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.

  • David Eggleston

    As someone who leans libertarian but understands the need for Republicans to actually govern, how do embrace a group that won’t compromise and thinks every attempt to defend the country from foreign threat or maintain public order is a threat to civil liberties? I honestly want to know, because I want a workable Center-Right coalition.

    • So IMO the catch is making the distinction between three camps: (1) anarchists, (2) malcontents, and (3) folks who want to actually govern, but just want a minimalist state — think Rand Paul, Milton Friedman, and the classical liberals for a moment.

      The first two simply cannot be reconciled. The last group? So long as the LP continues to have fat dudes strut on stage in a speedo when they lose elections? They just aren’t in a position to win. However, given the fact that the Johnson-Weld ’16 ticket not only consisted of two “moderate Republicans” but also produced the best showing for the LP ever? I’d consider for a moment that the idea that libertarians are the ones sitting in the “honorable middle” to perhaps be the best play.

      Besides, I’d rather cut a deal with folks whose mantra is “leave me alone!” rather than a deal with those whose mantra is “race quotas, protectionism, and Rich Moneyed Elites in America’s Major Cities (i.e. the J-o-o-s).” Even Murray Rothbard can be made positively sane when contrasted with the alt-right.

      • David Eggleston

        Sounds good. I’m just worried that these are the same people who accuse me of having no principles constantly and being a RINO sell-out. If they are willing to compromise and work with me, then I am more than happy to compromise and work with them.

        • The libertarians are starting to figure it out — they can’t go from now to Libertopia in an election… it takes 20 years. Simultaneously, if the GOP continues to implode under the nationalist impulse? The LP is waiting with open arms… as evidenced by the Johnson-Weld ticket.