Bachmann’s conservative victory puts spotlight on question roiling the GOP.
It’s the question no one asks.
It’s the topic everyone is talking about.
What, exactly, is a Republican president anyway?
If the central issue in this election is the role of government — and arguably in one form or another that has been an issue for over a century’s worth of presidential elections (if not all of them) — what is it that Republican presidents have in fact done about it?
What could another one be expected to do?
As the nation focuses on Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s victory in the Iowa Straw Poll, the entry and possible entry of Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin into the race for the White House — and the departure of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty from it — clearly the question of what a Republican president has been and should be is the question that should be asked.
And in one form or another, it is the not-so-underground passionate topic of every Republican in America.
The other week the discussion here was about an “American Tipping Point.” Is it possible that the same principle is at work with Republican presidents? And was Ronald Reagan that GOP presidential tipping point? The point at which a genuinely conservative president made it that much more difficult for prospective and actual Republican presidents to successfully advocate some version of Big Government Lite or More-Taxes-Just-Not-SoMuch?
Let’s start with the basics.
There have been eighteen Republican presidents of the United States since the formation of the GOP as a political party in 1854. Of the 39 presidential elections between 1856 and 2008, in which the GOP always fielded a candidate, the party’s nominee has won 23 of those 39 elections. Which is to say, well over half of them.
Republican presidents have taken office while young (42), old (68) and middle-aged (a parade of fifty-somethings). All have been men. Some have been commander-in-chief in the midst of tumultuous periods of war, others the head of state in placid eras of peace and prosperity. One, famously, was at the helm when the Great Depression arrived.
So with a political party that has had this much consistent success in electing its nominees since its inception and the competition with Democrats began — a better record than Democrats to the point that it’s reasonable to think of Republican presidencies as the American norm and Democrats in the White House as the occasional exception that proves the rule — why is it that the American people historically prefer Republicans?
Doubtless the answer has to do with some variation of the snappy slogan devised for the very first Republican nominee in 1856:
Free Soil, Free Men, Fremont
John Charles Fremont was perhaps the most celebrated hero of the day. Famous as the dashing explorer and mapper of the Western American continent, it was he who had planted the American flag on the highest peak of the Rocky Mountains, serving as military governor of the California territory and, when it was admitted to the Union, as the new state’s first U.S. Senator. Together with his outgoing and politically astute wife Jessie, the daughter of the powerful Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, the glamorous Fremonts captured the American imagination. His biographer Tom Chaffin, whose book Pathfinder is titled with the nickname bestowed on the dazzling young explorer by the tabloid press of the day, notes that Fremont was so popular he was asked by both Democrats and the brand new GOP to be their 1856 nominee.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?