Unfortunately, this prophecy of doom may prove self-fulfilling. The GOP seems certain to lose the White House. On top of a reenergized Democratic Party, Republicans suffer from a malaise surrounding their presidential candidates. But this angst over the Republican primary is not due to an actual lack of conservatism among the candidates. Rather, Republicans are looking for a perfect candidate, which sadly doesn’t exist. And unless Republicans realize that no one candidate will rescue them, they’ll see a lot of blue on election night.
The fickleness with which Republicans approach their candidates is frustrating. The top tier offers an all-star cast, yet the party discards them like unwanted wool sweaters. Former NYC Mayor Giuliani reduced crime in his city by 60 percent, but he’s pro-choice. Arizona Senator John McCain advocated the successful surge strategy in Iraq years ago, but he pushed for the failed immigration overhaul. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney turned a nearly $3 billion deficit into a $700 million surplus without raising taxes, but he only recently converted to social conservatism. Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson—well you have me there, I don’t know what’s so great about him.
Republicans complain that their candidates attack each other more often than they attack the Democrats. But the Republican candidates have been bashing Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for months. Last week, Mayor Giuliani made a web ad slamming Senator Clinton’s flip-flop on the Iraq War. On the stump, Gov. Romney warns of the Democrats turning the country to the Left instead of forward. Both candidates have pointed out that of the main three Democratic contenders, Senators Clinton, Obama and John Edwards of North Carolina, who all are vying for the nation’s top executive office, not one has run so much as a “corner store.” Apparently, they can’t say enough about the Democrats.
But the Republicans want a choir boy for their soldier; he must be a pure conservative on all fronts: foreign policy, the economy, and social issues. But past Republican presidents never have been perfect. President George W. Bush bloated the federal government with Medicare Part D and the No Child Left Behind Act. His father raised taxes. Even President Ronald Reagan, the gold standard against whom every candidate is measured, granted amnesty to illegal immigrants, political suicide in today’s GOP.
And we need only look across the House to see a party energized and engaged with their candidates, even though they’re far from perfect (from a liberal perspective). The frontrunner, Senator Clinton, voted for the Iraq War, the No Child Left Behind Act, and Medicare Part D, all of which she now criticizes. But the Democrats don’t fret, because they know if Sen. Clinton becomes President, she will advance their cause.
Republicans, too, have a buffet of candidates hoping to promote different versions of conservatism. Some focus on national security, others on social issues, but they all offer the same general philosophy and experience in promoting smaller, more efficient government. Now we need to pick the candidate who offers a version of conservatism most needed for the times, not the conservatism to end all conservatism. After all, even Reagan wasn’t perfect.
Brian J. Bolduc ’10, a Crimson editorial editor, lives in Winthrop House.