06 Feb 2008

How Did We Come to This?

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Tony Blankley explains how we got into such a fine mess.

Assuming John McCain gets the GOP nomination, it will show how whimsical history can be. It would be the first time in living memory that a Republican presidential nomination went to a candidate who was not merely opposed by a majority of the party but was actively despised by about half its rank-and-file voters across the country — and by many, if not most, of its congressional officeholders. After all, the McCain electoral surge was barely able to deliver a plurality of one-third of the Republican vote in a three-, four- or five-way split field. He has won fair and square, but he has driven the nomination process askew.

This result reminds me of a nursery rhyme: “For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

In the current instance, the lost nail was a viable conservative candidate. And despite the crabby, orthodoxy-sniffing, slightly over-the-hill condition of the conservative Republican majority, it still could easily nominate its candidate. In fact, we had two strong conservative candidates, either of whom almost surely would have unified the party early, as George W. did in 2000. But through accidents of history, neither ran.

Consider the recently very popular, tall, attractive, smart, eloquent, conservative, successful two-term Republican governor of one of our most populous swing states — married to a beautiful Hispanic woman, no less. In fact, he is the son of a former president. Unfortunately for him and the party, he is also the brother of the current president. If Jeb Bush’s name were Jeb Smith, the former Florida governor easily could have kept the conservative two-thirds of the Republican vote united and won the nomination. But fate made him a Bush in the only election in the past 20 years when no Bush need apply.

Or consider the cheerful, handsome, solidly conservative Virginia senator expected to run as the son of Reagan. Unfortunately, he uttered three little syllables: Ma-ca-ca. He lost his re-election, and so adieu, Sen. George Allen.

These two quirks of history have nothing to do with the fundamentals of the conservative hold on the GOP. But what was left after the two strongest candidates couldn’t run was one venerable candidate (McCain), one suspiciously newly minted conservative (Romney), one not-quite-plausible factional figure (Huckabee), one social liberal (Giuliani), a quixotic anti-war candidate (Paul) and an older Southern gent with a smashing younger wife for whom he seemed to be saving most of the energy he should have used in what was risibly called his “run” for president (Thompson).

So, the mischievous gremlins and elves inside the wheel of history have served up John McCain to lead Ronald Reagan’s party into November battle.

Read the whole thing.

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Dominique R. Poirier

For the record, and everyone’s enlightenment, the nursery rhyme Tony Blankley quotes is from Benjamin Franklin.

It’s one of my favorites, and it has been sometimes cited by strategists and mathematicians specialized in the mathematics of chaos.



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