The Dobson-Dykstra camp and the Buckley-Powell camp are not hermetically sealed polar opposites. There's plenty of overlap, shading of the spectrum, just like there is among the various factions of the Democratic Party. But contrary to the conventional wisdom that we Dems are the experts at dividing and conquering ourselves, we see a Democratic Party emerging from the tightest, most divisive primary season in recent history to unite solidly behind its nominee. Meanwhile, the Republicans, whose primary season effectively ended four months before the Dems', still don't have their poop in a group. The division in the GOP is creeping all the way up to the presidential ticket itself, where McCain's people and Palin's people are already sharpening the knives to plunge into each other's backs at 8:01 p.m. November 4. (A VP candidate "going rogue" on her running mate? In what possible parallel universe is that good news for the ticket?)
United we stand, divided we fall. The divided Republican Party is about to fall. The question for GOP true believers is, will it fall hard enough to trigger a vigorous reëxamination, reconceptualization, and reunification of the Republican Party?
Republicans, you don't want to win this election. The man inaugurated on January 20, 2009, stands a good chance of presiding over a nasty recession (or worse) and budget constraints that may prohibit pursuing any new initiatives that could positively define that President's term. Tom Daschle, one of Barack Obama's closest advisors, has said the next President has at best a 50 percent chance of winning a second term in 2012.
More importantly for your party, victory nine days from now will forestall the fight you need to have between your Ralph Reeds and your George Wills. Even closing the gap and coming within a Gore–Bush margin of beating Obama could defy expectations and create the false impression within your party that "everything's fine, we did the right things, we just need to stay the course and yell Abortion! and Socialism! a little louder next time."
Republicans, you need to lose, and lose big... for your own good. And you can do it to yourselves:
Operation Chaos II:
The Road to Republican Victory... in 2012
The Road to Republican Victory... in 2012
In Operation Chaos I, Rush Limbaugh urged Republicans to switch parties and vote for Hillary Clinton in the primaries in order to keep her in the race and soften Obama up for McCain in the fall campaign. Republicans, now it's time for Operation Chaos II: join Republicans like Colin Powell and Christopher Buckley and vote for Barack Obama. Give Obama a 30-point win in Jim Dobson's backyard, Colorado. Give Obama Florida by 20 points, Ohio by 10. Heck, give him South Dakota by 1 vote, and you signal to your party, "You have failed. It's time for something new."
Republicans, you need a civil war. No coasting, no compromise, but a full-tilt intra-party civil war where your opposing factions break out the brass knuckles and decide again once and for all (o.k., at least for a few election cycles) what the party is about and who is in charge. Who comes out on top—classical Burkian conservatives, neocons, theocrats—that's your problem.
But you're not going to win until you resolve that problem. The road to that resolution is not a close win or an honorable defeat. It is a crushing, humiliating defeat (and maybe four years of socialist revolution under the Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate, right?).
You have the power, Republicans, to deliver yourselves that saving defeat. Republicans, vote for Barack Obama. Repudiate the schizophrenic failure of GOP 2008. Destroy your party so you can rebuild it, better than it is now. Better, stronger, faster... and ready to unite, lead, and win in 2012.
I mean, if winning matters to you.
Update 2008.10.28 16:46 CDT: Rachael Larimore, deputy managing editor and copy chief and the only staffer out of 58 at Slate who plans to vote for McCain, appears to agree with my thesis:
However, I also think an Obama presidency can be a boon for Republicans, and not just because of the havoc a Democratic White House and a Democratic Congress could wreak. I don't hate President Bush like so many do, but even I can say his presidency has been a disappointment. And the Republican-led Congress was a disaster, as McCain pointed out, not in so many words, in his convention speech. I'm hopeful that an Obama victory would be a wakeup call as well as an opportunity—an opportunity for those who believe in limited government, individual freedoms, and free markets (yes, even in this crisis) to regain their influence, to take back the party from the religious right and social conservatives that have gained so much influence. So regardless of what happens on Nov. 4, I won't be too upset. But neither will I be too excited.