Republicans, Do You Take ____ To Be Your Candidate?
by Noah Glyn | Rutgers University
In the 2008 presidential election, then-Senator Barack Obama fulfilled every liberal Democrat’s wildest dream of a perfect nominee. He was a young minority candidate, with powerful rhetoric, a compelling personal story and an impeccable academic pedigree. He had been “right” about the Iraq war, and seemed best prepared to put Republicans on the defensive. He represented basketball over golf, and hip-hop over classical. He was new and fresh, offering the nation racial healing with a side order of hope and change.
This time around, Republicans and Tea Party activists have yet to coalesce around a candidate who–to quote Jim Morrison–lights their fire. Some are even still waiting for a new candidate to enter the fray. It brings a Bruce Springsteen line to mind: “Waste your summer praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets.” Indeed, it does not behoove conservatives to try to find a perfect candidate. Being a conservative means you must be willing to make decisions given realistic options. Democrats may have found their perfect candidate, but President Obama has governed differently than he promised to, much to the dismay of liberals nationwide.
Republicans eventually have to nominate someone, so we might as well get to know the candidates. Let us run–or sprint–through the pros and cons of the Republican field.
- Mitt Romney: Pros: Looks and talks like a President. Has private sector experience, and is wildly intelligent. Cons: His support would be much higher if YouTube never existed, or if Republican voters didn’t remember anything prior to 2007.
- Jon Hunstman: Pros: A diplomat in every sense of the word. A patriot, too, who didn’t allow party affiliation to prevent him from serving his country. Cons: When speaking, he lowers his chin to his chest as if he is about to burp. It’s weird. Also, he doesn’t seem to like being around the conservatives whom he’s courting.
- Rick Perry: Pros: Strong record as a job creator and education reformer in Texas. Cons: [Insert joke about list of 3.]
- Rick Santorum: Pros: Willing to talk about disappearing manufacturing jobs, and income stagnation amongst poor Americans. Cons: He got crushed in his last campaign in 2006.
- Michelle Bachmann: Pros: Willing to bring the fight to her opponents (just ask Tim Pawlenty). Cons: At times, she can be, well, liberal with the truth.
- Newt Gingrich: Pros: A very good speaker (small “s” is intentional) with command of the issues, and a history of conservative accomplishments. Cons: He’s got more baggage than the Queen of England.
- Ron Paul: Pros: Completely correct about the negative effects of the War on Drugs. Cons: Everything else he says and does.
If conservatives created a Republican version of Frankenstein’s monster, it would be something like this: An attractive, intelligent and diplomatic former businessman with a strong record of job creation, who’s willing to discuss issues important to blue-collar workers, but is also willing and able to put the President on the defensive, while being able to speak intelligently about a whole host of issues, and is prepared to rethink our drug policies. If it seems too good to be true, it’s because it is.
Many Republicans (myself included) are dismayed with the choices they have to choose from. That might be a good thing. Conservatives watched liberals fall in love with the man of their dreams, only to become bitter and resentful with his inaction on Guantanamo, his continuation of the War in Afghanistan, his inability to pass a public option in health care, and his failure to rid the country of the Bush tax cuts.
Conservatives’ best move might be to nominate an imperfect candidate. It would send the message, “We support you against Obama, but you have a tight leash, and we reserve the right to take away our support if you stray from conservatism too much.”
Democrats rushed to marry themselves to a candidate who was smooth and exciting, and said all the right things. Now that the passion has died down, all they can do is try to salvage their marriage.
Whoever wins the Republican nomination will not have the enthusiasm that Obama had in 2008, but what’s needed is a working relationship–not a romance–between the candidate and the base. Democrats will continue to have a hard time divorcing themselves from Obama, because they will always remember what once was, and they will long for that same passion. In a healthy relationship, Republicans should be ready to cast their votes, just not their love.
Noah Glyn is an Agostinelli Fellow at the National Review, and a candidate for a master's degree in public policy from Rutgers University. He writes from a conservative perspective on economic, cultural, political, educational and foreign policy issues.