Mike Huckabee's campaign manager Ed Rollins has been ceaselessly pilloried on the Right for saying, "It's gone. The breakup of what was the Reagan coalition -- social conservatives, defense conservatives, anti-tax conservatives -- it doesn't mean a whole lot to people anymore."
While my gut impulse is to disagree with Rollins, the rapid rise of John McCain, the man who has done more to thwart Reagan conservatives than any other Republican over the last few years, is evidence that Rollins is right -- or at a minimum, evidence that movement conservatives have been marginalized in the Republican Party.
Amongst grassroots conservatives, John McCain's name is an expletive -- and for good reason -- because he has made a name for himself by knifing conservatives time and time again for the amusement of his liberal pals in the mainstream media.
McCain supports amnesty for illegal aliens, was behind the Gang of 14, is a gun grabber, opposed the Bush tax cuts, ran roughshod over the Constitution with McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform, opposes a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, was rumored to be considering switching parties multiple times, talked with John Kerry about being his Vice-President, lines up with the global warming alarmists, wants to close Gitmo, wants to coddle captured terrorists -- you can go on and on with this. In essence, John McCain is hawkish, he's fiscally conservative, he has a solid pro-life voting record that is at odds with his previously stated opposition to overturning Roe v. Wade ("I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade." --John McCain, 1999) -- and on everything else, he's a Democrat.
In other words, we're talking about a man who could fairly be called a Rockefeller Republican, a Country Club Republican, a RINO, or just a toweringly arrogant, out of touch D.C. insider who seems to assume that any position he takes is right solely because he happens to hold it. However, what John McCain cannot fairly be called is a conservative.
Granted, some of his leading competitors for the Republican nomination depart from the conservative orthodoxy in a number of ways as well, but in their defense, none of them has built a career out of smashing a boot into the faces of the very people they're going to need to vote for them in November.
.......Which brings me to the current mood of the Republican base: as is, they're grouchy, irritated, and unmotivated by the GOP's performance of late. If John McCain becomes the Republican Party's nominee, you have to think conservatives will become utterly despondent. Sure, a John McCain vs. Barack Obama or John McCain vs. Hillary Clinton match-up might look good on paper, but how are we going to elect someone who makes conservatives despondent?
Moreover, how are we going to elect someone who is richly, heartily despised by most of the conservative media? Republicans are always complaining that the mainstream media is against them and that the conservative media, diligent though it is, doesn't have the firepower to adequately combat them. So what happens when the mainstream media inevitably turns on John McCain and predictably, few members of the already outgunned conservative media like McCain well enough to even fight for him?
Then there's the illegal immigration issue, which was the biggest domestic issue of 2007 and figures to be an enormous emotional issue in 2008. John McCain does not represent the position of most Republicans on illegal immigration. To the contrary, he has a position that is functionally identical to that of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
So here's a little "straight talk" for you: having John McCain lose in 2008, because he's pro-amnesty, would probably scare Congress so badly that they wouldn't even consider voting on a path to citizenship before 2013, while a John McCain victory would signal to Congress that they can go ahead and proceed with amnesty, because conservatives don't care about the issue very much.
Now, am I saying that Republicans should vote for a third party or stay home if John McCain is the nominee? Absolutely not. I don't believe in protest votes and besides, the presidency is bigger than any one issue. Still, when you set up a situation where people on your own side are perversely incentivized to sabotage the candidacy of your party's President over the biggest domestic issue of last year, you're not just asking for trouble, you're begging for it.
What kind of trouble? Millions and millions of Republicans staying home, conservatives putting equal priority on fighting the Democrats and fighting against the ideas of their own candidate for the presidency, a third party effort, fund raising for Republican candidates dropping even lower than the anemic level it's already at and perhaps losing an extra 2-3 Senate seats and another 5-10 House seats -- or perhaps not.
After all, this has been a wildly unpredictable election season and gloom and doom scenarios often don't come to pass. However, when a political party selects a man as a leader who is wildly out of step with the views of the majority of people who belong to it, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that party is going to have one hell of a rough time. If that's the road that the Republican Party goes down in 2008, may God help us all.