Conservatives were greatly encouraged by the results of the 2010 national elections. Furthermore, they were excited about the Republicans completing the sweep in 2012 by taking the Senate and the White House. The chance to not only defeat the current crop of ultra-liberal Democrats leading those two institutions, but to finally reverse a century-long slide into statism, socialism and amoral secularism; that worthy goal seemed within reach.
Therefore, intense interest arose among conservatives in the Republican presidential nomination process that began last summer. It was disappointing when those most qualified to lead the envisioned counter-revolution chose not to participate. Jim DeMint, Mike Pence, John Bolton and Paul Ryan were among them. But there still appeared to be highly qualified individuals who might be capable of leading a restoration of America back to its founding principles of individual liberty, free markets, limited government and American exceptionalism. Alas, today, conservatives are not so sanguine about the prospect.
Among the declared candidates, there were two that conservatives eyed with suspicion – Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. While the fiscal aspects of Paul’s libertarian philosophy are appealing, his isolationist tendencies and laissez-faire moral stances put him outside the pale. Besides, he is 75 years old with an annoying hint of anti-Israel bias in his background. As for the other non-starter, Mitt Romney, he is guiltily of serial flip-flopping on critical issues; and his promotion of Romneycare disqualified him as it would fatally compromise his ability to challenge Obamacare. While there is much to admire in his book, No Apology, it is hard to know which parts were written with conviction and which in order to kowtow to the conservative base whose votes he would need for the nomination.
Thus began a depressing winnowing of the remaining pretenders in the field. The first contender out of the gate was Tim Pawlenty. The convictions outlined in his book, Courage to Stand, seem to be genuine. But he behaved as if his primary method of convincing voters of his qualifications was to eviscerate Michelle Bachmann. He came across as petty and mean-spirited. Adios Tim.
Then it was natural to look more closely at Ms. Bachmann. But she didn’t look so good: no executive experience (we already have that with Obama), reputation as a nasty person, that strange ‘wild deer in the headlights’ glare in her eyes, singing “Barack Obama will be a one-term president” as if it was a sorority pledge chant or the mantra of a hypnotized cult member. So long Michelle.
Then Herman Cain hurtled to the head of the class. But not for long. His reply to every question was “9-9-9,” another mindless chant that represented giving the feds a new taxing authority. Bad idea! Anyway, his fiery destruction at the hands of numerous women he supposedly groped occurred before conservatives could meaningfully assess his candidacy. Ciao Herman.
Ah but here comes Rick Perry to the rescue. Now, his book, Fed Up, is fantastic – an extremely well articulated presentation of conservative values and philosophy of government, expressed with fervor and definitely conviction. But oops… Rick can’t seem to remember anything beside his name and that he is from Texas. In one breathtakingly bad performance after another, he conveys that he is not serious, is unprepared and probably didn’t write his own book. Hit the road, Rick.
Next to surge forward is Newt Gingrich. He does it solely on the basis of his debate performances. They are sterling. He excoriates the liberal moderators, runs rings around his competitors, never says “uh,” has an outstanding command of the issues and strikes a resoundingly conservative tone. Is Newt the man? His history, unfortunately, says no. Indeed he has flip-flopped as much as Romney – e.g., the commercial with Nancy Pelosi highlights his prior incorrect stance on global warming. Actually, there are a host of issues on which Newt has been all over the map: illegal immigration, the individual health mandate, government lobbying. However, the most damning feature of Newt’s persona is illustrated by his spontaneous outburst eviscerating Paul Ryan’s eminently reasonable and conservative approach to fixing the federal entitlement programs as “right-wing social engineering.” Absolutely unforgiveable! Newt is a brilliant idea man. But he is severely undisciplined, tempestuous, unpredictable, quick to anger, and perhaps borderline unstable. In the end, the thought of his finger on the nuclear trigger is more than a little unsettling. Sayonara Newt.
Of course there were the also rans like Gary Johnson and Jon Huntsman. They don’t even merit a wave goodbye.
So where does that leave us? Aside from the afore-mentioned Paul and Romney, only Rick Santorum remains. Puleez! A nice family man, good looking, basically conservative. But where is the stature: no executive experience, dramatically inferior in gravitas to a host of potential candidates who did not enter the race, and what exactly has he been doing in the five plus years since he got creamed running for reelection to his Pennsylvania Senate seat? Oh and there are also some serious black marks against his conservative credentials earned during his Senate stint. Arrivederci Rick.
And then there were none! Thus one comes hesitatingly, disappointedly and agonizingly to the conclusion that Romney is the survivor to support for the nomination. Actually, lately he has shown a toughness that we had had not seen previously and which he will need to defeat Obama. Of course most of it has been expressed in scurrilous attacks on Newt – who then quickly abrogated his own pledge to run a positive campaign and struck back. In fact, the battle between the remaining four contestants for the nomination has turned nasty, vindictive and exasperating. Many conservatives have lost interest in the debates as each of the surviving flawed candidates simply provides ammunition for Obama’s attack machine that will be aimed at the eventual nominee.