Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Writing at PJM, John Avalon misses the reasons for John McCain's loss so thoroughly and well that were it not for his obvious sincerity one would suspect his failure to be intentional. It is clear that Mr. Avalon starts with a "centrist" position which he tries desperately to justify.

In order to truly revive itself, the GOP should be more like the real John McCain in the future, and less like the conservative cast of the past decade: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Tom Delay. And it certainly should not look to the likes of Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin to lead a restoration.

You do the math: America has a moderate majority — 50% of Americans are centrists, compared to 20% who are liberal and 30% who call themselves conservative. Independents are the largest and fastest growing segment of the electorate. Republicans need to appeal to the center and find common cause with independents in order to win. And that’s something they have increasingly failed to do over the past decade.

The unspoken premise here is that the Party should attempt to mold itself to the electorate, rather than standing for principles -- both in campaign and in office. Republicans lost the moderates because they only mouthed conservativism, and didn't act on it.

There is another option to giving up: teaching. McCain lost because an uninformed electorate judges the President specifically and the party they perceive to be in power generally on the basis of the economy. When McCain A) suspended his campaign to B) back the bailout bill and C) failed to deliver on even that, his fate was sealed.

But ironically due to that loathsome bailout, there is going to be an insidious increase in the level of government intervention in the economy, so that the President will begin to have an actual part to play in it. This is legion of disasters waiting to happen.

But back to the issue at hand. Avalon lists many reasons for McCain's loss, ignoring the elephant in the room: Barack Obama's "historic" campaign. There, how's that for a code word.
McCain’s come-from-behind win in the primaries was not only proof of the strength of the center but a repudiation of Karl Rove’s play-to-the-base approach because he won the Republican nomination without the support of right-wing talk radio and evangelicals.
The base was split between Huckabee, Romney, and a ghost: they were waiting for a conservative. With either Huckabee or Romney out of the race, the remaining conservative would have trounced McCain.

Both John McCain and Barack Obama appealed explicitly to centrists and independents early on in this campaign. They ran against the polarizing establishment of their respective parties. Their differences on this ground can be fairly characterized as substance versus style, rhetoric versus record. But Obama’s appeals to the center were relentless, beginning with his introduction to the American people at the Democratic convention in 2004, which expressed the underlying insight, “There are no red states. There are no blue states. There are the United States of America.”
John McCain lost in the general election because, the method of doing so aside, Barack Obama had his base locked up, and could afford to play to the center. McCain did not have his base locked up, and was forced to swerve this way and that.

The Republican Party is at a crossroads. Should it abandon its modern history as the home of conservatism, both social and fiscal? Should it return to its roots in classical liberalism? Or should it renounce the excesses of its recent past and become the home of Reaganism again?

I just hope it becomes something, and not the nothing that John Avalon desires for it.

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