Fox News Sunday for Memorial Day this year featured an interview with the war hero and former Senator from Kansas, Bob Dole. The Republican nominee for President in 1996 walked right into the trap set by the leftwing ‘narrative’ of growing extremism from the radical right and Tea party groups. The suspicion peddled by this army of Iagos whispering into gullible ears is that even President Reagan, the subject of unprecedentedly virulent attacks while in office, but now suddenly a good President in the view of the Left, could not succeed in the radical environment of the Tea party and assorted conservative extremists.
The aged Dole, taking the bait, said this of the Republican Party:
I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says closed for repairs until New Year’s Day next year and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.
Let’s take a closer look at this prevalent, but false “narrative.” An instructive example is E. J. Dionne’s Washington Post column of May 26, 2013, “The Obama Riddle.” If Obama is a moderate, Dionne suggests, then the Tea Party and other opponents are surely extremists. Thus Obama is a “successful politician,” “a tempered sort of progressive,” who has to put up with “racism” from the right and dissatisfaction from the left. BHO is an “anti-ideological leader in an ideological age, a middle-of-the-road liberal.” Now if Dionne would remove his leftwing blinders, he would recognize the most politicized White House in history and a President maintaining the illusion of personal moderation while pursuing the goal of “fundamental transformation of America” through surrogates in Congress and appointments of radicals to critical positions of power. If he is a leader in any sense, our aloof, disengaged, detached President is a leader from behind.
The Fox News Sunday moderator, Chris Wallace, then followed up with the expected question, raised many times over by the left and its journalist allies:
Could people like Bob Dole, even Ronald Reagan, could you make it in today’s Republican Party?
Dole’s reply was predictable:
I doubt it. And I — Reagan wouldn’t have made it. Certainly Nixon couldn’t have made it, because he had ideas and, we might have made it, but I doubt it. … I just consider myself a Republican, none of this hyphenated stuff. I was a mainstream conservative Republican, and most people are in that category.
We do not believe that Reagan would have failed in today’s political climate, quite the contrary. But old time Republicans like Bob Dole certainly would. His log-rolling, middle-of-the-road, let’s-make-a-deal Republicans of the past are being outmanoeuvred by Democrats at every turn. Reagan had principle and more important he was trustworthy. Dole was an uninspiring candidate in 1996. His nomination was more a tribute from the establishment to his seniority than to his political skill or leadership abilities. He was more trustworthy than Clinton, but could not prevail against the latter’s triangulation (aka deception.) The old-guard Republican establishment, represented by Dole, has given us a succession of uninspiring, failed Presidential candidates, broken only by the moderately inspiring George W. Bush.
The real question is this: how can Republicans become a credible, effective opposition party and then the party in power in the face of the determination, even fanaticism, of the Democrats and their allies on the far left? Mainstream, old-fashioned Republicanism won’t do it. The Democrats politicize everything, the cost to the country be damned. Every compromise gets the Left one step closer to its goal of fundamental and irreversible transformation. You cannot reason with unreasonable people. Republicans need backbone and skill. They need predictably conservative candidates, not flakes like McCain and various other ‘squishes’ in the Senate. They must not shy from critical political fights to the death, but at the same time look above the politics of the moment to the ultimate goal of restoring and preserving America’s core values and greatness. They need to offer the public sound, attractive, trustworthy choices. A choice, not an echo, to quote Senator Goldwater.