It used to be said that a Democrat firing squad was one that lined up in a circle. Will Rogers also used to joke that he "belonged to no organized political party " he was a Democrat."
Those jokes no longer ring true, nationally as well as here in Nevada. The Democrats demonstrated superior organizing capabilities and outshone the GOP in the 2008 elections, particularly in Nevada. Registration for the Blue party soared last year " yes, some of it due to bogus signature gathering by ACORN " but there is no denying that frustrations with the Bush Administration provided both an impetus to the Democrats and a sense of despair on the part of the Republicans.
The caucuses in the Silver State drew an unprecedented turnout for the Dems that later led to enthusiastic campaigning and impressive voter registration. On the GOP side, none of the candidates generated much excitement, in contrast to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In the general election, John McCain won a lot of respect for his service and experience, and Sarah Palin initially excited the social conservatives, but in the end the campaign collapsed amid internal feuding and an abysmal lack of party unity.
So where do we Republicans go from here? Further downhill it would appear. There is little appetite for a renewal of the party's commitment to the standards it once held so dear " fiscal conservatism, small government, tolerance of differing points of view, being the bastion of protecting middle-class values, and opposing the advent of the "nanny state." Republicans seem more interested in declaring war on fellow GOPers, basking in the task of destroying whatever faction they deem less than pure in their eyes.
Social conservatives dominate the primaries by their activism and participation, but are intolerant of anyone who does not support their defined political agenda "adamant opposition to gay marriage or unions, support for the repeal of Roe vs. Wade, and backing strict anti-porn laws that seem to demand government intrusion into our personal lives. Fiscal conservatives reject any new revenue sources, even those that bring greater fairness to the tax structure, and vilify those who refuse to sign binding anti-tax pledges. Moderate Republicans castigate virtually everyone else, preferring to consider themselves as intellectually superior, but unwilling to join the good fight in combating prolifigate government spending and growth.
You wouldn't know it but the GOP won all of Nevada's constitutional offices in 2002 and seemed poised to become the dominant political force in Nevada. Now it is in full retreat. Here in the north Republicans have held many key Legislative chairmanships for years but there is no machine in place, nor a stable of strong, young candidates.
That has to change and it begins with each of us who calls ourselves a Republican. We must adhere to President Reagan's dictum " the "11th Commandme-
nt" " not to criticize fellow Republicans. We must stop focusing on the internecine factional disputes that dominate party politics and work to unify the party.
Above all else our energy must be directed at solving issues and achieving our traditional goals. I'm ready to commit " let me know if you are.
- Tyrus W. Cobb is former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan.p