It was the legendary Yogi Berra who said, "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there." The harder most of the current crop of Republicans try to arrive at their core values the more obvious it becomes they don't have a clue where they are going. To make matters worse, the Republican electorate appears to be just as confused as their leaders.
The current frontrunner is Senator John McCain of McCain/Feingold fame. This is the same John McCain who infuriated conservatives by cobbling together the "gang of fourteen" who managed to derail Senator Frist's attempt to break the filibuster logjam in the Senate. Senator McCain still believes to this day he saved both the decorum of the Senate and the future of the Republican Party by stopping those who were bent on calling the Democrats bluff.
This is the same Senator John McCain who voted against President Bush's tax cuts and then reached across the aisle to join with Senator Ted Kennedy to craft an immigration bill that was so bad the American people actually rose up and rejected it. He is the same John McCain, who in his 2000 campaign for the nomination, lumped Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton into the same group and called them all "agents of intolerance" and "corrupting influences" in American politics. And just in case there were any Evangelicals who didn't get the message the next day McCain specifically blasted Falwell and Robertson as people who exercise an "evil influence over the Republican Party."
So….why is the Republican Party, a party made up of fiscal conservatives who are opposed to big government and big taxes; a party made up of people who believe in border security and the enforcement of immigration laws; a party which boasts of Evangelicals at its base; about to anoint Senator John McCain as their standard bearer?
Is it because they are afraid of former Governor Mitt Romney? There is much in Romney's record that would cause most Republicans to be very afraid. In his 2002 campaign for governor of Massachusetts, Romney said, "The choice to have an abortion is a deeply personal one. Women should be free to choose based on their own belief, not the governments." In 2002, Romney opposed the Boy Scouts policy of excluding homosexuals as Scoutmasters and he prevented the Boy Scouts from publicly participating in the Olympics. In 2005, the Boston Globe wrote, "Mitt Romney, who touts his credentials to out-of-state Republicans, has passed over GOP lawyers for three-quarters of the 36 judicial vacancies he has faced; instead tapping registered Democrats or Independents – including two gay lawyers who have supported expanded same-sex rights."
Maybe McCain and Romney are both emerging because compared to Rudy Giuliani they are both conservatives. But will this really be the legacy of the party of Ronald Reagan? Will Republicans settle for someone they think can win rather than someone they believe in? Again, quoting Yogi Berra, that would "be like déjà vu all over again." Every time Republicans nominate the person they think can win over the person they know best represents the ideals of the party the result is the same….they lose and lose big. When Republicans stick to their guns and back a true conservative they win. They win because in spite of all the huffing and puffing by the media America is not ready for socialism. At the end of the day, the average American still believes America is a "shinning city on a hill." The average American still believes that hard work, not handouts form the backbone of the economy. The average American knows, deep down in his or her heart that life is precious, marriage is foundational, government governs best that governs least, and our future depends on our resolve to protect our sovereignty.
The Republican Party is in search of a soul….I hope we find it before its too late. Of course, when it comes to the 2008 run for the White House "it gets late early out there."
Dr. Tony Beam is Vice-President for Student Services and Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.