WASHINGTON -- You'd think that with the left's recent descent into the anti-Bush fever swamps (Bush knew about 9/11, Bush went to war for Halliburton, Bush hates gays and women, Bush = Hitler), Republicans would be walking with a spring in their step and a song in their heart. Alas, it hasn't panned out that way. Karl Rove and others have come to dream of an ever-bigger tent, which invariably means sticking it to true blue conservatives.
Don't believe me? Take a look at the prime time line-up at the upcoming Republican National Convention. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Pataki, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Secretary of Education Rod Paige are all in prominent slots, making the following question entirely rhetorical: Could the GOP fete its liberal wing any more extravagantly?
These RINOs know their power. "Whether I'm speaking, I'll leave that up to them," Schwarzenegger told the L.A. Times a few weeks before the schedule was announced. "If they're smart, they'll have me obviously in prime time." And that's exactly where the event planners have stuck him.
In fact, as widely noted, one of the most conservative speakers at the convention is a Democrat, Zell Miller. If Miller had an "R" next to his name instead of a "D," he would not have had a snowball's chance of making this line-up. Those conservative Southern values wouldn't jive with the kinder, gentler, compassionate conservative agenda of the Republican Party, circa 2004.
In practice, this agenda has meant talking like conservatives and spending like drunken sailors. But this convention lineup signals that the GOP has stopped even pretending. There is no traditional conservative on board to advocate spending cuts. Or to argue for the elimination of wasteful agencies and cabinet departments, as Dick Cheney once did. There is no one to plead for school vouchers or serious social security reforms.
It is not that liberal Republicans should not get their time in the spotlight, but imagine what would happen if Alan Keyes or Pat Buchanan showed up on the convention floor. One doubts they'd feel welcome. After all, GOP lore has it that George H.W. Bush 1992 loss was due not to his alienation of conservatives, but rather to the "angry white man" speech that Buchanan delivered. Arguing that there was a culture war supposedly outweighed Bush's lying lips.
GRANTED, THE LINEUP DOES leave some more pragmatic liberal voices nervous. Resident commie Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson writes that the Republican convention "will showcase the party's otherwise marginalized moderates -- Arnold Schwarzenegger, John McCain." Fortunately, Meyerson has reliable doubts that "the convention planners really believe that this late in the game they can fool anybody," because, after all, the Republican campaign is all about "exploiting homophobia, provincialism and cultural insecurity. Or, as they put it, values."
George W. Bush, we've been told, is a much different animal than his father. For three years now we've heard from every mainstream news outlet that the Republicans are seeking victory through appeasement of the rabidly provincial Huns who make up the conservative base. Bush's liberal turns in many areas of policy are all smoke and mirrors, according to folks like Meyerson, and Bush gains little independent support for such overtures. (And nearly $600 billion for prescription drugs is one hell of an overture.) So what gives? Why such a lurch to the middle?
It's simple, really. You can thank David Corn, Michael Moore, Howard Dean, and the rest of the Bush Haters for the lack of conservative voices this year. The pure insanity that has afflicted liberals across the nation these last few years, and the ferocity of their opposition to George W. Bush, has most conservatives convinced that whatever Bush is doing wrong, he must be doing something right.
Who, among Republicans, would want to stand alongside these maniacs in opposition to any Bush Administration policy, no matter how far it strays from fiscal sanity? Who wants to risk being used as "See, even Republicans don't like Bush" fodder by lefty freaks like the guy Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon writes about in his book, Misunderestimated, holding a sign at a protest that read, "Impeach the Court-Appointed Junta and the Fascist, Egomaniacal, Blood-Swilling Beast"?
And so, as conservative principles are abandoned by Republican Party, conservatives hold firm for fear of handing the country to radicals like Kerry and Edwards. We accept the great leftward shift because to speak out against it would feel like playing into the hands of the lunatics like Michael Moore and Harold Meyerson, who claim that this country is about a goosestep away from being a fascist state.
Does it matter who speaks at the Republican Convention? For those who believe in something more than crass politics, it should. For those who believe the conservative movement stands for something, it does.
Liberals are always going to be top heavy with crazy, flailing, conspiracy-theorists. Every Republican will always be a right-wing extremist to them. Accepting the basics of their hysterical arguments against conservatism by blacklisting conservatives from the Republican Convention may make a few liberal Republican senators feel more at home, but it bankrupts a philosophy and vision that we once thought could change the world for the better.
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