Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It Doesn't Take A Village

Peter Kirsanow has a piece on The Corner lamenting Republicans who seem embarrassed to be Republicans. I think he's got a point—I'm a Republican who is often embarrassed to be a Republican. But I think Mr. Kirsanow misses an important point about those of us who fall in that category.

Sure, there are the Republicans who don't have the strength of conviction to stand up for what they believe and those who share those beliefs. There are plenty of so-called conservatives who seek either power or the adoration of the masses, and find themselves sucking up to popular opinion and therefore the media. He describes those effective here:
Many Republican politicians seem to begin the day apologizing for being Republicans. And they appear to have a perverse, desperate desire to befriend and seek favor from those who regularly malign conservatives.
But then he starts to stray from the point:
You will not find finer men nor better public servants than Justice Thomas, Ken Starr, John Ashcroft — to name a few. Yet I've witnessed Republicans act as if they're embarrassed to even know of them. Whether it's a momentous slander or a series of invidious slights, too many weak-kneed, hand-wringing Republicans simply tolerate the abuse heaped on these good Americans. No surprise that the caricatures hold sway when those expected to protest remain silent.
Maybe it's because I'm in law school, but I know plenty of conservatives who regularly stick up for Thomas. These same conservatives, myself included, will condemn Ashcroft for actions he has taken that either betray conservative ideals, or at the very least give them a bad name. Starr receives a worse reputation than I think he deserves for similar reasons. He was at the center of an embarrassing moment in recent Republican history. I think Lewis Black said it well:
Everybody in this country wanted Bill Clinton punished on one level or another. Nobody really wanted him impeached, but they wanted him punished. And so they turned to the Republican Party and said "Come on, get the little prick." And so the Republicans took out their rifles, got him in their sights, then turned the rifles around and went BAM!
Ken Starr was the rifle, and so it's hard for Republicans to defend him despite his significant achievements as a public servant and as a legal scholar.

But what Kirsanow misses is that most Republicans aren't embarrassed to be Republicans, or conservatives, but that the Republican Party as a whole has spent the last decade gutting everything that they purported to believe. That's certainly where I find myself.

So Kirsanow says we (Republicans) need to stop allowing other Republicans to be slandered. And he's got a point:
Until Republicans start responding to each and every falsehood with vigor and conviction, the slanders will continue. That's not good for Republicans, conservatives, or the country.
But how do we go about accomplishing this? As I said in the title to this post, it doesn't take a village. More accurately, perhaps, the village will never act collectively to correct this problem.

In the 60s and 70s, Republicans faced a similar quandary. Anyone remember Gerald Ford? And the Party as a whole did not suddenly act to save itself. It took leaders. It took Goldwater and Reagan to stand up for tradition and for small government—to remind the Party what it stands for, has always stood for, and to demand the same from the Party at large.

Only when we have leadership like those men of principle will Republicans again be proud to proclaim their affiliation.

Until then, a lot of us will be looking for an alternative and downplaying our current allegiances.

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