A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Only John McCain. . .

. . .is capable of keeping Republicans in the executive branch, and it's a shame to see so many conservatives continue to carp about his inevitable nomination. There has never been a time in the party's history when it was more poorly positioned to remain in power. The party has never been held so low in the public's esteem. Its standard bearer, President Bush, is currently laboring under approval ratings worse than Richard Nixon's. House and Senate Republicans are lagging far behind their Democratic counterparts in fundraising.

And, yet, in spite of all these factors and the fact that he is, to put it as charitably as I know how, not the darling of his party's base, Sen. John McCain remains highly competitive with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in head-to-head polling. Given the deep unpoplarity of the Republican brand right now, you have to wonder if some of McCain's popularity is a product of the disdain with which he is held by members of his own party. I can't speak for other Republicans, but I can attest that part of what has driven me into his corner is that he angers some of the right people.

Admittedly, there have been times when I've vehemently disagreed with the senator -- McCain-Feingold and his opposition to the Bush tax cuts spring to mind. But, I can't help feeling a jolt of good cheer at the apoplexy that the mere mention of his name inspires in some of his critics. Mostly, these folks have solid, conservative beliefs with which I tend to agree. But, they're also people who are entrenched in the conservative-Republican power structure whose positions are threatened by his emergence. Regardless of whether or not I agree with their views, I can't escape the feeling that having these people trembling with rage is a good thing, particularly in light of the current state of the conservative movement and the Republican Party over which they've exercised so much control in recent years.

As is universally the case with any institution, long-entrenched power structures tend to be their own undoing. They tend to become fat, lazy, complacent, and given enough time, corrupt. And, that is precisely what has happened to the GOP's leadership during the Bush years. While the Bush administration has remained gloriously free of corruption, particularly in comparison to the administration that directly preceded it, the same can't be said of its legislative counterpart. Both, I think, can be fairly accused of laziness and complacency, however.

The Republican congressional leadership's torpor has been particularly egregious, and it paid a price for it in the 2006 midterm elections. Suddenly, the Democrats were in control and the Republican caucus, after having been in power for the bulk of the twelve years following the "Gingrich Revolution", had no idea how to react. The showed absolutely no sign of a renewed commitment to conservative principles of any kind -- social, fiscal, or national security. Having long ago abandoned those principles, and sensing that there was trouble brewing among the electorate, many Republicans turned to illegal immigration as a gimmick. Much to their chagrin, many voters picked up on the fact that they were using it as a diversion in hopes of keeping people from noticing the royal screwing they'd been receiving at the hands of their purportedly conservative elected officials.

This is the atmosphere that gave rise to John McCain, and whether or not he's the perfect vehicle for the change that must happen if the conservative movement is to survive, there's no doubt that he is the necessary agent to bring about the kind of changes that need to be made if the Republican Party is to have any hope of being a viable vehicle for conservatism in any form. No other candidate in the field of also-rans had the capacity to shake up the conservative establishment to the degree that John McCain has. And, whether one loves or hates him, it can't be denied that the establisment needs a good shaking. After all, the conservative leadership with which we've saddled ourselves has not only failed to hold the line on size, scope and cost of government, but run right past it like a juiced-up greyhound chasing a crackhead in a rabbit suit.

Rank and file conservatives are slowly lining up behind McCain, but there remains a significant number of hold-outs who are still enraged at the way he has run across the establishment conservative grain over the past several years. This won't be easy to repair, and in some cases, it'll be impossible. Once people have gotten used to having their ears tickled by the dulcet tones of politicians full of promises, delivery on those promises becomes secondary to the courtship. And, the failure of a politician to sufficiently engage in the courtship ritual is unforgivable, whereas the failure to deliver on the promises is not. Witness the hero status that Rick Santorum still enjoys among social conservatives despite his very active support of Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey. Then, witness the villification of John McCain and skepticism over his judicial philosophy in spite of his active support of Justices Alito and Roberts.

Conservatives who refuse to support McCain in this election are missing an opportunity that won't present itself again for a good, long time. We have a chance to clear out a lot of deadwood and create a path for a new generation of conservative leaders who truly represent their constituencies without giving in to the time-honored traditions of Washington which dictate that getting and keeping power takes precedence over principle. While McCain may be a maverick in areas that anger some conservatives to no end, the fact is that the Republican Party has been in dire need of mavericks in recent history. When the party line is unnecessarily costing lives in Iraq, someone needs to buck it. When the party line is needlessly bankrupting future generations to pay for entitlement programs, somone needs to buck it. And, when the party line says that corruption is acceptable when its goal is to maintain power for your own side, someone needs to buck it.

If more conservatives had demonstrated a willingness to buck the Republican Party line these last several years, the American public wouldn't be ready to toss them out on their ears right now.

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