Norm Leahy laments the laziness of Virginia Republicans in a spot-on op-ed for the Washington Post:
Republicans lack a William F. Buckley to articulate a vision of conservatism, a Jack Kemp to humanize it and a Ronald Reagan to sell it. The age of Trumpian bluster makes their absence more keenly felt.
It’s worse in Virginia. Former governor Robert F. McDonnell, who could have anchored the GOP future, was disgraced. Bill Bolling retreated. Ken Cuccinelli won the battle of process but lost the election.
Couple all this with an intellectual vacuum in Washington, and it compounds the risk that Republicans will blame the stars — the inscrutable processes — rather than themselves for their electoral frustration.
It is probably no secret that Republican fortunes in Virginia are scant, compounded only by the wholesale barbarian sacking of conservative ideas in favor of populist “principles” — a poor substitute that demands adherence to a creed that states its preference for free enterprise yet whose populist inquisitors have contorted its meaning into a protectionist, anti-free trade dogma.
Leahy is absolutely correct on the formula of articulating vision, demonstrating care, then evangelizing the masses. In the absence of a conservative effort to restore the spirit of the old conservative/libertarian fusionism — or at the very least, to come up with an engaging idea since bombing Iraq in 2003 — the populists have merely resorted to a form of anti-liberalism in the face of progressive identity politics. Anything that angers the left is a positive good; history is a long defeat; the culture war is already lost; everything is a rearguard action; etc.
Most of that reason is that Republicans themselves stopped believing in Reaganism a long time ago. It’s a dirty secret, but we all know it’s true.
That’s why conservatives keep getting thumped at the polls and within our own party: the populists simply believe more in what they believe than the inheritors of the Reagan Revolution believe in what we believe. We’ll keep groping for a fraction of easily captured populist support when there is a virtual ocean of libertarian support right next to us — folks who believe what we believe when it comes to free minds, free speech, and a free society… but don’t want to be associated with stupid.
At some point, freedom will be worth fighting for again. At some point, our self-declared “leaders” will be able to call out the bad actors by name — as Buckley did — and demonstrate a conservatism that welcomes others into the party, not because we are basely seeking victory but because we actually give a damn about the future of America.
Until that time?
…we’ll keep debating about methods of nomination, “loyalty oaths” and whether those who put an arm around Citronella Nazis are welcome within our party.