Craig Shirley Knows the Score

A blistering op-ed from Craig Shirley in today's Washington Post, "How the GOP Lost Its Way":

The immigration reform debate has highlighted a long-standing fissure in the GOP between the elitist Rockefeller business wing and the party's conservative populist base. Whether the two groups can continue to coexist and preserve the Republican majority is increasingly doubtful as conservatives begin to consider — and in some cases cheer — the possibility that the GOP may lose control of Congress this fall.

He outlines the populist vs. establishment tensions in the GOP that this blog has been yammering about for a while. He also illustrates one of the perennial weaknesses of the populist Right — wishful thinking. "The revolution of 1994 has been killed not by zeal but by a loss of faith in its own principles," he says, but that isn't true. The revolution of 1994 was always less than it seemed — Newt Gingrich had little in the way of principled objections to big government, and those of the Republican freshmen class of '94 who did were swiftly sidelined, defeated in their re-election races, or co-opted. From the start, power was its own top priority.

I suspect that Shirley is right, though, when he says that "The tragedy is not that we are faced with another fight for the soul of the Republican Party but that we have missed an opportunity to bring a new generation of Americans over to our point of view." It's no tragedy, but the Republicans certainly have lost the goodwill of a lot of intelligent young conservatives — many of whom are now ex-conservatives. I'm often surprised to come across the blogs of casual acquaintances who were once program officers at conservative youth organizations and have now become trenchantly critical of the GOP's ways. (Eric Langborgh, for example, was a program officer with Accuracy in Academia; Gideon worked for the Leadership Institute's student publications division.) This shouldn't worry the GOP too much, though. There'll always be careerists and opportunists enough to replace critically-minded defectors.


6 thoughts on “Craig Shirley Knows the Score

  1. Brian April 22, 2006 / 11:50 am

    Craig Shirley is a PR specialist, so why will he not admit that the “populists” have lost the PR war on this issue with their incendiary rhetoric? President Bush seems to be taking the “elitist” position on this issue. Would Craig Shirley have us believe that President Bush is not conservative?

  2. Vanna April 22, 2006 / 1:38 pm

    Craig Stevens transitions from journalistic–“the GOP may lose control of Congress” to passionately partisan first person plural by the end of his piece:

    “The tragedy is not that we are faced with another fight for the soul of the Republican Party but that we have missed an opportunity to bring a new generation of Americans over to our point of view.”

    As Tonto said, “What you mean ‘We,’ White Man?”

  3. pilsener April 22, 2006 / 2:11 pm

    to BRIAN – You asked “Would Craig Shirley have us believe that President Bush is not conservative?”

    YES! Depends what the Conservative principles you deem important. I believe that the glue of Reagan Conservatism was a belief in a limited federal government*. President Bush and the Republican congress have amply demonstrated that the tenets of limiting government have no appeal for them:

    “steel tariffs, prescription drug benefits, a League of Nations mentality, the growth of government and harebrained spending, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, the increasing regulation of political speech in the United States and endemic corruption.”

    If some Republicans and Democrats want open borders, they should drop the hypocrisy and put it on the table. A hypocritcal refusal to enforce the laws as written should offend people of every policial persuasion.

  4. Eric Langborgh April 28, 2006 / 9:05 pm

    Hi Dan,

    It is good to catch up here on what you’ve been doing since I last saw you at the AIA conference we held at your alma mater in St. Louis. Or was it a subsequent Conservative University in DC? Anyway, I am pleased to see you doing so well.

    I know it is not your intention, but I just thought I’d make perfectly clear for the public, since you mentioned me here, that unlike the other two fellas you cite I remain very much a conservative, and that of the paleo-type (with strong libertarian leanings when it comes to trade issues, for instance). It is for thatreason that I am so stridently critical of President Bush.

    I also wouldn’t characterize myself as a recent defector from the Republican Party, as your post seems to insinuate. I did not vote for Bush in either election, choosing to support the Constitution Party candidate both times. I do continue to vote in the GOP primaries, though, as the current election laws means that the Republican Party remains the best shot for true conservatives to exert influence and gain power. Pat Buchanan now recognizes this to be the case, too.


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