Free Markets, Free People

Reconnecting the DC GOP to reality

I remember giddy Republicans in early 2001. At last they had won the Presidency and both houses of Congress. They were like football fans whose team had just won the SuperBowl.

What exactly did we get out of that wonderful deal, again? Oh, yeah, a higher rate of spending than under Clinton. A new entitlement we couldn’t afford. Intrusion of the federal government into education. A blatantly unconstitutional law limiting free speech during elections.

However, it was a good time for DC Republicans. There were lots of jobs and lots of opportunities to get on the talk shows.

I suppose I understand, then, why DC Republicans look at elections more like a football game. If their team wins the game, there are goodies to go around.

However, the rest of us, including many disaffected Republicans, have realized that the rah-rah, go team approach to politics is a pointless waste of time, money, and energy. This is shown in the Tea Party’s character, for example. They want to discuss issues, and they’re not dazzled by nice hair, experience in the establishment political world, or all the other characteristics that political consultants find so important when they rate candidates.

One would think that the establishment GOP would have enough self-awareness to understand that it’s time to change their view on candidates and elections. I’d like to think these people are intelligent enough to read the charts and realize that the time for playing games is past. We are very probably approaching a worldwide financial crisis that will rock the very foundations of Western society.

Unfortunately they don’t seem to notice, as I was reminded this weekend when I read this piece on The Corner quoting Mary Matalin:

…Republicans should get over their puppy love, she said, and realize that no candidate is going to be perfect. The important thing is that they can beat President Obama.

No. That’s not the important thing. That statement may sound wise and obvious to DC political types, but it’s absolutely wrong, and there are two ironclad reasons why.

First, if it gets us a Nixon or a G.W. Bush, then it actually makes things worse. Suppose we expend our limited opportunity to reverse our current headlong rush to catastrophe by electing such a person. Then suppose the catastrophe comes on their watch.

The result is that it’s probably then the last chance the GOP will ever get to fix things. The left-leaning media will pin all the blame on the Republicans, and contort every fact they find to make it look like the Democrats can fix things.

An observant, rational person might note that the notion of the Democrats fixing anything about large, intrusive, expensive, debt-ridden government is laughable. But the media will sell that ridiculous notion, and clueless moderates will buy it, just as they did in 2008. The GOP brand will then be tarnished for a generation (“See, those Tea Party types just make things worse!”), and there will be plenty more fiddling while the country burns. The Tea Party types will likely try a third party, and given the structural problems in our system, that’s highly unlikely to work fast enough to make a difference.

Second, the very idea that we can predict who can or can’t beat Obama is just silly. I remember when Reagan “couldn’t beat Carter” because he was just a B movie actor. Bill Quick is fond of saying that his Pomeranian could beat Obama, and if things continue to move in the direction they’re going now, he’s clearly on target.

Just to pick out someone, let’s look at Hermann Cain. By conventional wisdom from establishment types, he can’t possibly beat Obama.

Well, why the hell not? He won the Florida straw poll decisively, so he seems to have something in his tank to motivate the base. Given that he’s black, suppose he changes the voting in that population from 90-10 Obama to 70-30 Obama. That alone would be enough to tie him even if Obama did as well among all other groups as he did in 2008. And Obama isn’t going to do nearly as well in most groups except for those firmly on the left wing.

I’m not endorsing Cain here. I’m just pointing out that playing the “who can beat Obama” game is silly, and could even cause catastrophic long term damage to the very party these people belong to.

Contra Mary Madalin, the important thing is to find a candidate who understands the depth of the crisis we face and has the courage to go to the wall against dozens of special interest groups to fix it. Without such a person, winning the White House is pointless and possibly counter-productive in the long term.

Of course, I’m not sure the DC establishment types care much. Matalin was married to James Carville last I heard, so if there was ever a couple deeply invested in business-as-usual in DC, it’s them. They and the other DC establishment types probably expect to be safely ensconced in their nice houses, drawing a guaranteed check, so they won’t suffer as much as the rest of us when TSHTF.

But that means we need to ignore anything and everything these people have to say.* We’ve been paying attention to them for decades, and where has it gotten us? The old saw about doing the same thing over and over comes to mind.

It’s time to throw the dice and try something different. It might not work, but it has a chance, and that’s better than the certain failure of DC politics as usual.

(*) The folks at National Review are some of the main ones who need to pay attention to this. The time for standing athwart history, yelling stop, is past. Only a serious U-turn will do us any good now. And we’ll never, ever get that from establishment GOP types.

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11 Responses to Reconnecting the DC GOP to reality

  • Preach it brother:  dead on!

  • There’s a line somewhere between ideology, electability and stupidity. We all have our own definition of where that line is. Since I don’t have a dog in the fight yet here’s a few questions I ask myself:
    1. What has this person accomplished with his life?
    2. Does this person have experience leading?
    3. Can this person persuade others? Can this person create a consensus?
    4. Is this person generally faithful (in deed, not word) to traditional Republican principals?
    5. Has this person done anything particularly scandalous or bone headed in the past?
    6. Has this person demonstrated the willingness to fight for some unpopular or misunderstood ideal?
    7. Does this person have a strategic vision of what is to be accomplished?
    Truman and Eisenhower had some interesting observations.
    Truman opined, about Ike, that he was in for a rude awakening going from the military to being President. Generals make orders and people carry them out. The President, ultimately, commands his own desk, the rest is politics and persuasion.
    Eisenhower once defined leadership as the ability to get people to do things while they think it was their idea in the first place.
    Lastly, never let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I’ll won’t forget how for eight years, from 1980 to 1988, certain segments of the GOP/conservative bloc complained that the White House staff (and Nancy Reagan) would not let Reagan be Reagan. As if RR was some kind of amiable dunce occupying the Oval Office. They complained, constantly, about the most conservative President since Coolidge.
    Some people just won’t ever be satisfied. They should be ignored.

  • Lastly, never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Sure. But first, you’ve got to get to “good”. Romney, Huntsman, Pawlenty, Daniels and all the other establishment types who think we can just tweak things here and there and come out fine don’t meet that criterion. When it comes to the probability of materially affecting the direction of the federal government, they suck.

    That’s my beef. The establishment types want to use such conventional wisdom as “never let the perfect be the enemy of the good” as a diversion to get their preferred establishment candidate in, whether that candidate is good or not.

    In essence, they want to define “good” as “electable”, and a I categorically reject that equivalence.

    • Ayn Rand said, to effect, that the US would not change politically until it changed between the ears (i.e., philosophically).
      The US becomes more and more statist/collectivist/fascistic/subjectivist/irrationalist with each public school graduating class. The right wing is only slightly behind the left in that regard, and the (L)libertarians are only somewhat better (once you dump the anarchist wing).
      Que Don Meridith singing, “Turn out the liiiiights, the parties ooooover.”.

  • But let us not forget .. DC is a company town .. and there is only one business in DC
    Practically all remaining moderate Republicans now live in DC, and these are the folks referred to as the “establishment Republicans.”

    • Power is the business of DC now.
      Power has predictable behaviors.  They are known.
      One thing power fiercely RESISTS is any LOSS of power.  That is precisely what we are attempting.
      ONLY force will overcome the concentrated power in DC, and I don’t mean violence.  I mean a focused, deliberate design to devolve power back to the states and the people, backed by action.

  • “One would think that the establishment GOP would have enough self-awareness…”

    Heh. New in town, eh?

    “The Corner quoting Mary Matalin…”

    It amazes me that anyone still pays any attention to her. I tend to judge people by the company they keep, among other things, and breeding with the Cajun reptile didn’t help. Now I can understand how a strong physical attraction can lead someone astray, at least temporarily, but to actually be willing to engage in discussions with that snake and take his drivel as serious and legitimate political discussion? 

  • “The important thing is that they can beat President Obama.”

    Crap. Electability has never been been a requirement of the Rep. establishment. Example, “It’s my turn” Bob Dole. As long as they can raise enough money from the suckers in flyover country to pay their bar tabs they are perfectly content to whine about those nasty right wing zealots who refuse to recognize their betters. This from someone who thought “read my lips” Bush could beat Clinton after a nobody like Buchanan got 37% of the vote in New Hampshire primary after only being in the race a couple of months.

  • well I have been preaching the same thing for some time now. In fact gone are the days when I will vote for a Bush type ever again.
    We really end up worse off. because we might get slightly less progressivism, but somehow small government types get the blame.  Just like they put limited government policies to blame for the recession, which is a colossal joke since there were no such policies in the Bush years.