Indeed. The Republicans have been desperate for a conservative savior for a while now. In fact, the desire to find the next Reagan pretty much defines the entire GOP presidential campaign.
We conservatives have had a good time ridiculing the Obama phenomenon, especially its messianic feel -- the willingness of its adherents to pour so much hope and belief into such an empty, or at least incomplete, vessel -- and its elevation of "narrative" over substance.
It turns out that we were dying to have basically the same experience.
In early 2007, the front-runners for the GOP nomination were Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, but those were both deemed non-starters by the Republican base. John McCain is a sanctimonious twit who conservatives can't stand much the same way that Democrats hate Lieberman. Rudy excites the base with his 9/11-tourette's, but he's a serial adulterer who doesn't hate gay people enough to excite the religious wing who still operate under the quaint notion that they're the ones in charge of the Republican party. Faced with that dreadful choice and knowing that the Bush legacy was a surefire loser in 2008, the GOP began their search for the person who would save their party from another humiliating defeat.
First up to the bat was Mitt Romney, who seemed almost as if he was designed to be a Republican politician. A generically handsome governor/billionaire who wears his religion on his sleeve, what's not to like? Well, the fact that he's from Taxachussets and has a history of pandering to liberals, for one. At least, that was enough to help Republicans to justify the real reason for opposing him, which is that he's a Mormon. The religious right is all about religious freedom when it comes to their own religion, but they'll be damned if they give their vote to somebody who wears the magic underwear.
Okay, how about former Senator Fred Thompson of TV's Law and Order? He's an actor, like Reagan! Plus, he's got that condescending southern drawl that voters find irresistible. On paper it seemed perfect, since the only thing Republicans love more than railing against celebrities is voting for them. Unfortunately for them, Thompson couldn't pull off the biggest challenge of his career, acting like he wanted to be president. Huh? You want me to campaign on the weekends too?
Then, out of the Iowa caucuses came a dark horse candidate, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Finally a guy who the Republicans can sink their teeth into. He's funny, he talks about Jesus all the time, and he used to be fat. Unfortunately for the Huckster, when the Republican party bosses started paying attention to his record, they were struck with paralyzing fear. "Oh no, he really means this 'compassion for the poor' crap." Needless to say, when faced with the choice between compassionate conservatism and lower taxes, Republicans always choose the latter.
And so, with the primaries underway, the pendulum of Republican opinion swung back to John McCain by default. Though it seemed like a race for a while between McCain, Romney, and Huckabee, the winner-takes-all nature of the GOP primaries sealed the deal for our nation's least humble POW on Super Tuesday. And with that, Republicans across the country woke up in a cold sweat on the morning of February 6th thinking "Oh shit! We just nominated John McCain."
Though they may be loathe to admit it, that's pretty much been the thought in the backs of the minds of conservatives everywhere for the past seven months. The preferred euphemism is "enthusiasm" gap, but it really sugar coats the fact that Republicans seemed lost and had resigned themselves to the fact that their nominee was somebody they couldn't stand. That is, until John McCain gave them their next conservative messiah, Sarah "Barracuda" Palin.
She's a regular lady, they boast to themselves, not like those minorities and city-dwellers in the DemocRAT party. She eats moose and calls her husband "dude", what wonderful nuggets of authenticity that look great in a campaign ad! Plus, she's so damn religious that we get all of the positives of supporting women without having to change our views in ways that would actually, y'know, support women.
Which is where we are now. The Republicans have found a new crush, "the one" who will save their party and usher in a new era of conservatism. Once the glory of her gloriously sarcastic convention speech has faded, they'll start finding reasons to dislike her just as they have every other conservative standard-bearer. Will her tax-raising ways, Which have drawn comparisons to GOP-bogeyman Hugo Chavez, prompt the oilmen who own the GOP to force her out? Or will the fundies get scared off by her knocked-up kid and the tabloid innuendo that surrounds her? Or will the GOP base start rejecting her when they realize that she's just the more-likable frontwoman for that saddest of sacks, John McCain?
Either way, if recent history is any guide, the honeymoon won't last forever. Hell, I doubt it'll last until election day.
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