Two years from now, we’ll know what, if any, lessons Republicans learned from last week’s electoral fall from grace. The conventional wisdom in the conservative New Media is the party will return to its roots, re-discover the awesome power of The Reagan Revolution, and live happily ever after.

That’s a nice bedtime story for those of us not running for office.

The fact is, there is a split in the GOP on fundamental, defining issues. My good friend and former talk show host, Indiana congressman Mike Pence may very well become the next Minority Leader in the House of Representatives (Hallelujah, brother!), and Mitch McConnell or Jon Kyle could step forward to lead Republicans in the Senate (Can somebody say, “Amen”?), but this kind of rock-solid conservative is not positioned to lead the party at the top of the ticket. And, in my view, that does not bode well for my vision for the Republican Party.

Trouble, oh we got trouble,
Right here in River City!
With a capital “T”
That rhymes with “P”
And that stands for……Politics as usual.

John McCain, a politician only The New York Times or CBS could confuse with a conservative, is the early favorite to face off against his good friend Hillary Rodham Clinton. McCain has attained this lofty perch, in part, because:

a. McCain has national name recognition;
b. McCain has campaigned for countless Republicans;
c. The Old Media promotes McCain due to his lack of conservative values; and
d. There is no ground swell of support at the grass roots level for a national conservative candidate.

Combine these factors with the empowering of Blue Dog Democrats in ’06, a Republican president with no passion for conservatism, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s strength as a RINO in the electorally crucial state of California, and you’ve got the making of The Perfect Drizzle: A confluence of moderates, aforementioned political tides and a national media determined to flatten any conservative capable of leading the Reagan Revolution, Part II.

Now all is not peaches and cream with Democrats. There is an under-reported split there that would have torn apart the party had Republicans maintained control of the House and Senate. Their war is between the DNC and the Schumer/Emanuel/Clinton wing of the Democrat party. James Carville hinted at this when heaping praise on outgoing Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman:

”The R.N.C. did a better job than the D.N.C. this year.”

Carville went on to say Democrats succeeded because the party’s House and Senate campaign committees compensated for what Mr. Carville described as the shortcomings of the Democratic National Committee, allowing the party to take advantage of a wave of voter resentment directed at Republicans.

The fact is, Howard Dean is not on the same page as the smart folks in his party. This split could represent an opening for Republicans to exploit, but they may not be in a position to make that happen. Damn that Perfect Drizzle!

The 2008 presidential campaign will determine the near term fate of the Republican Party. They will either choose a conservative or moderate path, and that choice will yield significant consequences. The moderate path, in my humble opinion, will guarantee Republicans will be on the outside looking in for years to come. If they become indistinguishable from Democrats, the propaganda wing of the Democrat Party and the Old Media will seal their fate. That kind of publicity can’t be overcome by any amount of spending by Republican strategerists.

For example, gay marriage is on the verge of erupting as a national issue, which is good. Voters, not judges, should determine whether the institution of marriage will continue to be the foundation of families and a cornerstone of our culture. This issue tends to favor conservatives. It can and should be a defining issue for every politician and the people they represent.

Hillary has staked out the pro-gay marriage position. Will Republicans running for president be equally bold in announcing their rejection of this particular social experiment, or will they moderate? Sadly, I don’t know the answer to what should be an easy question. The pressure from the media will be intense. What to do? Take a poll? Vacillate?

That’s the trouble with moderates. They aren’t, by definition, good leaders because there is always uncertainty as to their position on any given issue. You can’t follow unless you know which path the leader has chosen. Political movements need clarity and direction – things moderates lack.

Which brings me back to the pressing question, what path Republicans will choose in the months ahead? Are they so desperate for power they fall in line behind the current popular poll-i-tician, or do they agree upon a set of conservative principles they believe best for the country and wait for an articulate, committed and passionate spokesman to emerge in the face of The Perfect Drizzle?

My advice is to put on a raincoat and weather the so-called storm.

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