The campaign of Barack Obama for president has shown us a lot about ourselves as a nation and, perhaps more pointedly, the American news media. Of course depending on whom you ask, you may get some very different answers to exactly what it has shown us. I, for one, have taken away the story of a young, fresh-faced, first-term United States Senator lacking the necessary experience and maturity to govern this country getting farther than perhaps anyone else with his qualifications has ever gotten, strictly on the power of marketing. It is the ultimate demonstration of pageantry in politics, of style over substance; an empty suit that Americans have poured their own beliefs and ideas into and rejoiced when the hollow, non-committal rhetoric it has spouted in reply does not clearly contradict them. Taking what I’ve learned from this election season, I believe firmly that we could run our cars on the words “hope” and “change,” considering how far they’ve taken a campaign with nothing whatsoever to offer to Americans except for more radical left-wing liberalism.

Whether Barack Obama will win the White House no one can say for sure. I believe that ultimately he will not. However, his story begs the question: what could someone just as young and fresh-faced achieve if they were a candidate of strong substance and concrete ideas that played with the average American (that is to say, more conservative)? Taking the Obama lesson and applying it to future campaigns will be critical for both parties in the election cycles to follow. But those with the most to gain from it would be the Republicans, who continue to suffer from an image problem, chiefly stereotypes that the Democrats have successfully exploited for years (the rich, old, white, racist Republican). Indeed, the Democrats have campaigned exclusively on identity politics for the past few decades.

The Republican Party has raised a whole new generation of candidates that serve in various elected offices that will assume leadership in the years to come (how soon will be determined by whether McCain is elected and how many terms he serves). These “Youngblood Republicans” are not what their name might suggest; they are not moderates, they are fiscal and social conservatives (far more disciplined conservatives than the current crop in Congress). Some aren’t even that young, but nevertheless are relative newcomers that have reinvigorated the Republican Party, which has grown stale after more than ten years of success. The greatest strength that these Youngbloods have is that they are committed to teaching their constituencies about the core values and principles of their party, and they have lived those values in their careers and elected office. Their records show that they clearly adhere to these values, and perhaps most importantly their values are shared by a majority of Americans.

You may have heard of some of these up-and-comers before, and if you haven’t yet you’ll see a few of them at the Republican National Convention soon enough (at least three of them are scheduled to speak). I’ve selected four individuals that should be watched closely.

Matt Blunt, Governor of Missouri

Blunt was elected Governor of Missouri in 2004 at age 33. He is the youngest person ever to hold the office. He ran on a platform to enact tort reform, reduce spending and improve conditions for business. He has kept all of his promises, reducing spending in Missouri to one of its lowest levels in recent history and successfully passing legislation to curb frivolous lawsuits. He has received an “A” rating from the libertarian Cato Institute and is the only United States governor to do so.

Prior to his election as governor, he served as Missouri’s Secretary of State from 2000-2004. He served in the United States Navy and was deployed during Operation Enduring Freedom. He remains in the Naval Reserve, so if he is called up to service during his term he would have to transfer his powers to the Lieutenant Governor.

Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana

Jindal began his term as Governor in 2008 after serving in the US House of Representatives since 2004. He is the youngest sitting governor in the US. The American-born son of Punjabi Indian immigrants, he grew up Hindu but converted to Catholicism in his teens. Jindal is a strong fiscal and social conservative who has made education his platform. As he is still in his first term as Governor, his existing record comes from his term in Congress.

Jindal voted to make the PATRIOT Act permanent and supports a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. He has a spotless voting record on abortion and is staunchly pro-life. He supported an end to the moratorium on offshore drilling and is highly regarded by advocates for the Second Amendment.

Much speculation surrounded Jindal during McCain’s vice presidential selection, however Jindal himself announced that he would not be on the 2008 Republican ticket. He will, however, speak at the Republican National Convention.

Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska

Palin was elected Governor in 2006, following a stunning upset in the primary when she unseated incumbent Republican Governor Murkowski. She is the first female governor of Alaska. Palin ran on a platform of eliminating pork-barrel spending and enacting ethics legislation. She is widely respected as an incorruptible reformer and an energetic leader. She is a member of the organization Feminists for Life, which is a pro-life women’s group. While she opposes same-sex marriage, she holds a more liberal perspective on homosexuality in general. She is committed to fiscal responsibility and enjoys an over 90% approval rating.

Palin is a former beauty pageant contender and basketball player. Her son Track (her children all have VERY unique names) joined the Army at eighteen and is currently training in the Infantry for future deployment. She is also a lifetime member of the NRA.

Her name has also been floated as a possible vice presidential pick to steal away already disenchanted Hillary supporters and bring conservative gravitas to the ticket. She is set to speak at the Republican National Convention this year.

Michael Steele, Chairman of GOPAC and Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor

Michael Steele is the sitting Chairman of GOPAC, the Republican political action committee, and from 2002 to 2006 was the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. In 2006 he ran for the United States Senate but lost to Democrat Ben Cardin in a hard-fought election. Despite the loss, Steele has remained politically prominent due to his commitment to promoting conservative ideals via his work with GOPAC. He spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention and is slated to speak again this year. He was at one time considered for the Chairmanship of the GOP, but Mel Martinez was eventually selected.

Steele began life as a Democrat and was the son of a widowed laundress who chose to work at minimum wage levels rather than live off of the government dole. He joined the Republican party in his teens, however, and eventually became Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party in 2000. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University and owns a legal consulting firm.

He favors repealing the death tax and favored a moratorium on the federal gas tax in Maryland, though he is a proponent of Affirmative Action as well.


Hariolor said...

I applaud the recognition of these new faces. I believe that the vein of ill sentiment that the "Ron Paul Republicans" and many many Democrats have keyed in on stems from the tendency of old, well-entrenched Republicans to pursue their own stubborn and often outdated practices in Washington.

One would note that the common thread amongst younger conservatives is not so much Zionist Christianism (though it is a worrying trend with a growing influence), but rather it is fiscal conservatism that is the most resonant topic with both younger and older voters across both parties.

Indeed, with the current economic shake-up, voters have unanimously declared the economy, foreign intervention, and healthcare, as the top three topics for this election period. With healthcare firmly in the Democrat camp, and foreign intervention under the auspices of Republicans, it is, I think, the economy that will be the deciding factor in this election, and likely several more through 2009-2010 when the economy finally rounds the bend.

I am hopeful that a new breed of limited-government, economically-minded conservatives will take the reins, moderate but firm on social issues (so as to avoid devolving into christian authoritarianism), and staunchly conservative on taxes and government spending.

Ah, it would be sweet - and what a great way to stick a finger in the eye of those smug Europeans and their imaginary money. It's certainly better than keeping up by converting the dollar to the Americano as Obama will surely try to do.

Ben Wheat said...

I'm very much encouraged by the dossiers of some of these individuals and, like you, have found that the dominant theme that ties them all together is fiscal conservatism. I find it heartening that the conservatism that is emerging in this new generation is more a reflection of libertarian ideals than an exclusively right-wing social conservatism.

To be honest, of these four the two that I have the highest hopes for are Governors Blunt and Palin. Palin, I feel, has the charisma and the level-headedness to really rally the Republicans around the ideals that should unite and define them. As a sort of "white knight" fighting corruption in her state, she is all but unassailable in any of the ways Democrats typically go after Republicans.

Luscus said...

The problem, however, is how the Rovian strategy to "charge the base" of values-voters has reshaped the parties.

The republican party is no longer founded on fiscal conservatism (and even then, it is more anti-waste than limited-government minded), but primarily charged with anti-gay marriage, individual gun rights (although that is now a moot issue thanks to SCOTUS), and pro-religion (vaguely understood to mean 'recognition' rather than 'establishment' of national religion, so as to allow public prayer, school-led prayer, display of religious artifice in public locations), and strict personal (sexual) ethics.

The 'youngbloods' are, sadly, not so young as they are 'mid-career'. The youth of the party are roughly strict religious conservatives, or protective of privilege. Most of their theoretical vein have become "independents", or gone completely into the Democratic camp upon hearing calls for 'transcendence' of old politics.

The best litmus test is (aside from thorough interviews of current hill staffers) to follow the money. I've noticed that one undesireable consequence of campaign finance reform is the strengthening of the parties' control over their candidates. The Democrats' choice for candidate to support in the Connecticut senate race was telling. The real money, being channelled through 527s, is where the party leaders want it to go. While one could argue that they go to toss-up races where moderate candidates are offered (Bob Casey Jr. vs. Rick Santorum), those moderates are quickly brought into line, and are worth little more than their quantified value of vote. The neutering of the Blue Dog Dems is telling here. I recognize that I am employing mostly dem examples for my observations, but that's the way the tide is going - same themes applied in 2002 when Tom Delay and the Republicans gained seats.

I share both Mr. Wheat and Hariolor's applause of these fresh faces, but would offer up the examples of McCain and Nixon for caution: both were burned by dirty politics at the apex of their political climb (McCain in 2000 by tar-baby whispers, and Nixon in 1960 by JFK's phone call to Coretta Scott King and use of 'friends' in Chicago), and came to power (hopefully in McCain's case) as the result of a waffling three-legged race (fantastically, a Romney has factored in both races, but Rockefeller and Huckabee as the others) where they began as the underdog. Nixon, bruised by the dirty reality of politics, went back on a lot of his appealing positions for the sake of victory. So too, has Candidate McCain come into disagreement with Senator McCain.

At this point, my text box is too small for me to assess what I've written and compose a neat conclusion, but in summary: 1. Great picks; 2. Not necessarily the direction of the party (but hopefully); 3. Politics has a way of spoiling good eggs.