Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: GOP Reform, Palin, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 12:44 pm

There are few on the right who have thought more about where conservatism is and where it should be going than David Frum. Frum is a former Bush speechwriter, National Review writer, author and columnist. He just started a new blog called The New Majority which features a wide range of conservative opinion mixed with some nuts and bolts politics.

Along with Ross Douthat, Marc Ambinder, David Brooks, and a precious few other conservatives, Frum is looking deeply and seriously at conservatism’s flaws, strengths, and perhaps most importantly and relevantly, how to translate conservative principles into actionable political ideas that can win elections and establish a sound basis for governance.

In short, Frum and his new blog will almost certainly be one of the focal points in the conservative movement for the foreseeable future - or at least, it should be. The New Majority is where ideology and practical politics will merge as various strains of conservatism wrestle with ways to become relevant in the Age of Obama.

That Age is well underway, having begun even before Obama was elected. There was nothing subtle about the media’s clear preference in the November election, the consequences of which have yet to play out. The only thing certain is that to a degree not seen since the early 1960’s, conservatism as an ideology is being dismissed by the political class as irrelevant. When politicians start running away from basic conservative principles and embrace the milquetoast center or center- left, including bailout mania and other manifestations of creeping statism, you know it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work rebuilding a shattered conservative polity.

As I see it, there are several tracks to a conservative revival, all working toward the same goal but in strikingly different ways. You have the generalists like Frum and his cohorts who are seeking to infuse conservatism with new ideas and a new frame of reference for the old ones. Then there are the web gurus like Patrick Ruffini and his stalwart band at The Next Right who are trying to drag the Republican party and conservative movement into the 21st century by creating an army of connected, online activists. The libertarian conservatives have entered the fray with a new blog called The Secular Right which features a group of excellent writers and thinkers like Heather McDonald, Andrew Stuttaford, Walter Olsen, and National Review’s John Derbyshire. Reason Magazine is a little more independent but still has some solid conservatives contributing.

The libertarians perhaps have the longest way to come back and thus represent the greatest challenge to all who are interested in rebuilding the movement. The long-simmering tensions between social cons and libertarians exploded in open warfare over the Terry Schiavo issue and continued with the Harriet Meyers fiasco, immigration, and finally, the presidency of George Bush himself. Many libertarians abandoned Bush even before the 2006 electoral debacle - something which the social cons will not soon forget. Nor did libertarians care much for Sarah Palin which ended up splitting the movement into two spitting, warring factions where some believed Palin the second coming of Reagan while others shook their heads in disbelief over such nonsense.

It is a breach that will not soon be healed. Palin will remain a talisman for social conservatives into the foreseeable future. And as long as she is a figure of importance to the social cons, it is doubtful most honest libertarians (or right leaning centrists) will want to have anything to do with conservatives politically.

And that brings us to the social conservatives, many of whom are perfectly happy with how conservatism is defined although they are not pleased with how it is perceived. There appears little in the way of a reform movement for social cons. For them, conservatism needs a face lift - cosmetic changes that will keep their core beliefs about abortion, gay rights, and other cultural issues front and center but perhaps soften or reframe the debate. But as far as rethinking or even redefining conservative principles, social cons simply don’t see the need.

I apologize if I have unnecessarily been too general in my analysis of social cons because there are brilliant social conservatives who are thinking about the future and how to bring the warring factions together. The problem as I see it is with a relatively small but vocal and somewhat influential subset of social conservatives who fancy themselves gatekeepers and arbiters of conservative dogma. I call them “Splenetic Conservatives” for obvious reasons. And to my mind, they are the biggest obstacle to a conservative revival. More than any other faction, splenetic conservatives are fiercely resisting the idea of “Big Tent” conservatism and wish to purify the movement, purging it of alien ideas and personalities that espouse positions on issues at variance with their own.

This has not only had a deadening effect on intelligent debate but has placed a roadblock in the way of uniting the movement at a time when the actual numbers of people identifying themselves as “conservative” is falling. Whole swaths of the American electorate abandoned the Republican party and conservatism in the last election and now identify with the more tolerant, less dogmatic Democrats. How long this will last is an unknown. But even the failure of Obamaism will probably not be enough to win them back as long as splenetic conservatives feel they can dictate who can join their little club. Pro-Choice? Not in my house! Pro-Gay marriage? Surely, you joke. Immigration reform? Round ‘em up! War on Terror? Kill the Muslims!

Is this the way to a conservative majority? Is this the path to reforming the conservative movement so that once again we can tolerate our differences without lining someone up against a wall because they have strayed from the straight and narrow path set down by the splenetic conservatives?

The face of conservatism used to be a happy face, a confident face, an optimistic face. I suppose its easy to be happy if you are winning elections but there was more to it than that, more to it than even the fact that the naturally sunny disposition of Ronald Reagan was at the head of the movement. That optimism and happiness was born in the give and take of debate when Big Ideas - consequential, important ideas - were the stuff of bull sessions, conferences, panel discussions, and papers published at the various think tanks. All factions of conservatism had their say. There was passionate disagreements over everything. But somehow, we never lost sight of the goal - building a conservative movement where ideas translated into government action.

Somewhere along the way, we gave into the temptation to use conservative ideas to divide rather than unite. This tactical decision brought electoral success but at a price. It gave social conservatives and their splenetic base a platform to dominate the movement and the Republican party. The price for that mistake is still being paid.

I will give the splenetic conservatives credit where credit is due; they vote. And they contribute money to the movement and the Republican party. And in many parts of the United States, they are the Republican party, supplying not only funds but volunteers for campaigns who do the hard, slogging work of trying to get Republicans elected.

It is ironic that they are a larger group than most give them credit for but smaller in numbers than they themselves believe. They dominate the right side of the internet as well as many local Republican organizations (I have quit three different GOP groups because I got tired of people telling me I wasn’t a conservative). And if you cross them, you are in for much unpleasantness as many of the anti-Palin conservatives discovered. Is it important? The press has chosen to make splenetic conservatives the face of conservatism - for obvious reasons. Anything that can make conservatism look intolerant, bigoted, dangerous, and ignorant will gleefully be used to portray all conservatives in a negative light. We saw this in the waning days of the campaign when the press began to focus on “angry” crowds at McCain and Palin rallies, thus tarring all McCain supporters unfairly as yahoos and haters.

Ridding ourselves of these meddlesome and problematic screamers is not the issue. Opening their minds to the possibilities of compromise is a useless exercise - not when they see compromise as apostasy deserving of excommunication. Attempting to marginalize them would be playing their game. Besides, cutting off one’s legs as a way to heal the body is a strange way of reforming the movement. There must be a place for them at the conservative table - even if they have to be strapped down and force fed some hard truths about the exigencies of power and how futile their campaign to purify the movement when it comes to the raw exercise of democracy at the ballot box. Elections are about numbers; your side needs one more vote than the other side to win.

Michael K. Powell explains:

believe the Republican Party is on the precipice of irrelevance if it cannot rebuild a respect for civil debate-including self-criticism. The formation of powerful ideas requires the push and pull of varying viewpoints testing and informing one another. The litmus test politics that has abducted the party, has dulled the edge of its ideas, discourages those who respond to intellectual rigor, and repels too many from the party who are unwilling, as a condition of admission, to sign an oath of allegiance to a set of talking points.

Additionally, to have a future an institution must appeal to generations of the future. Appealing to youth is vital for rebirth. Yet, we seem trapped in a time warp. The Party has failed to fully comprehend how the young interact and communicate in an era transformed by the digital revolution. We do not yet appreciate their passions and their fears, nor pause to look at the world through their eyes. Battling to be a voice of technology and innovation is vital. In the world of youth, you must first “get it” before you are listened to.

The Party also must be more sober about the demographic transformation that is taking place in America. We are a browning nation, but a Party seemingly incompetent in connecting with America’s diversity and its ascendant multiculturalism. We are stuck in antiquated notions of race. My kids saw Barack Obama not as black but as modern. His race and enlightened manner of dealing with it captures how the young see themselves.

Allah (who links to a fascinating interview with Rudy Guiliani at Frum’s New Majority where hizzoner states that de-emphasizing social issues is the way back for Republicans) answers the question of what to do about the divisions in the movement quite nicely, giving the bleak alternatives:

[T]he key bit comes near the end of the second clip. He’s not asking the party to abandon social conservatism, just to nudge it towards the background and make foreign policy and fiscal responsibility the core of the platform. Which … is essentially the approach McCain took.

He’s right about the dwindling numbers of the base, though. I think the GOP’s tacit strategy now is to wait and hope for (1) a messianic figure of its own to emerge and build a new coalition through the sheer force of his/her charisma and/or (2) Democrats to overreach so egregiously that even minority voters who wouldn’t dream of voting Republican today will run screaming for the embrace of small government. All of which is fine, but the opposite of proactive. I wonder how long we’ll be waiting.

If I were Allah, I wouldn’t hold my breath for either of those eventualities. Palin is not acceptable to a large portion of the GOP if not a majority. Besides her bona fides as a “messianic figure” are not very impressive. Bobby Jindahl is an interesting man with a fascinating story but pinning hopes for a revival on the young man may be premature.

If no messiah, what then? First things first and that means uniting the movement with or without a dominant personality. Much more difficult if the latter but until someone comes along, someone has to do something to build bridges and not burn them.

Political strategist John Avlon on the Big Tent:

Somehow Republicans have lost common ground – Reagan invoked the Big Tent constantly as a way of collecting libertarian conservatives, national security conservatives, economic conservatives and social conservatives under one banner. But the spirit of outreach and inclusiveness has been drummed out of the GOP – disagreement is seen as disloyalty, and the search for heretics has become a hobby. Libertarians are losing any logical reason to affiliate with the GOP, while centrist Republicans are seen as suspect almost by definition. When Senators like Olympia Snowe or John McCain win re-election with over 70% of the vote, they are considered sell-outs rather than successes. I’ve debated conservatives on TV who were rooting for Norm Coleman to lose, because they considered him insufficiently conservative. This road leads not just to political disaster, but party suicide. Republicans who have won statewide in the Northeast tend to be centrist on social issues, especially on a woman’s right to chose and gay civil rights. Republicans must welcome social moderates into the big tent of the GOP, focus on finding common ground and not treat them as second class citizens. Remember: In a place where everyone thinks alike, nobody is thinking very much.

What do you do when reason does not work on the unreasonable? How can you be inclusive when a minority insists on using what power it possesses to maintain exclusivity?

What in God’s name is to be done with the Splenetic Conservatives?

I have taken much abuse on this site and others I write for from these galoots. I have not been shy about returning the invective either. Clearly, it doesn’t get anybody anywhere for us to shout and call each other vile names. But even when I am calm and rational about debate - not as often as I should be, I’ll grant - it’s worse than talking to a stone wall. In fact, the milder my response, the more outraged these pinheads get. It’s as if their minds function on only one level and trying to appeal to reason or even charity only enrages them further.

So I bear at least half of the blame for any untoward comments that come my way. But, after bouncing off the walls blaming each other or slinging epiteths back and forth, we end up in exactly the same position we were before: A battered, dispirited, and leaderless movement desperately in need of some kind of uniting expedient. Perhaps Obama and the Democrats will, as Allah suggests, prove to be so outrageously an anathema to conservative ideals that we will be forced to put aside our differences and unite to save the country.

Don’t bet on it. Obama is one smart, savvy pol with a gift for making even radical ideas sound reasonable. Unless the country falls apart economically, it is doubtful that anything the Democrats do will serve to bring the movement back together.

Therefore, we must look to ourselves and our own weaknesses and failings in order to re-establish Ronald Reagan’s Big Tent and find our way out of the wilderness where our own neglect and hubris has placed us. The journey to that goal has begun. How and when we get there is anyone’s guess.


  1. I started volunteering with the GOP at age 14, attended the GOP convention at age 18, was VP of the College Republicans, had my photo taken with Reagan by age 20. I ran three local campaigns and was field op director for a GOP Senate candidate in my early 30s. I attended the Leadership Institute in DC. In between I volunteered with my heart and soul whenever and where-ever possible. Some might even think I was one of the “socons” but I just didn’t bite back is all.

    My experience with the social conservatives is that they work their butts off, they give money no matter their economic circumstances ($25-$100) and are just generally there when needed.

    But man, they won’t give an inch, and they see this as their strength and pride. I do not criticize them for believing in something strongly (wish more GOP leaders did) but their inability to understand when to just let someone else take the stage when it helps the cause, is infuriating.

    The GOP stumbled drunkenly through the primary, giving us the McCain debacle. It added to the misery by its unwillingness to point fingers at Frank, Dodd et al for the crisis. GOP support of the bailout led me to even drop the hosting for my gop++++ website - I’ve had it for years. I can’t (won’t) defend the GOP anymore because the party won’t defend itself.

    So, I swore off my GOP affiliation January 1, 2009, as my New Years Resolution. I am now politically unattached, for the first time in my life.

    If I’ve done that, then good luck to the GOP.

    Comment by sara in va — 1/23/2009 @ 1:20 pm

  2. I think you may find that Huckabee (who I, perhaps unfairly used to tag as the Huckabuffoon) is a potential power player on this. Palin is too polarizing (and kind of an idiot) but Huckabee has a lot of cred with the social cons. And while he believes things that only other social cons (or four year-olds) can take seriously, he is capable of reasonable give and take, and capable of presenting a non-confrontational tone. I suspect his work in talk radio will diminish him, but maybe not. He might be the ambassador from the crazies to the rationals.

    Just the same, I’d say it’s 60/40 that the GOP still has its head all the way up its rear end by 2012.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 1/23/2009 @ 1:27 pm

  3. I have been reading your blog for perhaps two years now and I have a question for you.

    Precisely What are the Principles you espouse? Do they include those Principles as stated by the Founding Fathers of this country?

    In all the time I have been reading you, I have yet to discern a cohesiveness that would allow me to construct your universe of Principles.

    You are consistent in denigrating those that disagree with you while at the same time disregarding, or treating as relevant, their beliefs.

    That surely cannot be the way to regaining a Conservative majority.

    It’s a fair question. I laid out my beliefs here:



    Comment by Just Plain Bill — 1/23/2009 @ 1:27 pm

  4. The sorts of Republicans you’re talking about would elevate social wedge issues into matters of dogma. “Dogma” in the sense that those who deviate from it are heretics who must be punished as an example for others. The danger in challenging dogmatics with the “force feeding” you describe is that dogmatics are often willing to become schismatics in order to protect ideological purity. But that does not entitle them to dictate everything that happens in the party, either; at some point it stops being worth it for other kinds of Republicans to make common cause with them.

    What I think has to happen is that these sorts need to recognize that they have overreached and doing so has caused a heavy political price to be paid — best seen in the form of a President whom they detest. It is up to them to dial it back and, if they do so, then it will be up to us to recognize that they have done so and recommit to the coalition. But I think they have to take the first step and recognize that stunts like the Terry Schiavo debacle and the deification of Sarah Palin were mistakes.

    Comment by Transplanted Lawyer — 1/23/2009 @ 1:40 pm

  5. This is a Party leadership crisis. Who is the voice of the party? Is it whatever candidate gets the nod that year? I voted for McCain this year, but he would never be my choice to be the voice of the party.
    When we have strong leadership who can emphasize our common goals (lower taxes, smaller government etc..) and take the devisive issues and push them to the background the party will unite.
    As for your question: “What do you do when reason does not work on the unreasonable? How can you be inclusive when a minority insists on using what power it possesses to maintain exclusivity?”
    Once the minority no longer owns the party they can be relegated to the back of the tent. Irrelevance might be the wake-up call they need.

    Comment by FMAC — 1/23/2009 @ 1:59 pm

  6. Lawyer, #4

    I will admit that I am the person behind a certain Sarah Palin website. During the campaign, for some strange reason, I received hundreds of emails from people who either thought I WAS Sarah Palin or had some type of connection to her (as in, please tell her to fight hard, etc.)

    Never did I feel any of these people who emailed me “deified” Sarah Palin. They were simply thankful for someone that allowed them to vote Republican, because their conscience wouldn’t allow them to vote for McCain.

    I think it’s inappropriate to lump Sarah into the same category-type as Obama. Democrats were not looking for a reason to justify their vote, I daresay many of them don’t care about party at all, and were simply voting for the first time in their life, and for a savior.

    Sarah Palin is not the downfall of the GOP. That happened long before her.

    Comment by sara in va — 1/23/2009 @ 2:05 pm

  7. Why is it that those who claim to be “conservatives”, but clearly indicate they are more center left than center right, must attach labels to people they are not necessarily in total agreement with. During the Shamesty Bill dust-up, one blogger, who claims he is a “hard core” conservative, labeled all those who objected to the Shamnesty Bill as “immigration hypochondriacs” and declared, without reservation, that the “hypochrondriacs” were destroying the Republican Party for decades.
    Now we have Splenetic Conservatives. Seems labeling is not conservative by it’s very aim.

    Our weaknesses are many; our failure to realize that a highly liberal media, educated by professors like Juan Hernandez, William Ayers and Ward Churchill would not be giving us any breaks as they finally saw the realization of their liberal wet-dreams coming to live in the form of a inexperience lawyer from Chicago. Our failure to be able to rally around a true conservative instead of a Conservative-lite, working our butts off against a media backed juggernaut, the likes that have not been seen since the campaign of John F. Kenney. The failure of our elected politicains to advise us of the movements of the Democratic party and how they were quietly, slowing gaining control without objections from Republicans.

    There are those who will cry that we are not “inclusive” yet you have to wonder in our “browning” society, just how many “browns” these people have daily contact with. I see, everyday, more and more Tejanos who are coming into the Republican Party as they watch the destruction of their ethinic group through the “victimization” policies of the Democratic Party. The two major contenders for the Chair of the National GOP, oops, they just happen to be men of color.

    We, as conservatives, went to the center/center-left. We offered the nation a “maverick” who took great pleasure at putting his thumb in the eye of core conservatives. We said we would move leftward and the nation would love us and put us back in power. We were wrong. We were rejected in record numbers because when given a choice between Democrats and Democrat-lite, the nation took the real thing just as much as they would chose a real T-bone over a Tofu burger.

    Becoming more Democrat like will only make us Democrats, all but in name. It will not represent the views and opinions of millions of Americans who still subscribe to less government, lower taxes, maintaining traditional standards, and the right of a person not to have to use a 1.6 gallon flused toilet. We lost because our elected leaders no longer stood up to Democrats, lost their voices and adopted the “go along to git along” motto.

    That might be what some “conservatives” think we should become, but as a former Democrat and now a core conservative, I can only see that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    Comment by retire05 — 1/23/2009 @ 2:06 pm

  8. This is a minor point in your big picture essay, but how do you fit the Harriet Miers nomination into part of the libertarian/Social Conservative split? I don’t remember either side endorsing her. I’m vaguer on the libertarians, I suppose it’s possible they liked her, but it seems unlikely. I remember with certainty that the many social cons at NR opposed her, as did Michelle Malkin, and none of the many Catholic blogs I visit regularly supported her.
    It might have been that certain conservative Protestants supported her as one of their own, but as a whole, the social cons were not impressed by her. See, e.g., Mark Shea:

    There were columns written about Meyers by some social cons that were angry with libertarians who suspected they opposed her because of her strong anti abortion record. But you are correct, most prominent social cons opposed Miers because she was unqualified and a Bush crony - same reason as libertarians.


    Comment by mgarbowski — 1/23/2009 @ 2:16 pm

  9. In my immediately preceding comment, the Mark Shea reference and links were meant to come right after the sentence about Catholic blogs.

    Comment by mgarbowski — 1/23/2009 @ 2:18 pm

  10. When politicians start running away from basic conservative principles and embrace the milquetoast center or center- left, including bailout mania and other manifestations of creeping statism, you know it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work rebuilding a shattered conservative polity.

    I dunno. The bailout mania seems quite bipartisan to me. Especially the bank bailout.

    Is this the way to a conservative majority? Is this the path to reforming the conservative movement so that once again we can tolerate our differences without lining someone up against a wall because they have strayed from the straight and narrow path set down by the splenetic conservatives?

    Judging by the microcosm that is your blog, every time you stray outside the splenetic conservative ideal, you get brutalized by “your own people.” From an independent point of view it looks incredibly destructive, though fascinating at the same time.

    The idea of an atheist non splenetic conservative makes my brain reboot. But you’re right, when you get a hot button issue on the ballot the splenetics do vote, in manic droves.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 1/23/2009 @ 2:25 pm

  11. This chin-stroking is all fol-de-rol.

    Mass immigration is killing the GOP. That’s the main cause. Why?

    Because most immigrants (legal & illegal) are poor and vote Democrat if and when they become citizens. They vote that way cuz the Dems offer them more ‘goodies’.

    If November’s results were transposed on the electorate as it existed in 1988, McPain would have won. What has changed?

    It’s the immigration, stupid.

    Comment by bet — 1/23/2009 @ 3:22 pm

  12. Rick,

    Thanks for the great post. While I tend to be one of those “moderate Republicans” I share the same concerns about the state of the party. I’m not interested in turning around and drumming the so-cons out of the party, but it’s hard to get them to see that their hard edge rhetoric and politics is hurting the party.

    I’m a gay Republican who has been involved with Log Cabin for several years. Recently, I decided to send an email to a well-known conservative writer who is steadfast against gay marriage to enter into a dialogue with me. I wasn’t interested in yelling at him, but I wanted him to meet a real live gay man. He never responded to my email.

    So, maybe the challenge is to ignore them and go about refashioning the party on our own by creating new institutions that present a more positive conservatism because change isn’t going to come from the so-cons.

    I wrote a post based on the John Avalon piece a few days ago that you might want to read: http://neomugwump.blogspot.com/2009/01/whos-afraid-of-big-tent.html

    Comment by Dennis Sanders — 1/23/2009 @ 3:30 pm

  13. BTW

    I checked out the links you provided.
    The New Right - yawn. Nothing new there.
    The Secular Right - too much talk about God.
    Reason Magazine - at least it’s got some humor.

    None of these are worth getting excited about (yet). No better than Hot Air, PJ Media, Am Thinker - or you.

    Comment by sara in va — 1/23/2009 @ 3:34 pm

  14. bet said:

    Mass immigration is killing the GOP. That’s the main cause. Why?

    And here I was thinking it was people like you that were the problem. Sorry about that. I guess blaming the poor dumb immigrants feels better, right? The USA would be so much better off if they’d stop coming here and ruining everything.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 1/23/2009 @ 5:02 pm

  15. My question is, how much “nudging” of certain groups of values can be done before you’re sitting outside the big tent? Certainly I’d like as many people for the GOP as possible, if only because that’s the only place conservatives have a voice, even if they aren’t all fiscally and socially conservative. How many traditionally conservative positions can be abandoned while still remaining a conservative?

    Let’s say I start out fiscally and economically conservative on every issue possible. But let’s say, sure, government should handle our retirement (SS). Sure, a woman has a “right to choose.” Sure, the government can tell me how to raise my family. And on an on and on. Do I ever get kicked out, even if I turn into Ted Kennedy, or worst, Obama?

    I acknowledge we live in a fallen world, so ideal situations are never going to come our way, but where is the limit? You’ve said where it’s not, so where is it?

    You ask intelligent questions. That is not being saracastic just surprised - not used to that sort of thing.

    Frankly, you’ve stumped me. I don’t think an economic conservative would embrace Obama or Ted Kennedy. There used to be economically conservative Democrats but they’re Republicans now. I believe ultimately, you are asking should there be “litmus test” issues like pro-life or anti-gay marraige or perhaps support for the war in Iraq. The whole point is not to have litmus tests but a general belief system that conservatives share. You’ve got the Huckabee wing of the party that basically inherits George Bush’s compassionate conservativism. They want the feds to spend money on families.

    You have the neocons who want America to bring democracy everywhere. You have moderate conservatives like Arnie and Rudy. You have I don’t know what he is today McCain. But there is a common, basic belief system running through all those people and movements; fiscal discipline, an abiding faith in the free market, “the government that governs least governs best,” a robust foreign policy that promotes American interests, a strong military, low taxes…

    You get the picture. There really is a lot we agree on. Why let 1,2, or even more issues that I don’t agree with you on stand in the way of us being in the same party and being identified as conservatives? That’s the bottom line, I guess.


    Comment by Sean — 1/23/2009 @ 5:47 pm

  16. @bet:

    From 1988 to 2004, the Democratic majority in hispanic/latino voters eroded. In 2004 pres elections, Repubs got 44% of the hispanic latino vote.


    That trend reversed about 2006 — hispanic/latinos started trending strongly toward the Dem ticket.


    What happened around 2006? Nimrods like you started screaming about building a gigantic wall across the Mexican border — that Republicans didn’t want their votes. Congrats: the largest growing voting bloc, one that was trending toward your party and could have given your professed party a game-changing new level of voters, were told the GOP didn’t need them.

    What’s killling the GOP? You.

    Comment by busboy33 — 1/23/2009 @ 5:56 pm

  17. The problem with your list of beliefs is this one:

    “I believe in a just and moral society with as clear a sense of right and wrong as is consistent with reality.”

    This really begs the issue. Few will agree on the meaning of “moral”,”sense of right and wrong” and “consistent with reality”. You make a good case of showing that as long as the moral reality pragmatist is part of national politics the Republicans must either swallow their convictions in order to win or be like Henry Clay.

    For example, although I’m not a Catholic, I have read the Doctrine of the Faith and various Vatican papers on abortion. It is very clear that any act furthering abortion is a mortal sin subject to automatic excommunication. To a practicing Catholic this is a “very big deal”. If abortion is a national issue, I can’t see how a practicing Catholic would not consider this a true “litmus test”. If a candidate they prefer supports abortion it puts them in a position of voting for that person and then having to go immediately to their priest to confess, ask forgiveness and do penance. Such a choice - vote Republican pro-abortion and lose your eternal soul if you don’t make it to the priest in time. Gee.

    I suspect the only solution would be to place all those thinks into the realm of the 10th Amendment and take the position it is something the States need to deal with. This would remove the “social” from the “social cons” issue from all Federal offices. Thus abortion, marriage, gays and whatever else there is that is “moral” would be excluded from issues in Federal elections. That would mean there the only “litmus” test for conservatives would be if they support the 10th Amendment - period. A much easier position to be in favor of than what we have today.

    To beat a dead horse a bit more, the Republicans would have a plank that seeks to enforce the 10th Amendment. If necessary, add an Amendment which enumerates the scope of the 10th Amendment. Toss in all the “morality” issues of abortion, gays, marriage, language, etc., so that people can decide these local and at each State level. It would also limit the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to review these state issues. The Founding Fathers and the Federalist Papers would be vindicated. Whether a candidate is pro-abortion or pro-fetus or pro-anything would become just a private issue.

    Thus, Presidential, Senatorial and Representative elections would then be ran on truly Federal issues.

    Comment by cedarhill — 1/23/2009 @ 8:33 pm

  18. As a social conservative, it is VERY tempting to try to mix my social views with that of the constitution. However, our ruling document IS the constitution. I firmly believe if the spirit and letter of the constitution were defended and applied in the simplest fashion, we would find a very likable place to live. It is not the realm of government to convert people. I want a man who know what limited government is!!!

    Comment by Mark Borzillo — 1/23/2009 @ 8:36 pm

  19. David Frum said this back in 1994, in his book Dead Right (p. 205):

    “Conservatives suffer a very different political problem from liberals these days. Avowed liberals have a difficult time winning power in this country; avowed conservatives do not. You no longer get far in public life by preaching that the poor are poor because someone else is not poor, or that criminals can be rehabilitated, or that American troops should get their orders from the United Nations. There’s no liberal Rush Limbaugh. But exercising power – that is a very different business. When conservatism’s glittering generalities, “you are overtaxed,” turn into legislative specifics, “you must pay more to send your kid to the state university,” we run into as much trouble in midsession as the liberals do at election time. Twelve years of twisting and struggling to escape this snare have just entangled us ever more deeply in it, until we have arrived at the unhappy destination this book describes. Is there a way out? Only one: conservative intellectuals should learn to care a little less about the electoral prospects of the Republican Party, indulge less in policy cleverness and ethnic demagoguery, and do what intellectuals of all descriptions are obliged to do: practice honesty, and pay the price.”

    The problem, such as it is, is really that the campaign process allows opportunists of all stripes to sleaze into office. It’s our problem- the voters, and the don’t-care-to-voters.

    A particularly disgusting electoral strategy is the one that paints the government and all associated with it as incompetent and corrupt. Sadly, it’s a persistent winner. And since it’s used by the most cynical and hypocritical candidates, it’s guaranteed to end up with the electorate feeling even more disgusted in the long run… and even more susceptible to the next con man promising to “clean up” the government.

    This we have the situation where the public perception of Congress is abysmal… but incumbents get re-elected in droves. Obviously, people believe that it’s everyone ELSE’S Congressman who is venal and corrupt.

    So we have a situation where con men can use sleazy techniques that principled candidates will not. And enough people are swayed that the con men get elected.

    Perhaps you can help, Rick. Can you show the difference between the posturing sellouts and the legislators who get bills passed and things done? They exist in both parties.

    Comment by Postagoras — 1/23/2009 @ 8:58 pm

  20. By the way, the Frum quote is discussed at length here:


    Comment by Postagoras — 1/23/2009 @ 9:01 pm

  21. busboy33, did you even bother to read the Pew Hispanic report? Why would I question the results of the report when they admit that their figures were taken from the CNN exit polls?

    I have to also wonder, busboy, where do you live and how has ILlegal immigration affected your life?

    Comment by retire05 — 1/23/2009 @ 9:28 pm

  22. Seriously people, all this pseudo intellectual conversation about a return to power by Republican Conservatives. What part of never don’t you understand? The part of the equation always conveniently overlooked by the “Conservative” intelligentsia is the effect that massive demographic shifts have had on voting patterns. Look at voting patterns in states that were once solidly Republican like Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia. New Mexico and soon to follow, Texas. Do you honestly believe some of these states were lost because of an angry electorate? Maybe we just cross our collective fingers and hope these demographic trends miraculously end or that these voters have a conservative epiphany.

    The split between the true Conservatives ie: Libertarians and the God squad has been festering for a long time, and frankly I for one am not interested in finding an arrangement with the culture warriors, they should have been thrown under the bus long ago. The party which is splintered beyond repair, has spent all it’s political currency wooing middle aged white men, managed to alienate the largest new voting block in the country, is bereft of any new ideas that might appeal to minority voting blocks, and for all intents and purposes has begun the long, slow, painful slide to oblivion, soon to join forces with the Whigs and No Nothings. Good luck.

    Comment by Hyde Park Prince — 1/23/2009 @ 9:36 pm

  23. A fine summary Rick, let’s see if “splenetic conservative” becomes part of the larger vocabulary in 2009! Just one question; how would this rebuilt conservative/republican party deal with independents and democrats when it comes to getting things done? To what extent can its values and/or beliefs be compromised to pass legislation and to win moderates/independents over to the cause? Dealing with the other party and playing to the swing voters is going to play a part in any comeback of the GOP, but how big a part will it be?

    Comment by Surabaya Stew — 1/23/2009 @ 10:50 pm

  24. Humans are just a few steps beyond lemmings. There is little substitute for a charismatic leader in attempting to advance ideaologies to the electorate. Obama is charismatic, McCain is not. Republicans are chewing themselves up because they have no leader currently. When one emerges all of this big tent or strict adherence crap will end.

    Remember, the Dems are SO inclusive they threw Joe Lieberman out.

    Comment by cdor — 1/23/2009 @ 11:11 pm

  25. A Big Conservative Tent?
    Litmus tests appear to be continuing

    Many decry so-called social “litmus tests” for citizens to be included in the conservative movement. So do I. If you sign up to the core principles of conservatism, and support conservative politicians, that is all anyone should require.

    The two litmus tests -–anti-abortion, and anti-gay marriage—however, are derived from religious tenets stated in or derived from the Bible, which many Christians sign up to and include in their conservatism. They do tend to resent non-believers or those who choose to ignore the tenets of the church or the Bible, despite their other tenets of good will to all men and the Golden Rule.

    Obviously, for the 2% to 10% of the population that do not believe in Christ or a God, such tenets are onerous and wrong-headed, and it sets them apart from their religious Christian brethren, sometimes very vocally and nastily.

    So we have a fundamental religious belief based conflict that is rather difficult for some to pass over simply for the sake of the conservative movement.

    When the federal government steps in and passes laws that enforce tenets that are diametrically opposed to the religious tenets of many Christians (RvW, for instance), some Christians see that as blasphemy and a direct challenge to their belief system. Litmus testing is one result; you are either with them, or against them, and they will not compromise their religious beliefs. Hence, we find that provisions in many states have been passed by large majorities that codify into law anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage statutes. Thus we have a state versus federal law conflict as well, where the federal position does not seem to be at all reflective of the majority will.

    Conservatives must find the right answers to such conflicts, and others of similar gravity, if inclusiveness is to be achieved for the movement. If this was easy to solve, it would have been done long ago.

    Perhaps we need to redefine what inclusiveness really means. What exactly are the minimum tenets of conservatism one must believe in to be accorded full status? What tenets of religion must you give up or sublimate in order to be inclusive? What kind of movement or party is it that in effect coerces its members to give up or sublimate some of their closely held religious beliefs in order to grow the membership? How do you secularize the current conservative movement? Is that a wise thing to try?

    I am not encouraged that the conservative movement can resolve these conflicts in the few years before further elections take place.

    Comment by mannning — 1/24/2009 @ 12:06 am

  26. “Somewhere along the way, we gave into the temptation to use conservative ideas to divide rather than unite”.
    I can attest to that by my own experience. Conservatism has to evolve has to adapt and change because the times ‘they are a’changing’. That doesn’t mean you should become like democrats (like they know where they are heading). However, that evolution needs rigorous, honest debate and that is what I often see missing. Thanks Rick for a beautiful piece here.
    Let’s take the economy. What is needed here? It appears that the dogma that free markets regulate themselves didn’t hold up. Why? For one, greed is just ingrained in human nature. Kind of reminds me of communism; nice idea but the problem is the people. So don’t we have to find a role for government in regulating banks and insurances. That sure doesn’t sound conservative but then what does?
    When it comes to the never ending circus of race relations I encourage everyone to examine your own heart than to beat up irrelevant straw men like Al Sharpton. I’d rather hear someone moving things like my hero Michelle Rhee as chancellor of the DC school system. Think about the needs of the children not the political needs of adults (her words to Marion Barry; couldn’t help but smile)
    One thing I agree with Obama, volunteering is a great thing we can all do together as Americans be that at the Salvation Army, Teach for America or what have you. Sometimes better than drowning in self pity and cynicism (own experience). It’d getting late and I’m making less and less sense; or do I ever.

    Comment by funny man — 1/24/2009 @ 12:54 am

  27. I’d take your bet re an Obama implosion, which I see as inevitable since his economic policies will fail badly. That alone won’t save the conservative movement any more than McCain could help the GOP, but it is a start. Please don’t respond with a stupid “you are rooting for failure” line, people. I fucking expect Obama to be a dismal failure. His solutions have a history of failure.

    Your larger point is valid. Nonetheless, there are some principles that can’t be whored out, among them rule of law. If the Democrats want amnesty for illegal aliens, as an example, let the public know precisely which party has trashed the rule of law. This is a needed discussion, but at some point accomodation becomes abandonment of principle. I know there isn’t a bright line but we need to acknowledge one exists. The problem with Frum and company is that they start to froth as quickly as social cons whenever that unpleasant fact is brought up.

    Comment by obamathered — 1/24/2009 @ 10:44 am

  28. busboy33

    Bush never received 44% of the vote. That number has been debunked many times. In Texas, majority Hispanic counties voted for 70% for Kerry in 2004.

    The problem that the Republicans face is that Hispanics are the new blacks and Asians are the new Jews. However, there are no new Mormons for the Republicans.

    Unlimited immigration will produce milions of new automatic Democratic voters. Any Repubicans who wants lower taxes, smaller government and more freedom cannot support open borders and unlimited immigraiton.

    If you want high taxes, a smaller private sector and invasive government that will tell you where to live, what to do and how to live, then go ahead and support open borders.

    Comment by superdestroyer — 1/24/2009 @ 11:29 am

  29. As a Moderate I voted Republican for the first Bush term thinking I would get a review of Federal programs and a reduction in Government, at the very least the pay as you go programs would continue. Instead I got an explosion in earmarks, the K street project, and deficit spending in key districts to win elections. This had nothing to do with RINOs or Liberals, it had everything to do with a cynical attempt by Rove and the Republican hierarchy to buy the next election. It worked for awhile because they controlled the noise machine. Every time an objection was raised on the direction Republicans were going they could have Linbaugh say “librul” pull the choke chain and Conservatives would start yelping. Conservatives play the same blame game the liberals do, they just blame other people for their problems but it is exactly the same thing. So now I’m being told that the Liberal Bashing Cult is going to offer ideas and solutions to our problems, here is a suggestion from the “milquetoast” middle, the group that you need to win elections. Blaming and insulting the middle doesn’t score any points and just shows a lack of maturity, nobody will buy your argument when you call them a “moron”. The middle is open to ideas from both sides, make a good argument and you will get your way, but blubber about liberals and blame the middle for being deluded and you will stay in the wilderness.

    I wasn’t talking about an electoral strategy necessarlly. Obviously, for that you need centrists to win. I was talking about Republican Congressmen who ran as conservatives and then when the brand was driven into the ground in recent elections have scrambled toward the center. That’s what I meant by “milquetoast” - politicians who ran as righties who chickened out when the going got tough.

    And you have a thinner skin than I do if you are offended by the term “milquetoast.”


    Comment by grognard — 1/24/2009 @ 11:49 am

  30. No offense taken, I have been called a lot worse. I was just making the point that the middle is open to your arguments and honey works better than vinegar. I want Conservatism to succeed because I think it is a much needed brake to the impulses of Liberalism, but both sides relish bashing the middle as being imbeciles, and frankly I am tired of it. Obama has been making the point that the old ideological fights need to go, that good arguments can be made by both sides to solve our problems. It remains to be seen if we descend into the mud of politics but I would encourage Conservatives to take him up on this and offer up some smaller government solutions rather than the same old liberals are a bunch of %$#@% arguments.

    Comment by grognard — 1/24/2009 @ 12:22 pm

  31. My advice on what you guys need to do to ever become a national party again.

    1) Admit what you have done wrong. Stop apologizing for torture and why we invaded Iraq and how great it is. You need to say “We were wriong”

    2) Apologize. Apologize to the passengers in your car that you just drove into a ditch. Make it big. make it kissy. Make it soon.

    3) Start cooperating with Barack Hussein Obama the Duly elected president of these United States of America. Stop Obstructing.

    4) Rid your party of the anti- immigrant anti gay gay baiting bigots.

    5) Stop partying over uneducated, low IQ populists. Reclaim SOME intellectual foundations.

    Ok. Hope this helps.

    In other words, lie down and die. And while you’re doing that, thrust your right hand in the air yelling at the top of your voice “Zieg Heil, Obama!”

    Right. Obama winning an election does not repeal the first amendment nor does it keep those who don’t agree with him from taking action to obstruct what we feel to be policies that are dangerous and inimicable to individual liberty.


    Comment by Rupert — 1/24/2009 @ 1:03 pm

  32. Rupert,

    If the GOP stopped “obstructing” and became just another Obama ass-kisser (your point #3), it would CEASE to be a party. It would have no reason for existence. Which, I guess, is your point.

    Thank God there are some in the GOP who still understand their role. Which is to make sure the liberals don’t run amok and turn us into Venezuela. Virtual one-party rule - what Rupert seems to dream of - is never good for anybody, no matter what party is at the helm.

    Comment by sara in va — 1/24/2009 @ 3:35 pm

  33. There hasn’t been a real solid conservative candidate for president in the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan! A Democrat Lite ticket will always lose, because most people will not get excited about a moderate candidate, which is what Mr. Moran seems to be making a plea for.

    Another thing that must be considered is if non-Republicans can continue to nominate mamby pambys like John McCain for the Republican Party to run as their candidate for president, you can be assured that the base will not turn out, and that means a Democrat win. All this talk about moderation seems odd considering that the moderate and spineless “Republicans” in Washington seem to be more the problem than the solution. Ronald Reagan didn’t set forth moderate ideas or confusing double-speak, on the contrary he was very bold, forward and steadfast in his convictions, and this is what attracted people to him and the Republican Party of his day! Today’s Republican leaders for the most part are hesitant, weak and unsure at best, in what they believe or if they believe anything, and have very little propensity to stand on solid principles that at one time sustained the party and still would if our leadership and party members are convinced enough to once again stand on timeless moral principles.

    May God once again grant us the fortitude to stand on the solid conservative principals that we once stood for!

    The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

    Comment by Joseph — 1/24/2009 @ 4:29 pm

  34. @retire05:

    Currently, I live in Los Angeles, CA. I have lived here for going on 2 years, although having moved here for a job and with that job ending, I am most likely moving in the near future (possibly/probably back toward the East Coast, NE Pennsylvania A.B.E. God willing). Here, as a Caucasian, I am clearly the minority ethnic group.

    a) Where do you live?
    b) Why does “how have hispanics affected me” matter to the issue? If I’ve been affected by hispanics then they ARE the negative drain on the GOP that Bet claims? We’re talking about a nationwide political party — what you’re talking about sounds like a personal grudge.
    (to answer the question, I don’t know that that they have affected me, aside from making it difficult to pull into the Home Depot parking lot. They don’t cut ahead of me in line, when I order a hamburger at McDonalds I get it, when I pay for gas I get correct change.)

    that may well be the count . . . in Texas. AS I said above, the 44% number was a nationwide count. I haven’t seen any of the many debunkings — can you refer me to one/some? I agree that statistics can say whatever you want them to (my brother-in-law is a profesor of statistics), so I like to see the actual reports if they’re available.
    “smaller government” — you recognize that the last 8 years of Republican government (6 with a Congressional majority, 2 with impotent Dems) led to an increase in government and government spending? The Reoublican “ideal” is admirable, but the difference between the mythic party and the actual Reds in government is night and day.
    Nobody wants to pay taxes. Everybody supports smaller taxes. Running two wars, increasing spending, AND cutting taxes is a poor fiscal policy.
    I support the free market. I got to visit the Soviet Union before the dissolution, and know that Socialism does not work. By supporting the free market, do you think that the banking collapse is just the cost of doing buisness? That the government shouldn’t try to impose/enforce some regulations to prohibit situations like this?
    Do you support laws? Then you support the government telling you what to do, at least in some things. Do you want passable roads? working bridges? Then you want the government to handle at least some aspects of daily life. Would you rather have law enforcement paid by the government, the lowest bidder, or the highest bidder? Then some things should not be left to the tender mercies of the free market. If a company wanted to build a sewage treatment plant next to your house, would you say “well, that’s the free market for you” or would you want your kids to not have to grow up smelling that every day? If you wouldn’t want it there, then you support some level of regulation.
    Does all this equal Soviet-style Socialism? The government telling you what to do? Big Government ruling your life? Nonsense. There are other gears on the car between Neutral and 6th.

    Comment by busboy33 — 1/24/2009 @ 6:36 pm

  35. b) Why does “how have hispanics affected me” matter to the issue?

    It doesn’t. It’s a bullshit question designed specifically to set up one of the two canned responses he had. Once he delivered lame response A, or Logical fallacy B, the script would be over and you would been called some clever name derived from liberal and retard, and not spoken to again in the thread. It’s a type cast, but it’s usually spot on.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 1/24/2009 @ 10:55 pm

  36. From above:

    “But even the failure of Obamaism will probably not be enough to win them back as long as splenetic conservatives feel they can dictate who can join their little club. Pro-Choice? Not in my house! Pro-Gay marriage? Surely, you joke. Immigration reform? Round ‘em up! War on Terror? Kill the Muslims!”

    I know the people you’ve run into, most certainly online and at Republican organizations.

    I think they need to be differentiated in some part from those cultural conservatives who are very deeply committed to the cause. I’ve gone to a university filled with former homeschoolers, and met parents who thought it was really healthy for their kids to spend their entire childhood and a good portion of their adult life only at home, listening only to their parents (I’m not putting homeschoolers down here. Notice that I’m critiquing something specific).

    There are at least, then, two forms of idiocy in cultural conservatism: there’s the active form, which you’ve rightly pointed out is aggressive and hateful, and then there’s a passive form.

    The passive form is interesting because the people who are into it will read things like “First Things” and “The New Criterion” - they’re not dumb, not by a long shot. But they end up in conspiracy theories and all sorts of kookery “intellectually.” They read more intelligent things, but they don’t read them well, but rather dogmatically.

    In terms of dealing with both of these groups, both of whom have a “we’re more Catholic than the Pope”-type attitude, there’s a simple solution: work around them, keep doing whatever you’re doing but swell the ranks. You can put them in situations where they can’t act like 10 year olds who didn’t get their way.

    For those of us who are right-wing bloggers, the major challenge is to get beyond the same-old audience. You can even see how the right-wing blogosphere creates this problem: we’ll all post on the same thing, and the same commenter will post nearly the same comment on 3 or 4 different threads in order to see where he can get a response the fastest.

    We’re not DailyKos. We can’t just hit a fever pitch of rage and maintain it. We need something else: i.e. if we’re really dedicated to the free market, how about a crash course in economics by someone online, in blog entries? Anything that might get a more general sort of reader to go “hey, there’s something to be learned, the world isn’t just about me venting.”

    In terms of long term change irl for “splenetic conservatives,” it’s not going to happen. It always feels like it can because they articulate so much that’s exactly right, but the truth is that we’re at battle with another sort of fundamentalism, one that’s more dangerous. The right to vote for the Left has become the right to be ignorant - “I feel Obama is good, so I have the right to exercise my uninformed opinion and oppress the rest of my country.” We need a way of undermining that cheap populism, and I think we have it: inasmuch as we know things as individuals, we have much to share and give.

    Comment by ashok — 1/25/2009 @ 9:02 am

  37. Busboy,

    If you look at http://www.alternet.org/election04/20606/ you will see that there is no way that Bush got 44% of the Hispanic vote. It was based upon faulty exit polling data.

    Karl Rove convinced the Republicans that they could be the second, big government, big spending political party in part because they thought Hispanics would vote for big spenders. What the idiot Rove forgot is that the Democrats can always outpander the Republicans for non-white votes.

    Supporting open broders and unlimited immigration is a supporting much higher taxes and larger government. Look at how California has done under the avalanche of illegal aliens.

    Comment by superdestroyer — 1/25/2009 @ 1:16 pm

  38. @superdestroyer:

    Thanks for the link. It raises some good points.

    Comment by busboy33 — 1/27/2009 @ 2:49 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress