With fewer than 60 days remaining before the November election, the only two Republican strategies left standing are to scare the public about the Democrats collectively or to slime the Democrats individually. There's nothing new about these strategies, of course, but this year they exist in a vacuum. Having run both the executive and legislative branches for the past two years with nothing but failure to show for it, the Republicans can no longer campaign as the party that will balance the budget, reform entitlements, lower energy costs, fix the immigration problem, create a more secure world or find a suitable way out of their endless war of choice in Iraq. What's left is a campaign of scaring and sliming, with the emphasis on the latter.The scare that worked in 2002 and 2004 may not work this time so it's time to slime.
But the public isn't falling for the third iteration of the scare campaign -- not yet, anyway -- so the Republicans have fallen back on slime. According to a report in Sunday's Post by Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza, the National Republican Congressional Committee "plans to spend more than 90 percent of its $50 million-plus advertising budget on what officials described as negative ads" that attack Democratic candidates on their business dealings, legal battles and legislative votes that can be taken out of context.To make things even worse for the current crop of elected Republicans many of the old school, real conservatives, think the Republicans must lose this year to save the conservative movement. Seven of these conservatives speak out at The Washington Monthly. They all seem to agree on one thing, if the conservative movement is to survive the current crop of Republicans who have hijacked the name have to go. Christopher Buckley explains:
What's a party to do when its high road leads nowhere but down? The Republicans tried privatizing Social Security, but their numbers never added up. They tried spreading democracy with unilateral, preventive war but instead unleashed a sectarian bloodbath. So the party of big ideas, of Milton Friedman and the neoconservatives, is now just one big Swift Boat flotilla, its ideas sunk of their own dead weight, kept afloat solely by its opposition research. For their part, the Democrats still champion common security; they call for a government that can build dikes and reduce the costs of college and medication and that knows that remaking the world becomes more plausible when some of the world is actually willing to go along with us. Those are, in the campaign of 2006, just about the only ideas in play.
On Capitol Hill, a Republican Senate and House are now distinguished by—or perhaps even synonymous with—earmarks, the K Street Project, Randy Cunningham (bandit, 12 o’clock high!), Sen. Ted Stevens’s $250-million Bridge to Nowhere, Jack Abramoff (Who? Never heard of him), and a Senate Majority Leader who declared, after conducting his own medical evaluation via videotape, that he knew every bit as much about the medical condition of Terry Schiavo as her own doctors and husband. Who knew that conservatism means barging into someone’s hospital room like Dr. Frankenstein with defibrillator paddles? In what chapter of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom or Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind is that principle enunciated?