Over the last several weeks we have again witnessed the Palestinians refusing to make peace with Israel. Because their real objective is the destruction of their neighbor, they persist in demanding a restoration of the 1967 borders and a right of return for the descendents of those who fled their former homeland more than half a century ago.
As the Palestinians must know, Israel cannot agree to these terms. Because they would be tantamount to national suicide, no Israeli official can possibly accept them. Thus, given this precondition, productive negotiations are out of the question and a quixotic application for statehood was presented to the United Nations.
Republicans would seem to have little in common with these antics, and yet there is a common thread. American conservatives have been among the stoutest defenders of Israel’s right to exist; nevertheless they appear to be modeling their electoral efforts on the Palestinian example.
Many Republicans are longing for a died-in-the-wool conservative to run against Barack Obama. Michele Bachmann, who fancies herself the perfect fit for this ambition, has argued that our current president is so weak that any Republican, irrespective of how conservative he or she is, can win in 2012.
This, however, is a pipe dream. American voters, especially moderates, do not like extremism. No matter how much they distrust Obama, they will swallow hard and cast their ballots for him if they perceive the alternative as dicey. And make no mistake; if Obama runs against a right-wing radical, he will make this an issue.
Why is this important?
The answer lies in the continued weakness in Mitt Romney’s support.
Despite his obvious assets, an “anyone but Romney” attitude is abroad among the Republican faithful. He is simply not perceived as orthodox enough to satisfy the longing for a genuine conservative.
And so rather than rally to his side, there has been a frantic search for an alternative. For a while Bachmann seemed to be this person. But then her whiny, shoot-from-the-hip persona soured her chances. Despite her bravura pronouncements, people could not envision her as the leader of the free world.
Then there was Rick Perry. He was supposed to ride in on his white horse from the Texas plains to slay the dragons of liberalism.
But a funny thing happened on his coronation. He stumbled and stumbled badly. Strangely inarticulate for a successful politician, even when he could make himself understood, it was in defense of policies that did not sound conservative to committed conservatives.
So that leaves Romney, except for a few other remote possibilities who have not yet decided to run.
The issue is therefore whether rank and file Republicans will accept a candidate who can win a general election or insist on someone who passes a litmus test of ideological purity?
For many on the right, a sterling opportunity to unseat Obama is not sufficient. No matter how intelligent, well spoken, and poised Romney is, they just don’t like him. Although the recent debates have demonstrated that he has what it takes to best Obama in a one-on-one shoot-out, like the Palestinians they want what they want regardless of the outcome.
Nonetheless too much is as stake for this sort of fastidiousness. If Obama is re-elected, the chances of a long-term depression are too great to discount. And so the William Buckley rule should prevail. Buckley opined that he would support the most conservative candidate he could get, with the proviso that this was someone who could win.
Winning matters. Who is president in two years will have a lasting impact on the fate of our nation. This is not a game. While there will be “do-overs” in future elections, the amount of damage done in the interim would be substantial. Consequently, although Romney may not satisfy in every particular, he is conservative enough to protect us from the maws of a left-wing disaster.
For the sake of our children and grandchildren we must not allow this opportunity to pass.
Melvyn L. Fein Ph.D. is professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University.