The State of the partyThe President spoke Tuesday night of the State of the Union, but what neither he nor anyone else can say is "strong" at this point is the State of the Republican Party. We are a divided lot, and unlike the Election of 2000 (when many of us were desperate to be rid of Clinton/Gore), that is unlikely to change anytime soon.
The field of 2008 Republican Presidential candidates leaves a great deal to be desired. Of the field of Republican Presidential contenders thus far, only Congressman Ron Paul, with his conservative/libertarian credentials, is a candidate that can be fairly called a real conservative. Chuck Hagel, it is true, has a lifetime 85 rating from the American Conservative Union, and I am paticularly fond of his anti-war stance (one that he shares with Ron Paul). However, I have to wonder if that stance is born out of a genuine conservative (as opposed to neoconservative) view, or if it is a result of Johnny-come latelyism. ("The war is unpopular and support for it will doom me-I'll oppose it.") Those of us who opposed the war from the beginning and who warned that this would be a disaster for both the country and the party would like to believe it is the former and not the latter. Sam Brownback's pro-life credentials are solid, but I believe he is too weak on immigration, something that is Tom Tancredo's strong suit. I do not believe Tancredo intends to run a serious campaign, merely call attention to the illegal immigration crisis. Duncan Hunter can do that just as well as Tancredo can, and with a bit less of an edge.
The party establishment is divorced from the grassroots of the party at the very root of the tree. The frontrunners are one liberal, former New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, and a liberal trying to suddenly become a conservative, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. With one of these candidates, the Rockefeller Republicans are trying to regain control of the party outright. John McCain is a heavyweight that could also do this to a point, but we can't pinpoint where McCain stands on much of anything aside from campaign finance reform (which party liberals love), and that is why he will do poorly in the South.
Ron Paul is the best man of the bunch, but like Pat Buchanan before him (who I supported for the GOP nomination in my first Presidential election year, 1996), the overlords whose only concern is victory at any price will sell the party to the devil to get an "electable" candidate rather than a principled one. Of the "electables," I can only stomach Hagel and Brownback, and Brownback's position on immigration would turn the crisis into a catastrophe. I would love to throw my support behind Hagel, but after his 2000 support for John McCain, I am unsure if he is trustworthy.
The Republican Party is badly fractured, and the Presidential race is only one sign of the obvious. We saw the intra-party war alive and well in Tennessee in the U.S. Senate race. The establishment got their man (or rather Jim Haslam got his man) in Bob Corker, largely because the conservative vote was split between an electable conservative with great credentials (Bryant) and an unelectable conservative with great credentials (Hilleary). Had Van Hilleary not insisted on remaining in a campaign that he was doomed to lose, Bob Corker would never have gotten the Republican nomination.
Tennessee's conflict is symptomatic of a larger war. There is a conflict within the Republican Party between the conservatives of the heart and soul and the believers in power at any price. Those who are members of the latter faction believe that they can drag conservatives along and take us for granted. If the conservative movement is to survive, we cannot allow them to do this anymore.
For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?
The fight is for the soul of the Republican Party itself.