In the 1770s America was divided between what today would be called the religious right (led by men like Patrick Henry) and the libertarians (most notably, Thomas Jefferson). The two factions came together in what could have been an eight-word slogan: "Fight for liberty and virtue. Beat the British."
Hugh Hewitt's latest book, Painting the Map Red (Regnery, 2006), offers the GOP a twelve-word slogan-"Win the war. Confirm the judges. Cut the taxes. Control the spending"-that could be the glue to unify what are often 12 warring tribes of Republicans. Mr. Hewitt also outlines 10 senatorial races to watch this year: Arizona, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
A nationally syndicated radio host and WORLD contributor, Hugh Hewitt combines theoretical appreciation of new media with the desire and ability to use them to the utmost with élan and synergy. His blog, hughhewitt.com, is one of the nation's most influential, and he often posts on it transcripts of his radio interviews. Painting the Map Red includes segments from his blog and show, while the students in his constitutional law class at Chapman University Law School hear the results of his analyses.
WORLD: You mention the political earthquake of 1994 that led to a GOP takeover of the House of Representatives, and say a similar earthquake with opposite results "looks increasingly probable to me." I suspect you typed that line last fall or winter; as we enter summer, is the earthquake looking more likely?
HEWITT: Yes it is, and the odds of a 7.0 are going higher all the time. But there is no inevitability to political earthquakes. They can be prevented, and any voters interested in victory in the war, the future of the Supreme Court, the economy, and the border must commit themselves to turning the situation around. It isn't complicated stuff, but it isn't something the president or the congressional leadership can do. The work must be done by people in the base. They must first persuade themselves and then their families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues that the stakes are too high to sit out a round because it has been a difficult two years.
WORLD: You note that "self-effacement is the most prized of all attributes among candidates." But aren't politicians, since they have to sell themselves day after day, likely to be egotists? Would acceptance of your advice merely make the world safe for hypocrisy?
HEWITT: I don't accept the premise that confidence in abilities is inconsistent with humility and self-effacement. Self-effacement is a communications skill, not a denial of true self. Pastors use it. Writers use it. Politicians use it. It is a means of communicating important ideas effectively. Hypocrisy lies in the holding of interior beliefs inconsistent with exterior expression of beliefs, not in the effective communication of genuine belief.
WORLD: You say the Republican Party, with all its problems, remains defined by 12 words: "Win the war. Confirm the judges. Cut the taxes. Control the spending." That formula does not include issues such as abortion, family disintegration, or same-sex marriage. You do include a chapter about Democratic attempts to radically redefine marriage. But are you suggesting, overall, that the GOP back-burner social issues?
HEWITT: "Confirm the judges" actually encompasses all of those issues and many more. The social issues are the issues chiefly at the mercy of courts, as the Massachusetts Supreme Court demonstrated via its imposition of same-sex marriage on the Bay State, despite the opposition of Gov. Mitt Romney and almost certainly a majority of its citizens. Partial-birth abortion remains a legal practice in the United States only because of the United States Supreme Court. Most anti-family policies have their origin in judicial indifference to long-held traditions and established precedents. Certainly the robust protection of the free exercise of faith depends upon the courts.
This is why, in fact, evangelical voters should be straining their bodies and pocketbooks to retain the GOP Senate majority. There will be many important vacancies to fill on the federal courts in the next 25 years, and perhaps one or even more retirements from the Supreme Court. The courts generally and the Supreme Court specifically are narrowly balanced, and could shift decisively to judicial activism of the worst sort if the Senate majority that confirms judges is lost. If Vermont's Patrick Leahy returns to the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, the blockade of appeals court nominees will resume, and the borking of any Supreme Court nominee will be assured.
And if even a net of three GOP Senate seats are lost, the filibuster, which survived because of the Gang of 14, will return free of the fear of what is known as the constitutional option. The work of decades-slow and frustrating with many missteps-could be lost in a fit of frustration.
WORLD: You project a 2008 Democratic ticket of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama coming out of that party's convention with a 15-point lead in the polls. How can Republicans fight back?
HEWITT: The GOP must perform in 2007 and 2008 in a way that continues to demonstrate commitment to confronting the existential threat to Israel and possibly even the United States posed by a nuclear Iran. The president must continue to nominate and the Senate confirm great judges. Taxes must be kept low, spending controlled, and the border secured. If it does so, the choice facing the electorate will be stark and serious as Sen. Clinton's record on all of these issues will not be in doubt.
But if the party returns to the lethargy of the past 18 months when it comes to waging political battles, if it refuses to back the president on the war or to stand and deliver a defense of the worldview that animates so much of the conservative base-the belief in God and this exceptional country He has greatly blessed-the base will not rally again. The past few months have shown that. If the leadership of the Republican Party can re-earn the trust of its supporters, they cannot break that trust again. The book's central message is that the GOP is a party of ideas and deep attachment to those ideas. Not every battle can be won, but we insist that the important ones at least be waged with energy and enthusiasm.
WORLD: Novelist Walker Percy in The Second Coming writes that the modern Christian is "nominal, lukewarm, hypocritical, sinful, or, if fervent, generally offensive and fanatical. But he is not crazy." Could that be a description of the typical Republican as well-with the saving grace that he is not crazy, like many Democratic leaders?
HEWITT: Would that Democratic leaders were crazy! Politics would be easy. But they are not. They are very sharp. They settled on a policy of obstruction and obfuscation after the president's reelection and of bitter, dishonest attacks on the conduct of the war and the reasons for the invasion of Iraq. These tactics have wounded the country and continue to do so.
Percy Republicans, to borrow your phrase, need to add energy to the lethargic, contrition to the sinful, and prudence to the fanatics. Christians, whether of the political left or right, should keep in mind C.S. Lewis' admonition that we have never met an ordinary human being. Lewis explained that everyone is either an eternal glory or an everlasting horror, and in politics as in all of life, everyone is everyone's concern, even our opponents who are, after all, our fellow citizens-even if they are wrong, and sometimes dangerously so.
WORLD: So when Democrats say, elect us and we'll solve your problems . . .
HEWITT: No matter what the problem is-if it is a real problem-the answer can never be electing more Democrats.