An advisor to Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said yesterday that if Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh are the major voices of the Republican Party in 2012, the GOP is destined for a devastating defeat. John Weaver, who helped craft John McCain’s “stellar” Presidential bid, predicted a “blowout” if the Alaska governor had a prominent role in the GOP in a not-so-subtle suggestion that Republicans need to tack to the left if they are to become powerful once more.
I find all the hoopla about Jon Huntsman more than a little fishy. The article suggests he’s good at speaking off the cuff to business leaders, but let’s face it – no one had ever heard of him outside of Utah until Obama advisor David Plouffe named him as the politician Obama fears facing most in 2012. This supposed great threat is then offered the ambassadorship to China, a post Huntsman readily accepts. Finally, the Huntsman team begins insinuating that theirs is the best way to electoral victory, trashing others along the way. It might be bordering on conspiratorial, but I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to imgaine that Huntsman, in exchange for a diplomatic post and national promotion, had it suggested to him that his team try to steer the GOP in a direction that benefited Democrats.
Sorry, but I just smell more narrative-building here. Nonstop we’ve been hearing the drumbeat of “the Republicans must be more moderate, more moderate, more moderate.” I’m no electoral strategist, but I don’t hear a vision or positive message; all I hear instead is that the GOP must become Democrat-lite. Republicans ran their most moderate candidate to date in John McCain, and while his willingness to thumb his nose at conservative positions on immigration, campaign finance, and global warming among other things may have endeared him to independents and moderates, those same independents and moderates still ended up voting for Obama. Watering down your message to appear “less scary” accomplishes nothing except playing into the hand of your political opponents.
It still amazes me how denigrated Sarah Palin has become. Apparently two lousy interviews are enough to transform a competent if inexperienced governor into a mouth-breathing sexpot. I doubt that Palin will be the savior of the GOP, but it’s worth noting that the lethargic McCain campaign received a jolt with her selection, and her appearances drew large and enthusiastic crowds. Even if she’s not an ideal candidate, many still share her views and convictions, and denigrating and dismissing her as a voice in the party is the wrong idea.
I’ve said before that the three main planks for Republicans should be fiscal conservatism, limited government, and a strong national defense. (Huntsman, by the way, already botched the first two with his loud support of the stimulus package.) If Republicans need to “moderate” on other things, then an open-mindedness with healthy internal debate is all well and good. But right now the narrative is being set by the moderates that it’s their way or the highway – and it’s not going to work.