Beyond McCain

The nomination is all but sealed up. There will be some interest about the VP pick. Then Republicans with any brains will line up — as they did for George H. W. Bush, for example, who we forget made quite a contrasting figure when compared to his boss — and work together to keep two of the most liberal members of the U.S. Senate out of the White House.

Good.

Now what for the Republicans? For conservatives?

Frank J has some thoughts — mostly the kind the rest of us dast not utter:

The thing is, conservatives just want to fight for something, but we’re not sure what we can fight right now. We want to fight terrorists, but we first have to fight the hippies to be able to do that properly. The only problem is that there is no valiant leader shouting, “Strike the hippies now! They are small and weak and shall fall easily to our might!” That’s what we Republicans need: A hippie-slaying warrior king. First person to go into Berkeley and trash the hippies will be the new future leader of the Republicans. Hopefully someone will do it soon.

I, for one, am committed to keep an eye out for just such a mythical savior-king, though considering that my office looks out onto East 42nd Street (thank God, it does looks west, so I don’t have to actually see the UN unless I take a wrong turn coming out of my building) in Hillary City, I don’t expect to see him.

So what is my job, as a registered (but not dues-paying, just this lately) Republican?

The party needs to be cleaned up, and fixed. That is not because it is going to nominate John McCain; as I keep saying, the electorate, including the Republican piece of it, is simply not as conservative as the loudest among us (present company included) wish it were. John McCain has been running for President for over a decade, and it is hardly surprising that he had great organization, great connections, great media relationships, and finally won.

No, the problem is what got us to this point — from two houses of congress eight years ago, to none now. From an energized, assertive and confident party, to a … not one of those.

Frankly, the blame must mainly go to President Bush, whom I admire, over all, but whose flaws as a party leader are perhaps greater than those he has displayed as President. He said, after the 2004 elections, that he had earned political capital, and intended to spend it. Instead he — and his disappointing Administration — squandered it. The years of complete dominance in Washington amounted to absolutely nothing, legislatively or on virtually any domestic policy front, for conservatives. Coupled with the Administration’s tin ear and lack of self respect on key personnel decisions, notably the Harriet Miers nomination and the choice of Alberto Gonzales at Justice, there was precious little to cheer about from the White House and very little reason to be excited about being a Republican.

But the executive does not merit all the blame here. Republicans in Congress were, by and large, a massive disappointment, whether in the majority or out of it. They basically remain so. Their choices of leadership have been uninspired, to say the least. Their appetite for spending has been reprehensible. And their involvement in and toleration of humiliating scandal, implicating both disgusting financial crookedness and influence-peddling, plus a stunning level of impropriety in the realm of personal morality, have been as disheartening as could more or less be imagined.

I don’t know if it’s just a matter of, that’s the kind of people who are willing, or eager, to work in Washington these days; or something about the GOP; or some sort of weird reaction to the workings of the Bush Administration. Is there any hope for this party that squandered so much, so fast, and which is so singularly devoid of principled, conservative political figures — especially those still in office — behind which the disenchanted might rally around?

Perhaps this, really, is the greatest test John McCain, a moderate conservative and long-time Republican poised to become the leader of a once grand old party, faces now.

Ron Coleman blogs at Likelihood of Success.

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