Republicans on Uneasy Street
By Grover Norquist from the July/August 2011 issue
There is a sense of unease about the cast and storyline of the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Something is off. Things have started too early. Or maybe they haven’t started yet. "No one" is running. Too many candidates are on or near the stage. Things just are not right.
This discomfort is disappointing. Obama is vulnerable. He has governed poorly. Since his $800 billion stimulus, another 2 million Americans have lost their jobs. Inflation looms. His government takeover of health care has become less popular since Nancy Pelosi passed it and allowed Americans to read the 2,500 pages of small print. The 2010 Tea Party/Republican landslides should have signaled victory in 2012. Republicans gained 63 House members, six senators, six governorships, and 715 state legislators (taking into account the 25 party switchers from the Democratic side). Next: the presidency, for sure.
Herein, four thoughts on why we seem adrift in what should be the dash to victory.
First, the once grand post-FDR tradition of GOP nomination fights is largely behind us. The contest between the East Coast establishment and the conservative movement is no longer played out every four years. Wendell Willkie and Thomas Dewey won for the establishment in 1940, 1944, and 1948. War hero and moderate Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 stopped Robert Taft from being the man who won the party for the right. In 1960, Nixon was only sort of "us," but Rockefeller was certainly "them." Goldwater broke through as an unabashed conservative in 1964, but failed to win the presidency. Nixon again beat Rockefeller Republicanism in 1968. The establishment held off Reagan in 1976, but Reagan won in 1980 and George H. W. Bush won in 1988 as Patroclus wearing Reagan’s armor. In 2000, George W. Bush was the conservative alternative to "establishment friendly" John McCain. And in 2008, the conservative vote splintered among several candidates, with many social conservatives following the pied piper of Arkansas, Gov. Mike Huckabee, off the playing field and into irrelevancy long enough for McCain to win a nomination he could not have won in a two-way, right vs. establishment campaign.