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GOP Has Some Growing Up to Do

By Mark Davis

One of the stock lectures conservatives deliver to liberals involves accepting the marketplace and dealing with it as it is without whining about it.

Whether in politics, the economy or popular culture, the lesson preaches the value of changing the marketplace if possible; if it's not possible, the responsible thing to do is deal with it like an adult.

A lot of people who have delivered that lecture would now do well to listen to it.

The marketplace is speaking loudly. Republican voters are choosing John McCain as their party's nominee for president. Plenty of people are not thrilled by that, me included. But the day is coming soon that I will have to face some facts. I highly recommend to my conservative brothers and sisters that they come in off the ledge and start to look at the big picture.

Easy to say, hard to do. You should see my e-mails. "I can never vote for McCain," say scads of people who identify themselves as lifelong Republican voters. My attempts to help them prioritize are not being received well.

When I mention the clear truth that Mr. McCain's ideological mixed bag is infinitely superior to the universal wrongness of whatever Democrat he faces in November, it is as though I suggested al-Qaeda isn't such a bad bunch of guys.

"How can you abandon principle so easily?" comes the anguished cry.

Abandon principle? I'm practicing it! When one battle is lost, you look to the next one.

Last week, the bar moved. The window for determining the Republican nominee is virtually closed. Now that it has locked out any realistic rival to Mr. McCain, that process is over and the contest moves to its final phase: the general election.

Spring and summer are times of healing in presidential election years. It's when you see candidates who have clobbered each other for a year or longer suddenly clasp hands and unify because they realize the differences in their views pale compared to those with the other party.

If JFK can run with LBJ - if Ronald Reagan can run with George H.W. Bush, if Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can come close to slow dancing on a debate stage after their January tension - surely conservatives unhappy at batting .500 with their nominee can get a grip by November.

They'd better. The failure to do so comes at a price.

I am inundated with nightmare scenarios from disgruntled conservatives beaten down by the fear of a Republican president who is soft on the borders, unwilling to battle environmental extremism and too fond of muzzling free speech through "campaign finance reform."

I remind them of the portion of our history featuring a Republican president just like that. It's the portion we're living right now. A conservative base willing to forgive George W. Bush for these things because of his steadfastness on the war seems far less willing to give Mr. McCain a pass - and Mr. McCain, already proven on the war issue, also might prove to be a spending-cutter, which Mr. Bush never was.

But this was the year conservative America wanted more. We wanted a president with Mr. Bush's determination to combat terror, cut taxes and appoint Supreme Court justices who respect the Constitution. And we wanted our immigration laws followed, terrorists interrogated aggressively and our economy protected from the ravings of the global warming panic cult.

We won't get those, and we're miffed, just as we were with President Ford in 1976 and Bush 41 in 1992. The Nixon pardon and "no new taxes" broken promise created Republican malaise that gave us the Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton presidencies.

Everybody has plenty of time to complete this momentary hissy fit for not getting the piece of candy we wanted from the nomination jar. But once the race is set in stone, it will be time for conservatives to dust off, grow up and get over it.

Mark Davis is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. His e-mail address is mdavis@wbap.com.

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