Would you hold it against me if I told you that I want the GOP to lose the next election?
David Broder has a nice op-ed in the Washington Post, in which he makes the point that an election lost is often better for a movement than an election won:
Unsuccessful campaigns can have that long-term benefit for their party, but only
if the losing candidate identifies himself with much larger causes. For
McGovern, the causes were peace abroad and reform of the Democratic Party at
home. For Goldwater, it was conservatism in its contemporary definition — low
taxes, strong defense and skepticism about government.
It was the idealism of their campaigns — and their willingness to defy the pollsters and the political odds — that endeared them to their young followers. And their
vindication came with the successes those followers achieved.
Were it not for Goldwater’s implosion in 1964 and Ford’s less spectacular failure in 1976, the American conservative movement would never (never ever ever) have witnessed the rise of Ronald Reagan. Were it not for McGovern’s failure in 1968, the Democratic Party would probably have spent another decade or more under the heels of Vietnam hawks, union bosses, and vitriolic southern racists.
I don’t see any of the present Republican candidates as men that conservatives will look back on with pride as the Goldwater of our generation. However, that doesn’t mean that–if they fail–the conservative movement can’t learn as much from them as it did from Goldwater.