Republican stalwarts are fond of recalling the 1992 Democrat National Convention, and the manner in which Bob Casey Sr., the Governor of Pennsylvania, was prevented from giving a speech on account of his strident pro-life views. Here was the incontrovertible proof that Democrats censor and oppress those who do not toe the party line.
What is rarely recalled is that, four years later in the Republican National Convention, the official party policy was to avoid any mention whatsoever of the entire abortion issue. GOP candidate Bob Dole sought to sidestep controversy that party insiders feared might be overly "divisive," since that is how the major media and the Democrats portrayed defining moral issues such as abortion. With the conservative base thoroughly dispirited by this and a host of similar actions, Dole lost that race, leaving the Republicans to flounder for another four years.
Dole's fate was consistent with the pattern of Republican presidential candidates and their regard for conservatism in general. Those who boldly and unabashedly carried the conservative "torch" have done well, while any who attempt to "move to the center" and "find common ground" with the left will be abandoned by conservative voters. John McCain, while claiming to do both, succeeded at neither. And his electoral results proved it.
Herein lies the picture of a losing Republican "strategy" to which its liberal members doggedly cling, despite results that have been consistently disastrous over the years. Every attempt to water down the GOP platform, in a futile quest to widen its appeal, has had exactly the opposite effect. Seeking to portray themselves as standing for everything, such self-serving party insiders are rightly recognized as standing for nothing.
Nevertheless, an infuriatingly effective ruse from media liberals and Democrat political hacks has been to convince congressional Republicans to "moderate" (read: accommodate the liberal agenda). When voters exhibit their outrage by abandoning such Republicans at the polls, those same Democrats assert loudly that the party is still "too conservative" and thus needs to drink more of the poison that has been killing it. Cowardice, whether in day to day life or in the political arena, is by definition easy to manipulate. Thus the most timid Republicans can be counted upon to follow this lead.
Arlen Specter's recent official abandonment of the Republican Party (as opposed to the unofficial manner in which he has been doing so for years) provides a powerful case in point. Since Specter made his announcement to switch to the Democrats, liberal activists such as James Carville have predictably insisted that the move represents undeniable proof of an excessively narrow governing philosophy among the Republicans. Thus, we are told, the only winning strategy is for the GOP to move even further left, in order to accommodate the likes of Specter.
"Conventional wisdom," stubbornly promoted by the ruling class on both sides of the aisle, insists that the ultimate purpose of a political party is to get its members elected to office. In truth, such a notion represents defining evidence of a party in decline. The founding purpose of a political party is always to advance a particular set of ideas. The chances of those ideas being adopted as public policy will increase with greater popular support and the strength that lies in numbers, a party is established to move the particular banner forward.
Unfortunately, at some point along the way, those doing the moving and shaking inevitably shift their focus from "the cause" to their own fortunes, at which point the true ideology that undergirded their formation into a party is likely to take a back seat to the presumed pragmatism of the moment.
It is at this juncture that the present day Republican Party is completely foundering, and will continue to do so unless its reins can be seized by a cabal of true conservatives who are neither willing to accept a thoroughly biased view of the world as presented on the nightly news, or cowed by the inevitable personal attacks against them from the left. Efforts to make the party more appealing by mimicking the Democrats will neither ingratiate the party to the news anchors nor inspire voters to rally to it. Who could be expected to derive inspiration from a cheap imitation of the hard-left, when the real thing is readily available from the Democrats?
It is wholly frustrating to the conservative base that the road to Republican victory lies so blatantly in front of myopic party insiders, yet they refuse to recognize it. In the wake of Bill Clinton's 1992 electoral mandate with its "resounding" forty-three percent of the vote, Newt Gingrich rallied his party to adopt a conservative manifesto known as the "Contract with America." Despite media coverage that was universally disparaging, Gingrich led the Republicans to a stunning victory in the 1994 mid-term elections.
Had Gingrich remained true to his principles, he may well have thoroughly routed the Democrats, including Bill Clinton, in 1996. It was only when he as House Speaker, along with then Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, essentially validated Clinton's fiscally excessive policies by caving in to him on the 1995 budget showdown that Republican momentum was rebuffed.
A similar opportunity exists for Republicans now, if a sufficient number have the courage and forthrightness to recognize and seize upon it. Americans are no more enthused at the prospect of Republican "cooperation" with the left than they were in 2006 or 2008. And despite media stories to the contrary, a considerable backlash against the severe overindulgences of the Obama Administration looms.
Whether or not that sentiment ever coalesces into a renewed Republican vitality will depend solely on the character of party leaders, who can either listen to the discredited "moderate experts" and consign themselves to permanent minority status, or seize the moment on behalf of traditional America and ride it to victory.
Copyright ©2009 Christopher G. Adamo