The middle of the road is fine until you have to get somewhere. I voted for Bob Dole in 1996. Yet his nomination drove me away from political activism for years.
I got out of the Navy in the fall of 1994. I watched the GOP reclaim the House with my nephew, Scott. I expected the Republicans to nominate a solid conservative who deliver a knock-out blow to the Clinton era two years later.
Instead, they nominated Bob Dole.
I quit. Gave up. Surrendered.
“If the Republicans want to nominated a ‘me too’ Republican,” I told friends, “there’s no point in my wasting time.”
Yeah, it was a bit petulant of me. Then, again, I’d been through a lot personally. Maybe I needed a break.
But Bob Dole?
In 1996, Bob Dole was the symbol of the GOP establishment. To Reaganites, he was a living reminder of the low-point of the Gipper’s two terms: the 1982 tax increase. As a politician, he was the worst of both worlds: an acerbic, sarcastic humor that turned off moderates and moderate deal-making politics that turned off everybody else.
I caucused, that year, for Pat Buchanan.
Buchanan had and has many flaws. But he’d have wiped up the stage with Clinton at debates. Even if he’d lost to Clinton, he’d have forced Bill to move ten steps to the right. Dole, on the other hand, brought a record that closely followed Clinton’s.
The Republican Established told us in 96 that only a moderate could win. We needed to nominate someone who could reach across the aisle and do business with the Democrats. Someone who would appeal to the Generation Xers.
So they nominated deal-maker, aisle-crosser, tax-hiker Bob Dole.
In December of 1996, Clinton was smoking cigars in the Oval Office as Bob Dole was released into the wild.
To those who remember, who were in the trenches with the Buchanan Brigades in our fight against the GOP establishment, 2012 is looking a lot like 1996.
Once again, we’re coming off historic wins in the off-year election. Once again, we’re dealing with a GOP field of candidates that lacks a viable, solid conservative. Once again, the establishment wants us to vote for the echo candidate.
In 1996, the echo was Bob “It’s My Turn” Dole. In 2012, it’s Mitt Romney.
Look, if Romney gets the nomination, I’ll vote for the guy. I’ll work to help him defeat President Obama, because I believe that Romney would be better than Obama. The Supreme Court, alone, is reason to support any Republican over just about any Democrat.
But Romney won’t stir up the passions of the Tea Party base. He’ll remind older conservatives of Bob Dole, and he’ll remind Millennials of the guy who laid off their dad.
Bob Dole, like Mitt Romney, is too close to the middle of the road.
P.S. After I wrote this post, Bob Dole endorsed Mitt Romney. Surprise!