In a small rural courthouse in 1865, the stately and aristocratic Confederate General Robert E. Lee awaited the arrival of his rival, the rugged upstart Union General, Ullyses S. Grant. The differences between the two men were stark. While Lee had a storied and illustrious career, Grant had a more checkered career by virtue of his resigning his commission in the remote West after being discovered drunk while on duty. Lee played a prominent role in the Confederate military from the beginning of the war, while Grant was promoted into his present role a little over a year previous. Immaculately dressed, Lee received Grant, who was wearing a mud-spattered uniform and boots. The terms were generous, with Lee and his officers were allowed to keep their sidearms, horses, and other personal baggage. Grant even silenced his own troops as they broke out in cheer as the news of the surrender was relayed to them. 143 years later, the terms weren’t as generous.

A well mannered and respected war hero, John S. McCain, surrendered to a first term US Senator of little accomplishment. A Southern Baptist, McCain was defeated by a parishioner of the radical and racially charged Trinity United Church of Christ who only resigned his membership once his own presidential campaign was threatened. The concession and campaign ran almost concurrently as McCain’s hired guns stumbled from one miscalculation to another. The old soldier’s graciousness precluded him from quoting the hateful speech of his opponent’s own revered pastor down to even forbidding the articulation of the full name of Barack Hussein Obama. Like Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, the John McCain ’08 campaign had its fate sealed almost from the beginning. The difference between the two is the fact that Lee’s campaign was destined to falter in the end regardless of strategy. McCain failed by having no consistent strategy.

The debacle of 2008 had practically no bright spots at all for the GOP. You know it’s bad when the party finds comfort in the fact that its own Senate Minority leader barely survives a challenge in a reliably Republican state. Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania labels US Marines as “killers” and his own constituents as “racists”. He wins his seat comfortably after he refines his remarks to “rednecks”, rather than “racists”. Thanks for the clarification, John.

The Republican Party’s bright new star, and designated savior for many, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, escapes this election battered and bruised. McCain’s dimwits kept the puppet strings on Palin for two full weeks after her astounding speech at the RNC. Like a minor leaguer being hastily thrown in to pitch Game 7 of the World Series, Palin’s first real exposure to the media corps culminated in two uneven and mischievously edited primetime interviews. The final coup de grace was delivered days later as the McCain campaign fumbled the ball when the nation’s economy teetered on collapse as stocks fell.

With what was clearly the worst run campaign since George H. W. Bush’s listless campaign in 1992, McCain’s fortune seemed to trickle down to the congressional races as well. Three campaigns remain undecided, even though the Republican nominee came out on top. In Georgia, Saxby Chambliss is forced into a runoff after failing to get the required 50.1% for victory. Minnesota’s Norm Coleman has a lead of 200 votes as the recount mysteriously keeps on finding missing votes for his Democratic counterpart. Ted Stevens in Alaska has a slim lead, with many votes remaining to be counted, and a recount likely. Stevens’ own fate is in the balance since he stands a good chance of being removed from the Senate, forcing another election in 90 days.

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The Republican brand is on life support.

There’s a civil war within the party as we attempt to pick up the pieces. On one side, McCain and his moderates insist that this result was the best we could have hoped for considering the low approval of President Bush. Social conservatives have rallied behind Governor Palin, insisting that McCain’s inconsistent message and moderate stances were the reason for the failure. This argument is likely to last into the midterm elections of 2010 all the way to the all but certain cultural showdown in 2012. Indeed, conservatives feel the trend moving in their favor as the still smoldering ashes of the McCain campaign spew poisonous vapors within the party. Have we learned the lesson of 2006 and 2008?

The questions have mounted.

Shall a final confrontation between the armies of the aging and discredited Rockefeller wing vs. the resurgent Reagan wing of the GOP happen before 2012? Should the Republican Party start promoting candidates who are fundamental and reliable conservatives? Shall we ignore what the mainstream media and Democratic leftists accuse us of and march triumphantly into the gladiator’s arena?

Yes we should.

Will we appoint a worthy soldier as head of the RNC with instructions to carry the torch of our redemption? Will we mount an organized and determined midterm campaign against the Obamacrats in 2010? Will we allow this to be a precursor to the battle of 2012?

Yes we will.

Can we nominate worthy candidates who not only think and advocate conservative ideals, but practice them? Can we be even more determined and organized for victory than the left was for 2008? Can we defeat Obama in a final duel of ideals?

Yes we can.