Riehl World View: The GOP: A Party Without a Face, Just a Bunch of Asses
I like Dan Riehl, proprietor of Riehl World View. I had the opportunity to meet and chat with him at the BlogCon blogger conference in Washington, D.C. last year, and can wholeheartedly say that his reputation for being irritable and ornery is entirely undeserved. Nice guy. Very funny. Super knowledgeable. While he and I have very, very different styles when it comes to writing, his commitment to blogging and reporting is something that I could only aspire to.
Unfortunately, with regard to the small post linked as Assigned Reading above, Dan seems to be grandstanding a little bit when it comes to the chances for Republican Party victory in 2012.
With the White House held by an increasingly unpopular Democrat, just how hard should it be to mount a decent-looking early challenge to him right now?
Dan’s initial question is one that I have heard time and time again as the GOP field has unfolded, and even as election season last fall drew to a close. We should have a bona fide frontrunner by now, people are saying, and the lack of such a candidate is worrisome to many.
The initial question stems from such a concern–we should be capitalizing on the president’s vulnerability, dammit!–and insofar as timing is cause for worry, whether or not timing-related worry is appropriate depends upon the measuring stick used to assess the pace of this cycle’s GOP primary. 2008 was an anomaly, not the norm, and relative to 2008 any election cycle is going to look compact. Furthermore, even if 2008 is an appropriate measuring stick, recall that at this time during the 2008 cycle neither Barack Obama nor John McCain were thought to be the next nominee for their respective parties.
It is early. That’s not to say that we don’t want a rigorous primary season–we need iron to sharpen iron so that we may pick the most conservative candidate that can feasibly prevail over an incumbent Obama in the general election–but it’s also important to recall that the best eventual GOP nominee will not necessarily be the candidate that most garners independent votes, but rather the candidate that can best assure the base on the American right that their values and concerns will not be forsaken, either during the election or afterward. At this point, insofar as timing is concerned, Dan’s worries are a little presumptuous.
Yet, Gingrich continues to implode and Huntsman can’t even spell his name correctly. Pawlenty wants to talk tough to Romney, so long as he isn’t in the same room with him, while Romney can’t even buy pro-Life votes with the largest campaign chest out of everybody.
Meanwhile, half, or more of the GOP’s allegedly now prominent media pundits are morons, as per previous link. Did the circus lay-off causing all these idiots to become Republicans, or did it close up, leaving some of the usual suspects with nowhere else to go?
Now, here is where Dan is right to be concerned. I don’t think that there’s a true conservative or mainstream Republican alive that doesn’t wish we had a Ronald Reagan just waiting to be nominated. The simple reality is that we do not. However, Dan himself pointed out the vulnerability of the president at this point in time — considering that vulnerability, I would venture to say that any of those currently in the GOP field could give President Obama a run for his money, if not send him packing outright.
The field sure is not perfect. Gingrich is a fan of the individual mandate, and a believer in man-made global warming. Romney is saddled with RomneyCare, and is a believer in man-made global warming. Pawlenty initially supported cap-and-trade, and his argument that he’s “not running for Entertainer-In-Chief” is cute but has been largely ineffective in terms of generating–or compensating for lack of–voter interest. Bachmann has been sharp, but is so feared by the left that she will certainly be mired in an assassination of character rivaling that which befell Sarah Palin. Cain suffers from the same problem that candidate Barack Obama was saddled with: he is a great speaker but is often short on specifics, but this time around America has had its fill of rhetorically gorgeous ambiguity no matter how artfully conveyed. Huntsman’s middle-of-the-road ways will make him a darling of the mainstream press, but will leave him dead in the water when it comes to gaining the nomination in the age of the resurgent right. Paul is Paul, in that he is hauntingly correct 90 percent of the time but his fervor and filter-free approach with regard to the other ten percent renders him unelectable. And Santorum … well, he’s just Rick Santorum; his vote in favor of the Medicare prescription drug benefit should be cause for worry among anyone concerned with the proper role of government, he comes across as overly defensive, and he was incapable of even winning Pennsylvania, a state best characterized as “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.”
Even if some wonder candidate emerges to win the day, the GOP primary and the 2012 general election, all of the above and more will still represent a significant portion of the Republican Party. There is good reason for conservatives and Tea Party-aligned folks to be worried about America. No matter what happens in the immediate political future, obviously, those worries aren’t going to simply go away after November 2012.
For me, that wonder candidate might be Texas Gov. Rick Perry. For others, it might be Sarah Palin. And while Dan is right to express concern that the various factions above will all be fighting to remain under the GOP big tent, I don’t think that the seemingly fractured nature of a political party currently trying to sharpen its message and revert to first principles despite backlash from entrenched pols and pundits is fatal by any means. If conservatives and Tea Party-aligned folks have reason to be “worried about America,” come time for the general election any worry caused by the lack of an inspirational GOP candidate to date will pale in comparison to worry caused by the prospect of Barack Obama as a lame duck president.
We need the debate between Republican Party factions. We need John McCain to come out and scold primary candidates for being too isolationist, just like we need Ron Paul to turn McCain’s words on their head and ask what the GOP–and America as a whole, for that matter–has gained by way of the McCain crowd’s interventionism.
This is part of the primary process. I’m sure that, on some level, Dan Riehl understands that. If I may play armchair psychologist for a moment, I cannot help but wonder whether Dan’s pessimism comes from his incredible involvement in the political process. He has sources that I do not. He is infinitely more plugged-in than I can hope to be given my current situation, and I cannot help but wonder if that extra involvement has brought despair along with it.
Given that I quoted his piece in full above rather than taking a short excerpt, I already owe the guy a drink next time our paths cross. Should he remain so pessimistic with regard to the nature and potential of the current GOP field, I think I’d better make that drink a double.