Why President Eisenhower Represents the Right Model for GOP Revival
It’s true that the American people are fundamentally conservative – but not in the angry, doctrinaire sense suggested by so many of my fellow radio ranters. Americans are conservative in temperament, but not necessarily in ideology. We are cautious, practical, skeptical folk, inherently resistant to sweeping, radical change—whether such change issues from the left or the right.
At the moment, the liberal true-believers who control both White House and Congress present the most potent, plausible threat of precisely the sort of jarring and dangerous transformations the people reliably reject. This offers Republicans a precious opportunity to re-connect with America’s deep-seated conservative instincts and to revive their battered party – unless they blow that chance with strident, unbending, purist appeals of their own, convincing the puzzled public that both parties have abandoned pragmatism and common sense.
Formulas for Victory, Prescriptions for Disaster
Recent political history shows a clear and consistent public preference for flexible problem solvers over embattled ideologues. For some fifty years, presidential elections have been mostly close – with ten out of the thirteen winners held to 54% or less of the popular vote (and five of them actually winning with less than a majority). Only three times since 1960 did candidates win in one-sided blow-outs, and in each of those races (LBJ’s triumph in ’64, Nixon’s in ’72, and Reagan’s in ’84) the opposing nominee looked like an impractical, reckless, wing-nut extremist. Barry Goldwater even embraced the title extremist (“extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice”), George McGovern’s anti-war crusade offered an unapologetically leftist platform, and Walter Mondale proudly promised in his convention speech that he would raise the nation’s taxes. Their pathetic performance as major party nominees (winning 39%, 38% and 41%, respectively) showed the powerful national reflex against any candidate or party perceived as out of the mainstream, tilting too far in one direction or another.