I wrote during the CBS News debate a few weeks ago that this current field of Republican presidential candidates is astonishingly less inspiring and conservative than in 2008 which, in turn, was less inspiring than 2000. At least in 2008 we had the opportunity to get behind a sage conservative traditionalist in Duncan Hunter. We just never game him the attention or support he deserved, in my opinion.
So we have a pattern here — a decreasing trend of truly conservative, inspiring candidates in the mold of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. In fact, we get quite the opposite: Mitt Romney and Newt Ginrich, both of whom will take any side of an issue that will result in their election; Herman Cain, who, despite being a conservative traditionalist, wasn’t ready to be president; Ron Paul is refreshingly right on many issues — the Federal Reserve, national debt, etc. — but troublesomely wrong on several issues including aspects of his foreign policies; Jon Huntsman is even more liberal than a typical RINO (Republican In Name Only); Michele Bachmann, much like Sarah Palin, would make a much better senator than president; and finally Rick Santorum who, I believe, is a good man, he’s just not on the level he was several years ago.
We have to ask ourselves, why are these the candidates from which we have to choose? Why is the roster of principled, conservative leaders declining election cycle after election cycle?
The answer lies, at least partially, in the mistaken belief that a primary, particularly the Republican primary, should be a process that focuses squarely on attacking the Democrat candidate(s) and results in electing someone who as perceived as the most “electable” (read liberal) general election candidate.
Former Republican National Committe Chairman Michael Steele championed this belief when he wrote earlier this week on Politico:
The base is looking for a fighter, but they don’t want the fight to be taken to another member of the family. Their fight, which should be the candidate’s fight is with Obama.
This type of thinking completely misses what the object of a party primary should be: to nominate a candidate that embodies the core philosophy and values of the the party and inspires and energizes its members. The candidate chosen for those reasons will indeed be the most “electable.”