Avoiding a Republican Rout in November


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As matters stand, the Republican Party is facing an historic shellacking in November.

In part, this is just the usual yin and yang of partisan politics. The GOP has held the presidency for nearly eight years, and controlled Congress for six of them (until ousted by the Democrats in 2006). In a two-party system like ours, when the usual gripes against the party in power build up, what is there for the voters to do but throw the rascals out and install their opponents in their place?

On top of that, President Bush is ending eight years in office, and the inevitable accumulation of complaints against him is also telling against the Republicans in Congress.

But in addition to these virtually unavoidable disadvantages, Bush is saddled with the blame for an unpopular war in Iraq, and here at home the economy is widely alleged to be in poor shape. So you will look high and low before finding a professional politician, in either party, who privately expects a Republican victory this fall — either in the presidential election or in Congress. Realistically speaking, can anything be done about this?

Probably not much. In all likelihood, this is going to be “a Democratic year.” Still, there is no reason why the GOP has to watch the Democratic juggernaut descending on it like a deer transfixed in the headlights of an oncoming car. There are certainly steps it could take that might at least diminish the size of its defeat.

For example, how about holding an off-year convention that would command big media coverage and serve to state the case for a Republican victory? It could feature the party’s strongest leaders and best speakers, and put forward proposals for popular legislative initiatives that would be difficult for the Democrats to duplicate.

The problem here, of course, would be that every speaker and faction would be trying (as in any convention) to advance its own cause at the expense of its rivals. But since there would be no definitive outcome — no presidential nominee — one could hope that the various candidates and causes would realize that their own best interests would be served by seeking to advance the Republican cause in general rather than gaining an advantage over their intra-party foes. At the very least, such a convention would focus national attention on the Republican Party and its proposed solutions for the nation’s problems rather than the Democratic alternatives.

I don’t want to underestimate the difficulties involved in holding such a convention, but it seems to me that the case for doing so is a powerful one. Surely it would be preferable to the current alternative, in which Republican candidates for Congress and state offices try desperately to save their individual hides while the party as a whole says nothing.

And it would serve to put the Democrats in a bind, for they would either have to yield the national spotlight to their hated rivals or try to cobble together some collective reply of their own, with all the difficulties that would present.

If a “convention” sounds too complicated to try to put together at this late date, there are less intricate alternatives. How about a four-day “convocation” of thoughtful Republican spokesmen for the various major viewpoints within the party, designed to appeal to the American people as a gathering of basically like-minded patriots?

Almost anything that suggested there is a party out there, with views and purposes on which most Americans can agree, would be better than the present gaggle of uncoordinated office-seekers, each chasing his or her own will-o-the-wisp.


This article originally appeared on Townhall.com on May 20, 2008


  • William Rusher

    William A. Rusher, a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute, was the publisher of National Review magazine from 1957 to 1988. A prominent conservative spokesman, Rusher gained national recognition over forty years as a television and radio personality. Since 1973, his syndicated column "The Conservative Advocate" has appeared in newspapers across the U.S. He is also a prolific author and lecturer, with five books and numerous articles. His notable works include "The Making of the New Majority Party" and "The Rise of the Right." An influential political activist, Rusher was instrumental in the 1961 draft of Barry Goldwater for the 1964 Republican nomination, which reshaped the Republican Party and continued under Ronald Reagan. He graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, served in the Air Force during World War II, and worked at a major Wall Street law firm. He also served as associate counsel to the U.S. Senate's Internal Security Subcommittee before joining National Review. In 1989, Rusher became a Distinguished Fellow at the Claremont Institute, continuing to write and advise from his home in San Francisco. He remains active on various boards, including the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, National Review Inc., and the Media Research Center.

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