Bill Kristol makes the very sound and sensible point that movements composed of happy warriors are the only kind that tend to succeed in American politics--and with good reason. In the course of making this important point, he leads up to an attempt to elicit good cheer on the part of those elements of the conservative movement who--in all likelihood--are going to find themselves much distressed come Wednesday morning. (Is it any coincidence, by the way, that this Wednesday also happens to be ASH Wednesday . . . ashes to ashes . . .?)
My big quibble with Kristol’s otherwise sound advice in this piece is that I would suggest some re-phrasing at the end. He borders on the indignant (without, as yet, demonstrating a good reason for indignation) when noting the virulent reactions many conservatives have had in the face of a pending McCain coronation. He chooses words like "temper tantrum" and suggests that we not "close our eyes" to McCain’s virtues. Accusing others of temper tantrums at this stage in the game is not the sword I’d choose to defend support for Senator McCain. With that last bit about closing the eyes, however, I do have some sympathy. Problematic as John McCain is, he is not Hillary Clinton and certainly not Barack Obama. But it is condescending--right now--to suggest that anger at McCain (even anger that leads people to say wildly imprudent things) is the same thing as closing one’s eyes to the differences. We’re still in a primary and Romney though seriously wounded and probably seeking life support, is not yet dead. His supporters and McCain’s detractors are right to say what they will and to elucidate the differences as they see them and with as much force as they deem necessary. If that wounds John McCain, I’d suggest then that it’s a wounding he’s brought upon himself and probably one that he needs. I hope he begins to feel it and to make amends (as we enter the season of Lent!). It will be nothing compared to the wounding the Democrats are going to try and give him.
Kristol’s larger point for the conservative movement, however, is that in many ways this fight has got nothing to do with John McCain or Mitt Romney or, even, Mike Huckabee. It’s about the many fragmented elements of the conservative coalition. His discussion of what it is that conservatives are trying to do and what makes their efforts so difficult in a liberal democracy is worthy of committing to memory. His call to recognize the limits of the possible is less a capitulation to the zeitgeist than a call to arms. We should be happy warriors and press on--not only because it will make us more successful--but more because we’ve got much about which we ought to be happy. First among the things that ought to inspire a cheerful tone should be the knowledge that the smallest of our successes have produced greater felicity for our country than the combined results of the grand delusions concocted by the opposition. We need to focus our efforts on them and their schemes and to do this sooner rather than later.
All right. The rebukes from the right on behalf of McCain are well-taken. Kristol is right, too, that Republicans are discordant as well as discontent. My son, writing from Okinawa, asks what the heck is going on. He says it seems that Republicans are going to be unhappy with whoever wins their nomination while the Democrats will be content with whomever they get. Maybe this has to do with the concern that Republicans have with ideas and ideology. Democrats can be content with the general direction their candidates will take them and can afford to quibble about personality and style of delivery. Republicans talk about temperament, a little, as in concerns about McCain's temper or Romney's stiffness, but most of the debate is about positions on taxes, abortion, judicial nominations. We keep going over voting records, past versus present positions on issues, and worry about convictions and rhetoric.
Is there just more variety on the right? Just how much variety is there? I know, here Dan or someone is going to define just how much in detail. But really, to the left, can they discern a major difference in policy between our candidates? Maybe they don't care, figuring anyone but a Republican will suit them.
I was not surprised when someone walked into the faculty lounge today, just as I was leaving for class, asking aloud to room of a dozen or so people, "Well, guys; who's it going to be, Clinton or Obama?" "Whatever." was the only response I heard.
This isn't unexpected. For over a year Republicans have been miserable with this field. Some deluded themselves that something late would break, some candidate would emerge, some Conservative would appear. That's not going to happen, not unless we make it happen at the Convention, by rejecting McCain and his gang of groupies, and drafting a Favourite Son candidate.
ALL ALONG we knew one of these men was going to be our nominee. If it had been Romney, the party would have been as frustrated as they would have been had it been Giuliani, or had it been Huckabee for that matter. It really didn't matter which candidate, for whoever it was going to get plastered by the party, and irritate healthy segments of our parity. McCain, probably more than the others, aggravates, irritates, fails to ingratiate, fails even to try to ingratiate. The media he courts, the establishment he seeks to woo, but as for the base of the Grand Old Party, ----------------- the only thing he does is tell us all to go, well, I had better not specifically describe what he tells us to do, because vulgar profanities feature prominently.
And Kate, as for Clinton or Obama, they'll staff their administrations from the same Democrat talent pool. Both will look to the Carter and the Clinton administrations. And since personnel is policy, there won't be much difference.
The really troubling thing is how often ostensibly "Republican" administrations end up governing as left of center administrations. This tendency towards the Left, this trend towards Leftism, all in a weird, misguided and ultimately foolhardy attempt to insulate themselves from the criticism of The NY Times and other Lefty organs, that's the thing that is truly troubling. Are we but an echo of the Left, or does Conservatism have something distinct to offer. For decades the Left damned the Right for being devoid of ideas, devoid of a rationale for governance. 12 years of the Bush family has validated that criticism.
We have to choose, are we the party of Reagan and Gingrich, or are we the party of Ford, Bush and McCain. The former are winners, the latter losers.
But as for the Democrats, there's not a great deal of difference between Obama and Clinton, and what's more, there's not a great deal of difference between Obama, Clinton AND Kucinich. This remaining group of Democrat aspirants is a RADICAL as any we've ever seen in American history. And they're on the verge of complete, filibuster proof control of the American government, and within a few years, equal control of the Federal judiciary.
Only a Bush could manage something like that. It takes a real talent for incoherence and incompetence to manage something like that. Not your run-of-the-mill, ordinary incompetent will do, for that to occur you really need an EXTRAORDINARILY incompetent fellow.
And such a fellow was at hand..........
Julie, McCain has made himself a political excommunicate, and like that excommunicate long before him, Henry IV, he should be made to make his penitential journey to Canossa. He needs to stand figuratively barefoot, in the snow, without any nourishment for several days, holding a candle in his hand.
Nothing less will suffice. His many and dear offenses, his repeated apostasies, his wayward ways, all of this and more has created a great political distortion and imbalance. Justice demands far-reaching and public demonstrations of remorse. No such demonstration have we seen, ------------------ nor are we likely to see.
As it was Bush who initiated divorce proceedings against the base of the GOP, so too has McCain severed the bonds that should join us together. Let him then be the first to forge those bounds anew, let him be the one to make those bonds stronger than they ever were before. Let him reach out to us, instead of us constantly reaching out to him. He's rejected us God only knows how often, with malice in his heart, derision on his lips and a glint of unabashed glee in his eye.
So be it.
Let him now reach out to us. Let him make that phone call, let him initiate that conversation, let him demonstrate good faith. And let us put these avowals of his to the proof. Let us not put confidence in words that are cheap, and none cheaper than those of a politician. Let us look to legislation. If he is Conservative, let us see the proof in the well of the U.S. Senate.