The Corner

What’s Wrong with Republicans?

On this great debate, I tend to agree with Mark Levin and others that conservatives should reach out with conservative principles better framed and presented, rather than change the message for the perceived advantage of the hour.

What the Republicans need is not an abandonment of conservative principles, but a smarter, more articulate defense of even more conservativism, not less.

E.g., Gas Prices? More nuclear power, hydro-, refineries, clean coal, drilling off coasts and in ANWR. And why? As a necessary bridge to next-generation cleaner and non-petroleum energy so that in the time lag, we don’t empower our enemies, demand that others abroad who are less environmentally sound produce the oil we consume, and watch our hard-won way of life decline.

Taxes? Not hikes, since revenues went up, not down with past cuts, but more fiscal discipline to end the deficits. The problem was not tax-cutting, but wild-eyed spending that ran up debt and discredited tax cuts.

The border? Close it, not out nativism or racism, but out of respect for the rule of law, the tradition of national sovereignty, the need to promote integration and assimilation, the need to be more concerned with American entry-level low-paid workers, and a desire to help Mexico wean itself off remittances and make the tough-love decisions to modernize its archaic government and economy.

Judges? We need constitutionalists, because they alone follow the rules of the legislative branch and what is written in the Constitution, do not turn rarified, laboratory theory into the law that millions must suffer under, and bring respect to the judiciary sorely damaged by aristocratic elitists on the bench.

National Security? Not more U.N.ism, but careful explanations that both Iraq and Afghanistan have hurt jihadism, taken out odious regimes, and with patience will make the region safer.We need more reasoned and inspired explanation of just how the U.S. military allows the present globalized system of commerce and communications to survive, rather than asleep at the wheel reaction to cheap attacks on our foreign policy.

Ethics? Republicans by consensus in Washington need to be less tolerant of sleeze than Democrats, since conservatism and traditionalism are moral precepts. When they engage in tawdry sex, bribery, and influence peddling, they suffer the double wage of hypocrisy — in the manner supposedly men-of-the-people liberals like Kerry, Gore, Edwards, and the Clintons talk one way and live like 18th-century French kings.

In short, low taxes, secure borders, moral governance, sober government spending, ethical leadership, exploration and conservation of petroleum, and strong defense is what the American public wants — but those core principles have to be articulated hourly and can’t be compromised. In an honest debate, Obama’s alternatives to the above would be to turn toward more government, higher taxes, more bureacracies, more dependence of the individual upon the state, etc. And I can’t believe the public wants a prescription that historically simply doesn’t work.

I think in their depression, the Republicans fail to see that their problems were not in their principles, but rather in the sometimes sleezy and sloppy way they advanced them — and even more often in the manner that they abandoned them — and as a result, they are apparently eager to compromise on them.

To the degree McCain can articulate the above, he will win; to the degree that he either cannot or believes the latest gurus that he must abandon them, he will lose. Moving toward a lite version of the Obamian/European “bipartisan”and socialist view of government and calling it a new conservatism is a prescription for utter disaster.

No one can out-Obama Obama.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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