The Republican and media Establishments have joined hands in an attempt to lead America buoyantly, triumphantly off the cliff into the bottomless pit of civilizational dissolution. They have fought their version of the good fight, prematurely creating the optics, and, if all goes well, the dynamics, of a two-man race, where in fact there are six men and a woman.
They have settled all their chips on the two candidates who are least conservative, most establishmentarian, and, in their actions and rhetoric, most pragmatic and unprincipled. And they have done everything within their considerable power to disseminate the irrational narrative that now, before a single vote has been cast, life stinks for anyone who is not in one of the two anointed camps.
So what else is new?
In 1964, Barry Goldwater won the Republican nomination. His main opponent was the “moderate” Nelson Rockefeller. Rockefeller was polling well going into the early primaries, until a peculiar write-in movement arose in support of Richard Nixon’s 1960 VP running mate, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. A Massachusetts moderate, Lodge won three of the first five states as a write-in candidate, thus effectively unravelling Rockefeller’s Establishment campaign. This was particularly evident in the first contest, New Hampshire, where Rockefeller finished only one point behind Goldwater, 22% to 21%, while Lodge got 36%, most of which, in all likelihood, would otherwise have gone to Rockefeller. After Lodge formally withdrew from the race, Rockefeller picked up some steam, won a couple of states, and came close to winning California, which might have turned the tide in his favor. Had the Lodge write-in campaign not occurred, things might have turned out in the Establishment’s favor.
In 1976, the Establishment man was President Gerald Ford. Famously, Ford won the first six states, and eight out of the first nine, before Ronald Reagan’s campaign began to break through the mainstream chatter, and to find its audience among the burgeoning conservative undercurrent of the Republican Party. By the time of Ford’s narrow victory at the Party convention, as Reagan, by popular demand, gave a short speech to the delegates, there was a sense among many present that they had just made a huge mistake. (Mark Levin has pointedly emphasized that some of today’s prominent Washington conservatives, such as George Will, did not originally support Reagan in the 1980 primaries. This interesting bit of history gains further trenchancy when one recalls that 1980 was not the conservative punditry’s first chance to take a serious look at the mature Reagan—anyone can misjudge a relative unknown—but the second. What was their excuse that time?)
In 1980, the Establishment man was George H.W. Bush. Though the conservative with the proven constitutionalist credentials was polling well during the spring and summer, the Establishment choice began to “overtake him” during the final months before Iowa, creating the impression of “momentum” in Bush’s favor. (Sound familiar?) Bush won Iowa and Massachusetts, losing only New Hampshire in between. Reagan won almost everything after that.
In 1996 and 2000, the Establishment got the candidates it wanted, in part due to a paucity of credible conservative opposition. (Remember George W. Bush’s unofficial welcoming party thrown by the Senate Republicans during the 1999 primary campaign?)
In 2008, the Establishment wanted Romney, and sure enough, he won three of the first five states, and built up a big lead in the delegate count. Gradually, however, as people began to look at him, to look through him, to run their hands through him and find out there was nothing there, they started looking for other options. Hence, in a campaign which by that time had lost its conservative candidate—Fred Thompson—to the Establishment’s created illusion that he lacked popular appeal, even McCain started to look okay. At least he had an inspiring personal story.
This quick survey of most of the Republican nominating processes since 1964, when modern conservatism began its slow insurgency within the party, suggests a few important conclusions relevant to today’s fight over the soul of the GOP, and, in turn, over the survival or demise of the American republic.
First of all, winning the first primary or caucus—or, for that matter, winning most of the early contests—has had little or no predictive value in determining the eventual nominee.
Secondly, the early leader has generally been the Establishment’s preferred man, as he naturally tends to get the media’s attention early on, to be presented to voters as having “momentum” at just the right time, to have well-placed endorsements, and therefore to have plenty of money.
Third, the genuine best available candidate, the most principled person with the strongest record, in word and deed, of resisting government encroachments upon liberty, is never the Establishment’s preferred candidate. Today’s Establishment is not for liberty. It is for controlling the governing process, and therefore wishes for nothing more than the exclusion of outsiders who might take some control of the levers from their hands, or worse, actually relinquish some of the government’s illegitimately acquired powers back to the citizens.
There is no precedent for worrying much about the results of the early primaries or caucuses. There is no precedent for believing that the official optics of frontrunners and momentum have any bearing on reality, or on final results. And there is certainly no precedent for believing that the Establishment’s preferred candidate is the best available person for the job. (Quite the contrary.)
What the historical precedent I have just outlined does, in fact, indicate for constitutional conservatives, is that they should walk quickly away from any candidate who is broadly endorsed by the party elite, including both those in elected office and those in the media. If such candidates also become the beneficiaries of bet-hedging acceptance from leading voices in the conservative or “new” media, of defenses of their records that seek to outlaw honest critique by invoking the so-called “Eleventh Commandment,” and of paeans to the great god Electability, then constitutionalists are advised to turn that quick walk into a brisk run.
Allow me to reiterate for emphasis: the Republican Establishment does not support candidates whom it perceives as combatants against the established Washington order. If that Establishment is working to nominate particular candidates, or to create an artificially limited field of “legitimate” or “real” contenders, then you can be assured that they have determined to their own satisfaction that those candidates are no threat to their sense of entitlement and influence. No amount of excuses or provisional support from popular conservative voices can change that bare fact.
It follows, then, that to acquiesce to the manufactured sense of inevitability around those Establishment candidates, and to accept them on the illusory grounds that “anything is better than Obama,” is to resign oneself to the continuation of politics as usual in Washington. Some Republicans may, of course, be comfortable with that. The little problem with it, however, is that Western civilization cannot stand four more years of politics as usual in Washington. It’s now or never for freedom, the rule of law, individualism, rationality, adult responsibility, and any possibility of long-term material well-being for humanity. The Dark Ages really happened. They are called the Dark Ages precisely to contrast them with what came before and after. That is to say, the recent cultural history of prosperity, reason, and relative liberty—reaching its peak in the United States of America—is no guarantor against a return to darkness. America’s current fiscal, regulatory, and cultural path is about to prove that point with a finality that will be a shock to those who would prefer to watch American Idol and forget the whole thing. Those, on the other hand, who see what is coming have a duty to their own souls to find out what they can do to change this bleak future, and to do it.
Changing the future requires changing the present. The Establishment, by its very nature, is resistant to that change. The Establishment must therefore be rejected utterly.
Am I saying that Mitt Romney is a bad man? No. Am I saying that he does not display self-reliance and decency in his personal life? No. What I am saying is that a “decent” man is not enough. A man who is willing and able to fit himself neatly and effectively into the machine is exactly the wrong person for this urgent situation. What is needed is someone prepared to dismantle and rebuild the entire machine, to smash the parts that are churning out all the bad results, and to help to begin the process—the moral process—of reminding everyone what this machine was meant to do, and why it was such a beautiful apparatus before the evil geniuses got at it.
In the bluntest practical terms, regarding the present nominating process: The Establishment wanted Romney. When they began to fear that conservative resistance to him might open the door to a genuine outsider, or worse, a principled constitutional conservative, they took advantage of the weapon nearest to hand, Newt Gingrich. Standing Gingrich up as the Tea Party conservative against Romney—easy to do, as Gingrich himself had already seen this as his best path to victory, and undertaken his umpteenth regeneration, this time as Tea Party Newt—the Establishment attempted to wedge out the real advocates of limited government in favor of a “conservative” whose lexicon lost the word “limit” decades ago. They had the race they wanted, the primary “you need to have at this point,” as Dick Morris railed the other day. (I discuss his pitch for the status quo here.)
Unfortunately, too many skeptics made the easy case against Gingrich as anybody’s idea of a constitutional conservative—helped in their work by Newt himself, who can’t help embracing every unconservative “big idea” about the positive role of government even while making his case for so-called conservative solutions.
As December rolled along, even the manipulative polling was unable to hide the speedy evaporation of Gingrich’s so-called momentum. The Establishment’s worst fear had returned with a vengeance, namely the possibility that their man Romney might have to stand alone against the real conservative candidates, in a year when, for reasons apparently beyond the understanding of the Washington insiders, that annoying little band of constitutional conservatives was refusing to go away or roll over. But what to do about it? The big thinkers among the elite seem to have hit upon a three-pronged strategy, as I noted in my article on Dick Morris, linked above.
First prong: Continue to administer CPR (Conservative Press Resuscitation) to Gingrich’s campaign.
Second prong: Scare people with the idea that if Ron Paul is “allowed” to finish well in Iowa, all hell will break loose, and therefore that conservatives must get behind Romney and Gingrich to prevent this.
Third prong (the saddest and ugliest of all): Bracing themselves for the possibility that Tea Partiers really can’t be sold the flimsy bill of goods that they are pitching, the Establishment’s media wing is trying to create the narrative that Rick Santorum is enjoying a “surge,” meaning that he is pulling support away from other conservative candidates, particularly Michele Bachmann. The continued prominence of Santorum’s presence on the Drudge Report over the past few days, along with the strongly negative headlines about Bachmann (she’s losing this, she’s losing that) and the almost perfect silence on Rick Perry, strongly suggest an attempt to squeeze out other conservatives in favor of Santorum. Santorum, who has a good message but shows very little ability to get that message across with resonance, or to tie his good ideas directly to deeper constitutional principles, is the safest of the Tea Party candidates from the Establishment point of view. That is to say, they don’t think he can become a real threat to their plans, so it’s safest to encourage Tea Partiers to coalesce around him, rather than Perry, who has money, or Bachmann, who cites the Constitution almost as often as Gingrich cites himself.
The Republican Establishment, its media supporters, and the liberal media that also has an investment in politics as usual—and in avoiding the danger presented by a genuine conservative Republican—will control the official story, and the nature of the coverage, of this primary campaign. The only way to defeat these forces is Reagan’s method: speak over the heads of the Establishment manipulators, directly to the voters. This can only be done effectively by someone who speaks with moral clarity, consistency, and believability on the fundamental issues; who appeals to the voters’ sense of the historical importance of this moment; and who brings not only the spirit, but also the explicit ideas, of the U.S. Founding Fathers to bear on the mortal danger facing the republic at this time. That’s the kind of voice the Establishment fears. And that’s why they hope Santorum can be used to deflate the Bachmann campaign. They believe he doesn’t have that voice.
For those who care about the survival (or rather rebirth) of the United States as a representative republic, the message is simple: Don’t listen to the Republican Party Establishment. They don’t want what you want. And don’t listen to their fear tactics about the early caucuses and primaries. Party history proves their propaganda wrong. Listen to the candidates, think about the gravity of this moment in human history, and vote your conscience. Your soul—and others—will thank you later.
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