Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Republican Road to Perdition

The Washington Post has a spot-on commentary by columnist David Ignatius about how the Republican party has failed to be a governing party even though they are dominant in Congress and in the White House. He talks about all the woes afflicting the party as self-inflicted. He notes:

The Republicans come to their present troubles from different directions: President Bush thought he was making a safe, pragmatic choice in nominating Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, but this soulless maneuver enraged the party's right wing and set it on a fratricidal binge. Tom DeLay thought he was ramrodding a permanent Republican government, but he managed to get himself indicted and, well before that calamity, had angered House Republicans who concluded that "The Hammer's" leadership style was marching them off a cliff. Looming over all these little problems is the crucible of Iraq.

What's interesting is that most of these wounds are self-inflicted. They draw a picture of a party that, for all its seeming dominance, isn't prepared to be the nation's governing party. The hard right, which is the soul of the modern GOP, would rather be ideologically pure than successful. Governing requires making compromises and getting your hands dirty, but the conservative purists disdain those qualities. They swim for that beach with a fiercely misguided determination, and they demand that the other whales accompany them.

He goes on to note that the GOP was more interested to play to its base than doing what is best for the nation. What's interesting is that the Democrats, in search of an winning strategy, is looking to the GOP and copying the act of playing to its hard left base. As we are seeing, this is bound to fail. What is good for the base is not necessarily good for the nation. The nation is more moderate and is wary of anything they percieve as extreme. That is why Bush's Social Security plan died earlier this year and why Clinton's Health Plan died in 1994.

If one focuses soley on the President, you can see someone who talked a good centrist game, but once in office, worked hard to court the base to avert the fate his father suffered. It worked in the short run, but when you run so close to the base you become beholden to them and woe to the politician who doesn't give the base everything it wants.

I think the President and Congress could have used this moment to create a moderate conservative agenda that would work for the good of the nation. Instead, they were interested in power for power's sake and the route to power was to placate people like James Dobson.

And now the chickens are coming home to roost.

I think this presents the party with an opportunity. We need a governing strategy, not more of the same old let's-appease-the-religious right-and-business interests. We need Republicans who have solid ideas on Social Security, National Security and Balancing the budget.

Bull Moose chats about this today and also links to a Wall Street Journal article about one Republican who does have a governing strategy: John McCain. I won't say much about this article except that you should read it. I disagree strongly with McCain on gay marriage, but I do think that he presents a governing philosophy that is right for this nation at this time. I do want to highlight one quote:

Conservatives celebrate the individual; liberals emphasize the use of government for the collective good. Mr. McCain's military tradition melds the two with a message of service that calls on the individual to spend at least part of his or her life serving the nation and that collective good.

For some reason, this reminds me of another war hero who became President, John Kennedy. After all, it was Kennedy who said "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." He spurred individuals to come together for the good of the nation.

Both liberals and conservatives today are more concerned with what we can get from government, whether that is more government programs or to use it to discriminate. We need a political parties interested in pulling the country forward and asking Americans to join.

As I've said before, it's time for the centrist insurrection to begin.


At 4:39 PM, Blogger Mitch/Mike said...

Absolutely right (not in that sense). The GOP is acting too much like the dems with this "mandate" crap. Let's forego the majority opinion and do the right thing (again not in that sense).


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