It struck me the other day that the GOP could easily give away the next quadrennial prize, and there would be one and only one reason for the loss.
First, let’s consider the left’s situation. In this cycle, the Democrats may actually have a hand of cards to play, and it’s better than first believed. Several months ago, in this space and others, I thought out loud that Hillary would be swept away by her own flood of scandal debris, and I still think so. She has been hammered unmercifully, and deservedly so. That’s too bad, actually, because she would have been a fairly easy candidate to beat. Why? Aside from the long scandal train and blank slate of substantive accomplishments, she ranks so low on the likability scale amongst all candidates of either party, even the dour but capable Rand Paul seems to be more fun. Going back to at least 1924, the warmest, most likable major party candidate has always been the winner.
Several weeks ago, I also said Democrats would settle for Biden-Warren, assuming old Joe—74 at swearing in—would go along with a one-term arrangement. That would set the stage for a Warren succession and a deepening blue cast to a nation more willing to trade government bennies for its liberty. I still think that, and if Joe announces this week, he may be hard to beat. No matter what you think of him and his gaffe gallery, the pros agree he is amongst the most likable politicians around, and there are many voters, low-information types and others, who assume he wouldn’t be dumb enough to continue Obama’s foreign policy but smart enough to compromise with Republicans to get past gridlock.
So, with a teamwork trait developed in the Carter era, Democrats can recover their edge if they dump Hillary. In general match-ups, according to nearly all Real Clear Politics polls, Biden beats everybody (even Clinton hangs in there). Granted, it’s early in the game, but GOPpers should be alarmed.
It was the chorus of joyful shouts and applause greeting Marco Rubio’s announcement of John Boehner’s resignation last week that I found most jarring—and disappointing. Here was a guy with the most miserable job on the planet—herding political egos—and all things considered, he gave the nation two and a half decades of responsible, laudable service. And these people—from his party—are jeering? Not scandal, but fractious folly undid this Speaker, and will undo the next.
The last time the GOP had true party discipline was just before Ronald Reagan left the White House in 1988. After GHWB agreed to raise taxes, a dash for Ross Perot gave Bill Clinton an easy minority victory. It went downhill from there. What awful things his party said about Bob Dole in 1996 came next. Then, when State Media and the left went after GWB, Republicans gleefully piled on, and with party dissension unmanaged, it guaranteed McCain’s loss in 2008, and Romney’s in 2012. Democrats didn’t have to tear those guys apart—Republicans did it for them.
When you think about the likes of the Clintons, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Dick Durbin, et al., and all the things you could say about them, when’s the last time you heard a Democrat utter a negative syllable about their positions or attack them personally? Oh, they’ve mumbled out loud a bit about presidential debates and Chuck Schumer voted against the president when it didn’t matter, but that’s it. Haven’t you noticed?
The current crop of GOP candidates is the best group of people on one stage in a generation. Articulate and brilliant, as a team they should be unbeatable, but they will defeat themselves with a distinct lack of loyalty to their cause and a lack of class—respect—in how they treat each other. And if the rest of us continue to act like so much Jacksonian rabble, we will seal that fate.
Tell me your plan is better than the other candidate’s and I’ll listen. Tell me the others are dumb, stupid, simple, and lightweight, and I may laugh and nod, but who I’ll follow and vote for is someone likable I can trust to tell me the truth, someone who may not have all the answers that I like, but who has a sound, common sense approach to the myriad problems we face. Millions want that candidate to be better than they are, someone who has better control over their foibles and prejudices than they do, someone they can follow to the moral highground of responsible action for the American family.
Yes, the GOP could easily lose in 2016 because it got nasty with all the wrong people—their own—and unchecked, could find itself lost in the mists of history along with Whigs and yesterday’s polls. Have some forgotten they’re part of a team, they’re trying out for quarterback, and they’ll need to work together afterward to win?
Celebrating each other’s contributions to liberty while disagreeing with civility is what our founding fathers taught us. Loud criticism and good-natured mockery? It’s all good. Take-no-prisoners insults and demeaning personal attacks? Not good at all. Save the stingers for the real opponents—those left in the other party who’ve forgotten that the roots of the liberty tree are deep and strong.
Without loyalty to their cause and respect for one another—the ultimate reason for election success or failure—as embodied by leaders like Eisenhower, Goldwater, Reagan, and yes, the Bushes, McCain, and Romney, no Republican will be taking the coveted oath of office on January 20th, 2017.