Despite the gloomy prognostications of Hillary's inevitability as the next heir to the White House, she is no more "invincible" as a candidate than was her husband. And here a reality check is in order. Although the press would have us all believe that Bill Clinton was and is universally adored, attaining a status somewhere between that of a rock star and the savior of humanity, history tells a much different story.
Bill Clinton's approval ratings, we were incessantly told, hovered somewhere up in the stratosphere during most of his term as president. Yet the truth is that he won in 1992 with barely forty three percent of one of the smallest voter turnouts in almost a century. As the incumbent in 1996, and against an appallingly weak Dole campaign, Bill Clinton was still unable to garner fifty percent of the vote. And again voter turnout was abysmally light.
The Clinton presidency never was the result of a popular swing to the left. Rather, as uninspired as the public was with his self-absorption and perpetual adolescence, it was even less enthused with the possibility of a continuation of the waffling and fence-sitting it had received from the GOP. And unfortunately, the current political landscape is no different.
Going into the 2008 election cycle, the biggest political "enemy" Republican candidates face is neither the novice from Chicago, the "debutante" from New York, nor that guy who probably uses more shampoo in one week than most Americans could justify using in a year. Rather it is the public perception of "business as usual."
After being let down by their weak-kneed and morally rudderless "leaders" on a regular basis ever since Ronald Reagan left office, cynicism is running high, and trust in the political establishment is in short supply. The moment the conservative base perceives that the GOP candidate is once again offering banalities and platitudes, and is attempting to appeal to the "middle," the race is essentially over, and our side loses.
The "Beltway Insider" crowd is already making its presence known in this very manner, predictably seeking to shift the debate to the left, in hopes of appealing to "moderates." "Conventional wisdom" says to move to the center and avoid "controversial" issues. But following such a path would be politically fatal.
Those Republican candidates who attempt to find "common ground" with the present power structure will be quickly abandoned by the grassroots.
Conversely, recent history and experience have unequivocally shown that the public will rally to the support of a candidate who unabashedly embraces bold and decisive stances, and who is unafraid to body-slam the insidious apparition of creeping liberalism that threatens to unravel the fabric of our society.
Although virtually every aspiring Republican candidate speaks reverently of Ronald Reagan, and even claims to be his rightful heir, the Trojan Horses among them follow up by immediately and incorrectly invoking the "Big Tent," one of Reagan's shining hallmarks of leadership, as reason to cave and back-peddle on crucial, defining issues.
In truth, two very disparate concepts of "Big Tent" exist, which can be characterized as the Reagan version and Bob Dole's imitation. Reagan basically told America, "Here are the core ideas in which I believe. Leave your petty differences aside and join me as I institute my vision for America." Dole, on the other hand, essentially said to everyone, "Tell me whatever you believe in and I will join you."
Reagan's version is based on leadership and principle. It rallies, inspires, and motivates. The latter, which results from following and pandering, generates disillusionment and cynicism. Conservative Americans need not be reminded of which one worked, and which one was a loser. If Republicans fall for the counterfeit version again, the results this time around will be no better than they have ever been.
For the "Big Tent" to properly operate, it must be understood that "Reagan Democrats" can be convinced to cross party lines only if they are offered something higher and nobler, not merely cheaper, than that which they can get from their own party. Those Democrats who will not vote for a conservative are certainly not going to go for "light beer" liberalism from a "moderate" Republican when they can get the full strength version from their own side.
In the same vein, it must be understood that the constitutional purpose of a Vice-Presidency is neither to "broaden the base" nor to seek electoral votes from blue states. Rather, it is to ensure that if a chief executive is unable to complete his term of office, the successor is someone who will stay the course.
Any candidate who truly believes in those principles that moved him to run in the first place should pick a running mate who will continue in his footsteps. And if he says so in unequivocal terms that display a commitment to conservative values and the Constitution, he will only gain in credibility and stature as a result.
The single component that most consistently yielded victory in past elections, and the absence of which invariably portends defeat for our side is "contrast." Come Election Day, Democrat candidates are always anxious to blur the lines. Everyone can recall John Kerry with his purchase of a "Huntin' license," Michael Dukakis riding around in an M-1 tank, and the predictable election eve Democrat embrace of "family values." The list goes on.
However, when in the presence of Republican candidates of unwavering conservatism, these ploys were unmitigated disasters. Efforts of that nature can only succeed when GOP attempts at "moderation" make it easy for Democrats to posture to the right of them.
In short, a Republican who is unafraid and unembarrassed to trumpet his conservatism, not as a primary season faÃ§ade, but as a sincere expression of his heart, still holds the best hope for the GOP. Nor should he ever attempt to bridge the gap between himself and his Democrat opponent. On some issues, no "common ground" exists. Attempts to mix pure water with sewage will not result in purer sewage. And the country knows it.
Copyright ©2007 Christopher G. Adamo