I spent last night at a forum on the Right and the GOP; among the panelists were reason contributor W. James Antle III and direct-mail conservative icon Richard Viguerie. Everyone on the panel agreed that the right was pretty well doomed in 2008, but that the looming challenge of Hillary Clinton might be a unifying force that re-aligns Buchanan with Frum, Brimelow with Chavez, etc.
Increasingly, that sounds like a pipe dream. Clinton has been the de facto Democratic nominee since November 8, 2004, and the conservative movement against her has amounted to… squat. Anti-Hillary books have stiffed. Anti-Hillary 527s and PACs have dried up, crumbled. Fundraising appeals that attack Hillary have almost no punch anymore. In the last week of the 2nd fundraising quarter I got a message from John McCain saying "ONLY JOHN MCCAIN CAN BEAT HILLARY CLINTON." That was before McCain's fundraising bottomed out. Almost every Republican's making some version of that argument, and yet total GOP fundraising for all of their candidates is about 65 percent of total Democratic fundraising.
I asked Viguerie why this was, since he'd participated in the anti-Hillary fundraising effort of 2000 that raised $22 million for Rudy Giuliani's Senate bid against her and around $40 million for eventual candidate Rick Lazio.
"Nobody has a plan to beat Hillary right now," Vigurie said. "In 2000 we had a plan: Help out Giuliani and help him get over the line to keep Hillary out of the Senate."
Sure, but isn't "keep Hillary out of the White House" a pretty clear objective? "We're just in such a state right now," he said, referring to the Right. "We need to sort out our problems and get our house in order, decide on a candidate, and then I think we'll develop a plan to take her on."
I couldn't get him to say what, exactly, would be the focus of the campaign, so I wasn't convinced. There's a lot of animus against Hillary but most of it shallow: There are people who don't like her but also don't want to hear about how she covered up the Juanita Broaddrick rape or stormed Ruby Ridge or planted the 1996 Olympics bombs. The ideological Right and grassroots Republicans take for granted that they'll just remind the country of her scandals or her statism and they'll beat her back. It sounds a lot like the Democratic arguments of 2004: "Who needs ideas? Who needs strategy? Bush is an awful candidate and we just need to beat up on him."