You need only listen to the internal squabbles of conservatives over the possible candidacy of Donald Trump to see why defeating Barak Obama in 2012 will be much more difficult than we’d like to believe. Because no matter what happens on the Democrat side, including a challenge by the likes of Hillary Clinton, when election day rolls around, the Democrat lemmings will line up and punch the button for Obama – and every other candidate with a (D) after their name.
Republicans, on the other hand, will still be fretting over every little imperfection of their chosen standard bearer, right up to election day. Because, like Goldilocks, Republicans seem to be locked in a battle to find the “perfect” candidate, “not too hot, not too cold, but juuuust right” – but this is precisely the kind of thinking that yields mushy moderates like John McCain.
The Trump-bashing by Republicans is merely the latest example of conservatives “eating our young.” Think not? Just mention “Sarah Palin” or “Michelle Bachman” to a group of conservatives, and you will get more hostile, even downright vicious, criticism than you’d find on the editorial page of the New York Times. Now, Palin and Bachman are about as ideologically “pure” as you can get, yet that doesn’t shield them from their fellow conservative “purists” who attack them with a rancor that should be reserved for the likes of Nancy Pelosi.
Or take a currently low profile candidate like former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is pretty good on most issues. Right now, you hear very little about him. But if he should suddenly begin to take off in the polls, I have no doubt that he would soon become the target of conservatives for any number of his “imperfections” – “he’s too ‘big-government’ – he signed a smoking ban!” or “he’s too ‘green’ – he’s in the pocket of the Ethanol lobby!” And on and on.
Conservative critics will often complain that “we need someone like Marco Rubio or Chris Christie.” But if tomorrow morning, Rubio or Christie woke up and suddenly announced that they were in the race, I have no doubt that Rubio would be immediately attacked by his own party as being “too young and inexperienced” and Christie would be “too ‘confrontational’ – he’ll allienate the union vote” or even “too fat and unattractive to get the female vote.” Count on it.
I’m no Trump supporter, although he does have one thing going for him – he is an outstanding communicator. So are Marco Rubio and Chris Christie – but they aren’t running. Speaking ability is a big deal, maybe the biggest, because in 2012 the mainstream media will be running interference for Obama and the Democrats right down to the wire, and any Republican we select must be able to talk directly to the electorate over the deafening roar of the media attacks. Ronald Reagan wasn’t perfect either (something we sometimes forget) but what he did have was an amazing talent for speaking directly to the American people.
True, Trump has more than a few things in his background that give me (and others) pause – his support for gun control being particularly disturbing. I also have doubts about how “authentic” his conservative views might be. His seeming willingness to change positions on some issues like abortion is troubling. Then again, Trump’s personal views on abortion or guns would matter little with a Republican majority in both houses.
But a very important thing to remember is that the next president will likely pick at least one Supreme Court Justice, and that matters a whole lot. I do not know yet what kind of judges a President Trump (or a President Pawlenty) would appoint, but I do know what sort Obama will pick – he’s already shown us. We simply cannot afford yet another Ruth Bader-Ginsberg clone on the nation’s highest court.
In any event, Trump is not the point here – I am simply pointing out that getting as good a candidate as possible, who can also win in the general election, should be the goal. This does not mean that I advocate throwing our principles into the trash just to “win” – instead, we need to decide which issues are top priorities in these tough economic times, the big ticket issues like taxes, spending, energy policy, and reducing the size and intrusiveness of government. We must then select the candidate that gives us most of what we want, not a “RINO” but a candidate who is good enough on the big issues, AND be able to speak persuasively to those “moderate” votes that swing all elections.
Republicans won in 2010 not just because they were so good on “the issues” – although they were – but because the Democrats were so bad on the issues. They also overreached – Obamacare and the “Stimulus” were the best examples. Enough voters, especially independents, realized it to make the difference. And don’t short-change the contribution of the Tea Party – in spite of the Democrat media machine’s campaign to destroy them, the Tea Party was instrumental in the biggest legislative turnover in history. Yet note how often Republicans can be heard criticizing the very same Tea Party activists who helped get them elected.
The next election will be much different from 2010, when Democrats held both houses of Congress and the Whitehouse, and thus had no one to blame (although they still tried). But in 2012, Americans will have had two years of divided power – and the Democrat-friendly media will make sure that Republicans will be assigned a big part of the responsibility for whatever economic conditions exist at election time. Note how already the press is helping Democrats by casting even the tiniest Reprublican cuts as “slashing” programs for “women and the poor.”
And it will only get worse – Democrats will pull out all the stops in 2012. If we are going to have any chance, Republicans had better have a presidential candidate who is not merely “right” on the issues. The candidate must also be able to articulate, clearly and convincingly, why American voters should keep the Republican majority in the House, give them a majority in the Senate, and replace a Democratic president with a Republican.
And like it or not, the only potential candidate so far who has anything close to Ronald Reagan’s communication skills is Donald Trump. Once again, I am not advocating for the nomination of Donald Trump. Nor am I saying that we should accept another “moderate” like John McCain – that would be a disaster. My point is that Republicans had better start getting serious about finding the best candidate, not engaging in the inevitably self-defeating effort to find the “perfect” candidate.