Romney, Trump, and Political Self-Policing
Mitt’s speech concerning the state of the campaign -- and American politics in 2016 -- has been misreported. Read it for yourself. Even if you didn’t like Romney as the GOP nominee, it asks serious questions. In particular, it spotlights the critical issue now confronting the Grand Old Party.
It’s not the question Senator Ted Cruz -- correctly -- posed Thursday night: “Let me ask the people at home. Is this the debate you want playing out this fall?”
It’s this one:
Should we -- can we? -- conservatives self-police ourselves? Or should we leave that to the candidates, to the voters -- or to the media?
The Trump Phenomenon -- and the spectacle of three of the four GOP presidential candidate brawling at a third-grade level on national television, fighting “like weasels in hole”, to quote W.B. Yeats, squarely presently that question. And there’s relevant history, in both political parties.
It helps to answer that question.
The way we ended up with Hillary and Bernie at the top of the Democratic presidential pile in 2016 is the direct result of the nation’s oldest political party abandoning all the mechanism it (and organized labor) used to have in place to filter out the Communists and the other Marxists. That history – and its result today -- is directly relevant to the spectacle confronting conservatives.
In 1948, the Dems were so fractious -- caught between the white supremacists, on the one hand, and the Communists, on the other -- that they split into three political parties. President Truman’s civil rights policy drove Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrats into a third party. The Communists and the fellow travelers went into another third party with Henry Wallace, FDR’s former vice president.
After surviving that, liberal anti-Communist intellectuals and other Democrats set up the Americans for Democratic Action to identify and exclude Communists and socialists. In this, the ADA was joined by the leaders of the American Labor Movement, notably the Reuther brothers and George Meany. The ADA policed the Party and the AFL-CIO policed their memberships.
Senators John F. Kennedy, Henry “Scoop” Jackson, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan were veterans of that fight.
It worked. And, along the way -- especially in 1964 and 1968 (the year of George Wallace’s first third-party bid), the Democrats also successfully expelled the overt racists from their ranks. Then came disaster -- for the Democrats and for America.
When George McGovern and his campaign manager Gary Hart captured the party of Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson in 1972, the Dems’ self-policing protection failed. And the result today is Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. The hard left’s March through the Institutions is complete. The only major shopping item left undone on FDR’s 1945 State of Union speech is the addition of an Economic Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution.
If JFK came back today, he would have to run as a conservative Republican.
What about the Republicans and the conservative movement?
Well, in the 1950s, when Bill Buckley, Russell Kirk, and others birthed the modern conservative movement, they had to combat both the John Birch Society and the Ayn Rand contingent. That successful struggle is told, con brio, in WFB’s fictional Getting It Right. The Nazis and the skinheads have never been welcome -- as Lee Atwater and President George H.W. Bush proved decisively when David Duke managed to win the Republican nomination for governor of Louisiana.
That screening process for the fascist and Nazi fringe still operates. Overt racists are filtered out too.
Now we have 2016. And the issue posed is a truly ugly one. And Mitt Romney, our last standard-bearer, had the courage to step on a bulls-eye and talk about it.
Faced with the overarching question of whether somebody’s a Republican, a different formulation (probably a better one) is who decides who’s a Republican -- Republican voters or Republican Party officials and elected officials? -- Romney laid down serious markers. And fearlessly spoke his mind.
The 2012 GOP presidential nominee laid down serious markers because he’s a serious man. So far, no one’s engaged on the questions Romney’s speech raises.
Here they are:
- Who among the GOP current field has the background, training, temperament and life experience to qualify him or herself to be the Leader of the World?
- If he or she meets that first cut, does the Candidate nevertheless have an impediment, blemish, or flaw which otherwise disqualifies him or her from serious consideration?
- If the second threshold is also met, is the Candidate nevertheless unelectable in the general election? Or can the Candidate be proven not to adhere to the major stated conservative principles of the GOP?
- If the answer to either of those questions is “Yes,” what the hell do we do? Because the business of a political party is to recruit qualified candidates, choose the strongest one, finance that candidate and then go win a general election.
- And who decides?
So far, Mitt Romney has been shouted down. That only helps the Democrats. I think he should be listened to. His questions should be answered.
Even if you don’t like the messenger.