Washington is now filling up with a very rare breed. It is filling up with Republicans. So rare are these creatures in this free and glorious land that if too many of them abscond to Washington, there probably will not be many left anywhere else. In the provinces hundreds of country clubs might go bankrupt. Will the Reagan administration provide grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to preserve these monuments to Republican culture? Time will tell.
And time will also tell us if the Republicans can put November's surprising returns to their advantage, transforming themselves into the majority party and restoring the republic to a semblance of its former health. I, for one am not optimistic that the Republicans can pull the thing off. Over in the Democratic House of Representatives, Dr. O'Neill should cheer up. By 1982 the electorate may be asking him to extract from his little black bag all the leeches and bleeding devices he so recently had to stow.
True, the Republicans have in their number some very able men and women. Moreover, their basic philosophy of government is once again seasonable. The voters want and the country needs a cut in tax rates, an end to extravagant spending, the slaying of the regulatory octopus and a margin of security from our defense expenditures. This is what Ronald Reagan promised, but delivering on his promises will take imagination, intelligence, audacity -- qualities not generally associated with the Republican Party.
For years there has been a large element of timorousness among the Republicans. They tend to be cautious and prosaic, and I saw nothing in their Campaign '80 performance to disabuse me of these prejudices. Many of the Republican professionals who crept into that campaign are now smirking and imagining themselves to be the Mayor Daleys of their day, but in a manly way let us face the truth: the Republicans were running against a party that in its choice of issues and candidates was morally committed to hara-kiri.
I fear the Republican Party remains the party of the hum and the drum, abounding in its upper reaches with smug and somewhat mindless campaign managers. These professional campaign managers are men who see pollsters and direct-mail experts as the driving force of history. Their genius is for scheduling and gift-wrapping losers. Their fingerprints were all over Jerry Ford's well-scheduled 1976 defeat by the greenhorn. Back then, Ronald Reagan frightened them. Now they have screwed up their courage to the sticking point, consulted the pollsters and direct-mail experts and crept into the president-elect's tent. But they are still fearful.
We saw their timorousness gauchely displayed just two weeks ago. A vigorous group of Republicans mixed with an influential sprinkling of Democrats to celebrate the 25th anniversary of William F. Buckley's National Review. Henry Kissinger was there. William Casey was there. Even Mayor Edward Koch and Walter Cronkite were there. But the guest of honor, Buckley's old friend President-elect Reagan, was not there, despite his vow to attend. For 25 years Buckley has fought to make the ideas of Ronald Reagan and now the candidacy of Ronald Reagan kosher. Nonetheless, the professional campaign managers feared Reagan's presence at the National Review dinner would create a scandal. Hence they either persuaded Reagan not to attend or they made it unacceptably difficult for him -- my spies are not in total agreement as to how the plot was carried out.
I take this episode as but one more example of the dull-wittedness of professional campaign managers. The episode is all of a piece with their reluctance to bring William Simon into the administration and their worries over Alexander Haig's ability to be confirmed as secretary of state by a Republican Senate. h
Yet this episode represents more than stupidity. It represents the Republican managers' traditional anti-intellectualism. They do not like intellectuals and do not understand what goes on in the intellectuals' realm. In recent years Buckley's National Review has come to hold a place near the center of American political and intellectual life. As Time magazine stated in its Dec. 15 issue, National Review "now appears to be bobbing in the political mainstream." The Republican political managers' ignorance of this fact reveals a great deal about them and their prospects for the 1980s. o
The anti-intellectualism of the Republicans' professional political managers could prove to be as dangerous to the Republicans' aspirations as their timorousness. Political parties live off ideas and passions; intellectuals are the primary authors of the former and a major force in the creation and direction of the latter. Political managers who fear ideas and intellectuals are not destined for great things in the modern world.