The lost virtue of patiencePeggy Noonan was right when she said in The Wall Street Journal last week that the Republican Party is in the midst of what she called a "slow civil war," and she got the reason for the fighting correct:
As for the Republicans, their slow civil war continues. The primary race itself is winnowing down and clarifying: It is John McCain versus Mitt Romney, period. At the same time the conservative journalistic world is convulsed by recrimination and attack. They're throwing each other out of the party. Republicans have become very good at that. David Brooks damns Rush Limbaugh who knocks Bill Kristol who anathematizes whoever is to be anathematized this week. This Web site opposes that magazine.
The rage is due to many things. A world is ending, the old world of conservative meaning, and ascendancy. Loss leads to resentment. (See Clinton, Bill.) Different pundits back different candidates. Some opportunistically discover new virtues in candidates who appear at the moment to be winning. Some feel they cannot be fully frank about causes and effects.
One of the things we try to do in our writing is to be fully forward and frank about causes and effects. There are a few people who read our work who are not comfortable with that frankness because it offends their (often false) notions of what conservatism is and what they think the Republican Party is, isn't, or is supposed to be. One of the reasons for the present infighting within various factions of the Reagan coalition is that the coalition has been torn asunder by the neglect of the present administration (something else Peggy Noonan got right in her column), and the coalition needs to find its moorings again. This is a feat that no single nominee in a single election cycle can accomplish. Today's conservatives have truly lost the virtue of patience.
On the pundit civil wars, Rush Limbaugh declared on the radio this week, "I'm here to tell you, if either of these two guys [Mr. McCain or Mike Huckabee] get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party. It's going to change it forever, be the end of it!"
This is absurd. George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.
I have heard multiple pundits, from Rush Limbaugh in the national talk radio circuit, to my good friend Adam Graham in the blogosphere, rage on about the end of the Republican Party if John McCain is nominated. I have come to agree with Adam that McCain must be stopped (that means that those of us who vote on February 5th must vote strategically in order to block McCain), but if he is nominated it will not spell doom for the GOP or for the conservative movement. Love or hate McCain-and I'm not on the love bandwagon by any means-he knows that he can only go so far in the fall without support from the Republican Party's conservative base. He will attempt to reposition himself as the Southwestern Goldwater conservative he was when he first came to the United States Senate.
Conservatives are going to have to trust that a former Massachusetts Governor really will be as conservative as he promises, that a former Arkansas Governor will not raise taxes through the roof, or that an Arizona Senator will not root the GOP out from within, as he now says he will not. The movement is far from dead, and we must remember that the state of the Republican Party is reflective of the country at-large: Uneasy, indecisive, and without clear direction.
Conservatives cannot expect to nominate a candidate they can all agree on or feel comfortable with when we ourselves have yet to decide the direction in which we want our movement to go.
This isn't the end of the movement, it is the end of an era-and the present process is an indication that conservatism is growing up.
Labels: Presidential Election