Weekly Wednesday Presidential Politics - 2/20/07
One has to wonder, when Rush Limbaugh previewed and framed a potential John McCain nomination as a precursor to a "fracture" in the Republican Party, did he intend for it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy?
I will not use this space to analyze Limbaugh's animus towards McCain, nor will I appraise his intent. I will, however, examine the possibility that if the Republican Party does indeed split upon McCain's official ascension to Republican nominee, would McCain have any shot of winning the White House? And if not, can we not assume that Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and co., whom despite being inarguably self-promotive and agenda-driven are brilliant and talented pundits, knew they were hurting the Republicans' November chances when they made their audacious attacks against Arizona's Senior Senator? If so, is the conservative base planning to punt the 2008 general election, hoping to hand off a sliding economy, an acrimonious international relationship, an increasingly hostile Muslim world, and a perilously prodigious debt to the Democrats, in hopes of licking their wounds and coming back strong with, say, Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich in 2012? And if that's the case, do the Limbaugh's and Hannity's of the world really think it is crucial to keep a Republican in the Oval Office after all?
Let us start at the beginning. Thanks to weeks of consistent and calculated comments from the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter, an unusually incohesive Republican Party was experiencing a prelude to a civil war. It would pit the social conservative base, flanked by the conservative media, against everyone else who called themselves a Republican, which meant social conservatives, moderates, war hawks, and red-staters caught in blue states - blue states which very much play a role in the nomination process of the Republican Party. There are shades of the English Civil War, when Anglicans and Catholics teamed up to take on all comers.
The aim of the social conservatives was to rally enough Republican support around Mitt Romney before McCain opened up too large of a lead in pledged delegates. To this end, they failed. Miserably. Romney won less than a third of McCain's delegates and pulled out of the race soon thereafter. At that point, the two Republican candidates that Rush Limbaugh continually denounced, McCain and Mike Huckabee, were the only two viable candidates that remained.
Now, all of a sudden, Huckabee isn't looking too bad, despite his fiscally and executively liberal (for a Republican) tendencies. When compared to McCain, conservatives drool over Mike Huckabee. It probably explains why Huckabee forges on in a race he cannot win. He is the last hope of Republicans who cannot bear to see McCain represent their party. Despite his success in the states below the Mason-Dixon line, however, Huckabee has no realistic avenue to victory.
Here's what political pundits cannot escape, though: We knew Huckabee could only compete in the southern states. We knew Mitt Romney could not compete with McCain in the big ones. Surely, if amateur bloggers are predicting the Republican race since New Hampshire and South Carolina, Limbaugh, Coulter, and Hannity must have seen it coming, too.
Why, then, did they move forward with the assault on McCain? Surely they realized that verbal attacks on McCain's conservatism would hurt McCain's chances in November, and, by extension, hurt the chances of the Republican Party. Only one conclusion can be drawn.
They do not want a member of the Republican Party to be sworn in upon President Bush's exit on January 20th. The Republican Bush Administration, and for 3/4 of their stay in Washington, a Republican Congress, saw a steady downfall in approval both from the American people and foreign countries from all continents. The reasons were loud and clear.
A rash and incautious war with poor results has produced more tentacles of terror on a headless foe. Irresponsible spending from the self-proclaimed fiscally faithful party has produced an outrageous debt never before seen in history, perhaps irrevocably damaging the United States economy. These policies have concussed the working class to the point where even our ever-optimistic President must admit we are in uncertain economic times. The median salary falls while the number of millionaires and billionaires grow. The United States is still tending to fractured relationships with foreign allies who stood shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. as 2001 came to a close, only to steadily put distance between themselves and the unrelentingly bellicose world superpower.
The next President faces these challenges and more. Is it at all possible that the Republican base wants no part of a battle that is, at best, uphill, and, at worst, a brick wall? In fact, from a Republican perspective, either a Democrat inherits this mess and fails, or McCain inherits this mess and fails. Either way, in four years, while the U.S. and the world are still shattered in partisan and precarious pieces, Republicans put up a strong social conservative who claims to be the broom.
If this is truly their intent - to sacrifice 2008 in order to regain power in 2012 - one can only wonder how much they really do want an established presence in Iraq. One can only wonder how much they really do want President Bush's tax cuts to stay in place. One can only wonder if they really worry about the impending Supreme Court retirements and appointments that could overturn Roe. One can only wonder how sincerely they believe that the growing Islamo-fascist threat must be dealt with through concentrated and unilateral force.
Because if these issues were truly as imperative and paramount as they claim, how can they possibly live with themselves if they split their party and allow a Democrat in the west wing of the White House? It is as monstrously mindless as it is myopic, though Democrats might argue that such a characterization of the Republican Party is neither surprising nor new. Even more would argue that partisan games are being played with the future of this country.
The attitude of the Republican base is ultimately as defeatist as they accuse their ideological adversaries of being in foreign policy. To them, the November 2008 elections will produce no winners, just someone who gets more votes.
(IC is a bi-weekly contributor to 1% More Conscious. He blogs almost daily at his website Presidential Politics for America.)