WTMA commentary broadcast 5/20/08:

Last week was not good one for Republicans. As a possible sign of elections to come, the loss of a number of once-solid Republican House seats due to a special election in Mississippi, caused former House GOP leader Tom Davis to declare that “the Republican brand is in the trash can…if we were dog food, they would take us off the shelf.”

Indeed. The Republican Party, at least at the national level, has become grossly out of step with the concerns of many, if not most, Americans.

Let’s start with illegal immigration. Here in South Carolina we have state Republicans like Glenn McConnell willing to fight tooth and nail, to locally fix some of damage wrought by Washington DC’s dereliction of duty on illegal immigration. Then there’s Lindsey Graham, John McCain and George W. Bush, national Republican leaders who not only refuse to do their constitutional duty to enforce our borders – but encourage illegal aliens with amnesty proposals and embrace groups like the National Council of La Raza. Like Graham last year, McCain is scheduled to speak at La Raza’s convention this July. Probably not a good idea.

Managed trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA have damaged American industry every bit as bad as conservatives like Pat Buchanan predicted they would a decade ago, and even Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have tried to prove themselves more anti-NAFTA than the other. President Bush chastised the Democrats, saying “Now is not the time to renegotiate NAFTA or walk away from NAFTA.” McCain agreed saying “If I am elected president, this country will honor… NAFTA.” In NAFTA-damaged states like Iowa, Democratic caucus voters outnumbered Republicans 2 to 1 – and the Republicans voted for Mike Huckabee, a critic of NAFTA. Again, sticking up for NAFTA is probably not a good idea.

And then there’s Iraq. Upwards of 70% of Americans now believe that our war in Iraq was a mistake and we should bring our troops home. Bush and McCain not only vehemently disagree, but on foreign policy they sound like Hillary on becoming president. No matter how much circumstances change and the odds deem any kind of victory virtually impossible, they stubbornly insist they can still win. In fact, Hillary probably has a better chance of becoming president than the United States does of having any sort of worthwhile victory in Iraq. Bush and McCain’s insistence that “the surge is working” is akin to putting a band aid on a bullet wound. Again, probably not a good idea.

But not all national Republicans are doing badly. Writes Chronicles Magazine’s Christopher Check “If (Republicans) are looking for a sign of hope… look at Congressman Walter B. Jones of North Carolina’s 3rd congressional district. Since 1995 this Republican congressman held his seat unopposed from within his party. In Tuesday’s primary, however, he faced a challenger for the first time. Why? Because three years ago, the very man who introduced legislation changing the name of french fries to Freedom Fries converted from one of the Iraq War’s biggest supporters to one of its fiercest critics.” I might add that Jones, arguably one of the most conservative members of the House, is also harsh critic of NAFTA and illegal immigration.

Republicans could also look to Jones fellow North Carolinian, 33-year-old BJ Lawson – an antiwar, anti-NAFTA, anti-illegal immigration Republican – who handily won the nomination for his state’s 4th congressional district in the same election. Lawson’s opponent, a run-of-the-mill neoconservative whose policies differed little from Bush or McCain, tried to damage Lawson by portraying him as a “Ron Paul Republican,” an accusation Lawson embraced proudly. Lawson defeated his opponent with over 70% of the vote.

If the Republican Party loses big in 2008, it’s not simply because they are so unpopular – it’s because they are so wrong on so many issues, which makes them unpopular. If there is a viable future for the Republican Party it will not belong to candidates who embrace the liberal Bush legacy of open borders, empty factories and undefined, unwinnable wars, but an America first conservatism that looks out for our national interest, not that of Mexico, China or Iraq. Two NC Republicans have already proved it’s a winning strategy.

But in the meantime, the only real hope McCain might have of becoming president is that voters might be more afraid of Obama than him. That’s not a platform – that’s a suicide pact, a death the GOP continues to bring upon itself, and like yesterday’s dog food, the Republicans expiration date just might read “November.”

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