Many of the ideologically driven, and many of the moral cowards who avoid any consistent ideology, lest they offend, have the mistaken notion that most people have fairly rigid ideologically based beliefs. That is simply not true. What most people have are patterns of identification. These may or may not be fairly rigid; but only a relatively very few individuals could even begin to define their beliefs on particular issues in terms of a structured ideology. For this reason, surveys of popular attitudes--who is for or against a particular program--and/or analyses of yesterday's voting statistics, as measures of what to expect tomorrow, are grossly over-rated. "Leadership," to be leadership, requires a grasp of these truths and the moral fiber, and will, to apply the obvious lessons from them.
To be effective politically, the advocate--be he candidate or campaign spokesman--should have a cogent, coherent and consistent philosophy. While frequently one may reap success by grabbing an issue of the moment--by embracing a groundswell of popular opinion at the right time--such success is not likely to be long lived; that is, unless one is able to incorporate that groundswell into a general philosophic structure, the ability to provide a rational structure for continuity of identification. Certainly, leadership requires cogency, coherence and consistency. Without an ability to support one's position with cogent or convincing argument, one is only a follower of the crowd who share the same position. While such a person may be elected, when there is no appealing alternative and the issue involved is indeed a popular one, there is certainly no reason for such an individual to expect much continuity of support. When the public focus shifts, he is without the most basic asset, a high level of personal credibility.
Coherence of argument, that is presenting one's opinion in a well structured argument, which illustrates the mental capacity of the advocate and helps to win new recruits to that position, is essential to establish an ascending credibility, even among those already in agreement with that position. While an argument can be convincing without being truly coherent, any long term benefit depends upon the latter quality. That the argument for a particular position be consistent with an overall philosophy adds the important additional aspect, which gives the particular advocate credibility over both time and scope. Without logical consistency, an individual lacks intellectual credibility, and will remain vulnerable to endless vagaries of the moment, including both periodic swings in popular sentiment and in the attention spans of various segments of a broader public.
The importance of cogency, coherence and consistency, is so obvious, that the failure of so many in public office to demonstrate such qualities tells us a great deal about the contemporary level of political "leadership." Yet having delineated the three essential "C"s of political advocacy, we would also suggest three "I"s, without which one is neither likely to achieve cogency or coherence, or, for that matter, to even understand philosophical consistency, or its importance: Intelligence, integrity and consistent identification with a definable constituency.
Clearly, the more intelligent the advocate, the better his capacity to apply the principles of effective advocacy. Integrity is what drives consistency, as every other trust inducing quality. Clear identification with a definable constituency is the quality that establishes where the advocate stands with respect to the competing or conflicting interests in a political or social milieu.
The present Conservative dilemma results from two primary phenomena, each relevant to these basic principles of political advocacy. The first is the political realignment, which resulted from the Goldwater, Wallace and Reagan Presidential campaigns, in the second half of the 20th Century. In the late 1950s, Goldwater enunciated a clear, cogent, coherent and consistent Conservative message, which rallied a huge 'grass-roots' political movement, leading to his nomination for President in 1964. Prior to that campaign, Conservatives had been almost equally divided between the two major parties. But when the Republicans nominated Goldwater, Senator J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina switched parties to support Goldwater, and a gradual realignment began.
Four years later, George Wallace, the Democratic Governor of Alabama, ran for President as an independent Conservative under the American Independent Party banner, drawing significant support from nominally Democratic Conservatives with his own clear, cogent, coherent and consistent message, achieving a further major break down in former political identification. These Wallace independents were to form the back-bone of those later identified as "Reagan Democrats," when Ronald Reagan, who enunciated a cogent, coherent and consistent political philosophy with a smile, was elected President in 1980. By that time most Americans considered themselves Conservatives, and most Conservatives considered themselves Republicans.
The second chain of events contributing to the present Conservative dilemma, involve the repeated failure of Reagan's successors in the present Republican "leadership" to maintain the principles behind that political realignment. While most still claim to be Conservative, they have completely abandoned the cogent, coherent and consistent political philosophy, that led to what was once termed the "Reagan Revolution." Sadly, it seems increasingly likely that the current "leadership" lack the intelligence, integrity or/and identification, required to defend the very values that had both driven that realignment and enabled their own temporary political ascendancy. How did something, once so positive, become so debased, in so short a time frame?
As American politics have become increasingly expensive over the past three generations, the dependence--real or imagined--on the professional political advisor, who actually earns a living making strategy decisions for candidates or managing various campaign functions, has grown apace. Nothing will better illustrate such dependence than the present situation, where Karl Rove has been working as a full time employee in the White House, as chief political advisor to the President of the United States.
The apparent failure of Karl Rove, as the President's political advisor, to grasp the premises that define effective political leadership, is clearly reflected in the history of the last six years. And it is that failure, more even than the President's own increasingly obvious limitations, which has undermined the credibility of the Bush Administration, both with Conservatives and Americans in general. Involved not only in determining how to market political decisions, but in the actual determination of policy direction, the lesson seems obvious: Karl Rove neither understands the prerequisites for leadership, nor cares about the principles that both Conservatives, in general, and most Republicans--at least since Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan--have considered sacred. Let us look at some of the more compelling examples.
The 2000 Republican Convention, having been locked up in advance by the Bush faction, provided a showcase for the political "talents" of Karl Rove. Rove, who had previously managed Bush's political campaigns, both in Texas and in the 2000 Presidential Primaries, sought to broaden the Republican ethnic base, but failed to project either a coherent or consistent ideology, or any clear identification with ethnic Americans. It was not that the Rove strategy called for an outreach from what had for decades been an overwhelmingly White Republican base, to recognizable minorities. That would hardly have required a virtual abandonment of images of traditional American icons--the visual abandonment of identity with one's own heritage. Yet, at least in the prime TV time images, there were more blatant Hispanic themes than those traditional to mainstream America; while Black Republicans were certainly not neglected. As one watched, one could only wonder why Rove thought anyone else would want to join a Republican effort that had seemingly lost all pride--all identification--with its own? Ignoring your own people does not make them seem more appealing to others. At best, such antics would be seen as patronizing; more likely, as chaotic.
While Bush had earlier held a comfortable margin over Al Gore, he came out of the botched Republican Convention headed for the cliff-hanger that followed. And while there may have been a fall off in the expected vote of the Republican base, Rove's poorly conceived outreach did not result in any rush for minorities to vote Republican. What the confusion of identification and loss of consistency did result in, were missed opportunities to rally support, as discussed at the time in the link below on "Campaign 2000."
In the 2000 Republican Primaries, George W. Bush had described himself as a "Strict-Constructionist"; indicating that he would adhere to our Federal Constitution, as it was written and intended. But in the Rove directed general election campaign, he indicated that he would support both Medicare Prescription Drug coverage and a far greater Federal role in local education. As the Constitution, literally construed, authorizes no Federal role in either civilian health care or in education, this was obviously not consistent with Bush's previous avowal. Yet most Conservatives, who turned out to vote, looked the other way. Perhaps because they wanted so badly to find a candidate they could trust, they dared not trust their own analytic abilities. In doing so, they helped elect a man, they could not trust; who, in effect, had actually warned us that he could not be trusted!
In the meanwhile, Karl Rove was setting ambitious goals. His expressed hope was to undermine the bases of Democratic Party support; believing he could thus usher in a generation of Republican control. To the Rovian analysis--one driven by perhaps accurate measures of yesterday's public opinions--Bush's stands all seemed good politics. There were studies which showed it was very appealing to many Americans, nearing or over 65, to obtain a Federal subsidy for future prescription drug usage; that to many Americans, particularly urban and suburban women, there was significant interest in forcing educational reforms on local public school systems. Neither fact, however, changed either the Constitution or the economics of having a distant Federal Government interfere in the allocation of resources or in the direction of local projects. Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage and the "No Child Left Behind" intrusion into local education, were not examples of leadership, but of politicians scrambling to humor perceived voting blocks. Thus, the "leader" did not feel constrained to even discuss the lack of Constitutional authority; nor did he perceive a need to look more closely at the economics.
What is especially pathetic in this, is not just the lack of intellectual integrity, but the wanton lack of understanding of the potential new issues raised by those actions. These would include not only the obvious, which flow from spiraling Federal deficits, addressed hereafter; the myriad of questions and controversies inevitable in the implementation of such programs; and the inevitable failures in any program designed to pursue solutions to what are, actually, less problems than realities of life. There are also virtually unlimited possibilities for creating new issues, to redefine potential voting line-ups, in almost any complex political or social endeavor. Because Karl Rove (note the essays below on Rove) lacks both analytic skill and functional imagination, he may be oblivious to this aspect of the political art, yet some Republican office holders have just lost their jobs because of it.
For example, the recent Pennsylvania Senate election appears to have turned, in large part, on the dissatisfaction with the Bush Administration's Medicare Prescription Drug program. There, the Republican incumbent was blamed for having supported a drug program that did not require the Federal Government to use its enormous bargaining power to pressure pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs to Medicare recipients for the same below list prices, for which they have been offered in other countries--such as Canada. The point was not an irrational one.
If the Federal Government is going to be a buyer (or co-buyer) of drugs on a mammoth scale, it is not unreasonable to expect them to bargain for the best wholesale price, obtainable. Of course, when the Democrats threw the apparent fact that the Republican Senator had received $250,000 in campaign funds from pharmaceutical companies into the mix, he found himself in a very difficult position, indeed. But the real point is this: While a Constitutional position, that it is not the business of the Federal Government to subsidize civilian drug usage, is clearly defensible in any milieu; once one compromises principle to try to win support by appealing to special interests, one opens the door to those virtually unlimited possibilities for others to create new issues to redefine voting line-ups.
Consider some of the more obvious opportunities, available to an equally demagogic, would-be contra-Rovian strategist, which take longer to type than to conceive: The immediate concept would be to play on the inevitable dissatisfactions with the allocation of Medicare subsidies--i.e. who is getting what in relation to others. Then there would be the inevitable impact of the Federal subsidies on the general price structure of pharmaceuticals; the inter-generational jealousies--as, for example, between young families paying more for drugs prescribed for their children, rising in price because of a tightened supply resulting from the Federally subsidized purchases, and the elderly;--and, of course, multiple questions of who is being less "fairly" subsidized than whom, with respect to the whole gamut of programs, by an increasingly Socialistic Federal Government, etc., etc..
Or consider the really idiotic political gambit involved in the "No Child Left Behind" educational initiative. Again, one can clearly defend the Constitutional position, that there is no role conveyed to the Federal Government to meddle in local public education, by referring to the document itself. For that matter, one can convincingly demonstrate the waste in establishing an expensive additional layer of bureaucracy over the local class room. The adoption of a program at the Federal level, as a political ploy vowing to make certain that "no child is left behind," has to be one of the most poorly conceived concepts in American history. It is a veritable time bomb, which must inevitably explode in the faces of those responsible.
The problem is not solved by the President's denouncing the "bigotry of low expectations." Had the Conservatives in Washington not lost their voice, they might have responded to the "demagoguery of false hopes and unrealistic promises." The fact is that everyone reading this, has within the scope of his or her own personal experience, more than enough data to reject the possibility of any program's succeeding in making certain that "no child" will be "left behind." No two of us have the same aptitudes, and making a pretense that egalitarianism is anything more than a Leftwing 'pipe dream,' is the surest way to court political disaster. The endless failures of the program will open a veritable "Pandora's Box" of exploitable issues for the next generation of politicians.
The President's domestic initiatives, above, coupled with expenditures for military operations overseas, and the idea that we must spend billions to rebuild Iraq, rather than expect them to employ future oil revenues for that purpose, have created enormous deficits. Add to those such extravagant foolishness as the President's promise to spend $200,000,000,000 (not only to rebuild New Orleans, but to launch a new version of LBJ's "War on Poverty," in the form of special subsidies to its former slum dwellers), together with the cost of other similar pandering, here and abroad, and you have a major fiscal crisis. The effect will not only discredit Republican financial management in the near term. Those deficits will fuel inflationary pressure for a long time to come. Examples: War Debt from 1861 to 1865 undermined the currency in the 1870s. War Debt from the 1960s created terrible inflation in 1979 and 1980, only controlled by the highest interest rates in 20th Century America. Unless the Democrats have advisors as befuddled as Karl Rove, they may be expected to use these facts to serious advantage.
Certainly, the President's failure, for almost 5 1/2 years, to even acknowledge the disruptive nature of the mass immigration over our Southern border may be attributed, in part, to that Rove strategy to undermine the historic support for Democratic candidates. To the simplistic Karl Rove, a perceived need to challenge the ethnic identification of Hispanic and other minorities with the Democrats, so evident in the stage management of the 2000 Convention, ruled out any Conservative stance on non-White immigration. Thus, although the bulk of new voters, emerging from that ongoing flood, have continued to vote against Republicans--and can be expected to continue to vote against Republicans on economic issues alone, without any need to even address questions of ethnic identification--Rovian policy has prevented any effective action to preserve the character of these United States. And the long-term political consequences are certainly not alleviated by a common perception that part of the motivation for allowing that mass migration was to hold down the wages of American Labor!
Yet we but scratch the surface of the case against Karl Rove's competence as a political advisor.
The clearest confirmation of Karl Rove's tactical incompetence, as political guide to George W. Bush, came in his complete failure to recognize a "sea change" in public perception over security issues. Up until recently, a significant number of educated Americans were willing to accept the Administration's claim of a causal connection between the continued American presence in Iraq, and a failure by Al Qaeda to launch another successful attack on the United States. The President's endlessly repeated insistence of a linkage found a high level of acceptance until an apparent lack of progress, towards any clear ending in Iraq, caused a rising tide of disenchantment. As more and more people tended to look more closely, and reports from security evaluations, not under the President's control, raised the spectre that the Bush policy had actually proven a recruiting aid to Al Qaeda, a substantial majority of educated Americans came to reject the President's claimed rationale for that policy.
While the initial support had been based more on trust than reason, the rejection came to be based upon reason and a loss of trust. The latter is not a combination likely to be reversed. Indeed, the more the subject is discussed, the less appealing, or rational, a strategy that seeks to discourage people from joining your enemy by continuously insulting their cultural heritage. Yet that is what the President has been doing by vowing to change Islamic culture. If Karl Rove had the slightest concept of how to influence the course of public opinion, rather than simply reacting to opinion already in place, he would understand this. Yet, even as support for a policy that had depended upon blind faith in the Administration was collapsing, he had the President back on the hustings, offering the same discredited argument--making the election, to many voters, a referendum on the very policies they had come increasingly to reject.
Now, of course, Rove had not steered the President into a position where he had too many alternatives. The Medicare drug and Education programs, coupled with attempts to interfere with State and local spheres both in the Schiavo case, and with respect to the results of popular referenda in several Western States, had given the lie to any pretense of being a "Strict-Constructionist." The President's claim of being tough on home security issues was not credible, in view of his almost 5 1/2 years in office before he addressed the chaos on the Southern border. Record deficits, resulting from the whole complex of policies, denied Republicans the traditional benefit of being seen as economy minded. The weakness on immigration, coupled with the deliberate rejection of identification with the rooted families that have been the Republican base, denied any effective appeal to family or ethnic traditions.
As for finding some completely new issue? That would have required imagination, which is one of the areas where Karl Rove is deficient. Nor did a progression of Republican scandals, leave the President much of an option to talk about the abuses of the last Democratic Administration under Clinton. Even the President's rather weak opposition to aggressive Homosexual demands for acceptance of asexual deviancy as a viable "lifestyle," had been undermined by his allowing continuation of Clintonian policies within the Federal Government--such as "Gay Pride" celebrations in the Justice Department, and the appointment of at least one Ambassador to a European nation, who openly flaunted that "lifestyle." This, coupled with the continued presence of women in combat units--another Clinton initiative--demonstrated that George W. Bush is no more a social conservative than a fiscal conservative: His pretensions to either, merely the contrivances of his advisor. In failing to understand that the very essence of Conservatism lies in consistency, integrity and identity, Karl Rove has effectively divorced the current Republican leadership, at the Federal level, from any cohesive base.
George Washington remarked in his Farewell Address, "I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy." Always leaves no "wiggle room" for the Karl Roves of this world. We are sure that anyone who has read this far will also be aware of the moral bankruptcy of the Rovian approach. Without intellectual integrity there can be no genuine morality. Hopefully those who make decisions in State Republican organizations, across the continent, will now realize, also, that without intellectual integrity, long-term political success for a party claiming to be "Conservative" is equally impossible.