My friend Bruce Kesler no longer is a “regular” blogger but he has recently found the time for an occasional guest-post at Maggie’s Farm. It’s good to see Bruce back in the game even on a sometime basis and I’m pleased to point your attention to his following post:
What McCain did right and conservatives wrong
By Bruce Kesler
Over the past four years, conservatives have debated whether the Republican Party is serving them and the country. This discussion was stirred by several proposals by the Bush administration — particularly not vetoing some budget-busters, the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, and the immigration reforms that didn’t prioritize border controls – and the failure to fire back at the gross distortions and language by opponents.
Bush earned respect for his stalwart stance in
Iraq, but even there lost points for his failure to act earlier to change a troubled strategy and command. Seeming backpeddling and soft-shoeing on the threats from Iran and
North Korea, though following closer to the liberals’ playbook, didn’t earn him support from liberals or conservatives.
The debate among conservatives and libertarians after this election is likely to grow much more heated, whether McCain wins or loses.
Although conservatives have stood most strongly behind McCain, conservatives do not expect much thanks or loyalty from McCain if he wins, and do expect McCain to continue his practice of alliance with many liberal proposals, as he has in the past. That alone will add heat the pot. On the other hand, conservatives will welcome his Trumanesque temper and bluntness replying to the likely continuation of intemperate Democrats in the Congress.
If McCain loses, conservatives will likely place most of the blame on him and his campaign for failing to take more advantage of Obama’s coterie of radical mentors, to alert more voters of their dangers.
At the same time, in defense of McCain’s campaign approach, those most likely to hold these associations as important are aware of them. Meanwhile, in a campaign during which the overwhelming portion of the major media have utterly failed to research or expose Obama’s lack of record and record of shady allies, McCain would likely not have gotten much further in educating the wider public.
So, McCain has concentrated on trying to woo marginal voters. Those non-partisans react more to appearances and mood.
McCain earned none of the points he should have for trying to tackle the credit-economic meltdown, even by comparison to Obama’s passivity. Neither did McCain draw attention to the Congress’ tainted hands in creating it, but there are many Republican members who sat by and prospered from the false sense of well-being that preceded the deluge. McCain did not throw the Congressional Republicans under the bus, as Obama repeatedly did every time a mentor was exposed. And, McCain did exhibit a bully optimism in reacting to the meltdown and focused on quick actions.
It is that indefatigable optimism and sense of fair play that has been highlighted and redounded to his credit. This is in line with his military and political record of bravely meeting challenges. Despite every odd, McCain has fought the election to a near thing.
Conservatives must recognize that, for any of McCain or his campaign’s failings, it is among conservatives that reform must come. Much of our NY-DC commentariat are corrupted by overlong proximity to comfortable power and cocktail circuits, exhibiting callowness, lethargy or outright capitulation. Their lack of principle and intestinal fortitude must be replaced. Much of our bloggers have been consumed by editorializing and not organizing. The think-tanks we built and many major donors have been cringing or avoiding confrontation. Rank and file conservatives mostly looked to this inadequate leadership instead of to ourselves to step forward and fight.
It will take a major overhaul to revive the conservative movement. As in 1964, it will not come from the establishment, but must depend on openness to new participants and leaders. Of course, that does not mean fringe elements or ideas. The crucial role that National Review played post-1964 in guarding against that will require a new central forum of conservative sanity and principle.
No one can predict where they will come from. But they must be encouraged, welcomed and supported when they appear. Indeed, each of us must see in ourselves the willingness and determination to be those participants and leaders
American conservatism needs a substantial overhaul – perhaps even a 12 Step program – to recover it’s essence as an optimistic philosophy that profoundly empowers individuals and trusts them to make their own choices. Then, in my opinion, conservatives need to harness that spirit to a thorough comprehension of how globalization changed the world to operate in terms of metasystems and networks, so as to balance economic dynamism with resiliency (and learn how to get that point across in normal English). Then go on message and do not deviate.
The other side, if Senator Obama wins Tuesday, will be so consumed with jerry-rigging top-down, hierarchical, statist, solutions out of a fantasist version of the New Deal that they will inevitably overreach and create an opening for a new brand conservatism four years from now.
Or perhaps just two years. Time to get busy.
6 thoughts on “Kesler: “What McCain did Right and Conservatives Wrong””
I suspect, but can’t prove, that a lot of the new conservatism, for lack of a better term, will come from the Ron Paul phenomonon, especially his individual liberty and free market ideas. Of course, there are aspects of the Paul agenda that will not fit such as his foreign policy. In this golabized world his policy recommendations will not be that applicable. Be that as it may, the old conservatism arose out of the Goldwater defeat. The new must arise out of the current mess conservative got themselves into and if conservative don’t roll up their sleeves and get to work we can look forward to a period of growing Democratic socialism, to the detriment of all, except those in power.
I oscillate between
-McCain is the end game after too many years of “compassionate conservatism,” big govt spending and Republican moral confusion
-The electorate has passed a tipping point where too many voters have no memory of the evils of totalitarianism and leftist big-govt excess, weren’t taught history in school, or are on the take from govt.
American conservatism is doing OK, it’s the Republican Party that has problems. It’s going to keep having problems even if McCain wins. But a Democratic win today doesn’t insure Republican reformation. The decline and stagnation of the British Tories should give us pause.
I suspect that history will judge W kindly, despite his blunders, for his handling of the war that began on his watch. But we probably won’t know for many years.
Most of the conservative pundits are weak sisters who will be swept away by the technological tides that daily erode the old-media businesses that publish their columns.
Assuming Obama wins, I’m not sure this Obama electorate actually understands that they have, on paper, elected a social democrat. If Obama had, from the beginning, made it clear he was running on a platform of:
(a) the most aggressive “cap and trade” program going (you know, the one that will “bankrupt” coal companies and send electricity costs “soaring”);
(b) the goal of a national single-payer (government) health care program;
(c) slashing our nuclear arsenal and defense spending, generally;
(d) increased taxes for those making more than $250k, . . . $200k, . . . $150k, who knows, and
(e) “tax refunds” for people that don’t pay taxes, just to name a few
Talk to a couple of the “youth” who voted for the big O 2 to 1 – no mystery there. The past does not exist, the President determines the economy and GWB is a big meanie because I don’t have a good job and enough money to pay my (enormous) car loan. I borrowed money to pay for my college education and now I can’t find a job worthy of my talents that is interesting and pays for all the goodies I deserve. Where have these peoples’ parents been? The sense of entitlement is breath-taking. coin toss between the rotten educational system and the media. On the other hand, the educational system produces the perfect audience for the media, so maybe that works.
McCain’s biggest problem was that he was running against another democrat. Hard to do that with an “R” behind your name. Can’t wait to see him join the rest of the RINOs who got thrown out in the Northeast. They, Bush, and McCain can all go sit in their rocking chairs at the Bush ranch and say, “Well, we coulda”.
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