The Corner

The Weak Gop

I guess I agree with Kate & Andrew Sullivan that it’s a sign of “weakness” on the part of the GOP to highlight so many squishes, wets, mods and “centrist” Republicans. But I’d add a couple points.

First, we all know from media coverage of the last 8 katrillion GOP conventions, the GOP is screwed no matter what it does. If it showcases its core values and heroes the media interrupts the speeches constantly to talk about how divisive and extreme the party is — even though the GOP is in fact the majority/plurality party in this country. If it showcases minorities and women, the media screams that the party is hypocritical. Given the lose-lose nature of the beast, I can’t get too angry at the organizers. These days conventions are designed to reach out to undecideds, swing voters etc as much as they are geared to win over the faithful.

Personally, I think it’s an often nauseating part of political system these days that politicians have to focus so much of their attention on the people who have the hardest time telling the difference between the two parties and the people who don’t pay any attention to politics at all until the last minute. But don’t get me started on the absurd fetishization of “swing voters” and undecideds.

Nevertheless, that’s the world we’re in. If trotting out Schwarzenegger, Giuliani, Pataki and McCain helps to win over the straw of the electorate which will break the camel’s electoral back, so be it.

That said, I think Sullivan’s point doesn’t hold up that well. For months he’s been saying how the GOP is narrow-minded and exclusionary. Well, now it’s giving precisely the Republicans he loves primetime treatment. Rather than conclude the GOP is a big tent, he assumes it’s all a lie. I agree there’s some hypocrisy involved. But again, if McCain et al were not given primetime treatment Sullivan would be saying “See! I told you! The GOP can’t tolerate dissent!” In other words, the GOP can’t win, at least in terms of how it produces its conventions. Oh, and speaking of McCain, if picking Edwards is a sign of Kerry’s weakness, my goodness, wouldn’t it have been a sign of outright castration if he’d followed Sullivan’s advice and picked McCain? When the most liberal Democrat in the Senate picks a pro-life Republican with nearly diametrically opposed views on foreign policy, it’s not a sign he’s confident in his own ideas, his party or himself — it seems to me.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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