Christie, Cuccinelli, and Conservative Crisis

Most Republicans still haven't learned how to fight.

Christie, Cuccinelli, and Conservative Crisis

Election Day has come and gone, and while (being an off-year) there weren't that many actual elections, the analysts are trying to earn their salaries by examining the tea-leaves as thoroughly as if the Oval Office had been decided.  Thanks to groupthink and whatever replaced the infamous JournoList, this isn't too hard: New Jersey's Chris Christie shows that moderate Republicans can win as Democrat-lite even in the bluest of blue states, and Ken Cuccinelli shows that full-bore Tea Party conservatives lose even in the red South.  America is now a Euro-leftist state, they insist, and if they want to survive, it's time for Republicans to cast aside conservative Neanderthals and follow the example of the British Tory party into leftist success.

Really?  Then why didn't Mr. Moderate Republican John McCain win in 2008?  Why didn't Mr. Competent Manager Mitt Romney win in 2012?

Hiding Those Bold Colors, Again

It seems like every time we have an election, we fight and lost the exact same battle each and every time: nobody, but nobody, is willing to run as a full-bore conservative in an organized, professional, disciplined way.

That's not to say that there aren't full-bore conservatives out there.  Ken Cuccinelli is definitely one one of them, with the record to prove it.  Oddly, though, he refused to run as one - that is, through most of the campaign he tried to hide from his conservative past.

As always, this doesn't work.  The media left trumpeted his past conservatism to the skies, and as always, lied about it to make him seem absurd.  Cuccinelli wants to send women to back-alley coat-hanger abortionists, and even make your birth control pills illegal!

This is no surprise - they do this every time - yet somehow, every time the Republican seems totally unprepared and tries to hide his beliefs in a hole.  This is idiotic because it allows the media left to entirely paint the popular picture of the candidate, which in Cuccinelli's case included devil's horns and a tail.

Why didn't Cuccinelli go on the offensive, slamming the media daily as liars, defending the right to birth control, and explaining just exactly why he wanted to tighten abortion regulation?  It's not as if there isn't ample graphic evidence for his position, all he has to do is wave around the court documents from the Kermit Gosnell trial and wait for everyone to vomit.  Yet, not a peep.

The waning days of the campaign prove that this method does work: Cuccinelli closed from nearly 20 points down to a final margin of 3%, by going on the offensive against the Obamacare disaster.  He gave people a reason to vote for him, and 17% of Virginian voters changed their minds in his favor.  Not quite enough, but clearly a proof of concept.

Yes, the Democrats outspent him; this simply shows that national Republicans don't know how to pick 'em, hardly news by this time.  Yes, the Democrats rolled out their usual dirty-tricks playbook, from funding a Libertarian spoiler candidate to calling Republicans to lie about Cuccinelli's record and discourage them from voting for him - again, standard Democrat practice.

Yet Cuccinelli, previously an aggressive attorney general, somehow changed into Col. Blimp's uniform.  Why didn't he get out there and fight the lies through most of the campaign?  We'll never know, though presumably it had something to do with bad choices of campaign advisers.

In the end, most voters knew nothing about Cuccinelli other than the lies they were told by the media and the Democrats.  As soon as they actually heard from Cuccinelli himself decrying the trainwreck of Obamacare, they suddenly decided that he wasn't such a bad guy after all - but it was too little, too late.

A Fighting Fighter Who Fights

In contrast, Chris Christie has never allowed the echo chorus of the media to define who he is.  He has never been quiet for a moment; one imagines he curses corrupt union bosses in his sleep.  Most particularly, he has never been shy about his positions or tried to paint them out of existence.

Now, those positions aren't always exactly what full-spectrum conservatives wish they were.  Chris Christie doesn't find abortion particularly bothersome or homosexual marriage very objectionable.  Nor does he seem to be all that worried about the overall size of government.

On those issues that do matter to him, though, he'll say what he thinks regardless of who is listening.  He took dead aim at greedy New Jersey unions and forced them to be more reasonable.  He cancelled a popular commuter tunnel project and managed to loudly explain why: it cost more money than the state had, that's all.

In short, he established a reputation of fighting for his beliefs and doing what, in his opinion, needs to be done regardless of opposition.  That is the sort of reputation that Americans respect, and New Jersey proves that even hard-core Democrat voters will vote for a man like that.

It's been noted that despite Christie's landslide re-election, he had no coattails: the rest of the ticket went as Democrat as you'd expect in New Jersey.  That's because, in America, elections are no longer about policy, they're about personality.

By now we ought to realize that most voters vote for the guy that they personally like.  Bill Clinton, of course, was the master salesman and had no trouble defeating patrician George HW Bush or dead-fish Bob Dole.  George W. Bush, in contrast, presented himself as a normal guy in opposition to robotic Al Gore and John "Herman Munster" Kerry.

We flipped back the other way with cool Barack Obama and stiff-as-a-board John McCain.  Where did what little Republican excitement there was come from in 2008?  From aggressive, no-holds-barred, "I yam what I yam" Sarah Palin.  Likewise, Mr. Obama had no trouble putting away super-slick executive Mitt Romney.

If conservatives try to win by hiding their beliefs, they are bound to fail: the media will make sure that everyone knows about them regardless, and in the worst possible light.  Conservativs candidates might as well just get out and fight for what they believe in.

Now, if the beliefs are genuinely kooky, that isn't going to work either: when Missouri's Todd Akin said that rape rarely causes pregnancy because women's bodies can shut it off, well, that's pretty fatal.  Most conservative candidates don't have these kinds of bats in their belfry.  So why are they afraid to fight for what they believe, when it's sensible, sane, and nothing to be ashamed of?

Because the persistent decades of media bias against conservative views have caused all too many conservatives to internalize that contempt, and on some level, to view that their own deeply-held beliefs are shameful.  In order to start winning victories at the polls, conservatives need first to win the victory in their own minds.

Most likely, Ken Cuccinelli doesn't doubt his beliefs.  His campaign advisors clearly did, since they advised him to "tone it down."  Alas, he listened, and toned himself down right out of a job.

If an advisor ever advised Chris Christie to take a chill pill, he'd be taking a walk right out the door.  No, Chris Christie does not represent the sort of policies we need at a national level; his policies are successful in New Jersey only because decades of far-left hegemony have made that state so utterly corrupt and bankrupt that even a half-conservative is a monumental improvement.

But Gov. Christie most definitely does show us the kind of full-bore fighting spirit that Republicans need to develop.  Ted Cruz also shows it - and with it, the contempt of the media.  Does that bother him?  Not a bit; he revels in it and loves to punch the media on the schnozz at every opportunity.  So does Chris Christie; so, for a while, did Sarah Palin.

Bring back the fighting spirit!  Conservatism is in crisis, but not because our policies are wrong.  It's because we don't believe in them enough to put on our big-girl panties and take the battle to the other side, recognizing that that includes virtually every member and organ of the media.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

It is politically incorrect to be against dishonesty, and for honesty. Ron Paul didn't fall into the trap, but his campaign manager was dishonest, as well as some others in his campaign hierarchy.
At the point that someone is willing to stand up for his or her beliefs, that is the point that we will see the change starting.
Ron Paul wrought some changes, at least in attitude. His son has proven to be no less a charlatan than his campaign manager, who has been accused of bribing Bachmann's campaign manager. Both should be imprisoned, if found guilty. The damage caused is incalculable. Find an honest person to back and get behind them with all of the power at your disposal. Start at the local level, and work to the State and Federal levels. We can win if we work at it, and remain honest. Peace, Robert Walker

November 8, 2013 1:57 PM
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