The British statesman Benjamin Disraeli said famously, “The Tory Party is the stupid party.” Segue to its lineal descendant. Today’s Republican elite is hapless, not to mention clueless, even hopeless. Less is not more for the GOP.
In a recent Gallup poll, just 20 percent of America calls itself Republican, a brand somewhere between the Edsel and Bernard Madoff. By contrast, a whopping 40 percent are conservative, twice liberalism’s market share. How has the Party of Ronald Reagan lost a right-of-center country? Lack of mind, meet lack of spine.
Return to New York’s 23rd Congressional district: rural and small-town, conservative, a 45,000-vote GOP registration edge. You would think no party could snatch defeat from such demographic jaws of victory. Think again.
In June, Republican Congressman John McHugh resigned to become Army Secretary, forcing a special November 3 special election. The district’s 11 county GOP chairmen met to decide their nominee — surely the next Congressperson — since no Republican could possibly lose.
Their choice was Dede Scozzafava, now Scozzawasa: the symbol of a GOP hierarchy unworthy of its rank and file. She was pro-abortion, gay marriage, union card check, and Obama stimulus plan, all spurned by Republicans. “We need someone who can appeal to Democrats,” said a Reverse Midas chairman. It would have helped had Dede appealed to Republicans.
Most GOPers back traditional values, limited government, and American exceptionalism, loathing Obamacare, secularism, and the political correctness that recently helped kill 13 U.S. soldiers at Ft. Hood in Texas. By contrast, Dede outliberaled Democratic candidate Bill Owens. The base revolted, leading GOP elites to deem it too town hall and tea party for refusing to swap a conservative army for a RINO (Republican In Name Only) brigade.
Like most RINOs, Scozzafava’s plunge began when voters surveyed her record. Straightaway she began listing; whereupon Conservative nominee Doug Hoffman’s support surged; at which point Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, and Fred Thompson backed him; after which Dede dropped out, endorsed Owens, and likely ensured his seat.
Owens will probably lose it in 2010’s regular election. Burned, even 23rd District Republicans will choose someone, to quote Mike Huckabee, who doesn’t think “summer is a verb.” Disraeli called such people “stupid.” They are also timid and parochial, absurdly letting Albany and Washington forge Liberal Lite policy, like asking Lehman Brothers where to spend.
Eugene O’Neill wrote: “There’s no present and there’s no future: only the past, over and over again.” To me, Scozzafava evoked a 1968 tale, repeated for the reader now. That June, the GOP race for President had winnowed to Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon. New York’s Republican elect fell like lemmings behind its liberal Governor. As a teenager in my Upstate county, Livingston, I began a guerilla raid.
I recruited my fifth-grade sister and five friends, each 11, borrowed dad’s van, and trekked the county posting Nixon placards. GOP higher ups were amused, then vexed. Just before the primary, a drunken party apparatchik phoned my father at 1 a.m., slurring, “Can’t you keep your son in line?”
Dad never tried. He, too, backed Nixon; moreover, could not be bought. On Election Day — you can look it up — our bookstrap kiddie corps routed the machine’s regular Rockefeller delegate slate, 2-1. It was a “teachable moment,” as another President in another context would say.
I learned that grasping Middle America’s truths and verities could outlast a rival’s bank account. I found GOP leaders eager to go along to get along: like, Democrats, feeling power an end, not means. Unlike them, Republicans would deceive their base — the mechanic, housewife, farmer, teacher — anyone to protect the best job GOP hacks and flacks would ever have.
Dede Scozzafava’s chairmen were weak, me-too, and afraid, middle-class betrayal all around. Miming O’Neill — past repeated; Republicans as Whigs — RINOs conoon in a time warp where, as the adage says, Rockefeller never died and Reagan was never born.
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