Right Wing Nut House


Moderates? Who Needs ‘em

Filed under: GOP Reform, Government, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 11:46 am

What’s wrong with conservatism?

Philosphically, absolutely nothing. There is a family argument going on at the moment where some question how conservative principles can be translated into a set of issues and policies that would lead to actual conservative governance but beyond that, everything is just peachy, right?

Sarcasm aside, the question for the day is can political moderates be conservative too? Can you believe in conservative “First Principles” and believe in less ideological, realistic conservative governance at the same time?

(Note: This is the de facto position of the David Brooks, David Frum’s, Ross Douthat’s, and Kathleen Parker’s of the world.

Forget Specter. This was no “moderate” and, of course, neither was he a conservative - except around election time when all of a sudden he would discover his connection to Ronald Reagan and the conservatism he represented. Jonathan Chait of The New Republic had it about right, calling Specter an “Unprincipled Hack.” That just about covers it.

But looking at the larger picture, conservatives should be asking themselves some hard questions about the future. The outpouring of “good riddance” wishes to Specter on the right included calls for other GOP moderates to join him. This “urge to purge” seems to be the fate of losing sides in elections as liberal activists made the same calls for ideological cleansing for two decades. The result: An electoral map that glowed in the dark it was so red. Not so today, of course, And while blame can be laid at the feet of Republicans more interested in their jobs than in advancing conservative governance, an equal amount of credit must go to the Democrats who put up more moderate, less ideological candidates in dozens of districts across the country despite complaints from their base. While Kos and his Krew were getting excited about Ned Lamont who got creamed in the general election, Howard Dean was recruiting candidates like pro-gun, anti-abortion, fiscal conservative Heath Shuler in North Carolina who beat an 8 term Republican incumbent.

To clarify, if the reason one holds to conservative principles is something beyond idly exercising one’s brain, it should be obvious that one of the purposes of conservatism is that it be realized as a governing philosophy. For that to happen, conservatives need a political vessel to translate thought into actions. This is where the Republican party comes into play and why what happens to the party affects conservatism and vice versa. A defeat in a North Carolina district where the incumbent hadn’t been challenged in more than a decade could be explained away by the local peculiarities of that race including the celebrity factor and dissatisfaction with the incumbent Charles Taylor over his failure to vote on CAFTA. But you cannot explain away what has happened to the Republican party in the Northeast where unmitigated disaster has overtaken the party.

In 2006 and 2008, the Republican party was decimated in New England, the Northeast corridor, and the Mid-Atlantic states with additional losses in the upper Midwest and Mountain West. There are now 3 Republican Congressmen from the state of New York out of 29. New Hampshire has lost both GOP congressmen. The party is virtually a memory in Vermont and Connecticut.

Is the reason that long term incumbents like Sue Kelly ( NY-6 terms), Nancy Johnson (CT-12 terms), Jim Leach (IA-15 terms), and Charles Bass (NH-6 terms) lost in 2006 was that they weren’t conservative enough? When you consider that more than 98% of incumbents are successfully re-elected, questions must be raised about why GOP moderates in what used to be the strongest area of the country for Republicans were tipped over.

Perhaps my more conservative friends are right and if only the party would put forward “true” conservatives in the Northeast all would be well and Republicans would regain their position as the dominant party in New England and become competitive again in New York and Pennsylvania.

Pigs could fly too, but I’m not waiting for that to happen.

Conservatives interpret First Principles differently according to political realities, personality, temperment, and one’s own life experience. They are not the Ten Commandments carved in stone and where no discussion is allowed. Taking a principle like “limited government” and asking a Republican from the Northeast and a GOP southerner to define it, I daresay you would get two different answers. The point being, there are many paths to realizing conservative governance and I guarantee you it will take more than a few self-appointed guardians of conservatism defining “true” conservatism to achieve it.

Take a concept like “fiscal conservatism.” Let’s define it (arbitrarily) as “The State should not take from citizens more than is necessary for the maintenance of a just and moral society.” That is a broad conservative concept on which Northeasterners and Southerns would probably agree. But in interpreting that concept, the Northeastern conservative may believe that a “just and moral society” includes federal funds for S-Chip or Pell Grants to college students. It might mean less for defense and more for transportation. It could even mean raising taxes to pay for those programs.To the southerner, it might mean eliminating or drastically reducing those programs and cutting taxes.

One is considered a moderate, the other a “true” conservative. And yet both adhere to their interpretation of “fiscal conservatism.” Why should one interpretation be considered “more conservative” than the other?

Recognizing that many “moderates” that are left in the GOP subscribe to the idea of a slightly larger government in the sense that they believe that government has a bigger role to play in society than perhaps many who consider themselves “true” conservatives doesn’t mean that there is just cause to read them out of the Republican party. I’ve said this before but there is a difference between “ideology” and “philosophy.” And it appears to me that many who would be so quick to drum moderates out of the party for not being conservative enough are confusing the two concepts. There are broad areas of agreement where moderates and conservatives differ only in the interpretation of principles - ideology - not in philosophy.

We have lost the ability to articulate overarching principles in such a way that it would attract a broad spectrum of the American electorate. I think this introduction to an excellent short course in conservative thought at the First Principles website captures the essence of the right’s problem in this regard:

Since World War II, there has been a rebirth of conservative thought in America, beginning with pioneers such as William F. Buckley, Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, Friedrich Hayek, Whittaker Chambers, Frank Meyer, and Irving Kristol, and culminating with the electoral triumph of President Ronald Reagan in 1980. Today, the conservative “movement” enjoys both political prominence and a sturdy institutional infrastructure of political organizations, charitable foundations, think tanks, publishing houses, magazines and journals, and other such entities. Because of the movement’s success, a growing number of ambitious students and young professionals are now attracted to careers that advance the conservative cause.

Unfortunately, many of conservatism’s elder statesmen have expressed a grave concern that the rising generation is not well grounded in the fundamental texts, arguments, ideas, and themes that originally inspired the movement. Lacking a firm foundation in first principles, responsible and reflective citizenship is impossible, since we are tossed about by the enthusiasms of the day. Conservative “talking heads” in the electronic media may be effective political combatants, but their short-term goals—winning votes, passing legislation, boosting ratings—often work against the more important goal of cultivating, exploring, and developing conservative principles in light of changing historical circumstances.

“Changing historical circumstances” and the recognition that although our principles may be immutable, how they are interpreted is up to each generation. My interpretation of First Principles differs broadly from most of you reading this. Does this mean we can’t be allies in the struggle to bring those principles to the job of governing a great nation? Chasing away those who agree with you in principle but differ with you on interpretation will only lead to permanent minority status for conservatives. I have to think we’re too smart to allow that to happen.


  1. Rick,
    Therein lies the ilk, you creamed the head of that nail, simply goes back to kindergarten, “that one is different than me, let’s not play with him/her.” Lack of empathy or should we say objectivity. Well put… I hope people are reading.

    Comment by jambrowski — 4/29/2009 @ 12:15 pm

  2. Chasing away those who agree with you in principle but differ with you on interpretation will only lead to permanent minority status for conservatives.

    Exactly why I am an independent voter.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 4/29/2009 @ 12:24 pm

  3. Well put, Rick. I agree that there’s a significant distinction between differences in ideology versus philosophy and that the ability to attract a broad base of voters (which give conservatives the power to actually act on their principles instead of being the loud vocal minority on talk radio shows) is critical to the conservative movement.

    I always try to look at political strategy (which I define as how a party of group presents its views to the general public) the same way that I analyze my favorite sports teams. For instance, like you, I’m a rabid Bears fan and, therefore, can’t stand the Packers. However, if the Packers make a good play against the Bears, I can acknowledge that as a rational person. Just because I recognize that the Packers’ strategy is working against the Bears doesn’t mean that I’m a Packers fan all of the sudden - on the contrary, I want all Bears fans to understand why the Packers are successful so that we can push the Bears to do things better.

    Likewise, I’m a Republican that recognizes that the Democrats have a much better political strategy in both the short-term and long-term and if the GOP doesn’t take the correct lessons from the Arlen Specter situation, we’re at risk of allowing a major political shift that will truly put conservatives at an extreme disadvantage for decades (if it hasn’t happened already). That view doesn’t make me a Democrat - it simply makes me aware of the actual world that we live in today as opposed to the echo chamber of talk radio and many blogs.

    Any Republican or conservative that believes that the political changes in this country are simply due to media fawning over Barack Obama or some type of outside conspiracy are just like Bears fans that would complain that they lost to Packers because of a referee call without understanding that the Bears would have won the game if they had a better strategy themselves. The Bears might have a core philosophy have running the ball and playing great defense, but if they aren’t winning games because they can’t pass the ball, it would be ludicrous for the team to throw up its hands and rigidly stick to its philosophy by throwing out everyone that suggests that they pass the ball. By the same token, the GOP has a core political philosophy, but if it isn’t winning elections because it can’t attract anyone outside of its ideological base, it’s just as ludicrous for the party to throw up its hands and rigidly stick to its philosophy by throwing out everyone that suggests that it bring in people outside of its ideological base.

    Comment by Frank the Tank — 4/29/2009 @ 12:56 pm

  4. Bravo to Messrs Moran and Tank.

    Comment by Shaun Mullen — 4/29/2009 @ 1:08 pm

  5. I do not disagree that the GOP needs to attract new voters. And some will not be as conservative as I would like. But, the Specter episode shows the divide between conservatives and so-called moderates. When Pat Toomey lost to Specter in the 2004 primary, Toomey supported Specter wholeheartedly. The thanks. I need to save my hide, so I will become a Democrat. That way I MIGHT win reelection. When do moderates EVER support conservatives? When do moderates EVER spend their time and money supporting conservatives? If they believe in the big tent, does that not mean they should support any Republican? Here in California, Gov. Benedict Arnold is no different than the man he defeated, Gov. Gray Era Davis. He has agreed to a slew of tax hikes and is supporting a slew of ballot innititives that keep the tax hikes and rob from programs APPROVED by voters by the innititive process. This is what I, a conservative, should pin my hopes on? No thanks.

    Comment by Mark J. Goluskin — 4/29/2009 @ 1:30 pm

  6. There are two real problems for the Republicans right now:

    The first is that Republicans are seen as the party that says one thing and does another. Like Spector, the First Principles were for stoking the base at election time, not for actual governing.

    The second is that in times of great crisis many (most?) Americans want more government involvement in finding solutions, not less.

    (A third and more controversial point is that Republican governance is responsible for the problems America faces now. Many believe this. Not good for Republicans.)

    Comment by bsjones — 4/29/2009 @ 1:50 pm

  7. Mark J. Goluskin,

    When do moderates EVER spend their time and money supporting conservatives?

    When their positions on issues we care about are more in line with our views, than those of the Democrats.

    If they believe in the big tent, does that not mean they should support any Republican?

    Absolutely not. Just because I believe in the big tent doesn’t make me even close to welcome in the party. Especially by the so-called Social Conservatives.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 4/29/2009 @ 2:07 pm

  8. So if we both uphold the principle of limited government, and I interpret it as government limited to police, military and courts, and you interpret it as…as…what? This is where I have a problem with what you propose. If the interpretations are so far apart as to be almost conflicting principles, rather than a difference in interpretation, then there’s a problem

    Comment by Mike Farmer — 4/29/2009 @ 2:11 pm

  9. re: Mark - “When do moderates EVER support conservatives? When do moderates EVER spend their time and money supporting conservatives? If they believe in the big tent, does that not mean they should support any Republican?”


    I think that’s more of a function of today’s political landscape, where most moderate politicians are from moderate districts or swing states and always are going to face tough election battles from the opposing party (in contrast to many ideologues that live in very one-sided districts or states and essentially always have safe seats). Thus, it takes a lot more money and time to secure those moderate seats and, as we’ve seen through history, the party that wins those moderate seats is the one that controls the legislative branch. Rick noted the liberals that foamed at the mouth in terms in winning a battle to get rid of Joe Lieberman by knocking him out in the 2006 Democratic primary, but then lost the overall war when Lieberman came back to win the Senate seat over Ned Lamont as an independent. Those liberals were so worried about throwing red meat to their base that they forgot to recognize that Connecticut voters aren’t the same as West Coast voters. Likewise, it takes a different type of Republican to win elections in Pennsylvania compared to South Carolina (and, in seeing your apparent disdain for the Governator, from a realistic standpoint, winning a statewide election as a Republican in your home state of California takes a much different game plan than the rest of the country). Different states and districts need much different political strategies. The problem is that the Republican Party seems to be approaching every local area across the country as if they think the same way as the rural South and that’s simply horrific strategy.

    Comment by Frank the Tank — 4/29/2009 @ 2:20 pm

  10. Take a concept like “fiscal conservatism.” Let’s define it (arbitrarily) as “The State should not take from citizens more than is necessary for the maintenance of a just and moral society.”

    Yes, it is arbitrary, and it is useful to show the interpretive differences that arise. But, it isn’t anywhere close to what I define as fiscal conservatism:

    1. Expenditures must not exceed revenue. When revenue falls, so must expenditures. (exception: see #5)

    2. Entitlements must be capped at no more than X% of gross revenue. If gross revenue falls, so must entitlements.

    3. Security, including law enforcement, HSA, and defense, must be capped at Y% of gross revenue. (see exception in 10. below)

    4. No legislation can be passed unless the means for its funding are fully aired, voted upon and fully funded at the same time.

    5. Deficit spending legislation must require a 2/3rds vote in both houses.

    6. The current deficit must be paid off over 10 years(perhaps 20,or you name it, I can’t keep up!)by deducting the yearly payments from gross revenue available.

    7. Earmarks must be outlawed, and any other devious means for dipping into the common till must also be outlawed.

    8. To aid avoiding cronyism, there must be term limits for Congressmen.

    9. No bill can be passed until it has been read fully by all congressmen personally, debated in both houses, and without tricky maneuvers by the party in power to avoid a floor fight.

    10. Emergency spending must be legislated and passed with a 2/3rds favorable vote in both houses.

    11. The President must be given a line item veto power that can only be overridden by a 3/4th majority of both houses.

    12. Progressive taxation must be abolished, and a Fair Tax installed in its place, plus all other federal taxes by any name must be abolished.

    13.Any excess revenue must be used to reduce the national debt.

    14. No bill should be presented that exceeds Z% of gross revenue to the government, or that is projected to exceed this yearly revenue percentage in out years. (see #4,#5)

    15. There must be no riders to bills that are not germane to the principal issue of that bill.

    X and Y above might be established as their current value. Z might be set at .5%: the idea is to reduce the number of omnibus spending bills.

    Of course, there isn’t any chance at all that these provisions would be put into law now. But some legislation that moves the mark in these fiscally conservative directions may be possible post 2010 or 2012.

    Comment by mannning — 4/29/2009 @ 2:34 pm

  11. The late 60s saw the rise of over the top liberalism that hurt the Democrats for a long time. Same here, Southern style conservatism will not be competitive in most places. Soooo true Rick, so true. Just go to Hot Air to watch folks getting fits with the electorate. Not a good place if you think American citizens are just too stupid to get it.
    Glimmer of hope though, after a while in the wilderness somber minds will prevail.

    Comment by funny man — 4/29/2009 @ 3:18 pm

  12. Communism failed because it did not work in practice. Communism failed to provide anything close to the life style in western democracies.

    The thing conservatives need to recognize is that at this point “conservative principals” have also failed.

    Lower taxes did not lead to a smaller government, even when conservatives controlled all branches of government.

    Less regulation of financial markets has resulted in stagnant wages for the middle class and now a breathtaking financial collapse.

    The national security leg of the conservative principals has also suffered greatly in public eye because of unnecessary foreign military adventures launched by a conservative administration using claimed threats that proved unfounded.

    Comment by mikeca — 4/29/2009 @ 3:19 pm

  13. Chuck Tucson:
    If you believe in smaller government and the right of the local government to implement policies, then I welcome you in the party. I may be more conservative than your taste. Fine. But, if there are real areas of agreement, you need to be at the table, not the sidelines.
    Frank The Tank:
    I do not disagree with your point about what it means to be a Republican in different parts of the United States. But, please, when a senator has a left of center voting record and does nothing to advance basic small-government ideas, that is not a winner anywhere. As far as our governor goes, he ran as a reformer and has become WORSE than the man he replaced. And will lose big time in May when 5 of 6 ballot measures will go down in flames. This is not a winner anywhere.

    Comment by Mark J. Goluskin — 4/29/2009 @ 4:59 pm

  14. Why losing can be a good thing…

    Exams, contests, competitions, elections, business. Pollyanna-ish as it may sound, losing or doing poorly in these things offers learning opportunities. People tend not to learn much from winning: they tend to just keep doing the same thing until …

    Trackback by Maggie's Farm — 4/29/2009 @ 6:01 pm

  15. As a Democrat I totally agree with Frank the Tank.Conservatives aren’t bad people, but the Limbaugh wing on the gop makes my stomach turn. That wing behaves like their smarter than me,more religeous than me, more patriotic than me, and if I disagree with anything on their litmus test, I’m a bad American. And by the way Rick, great article. I guess my beef with the sane conservatives, is that they’ve let the Limbaugh wing run rampant over the rest of conservatives. Limbaugh pushes away moderate conservatives and independents. His and others of his ilk are trying to “purify” the gop. People like Frank the Tank see this and know it will be the downfall of the gop. My question….why does the Limbaugh wing have so much sway over the gop? The gop leadership is scared to cross him, when they do, their apologizing 24 hours later. OMG, a radio talk show host is the defacto leader of the gop. Amazing

    Comment by Joe — 4/29/2009 @ 6:09 pm

  16. I did a lot of thinking regarding this issue this am while running. I’ve been a republican for 15 years and prior to that I was an independent. In making that choice I had to ask myself two questions:
    1) Do I see a benefit in being a member of one party or the other?
    2) If yest which party best represents my core political philosophies (and are there any big negatives that I can’t get past. An example of that for some might be the party’s abortion stance)

    Rick post focuses on the latter question. I agree. What I worry about for the Republican Party at present is that few seem to be concerned about that large swath of voters who answer #1 “no” but still might be swayed to VOTE REPUBLICAN

    Comment by c3 — 4/29/2009 @ 6:23 pm

  17. Alas the tipping point has been reached. Too many people in this country-especially young people-believe that the government exists to take care of people….to take care of them. I’m one of only a very few of my peers who does NOT believe this. And these people I’m talking about are well-educated, gainfully employed (for the most part, though many are grad students), yet they are convinced that their government MUST provide for ALL the needs of the American people.

    So I don’t see how a party that stands for smaller government/fiscal responsibility has a chance of getting back into power.

    Comment by Nik Mendota — 4/29/2009 @ 6:47 pm

  18. Mr. Manning, you can throw a touchdown pass with the best of them. My congratulations on that game winner!

    And to Frank Tank. The Chicago Bears management couldn’t find a good quarterback at a Manning family reunion.

    Comment by CZ — 4/29/2009 @ 7:06 pm

  19. Joe:

    Extremes outperform moderates in non-democratic environments. Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. It’s why if you’re smart you’ll bet on the Taliban in Pakistan: motivation, clarity of purpose, a willingness to sacrifice.

    Unfortunately for the GOP this doesn’t work in established democracies. The bulk of people in an established, bourgeois democracy are looking for stability. They just want to mow the lawn, get the kids in a decent school, be left alone. Extremes are inherently destabilizing, so they lose when the people get to vote.

    Right now the GOP is in a self-reinforcing death spiral. The smaller it gets, the more extreme it gets. The more extreme it gets, the smaller it gets. The beauty part is that as you become more concentrated you’re excluding virtually every growing demo: blacks, Hispanics, the young, the educated. The fact that the national GOP has zero power just hastens this descent into suicide.

    The GOP’s only hope now is in the states. Guys like Charlie Crist. Governors. People still connected to reality. But I don’t think they’re going to pull this out. I think Limbaugh and Hannity and Beck, combined with weak leaders like McConnell and Palin and Steele, leave the GOP almost helpless to even slow the spiral.

    I imagine what will happen is this: they’ll continue their so-far futile attempt to attach some narrative box to Obama. They’ll fail. They’ll tell themselves that 2010 will turn things around. It won’t. They’ll lose another 2 to 5 seats in the Senate.

    And then, rather than the governors rescuing the national GOP, the national GOP will start sinking the governors. The GOP brand will poll about as well as swine flu. 21% now, they’ll be lower by 2010. GOP pols who want to survive will start running as independents, a transitional phase to a new party.

    And by 2012 we’ll have a three party system with the rump of the GOP reduced to the deep south.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 4/29/2009 @ 10:17 pm

  20. The thing conservatives need to recognize is that at this point “conservative principals” have also failed.

    Lower taxes did not lead to a smaller government, even when conservatives controlled all branches of government.

    Conservative governance is like abstinence as birth control - it works every time it is well and truly applied.

    First, conservatives did NOT control all branches of Government at any time. The opportunist RINOs held the balance of Senate and House power when the GOP was in nominal control. Result: Higher spending, failure to make tax cuts permanent, too many earmarks, failure to deliver on agenda, and pushing of non-conservative items (like amnesty), etc. Bush may have been conservative on some items, but he failed to be a true fiscal conservative. That is one reason for the disrepair of the GOP brand.

    #10 manning: Good stuff.

    Here is simple definition of fiscal conservatism: A fiscal conservative believes in lower tax rates and less spending.
    1. Federal Government should spend no more than X% (IMHO 12%) of GDP. Until such a time as we get to that level, government spending should not grow faster than inflation (ie let the economic growth reduce burden of govt).
    2. Tax system should be simpler, flatter, fairer, with goal to collect revenue at minimal burden to economy and people.
    With our leviathan govt and huge sprawling tax code, we will never in our lifetimes be in a position where the ‘fiscal conservatives go too far’, so the whole idea of worrying about (fiscal) conservative extremists is … odd. I mean, really, do you think you will EVER wake up in the middle of the night, going “OMG, the Federal Govt isn’t spending enough money!”

    Comment by Travis Monitor — 4/29/2009 @ 11:08 pm

  21. #7: “When do moderates EVER spend their time and money supporting conservatives?”
    “When their positions on issues we care about are more in line with our views, than those of the Democrats.”

    As an individual voter, it’s your right. But in two cases, conservatives beat RINOs in primaries and then said RINO turned around and endorsed the Democrat. (eg Harris vs Gilcrest in MD-1). Thus, after a career of selling out on Republican votes when we need them most, we find these RINOs knife us in the back. It begs the question of why the grassroots should be loyal to such opportunists when the amount of loyalty THEY have is NIL.

    The point about Toomey supporting Specter is well-taken; conservatives have helped get moderates elected, but the game has worn thin when those same moderates FAILED to support us on key basic things, like tax cuts and spending limits.

    The issue is with how the party defines itself.
    This is not about social conservatism btw, as none of these RINOs are in ANY way conservative, and in specter’s case are more liberal than mere moderate.

    We lost in the Northeast because the northeast candidates refused to run on social issues, so that was no reason to vote GOP, second on national security Iraq made the GOP claim untenable (may reclaim it soon due to Obama stupidities), and fiscal/economic issues - these moderates were big spending folks who could not credibly claim to be for fiscal responsibility.

    In short, we lost in the Northeast because the GOP LOST THE MANTLE OF FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY and as a result has NO ISSUES TO RUN ON!

    Rick Moran is acting surprised that the conservative base is abandoning these RINOs and saying ‘good riddance’ even at a cost of a majority coalition. The conservative base are no more than battered housewives to the GOP elite - who even now are going to try to edge out Toomey as ‘too conservative’ for PA. The same elites who pulled behind Specter in 2004. Phooey. The fact is that when we were the (nominal) majority we didnt get the agenda we needed … so Mr Moran the result was doubly bad - we lost both the agenda AND we lost the majority.

    You can only put humpty together on the backbone of a conservative unity platform. big-spending RINOs do more harm than good.

    I suggest Mr Moran gets back to basics. Reagan 1975, after the 1974 wipeout - “Let them go their way”:

    Comment by Travis Monitor — 4/29/2009 @ 11:30 pm

  22. #6:
    “The second is that in times of great crisis many (most?) Americans want more government involvement in finding solutions, not less.”

    Government CAUSED the problems, and Obama’s misgovernance is making the problem worse.

    We need people to explain and articulate that fact if we are to turn things around.

    Comment by Travis Monitor — 4/29/2009 @ 11:34 pm

  23. The decisive political power granted by the middle class/moderates will only be persuaded by their real world lower standards of living due to Statists’ over-expanding government tyranny.

    That is when Obama’s “Hope” mirage will wither in their minds.

    The actual pain of that real world experience will, over a period of time (I believe a relatively short period), swing the political pendulum regardless the current “purity” of “true” conservatives.

    But, boy is it gonna cost them (and America) big time in the interim.

    Comment by Don C. — 4/30/2009 @ 3:58 am

  24. Sorry, but too many hardcore conservatives on this thread defending Bushco policies that got us into the mess were in now. The rich kept swallowing up most of the economic gains made in the early 2000’s. Middle class stiffs like myself kept finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. Call it class warfare if you want, it is what it is. The Limbaugh wing defended the fiasco in Iraq, and accused me of being unpatriotic because I didn’t support it. Oil companies raped us at the pump, while Bushco looked the other way. The Limbaugh wing tears down Obama because they know how popular he is and Rushbo knows how much smarter Obama is than the gop leaders. The adults are back in charge. It’ll take a few years but the ship will be righted.

    Comment by Joe — 4/30/2009 @ 7:10 am

  25. Joe,

    What accountability do you apply to the Democrat-controlled Congress for their votes to fund the Iraq war?

    And what about Obama’s senatorial votes in favor of Bush administration initiatives?

    He didn’t so much “inherit” this economy, as he and/or his Dem party members voted for it.

    Comment by Don C. — 4/30/2009 @ 7:30 am

  26. True conservatism is encouraging the LEAST amount of governmental interference in the lives of the nation’s citizens and understanding that we, the People, still run the show - not those jumped up arrogant poseurs in D.C.! Thus, the tea parties. Thus, the conservatives disgust with that unprincipled bastard Spector. Karma is wondrous. Not only will he not win his re-election campaign as a Democrat, but someone more nearly representing the people who elected Spector expecting him to be a somewhat Republican Senator will take the office. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy.

    Comment by Gayle Miller — 4/30/2009 @ 8:26 am

  27. And to Frank Tank. The Chicago Bears management couldn’t find a good quarterback at a Manning family reunion.


    Jay Cutler vehemently disagrees!

    Comment by Frank the Tank — 4/30/2009 @ 8:39 am

  28. Monitor #20 - Well said!

    Comment by SJ — 4/30/2009 @ 10:51 am

  29. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 04/30/2009 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

    Comment by David M — 4/30/2009 @ 1:09 pm

  30. Rick,
    On your “moderate” argument, you contradict yourself. If putting forth moderates is such a good idea for the GOP, why do moderates keep losing in general elections? They aren’t losing to more conservative candidates in the primaries.
    Also, have you noticed how those so-called moderate Democrats have been voting? There is no room for moderates in the Democrat party, either. When’s the last time “pro-life” Harry Reid bucked his party on an abortion vote?

    Let’s keep it real, please brother.

    Comment by Blockhead — 4/30/2009 @ 1:11 pm

  31. Take a concept like “fiscal conservatism.” Let’s define it (arbitrarily) as “The State should not take from citizens more than is necessary for the maintenance of a just and moral society.” That is a broad conservative concept on which Northeasterners and Southerns would probably agree. But in interpreting that concept, the Northeastern conservative may believe that a “just and moral society” includes federal funds for S-Chip or Pell Grants to college students. It might mean less for defense and more for transportation. It could even mean raising taxes to pay for those programs.To the southerner, it might mean eliminating or drastically reducing those programs and cutting taxes.

    From my perspective, the compromise has too often been, “Sure, let’s appropriate money for the program AND cut taxes so much the reduce revenue.”

    Comment by James H — 4/30/2009 @ 2:38 pm

  32. Good thing: we’ll have our answer soon. Toomey is going to run against some democrat. If he looses than what? Do you think you can unseat Olympia Snowe with a pure conservative? She had a rock solid win last time I checked. All I’m saying is that you can’t win with a Southern strategy in most places, especially the ones that matter. Prove me otherwise!

    Comment by funny man — 4/30/2009 @ 3:57 pm

  33. blockhead:

    Maybe because the general perception among the general population is that “R” = “non-moderate”. It would be great if all voters carefully and responsibility studied each individual candidate to get a solid grasp of their principled and philosophies as individuals . . . but generalizations rule the day.
    Maybe Mr. M. is saying that the Reds need to “put forth moderates” by convincing the populace that they are open to Moderates and their ideas.

    Comment by busboy33 — 4/30/2009 @ 6:47 pm

  34. Since I’m old enough to remember 1976 and the ensuing years, I remember the same basic storyline playing out, except with Ronald Reagan in the role Democrats have assigned currently to Sarah Palin (though admittedly Reagan in 1977 had more legislative experience than Palin) and with Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority in the role given to Rush Limbaugh.

    People seem to forget that the Republican Party even in 1980 was NOT united behind Reagan — the party’s moderates of the time still bought into a bunch of the Democratic spin that he was both a moron and a threat to blow up the world at the same time, and some of those moderates broke away to create the third party candidacy of Illinois Rep. John Anderson. His campaign was pushed by the big media outlets as being the place where Republicans who had been forced out of the party by the right-wing Reaganites could go, because it was obvious that Reagan and his people were far to the right of the American electorate.

    We know how that turned out — The Anderson campaign did threaten to derail Reagan’s presidential hopes by grabbing some GOP moderates away, but public anger at the ineptness of the Carter Administration led enough swing voters to decide after the debate that Reagan was not the idiot/evil lunatic he was being portrayed as, and he ended up winning election which in hindsight, looks like a bigger margin than it actually was (as opposed to 1984, when it really was a rout over Mondale).

    While at this time there’s no clear frontrunner on the right in the same way Reagan was following Ford’s defeat in 1976, the playing field is the same and the concerns about the current president are similar to those with Carter in the years leading up to the 1980 vote. So while all this finger-pointing and name calling between the two sides of the GOP has been ampted up by the 24/7/365 news cycle and the vastly wider sources of information and punditry, if the Obama Administration turns out to be as ineffective or worse than the Carter Administration was, all the arguments in the Spring of 2009 will be just minor footnotes four years from now.

    Comment by John — 4/30/2009 @ 9:17 pm

  35. Republican Fiscal Responsibility

    Create a new program, possibly even an entitlement and pass it along WITH a tax cut in the very same budget.

    I am not kidding. The historical records is full of evidence.

    Standard rebuttal: Yeah, but the Democrats are worse.

    Comment by bsjones — 5/1/2009 @ 12:30 am

  36. Democracy in trouble

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.”

    –Lord Alexander Tytler on the fall of the Athenian republic

    Comment by mannning — 5/1/2009 @ 6:04 am

  37. What better justification is there for strict fiscal conservatism?

    Comment by mannning — 5/1/2009 @ 6:15 am

  38. The quote in #36 above is most frequently attributed to Lord Tytler(1748-1813),but it has also been attributed to numerous others— Tocqueville, Marx, Disraeli, and more.

    Comment by mannning — 5/1/2009 @ 6:52 am

  39. The GOP is in trouble. Self identified “conservatives” want to purge the “moderates.” The moderates, aka the GOP “elite” or the “stuck up crowd around George Will…” etc, depending upon who is commenting, want to purge the conservatives. All parts of the GOP are attacking each other to the benefit of the Democratic party.

    All this talk of purging each other is a false premise. Snowe, etc, will not be purged. No one can be forced out. But, she and the other liberal Republicans have to accept that they are unpopular with the GOP base; the base that gets national figures elected.

    On the other hand, conservatives HAVE to understand that Snowe, etc, cannot run as a staunch conservative. And I think most conservatives realize that. The conservative base has supported the GOP through numerous missteps. All that the conservatives ask is that the GOP candidates, at least, try to support the conservatives. When McCain disparaged the conservative base, and then picked Palin as running mate to pull them back in, conservatives knew why he did it. Our support of him was the hope that his win would provide Palin with “legs.” Moderates seem to delight in disparaging the conservative wing as “uneducated” and seem to be embarrassed by their religiosity. They have treated the conservative base as an embarrassment to the party since Reagan. Unlike some supporters of the Democrats, however,conservatives are showing that they don’t mind being in the wilderness. They already know that the culture is running to the liberal side due to the mainstream cultural biases put out by the media and education.

    Conservatives have watched for years as actions have not suited words professed by many GOP representatives. And we are tire of it. Republicans are asking for our vote while acting as Democratic light. Where was the conservative action when the GOP was in total control? The GOP made deals with the Democrats. Why is it that it seems that only GOP members cross the aisle for “bi-partisanship?” Conservatives want to win elections. But, more importantly, we want our representatives to actually represent us. If we lose, so be it. That means that there are more liberals than conservatives voting. But there is no point in voting for a Republican that advocates the same politics as a Democrat except the Republican will only grow government more slowly.

    For all the disparagement of the “uneducated” conservative base, the “Rush Limbaugh” listeners, (Glenn Beck is not a Republican. He can’t stand either party.) where is the conservative brain trust that is trying to educate the “masses?” Where are the principled voices and opposition to Obama? Buckeley is gone. Who is his replacement? Heck, his son voted for Obama. For all their talk, I see very little of the “First Principles” being espoused. Rush and Hannity are the only ones speaking to the populace of REPUBLICAN principles. Beck is the only one speaking of the Constituion and the ideas behind the Democrats. Where is the GOP’s opposition to progressive movement? When the presidential candidate is basically agreeing with the Democratic candidate, except in some details, why shouldn’t the conservatives reject him? The GOP conservatives do not seem to want to do the hard work of educating the public as to why conservatives ideals are the best choice and how those ideals will benefit the public. “Lower taxes” can only go so far. Perhaps its time to promote “more taxes” across the board at a flat rate. When 40% of the public does not pay income tax, the cry of “lower taxes” does nothing. Its time for big ideas based on First Principles.

    Its understandable that those that enter politics don’t really want to reduce the size of government and thereby reduce their own power. But, since Reagan, the GOP’s platform has been that government is the problem, not the solution. And that platform has been anathema to many Republicans. They feel that they are doing good things in governmental service. And most conservatives probably feel, when pressed, that things such as Medicaid, Medicare, etc, have improved things. Safety nets are necessary. But! Where does it stop? It is the nature of government to grow and the only check we have on it seems to be the ideals of strict conservatives.

    If the GOP wishes to continue to run “moderates”, so be it. If those same moderates refuse to support the conservative ideals they professed in order to be elected, don’t be surprised when the GOP as a whole loses support.

    Perhaps its time for a new GOP. Perhaps its time for the GOP to get together and decide what they believe in and how they will achieve those goals. Maybe the social conservative platform will be dropped. Maybe the idea of smaller government is no longer possible to achieve. Perhaps the GOP needs to change its platform to a more libertarian outlook? Or return to the liberal “compassionate conservative” mantra that seems to have worked, oh so well….

    Either way, all forms of conservatives in the GOP need to work together. None of the “flavors” of conservative in the party will get elected without the other….

    However, the conservative Rush Limbaugh listeners have shown that they are willing to put their principles first, even if they can’t articulate the ideas that form them. Perhaps the rest of the party should do a better job of paying more than lip service to those principles.

    Comment by Cargosquid — 5/1/2009 @ 7:59 am

  40. Republican Party - Conservatives - Moderates- Who…

    Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House has a very interesting post about the future of the GOP and the importance of moderates and conservatives therein…..

    In response to the section I emphasized about the Dems putting up more moderate candidates, a…..

    Trackback by United Conservatives of Virginia — 5/1/2009 @ 8:23 am

  41. Sarah Palin is governor of Alaska. Ronald Reagan was the two-time governor of California and, at the time, not exactly wildly approved by his state’s voters! How does this militate against Ms. Palin? Voters in this country have put into the Oval Office the most unprepared, incompetent and ultimately disastrous product of the Chicago machine. As we have with James Earl Carter, Jr., we will rue the day Obama took the oath of office - assuming we’re even alive to do so! And yes, I think he is THAT dangerous.

    Comment by Gayle Miller — 5/1/2009 @ 8:44 am

  42. Gayle:
    “Voters in this country have put into the Oval Office the most unprepared, incompetent and ultimately disastrous product of the Chicago machine”. So are you saying we should follow suit with Sarah Palin?

    Comment by funny man — 5/1/2009 @ 3:51 pm

  43. “Chasing away those who agree with you in principle but differ with you on interpretation will only lead to permanent minority status for conservatives. I have to think we’re too smart to allow that to happen”.

    the meta-narrative here is that Rick is asking for your help!

    Who is too smart? If they are in office, can they be identified? And if so will they face a difficult primary against a candidate backed by the less-smart?

    Rick is clearly against the likes of Specter, well okay. Will he now come out against or for anybody else, or wait until the wind blows? Why not help him out and offer up who can stay, and who must go.

    C’mon, let’s form the support/firing squad.

    Comment by bobwire — 5/1/2009 @ 11:58 pm

  44. I’ll be fascinated to learn where the likes of Specter agreed with Republicans “on principle” …

    Make the case that Specter’s orthodoxy outweighed his apostasies - it’d make interesting reading.

    Until then, this “purge of the RINOs” storyline is a conceit - - - the aggressor claiming the role of victim.

    Comment by BD57 — 5/3/2009 @ 6:32 pm

  45. Maybe “conservatives” are just a small subset of Republicans?

    Comment by bsjones — 5/8/2009 @ 12:53 am

  46. How is government activism to promote an agenda of religious morality conservatism? I’ve always thought of myself as fundamentally conservative. The government should not interfere with our individual liberty without a compelling need to prevent interference in the liberty of others. As far as I can see, it is the “religious right” that are not following a genuinely conservative philosophy. Why do some supposed conservatives think it is OK for the government to interfere in peoples private lives as long as the behavior they are trying to impose fits within traditional Christian values?

    Comment by Mark — 5/11/2009 @ 11:46 pm

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