The Republican Primaries 2008: What Went Wrong?

Congratulations to Senator John McCain, who clinched the 2008 Republican Party Nominee for President of the United States last night, yet who is also a man disliked by a significant portion of the party and a man who generates enthusiasm less often than a year-old box of corn flakes. McCain’s advocates fall into three broad categories; those who emphasize his war credentials and ignore his record on other issues, those who are afraid of the Democrats’ nominee and want a Republican in the White House, any Republican, and so are willing to settle for McCain, and those who actually like censorship of political speech during an election, for a minority of the Senate to decide the fate of judicial nominees, and for the Global Warming Ponzi Scheme to be allowed to constrain business and rob taxpayers. How on earth did the Party of Ronald Reagan come to this?

I think a lot of this started early. Back in 2005, Patrick Ruffini ran a straw poll about GOP candidates, and I called him on a number of wrong claims and false statements. It was, in short, an informal shoot-the-bull poll with no value beyond a very local barometer of the moment, just as my occasional polls here should not be taken to represent the nation. But I called Ruffini on his attempt to play his poll into something it was not. The reason I bring up that dead cat carcass again, is because even there, I warned that Ruffini was pushing a false image, in his case the viability of Giuliani. It’s not that Rudy was a horrible choice, but that pushing him so early in a poll which closed off some far more conservative possibilities displayed the problem we saw this spring, a set of choices created by non-Conservatives, yet forced on Conservatives. Do you want the really liberal RINO, or perhaps the only-sometimes-RINO? Ruffini has inconsiderately moved or deleted his 2005 poll from his archives, so I cannot recite his list of options, but I can safely advise the public that Senator Fred Thompson, Secretary of State Condi Rice, Governor Jeb Bush, and other leading Conservative voices were – oh so conveniently – left off the poll. Not to belabor Mr. Ruffini too much, as he has every right to speak for the milktoast Republicans when he feels so inclined, but even from the start, Republicans were shown polls and surveys with no meat on the menu. There was, I will say bluntly, no seat at the table for a Reagan Republican.

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There were, of course, a few plays for the Conservatives. There are so many Conservatives, that some GOP candidates would surely try for their support. Fred Thompson said the right things, but sadly he missed the crest of support in mid-2007, and by the time he started moving, he was too far behind, in media attention, campaign funds, and in developing his grassroots network. Mitt Romney also played up his newfound Conservatism, but he failed to convince enough Conservatives that he was the real deal. Same problem with Huckabee; the rhetoric just did not square with his record. McCain took the contrary path. Seeing that Conservatives were split, unable to find anyone who really reflected their ideals and priorities, he decided not to chase their support in the primaries, and instead made them his target, successfully drawing support from outside the party even as he chased the party’s mantle. The hypocrisy of such a strategy does not appear to bother Senator McCain.

So here we are; the Democrats are enemies of Conservatism, and now so is the Republican Party’s nominee. Fortunately, we are not bereft of hope. In a statement sure to be sneered at by non-Conservatives, I believe most devoutly that God Almighty favors most Conservative Ideals, and just as Ronald Reagan arrived to bring back America’s greatness after Carter’s disastrous term, I believe that our movement will yet again regain its support and strength. But Reagan had to wait for his moment, and before him Barry Goldwater was a true Conservative who never got to set foot in the promised land of a Conservative America. With McCain, Clinton, or Obama in the White House for at least four years, this nation will suffer for at least that long. The sole mitigation will be those Conservatives in the House and Senate, whose backbones and nerve will sorely be tested by the new reigning coalition of Liberals, Quislings, and McCainiacs. This crucible, though, may be the testing ground for the next Reagan.

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