‘Wake up, damn it!’
For the uninitiated, Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene told it like it was in his world on the Washington, D.C., airwaves on WOL during the late 1960s and early 1970s before succumbing to cancer. The ex-con, who described himself in his boss’s word – a miscreant, because it sounded more sophisticated – would no doubt be shocked that his trademark show opener on the D.C. soul music station would be used in conjunction with the Republicans. Don Cheadle more than adequately portrayed Greene in the enjoyable 2007 film “Talk To Me.”
With the GOP’s rapidly and radically shrinking numbers in the Congress, the elephant has become an endangered species and qualifies the Republican Party for federal aid and protection. But being the proud party of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, the GOP would never stoop to the level of the Democrats of milking from an already bloated and overextended federal government teat.
While the battle has been lost, the war wages on, and it is incumbent of the Republican Party to coalesce, look forward and stop the blame game. Although there is more than enough blame to go around, it should not fall into the lap of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Like a rabid pack of wolves devouring their young, the McCain staffers are throwing Palin to those very wolves. They are wrong to do so, as much of the blame falls on the narrow shoulders of the McCain camp itself. John McCain needs to step up and silence the critics while defending his vice-presidential nominee.
The 2008 GOP presidential campaign sadly resembled the 1996 milquetoast effort phoned in by the Bob Dole campaign. Make no mistake, I, like Bob Dole, even voted for him (although I voted for Alan Keyes in the primary) and do not fault him as a person, World War II hero or United States senator. But his campaign went through the motions as many people anointed him because the party majority believed it was “his turn,” much was the case with the John McCain campaign, until Palin was added to the ticket.
The problem was not that McCain’s people threw Palin under the Straight Talk Express after the election, but before the votes were even cast. Why was Palin not more properly prepped prior to appearing before a hostile media? Why was Palin not put on the Fox News Channel first, where she would have been given a fair shake on the fair and balanced news network? There, Palin could have gotten her “sea legs” in preparation for the unfriendly onslaught from the allegedly mainstream media that would inevitably follow.
No, no, Palin is not to blame for the loss this past Tuesday. History was made Tuesday because very motivated people voted for Barack Obama, and fewer, less motivated people voted against Barack Obama as opposed to voting for John McCain. This campaign could not have been run more poorly. There is no honor in losing with what was at stake. The McCain camp allowed the media and Obama campaign determine what the McCain campaign would say or not say simply due the fear of being labeled a racist.
There is no question that Sen. Obama ran a solid campaign, and why not, he had more money than any candidate has ever seen in history. He had the resources provided for him by many people who turned their dollars into votes to deliver the victory home for Obama. People were excited by the Obama candidacy because of his youthful exuberance, his promise of change, which is what will be left in people’s pockets if his economic proposals are enacted, and many people believed he is one of them – be it young, urbane or biracial – both blacks and whites could associate with Obama.
Yet, while Sen. McCain said he would run an honorable campaign, which he did, he failed to bring relevant issues to the forefront and force the media to either deal with those issues or admit they were in the tank for Obama. But McCain did not do either. So, while McCain was getting whacked like a piñata, only a handful of talk-radio hosts – true conservatives like Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, for example – carried McCain’s water and begged him on air to hit back with Obama’s association to unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers, Antoin “Tony” Rezko, anti-Semitic Rev. Louis Farrakhan, incendiary Michael Pfleger and Obama’s 20-plus year, anti-American pastor Jeremiah Wright.
McCain should have hammered Obama on his socialistic economic plans, government-run health-care plans, poor grasp of foreign policy including his willingness to sit down without preconditions with Cuba’s Castro, Venezuela’s Chavez, North Korea’s Kim Jong Il and Iran’s Holocaust denier Ahmadinijad who has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel, calling the Jewish state a “stinking corpse.” By voting in favor of the economic bailout several weeks ago, McCain ceded the economic socialism issue as the bailout was just that – socialistic and the stock market reacted adversely in the immediacy of that slippery-slope of a vote. And, just look at the continued downturn of the market in the days since the Obama victory – speaks volumes. Even Obama’s and vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden’s own words were not used against them as often as they should have been. Obama-Biden ran on Carter issues, but with a Clinton campaign – thus the electoral success.
The American people were as in the dark about Obama on the eve of his historic election as they were when he announced his candidacy on the state house steps in Springfield, Ill., nearly two years ago. Statistically, it is known that Obama is the most liberal member of the United States Senate. Why that did not lead to a more conservative GOP nominee remains a mystery.
In fact, the most conservative Republican candidates for president, those who most adhered to the GOP principles of smaller government, less government interference in people’s lives, fewer government giveaways, fewer bailouts, a strong defense, an unwillingness to compromise on the issue of illegal immigration, a support of school choice – including vouchers and charter schools and lower taxes, were Jim Gilmore, Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo. Unfortunately, these three have a public demonstration of warmth roughly equivalent to a burned out light bulb. They are as about as exciting as a mug of warm milk. Yet, because of their principles and unyielding stance on the issues, Congressman Tancredo and Congressman Hunter were my top two choices. Sadly, neither could even muster enough support to garner the requisite signatures to place their names on the Virginia ballot. Gilmore, who was slaughtered in his bid to replace retiring John Warner in the U.S. Senate, was long gone by the time of the Virginia primary.
That left the ever amusing former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, the uber-wealthy former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, Mr. “Law & Order” Fred Thompson, a former Tennessee senator, America’s mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York City and McCain – none of whom, save for Thompson, could be considered a conservative and Thompson ran such a lackluster campaign that he too was out before the Virginia February primary. Thompson earned my vote, as he was still on the ballot, and it also a message to Sen. McCain that he needed to make a sharp right turn.
McCain did just that with his selection of Palin, but that seemed to be a Hail Mary pass late in the fourth quarter down by five points. Palin was hardly vetted – not her fault, and although she gave some fiery speeches and certainly reached the GOP base, the McCain folks did not prepare her well enough to face what awaited her.
With more grooming, education and experience as the Chief Executive of Alaska, Palin will have a future with the Republican Party. Few others loom on the horizon, save for representatives Marsha Blackburn (TN-7), Eric Cantor (VA-7), Shelley Capito (WV-2), Jeff Flake (AZ-6) Thad McCotter (MI-11), Adam Putnam (FL-12) and Paul Ryan (WI-1), as well as governors Charlie Crist (FL), Mitch Daniels (IN), Jon Huntsman, Jr. (UT), Bobby Jindal (LA), Tim Pawlenty (MN), Rick Perry (TX) and Mark Sanford (SC). The national party lacks leadership at the helm of the Republican National Committee (RNC), its core constituency is shrinking and not being replenished. So, aside from a failed campaign, the GOP has more internal problems that do not paint a pretty picture for its future.
For all its fingerpointing and blaming each other, this is time for the GOP to heal itself. Recruit younger conservatives – people who believe in, and adhere to the core values of the Republican Party. Go forth and spread thy wings in the directions of Jewish, black, Hispanic and Asian voters who believe in traditional values of faith, family and freedom. People who believe in country before party. Actively engage on college campuses. Do not surrender academia to the Democrats, socialists and others attempting to brainwash our young people.
The GOP must widen its tent and not just give lip service to minority groups. It’s great to see the likes of my friend Michael Steele of Maryland at the head of GOPAC, but where are the other conservative black voters? It’s great to see Eric Cantor of Virginia as chief deputy minority whip in the House of Representatives, but where are the rest of the Jewish conservatives? There was no excuse for the Jewish vote to have turned out so heavily for Obama with his questionable associations and less than stellar support for Israel. Yet, in traditional liberal lockstep, the Jewish voters gave Obama 70-plus percent of their support.
With the defeat of Gordon Smith of Oregon, there are no longer any Republican senators on the West Coast in the lower 48. With the defeat of Connecticut’s Chris Shays, there are no longer any Republican congressmen representing a single New England state. These are daunting and virtually insurmountable problems facing the future of the Republican Party. The white, Christian, male over 50 years of age is a fast shrinking demographic that the GOP must replenish from other avenues.
During the next four years the Republican Party must not wander the desert aimlessly while in exile from Washington, D.C. The party must promote its brand in a positive fashion with fresh faces. Give younger people reasons to form Republican clubs on high school and college campuses. Promote positive reasons for being a Republican, not just negative reasons for not being something else. Seek out the minority groups that have traditionally believed there has not been a seat at the GOP table in the past.
During the next four years of exile, the Republican Party must be ever vigilant in keeping a close eye on the Obama administration. As Americans who believe in country first, we wish him well and hope for success. But we will be watching as liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens will no doubt retire and probably justices “Darth Vader” Ginsburg and David “the disappointment” Souter as well – all liberals, giving Sen. Obama ample opportunity to put a major handprint on the Supreme Court that will have a long-lasting impact for the foreseeable future. The Republicans must not be a rubber stamp on the confirmation of justices, judges, cabinet members and the other crucial appointments that will come before them in the Senate. Question them hard and vet them carefully. Do not be afraid to use the filibuster – and use it correctly – the way Jimmy Stewart aptly demonstrated in the great film “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.”
The party must also go on offense as well in recruiting top-flight candidates to run for the Senate in 2010. As the Reagan campaign slogan told us in 1980, “Now is the time.” Recruitment must already be under way. Of the 34 senators up for reelection in 2010, 15 are Democrats, including the seat currently occupied by Obama, which will be filled by another Democrat.
Chris Dodd could be in trouble with the right opponent, perhaps the recently defeated Congressman Shays. Russ Feingold could be in trouble as well, again with the right opponent, perhaps the up and coming Congressman Paul Ryan. Blanche Lincoln is a Democrat in the Deep South – she should be in as much jeopardy as Shays and Smith were in Connecticut and Oregon respectively. With all of his incendiary and polarizing remarks over the past four-plus years, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should face stiff opposition, if the GOP can find an attractive candidate lacking Reid’s perpetual dourness. Ken Salazar could face a tough reelection battle if Tom Tancredo comes out of retirement. He has made overtures about seeking the governor’s mansion in the Centennial State.
Unfortunately, the remaining 10 Democratic senators facing reelection in 2010 will probably encounter no more than a token challenge and be returned for an additional six years. This includes Evan Bayh because he’s a moderate in a typically red state, Barbara Boxer because it’s California, Byron Dorgan because of his seniority, Daniel Inouye because it’s Hawaii, Patrick Leahy because it’s Vermont, Barbara Mikulski because it’s Maryland, Patty Murray because it’s Washington, Chuck Schumer because it’s New York, Ron Wyden because it’s Oregon and whomever fills Obama’s seat in Illinois because that person will have only served two years and have a connection to Obama.
Conservatives must not be afraid to speak up from the wilderness. Our voices must be heard – not just as reactionaries, but as visionaries with an eye toward the future of the greatest nation G-d put on earth. Republicans and the Republican Party ought to heed the words of the late Petey Greene and “Wake Up – Damn It!”
– Column by Sanford D. Horn