Conservatives want a candidate who will not only unite the GOP, but will also offer a clear contrast to Barack Obama. As many have noted, we’ve got a field that has numerous strengths and weaknesses, but at present, no clear leader. The Romney camp is hanging in there around 20-25%, hoping to be the last left standing, as the others are voted off the island, but that isn’t going to be good enough. Republicans can’t hope to win without a genuine conservative in 2012, because a moderate Republican will not inspire and motivate the base. Willard “Mitt” Romney can’t break through the his long-standing level of support because he’s a flip-flopper, and while it’s true that if he’s the nominee, some number of conservatives will ultimately support him in the general election as an act of desperation, a victory-denying segment will simply stay home. I would know, because I’m part of that segment.
There are those who have asked me why I would do this, rather than seek to defeat Obama. My answer is that within the GOP, most of our problems and the cause of our losses emanate from the progressive wing of the party. Nobody seems willing to acknowledge it in media, but the real reason McCain was defeated is that he couldn’t motivate conservatives to the polls. Even adding the somewhat more conservative Sarah Palin to his ticket could not save him, and when he suspended his campaign to go back to DC to deal with the financial crisis, rather than appearing to be concerned with the country more than politics, as he had intended, he gave the impression of somebody who wasn’t committed to the fight. That was the death-knell of his campaign. Until that moment, it looked as though Palin might well be able to drag McCain across the finish line first, but after his gamble, the campaign never recovered. John McCain killed his own candidacy in an attempt to appeal to the independents and moderates, but all he accomplished was to dishearten an already suspicious base that had no confidence in McCain. For all her electoral virtues, and her clear appeal with the conservative base, even the rousing appeal of political rock-star Sarah Palin shouldn’t have been expected to rescue McCain from his self-sabotage.
The truth is that the conservative base of the GOP wants somebody nominated who will fight Barack Obama. We want somebody who will challenge the dishonest narratives put forward by the left and their media surrogates. That’s what so many had seen in Palin in 2008, and had hoped to see in a Palin campaign in 2012. These are the conservatives to whom the negotiations of Speaker Boehner look suspiciously like surrender. These are the combative conservatives who populate the party’s base, and they expect a populist conservative who will not retreat from principles. They expect a warrior unafraid of media. In looking at our current crop of candidates, I can’t say for certain if there is such an individual among them, but I can tell you who is not such a candidate. Willard “Mitt” Romney is simply not willing to stand firm on anything. He’s a political contortionist, and the conservative base of the GOP simply will not support him to victory.
Last Wednesday night’s debate in Michigan demonstrated the point clearly: Mitt Romney is not fit to be president by virtue of his constant waffling, shading, and indirect answers. When Romney refused to answer directly the question about whether to let the payroll tax cut lapse, it demonstrated his unwillingness to confront difficult questions. The question was a well-laid trap, and Romney succeeded eventually in side-stepping it, but this is precisely why he should not be considered. The question was set up to get him either to oppose a renewal of the tax cut, thus skewering him with some tax-payers, or to oppose its lapse, thus placing him firmly on Barack Obama’s side of the argument. The problem is that in successfully side-stepping the matter, Romney showed precisely how Barack Obama will destroy him in a general campaign: Obama is going to pigeon-hole him into either agreement, and in so doing, Romney loses the point by looking like a “me too” guy. Michele Bachmann actually went on to answer the question as Romney should have done if he were not an intellectual and moral coward, but that’s not going to help dear Willard in the general election of 2012.
This is a perfect example of the problem with Mitt Romney. He takes no solid positions, and in avoiding controversy, subjects himself to eventual defeat as a flip-flopping weasel. I’ve openly said I cannot support his candidacy, and this is the basic reason. I won’t support him in a general election, but in truth, he’s going to lose with or without my support. A progressive will not successfully motivate the conservative base and Tea Party elements of the Republican party to turn out at the polls, never mind capture the imagination and hope of independents and moderates. The failing of Romney is that he’s not conservative, but more importantly, not anything. The sole virtue that Romney presents to the party is that he’s inoffensive to independents and moderates. This is why the party is putting him forward: They have an obsessive fear of offending anyone. The flaw in this strategy is that this obsession with not being pinned down on any issue winds up offending the conservative base of the party. Conservatives want a candidate who will offend some people because they know that one cannot take a meritoriously firm position on any issue without offending somebody.
What the GOP fails to understand is that conservatives are tired of being the only offended party. Too frequently, conservatives are treated by the GOP like some of the base constituencies of the Democrat Party: They pander to us only when absolutely necessary, but in the end, they know they can safely moderate their position, because after all, where are we going to go? This ignores the fact that we don’t need to go anywhere, including particularly on election day. If the GOP establishment doesn’t grasp this, we’re going to see a repeat of 2008 in 2012. While they may succeed in driving some to the polls out of fear of four more years of Obama, that won’t be enough to win the day, because not all of us fear Obama and his revolutionary leftists. Increasingly, there is among our number the growing drumbeat of war that says: “It’s time to get this over with. No more delaying the inevitable.” While mouthing his words in sorry imitation, what the GOP establishment never really learned from Reagan is that to maintain the peace, you must prepare for war. The base looks and sees no warriors rising to lead them, but nevertheless prepares.