Many conservatives shouted that last week after they read “Conservatives for Hillary?” (1) – Bruce Bartlett’s article urging conservatives to support Hillary Clinton as their best hope in 2008. (Mr. Bartlett is a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas, Texas.)
Democrats will surely win in ‘08, said Mr. Bartlett, so conservative Republicans will be wise to carve out some “influence” in the new Democratic administration by supporting the Democrats’ most conservative candidate. He thinks that is Hillary Clinton. As evidence, he cites her “courageous” refusal to renounce her vote for the Iraq war. Mrs. Clinton’s easy path, says Mr. Bartlett, would have been to “throw in the towel, admit that her vote was wrong, and move on”. Since she hasn’t done that, her principled stand should draw conservatives who lack better options.
Mr. Bartlett twits those who don’t buy his pragmatic vision of ‘08 presidential politics, intimating that they are unrealistic. He recommends that they not read beyond the first few paragraphs of his article. (Having the curiosity of anyone who has come upon a terrible wreck, I naturally read on.)
Mr. Bartlett’s “realistic” counsel renewed my appreciation for a moniker earned by Republicans who actually think they can “work” with Democrats without getting rolled – i.e., “the stupid party”. I willingly stake any small reputation I have on the absolute conviction that it’s a delusional idea (like Charlie Brown believing that this time he really will get to kick the football).
Democrats dominated Washington for six decades (1933-’94). They controlled the House for fifty-eight years, both houses of Congress for fifty-two, and the presidency for thirty-four. The Donkey Age lasted so long that a derivative political culture as the permanent minority party took root within the GOP. Entire careers began, matured, and ended wholly within the Democratic Era. Gerald Ford served in a Republican-majority House for only four of his 25 congressional years. He was a master of accommodation with the “permanent majority” party.
During Democrats’ long reign the wheel turned only one way. You could stay in the Dems' good graces by getting with their program. But opposing it made you Nobody (with a capital “N”) in Washington: no TV time, no mention by the Washington Post, no invitations to Georgetown dinner-parties or the White House. It was a go-along-to-get-along world. Rockefeller Republicanism – also liberal, but a bit more fiscally responsible – dominated the GOP. The only “conservatives” were southern Democrats. Some were segregationists.
I recount this history to show that the GOP’s role in a Democratic Washington – of which Mr. Bartlett has had a pipe-dream – is well defined. There is no magical new “influence” to work out with Madame Hillary. The GOP will be expected to do what it did for years: ride herd on Democratic spending ideas and raise (and take heat for) the new taxes to pay for them. They will again become “tax collectors for the welfare state” – the role New Dealers brilliantly designed for the GOP. It kept them in the minority for decades while Democrats handed out goodies and won elections.
Mr. Bartlett’s claim that Mrs. Clinton’s refusal to recant her own vote for the Iraq war is “courageous”, because it offended the strong anti-war wing of her own party, deserves closer examination. It is always an error to take anything the Clintons do or say at face value. Clearly, Mrs. Clinton hopes to accomplish two things with the war: (1) denounce it to win her party’s nomination; (2) define herself to non-Democrats as a principled war leader. She is gambling that she can hold far-left Democrats without renoouncing her war-vote, and she believes this will make her look tough enough to carry the political center.
In classic Clintonian style, Gen. Hillary is “triangulating” the war – promising to end it quickly (as polls say Americans want), but standing by her original vote (thus looking presidential). It’s a carefully considered strategy, not rugged commitment to principle. The difference might not seem important, but a war should not be a political football. The minute she thinks she can, Mrs. Clinton will kick it clean off the field. Americans will be stuck with an unprincipled leader who might not stand up to our enemies when it looks unpopular.
The “loyal opposition” is not a concept Democrats recognize or understand. Six decades of rule instilled a conviction of political entitlement that might infect them for generations. Democrats believe GOP rule was an anomaly – a temporary aberration – and they regard Mr. Bush’s presidency as illegitimate. Democratic leaders have been claiming the 2000 and 2004 elections were “stolen” because legions of voters were disenfranchised in Florida and Ohio. That no evidence supports such claims matters not a whit. These lies are now part of the Party’s “sacred lore”. They explain why hatred of Mr. Bush has reached such delusional intensity that FDR’s party actually seems willing to see the country defeated if it means Mr. Bush’s government can be destroyed.
This is disloyalty on a scale not seen since the Civil War. For six years Democrats have spat on Mr. Bush’s bipartisan overtures, fought his judicial appointments, and blocked any moves that might mean GOP success – including the war. Democratic senators and representatives seem determined to carry out their own, personal foreign policies. The central work of the current Democratic Congress seems to be harassing Bush administration officials and thwarting Mr. Bush’s conduct of the war. America won two world wars under Democratic administrations. That could not possibly have occurred in a political climate as adversarial as the present one.
Hillary Clinton has assisted this near-treasonous Democratic strategy since her election to the Senate in 2000. Maybe there are some conservative Democrats, but she isn’t one of them. Her actions must not be rewarded with the least modicum of Republican support. Mrs. Clinton is every bit the unprincipled politician Bill was – but without the charm and the entertaining bimbo-eruptions. If Americans overlook the fiasco of her husband’s presidency and fail to detect the empty suit her candidacy is, we’ll deserve everything we get. She will be Bill II. (One was enough!) No conservative should even consider supporting her.
Conservatives need to crawl out of the Slough of Despond they are wallowing in and gird themselves for 2008. The Clinton/Obama media-blitz notwithstanding, the campaign has not really begun. A Hillary-tailored chapter of Swiftboat Veterans for Truth needs to uncover the truth behind the wide-eyed, face-lifted peroxide- blonde flashing all those perfect teeth.