10.01.2008 0

The Pyrrhic Victory

  • On: 10/08/2008 15:46:29
  • In: John McCain
  • King Pyrrhus of Epirus won a devastating victory against the Romans at Heraclea and Asculum. While his army had held the field, it had suffered such significant casualties that after these battles, the army could not be replenished. Meanwhile, the Romans were able to quickly refill their ranks with fresh recruits. Ultimately, the Romans won the Pyrrhic War strictly by numbers.

    As such, a “Pyrrhic Victory” became a hollow triumph that comes at a devastating cost to the victor. And so it could soon be with John McCain and the GOP.

    A strand of conventional wisdom (usually emanating from the left) holds that, in 2008, Republicans cannot win if they run as Republicans. Instead, they must run toward the center of American politics, appeal to Independents and soft liberals and, generally speaking, disregard and in some cases repudiate the conservative, limited government philosophy that was their raison d’etre in the first place.

    In his Washington Post column, “Obama Has the Upper Hand. But McCain Can Still Take Him.” Dick Morris promotes this particular “wisdom”, calling for presumptive Republican nominee John McCain to run his campaign towards the center:

    “McCain needs to not run as a traditional Republican, which is easy, since he’s not one. After all, how did an anti-torture, anti-tobacco, pro-campaign finance reform, anti-pork, pro-alternative-energy Republican ever emerge from the primaries alive? Simple: The GOP electorate, along with the rest of the country, has moved somewhat to the left…

    “In this environment, McCain can win by running to the center.”

    Repeatedly throughout his piece, Mr. Morris completely disregards the conservative base of the Republican Party as being integral to John McCain’s electoral prospects. “His base will be there for him,” he assures his readers. “McCain doesn’t have to spend a lot of time wooing his base,” and “Forget about the base. It will be there.” Why? “McCain’s … acts of apostasy will be forgiven for the sake of beating Obama.”

    Mr. Morris clearly takes the conservative base for granted, and believes that Barack Obama’s negatives are so high that they will make them forget about Senator McCain’s own negatives. Unfortunately for Mr. McCain, who seems hell bent on following that blithe line of reasoning, Mr. Morris is wrong.

    Republicans were elected in 1994, when they took both houses of Congress in a landslide election, largely on the promise to roll back Big Government. It was when they failed to do just that, and to curb the excesses in Washington, that their base became quite disenchanted with the party that could not deliver on its promises. And the tepid, lackluster GOP went down to ignominious defeat.

    For example, in 2006, when Democrats retook Congress, it was largely by nominating conservative Democrats to take out Republican seats. In 2008, the Democrats are set to capitalize on this strategy, nominating yet more conservative (by Democrat standards) candidates to make the party’s majorities in Congress overwhelming.

    In response, Republicans have ceded ground, and supinely surrendered on issue after issue. Climate change? The GOP’s nominee has accepted the dogma of the Cult of Global Warming. Biofuels? Mr. McCain is for those even as they threaten to starve the Third World. Increased energy production? The GOP cannot even make up its mind about drilling in a barren wasteland where nobody lives because of its “pristine beauty.” Earmarks? Republicans in Congress cannot muster a Conference quorum to mount a moratorium on wasteful spending.

    Mr. Morris is advocating yet more retreat. By “running to the center,” as Mr. Morris suggests, he really means to run to the left. And this advice comes at a time when the conservative base of the GOP is already thoroughly dispirited and in desperate need of real leadership. In their eyes, sound principles of limited government were ignored by their leaders. And that is why the party was defeated for all of the “right” reasons.

    The fact is, Republicans in 2008 will not win any kind of victory – even a Pyrrhic Victory – if they continue to burn those whose support is essential to their very survival. Years ago, The Inkspots had a hit song with the rather elaborate title, “I don’t Want to Set the World a Fire, I Just Want to Start a Flame in Your Heart.” With its deliberate abandonment of its basic principles and principal base, the GOP in 2008 is unlikely to do either.

    ALG Perspective: If he follows Mr. Morris’ advice, Mr. McCain threatens to disillusion and destroy that very base that determines elections by completely disregarding their weight in the general election. They will likely respond to a “run for the center” as yet another betrayal by the GOP of conservatives, and stay home as they did in 2006. Turnout determines elections, and if Mr. McCain wants victory he needs to maximize turnout. The way to do that is to positively energize the conservative base of his party… before it’s too late.


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