Friday, September 05, 2008

The Torchbearers: The Future of Conservatism

When John McCain won the nomination of the Republican Party earlier this year, many pronounced Conservatism -- the vision of Ronald Reagan -- dead. I never bought that, but I did conclude that the Republican Party had shelved it indefinitely, preferring to attempt to out-Democrat the Democrats.

Since that time, McCain has done little to convince me any different. His constant drumbeat to "reach across the aisle" is worn and faded, and will obviously follow the same trajectory as did George W. Bush's early strategy of "working together" with Democrats -- right into the trashcan of history. One does not "work with" Liberals, nor does one engage in "bipartisanship" with Democrats. One simply surrenders to them. THAT is their definition of "bipartisanship." If John McCain doesn't know that by now, he's too dense to be President.

But I digress. McCain did manage to impress me with his performance at the Saddleback Valley Church forum a few weeks ago. He said all the right things to Rick Warren, and he did so with conviction and candor. He did what he HAD to do to impress Evangelicals -- and me. I'm really not sure it was anymore than that.

However, with his pick of Sarah Palin last week as his running mate, he started something I don't know that he entirely foresaw. I'm sure he was going for the Hillary Clinton female demographic, and he certainly scored with the Conservative base, Christian voters, pro-lifers, gun rights advocates, etc. But the enthusiasm demonstrated for Palin was more than just the satisfaction of the various "special interest" groups.

Sarah Palin embodies the vision of the late and great Ronald Reagan. She embodies Reagan's trajectory to power as well, though his base was California, and hers is Alaska. Her resume is a bit slimmer than was Reagan's when he made his definitive bid for the presidency in 1980; yet, she has clearly demonstrated the strength of her principles and their solidarity with the Reagan vision. In four, or perhaps eight years, she will be prepared to appear at the top of the ticket. And it appears at this point that Republicans can only benefit from it.

John McCain has, perhaps unknowingly, re-launched the Reagan Revolution. In Sarah Palin, Conservatives finally have one of their own on the ticket, and they have someone to look to in the future. McCain has virtually sealed his fate as a transitional figure in Republican politics -- a bridge between the Reaganism in the 1980's and the New Reaganism a generation later. The bridge has produced potholes and detours like Bushes, Doles and McCain's. But in Sarah Palin, the far shore may be coming into sight. And she may be the one to bear the torch over.

Another Governor has been prominent recently in the media -- but for far less glamorous reasons. Three years after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Gustav took aim once again at the Louisiana coast. New Orleans was again threatened. As Gustav approached, day after day, Governor Bobby Jindal appeared before the press, outlined and detailed all the work and organized preparation for the coming storm, and clearly demonstrated that he was in charge. He was in charge of the facts, he was in charge of the process, he was in charge of the people. He worked WITH others, rather than laying blame after things went wrong. He demonstrated responsibility and capability.

Thankfully, Gustav was not quite the storm Katrina was. Thankfully, the rebuilt levees were strong enough for the task. Thankfully, the evacuations and aid was orderly, sensible, well thought out. The steady hand of a young governor with a lot of potential should not be dismissed.

Bobby Jindal, like Sarah Palin, is in his first term as a Governor. He has already faced "crisis" in his leadership. He shares the values and convictions of Governor Palin. He has many of the same excellent characteristics as Palin, and stands upon many of the same principles. Bobby Jindal is, like Palin, one to watch. He, too, is a worthy torchbearer.

Whether or not McCain wins the election this year -- and his choice of Palin only HELPS -- he has secured a place for the return of Reagan Conservatism to the leadership of the Republican Party. If that's ALL that John McCain does, it is enough. In four, perhaps eight years, one or both of these young Conservatives will -- and MUST -- be at the top of the Republican Party ticket. If that does not happen the Party will not survive.

At least now, Conservatives can see the distant light of the torch, and we know who is bearing it.


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