Finding Your Way Out Of The Wilderness: Republicans Are Doing It Wrong

“Don’t think, Meat.”

It was my dad’s favorite movie line of all time and comes from one of those Kevin Costner baseball movies… Field of Dreams? Bull Durham? I don’t know, I’m neither a Kevin Costner, nor a Baseball fan.

The point behind the quote was that wise catcher Kevin Costner was telling the young but talented pitcher not to think about his pitches. When the kid did what came natural, he was fine, but when he stopped to think about the pitch, he was terrible. Something like that anyway, and I think something that is important to this story.

Getting out of movies I don’t care about, on my way in to the office, NPR had some guy who I guess is integral to CPAC talking about an oft debated topic these days: how can conservatives and Republicans find their way out of the wilderness? He went on and on about conservative values and articulating those conservative values in a way that is attractive to the electorate and the most important part of the discussion struck me like a kick to the head…

…he was talking about all of this in the context of finding the conservative’s way out of the “Wilderness.” Political redemption was the end game, and this strikes me as a losing strategy, especially if Republicans hope to find their way out of the wilderness any time soon.

Let us hop in our intertube powered time machines to late last year. The general election was in full swing when the economy flashed all of America the bird before doing a swan dive. It was at this time that Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain did something that left many political watchers stunned and scratching their heads…

…he suspended his campaign to save the economy. A cynical person might have mistaken this for a last ditch attempt to improve his electoral chances against a Democratic opponent that was continuously out performing him on virtually every measure.

A gullible person might have taken John McCain at his word that this was nothing to do with presidential campaigning. Or, they would have had McCain not turned around and continued campaigning for president, doing a whole bunch of media interviews and deploying his vice presidential candidate to keep up the stump speeches.

Now I don’t profess to know exactly what McCain was thinking at this period of time. It is, I suppose, feasible that he really did intend to suspend his campaign to save the economy, and all these reporters and interviews and the Bill Clinton thing all got in the way. But let’s assume that the “campaign suspension” was, as some not so trusting of McCain’s motives may believe, just a stunt to drag up failing poll numbers.

Can anyone guess what McCain might have done wrong? If your answer was that he kept on campaigning and reminding everyone that he was suspending his campaign to save the country, then you get a gold star (which I guess I can draw and email to you or something at a later time and date).

Doing what was right for the country in order to save his political skin may have been a nifty idea, but the problem that got in the way was that John McCain couldn’t let go of the fact that he was trying to save his political skin. In the end, the campaign suspension looked like a poorly executed political ploy and solidified McCain as someone who was erratic and not of the temperament that belongs in the Oval Office.

So what does all of this have to do with Republicans and conservatives finding their way out of the wilderness? Easy; they are thinking about finding their way out of the wilderness. While most Americans are worried about keeping their jobs, or finding new jobs, or whether they get to keep their house, or if they’ll be able to afford their kids’ school supplies (shorter: the ECONOMY), Republicans are worried about how to unbrand themselves as the party of suckage.

Their focus is on political leverage and chess games, and they are playing these games against a popular president who is better than the whole lot of them at expressing himself as being concerned with the same problems the rest of the country is concerned with.

Put another way, the country is facing a time of peril, but the curious thing about perilous times is that opportunities for political redemption are always lurking just around the corner. The trick is to not worry about political redemption, but instead worry about the problems we’re actually facing.

No one cares if the people who face the problem have a D or an R behind their name, they just care that the government is working to fix things, and at this stage of the game, the R’s in the equation seem only concerned with fixing their own party.

So, to my Republican… friends. A bit of advice where for once I won’t tell you to move to the middle (like I normally do). Nope, no preaching about your messed up principles. Just a simple morsel for you to chew on; quit worrying about the fate of your party, and start worrying about the fate of your country. If you work hard enough, political redemption and a way out of the wilderness may just follow.

Or, put another way, “Don’t think, Meat.”

2 Responses to “Finding Your Way Out Of The Wilderness: Republicans Are Doing It Wrong”

  1. SeanH says:


    PS – I know you don’t care, but it’s Bull Durham.

  2. Yeah, I had a friend remind me of that prior to a short lived but rigorous debate.

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