Thursday, October 17, 2013

McCain, McConnell, and Graham: Why Republicans Lose

You might recall that soon after the Republicans nominated John McCain, and he nominated Sarah Palin, he held a four-point lead over Obama.  Then, as the economy grew worse, he decided to suspend his campaign and return to Washington until the financial crisis was solved.  He never again regained his lead.

By doing what he did, McCain ignored two important facts:  (1) Nominating Palin motivated the Republican base, a base that knows that the solution to our problems is not found in Washington.  That’s where you find their origin.  (2) If McCain had said that he would maintain his campaign aggressively and stay out on the hustings with the American people -- the only place where these issues can be well-resolved -- then he might have held on to win.  The base whose support put him ahead might have kept him ahead.  But just like his Democratic opponents, when things got bad, McCain turned to government and returned to Washington.  He could never convince the American voters that Washington is the problem because he didn’t believe it himself.  He believed Washington is the solution.  He still does.  So does the Republican leadership in the Senate and the RNC.  Do not expect him or them to beat the Democrats.  They share the Democrats’ ideology and solutions.  The difference between them and the Democrats is one of degree, not of kind.   Such Republicans cannot be trusted to lead conservative Republicans to victory.  Rather, they attack and marginalize the conservatives as unsophisticated.  They act as if they themselves never noticed that there can be no victory without conservative Republicans, who did in 2010 what they themselves failed to do in 2008 and 2012.  They never yet noticed that they don’t own the past or the future.  They are losers.  They have alienated their only means to victory by failing to fight for their conservative base and its ideas.  They fight against them and do to them what the Democrats themselves would love to do:  marginalize the Tea Party.  They spend more time and public political capital fighting the Tea Party than they do marginalizing the far left from its middle-left counterparts.  Why?  Because they are closer to the middle-left than to their own conservative base.

The McCain, McConnell, Graham cult will never win any significant battle in Washington because they are ideologically and tactically incapable of winning and because they do not want Tea Party ideas to prevail.  When those ideas emerge, those ideas are attacked -- by that cult -- a cult that thinks that merely by posing and primping as adults, they will win.  It doesn’t happen.  Pretending to be adults is what kids do.  They are Washington’s latest crop of kids, not its latest platoon of Conservative warriors.  They think that it is statesmanlike to feign adulthood and to denounce the warriors.

You can tell that about them because their actions and their words say so.  Then, when the warriors lose because they were undermined by their own leadership, the leadership says, “See, we told you it wouldn’t work.”

Do recall one more thing about McCain’s campaign for the White House:  He said he didn’t understand economics.  He’s right.  He doesn’t.  It’s not the only thing on which he and his ilk are a bit dull.           


Willbo said...

This analysis leaves something to be desired. The shutdown fiasco didn't separate Republicans by ideology or willpower, but by strategy. Cruz, Heritage Action, et al led a charge without a realistic plan for victory. The failure of 'Defund Obamacare' is squarely on those responsible for leading the ill-advised effort to tie health policy changes to the spending measure. President Obama is lucky to have such adversaries as Sen Cruz, whose lack of tactical prowess and prudence shifted the spotlight from a disastrous Obamacare rollout to internal Republican dysfunction shutting down the federal government.

Please stop pretending that tactical differences between big tent Republicans and the Tea Party indicates a lack of conservative bona fides. The party needs to coalesce and stop playing the game of political subtraction and infighting. Experienced Republican operators need the passion of the Tea Party, and the Tea Party has shown that it could use the tactical chops in return.

Herb Nowell said...

"Please stop pretending that tactical differences between big tent Republicans and the Tea Party indicates a lack of conservative bona fides."

Please point out your evidence that taking the big tent tactic and electing a GOP majority with it will change the direction or character of the Federal Government.

Evidence from the GOP majority from 2003-2007, when the current leadership was already in leadership positions (Boehner was leader for part of this period and McConnell was whip), is highly preferred.

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

Willbo, the difference in ideology gives rise to the difference in strategy. Generally speaking, they all tend to fight for what is important to them. That is fine. But these two sides have a different hierarchy of values, so they fight for different things. Neither side lacks will power. They lack agreement on what to fight for. The RINOs do not fight for Tea Party values. That's because they do not hold to those values. Paul, Lee, and Cruz have those values and fight for them. They ran on those values and they keep their word to advance them vigorously. Others do not. They all fight for what they believe, and in this issue they did not fight because they are not believers in the cause. The leadership beleives in keeping Tea Party values on the margins, not on the forefront. They won't like it, but they will have a Tea Party candidate at the head of the ticket in '16. They need to make room for that eventuality rather than work against their own future nominee now. They lost the party's past with McCain and Romney. They will not get to choose the party's future nominees. The Republican grassroots will do that, despite the leadership's continued efforts to undermine it.

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

Republican big tent strategy works only if it is built around solid conservative core. If you try to build a Republican big tent by moving the conservative core to the margins, you will never win. If they alienate the Tea Party, they are doomed. Their victory is locked up with the Tea Party, period. Marginalize the Tea Party and you banish victory. Republicans like McCain and Co. foam at the mouth only against those on their right. They reserve their hatred for the right, not the left. They'll negotiate with Dems, not with the Tea Party, because that is where they see common ground.

Willbo said...

Thanks for responding. I attended Charles Kessler's talk at the Kirby Center in DC this week, and he agreed that Tea Party and mainstream Republicans need each other. The Tea Party representatives in the audience likened themselves to the 'jury' which Republican political leaders must convince in order to win elections. I thought that missed the point. The Tea Party simply does not represent the entire base of Republican political support. It represents one segment of the Republican coalition of Evangelicals, business leaders, the middle class, etc.

We can agree to vote for political martyrs whose strident tone alienates anyone but the true faithful, or we can work together as a successful political coalition to prevent Democratic majorities from passing awful legislation like the ACA and appoint Supreme Court justices who interpret the Constitution as living (in answer to your question, Mr. Nowell). Republicans aren't perfect, but as I learned from my Hillsdale education, practicing politics means taking the status quo into account to make prudential appeals to the people. Without the virtue of prudence, the Tea Party will fade as a short-lived spasm of popular anger at big government rather than the beginning of a constitutional, principled and strategic political realignment.

Republicans don't even have to marginalize the Tea Party. The poor quality and lack of general appeal of Tea Party leaders will do that in time.

Steray Snyder said...

Excellent analysis. The only thing left to be desired is my willingness to reach out to my friends and neighbors with the message of the gospel. Unless the heart is changed, we labor in vain. It is the transgressions of this land that is leading us to "many are its princes". We have joined ranks with ancient Israel in being compared to Sodom's sisters - Ezk 16:48-50. Stealing and theft are now equated to "the general good". Winthrop's warning "either by the Bible or the bayonet." is upon us now.

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

Had the whole Republican party presented a united front and been fighting as vigorously as some of its Tea Party members, we might have even more Democrat defections than we now do, defections who are willing to postpone ACA, maybe more than postpone.

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

You are quite right about the singular power of the gospel. For it there is no substitute.