And my nominee is….the first candidate who reads, absorbs and acts upon the excellent advice to candidates given over the past few months by conservative writers. While I am in the doldrums over the actual candidates, I have been inspired by so many writers. Whether it is Wall Street Journal editorials, bloggers or columnists I find myself shouting “yes” reading article after article while I groan listening to the candidates themselves.
Like so many others, I have spent much of this election primary cycle trying desperately to give the benefit of the doubt to Republican candidates. Perhaps candidate A has matured and developed his thinking; maybe candidate B has learned from his mistakes; is it possible that candidate C who was virtually unknown eight months ago can articulate what I believe? Unfortunately, disappointment follows on the heel of disappointment.
It is obviously easier to be a writer than a candidate. Seeing what is wrong is easier than rectifying it. Writing, which allows you to cogitate, revise, cogitate and revise is ten-fold easier than giving even a prepared speech, a thousand-fold easier than answering hostile questions and a million-fold easier than having every word you have ever uttered presented as front-page news. But even so, how can the candidates themselves, along with their managers and advisors, continually ignore a cascade of sage advice, displaying tin ears more frequently than wisdom?
A few weeks ago, I wrote at my dismay about Rick Santorum’s policy proposals. When I read about his ideas in the paper, I was tremendously upset. He was doling out teaspoons of water (and, in my opinion, murky water) to a parched nation; thinking on a small, outdated scale while huge problems needing bold solutions beset us. I was distressed because there is so much about Rick Santorum which I admire. I believe him to be a good man; what we need right now is greatness. Frequently, a position of responsibility seasons and matures an individual. We say that someone is “growing in office.” Right now, winning the nomination and getting into office demands that growth take place during the campaign.
What would that specifically mean for Rick Santorum? It means holding tight to his core principles but also expanding them to encompass areas that aren’t his natural comfort zone. It means building a team that is not composed of ‘yes’ men and women, but which constantly challenges him to increase his areas of knowledge and improve his communication skills so that even those who disagree with him respect his arguments. It means completely rejecting the Democratic strategy of pandering to specific interest groups, be they geographic, economic, racial, or otherwise and instead presenting a vision of an America that has the potential to benefit all. It means retaining good character in a sordid nominating process.
I have read dozens of articles pleading with each of the Republican candidates to respond to the conservative base’s desire for principled, eloquent leadership in the economic, domestic and foreign arenas. Ignored at first, Rick Santorum has exhibited admirable persistence and temerity. There is no time to slowly ramp up to greatness. Citizens of a number of states have granted him the opportunity to be heard. Can he inspire confidence and be worthy of the approval of millions more? The window for him to achieve that is narrow; if he has it in him, the time is now.