Hello to Christopher Buckley--(loved Thank You for Smoking!), hello to Kathleen Parker, hello to Andrew Sullivan, hello to David Frum and David Brooks. I'm addressing this to you because in recent weeks, a divide has come between you and the Republican Party. The real source of this break is Sarah Palin, and some of you have observed that the Republican Party has left you, rather than you having left it.
The news this week, written in the Times and in your blogs and all over the media-sphere, is that you all have broken with McCain-Palin '08, and for that you are the target of your party's vitriol and attack. Conservative minded papers are breaking with McCain-Palin 08, turning Democrat for the first time since 1964. So the question remains: where now for you all?
Many triumphant liberals have taken it that you have endorsed Obama-Biden. Some of you have. Some of you have said that you're not going to vote. I certainly haven't heard anyone endorsing Bob Barr, but that's not surprising--after all, you're smart conservatives and a "Libertarian" who voted for the PATRIOT Act is no more appealing to you than the current McCain Palin ticket. But the question remains: where now for you all?
It's interesting that the date 1964 is the last time the Republican Party has been torn apart like this. Admittedly, I wasn't alive them, but from my reading of history, it appears that that was the date that "conservative" Republicans seemed to take the ball from "moderate" Republicans, as they were labelled in those days. That was when Barry Goldwater took the nomination, over Governor Rockefeller's brigades (note that there was a Romney in that primary too, as pointless as that trivium is). When Reagan won in 1980, George Will wrote:
It took 16 years to count the votes [of the 1964 election], and Goldwater won.
But Barry Goldwater was a libertarian on social issues, after all, he said:
When you say "radical right" today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican party and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.
We've got a party that, on certain issues, falls to the right of Barry Goldwater. We've got a problem, and you all know that. The step to the right that Barry Goldwater started, and the step to the right again that Ronald Reagan took, is becoming a step too far. But you all know that, that's why I'm writing you this email.
I'm just begging one thing of you: don't let the Party leave you.
You all are the brightest of the Conservative movement, the ones who give it brains and sophistication. A party which hates the elite is deliberately dumbing itself down as fast as it can, so that it can't provide any meaningful solutions, or counterbalance to the Democrats. That's why they need you, even if they don't know it yet.
You can't give up. The fate of the country needs you.
The Democratic Party needs you, just as much as the Republican Party needs you, and almost as much as the American Public needs you (as much as they'll scream that they don't). You see, intellectual rigor improves everybody. When Democrats are right, they'll be able to prove it in a field of difficult discussion. When they are wrong, they won't be able to get by while being wrong. And the same should work vice versa. Constructive criticism is the most important social function that we can exercise as citizens. I have full faith that you won't stop. But right now, just criticism isn't enough.
Bill Kristol created this Sarah Palin monster. The fringe of the Republican Party is very good at getting attention; for their allies, they appeal to the base instincts of fear and greed and get them excited. For their enemies, they also appear to fear: fear of what their opponents could become in power. Sarah Palin gets a large share of attention because her insane, nativist rants against the "other" are far more 'interesting' than intelligent discussion on the merits and drawbacks of nationalizing the banking system. Not just to the huddled masses who she's playing to, but even to us intelligent people: we may agree or disagree with various policies, but Palin hits us right where we hurt: a vision of what politics could be if we don't fight this right now.
So what are you going to do, Conservative Minds? Might I make a suggestion? Find the anti-Palin. Go out there, look at Conservatives. Find someone you respect. And put them forward. We've noticed Barack Obama's quiet and calm demeanor. He launched himself into the public eye in the Primary by being loud and eloquent. But some Republicans out there might be quiet and calm all the time. They're not going to get much face time. Start making their names known.
Who do you look up to in the Republican Party? Do you see any rising stars? I've heard a few names thrown around; Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, for instance; or older figures like Senator Olympia Snowe. Get them involved. Contact them for statements. Light a fire under their ass, and make them take back the party.
The Republican Party can't keep moving right forever. If they lose more and more people, there won't be a Republican Party. The next time the Republican Party has a Presidential Primary, they're going to need someone to do what Barack Obama did for us in the Democratic Party: to show us a respectable future, a future that we as party members can be proud of.
And Barack Obama's creation as a figure on the national stage is not an accident. Somebody noticed him, among all the other freshmen senators, and decided to make him keynote the 2004 Democratic Convention. That's when I first heard him. And when he said that night that there aren't Red States and Blue States, but rather these United States, I knew that I had a future in the Democratic Party that wasn't Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, both of whom I dislike and would prefer not to be represented by. In fact, I didn't self-identify as Democrat until Barack Obama had won the primary. It might be hard for you all to call yourselves Republican until you have another Ronald Reagan to make you proud to be Republicans (or for Mr. Sullivan, another Margaret Thatcher).
It's going to be difficult. Many people are going to want to style themselves as the second-coming. If McCain-Palin loses, Palin's career will most likely be over; it's rare for a defeated VP candidate to make a convincing Presidential candidate later on, especially since if this election plays out the way it looks like it's going now, she's going to wind up shouldering the blame. Every Conservative who has turned against McCain Palin has been vocal about citing her selection as a turning point in their lack of support, and if part of the core of conservatism blames her, it'll be easy to see her negative effect on the election. So she'll be out.
Who's going to represent you in 2012?
What are you going to do about 2010? Where are the Congressmen to send back to Congress? Every few weeks we hear about abuse of power and sexual misconduct from Congressmen. They continue to cater to President Bush's agenda. They don't represent the future of the Republican Party. Who will?
That's your challenge for the next several years. These issues are too important for you all to withdraw, to say that the Republican Party has left you behind, and to just sit back and wait until someone does come along. It's up to you to construct the party of the Big Tent once more.
P.S. Just don't remake your party too well. I still want liberals to run the country!