The Republican idea is a great idea, but we can't go and get stuck with just the right wing. Let's let the party come all the way to the center. Let those people be heard as much as the right. Let it be the big tent we've talked about. Let's invade, and let's cross over that center. The issues that they're talking about? Let them be our issues, and let the party be known for that."
– California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
As recently as 2005, it was possible for the mainstream media and the conservative commentariat to talk seriously about a "permanent Republican majority." There were Washington Post articles with headlines like "Sowing the seeds of GOP domination," and PBS produced a televised special called "The Architect," which hailed the mastermind behind the eternal ruling-party concept, Karl Rove. Popular Republican blogs such as Powerline, and radio hosts such as Hugh Hewitt, hailed this new "American-style pragmatism" that had produced Republican political stars with crossover appeal to moderate Democrats such as George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Advertisement - story continues below
Within two years, the media narrative had changed dramatically. In 2007, the headlines in Washington now bore titles such as "Permanent Republican majority? Think again." and "The myth of the permanent majority." As usual, it was Internet observers who saw what was taking place long before the television and newspaper commentators noticed. Slate's Jacob Weisberg wrote a piece entitled "Karl Rove's dying dream: So much for the permanent Republican majority" in November 2005, while I wrote a 2004 piece entitled "George Delano Bush," noting the death of a Republican Party that had become "a soulless zombie of an institution."
But the probable results of this pragmatism were entirely predictable long before the negative results could be observed; I wrote the following back in 2003, in a WND article entitled "Satanic Schwarzeneggerians" which excoriated both the prospective governor as well as the Republican commentators who advocated the sacrifice of conservative principles in favor of political pragmatism.
"Schwarzenegger, far from representing the salvation of California's Republican Party, stands for its complete immolation ... Pragmatism in politics is self-defeating in the long run. It is a euphemism for the slow sacrifice of one's principles."
Advertisement - story continues below
The point of this column is not to say "I told you so." Unfortunately, no one keeps score in punditry. It is rather to point out that it is the absolute height of insanity to pay any attention, to lend any credence at all, to the advice of the very individuals who helped lead both the Republican Party and American conservatism into the epic electoral disaster they are facing this November. Arguments for voting the lesser evil and the spurious demonization of Democratic opponents are part of what created this debacle in the first place. The Supreme Court appointment argument that will be in favor of John McCain's presidential candidacy looks particularly ludicrous now that the Republican-dominated California Supreme Court has located a constitutional penumbra creating a hitherto non-existent "right to marry" in that state.
Voters are like women. They swoon for those who seduce them, they chase after those who don't need them, and they despise those who attempt to give them everything they want. This should come as no surprise, since the majority of American voters are women. True electoral appeal does not concern an ability to precisely match one's positions to the electorate's fickle policy preferences, since it changes on a regular basis, it is rather an ability to lead the electorate into a visceral acceptance of one's political vision. This is why pragmatism is doomed to failure, because the absence of principle means that the pragmatic politician can never lead, only follow. But, as the massive unpopularity of both Bush the Younger's wars and his presidency shows, the political vision must also be a coherent one; principle involves more than blindly ignoring the clear wishes of the American people.
Barack Obama's candidacy, like Bill Clinton's before him, demonstrates the power of political seduction. But this power is dependent upon illusion, and it dissipates as quickly as the smoke from a morning-after cigarette. So, while the Republican Party will suffer a horrific beating in November, a defeat it richly merits, it need not sentence itself to another 40 years in the political wilderness. It will do so, however, if those party leaders and opinion makers who originally provided the poison are allowed to supply the antidote.
If the Republican Party is not going to go the way of the Whig, it must reject the call to continue on its current path to becoming the nation's second socialist party and instead dedicate itself to becoming the party of individual liberty, small and limited constitutional government, sound money and peaceful national sovereignty that many once believed it to be.