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They say the last stage of grief is acceptance. Like many American conservatives, I have gone into fits just thinking about the near-certainty that Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States. No wonder election day is so close to Halloween.
While the specter of Obama pulling the levers of executive power will no doubt fill pharmacies with Republicans seeking anti-depressant medication, this dark cloud has a silver lining.
Unbelievable as it may seem, from the ashes of the Second Republican Massacre can arise something even Obama wouldn’t begrudge a conservative: hope.
It is an unfortunate reality that most Americans have no idea how their government works. They see the president on television and in the newspapers, and since they probably can’t even name their own congressman, they think the president is responsible for everything.
When things go wrong, they blame him and his party. As a result, President Bush’s catastrophically low approval ratings have trickled down to Republicans in general as they are associated with one of the most hated men in America.
Even though a McCain victory would bring Republicans out from under the shadow of Bush, it would not save them. A President McCain would be blamed for everything that goes wrong during the next four years, while Democrats, though they control both houses of Congress, could sit back and say, “Don’t blame us. The president is a Republican.” And the public would agree with them.
If conservatives truly believe their ideas are better than those of liberals, they should not worry about a President Obama wildly succeeding. His tax-raising, over-regulating, free-spending economic policies will run the country into the ground, while his weak-kneed foreign policy will embolden enemies to strike U.S. interests around the world.
Republicans should welcome this opportunity to sit back and let the Democrats take the blame for failing, but that will not be enough.
They must offer Americans a viable alternative, which is why this time will be equally important for the Republican Party to do something long overdue: remake itself.
Republicans need to figure out who they really are. The grand coalition Reagan built has shattered. On one side stand the social conservatives in the mold of Bush, who want to expand government so it can enforce their moral agenda. On the other stand the fiscal conservatives, who don’t care so much about social issues but are fanatics about balanced budgets and cutting the size government.
If the “Grand Old Party” wants to have any chance of winning elections, it must reconcile these two camps. But it will take fresh leadership to do so. Republicans need to use their years in the wilderness to recruit young, charismatic leaders who can rally the party to return to its Reagan roots and effectively communicate a coherent agenda to the public.
It will not be easy, and soul-searching is always most painful following disaster, but as the Christian band “Reliant K” puts it, “Failure is a blessing in disguise.”