By Alan Caruba
Just barely a week passed the election, a tsunami of Republican remorse is sweeping over the party and those who identify themselves as its members. It’s not pretty, but it is all too human and all too necessary if the GOP is not to remain in the political wilderness any longer than necessary.
For those of us who quite simply underestimated the charisma of Barack Obama, the words “President-elect” are jarring. We were so sure that John McCain could pull out a victory or, at the very least, were praying for some kind of miracle. There are, however, no miracles in politics, only votes, and in our system they have the final say.
It was, however, impossible to ignore the huge crowds that came out for the man we mockingly called the Messiah or “The One.” The contrast between the cool, self-assured Obama and McCain, particularly during the debates, was striking. If you turned off the sound, what you saw was McCain with his eyes blinking furiously, his hands flailing the air, and that smile of his that seemed to beg people to understand that he really was a very nice man.
McCain, who we had reason to believe would be a polished campaigner by now appeared to have no idea how to run. Maybe it was just the crushing realization that all the fates had conspired against him in this last hurrah. He had the burden of George W. Bush, a failing economy, and even a hurricane that delayed the opening of the Republican convention. He even believes in global warming despite the fact the Earth has been cooling for the past decade.
And, let’s say it—he ignored the fact that Obama had vanquished the powerful Clinton faction within the Democrat Party to thwart a woman candidate who had demonstrated considerable popularity of her own. So what did McCain do? He selected a woman as his vice president running mate! In retrospect, that was a form of political suicide, but at this point disappointed Republicans are actually bandying around the notion of running her in 2012. No, sorry, time for Gov. Palin to go back to Alaska. And stay there.
Having gained control of Congress in 1994 after forty years of Democrat dominance, Republicans went after Clinton with a vengeance and he “triangulated” by adopting programs that he now claims were his! Let us be gracious and say that the Democrats put forth two utterly lame candidates in Gore and Kerry. Were it not for 9/11, George W. Bush would not have his name—writ large—into the history books temporarily chasing the Taliban out of Afghanistan and invading Iraq.
As it is, it does not take a degree in economics to know that eight years of profligate spending and borrowing, topped by a war that is now into its fifth year, must be judged severely in retrospect. They cost Republicans the election.
In the near term, the Republican Party has to begin to stand for something other than horrible fiscal policies, bad military judgment coupled with a foreign policy that angered allies and enemies alike, and a hubris that has cost us dearly.
It should be said, however, that the nation has been so evenly divided politically for decades that whatever changes occurred in the red and blue map of the nation are more likely temporary shifts than long term predictions. If Democrats can return John Murtha to office and Republicans can re-elect a convicted Ted Stevens, anything is possible.
If President Obama turns out to be a pragmatist, he may just surprise a lot of people who have seen him up to now as a dedicated socialist with plans to reshape America, but the truth is that Americans has been adopting socialism for a very long time.
It goes back to the 1930s and 40s with FDR and moves forward unrelentingly through the all the presidencies and every Congress since. Most recently, there was the costly addition of a prescription program to Medicare that was advocated and passed by Republicans. Massive farm policy giveaways have been around long since they became unnecessary and wasteful. Et Cetera!
Just as Democrats could not believe they were being defeated by the likes of George W. Bush to the point of insisting he “stole” it (pretty funny for folks whose Chicago machine is famous for such tactics), Republicans need to take a deep breath and begin to formulate some policies that an entirely new generation of conservatives can agree upon.
We need to be less of a war party. Americans are quite thoroughly sick of war and military engagements. They were sick of it after ten years in Vietnam and they are sick of Iraq.
We need to move beyond abortion as the sole litmus test of political purity. It is the law of the land and has been now since the 1960s. Some battles, even the most noble, are just simply lost. Even Republicans have abortions.
We need to become the party of energy. We need to insist that America’s vast oil, natural gas, and coal reserves be tapped, along with the building of many more nuclear plants for the energy America will need by 2030. There is no such thing as energy “independence”, but there is a need for sensible energy policies, something Democrats have thwarted for decades.
Republicans have to fight to protect the Internet and talk radio from censorship. The Democrats hate both, except to use the former to raise campaign funding.
I could go on, but the message is obvious. WE LOST. GET OVER IT!
We had weaker candidates, weaker arguments to address the fiscal crisis that included a massive “bailout” using the public treasury to literally buy interest in banks and insurance companies (sounds socialist to me). Now we’re being asked to do the same for some auto manufacturers who bargained poorly with their unions and built cars a lot of people didn’t want to buy.
Republicans need to renew their commitment to smaller government, real fiscal prudence, fewer foreign entanglements (can you say ‘United Nations’?) and, of course, pride in and adherence to the U.S. Constitution.
Or, as one wag has suggested, “We’re all Democrats now.”