Right Wing Nut House



I would hesitate to go so far as to say that the argument taking place in South Carolina by partisans for Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint is a microcosm of the debate between “moderates” and conservatives across the country. In the first place, someone with a lifetime rating of 90 from the ACU (Graham) can by no means be considered a “moderate” anything. Secondly, Graham’s difficulties have been heightened by his own potty mouth trashing of conservatives who disagree with him. Calling someone a “bigot” because they want tighter border security is not the way to win friends and influence conservatives.

Rather, the debate is over whether Republicans should assist the Democrats in governing the country. This is the real issue, at least in South Carolina, where Lindsey Graham has demonstrated a desire to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats on key issues like cap and trade and the Sotomayer nomination. In short, the difference is in what we used to call the “temperament” of the legislator. And there are many who believe a legislator cannot hold to any principles if they parlay with the enemy.

And DeMint? Anyone who claims allegiance to a political party and makes a statement that he would rather have only 30 true believing GOP senators as opposed to a majority who held varied positions on some issues needs to have an intervention by some adult, and be sent away where he can weave baskets until he comes to his senses. The prescription on the bottle of pills on which he has overdosed reads: “Take two every day and destroy the Republican party.” His idea is that rock solid stupid.

From a New York Times article on the South Carolina situation:

Their grievance list was long: it cited the senator for calling opponents of immigration law change “bigots,” holding the Republican Party “hostage” by participating in bipartisan maneuvers, voting for the Wall Street bailout and tarnishing the ideals of freedom.

It even criticized Mr. Graham, a Republican and the state’s senior senator, as having “stated on many occasions that his primary concern is to ‘be relevant.’ ”

The party had no such criticism for the other senator from South Carolina, Jim DeMint.

In fact, Mr. DeMint, a Republican in his first term, is the leader of a movement to pull the party in the opposite direction from Mr. Graham’s conciliatory approach. The political action committee he founded, called the Senate Conservatives Fund, backs only candidates who are rock-solid conservatives, and adherents to his views have led the efforts to censure Mr. Graham.

The two senators say they are friends whose differences are exaggerated by the news media, and Mr. DeMint has not personally criticized Mr. Graham or called for his censure.

But their contrasting strategies have brought home to South Carolina the struggle over the future of the Republican Party and have put them on opposite sides of important Senate primaries in states like Florida, where Mr. DeMint supports a vocal conservative, Marco Rubio, and Mr. Graham supports Gov. Charlie Crist.

In California, Mr. DeMint supports Chuck DeVore, in defiance of the national party leadership and Mr. Graham, who said he would campaign for Carly Fiorina.

Here in South Carolina, Mr. Graham’s vote to confirm Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, among other positions, has cost him the support of many conservatives, as have his comments that voters want politicians to reach across the aisle and that Republicans need to do a better job of attracting younger voters and minorities.

I have taken pains in the past to point out that DeMint’s idea of conservatism and someone who lives in the northeast (where only 6% of the population have a favorable view of the GOP) may differ wildly - ON THE ISSUES. The fact that so many conservatives confuse “issues” with “principles” shouldn’t surprise anyone considering they get most of their information from people like Rush Limbaugh who make the exact same mistake. A northeastern conservative can hold to the exact same principles as a southern conservative but differ in the ideological lens through which they view the world. Why this makes a northeastern conservative suspect goes to the heart of the debate in the party today.

Issues and principles are not the same, have never been the same, and will never be the same. And someone like Graham who gets a 90% lifetime conservative rating and is seen as a “moderate” by many conservatives proves my point spectacularly. In this case, DeMint conservatives are confusing temperament with principles. Just as many on the right believe that criticizing their idols like Palin, Limbaugh, and other cotton candy conservatives makes someone, somehow, less beholden to conservative principles than they. Principles be damned - it’s whether you are sufficiently hateful toward the opposition that is the yardstick where someone’s conservative bona fides are measured. If conservatism was a philosophy today instead of a rigid, ideological religion, such nonsense would be laughed out of the room.


I disagreed with Graham on Sotomayer, cap and trade, and the judges compromise. And I resented his intimations that he held a superior moral position on immigration reform - something that smacked of arrogance even if he was pandering to Hispanics by playing it that way. But Graham has been a reliable conservative vote on so many other issues, one wonders why his apostasy in these few cases would condemn him to be cast into the outer darkness by conservatives. It only proves that the DeMint notion of a party in lockstep and a prisoner of its own rigid ideology, will probably dominate the landscape in 2010.

At what cost? Let’s be frank and acknowledge that the DeMint idea of conservatism is much more ideological than pragmatic, more beholden to the holy writ of purity than reason and logic, and requires a plethora of litmus tests on issues to join his scowling band (ideologues have no sense of humor at all). Couple that with the belief that saying anything halfway nice about the president or the political opposition disqualifies one from membership and you have the perfect recipe for a permanent, minority party.

Perhaps this has to happen in order for a revival to take place. Perhaps the DeMints of the party have to be beaten so badly that they are once and for all, totally discredited in the eyes of conservatives in the rest of the country. Only then can a reasonable, pragmatic conservatism emerge that acknowledges adherence to DeMint principles, but lowers the ideological temperature to be more inclusive.

It may very well be that DeMint’s southern fried conservatism will do very well in 2010. Certainly the Democrats are helping out a ton there. But beyond that, the future is clouded by notion that events may very well play more into the Democrat’s hands in 2012 and whatever gains made at the polls in the Mid-Term elections would be washed away.

America is not an ideological country. And believing the route to majority status can be achieved by being more wild eyed and rigid than the opposition is a losing proposition. I’m not sure that Graham’s approach is 100% the way to victory. But it’s a damn sight closer to what’s needed than where DeMint wants to take the party.

Destination DeMint: Over a cliff.


  1. Destination DeMint: Over a cliff.

    And judging by Palin’s book sales, they are more than willing to buy an anvil to take along for the ride.

    I am certainly quite politically content these days.

    Comment by Richard bottoms — 11/29/2009 @ 12:01 pm

  2. One grievance: it’s Sotomayor!

    As for the rest of the article, it’s right on spot.

    Both extreme sides (right now the right wing) use the “sleeping giant” phenomenon to justify their actions.

    Comment by SAR — 11/29/2009 @ 1:31 pm

  3. It’s not about issues with people like Palin and DeMint and the tea partiers. It’s never been about issues. They are enraged and hysterical because they are afraid and fear breeds rage.

    Fear of what, exactly? Fear of a public option health plan? Please. It’s ludicrous on its face.

    Fear of taxes? I’m willing to bet the average tea partier doesn’t pay 5% of his income in federal income taxes and won’t be paying any more any time soon.

    Fear of 34,000 troops to Afghanistan instead of 40,000? What?

    Fear of a poorly-executed bow?

    Fear of what exactly?

    Fear of a Harvard-educated black man in the highest office in the land. That’s what. Fear of the change that he embodies and symbolizes. Fear that the southern white male is at last losing his privileged position and more importantly his inflated sense of his own special importance.

    This is tribal, it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with issues. This is the same population that 150 years ago sent their fathers and sons to die for rich slave owners. The same people who wave Confederate flags today. It’s partly just raw racism, but it has morphed into a broader sense of victimization. The forever aggrieved southern and rural white male.

    Look at the people they admit to despising: urban, educated, secular. As you have rightly observed, they have now a will-to-stupidity, a deliberate embrace of ignorance, a wild rejection of even those ideas and individuals who might advance their agenda.

    These are the losers of a long-running socio-economic and ethnic revolution. They are enraged because they sense — quite accurately — that there is no place of privilege for them in the modern world.

    In this they are psychologically identical to the Taliban: defensive primitives clinging to the old and the dead for fear of the new. They want to retreat to the small farms and the sleepy southern villages with their resentments, their simplistic religion and their guns. They are political nihilists because they actually get it, they know, they are right that their core identity is being lost. They are right, and that’s why they don’t listen to people like you.

    So, as always, Rick: why exactly are you in the same party? These are not your people. They will never be your people.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 11/29/2009 @ 2:03 pm

  4. Right now it is the “Graham axis” that leads the GOP. If this is “100% the way to victory”, it sure didn’t work in the 2006 elections or in the 2008 elections. Since them, the “Graham axis” has aquired even more influence over the direction of the party. Maybe the results will be different in 2010. Time will tell.

    Comment by B.Poster — 11/29/2009 @ 2:09 pm

  5. If we promote people like Graham who agree that up is down 20% of the time, eventually everybody will forget what up really is. We’re speeding towards a cliff; we won’t survive by compromising and veering slightly right as we fly off into the void.

    Comment by Old Guy — 11/29/2009 @ 3:22 pm

  6. B. Poster,

    Who cares IF we lose elections? PURGE, PURGE, PURGE…it’s those stupid right-wingers who are making us lose!

    Time to get back to the philosophy of the GOP when they were in the minority for all but a couple of sessions for 70 odd years. The slogan, “we can manage the Democrat ideas better than the Democrats”.


    Comment by the Dragon — 11/29/2009 @ 3:57 pm

  7. Only the GOP is stupid enough to be having this fight at a time, when they need to be banning together. This is why they are the are the default party and nothing more.

    Ideological purity or moderation can be hatched out later, stopping Progressives should be the ONLY mission right now.

    Comment by Mike — 11/29/2009 @ 5:26 pm

  8. What casts suspicion on Graham in regards to Sotomayor? I’m not sure how saying a nominee is qualified constitutes “reaching across the aisle”.

    The other position would be to reject her solely because it was a Blue admin that nominated her . . . and that’s just shameful. It might not technically qualify as treason, but to me its damn close. Their job up there is to govern, and they all swore an oath to do just that.
    There is a difference between “reaching across the aisle” and doing what I pay them for. To me, “reaching across the aisle” means voting for policies I disagree with. Someone may not like Sotomayor, but she WAS a qualified candidate.

    I now the article is decrying that exact mindset, but it also seems like a bit of the mentality is flavoring the critique.

    Comment by busboy33 — 11/29/2009 @ 6:00 pm

  9. There was a recent documentary on PBS that illustrates the fault lines pretty well.
    Here is the link for anyone to watch:


    Note also the county commissioner, Gary Hall, a conservative Republican is called a communist and other names. The point is, he and others want to work through the problem constructively with other members of the community. The radio talk show host doesn’t really have anything to offer but baseless accusations and anger but he fuels the resentments.
    Even if I agree that forests should be thinned etc this sort of hatred should be avoided. However, you will immediately see the parallels to the Graham/DeMint story.

    Comment by funny man — 11/29/2009 @ 6:04 pm

  10. So as a centrist I’m supposed to vote for a political party where RINOs are out for political impurity and the fringe is quoting Psalm 109:8 and 9? Good luck with that.

    Comment by grognard — 11/29/2009 @ 7:31 pm

  11. Your argument would carry more weight if you detailed some examples on which conservatives confuse issues with principles. I happen to agree that we need every conservative and republican we can get. However, you seem to ignore the fact that mccain was exactly your type of candidate and he lost. What are the demints of the party proposing;less taxes, fiscal responsibility, less government? Sounds like a winning formula to me.
    Why should republicans be the ones to compromise on the issues of the day?

    Comment by Terry — 11/29/2009 @ 10:11 pm

  12. I think you might want to take a closer look at Jim Demint who is a pragmatist with principles. Your description of him is totally out of sync with who he is and what he’s done.

    Northerner, here; very liberal on social issues, committed fiscal conservative.

    Comment by nik — 11/29/2009 @ 11:18 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress