Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Only Quantum of Solace for the GOP: New Leadership

The new James Bond movie premieres next week, and thank goodness. After the longest presidential campaign in history, we need a diversion, or maybe a medium dry vodka martini. Republicans have been shaken and stirred. And coincidentally, the parallels between conservatives and Agent 007 are striking.

Following his devastating loss in Casino Royale, the new movie Quantum of Solace opens with James Bond depressed and searching for answers. Following last night’s loss, Republicans are doing the same. Despite going all-in, Republicans lost the high-stakes poker game of presidential politics, opening the door for new leadership within the GOP. Just as 007 was betrayed by those he trusted, conservatives have been betrayed by their own leaders. Some supposed conservatives turned out to be double agents. And as M so logically points out to Bond, “When you can’t tell your friends from your enemies, it’s time to go.” At times during this election, it was impossible to distinguish between the two candidates on key issues. Republicans have gotten off message. And we’ve had The Living Daylights beaten out of us.

What will be our Quantum of Solace? Republicans have a clean slate. It is time to get back to basic principles and most importantly, we must find our voice. And it needs to be an attractive voice, though it may lack Bond’s classic British accent. Republicans have been all over the map on policy, and this lack of consistency has caused our party to lose the Congress and the presidency. It is not that the Democrats have better policies; it is that none of our leaders have followed our principles. And on the occasions when they do, they don’t make the case to voters.
The Democrats executed an impressive campaign. As M says in Quantum of Solace, “How can they be everywhere and we know nothing about them?” That could be said of Senator Barack Obama’s campaign. And now he will be President Obama. He was never fully known by voters, yet they chose him over a candidate who is well known by all: McCain, John McCain.
What is the lesson from this campaign? A majority of American voters have chosen charisma over content. They have chosen popularity over policy. And empty eloquence has won this election for the Democrats. Shocking, positively shocking, as Bond would say.

For the last eight years President Bush has been the leader of our party, and his lack of eloquence has damaged the GOP brand. John McCain exacerbated the problem by failing to articulate a winning message. Republicans suffer from an inability to communicate. M asks James Bond, “You don’t trust anyone, do you, James?” Similarly, voters no longer trust Republicans. In order to win, we must find leaders who are talented orators as well as conservative statesmen who will uphold our principles. That is the challenge for the future of the GOP. Now we have, in the words of Louis Armstrong, All the Time in the World, or at least the next four years.

Unbelievably, voters went to the polls yesterday believing that their taxes would be roughly the same whether we had a President Obama or a President McCain. How is that even possible? We can only chalk it up to McCain’s failure to communicate. Joe the Plumber should have helped, but he was too little, too late. Senator McCain would have been “Dr. No” when it came to earmarks, but the candidate failed to adequately convey that to the voters.
To be fair, Republicans were hit with a Thunderball called the economic crisis. But, inexplicably, there was no appreciable difference between the Republican and the Democrat candidate for President on the government bailout. If only Senator McCain had taken out a License to Kill the bailout. That crucial issue cost Senator John McCain the election.

National security, which should have been at the forefront of this election, got lost in the economic maelstrom. As Dennis Miller put it so succinctly, “There’s economic depression, and then there’s dead.” What good will it be if our government bails out our economy but fails to protect us from terrorist attacks? This just in: Russia plans to deploy missiles in Poland ; no doubt a gift to President-Elect Obama From Russia with Love. Senator John McCain should have quoted James Bond when he reassured M, “You don’t have to worry about me.” When it comes to our security, we had no worries about a President McCain, yet Republicans lost the advantage on that issue.

From this point forward, Republicans must not only look at candidates from the perspective of policy, but we must give equal weight to their ability to communicate. During the primary we had several outstanding statesmen who were absolutely unelectable. Those types of candidates may add to the debate, but they do not win elections. The standard bearers for the future of the GOP must be just as articulate and eloquent as Senator Barack Obama. The propensity for some conservative leaders to try to be “kingmakers” is another reason that we have lost the White House. The only candidate in the Republican primary who had the whole package was Senator Fred Thompson, yet conservatives refused to unite behind him Conservative leaders who attempt to blackball good candidates have much in common with Ernst Stravo Blofeld. Instead of blackmailing with germ warfare, they blackmail with endorsements, or lack thereof. Like Goldfinger, it’s their way or the highway. Unfortunately, their desire to be “Mr. Big” contributed to the election of Barack Obama.

The 2012 election will be upon us before we know it. Let’s start our search today. To quote James Bond, We have “unfinished business.” Besides the proverbial three legs of conservatism: economic, social, and national security, we need to add a fourth: communication. Only then will our candidate, and our principles, win. The opportunity to find new leaders is the only Quantum of Solace left to Republicans. Remember, Tomorrow Never Dies. Until then, see you at the movies.

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