Peggy Noonan suggests that the Republicans need to lose their congressional majorities this November so that they will be chastised for not being consistently conservative in their governing philosophy (See “Is There Progress through Loss?“). Noonan says this as one who was once a staunch supporter of President George W. Bush, but who now thinks that he and the Republican majority in Congress have strayed from the straight and narrow path.
Gone are the days that Noonan would take a hit for the President. Now, she’s devastating in her description of the President’s prodigal flight from conservativism:
But there’s unease in the [Republican] base too, again for many reasons. One is that it’s clear now to everyone in the Republican Party that Mr. Bush has changed the modern governing definition of “conservative.” He did this without asking. He did it even without explaining. He didn’t go to the people whose loyalty and support raised him high and say, “This is what I’m doing, this is why I’m changing things, here’s my thinking, here are the implications.”
Noonan notes that the President’s problem is not just with his base, but also with the Republican party elites who also feel disaffected from the President they helped to get re-elected.
Republican political veterans go easy on ideology, but they’re tough on incompetence. They see Mr. Bush through the eyes of experience and maturity. They hate a lack of care. They see Mr. Bush as careless, and on more than Iraq–careless with old alliances, disrespectful of the opinion of mankind. “He never listens,” an elected official who is a Bush supporter said with a shrug some months ago. Along the way the president’s men and women confused the necessary and legitimate disciplining of a coalition with weird and excessive attempts to silence Republican critics. They have lived in a closed system. They now want to open it but don’t know how. Listening is a habit; theirs has long been to suppress. . .
[Republican leaders] sense, in their tough little guts, that the heroic age of the American presidency is, for now, over. No president is going to come along and save us, and Congress isn’t going to save us. Events will cause a reckoning, and then we’ll save ourselves. And in this we will refind our greatness.”
Perhaps Mrs. Noonan is right, and maybe she’s not. But it has been amazing to watch her transformation over the last several months. In 2004, she left her job writing for the Wall Street Journal in order to campaign for George W. Bush, but now she is one of his most effective critics.
Whatever it was that has led to this falling out, I think it’s clear that President Bush has lost a whole truckload of support from his base. I hope he gets the message before it’s too late. He needs to be reminded that
The conservative tradition on foreign affairs is prudent realism; the conservative position on borders is that they must be governed; the conservative position on high spending is that it is obnoxious and generationally irresponsible.
If he doesn’t get the message, especially on border security, I think he will be facing an ineffective and unproductive final two years of his presidency.
I do not agree with Peggy Noonan, however, that the Republicans need to be chastised by losing their majorities. I don’t know how anyone can say such a thing when a Republican majority in the Senate will be required in order to get conservative judges confirmed to the federal bench. Anyone who feels any urgency about the pro-life cause knows that handing the majority to Democrats during a conservative President’s tenure basically means that the confirmation of his judicial nominations is put in jeopardy. Moreover, a Republican majority in the House will be required for a successful prosecution of the war in Iraq. Since prominent Democrats in the house have already promised to defund the Iraq War if they are put in the majority, I am not persuaded that this is the year to rebuke the Republicans by not turning out to vote.
As I have said before, I’m no partisan gunslinger. I just support the those that will advance the causes I care most about. The pro-life issue and national security are the issues at the top of my list. I do hope the Republicans get chastised, but I hope that it doesn’t happen at the expense of winning in Iraq and protecting the unborn.