Will the GOP Survive 2004?

As a third-generation Republican, I fear for the fate of my party and the possibility that it may cease to be an effective political force by the end of the next election cycle. Why? Because of its inability to face reality in Iraq.

Whatever one's opinion of the war in Iraq, the American people have made up their minds. As Sen. Richard G. Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has observed relative to the future conduct of the war, "There's been an election; Republicans lost the election."

My grandfather became a Republican because he did not care for Franklin Roosevelt's economic policies. He was a second-generation Irish-Catholic who was born in Cincinnati and then settled in St. Louis. As a successful physician, a kind of self-made man as it were, he broke political ranks with his subculture long before the term "Reagan Democrat" was coined.

I laughed heartily with a college classmate who joked that the function of medical schools was to take fine, idealistic young men and turn them into Republicans! As was common in the Midwest, many Irish intermarried with Catholic German-Americans, as did my grandfather in marrying my grandmother. Marrying into a German-American family no doubt contributed to my grandfather's eventual shift to the Republican Party.

 German-Americans strongly supported Lincoln, the Republicans and Union. In the election of 1860, only two out of 996 counties in the entire South supported Lincoln: the Missouri counties of St. Louis and Gasconade, two areas heavily settled by German immigrants.

So my family's Republican principles originated in a desire for economic freedom and were reinforced by intermarriage as well as the anti-communism and social conservatism of the Reagan Era.

Despite a fourth generation of my family still voting solidly Republican, I find myself seriously contemplating its demise in the elections of 2008. The major reasons for the thrashing the Republicans received in 2006 were the Iraq war, runaway spending, corruption and scandal.

Who needs Republicans to overspend or to appall citizens with unethical behavior? And the present morass in foreign and military policy is something for which Republicans will be punished severely if Sen. Lugar's matter-of-fact observation is ignored. The Iraq war is a monstrous Death Star looming over the GOP.

Even a cursory review of the relevant polling data indicates that the American public has not signed on for a war of indefinite duration with the purpose of imposing civilized behavior on people with no intention of tolerating the presence of others who are not of their tribe or religious persuasion.

Given the clear message from the electorate in November, it is astounding that the president is advocating "surging" more troops into Baghdad. This is beyond counterintuitive. It is, politically speaking, suicidal in terms of the future prospects of the Republican Party. The next election could see sitting GOP senators in such historically red states as Virginia and New Hampshire go down to defeat.

John Edwards already is referring to the "urge to surge" — a phrase coined by The Economist magazine — as "the McCain doctrine"!

To grasp the precarious situation in which the GOP finds itself, try this thought experiment: What will be the voters' reaction if we surge another 20,000 to 30,000 troops into Iraq, with all the attendant casualties and disruption of families and careers and untold expense, and nothing changes?

And suppose the surge "works"; that is, it temporarily pacifies Baghdad and environs? Is that moment of security and calm — wishful thinking, in my view — going to last? If it does not, will our troops have to return? If they return, will they ever leave?

In matters of war and peace, democracy can be self-correcting. Such a process started in 2006. It could continue, with even greater political consequences, in 2008.

This may be the time for the party of Lincoln to take serious note of the ancient maxim Sic transit gloria mundi — and reconsider its policy in Iraq.

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  • Guest

    Perhaps I don’t know the government that well, but the EPA doesn’t seem to be the place where we put military strategists.

    Yes, this may be a blunder, but it’s not a big enough blunder to make me vote for the party of abortion, same-sex marriage, raise my taxes to give it to someone else.

  • Guest

    So, because you have your head in the sand about all things military, you now vote for a party that deems abortion on demand as a sacrament, same sex “marriage” as a right, and for NAMBLA to have its day in court- that’s what being a Republican means to the author. The Dems controlled the House for over forty years, and no caterwauling about their abuses- they actually had an admitted pedophile reelected to the House for five more terms after being caught having sex with a male page!!!! The Republicans have not done as well as they should have, but lets just throw the baby out with the bath water- that is exactly what the Dems want, and what the “author” alludes to.

  • Guest

    We are fighting a war on terrorism and all you care about is the Republican party? Let it burn. How about we just do what is right and follow through on our commitment to fight terrorism and bring peace and stability to a country that knows only violence.

  • Guest

    Once again, partisanship on Catholic Exchange. BEING CATHOLIC IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH BEING A REPUBLICAN! I have been hugely disappointed by both parties. Because abortion and stemcell research are my biggest voting priorities, I frequently vote Republican. However, I still don’t appreciate the party-bashing that occurs on this site. It is possible to be a faithful Catholic without supporting the war in Iraq (as our Holy Father does not), without supporting tax breaks for big businesses, etc. Catholics can disagree on these issues, but the vast majority of articles and comments on this site imply otherwise.

  • Guest

    The question is not whether the GOP will survive, but in which WAY will it survive? The answer is not found in the RINOs such as Giuliani, Specter, Whitman or Pataki. The GOP cannot turn its leadership over to these people. I pray for the success of conservative politicians such as Sam Brownback. The GOP cannot turn its back on the core conservative pro-life, pro-family values that are its backbone.

  • Guest

    I don’t necessarily see that the slim Republican loss was solely due to the War in Iraq. Despite the media spin, corruption, incompetence, the border and spending were major factors, probably greater in sum, that the war.

    As for “signing on for a war of infinite duration”, Catholics should have a better understanding of the term infinite. Does four years now qualify as infinite? How about five? Maybe six? As Glenn Beck rightly opines, we have an A.D.D. society. We can’t focus on important issues longer than a 30 second sound bite.

    As for President Bush’s actions being “beyond counterintuitive”, I’d like to point out that leaders generally do act in that manner. While I am not a fan of President Bush’s policies to date, he is making a principled decision, not in his best short term interest. Politicians act according to their best interests, leaders do not. Witness the example of Pope Benedict going to Turkey in the face of death threats and John Paul and Benedict clearly speaking out against sin and calling humanity to holiness in Jesus Christ when the world does not want to hear it(would that our bishops would be leaders and not politicians, but that is for a later comment).

    As Catholics with a great intellectual tradition, we have the opportunity to bring real dialogue, and answers, to the public discourse. We understand principles and that truth is not what we want it to be, but a reflection of God himself. Allowing personal opinion and rhetoric based upon personal preference to guide our discourse and decision-making, instead of upon sound principles guided by the virtues, negates our ability to positively add to the public discourse and drops it to the level of pre-school children.

    We must love truth more than our own opinion.

    Ad majorem Dei gloriam!

  • Guest

    The author is agaist the Republican party, and is ready to go Democrat. Fine
    if the Dems win in 2008, he dont need to worry about the Repulicans again, as they will be outlawed by the Dems. The Socialist and Communists outlawed all
    opposition, and the country will down to the lowest it can be , like Cuba
    or France. Then he will be very happy.

  • Guest

    I don’t recall the “Dems” outlawing Republicans during past administrations. That is a very ignorant statement.

  • Guest

    I am the most non-confrontational person in the world—but finally—someone gets it right—BEING CATHOLIC IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH BEING A REPUBLICAN! (Thanks, Claire). I really enjoy reading the spiritual articles on this web site, but the partisanship makes me a little irritated some days. I will never be a Republican, ever, but that doesn’t mean I agree with every single thing the Democratic party stands for—that is the beauty of this country!

    Neither the Republican party nor the Democratic party should be our moral compasses. That is where the separation of church and state comes in quite handy! I do not look to the President of the United States (especially this president) to tell me what I should and shouldn’t believe is morally correct…no one loves the death penalty more than GWB, but no matter what way you spin it: it’s killing. I am adamently opposed to abortion, but when I look around this country I don’t feel this should be the number issue the American public is basing its vote on. We have a failed foreign policy, very few remaining allies in the world, and thousands of young men and women losing life and limb fighting a war we are never going to win. What about a strong universal health care plan or a reformed education system? We are still far better off than folks in other countries, but with the constant bickering over certain issues between the folks on both sides of the aisle—some where along the course of this current administration the needs and best interests of the greater American public have been forgetten in favor of personal gain and personal agendas.

  • Guest

    If you want your partisanship, folks – pace your Democratic concern – then CE can have its partisan leanings, too. However, I think that CE mirrors the fact that the Democratic party is the one that so loves the culture of death – and, not that many Republicans do not also so subscribe.

    And, the Democratic 2006 election victories causes THEM to think that they are our moral political ‘compass’. Just as San Fran Nan.

    Funny – I have never been of either party. I once joined both to confuse both. But, with the likes of Dick ‘da Catholic’ Durbin, Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel coming out of my state, they make it less and less likely that I’d ever vote mainly Democratic. You may not like it but I hold my nose when I type ‘Democrat(ick!)’ or ‘B.O.Obama’ or ‘Ra-manuel’ (or, indeed, ‘NYTimes’, ‘WashPost’, ‘Chicago Tribune or ‘-SunTimes’ and other journals from which you may get truth only if it fits with so-called-liberal cheerleading).

    I have read a lot of hand-wringing by many who once noted Democratic hand-wringing when the latter was trying to figure out how to win elections again. It seems now that both parties will be playing ‘button-button’ with truth from now on, since most of the voters have been acclimated not to want the truth. Might get in the way of consumerism, and all . . .

    Your children and grandchildren will pay for this – ending up holding their noses entering the ballot box no matter the party. IF – they are still permitted to vote . . .

    Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    Reviewing the first 100 days agenda of the Democratic majority in the House of Congress, we all need to pray for our babies, families, and country and ask for the Lord’s forgiveness at what is being proposed.
    Issues are of concern, not party affiliation. I pray for those who are misinformed and pray that they receive guidance to discern God’s will.

  • Guest

    If the purpose of this forum is to discuss things Catholic, then CE missed the mark by posting this article. There are plenty of sites on the web where folks can wrangle over politics and insult each other, but few where the people of God can intelligently discuss issues of moral significance.

    As a moral issue, the fate of the Republican or Democrat party is of little significance. Christ called us to be in the world, not of the world. But, it seems the world is influencing the agenda of the Church instead of the other way around.

  • Guest

    Thanks Claire and Melissa for standing up to the we must be Republican because they are always right tripe that many well meaning Catholics espouse to.

    I cannot stand the Democrat stand on life. It makes me sick to my Catholic stomach. I cannot stand the Republican stand on war and the death penalty. It gives my Catholic soul the heebie jeebies. I am neither D or R. I have voted both. They both scare me because they are so called “parties”. Political parties are as close to mobs with torches as we get here in America, IMHO.

    Thank God that the house has a 2 year term, the president has a four year term and the senate has a 6 year term. I am all for term limits through out he government. Senators should only be allowed 2 terms. Represntatives should only be allowed 5 terms. Judges should have a term of 8 years and a limit of two terms.

    GK – God is good!

  • Guest

    Given that abortion is ongoing holocost wost then anything Aldof hitler ever did.

    Can a catholic in good consious vote for a presidential or senatorial candidate that suports it’s continuation?

    In my mind the answer is no. Let me be the first to say I’ll vote for any pro-life / anit-gay marriage democrate who runs in any race I can vote in and any pro-choice republican is out of the running from the begining.

    however I believe you are commiting a sin if you vote for a pro-choice candidate in any imporant race no matter what other platforms they may support that you like. Double if that candidate is a catholic because they you are supporting public heresy.

    To date there has been 3022 co-alition forces killed in Iraq ( american and other countries). The civilians ( half of them killed by enemies given the highest possible estimate I could find are around 40,000).
    total 43,022.

    Number of people killed by abortion since it was legalized is nearly 30 MILLION.
    The number per year is very nearly a million and rising.

    So no matter how wrong or right you consider the war in iraq it does not balance out against a pro-choice candaidate.

    There are no other issues seperately or cumlative the can rise to a level of supporing a murderer.

    So now you are informed and if you vote a pro-choice ( usually democratic ) ticket you are commiting a MORTAL sin. because it involves.
    1) grave matter
    2) full consent

    Just say no to pro-choice donkeys and elephants.

  • Guest

    There are a lot of issues being touch on here. I am interested in hearing what alternatives we have to the situation in Iraq. I do not like sending our people to Iraq any more than anyone else. If you have a better plan, let’s hear it. What SHOULD we do?

  • Guest

    30 million? Try 45 million killed by abortion since Roe v. Wade on 1/22/73.

    The holocaust was horrific. This is four times WORSE.

    I switched parties because of the Democrats pandering to pro-gay and pro-abort groups.

    Life choices come before any other issue, because without life there ARE no other issues. There is a reason Jefferson put life first and pursuit of happiness last in the famous phrase.

  • Guest

    I totally agree with you, and that’s why abortion is always the number 1 issue that determines who I vote for. However, that does not excuse the partisanship that is way too common on this site. (Other than that, I love the spiritual articles on Catholic Exchange.)

  • Guest


    Same here (as Claire explained). I want to see both parties take a pro-life stance. I want people who support pro-choice exclusively to lose and lose big. But, for any politician that talks about being pro-life and does nothing … they are worse than pro-choice because they put my vote in their back pocket and put pro-life on the shelf. I vote for the person, not the party. Life is my biggest issue. But, people like George Bush the first stink on pro-life and I will not just file my vote in the R column.

    GK – God is good!

  • Guest

    I’d like to know how Bush stinks on pro-life, considering that he will veto the embryonic research bill.

    Unfortunately, I have a Senator and a Congressman who are both pro-choice, pro-embryonic research RINOs. Neither has received…nor will receive my vote, and they are in my party.

    I vote pro-life, not for a particular party. However it is true that one party is more pro-life than the other.

    Although I am pro-life, I have no qualms about stringing up Hussein and his ilk. The world is better off without Saddam, Uday, Qusai and Zarqawi.

  • Guest

    How many people will die if we pull out too soon and the place erupts into a horrible civil war. Do we want another Ruwanda? We owe it to the Iraqi people to try to help stabilize the situation. There are even possibilites that some of the other mid-east countries can help, at least those that have an interest in preventing civil war or an Iranian take over. The Holy Father was opposed to the war but we don’t know what he would say at this point. The wisdom of the war has yet to be decided definitively. The decision is greater than the Republican or the Democratic party.

  • Guest

    Does the author feel the same way about the Catholic Church’s Teachings on birth control and invitro fertilization (among many others)? Those Teachings are very much opposed (at least unsupported) by most Catholics the way the war in Iraq (which I returned from after a yearlong deployment last week) is opposed by most Americans. Maybe the Church should change these????

    President Bush has done a poor job of articulating why we are in Iraq. The media has done an excellent job of reporting only the bottom 2% of what goes on there and ignoring the tremendous good that is happening. The negative reporting feeds on itself and has made the Iraqi people think hard before helping us eliminate the terrorists because they understandably (and unfortunately) are afraid we won’t be there to finish the job. If the terrorists suspect they are helping us, they are brutally murdered. This all began about the time when Rep Murtha said we should pull out as fast as possible – up until then we were winning over the Iraqi people. The politics of it gave renewed vigor to the enemy and in my opinion cost many of the lives we have lost.

  • Guest

    On the other hand , God willing, this president will make one more supreme court appointment before his term is over. Hopefully he isn’t blocked by the pro-death camp no in control of the seneate and house from doing so.

    The montra stop the war – vote pro-death never really rang true with me.

  • Guest

    For Mike (4 comments above): I just wanted to clarify that GK was referring to George Bush “senior” (the first President Bush) when he was talking about his poor pro-life record. I also agree with you that the Republican candidates tend to be more pro-life than the democrats, and abortion is always my #1 voting priority, which is why I frequently vote Republican. I’m not trying to bash the Republican party, it just bothers me that there is so much partisanship on this website. (And I’m also not trying to bash Catholic Exchange; I really love this site and the partisanship is my only complaint about it.)

  • Guest

    terhunej hit on a key element in this battle “The Media”…
    The Media does not like the war and, sad to say, they control public opinion. Hopefully, this war is not going to be fought by the wims of public opinion.

  • Guest

    Sadly I must say that the media does tremendously sway public opinion and they did all they could (obviously successfully) to sway opinion away from the war to effect the elections. It’s really conservatives they hate – the war was the way to get at them. It worked in Spain, why not here? Incredibly, we have the most ignorant population imagineable given our access to information. It’s good to be an ostrich with your head buried in the ground until you are the victim. Our president will not allow that to happen to us regardless of the popularity polls. Thank God for that. Mehan has it all wrong in this article. President Bush’s challenge is to properly articulate why we are there – not to “run away”.