Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crazy never wins GOP sweepstakes

by Joe Scarborough

As Rick Perry might say, “It really ain’t that hard.”

If you’re a Northeast elite hoping to crack the code on GOP presidential primaries while impressing your friends at Fifth Avenue dinner parties with insightful political prognostications, always remember one simple rule: Crazy never wins.

You heard right, my Upper West Side friend. Crazy. Never. Wins.

Despite the crop of nutty right-wing candidates that sprout up in GOP presidential fields every four years, despite the gasps and growls that regularly rise from Manhattan cocktail parties aimed at extremists who are hijacking the Republican Party (in ways that past GOP extremists would never have dreamed of hijacking the party), despite the cries from right-wing radio hosts predicting the rise of Ronald Reagan’s ghost and the nomination of an unelectable candidate, in the end this political chatter always proves to be sound and fury signifying nothing.

A few caveats to my rule: (1) Thank you very much for the invitations to your Manhattan cocktail parties. Anything written in the preceding paragraphs should not be interpreted to suggest that I am not delighted by your company or future invitations to said events; and (2) Reagan was never the right-wing tool that talk show hosts claim.

Reagan governed California during its greatest — and most challenging — decade. Running a state of that size required him to compromise on abortion, tax increases and the growth of government in a way that offended the John Birch Society.

Reagan ignored the most extreme elements in his party and governed from the center when compromise was required. That pragmatic streak required the conservative movement’s founder to come to the Gipper’s defense more than once.

William F. Buckley praised Reagan’s pragmatism in a 1967 National Review column that mocked right-wing critics by facetiously asking whether the California governor should “padlock the state treasury and give speeches on the Liberty Amendment.”

Buckley would later criticize George W. Bush’s utopian foreign policy by telling The Wall Street Journal that “conservatism implies a certain submission to reality.”

By that standard, conservatism is in short supply in the 2012 GOP field.

And by following the conservative standard my father used, it’s not so hard to pick out the pretenders in this year’s field.

My dad was comfortably middle class and always too busy putting his kids through school to obsess over politics. But he did know enough to see Reagan speak in 1979 and come home declaring that he had just seen America’s next president — a truth that most commentators would miss until election night a year later.

At just about this time four years ago, Dad gave me one of his last lectures on presidential politics.

John McCain was stuck in single digits, and his once mighty campaign was declared dead on arrival by Republican operatives and political pundits. But Dad’s message to me as I raced toward the airport was as unambiguous as his Reagan declaration 30 years earlier.

“You better watch John McCain. He’s gonna win the nomination.”

Despite my eye rolls and the Arizona senator’s self-inflicted wounds, Dad was right again. Just like he was when he supported Nixon, Goldwater, Ford, Reagan, Dole and Bush.

Guys like my dad do not gamble on candidates like Michele Bachmann or Newt Gingrich.

Guys like my dad tune out politicians who compare opponents to Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler.

And guys like my dad don’t cozy up to Texas governors who brag about seceding from the Union or call Social Security unconstitutional.

That’s why crazy never wins. It never even comes close.

So regardless of what is written about the Republican Party every four years by Northeast elites or right-wing nuts, guys like my father still hold the GOP’s fate in their conservative hands.

A guest columnist for POLITICO, Joe Scarborough hosts “Morning Joe” on MSNBC and represented Florida’s 1st Congressional District in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001. 

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