Conservatives have a tough road to plow. Unlike their liberal counterparts, the conservative movement allows independent thought and expression. Thus, conservatives engage in much more protracted disagreements over direction and outcome than the noisy-yet-ideologically-monotonous liberals. Of course, the Democrats may bicker, fight and even threaten each other over personality, but there is little ideological heterogeneity in the Democratic ranks. Those who stray are either marginalized or simply ejected. Ask Zell Miller, Joe Lieberman or about six dozen former associates of the Clintons. Actually, ask Miller or Liebermann; those Clinton associates seem to have… er… gone missing. (They said they were going to take a quick stroll through Fort Marcy Park. I’m sure they’re completely safe.)
Conservatism not only allows but encourages everyone to blaze — or in the case of liberals, refuse to blaze — their own trails to political enlightenment. Because of that, the race to the Republican Presidential nomination has been much deeper and more spirited than the 2008 Democratic race. Of course, the Democratic contenders four years ago offered all the philosophical diversity of the Women’s Studies Department at Berkeley — although one (Congressman Dennis Kucinich) set himself apart from the pack by boasting of his experience with space aliens.
“Close Encounters of the Liberal Kind” aside, it’s worth noting that Mitt Romney eked out an Iowa victory by eight votes — give or take a hanging chad or two — over former Senator Rick Santorum. Therein, however, lies the proverbial rub. Because conservatives are such a variegated lot, the possibility looms that some of the candidates (here’s looking at you, Newt Gingrich) will extend their campaigns or even step out to third-party status. Such long-term division would create a split movement, hike expenses into the stratosphere and allow the billionaire- and Wall Street-funded Barack Obama machine to further coordinate the game plan (and sweep more than a few scandals under the rug).
As of Wednesday morning, the caucus goers/voters of Iowa have pulled the curtain on the first marquee performance of the 2012 floor show. Romney is carrying the lead fan, with Santorum and Congressman Ron Paul close behind him. Romney’s homeboy status in New Hampshire (he governed neighboring Massachusetts and is a part-time resident of Wolfeboro, N.H.) indicates a Granite State smackdown by Romney, raising the very real possibility that he will run the table to the nomination.
While such an outcome is far from ideal for true conservatives and Constitutionalists, it remains not only possible, but likely. Of course, the big question is hardly settled. In 2008, Iowa was no bellwether, with Mike Huckabee taking top honors in front of none other than Romney. In fact, the eventual nominee — Senator John McCain — finished fourth, behind even Fred Thompson, who campaigned with all the vigor of an OWS protester on bath day. Romney may be the clear favorite, but Santorum and Paul show no signs of slowing down. In fact, the Democrats have deployed their corporate media in an all-out assault, including liberal sock puppet Alan Colmes’ shockingly Bill Maher-esque mockery of Santorum’s tragic loss of a child. Gingrich’s fortunes have waned of late, but he’s still the front-runner in South Carolina and Florida. Texas Governor Rick Perry remains in the mix. Lest I forget, Jon Huntsman is still pretending to be a Republican. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann suspended her campaign.
We must ask ourselves what we’re prepared to sacrifice in the coming weeks and months. We must face the fact that our preferred candidate (whoever that might be) may be jockeying for the U.S. Naval Observatory. If Romney grabs the brass ring, are conservatives willing to forgive his myriad flaws to oust Obama and his increasingly brazen accomplices? Even if we do, do we believe we can heal the party’s leftward limp? Or do we peel away from our flagging centrist brethren to build a new party structure, knowing that in doing so, we might be guaranteeing another four years of Obama’s profligate cronyism?
The hard questions race toward us. Conservatives must make hard choices in 2012. At least we still can.