By Robert Wallace
In 1986 an American conservative icon, Barry Goldwater, retired from his senate seat. John McCain–a true American war hero–defeated Democrat Richard Kimball by 20 points to assume Goldwater’s seat. He went on to win again by large margins in 1992 (56 percent), 1998 (69 percent), and in 2004 (77 percent).
But things might not go so smoothly for John McCain in 2010.
Ben Smith of Politico.com breaks the news that Chris Simcox–founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps–has resigned from his position with that organization to run against McCain in the Republican primary leading up to the 2010 general election.
It’s not hard to see why Simcox made this call. John McCain may have assumed Barry Goldwater’s senate seat, but he has clearly not assumed Goldwater’s mantle of conservative leadership.
To the casual observer, this will appear to be one more fracture in the sinking ship that is the Republican Party — but, in this case, the casual observer could not be more wrong.
The narrative form the mainstream press and intellectuals from all sides is that the Republican Party is dying for one of two reasons: either they got too conservative, or the conservatives got too rowdy and split the party. The commonality is that the Republican Party is on the ropes and conservatism is to blame.
More broadly, the message is that progressivism is inevitable. On fiscal issues: capitalism is dead. The financial melt-down proves that the era of free markets is over. On social issues: gay marriage is inevitable. Embryonic stem cell research is the wave of the future, and thus abortion is also solidified. On energy issues: global warming will roast us all if we don’t return to the Stone Age. And on defense issues: the age of American exceptionalism is over and the Apology Tour is under way. You can almost hear the academic disdain: “Why don’t you troglodytes pack up your bags descend quietly into the tar pits of history with all the other dinosaurs?”
It turns out that rumors of the death of conservatism, as they say, have been greatly exaggerated.
A recent Rasmussen poll came out showing that only 53 percent of Americans favored capitalism over socialism. Progressivism on the verge of winning, some interpret the poll as saying. But if you change the question to free markets vs. the market as managed by government, the numbers change. Suddenly, 70 percent of Americans are in favor of free markets and just 15 percent are in favor of markets managed by the government. Clearly this is a question of branding — not substance.
As far as gay marriage is concerned, we’ve had one state–one–legalize gay marriage through the legislative process. The rest have gone through an activist bench. Furthermore, how many states have taken the much more difficult step to amend their constitutions to ban gay marriage? If this is what a rout looks like, I need to buy a new dictionary.
Let’s move on to embryonic stem cell research. On a recent issue of Oprah’s show, regular host Dr. Oz dropped a bombshell that shocked Oprah and Michael J. Fox: “I’m going to say something that’s going to be a bit provocative . . . I think the stem cell debate is dead.”
He went to explain the superiority of adult stem cell treatments to embryonic stem cells, and said that we’re “single digit” years from getting applicable treatments based on adult stem cells for Parkinsons and other major diseases. Meanwhile, as far as abortion goes, Obama’s least popular moves so far have been related to the life issue. He rescinded the Mexico City policy and, according to a Gallup poll, 35 percent of Americans approved while 58 percent disapproved. He has moved to have the Department of Health and Human Services rescind the conscience protection clause that allows doctors to refuse to participate in abortions without fear of being fired and, subsequently, a staggering 87 percent of Americans oppose removing this clause, and even a majority of self-identifying pro-choice poll respondents opposed removing the protection.
And, on this Earth Day — how many Americans believe global warming is caused by human activity? Only 34 percent. Just wait until wallets and pocketbooks are hit by this administration’s “green” legislation, then ask how many Americans care.
On the foreign policy front, Obama has racked up a truly impressive number of gaffes in a very short time. From offending our closest allies, the Brits, to bowing before the King of Saud, to sitting through a one-hour anti-American harangue, there are already signs that the president’s soft-on-everyone policy is failing to impress Americans.
So where is the liberal majority now? Where is the progressive juggernaut of public opinion?
On the other hand, if Americans are so decidedly conservative, why did the Republicans get trounced in 2006 and again in 2008?
The answer is that the mainstream media has enticed GOP elites to swing left, and they have complied. Republicans have lost their way by acting like Democrats. This trend has impacted all forms of conservatism, from civil liberties (the USA PATRIOT Act in implementation if not in theory) to the size and scope of our federal government (No Child Left Behind) to immigration (McCain-Kennedy Comprehensive Immigration Bill) to deficit spending (former President George W. Bush) to free speech (McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act). One resounding failure after another has convinced the genius GOP elites that what the Party really needs is more liberalism, so much so that the mainstream press has recently crowned liberal Meghan McCain as the shining light of the new GOP, and a top McCain adviser has recently called for the GOP to embrace gay marriage. ‘Cause, you know, it’s gone so well for us over the past few years.
Conservatives can argue amongst themselves about any one or two of those particular items (and the list is by no means exhaustive). I’m not trying to make my own rigid definition of conservatism and foist it on everyone else. But we can all agree that, taken together, this is a list that no true conservative could tolerate. The siren call of big-name endorsements like the one the New York Times gave to John McCain [only to, almost overnight and as predicted by myself, turn on him by running a sourceless, front-page hit piece accusing him of infidelity -- Jeff] has been too alluring. GOP leaders have been listening to the intellectuals of this country instead of their constituents, courting the coastal cities instead of the heartland, and that has led to a fractured party. The fractured party has, in turn, proved utterly incapable of mounting a robust campaign at the national level.
We lost because we’re split, and we’re split because the leadership left their posts. They traded their principles for the bright lights of media adoration.
But things are changing.
First of all, mainstream media is crumbling. In part, this is due to the credibility crisis after they all but added the Obama logo to their publications during the 2008 campaign. But, as poetically just as that would be, the real problem has nothing to do with politics. Media companies make money distributing ideas, and modern technology has taken all the profit out of that business model. Everybody from the RIAA to the New York Times is teetering on the brink because they are based on a business model that simply doesn’t make sense anymore. Regardless of the apolitical origins of this crisis, it will change the political landscape by reducing the power of the left-leaning mainstream press. Those bright lights just don’t shine as brightly any more.
The second thing is the resurgence of conservative populism. While the mainstream media was dominant, the progressive agenda acquired an air of inevitability. This isn’t hard to do. Cover every anti-war protest you can find, and then ignore or belittle every Tea Party in existence and–for anyone who gets their news from the mainstream press, at least–the liberals appear to be the voice of America.
Obama drew crowds for his “Hope and Change” tonic-water, but the Tea Parties are only the beginning, and quite frankly this country hasn’t seen what conservatives look like riled up, because conservatives don’t often get riled up.
But now they are. And like David Banner, you don’t want to see conservatives when they’re angry.
Liberals, by their inclination, like to work in media and intellectual fields. Who were the drama kids? Liberals. Who were the English, journalism, and philosophy majors? Other than pre-law, liberals. As a result, the chattering classes of America are overwhelmingly liberal. And since they listen to each other, they have the false sense that they speak for the country.
Look at Janeane Garofalo telling MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann that the Tea Party folks were “nothing but a bunch of teabagging [racist] rednecks.” This is a woman who doesn’t just “not get it,” she’s not even aware that there’s anything to get.
Emboldened by their echo chamber and dominance at the peaks of media distribution, and emboldened by the corruption of the Republican Party over the last decade, the liberals have been ascendant. Reveling in their false sense of majority, they have been pushing too far too fast.
Reality is about to kick in.
And the reality is simply this: Americans think liberals and progressives make great entertainers, but we don’t like their policies or ideologies. We’ve largely tolerated the banal statements of rock stars who never grew past high school and the antics of actors like Garofalo who wouldn’t know a real conservative if she was spitting one in the face, but recently they’ve been getting out of hand.
We have a president who is openly antagonistic towards the principles of the US Constitution and who thinks the only two options when responding to economic crisis are (1) doing nothing and (2) selling off our children and grandchildren’s futures. Aside from nominating tax cheats and lobbyists, he decides it’s a good idea to sign a bill with over 9,000 earmarks after campaigning against them. He also apparently thinks Americans are too stupid to realize that cutting $100 million from a budget of over $3.5 trillion is like buying a yacht for your family vacation, but then making swim suits out of trash bags and duct tape in an effort to “save money.” We’ve got leaders in Congress who believe Americans can’t be trusted with firearms. We’ve got journalists who will spit on the ideals of journalistic integrity to heckle demonstrators at rallies they don’t like, and newspapers that will quash stories that might upset their favored candidates.
Last of all, we’ve got Republican leaders who are scrambling around trying to figure out how to save their careers rather than being concerned with the country.
Clueless liberals who point out that the GOP isn’t really a great alternative to the Democrats don’t get it. We–the conservatives–already know this. We’ve learned our lesson with third parties, so we’re trying something different this time. A little simpler, and a little more straightforward.
We’re taking our damn party back.
So to conservatives out there who have been demoralized by the way the Republican party has depended on us to scurry out on Election Day to vote for the lesser of two evils rather than actually have someone to represent our ideals and stand for our principles, I have only this to say: It’s time we took matters into our own hands. Simcox has the right idea, and if we aren’t actively participating in the effort to cleanse the GOP, then we’re part of the problem, not the solution. We don’t need every candidate to be perfect on every issue. We just need them to be rooted in the principles of conservatism and out of the pocket of the media elite. We’ve been sitting around waiting for the ideal spokesman to show up like Lancelot and rescue us from distress by leading the Party to victory in 2012 — Maybe someone will show up. Maybe not, and the country will slide into socialism to the sound of a few million conservatives whining.
Or, maybe it’s time to stop waiting for a top-down solution to save our party and our country and start working from the bottom-up.
And to all those liberals, progressives, and Democrats who think they are going to be running against the same demoralized, degraded, and defunct GOP in 2010 and 2012, a word of warning: You have no idea who you’re dealing with. You won’t like us when we’re angry.
Robert Wallace has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.