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11/25/2008
ARE THE RIGHTROOTS MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN REPUBLICAN?

Patrick Ruffini and Mindy Finn have a nice write up in today’s Washington Post regarding their new web effort Rebuild the Party.com. The website features a list of endorsers that constitutes a who’s who of the rightysphere as well as a plan they would like to see the GOP adopt that, includes the recruitment of 5 million new Republican online activists, reorganizing the RNC, developing a new fundraising model, and rebuilding the grass roots infrastructure of the party.

All ambitious goals to be sure. But are they achievable?

Everybody agrees the GOP must become more web savvy and that a better connection has to be made to conservatives online. Few would also argue with the notion that efforts must be made to catch up to the Democrats in online fundraising and organization. But then we have the problem with the Republican party itself and its refusal to get serious about the kinds of reforms that would make a conservative like me proud to belong once again.

If Ruffini wants me to promote candidates, raise money, and urge volunteers to work for campaigns he better put a burr under the ass of the party leadership and get them busy on changing just about everything about the organization that contributed to its defeat these last two elections. These are not just technical adjustments or changes around the edges. We are talking about fundamental alterations in people, policy, and ideology that would make the Republican party worth getting excited about again.

Republicans are about ready to fall into a couple of traps that losing parties apparently can’t avoid when the dust settles following a debacle such as they have experienced the last two election cycles. The first is the belief that the reason for being rejected by the voters is that their candidates weren’t “pure” enough ideologically and that only by pushing forward “true conservatives” can the GOP find its way back.

I don’t dispute the necessity for putting up more conservatives for office. But the idea that you can have some kind of lock step litmus tests to determine who a “true” conservative might be is nuts - and counterproductive. There are plenty of competitive congressional districts where one of those “true” conservatives would get slaughtered by most Democrats. When 70% of the country does not identify itself as “conservative,” you are deliberately setting up the GOP for defeat if you advocate only “real” conservatives receive support.

There are candidates that would be completely acceptable to the vast majority of conservatives who would fail some of the litmus tests given by the base. A party that seeks to diminish its ranks by making membership dependent on a rigid set of positions on issues is a party doomed to maintaining its minority status. The Democrats made the exact same mistake in 2000 and it cost them in 2002 and 2004.

Only when they stopped listening to people like Kos and recruited dozens of candidates that reflected the realities of their specific district did they break through in 2006 and 2008. These candidates were not hard left ideologues but much more pragmatic in their politics. That didn’t mean they were “conservative” or even “moderate.” It means they were attractive candidates with decent name recognition, well funded, well organized, and in tune with local concerns. And they wiped the floor with our guys.

The other trap the GOP appears to be springing on itself is the idea of “me-tooism.” “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” may have worked for Bugs Bunny, but to see Republicans seeking to alter the disastrous Bush/Obama policies on bailouts only by proposing less money or nibbling around the edges rather than uniting to oppose these fundamental alterations in American society only proves that the vast majority of them are not worthy of conservative support. On this, the most important issue that has come before the Congress in a generation, the GOP is failing the test.

Pat believes that changes in the party can be effected by uniting the conservative community online and forcing the GOP to make necessary alterations. I believe he is being overly optimistic. What should come first, party reform or rightroots activism? What good would all of Pat’s great ideas be if they came to fruition and the GOP was still a party of pork-loving, deficit embracing, open border hugging, lobbyist kissing corrupt hacks? Is Ruffini saying that by initiating the kind of activism he is looking for online that the party will, either naturally or by osmosis, magically reform itself into an organization that conservatives would feel justified in backing?

This, is not an insignificant point. As is stands now, the rightroots are more conservative than they are Republican. And the noises being made by many GOP officeholders are not encouraging. The transformation of our economy into some kind of quasi-socialist managed disaster is going on with barely a peep from Republicans. Yes there are some like Senator Inhofe who are trying to hold the line. But if the GOP is interested in employing the conservative online community in a bid to help the party back to power, it would be helpful if a few more congressmen and senators joined the fight, proving that they were worthy of conservative support by acting like, well, you know, conservatives.

In the end, despite the undoubted genius of Ruffini and his friends, I can’t see him making much headway until the Republican party rediscovers its fundamental philosophy and its primary purpose for existing; to elect honest and ethical candidates who espouse conservative values . Not litmus tests but rather shared principles of governance with room for disagreement and debate.

Can Ruffini’s template for conservative activism and organization goad the GOP into that kind of a reformation? I think Pat is counting on that happening. But from where I’m sitting, it would appear to be an uphill battle to motivate online conservatives to join a cause where their activism would be exploited by those who don’t share their principles or care for their opinions.

By: Rick Moran at 1:35 pm
16 Responses to “ARE THE RIGHTROOTS MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN REPUBLICAN?”
  1. 1
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    3:07 pm 

    The funny part about this eight year debacle is that there are no more Republicans left. Republicans now decouple themselves from the party and run like hell yelling “It’s not my fault! I’m not a Republican, I’m a conservative!” at the top of their lungs. It’s pretty pathetic.

    You have no idea how bad I want…

    “to elect honest and ethical candidates who espouse conservative values .”

    Although the phrase “conservative values” is pretty subjective. I’d be happy with “not spending so much taxpayer money on stupid worthless crap.”

  2. 2
    Bob C Said:
    4:23 pm 

    Is it necessarily an ‘either-or’ proposition? Party reform OR rightroots activism? Maybe the Dems moved away from Kos moonbats in their search for candidates to support, but the fact is that they now have a majority, and it will most certainly govern from the left. It matters little to them that Heath Schuler isn’t ideologically pure; he’s a Dem, and majorities get to dominate committees, name chairmen, and get legislation passed.

    The straw men are marching into the debate by the dozen: Reps didn’t lose this and the ‘06 elections because of snake handling, tongue-speaking Christianists. They lost because they simply haven’t governed in the manner in which they campaigned and won. There are very simple, nearly universal conservative concepts that should drive both the party and the rightroots: strong national defense, limited government, secure borders, low taxes. Of course there is room for pro-lifers, anti-gay marriagers, and religion. But if you believe that these social conservatives have cost the party elections, you’re walking around blind without a cane. Had Reps resisted…loudly and firmly…the ‘lend money to anyone who passes the mirror test’ plans of the Dems (and, unfortunately, the president) in the same manner they did ‘comprehensive immigration reform’, Obama wouldn’t be in the WH, Reps would still be a majority in the Congress, and we wouldn’t be tossing and turning at night fearing the judges the Obamanation will be nominating to the federal courts.

  3. 3
    CrticalThinker Said:
    4:30 pm 

    Hey Rick since you like Russel Kirk, and I am assuming Burke, you might like this then:
    http://rebuildtheparty.ning.com/group/rebuildingthepartyunderstandingconservativethought.

    Not everyone their is a opportunist or whack job. Some average people are just trying to understand their roots. That alone is worth the attempt.

  4. 4
    Chris Jones Said:
    6:44 pm 

    The real issue concerns the younger generation. I’m 27 years old and a life long Republican. The problem is that many of the old guard in the party continue fighting for things most everyone I know doesn’t care about. The republicans of my generation have much more liberal attitudes as it relates to social issues like gay marriage. Most of my friends and colleagues want abortions to be kept at a minimum, but are nevertheless pro-choice. I don’t personally don’t smoke marijuana, but I don’t care if someone over the age of 18 does. If the GOP ever hopes to get some of the younger people back from Obama, we need to stop getting distracted by silly issues like gay marriage and focus on fiscal discipline and national security.

  5. 5
    still liberal Said:
    7:09 pm 

    Bob C wrote:

    “There are very simple, nearly universal conservative concepts that should drive both the party and the rightroots: strong national defense, limited government, secure borders, low taxes.”

    Bob, one of the problems with the right is that these principles are locked in stone for most, as if Moses had brought them down the mountain on a table. Number One, the government is operating in a very complex, interwoven society and American government will never be small or limited. It cannot. The federal government can be downsized, but not by much. Every dollar spent on anything has constituents, lobbyists and supportive lawmakers. Hell, the Rural Electrification Administration is going full tilt many decades after Antelope Spit, Wyoming and every area like it) has been fully electrified.

    I, too like low taxes but who is going to pay back the massive trillions of dollars debt incurred in the last few years , and when, and how?

    And exactly what is a strong national defense currently? One built to root out terrorists, one to prepare for a burgeoning military influence of China, one to act as a disaster reaction team in the United States? Which one? Can’t afford them all.

    Think about the writing Rick just offered. Everything must be on the table for any party to succeed and change as needed.

  6. 6
    SaraforAmerica.com Said:
    8:29 pm 

    #5, Still Liberal. “The government is operating in a very complex, interwoven society and American government will never be small or limited. It cannot. The federal government can be downsized, but not by much. Every dollar spent on anything has constituents, lobbyists and supportive lawmakers. Hell, the Rural Electrification Administration is going full tilt many decades after Antelope Spit, Wyoming and every area like it) has been fully electrified.”

    So, because it IS, it has to BE? No, it does not. There is the crux of the conservative argument. GET RID OF THE WASTE, no matter the whining and gnashing of teeth.

  7. 7
    Owasm Said:
    8:54 pm 

    The idea that 70% of the nation don’t identify as conservatives is a ludicrous reason for not having a firm ideology. Did you know that 78% of the nation do not identify as liberals?

    The problem with the election wasn’t ideology, it was a rejection of feckless “leadership” on the part of establishment Republicans, not conservative ideals. What is needed is a palatable restatement of conservative principles that the common guy on the street can identify with. Joe the Plumber being one of them. Easy ideas that don’t involve getting into the arcane issues of health care or social security. The term “tax cuts” aren’t enough… Obama used that as a club over McCain, because McCain never fought back and explained simply enough to the American people that Obama wasn’t really talking about tax cuts.

    I did sign up for Rebuild the Party.com. What conservatives need to do is organize and not continue to be a bunch of cats that can’t be herded.

  8. 8
    rs Said:
    9:01 pm 

    so you believe the best option for the Republican party is not to offer true differentiation to voters in the form of real conservatism and that they are better off offering communism-lite - john mccain style - despite all the evidence pointing to the contrary?

  9. 9
    Bob C Said:
    6:44 am 

    still liberal replied to my post:
    “Everything must be on the table for any party to succeed and change as needed.”

    Perhaps you misunderstand my post. I was not arguing for some kind of ideological purity; balancing prinicple with the practical requiremets of politics isn’t impossible. It has taken, for example, some 70 years to get to where we are today vis a vis government. Much as I’d like to see it, there are few if any places where any congressman could get elected on a platform of ‘government strictly by the Constitution’ (a sad commentary, that). What took 70 years to build…a burgeoning nanny state fed by citizens’ hard earned dollars…may well take longer to dismantle. New Dealers and ’60s radicals have been patiently building the kind of federal government they want; the latter’s loud and revolutionary blather was simply for public consumption; they recognized, then and now, that incrementalism was the key, and they have been spectacularly successful.

    I disagree, too, that government can never again be small or limited. If a conservative congress quietly shut down the REA, for example, the public at large would not notice. Ditto the TVA, and any of the hundreds of archaic wasteful gaggle of federal drones who produce nothing of value for the tax dollars they consume. All at once? No. It was built one brick at a time, and can be similarly dismantled.

    Deficits are caused by spending too much, not a dearth of citizens’ revenues. Again; baby steps. Start with idiocies like the REA, and move on to larger idiocies like the Departments of Education, Energy, and Homeland Security, piece by piece, wasted dollar by wasted dollar. I, for one, am willing to wait.

    As for what kind of defense we want…one that provides for the security of the citizens. Is there room for an eye on cost? Of course. But without it, the rest of the above is moot.

  10. 10
    Agent Orange Peel Said:
    8:38 am 

    What good would all of Pat’s great ideas be if they came to fruition and the GOP was still a party of pork-loving, deficit embracing, open border hugging, lobbyist kissing corrupt hacks?

    Precisely! I am a fiscal, social conservative. My latest article on my blog entitled, The Four President Horsemen of the U.S. Apocalypse - Part 1, which criticized three Republican Presidents for fiscal impropriety, got a fair amount of traffic from Free Republic to read the article. But the article also got me booted off free Republic. It seems there are a lot of “Republicans” that think the word “fiscal” is a kind of game that is used to attract voters but doesn’t really need to be put into practice.

  11. 11
    still liberal Said:
    8:43 pm 

    Bob C, I’m late back to the party but your response is a good one. Of course I would still argue that the government and ALL of its spending does not occur in a vacuum and shuting down agencies and projects is not easy. Conservatives have tried and failed to downsize government at least since Reagan, and likely before. If it could be done, it would be done by now.

    The complexity of society is too great to operate w/o oversight and spending in many areas. But I agree that a lot of money is spent that need not be spent (do I lose my liberal card to that thought?). Its too bad that all Americans cannot come to some consensus of some method to lessen spending by the federal government.

    As SaraforAmerica.com put it, “GET RID OF THE WASTE, no matter the whining and gnashing of teeth.” Of course the pragmatic problem becomes, who gets to define waste? I may think manned space exploration is “waste” and you may think TANF is “waste”. Again, there is no method for building consensus on what waste and appropriate spending is. Now, the political winners decide and the system operates in a way that prior winners keep their goodies even when the opposition takes over. If it takes a Constitutional amendment, then let’s all work together to have every dollar, every program and every federal agency have their budget face a meaningful sunset review. And when the original agreed upon goals of any program have been met, it automatically loses funding and cannot change its mission.

    Again, the federal government will never be small, but it can be smarter and more thrifty than it is now. Maybe there is some common ground here after all, Bob and Sara.

  12. 12
    M. Wilcox Said:
    1:42 am 

    Just let the let the big spending, big government and slightly less leftist party known as the Republican party die, why do we need or want two left wings?
    From the ashes of the dead Republican Party a REAL Conservative choice will rise that’s actually willing to fight the Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, Eco-nuts, Pro-illegal alien, America last, Pro-thirty plus million dead babies, ….. Lunatics.

  13. 13
    Peter Dukoski, Ph.D. Said:
    11:12 am 

    RebuildtheParty.com is a joke. Minutes ago i attempted to post on that site and nothing happened. What they’re after is Republicans to kiss their butts and not much else. Write what they want to hear and you’ll be fine. GOP stand for joke. Prepare yourself for the ongoing slaughter in 2010 and 2012. The choice is simple: Build a viable Third Party or let the Socialists run the U.S. into the ground. Sorry folks, but deal with reality. The GOP can’t find quality candidates for any office and was outmaneuvered by by George Soros. We were never in the election.

  14. 14
    Bob C Said:
    7:38 am 

    still liberal replies:
    “Conservatives have tried and failed to downsize government at least since Reagan, and likely before. If it could be done, it would be done by now.”
    I beg to differ…conservatives have talked about downsizing government and failed to act as boldly as they might have. I completely agree…once bought with taxpayers’ dollars, votes to cut those dollars off is a monumental task. IMO, one of the biggest problems (on the political side) Republicans have is defining the issues. As a result of their hegemony in the national media, the message is the Democrat/liberal message. The examples are legion: Reps didn’t shut down the government in ‘95, Bill Clinton did via his veto pen. Protecting the borders becomes xenophobia. Trimming the Dep’t of Education becomes cutting off funds from students.

    Maybe if, for example, conservatives unified their message that Dep.of Ed funding can be block granted back to the states, as a first step in it’s dismantling. Funds would not disappear, they’d be applied directly to the schools by the states. Or that conservatives welcome immigration; after all, we are nearly all the product of that process, we just would like to see immigrants sign the guestbook when they come to the party. Say it loudly and often. Challenge those in the media when they say otherwise.

    Let’s try something; sure, one man’s waste is another man’s useful spending. So let’s go to an objective source when we define what the federal government should and should not be spending money on. The Constitution. Fair?

  15. 15
    still liberal Said:
    2:50 pm 

    Bob C, I am agreeing with you so much it scary! A Federal Dept. of Education to me is unnecessary, let alone going to block grants. Education is a local and state concern only. Score one for using the Constitution; education is not a federal responsibility in my read of the document.

    I also agree with legal immigration as the only path to living long term in the U.S.A. The fastest way to deal with this problem is to have the government confiscate the businesses found hiring illegals and then sell the property at auction to finance border security and the return of illegal immigrants. Agreed? It is a Constitutionally allowed remedy to criminal behavior. And illegals will come as long as work is available.

    Never thought I would live long enough to say this, but your point on media bias is understandable. The major media do slant their stories, frequently just as you stated. And the Constitution is a great document to base the level of and targets of federal spending. But be sure to read the Federalist papers to understand the Founders’ attitudes regarding the docuemnt and the inevitable change they knew was coming in American society and the methods of responding to a world very different than the agrarian, shopkeeper 18th Century they lived in.

    This place may turn me conservative yet! And thanks for the thoughtful response, Bob C.

  16. 16
    Bob808 Said:
    5:41 am 

    The right hasn’t done its intellectual homework. When you try to isolate patriotism and fiscal responsibility from moral issues, you cut off their conceptual feet. Fiscal rsponsibility does have moral content, especially at the level of public policy, where decisions are debated and made deliberatively.
    Most conservative positions are fundamentally tied to a concept of a human person that includes freedom of will and some sort of creative spontaneity that is capable of initiating (at least marginally) some behavioral causation from within. A being that is entirely determined by nature or nurture can not be said to be “responsible” for his behavior in any meaningful way. Personal moral conduct and fiscal responsibility are tied together by their dependence on a usable notion of “responsibility”. The left works with notions of “human person” that are either reduced to materialist biology and mechanical, esxternal causation, or that undercut the possibility for responsibility with postmodernist, subjectivist skepticism, which treats personhood as having no access to truth or knowledge, and hence, without a means to get traction in a real world that enables behavioral initiative.
    (It should be remembered that forgiveness, toleration, and redemption, in their AUTHENTIC forms, are creative responses that run contrary to the left’s notion of personhood, which is why the left waters down “forgiveness ” to something like forgetting or exonerating, and “toleration” to something like embracing. The left seems to have forgotten that a forgiven wrong remains a wrong, and that something tolerated is not something embraced or sanctified, and through their control of media and education, they have managed to nudge conventional usage of these terms toward their limp, edgeless interpretations.)
    Consider the issue of whether to allow gays to marry. Even on the left coast, the public passed a measure designed to keep “gay” and “marriage” from being legally confused. The issue, though, has been framed in idiotic ways by the left, and the right has largely accepted that framing. The left claims that homosexuality is inherited, and as an inherited characteristic, it deserves to be treated as a definition-criterion for a rights-worthy minority. Yet the evidence that gays’ brains are differently formed from heterosexuals’ brains is qualified by a weak correlation on one hand, and by the fact that the brain is a plastic structure whose form isn’t entirely determined by genetics. To the degree that homosexuality has an environmental component, on another hand, it becomes a valid question whether it is to be encouraged or not, whether styles of parenting and elementary education should be examined for their likelihood of increasing the incidence of homosexuality. Third, many individuals, especially among women, drift in and out of functional homosexuality, and demonstrate thereby that there is a component of personal choice involved. Undoubtedly, many gays can have no reasonable expectation of controlling their sexual orientation, but the issue is too causally complicated to treat gays as genetically determined in the way that gender or race are genetically determined. And this affects the validity of gay-rights advocates’ claim to rights IN EXACTLY THE SAME MANNER as genetically-determined groups.
    Marriage isn’t entirely comprehensible as a “right”. It is many things, a fundamental institution in human civilization that has some of the aspects of rights, but also some aspects of responsibility, of privilege, and of sanctification. And there’s a metaphysical component, too. Despite a few holdouts for the view that the sexes have no meaningful differences, that view is dying out; men and women are different, however variably and subject to socialization. An intimate heterosexual relationship unites the two halves of the most meaningful division of the human race, and confers a kind of metaphsical completeness that is lacking in other relationships. It isn’t just about affection and sentimental gratification, though romantic love is the dominant notion of love in our time. This has bearing for parenting, for a heterosexual family provides children with intimate connection to a same-sex and an opposite-sex parent, and a more complete opportunity for social development, including development at the unconscious and intuitive level. And it affects personal development, because one has to learn to cope with fundamental differences between oneself and one’s opposite sex partner in a way that outstrips our capacity to understand. Marriage is the paradigm case of toleration.
    Marriage has been a special relationship throughout history, even when not sanctioned by the Judeo-Christian tradition– preserving marriage is not creeping theocracy, as the left presents it. The sanctification of marriage is not only a religious recognition of its importance, but stems from something fundamental, primitive, and ineffable, and religions have merely tried to give good guidance on how to participate in that sort of relationship. Homosexual relationships have been part of many societies, but never as a SUBSTITUTE for marriage. There’s something more narcissistic and solipsistic about the very nature of homosexuality, and saying that a well-formed gay relationship is better than the worst-case examples of bad marriages doesn’t alter the fact that gay relationships do not offer some of the most valuable possibilities that come with real marriages. Now feminism’s assaults on marriage have undermined it for the decades leading up to this controversy, so that the benefits of marriage temporarily appear all the weaker in the comparison to gay relationships, but judging from the data of our own era exclusively skews the basis of the comparison. Things are not always as they might appear in the problem-riddled world of 2008, especially when our problems are more often problems of the human spirit, and not problems of technology or the material sciences. (I’m not saying, BTW, that some of feminism’s adjustments weren’t positive, only that they were carried out in a disruptive and undermining way, and that the institution of marriage hasn’t fully recovered.)
    As it stands now, those who support the preservation of marriage have to rely on rather vague notions and traditions to justify their positions, and the right’s failure to do its intellectual homework puts them at a disadvantage. Conventional-wisdom academics have aligned themselves with the view that marriage is entirely reducible to a right, that it is something fully comprehensible by them (in their intellectual arrogance), and that homosexuality is just another rights-worthy biological variation in the same manner as gender or race. Yet even in California, the vague resistance to so-called “gay marriage” was enough to motivate the majority of voters in a high-turnout election to support the preservation of marriage. So one shouldn’t be too hasty to dismiss the preservation of marriage as a valid conservative issue. What conservatives need to do is to validate their side with some better intellectual support, so that marriage-supporters aren’t left twisting in the wind of the public discourse, feeling a bit stodgy and behind the times, may a bit reactionary. Having good reasons to support one’s position enhances one’s confidence on one’s intuitive inclinations.
    An authentic notion of toleration would not seek to eradicate homosexual behavior or to harrass homosexuals, but neither would it conflate homosexual relationships with marriage. Social conservatives shouldn’t commit the same sloppy-thinking error by conflating homosexuality with rape, or by denying that homosexual relationships can have many of the socially-valuable aspects that heterosexual relationships can have– just not all of them. The support of marriage is a lot more attractive when it’s shorn of the bigotry that often accompanies it. One can recognize the shortcomings of homosexual relationships without exaggerating them or making them the occasion for gay-bashing. Marriage isn’t just a recreational activity that everyone has a right to, indifferently, and withholding that degree of sanctification from gay relationships isn’t intolerance for gays. Toleration is a virtue; the problem with its current iteration has to do with the way the left has watered it down to something meaningless. We tolerate others’ behaviors, some of which we find repugnant, because none of us lack repugnant behaviors (or sins), and because there just isn’t enough time in the day to try to eradicate allthe less-catastrophic human foibles. Gay realtionships may not get as close to the ideal significant-other relationship as marriages, but we all fall short of that ideal in some way or another. Conservatives need to understand how the left has made “toleration” an unattractive and edgeless concept, reclaim it, and actually DO IT, if they are to regain the moral high ground. This is a part of the conservative fundamentals that is often omitted. Discipline in general requires intellectual discipline.

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