Bay Buchanan has long struck me as a little … out there, even when compared to her brother, Pugnacious Pat.
But as the Rev. Joe Lowery likes to say, there’s good crazy and then there’s bad crazy. In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference now underway in Washington, Bay got a little good crazy.
Of course, there’s a reason the Republicans governed so incompetently, and so much in contradiction to their stated principles: Their ideology, while appealing to many in the abstract, is unworkable as an approach to actually governing.
Ronald Reagan understood that. But with his skills as an actor, he could talk one way and govern another. He could preach about spending discipline while raising federal spending by 68 percent (compared to 32 percent under Clinton). He could preach tax cuts while signing three major tax increases. He could talk tough overseas while skedaddling from Lebanon as soon as our forces there came under attack.
His GOP successors lack that ability. Their philosophy — and their fixation on the mythical rather than practical Ronald Reagan — tells them that when they’re in power they should slash government spending by 30 percent, ban abortion, institute Christian prayer in schools, abolish the Department of Education and create an entirely laissez-faire economy. But none of that is remotely feasible, in part because many of their own voters may like that stuff in theory but would hate it in practice.
So, bereft of principles to guide them and realistic goals to achieve, they are left to govern with the sole aim of continuing to govern. The result is the Bush administration and the abandonment of conservative principle and any other sort of principle that Buchanan correctly attacks.
Now out of power, the Republicans are free to return to preaching their unworkable principles, as Buchanan and others press them to do. But the problem is, the public is now on to them. Memories are fresh. The public now understands that a.) those principles aren’t practical, and b.) if elected, the Republicans wouldn’t follow them anyway.
Buchanan is right; the answer to the GOP dilemma does not reside in Washington. He or she is somewhere out here in the hinterlands, as a governor or mayor, finding conservative ideals that can actually make sense as governing principles. I don’t know who that person is.
I do know it’s not Bobby Jindal or Sarah Palin.