Is there any hope for the GOP?
Is there a place for Conservatives?
I had been considering the same questions for several days prior to the election, so in some ways the actual results of this election were reassuring. Before you dismiss me as crazy, let me try to explain myself.
My short answer to both questions is yes. Probably more now than ever. Conservatism wasn't on the ballot this election. In fact, it was probably the only thing that wasn't on the national ballot. And in the few states where it was tested on a state level (represented by the gay marriage ban in several states) it won. Even in California.
This election was lost during our primary. Half the GOP was focused on picking the least useless Republican candidate while the other half was focused on defeating Hillary. Well...we went 1 and 1 in that effort. But I think it cost us the whole war.
If there is one thing that has been proven in election after election it is that you don't elect your candidate by asking people to vote against the other candidate. It didn't work against Clinton in 1996, it didn't work against Bush in 2004, and it didn't work against Obama in 2008.
The only reason we gave our country to vote for McCain was his Vice Presidential candidate. McCain certainly never articulated a coherent message sufficient to capture the enthusiasm of even his own party. The "Maverick" thing became a punchline less then a month into his campaign, and from that point on he bounced from "change" to "the other guy is a socialist". Palin was his most compelling argument, but even as appealing as Palin is, another thing that has been proven in election after election is that you don't elect a President based on his Vice President.
I think the suggestion that no Republican could have won this year is completely false. It took Obama at least $600 million and the entire national media to defeat a weak Republican candidate. If we had nominated someone who actually believed in the conservative message I think we would have won. But we didn't do that. And we lost.
So where do we stand now? Well...we just watched our first string offensive line get taken out. Fortunately, I don't think anyone believes the offensive line we fielded is the best we can do. So maybe it is good to get them off the field. Brett Favre and John Elway led their teams to many great victories. But at some point, you need someone new to step in. And that is where we are right now. The kind of response Sarah Palin got from Republicans is an indicator that there is plenty of life in the party. What has been lacking is a strong leader. Someone people want to take the field with. Someone who articulates a clear vision, stands on principle, tells people they are wrong when they are wrong and reaffirms their beliefs when they are right. Someone who is young, but tested.
I think we have plenty of those people sitting on our sidelines. People who haven't been able to take the field because the old heads won't give it up.
Our country is headed for some tough times. It was regardless of who won the White House. But as a conservative, I am certain that the socialistic principles espoused by Obama will not solve our problems. They'll make them worse. We are in for a LONG four years and it is going to be painful. Unemployment is going to go way up, productivity is going to go way down, we will be tested and walked on internationally. Not even the dying media will be able to hide the impact. Think Carter years or worse.
Somewhere in that mess will rise a leader. A person who is able to articulate a solution. A person who will give people a reason to vote FOR him instead of against Obama. If our party will recognize that person, we'll win in a landslide in 2012. But if we do what we did in 1996, we'll nominate another gentle dinosaur like Bob Dole (or John McCain), and have to wait until 2016 to try again. I don't think that will happen and I think that is the one thing we can thank McCain for after this election. He didn't pull a Dole and pick someone like Jack Kemp for a running mate. Instead, he introduced the next generation of conservative leaders to the party in the form of Sarah Palin. And he whet our appetite.
We just elected a socialist Jimmy Carter. We're going to pay. But think of what came after Carter. Take a look at the electoral map from 1976 vs 1980.
Conservatism didn't die in 1976. And it isn't dead now.