Is it just about high time for the Republican
rank-and-file (or even at least one
candidate) to "fish or cut bait"?
Monday, March 12, 2012
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
This past Saturday (10 March), former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum decisively- with an outright majority of the vote, no less!- won the vote cast by participants in the local Caucuses in the State of Kansas. With this victory, Santorum finally leap-frogged over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich into 2nd place behind front-running former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in terms of Republican National Convention delegates already bound/pledged to GOP presidential contenders-- that which we at 'The Green Papers' are tracking as our so-called "hard count" (Santorum has long been in 2nd place, ahead of Gingrich, in this website's "soft count" but this same "soft count" has, always, simply our site's attempt to translate- into "delegate equivalence" form- the cumulative results of all the voting: whether in Presidential Primaries or Caucuses; whether these contests be binding or non-binding [or some combination of the two])..
With this, Speaker Gingrich has now lost something he has hitherto had in his "back pocket" as regards the efficacy of his own presidential candidacy (his being the closest to Governor Romney in already-evident delegate support-- and again- as I have ever argued on this very website for the now more than a dozen years it has, so far, been on the Internet: It's the DELEGATES, Stupid!).
Truth be told, the major reason Gingrich has himself given for his own candidacy- that only a conservative as much as he himself portrays himself to be can, ultimately, beat President Obama this coming November- makes little, if any, real sense (then again: just how often do the very words "logic" or "reason" have much to do with the term "American political campaign" in any event? [;-)]). Gingrich's argument is, essentially, that- if we call Conservatism 'X' and that which is not Conservatism (presumably, President Obama himself is here seen as such) 'not X'- X can only win the election because, if X is not nominated by one Major Party, that which is 'not X' put forth by the other Major Party will then win...
simply put: the essence of this "Gingrichian Hypothesis" hinges on the notion that, somehow, the country is- politically speaking- 'X' and 'not X' at one and the same time... .
which, again, is all the purest nonsense!.
Yet it is nonsense that is nothing at all new.
Back in 1964, during his Acceptance Speech before that year's Republican National Convention at the Cow Palace outside of San Francisco, then-Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona- newly nominated for President of the United States by his Grand Old Party- spoke what have since become, arguably, his most famous words:.
I would remind you that Extremism in defense of Liberty is no vice and, let me remind you also, that Moderation in the pursuit of Justice is no virtue..
To be most fair, these words are all too often taken quite out of their original context: immediately prior to this statement, Goldwater had argued against "our Republicanism" (and, yes, he seems to have been using this in both its meanings- as a general term for a republican system of governance while yet linking it to the official name of his own Party in particular- at one and the same time)- otherwise "so focused and so dedicated"- becoming "fuzzy and futile by unthinking and stupid labels". Unfortunately for his own political fortunes, his vain attempt to hereby unite his Party through thus arguing that calling one another "extremist" or "moderate" had no real place only served to further widen the already-extant divide (one in which Extremism was perceived as virtuous while Moderation- really just another word for that "compromise" of which Politics is itself supposed to be the "art"- was seen as so ridden with vice)..
Goldwater, doubtless, honestly believed that his vision- nonetheless- could win the Nation: much like the Richard Nixon who both preceded him (four years earlier) and followed him (but four years hence) as the Republicans' standard-bearer, the Arizonan claimed the existence of a "silent majority": problem was, Goldwater- who himself had delivered (before the immediately preceding GOP Convention) what can best be described as a rather luke warm- at best- endorsement of Nixon's candidacy in 1960 ("Let us put our shoulders to the wheel of Dick Nixon", he back then said, "and push him over the line"; but- at the same time- he had also argued that conservatives [and clearly Nixon was not this in Goldwater's own eyes] could yet "take this Party back some day")....
much like Newt Gingrich today, Goldwater did not really believe a moderate (so pursuing Justice in a manner not all that unlike a pimp pursuing profits through his own control over local prostitution, one supposes: political compromise so being just such a vice! [;-)]) could win as a Republican... historians still debate- and, presumably, will do so for some time to come- whether Nixon's comeback (and victory) in 1968 put short-term pay to Goldwater's most well-known pronunciamento or Ronald Reagan's successfully being elected to two terms as President in the 1980s was its long-term justification, where it might not also even be something of a fulfillment of prophecy!
Yet one is hard-pressed to well argue that Bill Clinton was elected President- not once, but twice (thus, no less than Reagan himself), as well as surviving an Impeachment (one largely based on a sexual scandal, although its original core was Presidential Perjury)- because, somehow, President George H.W. Bush (or, for that matter, Bob "Where's the Outrage?" Dole) had been all too moderate in an otherwise conservative political milieu! This notion seems all the more ludicrous when one considers that the Federal Department of Education- once something that conservative Republicans vowed to positively eviscerate, were they only to get the chance to do so- itself became the linchpin of that 'No Child, Left Behind' of the Administration of the son of the aforementioned President Bush (and himself no less a Republican than any of his predecessors in that High Office)..
Congressman Ron Paul might be able to garner a fair amount of support- albeit still a decided minority- among the Republican Party faithful by suggesting, for instance, "weaning" the American People off of Social Security and views such as this have certainly not denied Mr. Paul a significantly long career in the U.S. House of Representatives (1979-1985; 1997 to date-- not counting a short stint in Congress as the result of a Special Election back in 1976) but rather few persons with any real hopes of serving in some office above the level of, say, "county roadkill cleanup commissioner" would take such a stand (even the Congressman's own son- Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky- has offered proposals [controversial though these might be] to keep Social Security solvent for at least some time to come)... yet it was a stand that was a major part of Goldwater's own campaign for the Presidency now nearly a half century ago!.
Which only goes to show that political views which might well be at least somewhat acceptable- albethey controversial- at one point likely will, within a reasonable lifetime, cease to be even that!
But it also illustrates that the Nation in general- or at least the "bell curve" of the American electorate (which ever, unlike 'true believers' on either side of the ideological divide, determine the outcome of national elections!)- is itself moderate: what might be "moderate" may well vary (but ever so slightly) from election to election and (more broadly) from generation to generation but it is never ever "extreme"..
As a result, the Republican rank-and-file yet to vote in either Presidential Primary or Caucus (like it or not, whether they even realize it or not!) is now approaching something of a "crossroads" in which these voters are going to have to, finally, decide what it is they really want in their own Party's presidential nominee... someone more conservative (yet, by extension, potentially even less appealing to the average "bell curve" voter)?-- or someone who can at least fight with President Obama for the "center of the cake" that is that "bell curve"....
hard-core conservative Republicans- "tea partiers" or no- may loudly decry the so-called 'R I N O' ("Republicans In Name Only") but the eventual Republican Party nominee will- come the Fall- need the R I N O far more than the R I N O might need that nominee... .
or are the Republicans of 2012 so hell bent on making sure rather few are even allowed into their club if only to, thereby, so well demonstrate just how small a number of friends they really have?.
This is the very thrust of that which now faces the general Republican voter... and it is a place in which that voter has long not found him/herself (or, if young enough, has never found him/herself!):.
John McCain, back in 2008, was the GOP nominee-presumptive immediately after the Primaries on the first Tuesday in March that year (gaining the imprimatur of then-President George W. Bush at the White House the very next day); eight years earlier, McCain himself had been the last viable presidential hopeful to withdraw in favor of George W. Bush just days after that same first Tuesday in March: meanwhile, Bob Dole had to wait until after the second Tuesday in March to be hailed as the nominee-presumptive (Steve Forbes dropped out shortly thereafter and only Pat Buchanan was left to simply play pretty much the same role Ron Paul himself ended up playing in 2008); Dole himself managed to hang on all the way until after the last Tuesday in March before giving in to the reality that then-Vice President George H.W. Bush (in essence, running as "Reagan's Third Term") was, indeed, the Party favorite (although it was pretty clear- retrospect aside- that Dole was already beaten some weeks earlier [Dole had overruled his own advisers in order to stay in the race])... .
all in all, one has to go back to 1980 to find an open (that is, where an incumbent Republican President was not running for re-election) GOP nomination race that went well past the Vernal Equinox before we all knew who the Party's presidential nominee was going to be (future President Reagan was not clearly seen as the eventual nominee until early May); 1976 was the last time the Party's nomination race (Reagan versus then-[albeit unelected] President Gerald Ford) didn't end until the delegates themselves were already on the doorstep of the Convention Hall and one has to go all the way back to 1968 to find a Republican National Convention actually choosing its Party's nominee (the last time, by the way, that the floor vote on Roll Call of the States re: the Presidential Nomination itself decided the issue [the balloting began after 1 in the morning during which I and two tent-mates at Boy Scout Camp Mount Allamuchy in the wilds of northern New Jersey were strongly admonished by an Assistant Scoutmaster for continuing to listen to this very Roll Call on a transistor radio well after "lights out" way back at 10 PM!]-- even Nixon's own campaign people [despite public statements to the contrary, of course] didn't think Nixon had the 667 votes he needed to win on the First Ballot [the future President ended up with 25 to spare]).
Do the Republicans yet to vote as we go along here so want a so-called "brokered Convention"?-- or, failing that, a lengthy battle for the nomination that will leave the banners of the eventual GOP nominee at least somewhat tattered and torn going into the General Election campaign (not to also mention the concomitant effect on the time which can then be devoted to choosing a Republican Vice-Presidential nominee)? .
Those who might be tempted to cite the long nomination fight between then-Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the Democratic Party side of things four years ago (arguing, thereby, that a long nomination battle will not necessarily cost the eventual nominee victory in November) must remember two important differences between then and now:
1. Due to the nature of the Democratic Party- as compared to the Republican- the Hillary/Barack "donnybrook" was not so much an ideological contest (although Mrs. Clinton more and more tried to paint herself as more moderate- hence more electable- than Mr. Obama as that pre-Convention contest proceeded apace) as it was a contest between two longstanding Democratic Party "dreams", only one of which was possible- the chance to nominate (and, perhaps, elect) the first woman President of the United States and the chance to nominate/elect the first black President (the fact that Hillary Clinton has effectively performed as President Obama's Secretary of State since belies anything along the lines of what one has, so far, seen in Gingrich vs. Romney in particular and Santorum vs. Romney more generally);.
2. Putting aside the difference in political Party (as well as- as implied in 1. above- the political "culture" within said Parties), 2008 was a completely open race in both Parties as the incumbent President, George W. Bush, was constitutionally prohibited from running for re-election: this time round, the "out" Party- relative to that of the current resident of the White House- faces an incumbent: a fact which, economic downturn or no (economic recovery- however slowly- or no), well alters the whole President Election dynamic as compared to four years back now..
Indeed, it is- over the coming weeks- time for the average Republican voter to "fish or cut bait" as regards the direction in which he or she would actually like his or her Party to now go!.
More importantly, the results in both Alabama and Mississippi this coming Tuesday may well begin to force Newt Gingrich to do the very same thing as regards his own presidential ambitions (then again, they might not!):.
for, if the Republican rank-and-file yet to vote in a Primary or Caucus, indeed, wants the Party to go in a more conservative direction, this presumes that most of said voters don't necessarily want Governor Romney to win the Party's presidential nomination and, further, that there can't be two non-libertarian (Congressman Paul being the champion of the libertarian faction within the GOP) 'anti-Romney' presidential contenders "duking it out" while Romney continues to pile up delegates towards winning the nomination by attrition!.
Put most bluntly: conservative 'anti-Romney' voters who see Libertarianism as being all too libertine are going to have to- and soon!- choose definitively between Speaker Gingrich and Senator Santorum as their representative in this intra-Party squabble; if I am, indeed, wrong and- instead- the "Gingrichian Hypothesis" (that a moderate can't win the Presidency in November 2012 against an incumbent liberal while a more bona fide conservative can) is, somehow, still correct, then those who also so believe can't very well keep on dividing their respective loyalties between Gingrich and Santorum and yet hope to prevail in the end... .
as more and more time goes along here, there are fewer and fewer Primaries and Caucuses which can at all effect the eventual outcome of this 2012 Republican presidential nomination race (as is said of an American football team coming into the 4th Quarter well behind as regards the score, the clock- as much as the opposing team- is now becoming the "enemy"!).
For Newt Gingrich, this certainly means he has to win at least one- if he cannot win both- of the Presidential Primaries in Alabama and Mississippi (he also likely has to also win decisively-- that is: whichever he does win- again, assuming he doesn't win both- has to be a lot like that Georgia in which Gingrich won 47% of the vote and not only bested frontrunner Romney by 21 percentage points but also fellow 'anti-Romney'er Santorum by 27 such percentage points... .
yeah-- that kind of victory!).
Meanwhile, Rick Santorum has to try and make one or both of the Southern States voting this coming Tuesday much more like Tennessee already was for him: win with 37% of the vote while keeping Gingrich a distant 3rd (right now, it doesn't matter- to Santorum, at least- if Romney is the one who finishes directly behind him, so long as it's not Gingrich: else, yet once again, Santorum and Gingrich merely split the 'anti-Romney' vote while Romney likely gets at least a bit closer to the magic number of 1,144 National Convention delegates needed to nominate (while putting even more distance [delegate-wise] between himself and his two main rivals for the nomination), but now with one less week to go in the nomination race thereafter..
Of course, Mitt Romney winning both these States really throws the 'anti-Romney' forces into a veritable tizzy going into Illinois the following Tuesday!.
There is one last Reality Check to be addressed here before I close this piece: after Illinois comes Louisiana the Saturday thereafter (one more seemingly "unfriendly to Romney" Southern State which will still have the same potential pitfalls for the 'anti-Romney' forces as Alabama and Mississippi themselves provide this week-- unless, of course, one of the two remaining "I'm not Mitt Romney- neither am I Ron Paul" presidential contenders has already folded his tent by then)... .
but, after that: D.C. and Maryland (both well within a "Romney comfort zone")- along with Wisconsin (which will be interesting to watch, depending on what has already happened in Illinois [as also compared to what has already transpired in Michigan])- come the first Tuesday in April... then- three weeks thereafter- Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York State and Delaware (all areas where Romney is expected to do quite well, comparatively); Pennsylvania that same day is, of course, Senator Santorum's home State but also has enough areas more Mid-Atlantic than Midwestern which will make the Keystone State highly competitive for Romney as well, despite Santorum's inherent advantages as a native... both nights in April could well be huge for Romney and bad for the 'anti-Romney' conservatives- at least if, come 24 April, they're still in the process of divvying up that conservative 'anti-Romney' vote between themselves while Romney has been- in part, because of this- moving closer and closer to the number of National Convention delegates he needs to win the presidential nomination!.
Over the next week or two to (perhaps) upwards of a month and a half (depending on the fate of the presidential candidacy of at least one of the 'anti-Romney' conservatives during all that time), the Republican Primary voters will very much determine the look of the Republican political landscape as the 2012 nomination race in that Party moves into 'Act III' at some point (this point in time largely dependent on just how well the 'anti-Romney' candidate(s) do/does [or don't/doesn't!]) as this coming April then starts to turn into May..
Meanwhile, the action in 'Act II' continues!