Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Thought on Reagan Conservatism

I'm remembering a year ago when McCain was a longshot candidate and the majority of the conservative blogs were still referring to McCain as a RINO (Republican In Name Only).

Then I flash forward to the RNC. Sarah Palin is nominated as a strong pro-life, pro-gun, pro-small government, appeal to the Reagan conservatives in the party who were not at all enthused with McCain.

My thought is this. The modern day Republican party is looking more and more like the Democratic party of Kennedy and Johnson's era. The thought of larger government is not the anethma it used to be within Republican circles. Bush signs off on the largest entitlement spending in a generation and McCain has his name all over the greatest affront to the Freedom of Speech since the Constitution was written. Both men talk about goverment as though its primary function is to solve the problems of the individual American person.

The liberalization of the Republican party made the nomination of Palin somewhat of a conundrum to me. Sure there is the obvious tactical decision that was a stroke of genius and has the Democrats still searching for how to respond. However, there always felt like there was something more there. I toss out what follows to my readership (which consists exclusively of my wife).

The nomination of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential candiate for the Republican party is a clear sign of where solid Reagan conservatives stand in the modern Republican party. We now make up a kind of second-class voting block. We must be paid lip service to and tossed the occasional bone to shut us up. However, the principles of smaller government are no longer part of the foundation of the platform. The GOP knows we'll never vote for a Democrat and won't risk voting for a third party lest the Democrat win. As such, we're a voting block that is safe to largely ignore.

In essence, during the late 90s, the Democratic party bolted for the ultra-left. They abandoned their heritage of providing a safety net for those in need for the cradle to grave "security" of hard core Marxism. They abandoned hope and determination as the keys to success for the victimization of identity politics and class envy/warfare. The problem is that the Republicans rushed to fill the void left in the center and took a profound shift to the middle.

The truth is that the modern GOP has abandoned Reagan conservatism. They have lost their ability to go before the media and hammer away at the folly of Democrat taxation and spending. They've lost their moral voice to offset the idiocy of the multi-culti crowd. The GOP is looking more and more like the Democrats of the 1960s rather than the Republicans of the 1980s. McCain's nomination is merely a proof of this leftward shift.

How does all this relate to Sarah Palin? John Garner, FDR's VP, fameously described the office of Vice President of the United States as not being worth "a pitcher of warm spit." The VP office really only really serves as a line of succession should the President become incapacitated or dies while in office. Sure the VP presides over the Senate, but the Senate Majority Leader sets the agenda and selects the committee chairmen. The VP doesn't actually vote in the Senate often enough to matter.

Could the GOP be grooming Palin to run in 2016? Possibly. Governors and former VPs have historically done much better as President than their counterparts elected out of the various legislatures. Palin would be a stark contrast to an aging Hillary Clinton should such a match up occur.

The unfortunate reality I fear is that Palin was really just meant to be a lightening rod to excite a bored conservative base for the Republicans without really giving them much in the way of a real voice (a cabinet member will have more influence). A battle standard to rally around. Even better a lightning rod to throw the opposition into a frothing rage and waste their energy attacking the VP candidate instead of the Presidential candidate. Just conservative enough to get Conservatives to believe that McCain might not be the RINO we've thought he is. Just enough skeletons in her closet to make front page stories in the NY Times and force the Democrats to respond, but not enough to take the spotlight fully off McCain.

As I said, her nomination was a stroke of genius. But I don't think her nomination bodes well for the future of lassez faire government in the US.


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