Got this last night from a senior Republican official…
Over the holiday Time Magazine ran an article that most either missed due to the festivities or dismissed because of its apparent similarity to numerous other articles reporting on the Republican presidential field.
However, in discussing the 2008 race, the article raises a point that merits attention because of its political significance to the future of the Republican Party.
Please understand that my use of the word “political” here refers strictly to the strategic game that is national politics. I am not discussing political issues, but rather political baseball. No one can argue that the machine of the Republican Party has been anything less than ridiculously successful in that respect.
The 2008 race is historically significant to the Republican Party because it represents a breakdown of the Republican machinery that has brought success to the Party for decades. As the article points out, this race is decidedly Un-Republican:
“Republicans prefer to find a brand-name, big-state governor, surround him with the same right-thinking brains on taxes, foreign policy and the New Testament, back him with all the cash he will need to corner TV time in New Hampshire and then run the nominee through a quick gauntlet of primaries before anyone else has a chance at the prize. The whole thing makes for more of a ritual than a race, but there’s no doubting that the formula works. In the past seven presidential elections, G.O.P. nominees have lost only twice.”
(This is a point that I made to my friends some months ago, though they refused to believe that anything other than the “right” candidate could fix everything.) As yet, no shining star has emerged to patch up this broken mess. Instead, the system itself is in disarray.
“Normally the G.O.P. comes to a decision quickly, and the Democrats stretch the process into the baseball season, bickering over delegates, platform planks, rules and speaking rights before everyone swears loyalty to the long-settled nominee. All that, and possibly more, could happen on the other side this time.”
This is not how the Republican Party wins races. The Party runs on stability. The very fact that there are almost enough players on the field to form a ball team shows that the wheels have indeed come off the wagon that successfully drove the party to years of political success.
How did it happen? The article names an interesting (if not surprising) scapegoat:
“It’s improbable that someone named George Bush, the most visible beneficiary of the G.O.P.’s longtime bias toward primogeniture, would be responsible for bringing its era to a halt. But he is chiefly to blame for leaving the party of his father and grandfather without a healthy male heir. Bush tapped Dick Cheney seven years ago to be his Veep in part because he did not want a Vice President whose loyalties were divided between the Oval Office and the Des Moines Register.”
In all fairness to the President, one must also recognize that the morale of the party and its supporters has been eroded by scandal after scandal, and has splintered ideologically. As the Bible so eloquently notes, “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter (Zech 13:7).” And scatter they have.
“…one other development in the race, something Republicans haven’t encountered since they locked arms with the Moral Majority in 1979: the party’s evangelical base has declared independence from its leaders. This fall, the Old Guard of the Christian right serially christened their preferred candidates. The Rev. Pat Robertson went for Giuliani; the National Right to Life Committee came out for Thompson; Bob Jones III and Paul Weyrich endorsed Romney. Few believed that Huckabee, the ordained Southern Baptist who actually seemed to be one of them, could win. And then, lo and behold, rank-and-file Evangelicals went off and lined up in unexpected numbers for the former Arkansas Governor. The falcons heard the falconers — and then flew off in a different direction. It’s another sign of a party whose power structure has uncoupled from the people who put it in power in the first place.”
No matter what happens in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina, the problem with the party right now is not the fault of those vying for its nomination. The Republican political machinery is broken. The party has lost the thing that made it successful–ruthless organization and unification of its factions. It’s broken so badly, no candidate may be qualified to fix it:
“….Republican self-doubt is so marked that if Jesus came back as a candidate…people would say, ‘You know, I don’t like his beard.'”
If the party wouldn’t unify around The Shepherd, do Mitt, Rudy, John, and Mike stand a chance?