By David Beilstein
FOLLOWING Texas senator Ted Cruz’s 21-hour standing filibuster, the political class once again chatters away, trying to foresee the stitching on the political fastball — grasping at thin air trying to prepare for whatever future awaits.
In the short term, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, seems to betting on Republicans continuing to struggle as a national party — presuming the future belongs to those moderate Republicans who build consensus; empower senatorial alliances, and work to put big government in control of the Grand Old Party.
Unless Sen. McCain lives longer than the normal lifespan, the war hero and former naval aviator believes small-ball is the right ball — and the only ball — he can and need play.
On the other side of the ideological divide of the G.O.P., a cadre of young, libertarian, Republican Turks, whom are witness to the evitable collapse of government as business as usual; the campaign against cliché has now commenced and constitutionalism means more than naked power for these too few individuals in the U.S. Congress.
Much of this is generational; much of it, too, based upon that old school notion of principal. Principal, that ever so sweet intoxicating wine, is often at the forefront of politics with purpose — a strong coil within a strident core of libertarian Republicans (fanned into a flickering blaze following the progressive missteps of the Bush administration), rising as a constitutional foil to the march of progressive tyranny loosed upon the nation under Pres. Obama.
There are some who look upon Sen. McCain with the sternest of angers. I cannot blame those who do. Still, McCain’s showboat antics — attacking senatorial colleague Ted Cruz from the Senate floor lectern — are the worst kind of political conventionality; and in some sense, meaningless.
We are fond of writing on this cyber space that history matters, and conversely, that history does not unfold in a vacuum. In which case, political change is not created by the conventional, but the unorthodox.
Technically, Senator’s Cruz and Rand Paul’s filibuster gymnastics are meaningless, but not so culturally. They are non-conventional tactics, which sure enough, are garnering all types of media attention. We used to have a saying in American life: there is no such thing as bad publicity.
And these young libertarian Republicans are using the kind of swift, quick-footed communicative tactics statists have used to dance circles around stiff-legged Republicans for generations.
One of the great appeals of Pres. Ronald Reagan for conservative Republicans, was, to be put it plainly, the Great Communicator’s comprehension of the median of media, its importance to dramatic theatre, by which Reagan used it as successfully as statist leftists in the past. Reagan understood presentation was as important as message, something he improved upon over Sen. Barry Goldwater’s effort in 1964.
Given the political environment, too, differed from ’64 to ’80, Goldwater’s landslide loss to LBJ turned into a landslide victory for Ronald Reagan in November of 1980. And as William F. Buckley, Jr. stated, Reagan ran on basically the same platform in’80 as Goldwater did in ’64.
But Reagan did not communicate the message the same.
Yes, it is true Pres. Reagan was aided by the failed presidency of Jimmy Carter; a collage of social and fiscal malaise had enveloped the nation, and thrown an attractive key-light on Reagan’s candidacy. Of course, presidential contender Barry Goldwater had to march into battle against the perceived success, both fiscally and foreign policy-wise, of the recently martyred JFK.
Which quite comfortably brings us back to McCain, that crusty of progressive Republicans. McCain is old-hat, and like those who opposed Reagan, especially when Reagan ran against the then-President of the United States, and fellow Republican in the ’76 RNC primaries, Gerald Ford, McCain mind is tuned to the elevation of the current hill, not the one a mile up the road.
What this means is the Republican Party has a chance to be a powerful national party in the electoral majority over the next 50 years. What will determine that is whether the G.O.P. wants to court the kind of short-term theatrics of a John McCain, or realise that the small camp-fire of libertarian Republicanism will grow into a consuming bonfire if supported.