Over the past couple of months, it has become received wisdom that the Republican primary candidates for President are all gruesomely flawed. While the media is, grudgingly and belatedly, admitting that Mr. Obama's visage doesn't necessarily belong on Mt. Rushmore, the talking heads mock-sadly tell us that all the Republicans are unserious loonies who barely come up to Mr. Obama's knees if that far.
Needless to say, this is entirely the fault of conservatives and Republicans themselves, as the vaguely-conservative London Telegraph pontificates:
For a serious, winnable Right-wing candidate to emerge by the January 3 Iowa caucus, we need to see two things happen. First, any candidate who is spreading gossip about anyone else has got to stop. Second, all the Republicans need to pull rank against the mainstream media and call it out for distracting the public from the real issues. Otherwise the 2012 presidential election is going to become Romney v Obama: the gadfly v the incompetent. And that's a choice no one wants to have to make.
It's true that this year's bunch are serial breakers of St. Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican." It's also true that the Gipper himself broke this rule on occasion. Even more important, there is something to be said for airing out the dirty laundry in the primary rather than keeping it locked in the closet until Mr. Obama can drag it out during the general election.
The fact remains that even when it's liberals saying conservatives aren't totally happy with their choices, it doesn't necessarily mean it's a lie. The words may come from Slate but they could just as well come from any Tea Partier:
The Republican presidential race is now dominated by giants: the giant flaws of the front-runners. With 36 days to go before the first votes are cast in Iowa, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich stand atop the field—familiar, formidable, and flawed. Romney has a history of shifting positions and supported the individual health care mandate. Gingrich has some of those same flaws plus a complicated personal history. The question for voters choosing between the two: Which candidate’s troubles are too big?
Truth be told, we here at Scragged are none too optimistic ourselves. Mitt Romney is a decent man who is admirable in his personal life. Unfortunately, he is also a card-carrying member of the technocratic elites who are inadvertently destroying this country. He's also the creator of an early state-based version of Obamacare which he has never disavowed. That's not even listing his multifarious flip-flops; maybe there's something in the Massachusetts water?
Newt, in contrast, comes off as a far more reliably doctrinaire conservative - until you remember his infamous sofa-sharing ad with Nancy Pelosi in which he swore fealty to both the High Church of Global Warmism and the fundamentally leftist belief that government can fix a problem like that. That's not to mention his soap-opera personal life; isn't it Mormons who're supposed to collect wives like postage stamps?
As so often, we are forgetting history when we despair. In 1979, none other than Ronald Reagan bore a striking resemblance to Mitt Romney - and not just in his movie-star looks.
While governor of California, he'd signed a bill permitting abortion for "health reasons" which, as we now know, means pretty much for any reason. He came to regret this decision both publicly and privately; doesn't that count as a cringe-worthy flip-flop?
What's more, the young Reagan not only supported unionization, but he was actually the head of a labor union! Certainly not the best conservative credentials, you'd think, but as President he fought for freedom from enforced unionization and union blackmail like no other - he broke a strike by unionized government employees by firing and replacing them all.
What made Reagan a good President and a true conservative? When it comes right down to it, Mr. Reagan had something that no Democrat and precious few modern American leaders have: confidence in the American people and an unshakable certainty that they'd do just fine if only government got out of their way.
In contrast, liberals and all too many establishment Republicans believe that most people are morons who need to sit down, shut up, do as they're told, and take what they're given by their betters. This is unAmerican in the most fundamental way.
No matter who the Republican nominee might be, we are bound to have policy differences with him. All presidents make decisions which make us scream and holler. If we hold out for the perfect candidate, we'll just end up with the second Obama term that the media so desperately wants.
What's important, above all, is to divine the core philosophy of the man we wish to put forward as President. Does he love and believe in the American people? For sure, the Obamas don't, as they've made abundantly clear from complaints about folks who bitterly cling to guns and religion, to calling America a downright mean nation, to most recently saying our economic problems are all our own fault because we're fat and lazy and don't want to pay enough taxes.
Mr. Gingrich has a worrying big-government streak; not for him the great Reagan statement that "Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem." Mr. Romney is the ultimate technocrat, a management fixer who no doubt would effectively "make government work" but not reduce its remit. The best he could do would be to buy a few more years before America's ultimate collapse - but either of these would be a massive improvement on what we face now.
Cain, Bachmann, and even Perry, in contrast, appear to truly believe that "government is best which governs least." Their exact implementations of this belief will differ, but whacking back government kudzu is the only path to salvation. Any of them would be better than Mr. Obama or an establishment Republican semi-statist.
In order to get a candidate with this one essential belief, we need to stop throwing rocks at them and we must stop tolerating the media's gleeful attacks.
Does Mr. Perry's tang get tungled on a regular basis? Indeed it does, and that's bad, but it's no disqualifier.
Has Mr. Cain been accused by sexual harassment? Sure he has; and the minute we see some actual proof, we'll consider the issue. Until then, anyone can make allegations about events that may or may not have taken place decades ago with no witnesses; isn't there a little principle about being "innocent until proven guilty?" We're holding out for the blue dress.
We won't even dignify the absurd charges that Santorum or Bachmann wish to establish a Christian religious dictatorship; there is no such thing, no such movement, no such desire on the part of conservatives, and not the slightest way this could ever be done. Anyone who's ever attended a fundamental church knows that it's hard getting a single pew full of fundamentalists to believe in the same way; it's inconceivable that you could get a government-powered Fundamentalist Inquisition functioning on the same page.
Strange though it may seem today, there was a time when the Democratic candidates were looked on much as today's Republicans are. In 1988, the Dems running for President were known as the Seven Dwarfs, though at least five were serious first-class politicians with every plausible right to run.
Alas for them, the resounding ridicule meant that the final nominee, Michael Dukakis, was in no shape to confront even as limited a candidate as George H.W. Bush. The media learned their lesson; since then, Democratic candidates have been treated with respect while 1988-style diminutive ridicule has been exclusively directed at conservatives.
So what? Conservatives so easily forget one vital truth: the media does not vote in Republican primaries. In most states, neither do Democrats. The Republican candidate is the choice of the Republican party, and nobody else's opinion matters.
In short: the media chooses the Republican candidate only if we let them. So don't let them.