Is There a Cure for Spinal Frailty in Republicans?

Pundits and commoners often repeat Michael Savage's thesis that "liberalism is a mental disorder."  Born Liberal, Raised Right by Reb Bradley argues (paraphrased from the cover) that infants enter this world with the behavioral trademark of liberalism: an exalted view of their own self-importance.  This default condition survives and prospers into adulthood unless overcome by rearing that emphasizes the keystones of maturity: self-control and self-discipline. 

Various aphorisms address adult liberal behavior, especially that of elected governing elites of the left.

  • When Democrats have the majority, they rule; when Republicans have it, they hold office.
  • You can govern or you can spend.  Wow – ponder that!
  • Liberals lust after power to impose their coercive utopia upon the masses and to indulge their favored identity groups.
  • Republicans would like to have power; they're just not sure why, or what to do with it.
  • Democrats play offense; Republicans play defense...and have a miserable record in the red zone.
  • Liberals accuse conservatives of preaching gloom and doom; the latter are too polite to cite the former's penchant for flim and flam.
  • Conservatives have been accused of voodoo economics since the days of Reagan, while liberals have promoted boo-hoo economics since forever.

More than 30 years ago, Lady Thatcher spoke bluntly to this stark difference in behaviors when she told  a fellow M.P., "The trouble with you John, is that your spine does not reach your brain."  This could be a vital clue to why most, if not all conservatives are unable to summon up the will to fight for the principles they claim to hold sacred.

We've begun to suspect that the underlying cause may be Advanced Hormonal Deficiency Disorder (AHDD.)  A prominent physician and statesman has helped shape our thinking on this.

Former representative and senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma recently spoke at a banquet held by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free-market, limited-government think-tank.  His appearance caused me to re-examine his book Breach of Trust.  It describes his and fellow newcomers' experiences as incoming House members of the Gingrich class of 1994.

Remember the eight-point Contract With America that so energized conservatives?  Coburn's experiences, sadly, took my breath away, describing how Newt, Dick Armey, and the rest of the established Republican apparatus demonstrated they were not up to the task of leading from their majority perch.  This demoralized the newcomers, who had arrived with enthusiastic plans for a new era, but Gingrich and team were no match for Bill Clinton's wiliness.

Since then, two similar episodes have confirmed this innate tendency and make it nearly impossible to have strong faith in conservative candidates seeking our ardent support.  Here in Maine, after 35 years of single-party rule by Democrats, Republican Paul LePage, against all odds, won the governorship in 2010.  Even better, his coattails brought newfound majority status in both the House and Senate.

A determined, no-BS non-politician, LePage knew what had to be done to reverse Maine's economic and demographic demise.  Sadly, House and Senate members, steeped in the ways of the minority, were unable to follow his lead and forward his agenda.  Two years later, the majorities were lost, making things far worse.  Still, against even longer odds, LePage was re-elected in 2014 and given a slim Senate majority in 2016.  That majority is more feckless than that of 2010. 

LePage likes to say he "was Trump before Trump became Trump," and it's largely true.  Both of them are populists with a clear agenda and no careerist aspirations, and the entrenched governing elites just can't cope with the lack of deference to their own sluggish, procedure-bound way of doing things – not to mention their faux collegiality.

Twenty-sixteen gave us a more astonishing winner in President Trump, backed with majority status in both the House and Senate.  Yet here we are with a gang that can't shoot straight or, even worse, find and agree on the target.  The Maine and Washington of today cause grave concern to anyone who holds out for a conservative rebirth.  Ending the progressive plunge into unsustainable governance and restoration of founding principles that underlay a free and civil society are ever more fragile goals.

Hence our belief in an AHDD epidemic that handicaps our would-be heroes of the right, robbing them of the inner grit to fully pursue their convictions.  The most telling symptoms of AHDD include:

  • Criticism from the Senate majority leader to the effect that "the president hasn't been in this business very long."  Yeah, that's the point, Mitch!  He doesn't have the low expectations and endemic lack of drive indicative of someone who has been in this business too long.
  • Statements from the speaker of the House that go something like "Have you seen them?  Which way did they go?  I've got to find them; I am their leader!"

No foolproof treatment has been discovered to date.  However, knowledgeable sources recommend the following to strengthen spinal reconnection with the brain:

  • Lead, follow, or get out of the way.  Above all, exercise the leadership entrusted in you to the very best of your abilities.  Timing is everything, and the time is now.
  • Focus on the policy agenda, which doesn't include guaranteed re-election.  If you aren't willing to lose your seat for a higher cause, you really shouldn't be there.
  • You can't govern without power, but you can't retain power without governing successfully – and fulfilling the promises made to those who elected you.
  • Run toward the fire, not away from it.  Seek inspiration in the ethos of our first responders and the code of our fighting forces.
  • Both you, Speaker Ryan, and you, Leader McConnell, have to be the leaders of the moment you never thought you could be.  Be generous in dispensing hormonal boosters to your troops.

Those of us too old and too ordinary to take the fight to the front lines of the Capitol and the White House are counting on you, and we sent you a president who may not shine his shoes, trim his hair, and sip his tea to the time-tested standards of Congress, but his will to succeed is unquestioned.  You would do well to aspire to that same goal.

Pem Schaeffer is a retired business development executive and blogger.  Survey his efforts at

If you experience technical problems, please write to