heading toward the cliff

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is willing to sacrifice the political futures of her fellow House Democrats in order to get the health care bill passed.  That’s generous of her, and the Republicans will absolutely accept that result.  I just wonder how many left-leaning true believers are left in the Democratic Congress.  The answer to that question will determine the future of this health care bill.   Sure, there are a few like Nancy Pelosi who would sacrifice the rest of their political life to get this country-changing reform passed.  But I’m willing to bet that at the core, most Washington politicos value self-preservation over ideology.  They have seen the writing on the wall with the recent Republican victories and are considering future votes more carefully than they would otherwise.

Most Democrats will choose their jobs over following the Speaker over the political cliff.  That’s my prediction.

Even though our side seems to be winning the argument on health care reform, there’s still no reason to be overconfident.   There is still work to be done, and when the current legislation goes down in flames, we need to be ready to take advantage of that failure with our own vision and solutions.

know your role

What makes Michael Steele great on TV and talk radio makes him controversial as the RNC Chairman.   There are very few Republicans currently holding political office who could be successful pundits, and there are even fewer Republican politicians that would continue to win elections saying things that the members of their party don’t want to hear or acknowledge.   Those who have survived doing this, like Senator DeMint, most likely come from solid red states, where the base completely supports their efforts to fight the Washington mentality.  We are more likely to find honest political dialogue from those who never intend to make a profitable career out of politics than from anyone currently engaged in that pursuit.

This is the difference between Michael Steele and Rush Limbaugh.  Each man has a different objective.  For Michael Steele, the goal should be to get back to basics on core principles of our party, and to regain the confidence of the country in the Republican brand — which can only be done by acknowledging where our politicians have failed and increasing the level of accountability to show that we are serious about more than just winning elections.   His job is also to present our party in the best light possible, which means he cannot continue to speak off-the-cuff when the media is now closely paying attention to every word he says and looking for an opportunity to further divide the Republican party into factions by using our Chairman’s own words against him.

Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer, and a darn good one at that.  You don’t get paid what he gets paid without delivering the goods and the advertisers 3 hours a day / 5 days a week.  In the process of that entertainment, he shares his own opinion on the present administration and what he believes the next steps should be for conservatives who don’t agree with the direction of this country under President Obama.  Love him, hate him, or call him a drug addict — it doesn’t have any effect on the guy at all.  It might make lefties feel better about themselves to rip Rush every day, and good for them if that’s the case.  It just doesn’t do much to move the leftist/statist agenda forward.  At some point,  surely even the leftist might question the wisdom of all Barack’s free spending.  Or maybe not.  Some people are just hard-core enough that they don’t care that these bills will be paid by our children and grandchildren just as long as they get their “free government stuff”.

To Michael Steele, I offer these words of advice from former (?) pro wrestler and current Disney “star” The Rock, “Know your role”.  There’s a time to speak out, and a time to shut up.   A wise chairman knows what time it is.

expand the message

I don’t think there’s much I can add to Matt Lewis’s post on the Townhall blog.   Republicans need to stop surrendering issues like health care, jobs, and the environment to the Democrats.   This limits our ability to compete when national security and cultural issues are not the most important things on the minds of voters.  We need to recognize that our inability to challenge the common belief  that the Democrats have the best answers on health care, the economy, and the environment not only damages our chances of winning elections, it also enables bad policy to be implemented without a fight.  There are so many areas where viable conservative solutions can be discovered if we choose to compete in all arenas, not just the ones that are traditionally strong for Republican candidates.

As Matt says, this is not a call to water down our core beliefs and to become Democrat-lite.   We win converts to the conservative cause not by pandering or making easy compromises  — we do it by standing for the ideas we believe in and standing LOUD for those ideas.  In the absence of conservative alternatives, the Democrats are more than happy to fill that void with sweet-sounding promises of more government care and benefits that the working people of this country will never be able to pay for.

it’s not going to happen

Newt Gingrich knows how to say things conservatives like to hear.  He can dish the red meat as well as anyone in our party when he has the inclination to do that.  It’s easy to appreciate those who are speaking out against the policies of the Obama administration, even though we realize that reversing course requires winning elections and developing alternatives to current policy that people can support.  Concerning alternatives and ideas, Newt’s got a few.  Actually more than a few.  Some ideas may be useful, and others may not be practical to implement.  That’s his strength — advancing big ideas.  Unfortunately for Republicans, what Gingrich has been proposing is compassionate conservatism on steroids.  I think it’s fair to question some of his agenda items as less than committed to this limited government ideal we keep talking about.

He is entertaining and has piles of figures on every possible subject.  But he has no chance of ever becoming President, or even the Republican nominee.  This is good for all of us.  Newt Gingrich could never survive the vicious vetting process of the media in addition to winning the trust of anyone yet undecided about his fitness for the Presidency.  If you believe that Sarah Palin got a raw deal (regardless of her qualifications to serve as VP), can you imagine how much harder it would be for Newt once he officially announced his intention to run for President?  Some of the bad press Newt gets he deserves, but I can’t imagine a scenario where he could shed enough of his baggage to make a 2012 presidential run successful.  God may forgive and forget, but the media never does.

conservatives and the mccain/palin ticket

There are two main issues that Christian conservatives consider important enough to threaten withholding votes from any politician who doesn’t perfectly toe the line — abortion and same-sex marriage.   When evangelicals and others hold the line on principle and refuse to endorse a candidate who doesn’t agree with them on these issues, they are called single-issue voters and derided for standing on those principles.  These issues are important to me as well, but sometimes we don’t think about the consequences of withholding support from perfectly good and qualified candidates who might be a better bet to win an election. Every one of our divided conservative groups picked a different horse, and McCain got his independents and moderates — at least in the primary. That’s how we ended up with a candidate in McCain that we are still unhappy with, despite the Palin bounce.

I agree with those who say that we should stop trying to make the experience argument for Sarah Palin, even though it doesn’t seem to bother the Obama sheep that their man hasn’t closed the deal with the American people in that category.   Her appeal is a broad appeal that has very little to do with her knowledge of foreign policy or her deep conversations with world leaders.   It’s all about her personal story — moose hunting, fishing, the NRA membership, her Down’s Syndrome son.  She’s a very sympathetic figure, and she is a happy warrior, zinging Obama and the Democrats with a smile on her face. (She does need some more variations in her scripted lines, but other than that, I have no complaints.)

While she has requested and received some earmarks, it is evident that she has made some significant changes in the way Alaska does business.  She deserves credit for that.  With an sky-high approval rating in Alaska, she must have done something right in her short tenure there.  I still think that Palin can learn what she does not know,  but unless the Democrats know something we don’t know about McCain’s mortality– McCain will be President on day one, not his VP.  Why are the Democrats even worried about Palin’s readiness anyway?  All they have to do is make sure Barack overcomes his struggles and wins the election. Not that difficult, right? 🙂

Then the 80% wrong Joe Biden can run his foreign policy.  Yikes.  This can’t be what the Democrats really want.

rnc: random thoughts from red meat day

Before I get to Governor Palin’s wonderful speech,  there are several other things that struck me as the RNC proceeds forward to the acceptance speech by McCain tonight.  The first is that there aren’t many conservative women in the GOP pipeline contesting Senate races or any higher state offices.  What does it say about this party that the “qualified” women suggested for McCain’s VP pick aren’t conservatives?  Olympia Snowe, Elizabeth Dole, and Kay Hutchison, while they may be conservative enough for some people, don’t bring much to the table for McCain, and it wouldn’t bring in those independent and moderates, or even the Hillary voters.  They would have done even less for the social conservative base than any other candidate on McCain’s shortlist.

There is more work that needs to be done on the grassroots level to recruit more women and minorities.   While it’s a myth that the Republican party doesn’t have anything to offer those two groups and working people,  we have continued to allow the media to push this narrative — and we don’t have much ammo to use even if we fought back against it.  This needs to change.  We do have ideas that work for these groups — at least conservatives do — but the failures of current Congressional Republicans have damaged the Republican brand, and it’s hard for the American people to trust us to deal with everyday problems.

This is why Mitt Romney’s message fell flat last night.  Republicans are part of the problem in Washington.  Many of them have surrendered to Democratic rule, and they have allowed too many earmarks to go through.  They compromised on pieces of bad legislation with the Democrats.  It fires up Republican crowds to talk about all those bad “liberals”, but what resonance would it have with the rest of the American voters?  Mitt isn’t comfortable in the role of the attack dog.  The speech he gave last night was fiery, and full of stuff conservatives like to hear, but I thought that his delivery was slightly over-the-top.  Just a minor style point in an otherwise effective speech.

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mccain makes his vp pick

What a pleasant surprise this is — John McCain shocks us all by choosing the Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.  The McCain campaign did an outstanding job keeping us in suspense until the last 2-3 hours before her official introduction. This is one heck of a risk, as we are presently seeing with the current Democrat attacks on her, but the payoff could be huge. If Friday was the country’s first introduction to Governor Palin,  it was an impressive debut for her.  She came across as very personable and as someone who can sell the conservative message in a way that McCain cannot.  Her appeal is more than just gender-based.   She has working class credibility.  She’s a mom as well as a lifetime member of the NRA.  She’s not only pro-life, but she has practiced what she preaches by deciding to have a baby that she knew would have Down’s Syndrome.  Then there’s her record of fighting corruption in Alaska even against fellow Republicans.  What’s not to like?

Conservatives dodged a bullet with this pick, because apparently McCain was very close to picking Joe Lieberman.  He was still considering it as late as this past Monday.  When I first heard about McCain’s choice, my initial reaction was that the base may have sabotaged McCain by suggesting Governor Palin.  I love her story, and I think she’s a great representative for women and for Republicans, but I’m not sure she’s ready to be Vice President.  It’s entirely possible that she’s more ready to be VP than Barack Obama is to be President, but this isn’t the best argument for her.  The following weeks before the election will give us an indication of how ready she is to handle the demands of the national spotlight, and I will be watching her and cheering her on, because conservatism needs representatives like Governor Palin in Washington, D.C.

go right not left

Believe it or not, there is a Republican left with some credibility on fighting wasteful spending by our Congress — Senator Tom Coburn.  Senator Coburn has been consistent in this area, but unfortunately many of his colleagues have refused to follow his lead, and that of other senators like SC’s Jim DeMint.  There aren’t enough fiscal conservatives in Congress, and we have seen the negative results when  Democrats and Republicans agree to waste our money.  Now there are many so-called wise men, telling the Republicans that we are losing because we aren’t compassionate enough, or that we need to abandon the ideal of limited government completely to gain the favor of those independents and moderates.  Even people who started out believing that government is the problem have changed their minds to be more tolerant of activist government — including Newt Gingrich.   It is an almost irresistible proposal — that there can be a way to merge the activist government policies of the left with the free-market impulses of the right.   I’m not convinced that this is the case, or if it is possible, that Newt has come up with the right balance.

Here’s a sample of what Senator Coburn had to say:

As congressional Republicans contemplate the prospect of an electoral disaster this November, much is being written about the supposed soul-searching in the Republican Party. A more accurate description of our state is paralysis and denial.

Many Republicans are waiting for a consultant or party elder to come down from the mountain and, in Moses-like fashion, deliver an agenda and talking points on stone tablets. But the burning bush, so to speak, is delivering a blindingly simple message: Behave like Republicans.

Unfortunately, too many in our party are not yet ready to return to the path of limited government. Instead, we are being told our message must be deficient because, after all, we should be winning in certain areas just by being Republicans. Yet being a Republican isn’t good enough anymore. Voters are tired of buying a GOP package and finding a big-government liberal agenda inside. What we need is not new advertising, but truth in advertising.

Truth in advertising.  That “compassionate conservatism” is a euphemism for wasting our money on more worthy causes than the stuff the Democrats want to waste our money on.  That we need to get back to what Republicans said we believed about reducing earmarks and government bloat.  That we should be principled enough to hold our fellow Republicans accountable when they forget what kind of message got them where they are today.  Like Senator Coburn said, “spending other people’s money isn’t compassionate”.  There’s nothing wrong with heartless conservatism when it eliminates excuses for out of control spending and massive pork projects.

This is where Republicans have gone wrong. The voters didn’t reject conservatism, they rejected dishonesty.  Republicans promoted one agenda and delivered something different.  The scandals sure didn’t help us, but at the end of the day those who stayed home in 2006 and those who voted for Democrats sent the same message.  Republicans didn’t deliver what they promised, and they deserved to lose.  Congressional Republicans still haven’t gotten the message.  They are blaming their losses on the stubborn conservatives who refuse to abandon principle to win elections.  Some of our “leaders” have suggested that we need to expand our coalition to include independents and moderates, and that we should do this by watering down our governing philosophy so that those people agree with us. As long they keep following that dimwitted advice, Republicans will keep losing elections.

mark sanford is now on the record


Mark Sanford, also known as the libertarian/conservative governor of South Carolina, tells conservatives why we should support John McCain in November and work to get him elected. The article is notable in what it doesn’t say. Sanford, like other South Carolina conservatives, has serious problems with McCain’s failed immigration plan, and shares most of the other concerns we have with John McCain — but he does not mention any of those concerns here.  Even though he didn’t endorse anyone when it could have mattered, I suspect Gov. Sanford was secretly backing someone other than McCain.  He’s doing what he feels he should do to support the Republican nominee, but this doesn’t look like someone who wants to be McCain’s VP.

Of course, I would lose much respect for Sanford if he started acting like Lindsey Graham around McCain.  But it is refreshing that even in his request for conservatives to support McCain, he doesn’t try to convince us that all the disagreements we have with him aren’t all that serious. I think Governor Sanford would be an excellent choice by McCain for VP. I know he’s not well-known nationally, but there’s no question conservatives can trust this guy to follow conservative principles because he’s done that as governor of SC. And by the way, I can’t believe McCain would be stupid enough to pick his BFF (Graham) for VP. If it’s not Sanford, I hope McCain’s VP pick is someone conservatives can trust, not a moderate Republican.

Read Governor Sanford’s argument for yourself here.  (It’s all about the fiscal conservatism of John McCain compared to Hillary and Barack’s many new spending proposals and the very real possibility of higher taxes to fund those proposals.) With the economy the way it is, it wouldn’t hurt to have a President committed to reducing spending, and that wouldn’t be either of the Democrats.

expand the message

The Economist, whose writers and editors mostly live in one of Europe’s many welfare states (that would be the UK), lectures our presidential candidates on how to keep businesspeople interested by talking about smaller government. They blame the socons for distracting the Republicans from talking about taxes, trade, and healthcare to talk about God, guns, and gays. I have an answer for the Economist: none of these Republicans (except possibly for Rudy and Ron Paul) actually believe in small government. They pander their little hearts out, because they know it’s a popular message for fiscal conservatives — making government smaller, and taking power away from government. Don’t think for a second that most of these candidates believe there should be less government. This is especially true of candidates like Mike Huckabee, a guy who is popular with socons and libs alike, who wants to use the power of the federal government to impose the Arkansan nanny-state on the federal level. I’m glad he lost weight, but it should not be the federal government’s job to make you stop smoking, eating fast food, or to make more healthy choices in your life.

There’s nothing wrong with talking about issues that resonate with the many social conservatives in the Republican base, but I think that the Republican party needs to broaden its message. The one thing that attracted me initially to the Romney campaign was that he was the only guy talking about education and health care, normally issues co-opted by Democrats. The Republican party should be a party that remains true to its values on “God, guns, and gays”, but we shouldn’t allow the only ideas on education, taxes, trade, health care, and poverty to come from the Democrats. The Democrats had 40 years to fix education and health care, and they still promise to fix them when their candidate becomes President. Maybe it’s time to find alternatives to what the Dems have been proposing. We should not allow issues that everybody cares about to be the primary domain of a party with more questions than answers.

The Republicans have been a distracted party, but this distraction certainly doesn’t come from wayward socons. It comes from getting too comfortable with power to constantly re-evaluate what’s working and what’s not working, and to come up with innovative ideas for reform and change that would really make a difference in our lives. I’m not talking about new government programs. What I’m talking about is ways to empower people, not politicians. We hear all the time from the left about people-powered politics. The frustration both left and right share is with the Washington establishment bureaucrats who have stopped taking risks, and politicians who have stopped listening to what the people want. The system enables this malaise, and that is why Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions is such a revolutionary concept. It allows ordinary people to have a voice and provide ideas for reform.

I’ve said all along that the dissatisfaction with the Republican presidential candidates is more about their lack of vision than any credentials they may lack with economic, social, or fiscal conservatives. They don’t have any big ideas to inspire the base. Maybe this will change closer to the election, but to keep the activists motivated, our nominee can’t just run as “Not Hillary”.

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