My friend Bruce Kesler no longer is a “regular” blogger but he has recently found the time for an occasional guest-post at Maggie’s Farm. It’s good to see Bruce back in the game even on a sometime basis and I’m pleased to point your attention to his following post:
What McCain did right and conservatives wrong
By Bruce Kesler
Over the past four years, conservatives have debated whether the Republican Party is serving them and the country. This discussion was stirred by several proposals by the Bush administration — particularly not vetoing some budget-busters, the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, and the immigration reforms that didn’t prioritize border controls – and the failure to fire back at the gross distortions and language by opponents.
Bush earned respect for his stalwart stance in
Iraq, but even there lost points for his failure to act earlier to change a troubled strategy and command. Seeming backpeddling and soft-shoeing on the threats from Iran and North Korea, though following closer to the liberals’ playbook, didn’t earn him support from liberals or conservatives.
The debate among conservatives and libertarians after this election is likely to grow much more heated, whether McCain wins or loses.
Although conservatives have stood most strongly behind McCain, conservatives do not expect much thanks or loyalty from McCain if he wins, and do expect McCain to continue his practice of alliance with many liberal proposals, as he has in the past. That alone will add heat the pot. On the other hand, conservatives will welcome his Trumanesque temper and bluntness replying to the likely continuation of intemperate Democrats in the Congress.
If McCain loses, conservatives will likely place most of the blame on him and his campaign for failing to take more advantage of Obama’s coterie of radical mentors, to alert more voters of their dangers.
At the same time, in defense of McCain’s campaign approach, those most likely to hold these associations as important are aware of them. Meanwhile, in a campaign during which the overwhelming portion of the major media have utterly failed to research or expose Obama’s lack of record and record of shady allies, McCain would likely not have gotten much further in educating the wider public.
So, McCain has concentrated on trying to woo marginal voters. Those non-partisans react more to appearances and mood.
McCain earned none of the points he should have for trying to tackle the credit-economic meltdown, even by comparison to Obama’s passivity. Neither did McCain draw attention to the Congress’ tainted hands in creating it, but there are many Republican members who sat by and prospered from the false sense of well-being that preceded the deluge. McCain did not throw the Congressional Republicans under the bus, as Obama repeatedly did every time a mentor was exposed. And, McCain did exhibit a bully optimism in reacting to the meltdown and focused on quick actions.
It is that indefatigable optimism and sense of fair play that has been highlighted and redounded to his credit. This is in line with his military and political record of bravely meeting challenges. Despite every odd, McCain has fought the election to a near thing.
Conservatives must recognize that, for any of McCain or his campaign’s failings, it is among conservatives that reform must come. Much of our NY-DC commentariat are corrupted by overlong proximity to comfortable power and cocktail circuits, exhibiting callowness, lethargy or outright capitulation. Their lack of principle and intestinal fortitude must be replaced. Much of our bloggers have been consumed by editorializing and not organizing. The think-tanks we built and many major donors have been cringing or avoiding confrontation. Rank and file conservatives mostly looked to this inadequate leadership instead of to ourselves to step forward and fight.
It will take a major overhaul to revive the conservative movement. As in 1964, it will not come from the establishment, but must depend on openness to new participants and leaders. Of course, that does not mean fringe elements or ideas. The crucial role that National Review played post-1964 in guarding against that will require a new central forum of conservative sanity and principle.
No one can predict where they will come from. But they must be encouraged, welcomed and supported when they appear. Indeed, each of us must see in ourselves the willingness and determination to be those participants and leaders
American conservatism needs a substantial overhaul – perhaps even a 12 Step program - to recover it’s essence as an optimistic philosophy that profoundly empowers individuals and trusts them to make their own choices. Then, in my opinion, conservatives need to harness that spirit to a thorough comprehension of how globalization changed the world to operate in terms of metasystems and networks, so as to balance economic dynamism with resiliency (and learn how to get that point across in normal English). Then go on message and do not deviate.
The other side, if Senator Obama wins Tuesday, will be so consumed with jerry-rigging top-down, hierarchical, statist, solutions out of a fantasist version of the New Deal that they will inevitably overreach and create an opening for a new brand conservatism four years from now.
Or perhaps just two years. Time to get busy.