There are times I am so frustrated I want to scream. Such was the case this past week. I was in a gathering of around 20 well-educated and informed conservatives. The topic turned to the Presidential election. Mind you, I had written months ago that we had best find a candidate who agreed with us and then back him to the hilt. If we did so we might be able to move that candidate to the top tier. It has not happened.
Moreover, exactly what I predicted would happen has taken place. Some of our group is in every camp. The name of Rudolph Giuliani came up. This man takes no position favorable to social conservatives but maybe he would defeat Hillary Rodham Clinton. The same for Senator John S. McCain, III (R.-Ariz.). Different folks in the group knew that McCain would just as soon get rid of the religious right. However, polls suggest he might defeat Hillary. Fear of Hillary is the distinguishing feature of the average and even well educated conservative. Some suggested that Governor Mitt Romney, who has recanted some of his liberal social positions, might be worth a try. That led others to gush forth with a diatribe against Romney. He cannot be trusted, we are told. Senator Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.) was mentioned. He can’t win was the cant. Some mentioned Governor Michael Huckabee (R.-Ariz.). He is a spellbinder as an orator. Yes, but we are told by the anti-tax people that he was a terrible Governor. And so it goes. We are in every camp and thus in no camp.
I pleaded with my brethren for us to back as good a candidate as we could find. Even if he didn’t win, if he made enough of a showing the wining candidate would make concessions in our direction — perhaps the Vice Presidency, perhaps federal judgeships. Senator J. Strom Thurmond (R.-S.C.) backed Nixon in 1968 with a promised right to veto the Vice Presidential choice slot and Supreme Court nominees. That is how Maryland Governor Spiro T. Agnew got on the national ticket. Unfortunately, Thurmond didn’t know much about proposed Supreme Court nominees. Warren E. Burger was sort of okay but Harry A. Blackman, who it was claimed was a Burger twin (the Minnesota Twins), turned out to be a disaster. Today our judicial groups have a far better handle on who is worthy of a Supreme Court appointment.
Some mentioned former Speaker Newt Gingrich. The refrain was that he had not made up his mind to run and maybe would not in 2008. All of these people are looking for another Ronald Reagan. Not to detract from Reagan but he left a bit to be desired, especially on domestic issues. Nevertheless, I’ll agree that he is without doubt the greatest President in our lifetime. So what? There is not another Governor Reagan.
We must be willing to accept that the perfect cannot be the enemy of the good. To a lesser extent conservatives had folks in every campaign in 1988. The results of that fiasco gave us George Herbert Walker Bush. Many believed that by voting for him they were, in effect, giving Ronald Reagan a third term. While I personally like Former President Bush and believe history will treat him reasonably well, clearly he was no Ronald Reagan. If we had all stuck together we might have had a much tougher conservative candidate. The same for 2000. We were all over the place. We lucked out in that President George W. Bush has been better than many anticipated he would be. Yet, would not a Steve Forbes have done better on domestic issues. Again, our people were all over the place.
This time I pleaded for us to get behind a single candidate. We have real troops that we did not have in 1988 when Pat Robertson shocked the establishment by his showings in Iowa and Michigan. We are even stronger than we were in 2000, at least if measured by social-issue groups. But here we are, this early, all over the lot. The most striking idea which came forth from conservatives in the meeting was that we had to have the perfect candidate or else it wasn’t worth going forward, or on the contrary, the defeat of Hillary was so urgent that it would be fine to accept a candidate who is so far from our views that it is shocking.
The problem is that campaigns are beginning earlier and earlier. There are many Democrats running who, no doubt, hope for Hillary to select them for Vice President or least a position in her Cabinet. That makes sense, I suppose, since there is virtually no chance of defeating her. How else can you explain the candidacies or apparent candidacies of former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack; or of Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who if selected would be the first Hispanic on a national ticket; Barak Obama, freshman Senator from Illinois; or Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D.-Del.), a Senator for 34 years.
Conservatives without a favorite candidate is a situation which is new for the GOP. For forty years either a Nixon or Bush was on the national ticket. When one of them was a Vice Presidential candidate it was to prepare him to become Number One.
This time we do not have a candidate “whose time has come.” So, why can’t conservatives unite and agree on a candidate and give that candidacy all we’ve got? Is the defeat of Hillary worth throwing aside everything in which we believe?
I am morally certain that if we do cast aside our principles to support a candidate who does well in the polls, as soon as that person gets the nomination there will be a savage attack on the GOP nominee, leaving our side in shambles.
It appears as if the so-called mainstream media were in love with our top-tier candidates. Let me assure you, the media would much rather have Hillary than Senator McCain or any other Republican. Just as soon as one of them got the nomination that love affair would be over. Right now some of these candidates almost live in the studios of the major networks. Give the nomination to one of them and, I assure you, they will either end up with very little coverage, or what coverage they do get will be so negative the candidate will wish he could run and hide.
It is still not too late for most of the movement to get behind a candidate. There is no Reagan. But there are good men out there who would make an excellent President. We still have enough power, with our magazines, radio and television shows and other media such as active websites, that we can raise that candidate to the top tier. Whether we can get the candidate nominated or not is another question. I believe we can. A candidacy which would come from nowhere would get the attention of the mainstream media. The national media did not expect Senator Barry M. Goldwater (R.-Ariz.) to be nominated in 1964. Likewise they did not expect Governor Reagan to come close in 1976. Surely, the national media was morally certain that Reagan would lose in 1980. I hope and pray that we will have enough brass to hang in there for a genuine conservative candidate. To do otherwise would cheat our children and grandchildren of their political entitlement. Surely if we do that we will be required to answer for it.