-whose-name-must-not-be-said in November, we will look much better with our noses pinched than that crying young twit Richard Reeb noted (the one who was choked up with sentiments of unintelligible enthusiasm) looked at Obama's victory dance the other night.

Your strongest point is that the party has not done a good job of persuading Americans to come aboard. That is indisputable. But remember, again, how difficult a task this is. And really, that's what this whole fight is all about. Ever since we got creamed in the '06 mid-term elections, every faction of the party has been hard at work trying to convince itself and all the other factions that the thing never would have happened if only more things had been done their way. In the end, I think it's probably true that no one part of the party is exactly right in this argument about emphasis. The only thing that is clear is that the emphasis of '06 wasn't working. And, even then, it's only clear that this emphasis wasn't working in '06. I also don't believe that the people as a whole are so devoid of virtue or intelligence that they cannot be persuaded. So we had a fight about how to do things and now we're going to try to do this. I agree that it probably won't work perfectly--and probably it won't work as effectively as it might have worked another way. But the country does not deserve for us to give up and quit trying, even with imperfect material. It deserves happy warriors who will stand up and dust themselves off and keep at it. What else can you do? Talk of third parties at this juncture is so far beyond reasonable that I cannot countenance it. There won't be a successful third party, of course, but the Democrats might pay us to start one.

I don't like Ike. I'm not a fan of his.

I like MacArthur and Nelson, Wellington and Sherman.

As for NATO, what got NATO moving was the vision of over 300 hundred Red Army tank divisions on the other side of the Inter-German border. THAT concentrated the mind.

Ambrose was a Liberal, that's why they like to praise Ike and Bradley.

There were about FIVE times that Eisenhower had the chance to thoroughly surround and cut off the German Armies facing him. And each time he blew it. In N. Africa, in Falaise, further along the Seine twice, and then again during the Ardennes offensive. And each time he went for what the Germans described as the minor, or "the lesser option." Eisenhower and Bradley constantly talked about getting the German Army on the move and bagging the lot. But when those opportunities presented themselves, they got cold feet fast.

The situation was so bad that Patton instructed 3d Army historians to make careful note of the incidence at Falaise and further along the Seine. The Allies could have prevented any German getting east of the Seine. As huge as the pocket at Falaise was, that would have been nothing to an envelopment upstream along the Seine, which Patton REPEATEDLY proposed and pushed, and continuously turned down.

All need to be mindful that as a result of these command failures, and that's what they were, failures, that as a result A MILLION MORE JEWS were exterminated. The Holocaust ACCELERATED towards the end of the war. Eisenhower could have ended that Holocaust PRIOR to the Winter of '44. Furthermore, MORE AMERICANS DIED AFTER in Europe AFTER the start of the German Winter offensive, than died prior to its commencement. And had Eisenhower displayed the type of operational flair of a Sherman, a Grant, a MacArthur, a Patton, those men would have survived the war, and their children and grandchildren would be amongst us today.

It's as MacArthur said of Eisenhower, "he was not a fighting general, and he's lucky he had Georgie Patton to do all his fighting for him."

For those interested in studying Eisenhower's command delinquencies, I recommend VDH's THE SOUL OF BATTLE.

There are some mistakes in that post, but you guys got the gist.

Here's more on this from the Politico.

We want to look to the Founders for our principles of government, but are talking about a Constitutional amendment to define marriage. I can't see Madison asking for that.


You're kidding. I can see Madison and the rest of the Founders scrapping rhe Supreme Court if they could have peered into the future.


I begin to worry that Republicans are becoming dogmatic

Given the severe splits within the party on every issue, I think it's safe to say that excessive dogmatism is not a Republican fault. Lack of coherence, which you also mention, is a Republican fault, But the lack of coherence reflects the lack of agreement.

The Democrats are even less interested in the "why" of what they believe. Movements need intellectual consistency. Coalitions do not, and probably cannot.

The conflation of conservatism with the Republican Party leads to much confusion.

Republicans (especially conservative Republicans) have a much harder job to do. See the Bill Kristol article I linked to


I hope you are not suggesting that Kristol is a conservative Republican.
In the 1930's he'd have been an FDR Democrat.

We don't have to get married to McCain. Gosh, we don't even have to sleep with him! We just have to work with him.

Speaking as sombody who donated several thousand dollars to the GOP in the 2004 cycle, I'll work with Hillary Clinton before I work with McCain. I'm a conservative first and a Republican second. The GOP is merely a tool to try to get conservatism enacted. It has no intrinsic worth in itself, and as it turns towards liberalism my interest in supporting it wanes.

Kate . . . did you really say, I begin to worry that Republicans are becoming dogmatic; knowing what their values are, as it is put in that Politico article, knowing what their stand on a few given topics are, but being unsure of or not examining the "why" of what they believe. ?????!!!! Why, examining the "why" of what we believe seems to be the only thing Republicans (especially conservatives) seem to want to do! That's all we've been talking about these many long months! Where else do charges like, "You're not really a conservative" come from? You are not frustrated that there is no talk of this kind. You are frustrated that in all this talk all do not yet agree with your understanding of the "why." I am with you there. But I expect to remain so frustrated for the rest of my natural life and I am getting more and more comfortable with that frustration without feeling hopeless about it. We'll make some in-roads with persuasion here and there--perhaps we'll even get a majority someday. But we cannot MAKE people agree with us and we should not want to do that. We're certainly not going to persuade anyone if we pick up our toys and go home.

As for John's point . . . I do weary of these constant and senseless attacks on every ally we have in the fight . . . that you may differ with Kristol on some things is fine. You may even had good and intelligent reasons for your differences. But to suggest that he is the equivalent of FDR or Hillary Clinton . . . that's just crazy!? It's unworthy of you, John. You can do better with your arguments, your judgment and your timing. Please. As to your gifting, of course, you may certainly do whatever you please with your own money. I would not presume to talk you out of that. But I would note that as money donated by conservative donors to the GOP wanes, conservatives should not expect to see conservative eloquence within it waxing. Because you're not really serious about starting another party and because, even if you were, it would fail, how is it that you think walking away from the GOP is going to promote conservatism? Are they going to come begging you all to come back? (You'll have a hard time getting your name of those direct calling lists, I know that--easier to kill roaches, I think . . . but you know what I mean.) If all the conservatives stop giving money will this force the GOP to be more conservative? No. It will only cause the GOP to be even less conservative and it will help liberals win. We lost this round, but the fight goes on. Suck it up. Live to fight another day, my friend.

Thou art no true conservative, for thou hast abandoned the worship of Odin, and hence thou hast renounced the birthright which thou hast inherited from thine ancestors!

Here I stand (well, sit) judged by the Genuine Conservative.

Dan, your claim that the mere material existence of a large Soviet army in Eastern Europe was enough to make NATO work assumes too much and is ahistorical--it wasn't a "done deal" at all that Western Europe would pull together against the Soviet threat (other, considerably less staunch responses were well within the realm of the imaginable). That Europe did pull together in a strong NATO had a lot to do with Ike's efforts. Just because Ike had failings as a battlefield commander (and I would agree that he chose the wrong kind of counterstroke after the German impetus was contained during the Bulge) doesn't mean we should fail to give credit where it's due. You recognize this yourself when you say that Ike was one of our forefathers who knew how to strike fear when and where it needed to be struck.

Why, examining the "why" of what we believe seems to be the only thing Republicans (especially conservatives) seem to want to do! That's all we've been talking about these many long months!
That is part of what I was getting at. We don't know what we are doing beyond knowing what we don't want. Laely, I wonder if we are even sure about that beyond knowing WHO we don't want. You ask in the title of your piece, "Who are the Republicans?" and I say we do not really know. What is it to be Conservative? We do go round and round about it, especially here. We point here and there and say this guy has it, or that guy. I am suggesting (and I am sorry for impatiently hitting "ADD" too many times.) that we just aren't so sure, lately.


We will not be able to attract young people, or just about any people, if we are incoherent. The principles we preach are not necessarily anything like what we practice. I include myself in that. I have a daughter-in-law who would be dead if not for Medicaid and Medicare supporting her since she was two years old. I have a granddaughter, born in November, whose health care and birth were paid for by the state of Ohio. (Thank you, very much, Ohioans.) Do I or my family "believe" in socialized medicine? We do not, in principle. But as things are, we do in practice. I say the Right is riddled with inconsistencies like this and those I mentioned above. As long as there is this dissonance from the right, there will be no attraction there.

I am not saying we ought to "make" people agree with us. I am saying I no longer see or maybe it is "hear" any credible voices from the Right explaining why anyone SHOULD agree with conservatives, whoever we are.

When we speak of Eisenhower, it's well to separate his military record from his political record.

VDH suggests that Eisenhower's political accomplishments veil Eisenhower's lackluster military record. And I wholeheartedly agree.

As for NATO, Eisenhower brought his reputation and the luster of his SHAEF days to the task. But there were a score of men who could have made NATO a real military alliance. MacArthur for one. Alexander another. Montgomery too. Montgomery had a flair for organization. Lord Allenbrooke. Admirals King, Nimitz. From the Royal Navy we could have looked to Bertram Ramsey, the man who managed the Dunkirk evacuation and the Naval component of Overlord. We could have looked to those masters of the air, Bomber Harris and Toohey Spaatz. Remember that it was Curtis LeMay who made SAC what SAC became.

My point here is that Eisenhower was not indispensable for the formation of NATO. That's all.

Eisenhower did get us to a cease fire in Korea. But he should have made sure the Chinese and the Soviets were driven entirely from the Korean peninsula first. Had he done so, we wouldn't be dealing with a lunatic who starves tens of millions of people, while peddling nuclear know how on the world's black market. And such a display of resolve might have forestalled the Communists backing the Viet Minh to the extent they did, which might have allowed the French to hold off the Communists in French Indochina. History might have taken a different course.

But these counterfactuals are all speculative.

Dan, you are grasping. It's a mistake to think that getting NATO off the ground in the full, political, strategic, and moral sense was merely a matter of organization. And some of the candidates you name are not credible (officers who had spent the war in the Pacific or DC and were quite unknown to Europeans, or stormy petrels like Monty). Your zeal to bash Ike has led you into making intemperate and, I repeat, ahistorical claims. Ike may have s____ed the pooch in Korea or other places, but at the end of the 1940s, he was "the man in the gap" and did what in all likelihood no other single person could have done to make NATO work.

. We lost this round, but the fight goes on. Suck it up. Live to fight another day

Of course, one could point out so many reasons why this is the wrong thing to do, but Einstein said it best:

"Insanity is doing the same thing, and expecting different results"

Then stop doing the same thing Christopher. Stop fighting the same way. It is the petulant ones swearing that they'd rather not vote than vote for McCain who are arguing for doing the same thing, not I. Conservatives will never be persuasive if they think they can win in this way. They have a harder sell than the opposition. They have to make it patiently and with deliberation. Hard ball politics, however manly it may seem, isn't going to cut it when the object is persuasion. The different thing, in this instance, would be to unite around the things we share in common and worry about the good of the country ahead of the interests of our particular faction and preferences. The insane thing, in this instance, is to say that there's no difference between John McCain and either HRC or Obama. Those who claim this deserve sympathy now--while tempers are justly flared--but if they persist in this mode for much longer, they will deserve contempt.

I would like see every conservative who thinks he cannot pinch his nose long enough to put some ink on a ballot next to John McCain's name have the guts to explain their purity to a mother or father of a soldier who had the guts to spill his blood on behalf of their liberty. I would like to see such a conservative explain to that parent why they now think it would be a better idea to suffer Hillary or Barack Obama in the position of Commander-in-Chief of these brave soldiers.

Maybe it depends on what McCain says and does in the coming weeks as to whether or not angry conservatives come around. To re-invent himself as a conservative standard-bearer is going to take some doing, some serious persuasion. We will have to rethink the man we think he is to become real supporters. Yes, people have to come around, but in a sense, just now and for the next several months, maybe for the long haul, it might be important for Senator McCain to have to remember that he needs those disaffected voters. He's got the months till November to woo them. Hillary or Barack will have those months to help him by articulating just what we will see in a Democratic win. Whichever of them wins, McCain has reminding the Right of what the Left will do.

Then stop doing the same thing Christopher. Stop fighting the same way. It is the petulant ones swearing that they'd rather not vote than vote for McCain who are arguing for doing the same thing, not I.

Allow me to list the ways this is incorrect:

1) I am not "fighting" the same way. For myself, I made a fundamental change in 2004 when I did not vote for Bush (going with Constitutional party that year). I did go for local GOP candidates that were conservative (that year it include Bobby Jindal who was my congressman is now gov of Louisiana). That was the year I really became a conservative first, a Republican second.


2) If I sound like a broken record, it is only in response to your broken record (which I take to be essentially the idea that the only real conservative "fight" these days is within the GOP).


3) Not voting for McCain is not doing the 'same thing'. It is charting a new course, one that admits the hard truth: That conservative fortunes in the GOP have been fair to poor. A dispassionate look at the GOP since Goldwater, certainly since 94 leads to this hard fact. It is your recommendation that we continue "persuasion" within the GOP that is insanity (using Einstein’s definition of course. The retort that it is "throwing your vote away" or "the GOP will become more liberal" is the same thing. It ignores the facts, that the GOP is liberal, and that there are structural reasons why it is that run deeper than "persuasion". In a way, it is sort of analogous to the nature vs. nurture debate. What is the reason that things are the way they are? In the case of the GOP, you have entrenched interests (the Big Business Libertarians for example) that will never be "persuaded" to be something they are not.

The insane thing, in this instance, is to say that there's no difference between John McCain and either HRC or Obama. Those who claim this deserve sympathy now--while tempers are justly flared--but if they persist in this mode for much longer, they will deserve contempt.

Again, you don't take this far enough. The differences between McCain and Obama are "significant" yes, but that ignores other political realities. If in the general McCain wins, then the Republicans in congress will feel the political pressure to go along with his significant liberalisms. If however Obama is the president, the conservative forces within the GOP will actually have a better time of it, because they will be the opposition party. In either case, you make too much of the differences between McCain and Obama. In governance, as the GOP has schooled us for the last 50 years, the difference between a "moderate" liberal and a "wacko" liberal is simply a degree in liberalism, not amounting much to anything resembling conservativism.

As far as "unity" and such for "the good of the country", perhaps it's time for a paradigm change. Perhaps our problem is all this unity, particularly of the kind McCain brings to the table. Give me Obama over this sort of "unity" any day. If that brings "contempt", then so be it. Hopefully, those who hold this contempt will work through it and come out to see the errors of their thinking on the other side...;)

PJC, you've elevated Ike to a prominence while minimizing the importance of other men. Just because some fought in the Pacific didn't mean they were chopped liver in Europe. Alexander and Montgomery were well-known and well-respected British Generals. Lord Allenbrooke was the British Marshall, Chief of Staff of the Combined Imperial General Staff. It was Allenbrooke who Churchill desired to command Overlord.

As for NATO coming to its "full political, strategic and moral sense," that was always going to happen, just because the threat from the Soviet Union was so self-evident. Another thing you may be overlooking, NATO was a EUROPEAN idea. It wasn't born in the State Department. It wasn't advanced by Washington. In fact, Washington wasn't too keen on the idea at all, and they needed to be dragged into it.

Additionally, just about all of the NATO members had an officer corps with organizational and combat experience. Germany had a wealth of experienced personnel to build their new Luftwaffe and Bundswehr around. France too.

Eisenhower had all the time in the world to buildup NATO, for that time was provided by America's nuclear umbrella. Ultimately, what prevented the Soviets from moving across the Inter-German border were American nukes, not the size and professionalism of the NATO forces.

I'm glad you voted for Bobby Jindal, Christopher . . . but what will you do if he's the VP end of the ticket? I don't think that's impossible. You missed the whole point of my earlier rebuttal, of course. You are doing the same thing petulant conservatives have always done. You have given up too soon. What you did in 2004 by going Constipation party did nothing but help to give us the whole Gore/Bush debacle. That was fun. Thanks. That did wonders to put the GOP and conservatives in a position of strength as we emerged from the Clinton years. But you got to be a "maverick," and I suppose you satisfied your own conscience. It's funny how some of McCain's critics on this point resemble their own remarks.

I did notice that you did not respond to my challenge of explaining to the family of a wounded or dead soldier why it is that you think Obama or Hillary would be a better choice for Commander in Chief of the armed services. Principles are wonderful things. But there are real people who will be wounded and real consequences to be sorely felt if we have blind and slavish devotion to them. Sometimes reasonableness is required to govern the dictates of pure reason. I think if ever there was such a time, it is now.

Kate, you are right about what McCain really needs to do. It will be difficult for him to do it, however, and we should be as generous as it is possible for us to be in accepting any overtures offered. Reconciliations are not made easier when the offended party takes the opportunity as a time to extract demands.

In some ways I am reconciling myself to this development and I am trying to put it in the best possible light for moving forward. Perhaps it is not a bad thing for us to get back to basics? This candidate is going to force us to do this because we certainly cannot carry on the argument from all the points on which we disagree! Perhaps by focusing on very simple first principles--things that is impossible to deny McCain shares with us--we can begin to re-build our party with new support as well as freshen up our old supporters with a refresher course. Sometimes it is necessary to start all over again. I think that was true in the immigration debate, for example. In the end, it was just all too confusing for the American people to digest. Our arguments were too complicated because (however untrue it is in fact) on the face of it, they seemed at odds with fundamental American values. And our opposition was able to encourage that perception with ease and, thereby, scare many otherwise good men away from the issue. This is only one issue, but it is illustrative. I have no illusions that we are going to be able to effect a sudden epiphany in John McCain on this or any other question that he is firm upon (which are most questions) . . . but it's a different story when you start thinking about the general American public. THEY are the prize. Not some epiphenomenon of a candidate for office. Presidents come and go much faster than major shifts in public opinion come and go. We'd all do well to remember that.

Aren't we all, here and elsewhere, in our different ways, trying to reconcile ourselves to this development?


I know I am somewhat out of step, looking at Republicans and trying to understand how we got McCain and what it reflects or reveals about the party that he was elected. Everyone else is looking at McCain and explaining why he really suits us, never mind what they might have been saying a just a couple of weeks ago. This Larry Kudlow article is what I read just before coming to this site this morning, but it was just the one I read more carefully because I wanted to thing about McCain and economics. This on the Politico suggested that the Democrats will slam M. on the subject. I get the impression Hillary will be rubbing her hands with glee over facing a Republican without a grasp of economics.


In response to Christopher, a silly personal anecdote comes to mind. When we were working on the Reagan campaign in the area, our son, the first, was about two years old. He was a very articulate two year old and considered himself on an intellectual par with many adults he met. Sometimes he had a point. One evening at some kind of a political meeting at our house, someone laughingly asked my son if he were a Republican. He drew himself up and announced, "I am a CONSERVATIVE." This is to ask, when has there EVER been unity within the Republican Party? Sometimes, like in 1980, conservatives win the argument in the party, and more often we don't, but yes, we go along for the good of the country. Any measure of conservative politics is better for the country than the left-wing policies of a Democrat. The difference might be a matter of increment, but isn't that just politics?

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