Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Why So Glum, George?

George Will posits:

Although John McCain’s loss was not as numerically stunning as the 1964 defeat of Barry Goldwater, who won 16 fewer states and 122 fewer electoral votes than McCain seems to have won as of this writing, Tuesday’s trouncing was more dispiriting for conservatives. Goldwater’s loss was constructive; it invigorated his party by reorienting it ideologically. McCain’s loss was sterile, containing no seeds of intellectual rebirth.

I don’t agree. I’ve seen finger-pointing and disdain for everyone asssociated with the losing effort. I’ve seen multiple explanations for the loss. I’ve seen lots of talk about the need to redefine the Party and the movement. But I haven’t seen conservatives ready to pack it in and join the Obama parade.

And while the loss doesn’t contain the “seeds” of a particular intellectual rebirth, or provide the exact message for the next run, neither did 1964. That’s why the Party continued to fight for another decade between the Rockefeller and Goldwater factions. Only with Reagan did the message of Goldwater’s loss seem perfectly clear.

So there may have been no “seed,” but there was a message: get your act together. Political losses are great motivators. I see a lot of motivation. And in that regard, it may be every bit as “constructive” as the 1964 wipeout.