Anyone who followed Carly Fiorina prior to her dominating performance in Thursday’s junior varsity debate was disappointed that she didn’t make it into the top ten to qualify for the main stage. Fiorina has confidently, articulately, and forcefully spoken the language of conservatism for months.
But when the pundits and social media lit up over her great showing, it became obvious she was a Sturgeon in an aquarium. Perhaps she was on just the right stage at this point in her campaign; her incandescent dominance over a mini-field of soggy waffles and shoulda-beens demonstrated that she should be in the big leagues next time around.
Rather than analyze the specifics of what she said Thursday (you can find it on YouTube), let me opine about the candidate in general. Carly Fiorina is the Iron Lady of the Republican Party right now, a master of soundbites in an era where those are important, but also a master at putting conservative objectives like tax code reform, smaller government, and the imperative of a strong national defense into commonsense language that both excites the GOP base and incites thoughtful introspection.
This contrasts with some candidates who proclaim their severe conservative credentials but who deliver an equivocating agenda (God bless Mitt, but he had issues boiling down Buckleyism the way Reagan could).
As the rise of Trump shows, people are sick of the political class that says all the right things but so rarely does the right thing. Fiorina is poised to tap into the same vein of discontentment with the political class, politically correct blandness, and fear of using forceful rhetoric. Consider the irony of that: we have a GOP field seeking to command the most powerful military in the history of the world who are afraid of calling a narcissistic, serial liar a narcissist and a serial liar (that would be Hillary, to make a Huckabee-esque clarification).
Forget Trump. Fiorina from day one of her campaign has spoken real truths from a position legitimately outside the orbit of the ruling class, but in a manner worthy of what ought to be the most dignified office on the planet, Obama’s degradation of that perch notwithstanding.
The trouble with conservatism is that it’s an ideology fit more for William F. Buckley than Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. In other words, it’s not easy to bring conservative ideas to a kitchen table, to relate it to the lives of people who don’t spend their time pouring over the works of Adam Smith, Voltaire, and John Locke, and sharing tea with Milton Friedman.
Fiorina can do this because she understands conservative ideas, the world at large, and how average people will understand the benefits of Republican solutions to their lives. She roundly has earned a spot on the next big stage, where she will begin a steady rise toward the top of the pack.
At least I sure hope – a hope that’s being stoked. Fox News has ramped up its advocacy for Fiorina. Other news outlets are offering praise. But more importantly, following her impressive showing in front of an audience of 6 million conservatives (though just a quarter of the main debate, still a staggering number for a primary pre-debate) social media has been blowing up over her. In Wisconsin, for example, a Facebook page “Wisconsin for Carly Fiorina” started over the past 48 hours and is garnering a considerable following, organically at that.
It’s time for Republicans to follow Fiorina the way they’ve thus far followed Trump. Trump may be a Five Hour Energy Drink, but Carly Fiorina is an MRE.