Finding North Without a Compass

A retired Army officer and retired Fortune 500 executive, Warren may be best known for making waves while serving on the Mequon Common Council and Ozaukee County Board. He's no longer an elected official, but he has plenty to say about local, state and national issues.



Now that "Tsunami Tuesday" is behind us and Governor Romney has put his presidential campaign on hold, it appears that Senator John McCain will be the Republican nominee for President. The big question is whether the conservative wing of the Republican party will now emulate the lemmings and dash blindly off the cliff in mass suicide rather than support the Party’s nominee.

The lemmings, as you may know, are small rodents who reside near the Arctic Circle, and are alleged to commit mass suicide when they migrate by jumping off a cliff into the sea rather than change course. The comparison is apt since we have already heard from far right wingers like Ann Coulter and Dr. James Dobson that will either stay home come November or vote for Hillary Clinton. Rush Limbaugh is uncommitted but teetering in that direction.

This position is not new for the Republican Party during my voting years. It seems to crop up every decade or two, when the Republican standard bearer is selected based on "principle," well knowing he is not "electable." to the left of Atilla the Hun. The philosophy seems to be: "So long as our candidate is the right of Atilla the Hun, we don’t care if our candidate is electable or not. If the candidate doesn’t, we will oppose him and either stay home on election day or vote for the Democratic candidate."

Recent history indicates that this philosophy of "principle over electability" doesn’t always prevail, but it lurks in the bushes frequently enough to be observable. I observed it first in my voting career back in 1952. The Republican Party had not held the presidency for 20 years. The moderate wing had convinced war hero, Dwight Eisenhower, to run and the conservative wing countered with Senator Bob Taft of Ohio, dubbed as "Mr. Conservative." It was patently obvious that Eisenhower was eminently electable, but since Eisenhower was far from being a conservative, Taft supporters fought all the way to the convention floor. That was a spirited convention before the "electability" Republicans finally overcame the "principle" Republicans. I’ll never forget the hilarity when the two person Virgin Islands delegation chairman voted for Eisenhower and the second delegate requested that the delegation be polled.

That election of Ike probably saved the Republican Party from extinction, but the lesson that "electability" might trump "principle" did not sink in and cropped up come 1964. In this election, "principle" won out over "electability" in the form of Barry Goldwater. I recall challenging a Republican party official who informed me that he didn’t care if Goldwater could win -- the Party put "principle" over "electability." Of course, Goldwater lost big to Lyndon Johnson giving rise to that joke re a Goldwater supporter: "The Democrats said that if I voted for Goldwater, we’d have 250,000 troops in Viet Nam within six months and by golly they were right."

Fortunately for the Republicans, Ronald Reagan came along in 1980 with both "electability" and "principle" characteristics, allowing the Party to close ranks. This harmony lasted until 1996, when the "principle" wing overcame the "electable" wing by nominating Bob Dole, who, to no one’s surprise lost big to Bill Clinton. In 2000, George W. Bush, met the "electability" and "principle" criteria, was elected and all was well now.

So what’s the moral of this history? When the "principle" supporters nominate a loser, the "electability" supporters do not issue threats to stay home or vote for the Democratic candidate. Now that an "electability" candidate has emerged in the person of John McCain who doesn’t meet the "principle" standard, that wing of the Republican Party appears ready to urge their supporters to either stay home on election day or vote for the Democratic candidate.

In my book that puts them in the same category as the lemmings, blindly jumping off the cliff because their way is not the way of the majority of the Republican Party. How sad that they choose martyrdom over reason. Does that remind you of the Islamic terrorists who make the same choice?

I remain optimistic that with some 9 months remaining before the November election, sanity will return, and the Republican Party will close ranks and give the electorate of this country a true two party race. Voters deserve nothing less.

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