January 11, 2012
GOP Timidity Is a Path to DefeatBy Joseph M. Koenig
The blinding speed with which the country has veered left under Obama has left Republicans desperate to find a way to take back the steering wheel. With that in mind, it is impossible to turn on the television and see any political analysis of the GOP presidential nomination process that doesn't inevitably turn to the question of which of the candidates can beat Obama in the general election. As many of the polls reflect, most such discussions come to the conclusion that Mitt Romney is the safest choice. However, this argument from electability is based in fear and defeatism, and it produces candidates who fail to energize the voting public enough to win elections, much less edge the direction of the country back to a rightward trajectory. The nomination of John McCain in 2008 is only the latest example.
According to the polls, Ron Paul has been garnering roughly 20% support from GOP primary- and caucus-goers, even though many of his views are considered my most Republicans to be farther left than Obama's, not to mention dangerous for America and her allies. At the same time, the political class continues to argue the GOP nominee should be Romney, even though he failed to excite voters in 2008 and continues to prove he can't catch fire four years later.
The American people in general, and the Republican rank and file in particular, are fed up, angry, worried, and supremely frustrated. Yet they are being told, once again, that we'd better not nominate anyone who is very conservative, or that person will get clobbered in the press and repel independents. This strategy comes from a purely defensive posture, and as such, it is doomed to failure from an ideological perspective even if it succeeds electorally.
If establishment Republicans, through punditry and analysis echoed throughout the mainstream media, select a candidate who, even if he wins, will not effect the kind of serious change the American people are craving, these Republicans will have served only to slow the steady progression of the nation to the left, and to further estrange themselves from the American people. This estrangement could then end up pushing many conservative voters toward a third party, making even a centrist candidate a probable loser against a united left.
Ron Paul, for his part, is doing as well as he is for one principal reason. He takes the spending, deficit, and debt problem seriously, and people are so fed up with politicians looking only after their own interests that they will glom onto just about anyone who seems to understand and actually care about the problem. People believe that Paul, of all the choices available, is the one candidate who might actually do something if given the chance. He excites people. He empathizes, and taps into that vast reservoir of disappointment and frustration the country feels. Is this not what Obama did in 2008, while promulgating his vague promises of hope and change?
This may come as a surprise to those timid folks in the Republican elite, but the candidate who can win is the candidate who can not only excite, but also harness and focus the immense dissatisfaction and frustration felt not just among Republicans, but also among voters across the political spectrum. As kooky as Ron Paul is on many issues, when it comes to spending and debt, he harnesses that dissatisfaction. If the Republican establishment cannot see how Romney simply doesn't manage the same feat, then we're in for another dismal election result in 2012.
This timidity on the right is understandable, but it nevertheless results in a well-worn path to defeat. In nearly every political fight, be it over raising the debt limit, fixing Social Security, extending the payroll tax for longer than two months, or just about anything else, Republicans come out as public relations losers. The primary reason for this is obviously the demagoguery of the left, with the willing aid of the liberal mainstream media, but the answer is not to tuck your tail between your legs and choose a candidate you believe is somehow safer, and therefore more immune to such tactics.
The Republican party cannot continue to walk on eggshells out of fear of being portrayed badly in the press. By choosing a candidate in an effort to appease the liberal media, the right will once again push a candidate who excites few, has no appreciable mandate, and amounts to little more than a Democrat-lite. Once elected, this type of candidate may slow the progression of the country to the left, but he will do little to create the kind of change the American people are ready to fight vociferously for, if they only had a leader they believed might actually fight with them and follow through on his promises.
Obama got elected not because he won the intellectual debate on the issues. He won because he was able to tap into the frustration of the American people, provide optimism, and stir a passion and excitement in them from the perception that he was really going to change things for the better.
In their effort to advance a candidate safe enough not to embarrass them in the press, under the mistaken belief that only such a person can defeat the sitting president, the Republicans are poised to select another Bob Dole or John McCain. As Republicans are embarrassed and afraid to offer a solidly conservative candidate, they only give credence to the mantra of the left that the GOP is filled with right-wing extremists. They're acting as though they believe it themselves.
The left-leaning bias in the press cannot be changed in the short or intermediate term, nor can it be avoided by running candidates the media may find less objectionable. The Democrat candidate will always be the hero to the GOP's villain. Sooner or later, the GOP is going to have to muster the courage to trust the American people to see through the biased coverage, and to support a candidate who reflects the conservative values that are still generally mainstream, even if not in the dominant media. The strategy of appeasing the left with a watered-down candidate is destined for defeat in the both long and short term.