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The election of Barack Obama would be a catastrophe on the scale of the Great Flood and the Permian Extinction all rolled into one. His ascension to the presidency will mark an end to the American Experiment in self government, open the door for socialism, allow for the payment of reparations to former slaves, ensure the triumph of radical Islam (after turning the White House into a mosque), bring back the Fairness Doctrine, require everyone to become a homosexual, allow the United Nations to run our foreign policy, bring Ahmadinejad over for coffee and some of Michelle’s delicious snack cakes, and turn the United States into a vassal of Sweden.

And that’s not the worst of it.

An Obama victory would also force the Republican party to take a long, hard look at itself and work to discover where things went off the rails. The deadwood and deadheads who are currently in control of the party would be kicked upstairs in order to make room for a new generation of leadership; sobered by defeat, cognizant of the mistakes made in the past, eager to reform everything from the budget process to ethics, and most importantly, able to develop a plan to not only win back power but govern the country once victory is achieved.

A victory by McCain will derail that effort by several years if not, for all practical purposes, shelve it completely. What need is there for reform if we’re winning – even if victory takes the GOP farther away from answering fundamental questions regarding philosophy and identity? John McCain the reformer will find a brick wall if he tries fundamental party reform. Those currently in power are a big part of the problem and it is hardly realistic to believe they will simply fall on their swords and give way to others with new ideas and little baggage to make reform a reality.

If there is a difference in the psyche of the two parties, it is in the way each goes about the process of self examination. Republicans by and large eschew navel gazing, preferring to bull their way ahead with a minimum of self absorbed clutter to distract them. The way the party approached the 1994 elections is a good example. The “Contract with America” was part political testament, part side show, part exercise in turning ideology into governance. It was canny, corny, and brilliantly executed. And after it was realized, the GOP didn’t have a clue what to do with their success except hold on to power.

The Democrats on the other hand are so angst-ridden and emotive when looking at themselves, you half expect the entire party to be locked up and put on a suicide watch. It takes them a lot longer to figure out what went wrong (not liberal enough) and where they should be going (elect more liberals) but when they decide what to do it is for the long term.

Yes, an Obama victory would be bad for America. But if this country can survive a Jimmy Carter, a Herbert Hoover, and a George Bush, it can certainly survive an amateur and fakir like Obama. It will be his incompetence that probably saves us in the end. He has yet to prove himself a success at anything except getting elected. He was a failure as a community organizer, a failure as head of the Chicago Annenberg Project, a failure as a state senator, and a non-entity in the short time he has been a US senator.

With a record like that, how much do we really have to worry about?

I will grant those of you who are wiping spittle off your monitors at this point that an Obama presidency means a much more lefty oriented Supreme Court. We shall see. The GOP will still have the filibuster in the senate. A truly egregious choice could be sidetracked. But even bringing on moderately liberal justices will no doubt mean there will be decisions that will be odious to most conservatives. The key will be to make Obama a one term president while using the next several years to reform the party so that when the GOP is able to win back the House – probably not until 2014 at the earliest – there will not only be a plan for electoral victory but a blueprint for governing as well.

The alternative is for the GOP to continue to wander in the wilderness; directionless, moribund, and with the current leadership more interested in holding on to what they have than seeking to do the things necessary to bring about a resurrection. The party has virtually disappeared from the northeast, the mid-atlantic, and the upper midwest while being challenged in the upper south, border states, the mountain west, and even in the midwest.

There won’t be much of a party left unless Republicans have the courage to take a good long look at themselves, at the last 8 years, at the people who have led them to this near catastrophe, and at a new breed of conservative Republican who could revitalize and re-energize the party and show the American people that the GOP is the party of the future once again.

Obviously, I am not working for a McCain defeat. But his loss would not be the end of the world and could very well be the catalyst for a new, smarter, more dynamic Republican party. It all depends on whether those of us who are in a position to call for change learn the right lessons from a McCain defeat and go about the slow, laborious process of building a new GOP. A party that would not only be capable of winning elections but of governing this beloved country honestly and with the humble realization that the American people need more out of us than moralizing and the tired ideas of the past.

By: Rick Moran at 8:48 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (33) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Obama: Recession could delay rescinding of tax cuts...

I’m back safe and sound in Streator, my own bed a welcome place to rest my head after 4 tiring days of fighting crowds, deadlines, and my own cynicism.

That last has stood me in good stead over the years as well as being an impediment at times. On the one hand, it has allowed me to view politicians and politics with a jaundiced eye and the proper skepticism one must have when listening to people who lie for a living make promises they have no intention of keeping or present themselves as something they are not.

But the downside to cynicism is that it tends to narrow your view so that when seeing the people and the process through a very dark prism, you miss the occasional bloom in the rose bush – that tiny spark of genuineness that while rare, nevertheless makes American politics so unique and inspiring.

Such was my problem with watching and listening to Sarah Palin. My initial thought was that this was the greatest act since Houdini – a politician trying to convince people she was a real person. But viewing the speech a second and third time changed my mind. There really was little artifice in this woman. She was a breath of air as fresh as a mountain breeze in her home state. She was tough, strong, easy to look at, and when she spoke, the thunder rolled and lightening flashed. Sparks flew from the stage. I had never been in a venue where the atmosphere crackled with anticipation, the crowd hanging on every word, their voices causing the very air to shake when they showed their support and appreciation.

This presented a problem for me. Clearly McCain had struck gold by choosing this woman. But after a couple of days and some time to reflect on what both McCain and Palin had to say, there are a few observations I need to share with you about Palin and McCain’s idea of “reform” that may be my cynicism showing through but are also grounded in history and common sense.

Sarah Palin is like a virgin in the Sultan’s harem. She is so fresh, so new that it seems to me the corrupting influence of power has yet to perform its dastardly sorcery on her and turn the pure-as-the-driven-Alaskan-snow child into the coldly calculating political computer that will probably be her legacy once history is done with her.

To say that Sarah Palin will eventually become just another Washington pol if she is elected to high office may be taken by many readers as sacrilegious, akin to pronouncing the death of Santa Claus or exposing the tooth fairy as a fraud. Such criticism misses the point. Palin will become what she has to become in order to succeed. And to succeed in Washington, one must adopt the ways of our capitol city – the artful dodge, the 1,000 word answer to a question that reveals nothing and says even less; the thousand tiny compromises with principle in order to get things done; the deal making, the log rolling, the white lies that eventually turn into nose-growing whoppers – all of this and more will turn Palin from a Shield Maiden of Rohan into a female ork, a corrupted elf whose fall from immortality and goodness will become just another sad commentary on our political culture.

And lest we blame Washington for being the only outpost of cynicism and corruption, one might wonder what Palin would have become with just a few more years of experience even in Alaska. For proof, look at the current state of corruption in that state – corruption that Palin helped expose and was fighting even as she was chosen as McCain’s running mate. Would she have been so eager to take on the powers that be in 5 years? In ten? An honest answer would have to include the near certainty that over time, Sarah Palin would be absorbed by the very system she took on with such passion.

There have been a thousand Sarah Palin’s in our history and to each has come the decision whether to play ball or go home. Most have chosen the easy path of least resistance. Those that haven’t have been largely forgotten, casualties of their own conscience and history’s relentless judgment that in order to achieve some of your goals, you must compromise with the devil. Some, like John McCain, make the adjustment and learn to live with losing at least part of their soul. Others can’t abide the hypocrisy, the groveling for money, the back scratching, the trading of favor for favor and quit in disgust. They realize that real “reform” would include the reformation of something that not even Barack Obama and all his powers can effect; the reform of human nature.

Our Founders recognized human frailty and how the temptation of self aggrandizement can rob the people of their liberty. It is why they created a federal republic with mechanisms to spread the corrupting power inherent in all governments around and not allow a deadly concentration in a single political entity.

Past “reformers” took the exact opposite tack; that concentrating the power of government in one place made it easier to keep an eye on the shysters, the hustlers, the jobbers who beg, plead, and bribe their way to influence. That and the necessity of using the vast power of the central government to break the back of abominations like predatory capitalists, industrial and financial trusts, and finally the evils of segregation and Jim Crow made it imperative that we grow government to protect us from those who would abuse freedom to deny others their liberty.

Corruption was as much a part of early America as it is today with one significant difference; the ability of that corruption to dramatically effect the health of our democracy and the liberty of its citizens. Times change. And as America grew, corruption and the abuse of power grew with it. It took the idealism of early 20th century reformers to save democracy and keep America from turning into a plutocracy where the few oppressed the many and workers would have been little better than wage slaves, toiling away 12 hours a day, six days a week in mines and factories with no rights and fewer prospects to realize their dreams of a better life for their children.

But the way they accomplished this magnificent feat was to vastly expand the powers of the federal government. They sought to “scientifically” perfect society by applying new fangled theories advanced by a new kind of scientist; sociologists and the science of trying to predict and codify how and why people behave the way they do.

With the purest of intentions they and their descendants in the Wilson and FDR administrations destroyed the idea of federalism in favor of trying to “solve” the problems of poverty and inequality; as if there are laws that can be passed that can govern human nature and the natural state of man.

It is the reason I am a conservative. I do not believe in the “perfectibility” of society any more than I believe in the Easter Bunny. Nor do I believe – as the Communists still believe – that man himself can be changed and once put through the proper “re-education,” a “New Man” can emerge and create the perfect state that doesn’t even require a government. This is not to say that society can’t be improved or that we can, as humans, resist our basest impulses and act in the common good. It only means that you will never, ever be able to legislate such things into effect and anyone who tries is daft.

So just what is it that Obama and McCain want to “reform?” Do they wish to scrub original sin from men’s souls? Both wish to mitigate the effects of corruption by curtailing the activities of lobbyists. But we have tried such “reform” before with campaign financing.

And we know how well that has worked out, huh?

It seems to me that John McCain’s attempts to “reform” or, more accurately, improve the way that government delivers services and bring it into the 21st century is slightly more realistic than Obama’s crusade to remake America into some kind of social democracy. But neither has a clue really. They, and America, will continue to muddle through while the bureaucracy goes its merry way and lobbyists find their way around whatever legislation is passed to ostensibly hold them in check. Real reform would require a groundswell of grassroots support so stupendous that politicians could only ride the wave and not control it. It may come to that someday.

But not this day. Not this time. Not with these two candidates.

By: Rick Moran at 1:50 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)


It may be tempting to look at the latest indictment of a Republican lawmaker and conclude, as my sainted grandfather did many years ago, that “all Republicans are crooks.” A loyal Chicago Democrat through and through, none of us had the heart (or courage) to mention to grandpa a few of the more brazenly corrupt scandals that had tainted the Cook County political machine run by Richard J. Daley, the current mayor’s father.

The indicted lawmaker, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), is charged with seven counts of lying on a financial disclosure form. Using the recent past as a guide, this is pretty tame stuff. But it is highly unlikely the prosecutors are through with the 85-year-old senator because just over the horizon are almost certain indictments for bribery relating to work done on the senator’s house to the tune of $250,000 in gifts from VECO, an oil services firm. It seems the CEO of VECO, seeking government contracts, wanted to get extra chummy with the senator and offered to pay for most of the expansion costs on Steven’s house. Actually, it worked out pretty well at first. Stevens doubled the size of his home and VECO received some nice, rich government contracts.

Alas, no good bribery scheme lasts forever. Two VECO executives have already pleaded guilty to bribery charges and the chances are very good that they will roll on Stevens and testify against him. It would be an ignoble end to a career that has defined all that is wrong with pork-barrel spending in Washington. Stevens was one of the biggest abusers of the “earmark” process and funneled tens of millions of dollars to his home state over the years in appropriations that were snuck into bills without debate or discussion.

The problem, of course, is not grandpa’s “all Republicans are crooks” meme. It’s that the rising expense of congressional campaigns and growing power of lobbyists have combined to offer temptations for corruption that have proven irresistible to a frighteningly large number of members of Congress—both Democratic and Republican—over the past 25 years.

The controlling factor regarding political corruption appears to be which party is in power at any given time, rather than any predilection toward crookedness by one party or the other. Take the Democrats of the 1980s and early 1990s. Ensconced in power for 50 years, Democrats were involved in scandal after scandal that rocked Capitol Hill. The parade of crooked pols included five House members and a senator caught up in the ABSCAM scandal where Arab businessmen/lobbyists (played with great effect and glee by FBI agents) openly offered huge dollops of cash in exchange for immigration and banking favors.

The videotapes of the encounters with the lawmakers bordered on hilarious. One greedy Democrat, after stuffing $25,000 in his coat and pants, actually asked the FBI/Arab businessman “Does it show?” All of the Congressman—including a young John Murtha who appeared to turn down the bribe but later seemed to be wavering—knew full well what was in that briefcase and they couldn’t take their eyes off of it. As a morality play, it was a huge hit.

There was Congressman Charles Diggs of Michigan who was convicted and sent to jail for receiving kickbacks from the salaries of his staff after giving them raises. The good people of his district were either unaware or didn’t care that Charlie was in the klink because, despite being jailed, he was re-elected. Diggs resigned rather than face certain expulsion.

Then there were the “Keating Five.” The Ethics Committee in the Senate determined that three Democratic senators had improperly interfered in a regulatory matter on behalf of Charles Keating, real estate mogul and owner of several Savings and Loans that had gone under. Two other senators—John McCain and John Glenn—were absolved of wrongdoing. McCain was the only Republican named in the ethics complaint.

There were others—House Speaker Jim Wright most prominent among them—who were either censured for unethical behavior or under investigation for malfeasance of one kind or another. The rash of special prosecutors during the 1990s also targeted many Democrats who served in the Clinton administration.

The adage “power corrupts” is too simple. There are many who hold power who manage to maintain their integrity. Senator Larry Pressler from South Dakota was seen on tape refusing ABSCAM money and immediately reporting the meeting to the FBI. And most congressmen and senators make an attempt to hold onto their values while serving the nation.

But in the last eight years, we have seen a serio-comic parade of Republican hooligans whose shocking greed has altered the meaning of corruption.

The rogues gallery includes:

— Feb. 22, 2008: Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Arizona) indicted on charges of extortion, wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes in an Arizona land swap that authorities say helped him collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs.

— June 11, 2007: Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) arrested in a bathroom sex sting at the Minneapolis airport. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. He is now asking a state appeals court to let him withdraw his guilty plea.

— Jan. 19, 2007: Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for trading political favors for gifts and campaign donations from lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

— March 3, 2006: Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-California) sentenced to eight years and four months in prison. He collected $2.4 million in homes, yachts, antique furnishings and other bribes in a corruption scheme.

— Oct. 3, 2005: Former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) charged with felony money laundering and conspiracy in connection with Republican fundraising efforts in 2002. One charge has been dropped and two others are being argued before a state appeals court.

Other shoes that could be dropping:

—John Doolittle (R-California) who is caught up in the Jack Abramoff mess and also has ties to Duke Cunninghams’s partner in crime Brent Wilkes. Either or both investigations may hit pay dirt.

—Jerry Lewis (R-California) is enmeshed in a federal investigation into a lobbying firm headed up by former Republican Congressman Bill Lowery. It is alleged that Lewis, former chairman of the Appropriations Committee, steered hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks and other appropriations to clients of Lowery who then gave to his campaign. It is one the largest bribery investigations in California history involving local governments, universities, and private companies.

—Don Young (R-Alaska) is another Alaska congressman caught up in scandal. It appears that Young inserted an earmark in the budget after the House and Senate voted on a bill (but before Bush signed it) worth $10 million to construct an interstate interchange. Nothing really extraordinary in that except the interchange was not to be located in Alaska but someplace slightly further south—in Florida. Apparently, a developer raised a lot of money for Young’s campaign just prior to the earmark being surreptitiously placed in the bill. Feds are investigating.

—Gary Miller (R-California) is under investigation by the FBI for a real nice real estate scam that’s been ongoing for years. Three separate properties he has bought for a song, sold for a ton, and then claimed the local government declared “eminent domain” forcing him to sell. Miller would then not claim the profits as taxable capital gains due to the “imminent” seizure of the property. One problem: this time, the local government of Monrovia is denying it threatened to invoke eminent domain.

—Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) is under federal investigation for getting caught using his staff for campaign purposes. Note I said “getting caught” because they all skirt the line between official business and campaigning—or go over it in an overt fashion.

—Mark Foley (R-Florida) may not have broken the law but his steamy emails to barely legal kids who were former House pages epitomized a culture of corruption on the Republican-controlled Hill when it was revealed that several GOP Congressional leaders knew of Foley’s interest in the pages and did nothing.

There are also a half dozen former Republican members of Congress who are under investigation for activities carried out while they were serving in the House.

And Democrats are in trouble too. William Jefferson (D-Louisiana), last seen ordering National Guardsmen in New Orleans to assist him in saving items from his house during hurricane Katrina, was caught with $90,000 in his freezer and has been indicted on 16 counts ranging from bribery to wire fraud relating to his business dealings in Africa.

Also, Allan Mollahan (D-West Virginia) is under investigation for steering earmarks to campaign contributors and business partners.

In 2001, Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) was sentenced to eight years in prison after being convicted of racketeering and accepting bribes.

The common thread running through almost all of these corrupt practices is cash for campaigns. The non-profit group Public Citizen spells it out in black and white:

The cost of congressional campaigns has skyrocketed, from an average of about $87,000 spent for successful House elections in 1976 (about $308,000 in 2006 dollars) to an average of $1.3 million spent on winning campaigns in 2006. Successful Senate candidates in 1976 spent an average of $609,000 (about $2.2 million in 2006 dollars), and in 2006, the average Senate winner spent an astonishing $9.6 million.

Starting the day after they are elected, House members must begin raising more than $1,000 a day to amass large enough war chests to wage their next campaign, while senators must raise more than $3,000 per day.

It’s not just the money game that has changed. Lobbyists have gone far beyond simply advocating the passage of legislation to benefit their clients. They have become one-stop shops for corruption. Junketing with their favorite members, bestowing goodies both large and small on their targets, they can also raise copious amounts of campaign cash. And the competition among the lobbyists is so ferocious that things were guaranteed to get out of hand. In the case of Jack Abramoff, they did. The lobbyist spread millions around Capitol Hill and was hugely successful in getting his clients what they wanted and needed from government. In no time, he went from a minor player into the big leagues in terms of billings.

Unless something is done to reform both campaign finance and lobbying rules, the chances are excellent that in a few years the Democrats will have their own sorry bunch of lawbreakers and scofflaws with their mugshots plastered all over the Internet. That is the culture on Capitol Hill at the moment.

And despite promises from both John McCain and Barack Obama to reform this mess, the prospects for real change seem remote.

By: Rick Moran at 9:35 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)


The cluelessness demonstrated by many conservatives regarding the comments made by now former McCain economic adviser and surrogate Phil Gramm has been a revelation of sorts. I have discovered that my own brand of conservatism is probably as irrelevant to the mainstream of conservative thought as classical liberalism is to mainstream thinking on the left. There doesn’t seem to be any room in either ideology these days for much in the way of independent thinking and nuance.

If you stray from the merciless orthodoxy imposed by political necessity and a diseased kind of group-think prevalent on both sides, you leave yourself open to the most withering kind of criticism and the ultimate disapprobation shown by your erstwhile ideological allies; you are accused of being the enemy.

No matter. I realize that my take on the Phil Gramm controversy does not comport with that of most conservatives. And the defense of Gramm’s remarks by the likes of George Will and economic historian Amity Shlaes (in the Washington Post no less) show an even greater divide between what I used to think mainstream conservatism represented and my own views. What this bodes for the future, I cannot say. All I know is that this dust-up over Gramm’s remarks has me at odds with most people I considered my ideological allies.

Forget that Gramm’s remarks about America being in a “mental recession” and that our fellow countrymen are a “nation of whiners” were insensitive, crass, stupid, and abominably ill-timed. They were just plain bad politics and trying to justify them as “true” in any sense whatsoever is the heighth of political ignorance.

To chastise your fellow countrymen who are genuinely worried about the way the world seems to be giving way underneath their feet as change and uncertainty sweeps across the country in the form of ever rising energy costs and a housing crisis to which there doesn’t seem to be any bottoming out bespeaks an obliviousness to the political realities of what is happening beyond your own small corner of the world. Your appeal to an economic Darwinism as a model for the American people to follow is as outmoded as it is despicable.

“Shut up and take it” seems to be the message most conservatives want to send to the American people. That and the fact that “technically” we are not in a recession because we haven’t had two full quarters of negative economic growth. This is not only a suicidal political strategy, it shows conservatives with as much empathy for their fellow countrymen as that of a three toed sloth.

Telling people who are genuinely hurting that they are essentially imagining the fact that they are having problems making ends meet because energy costs have doubled or that the idea that we are bleeding jobs in this country shouldn’t cause them any concern, or that affordable health insurance for them and their families is a pipe dream so you better not get sick, or saving for their kid’s college education is an impossibility so plan to go into hock up to your eyeballs, is idiotic. And then accusing them of being spoiled brats for voicing their concerns is so politically tone deaf as to be beyond belief.

No, we are not in a depression and our economic situation is not as dire as it was in 1980. But consider the following and then tell me that the 80% of people in this country who make up the middle and lower classes are imagining how times are tough.

  • Payrolls contracted for the 6th straight month in June despite the unemployment rate holding steady at 5.5%
  • Wages have grown only 2.8% this year – below the 4% rate of inflation. And you wonder why people are worried about falling behind?
  • We have lost 578,000 non government jobs – down every month – since last November. The rate of job loss has increased each of the last three months.
  • Decelerating wage increases coupled with a rising rate of inflation reveal a weak bargaining position not only for unions but for most others who count on that pay raise every year to maintain their standard of living.
  • 345,000 jobs lost this year in residential construction with another 51,000 lost among non-residential builders. No one has a clue when or where this housing meltdown will end. With a government bailout of secondary mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac now a foregone conclusion, things may get even tighter in the housing markets.
  • Another 33,000 manufacturing jobs lost. That makes 24 straight months of losses in the industrial sector.
  • The number of underemployed workers has skyrocketed; 9.9% of the total workforce is now considered underemployed. Most of these people are part timers who would rather be working full time. The total number of underemployed workers has increased over the last year from 4.3 million to 5.4 million.
  • “June’s 5.5% unemployment rate represents a 1.1 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate since March 2007, and an addition of 1.76 million to the unemployment rolls.”
  • “Workers paychecks are under attack from three sides: diminished jobs and hours, slower hourly wage growth, and faster price growth. Moreover, most workers lack the bargaining power necessary to fend off these attacks.”

(Source: Economic Policy Institute. Quotes are direct from this report)

These numbers are not made up by the New York Times. They are not hatched in the basement of the Democratic National Committee. They are available at the Bureau of Labor Statistics to anyone who wishes to delve into the details of our faltering economy.

To have stood on the deck of the Titanic and pointed to the one half of the ship that was still above water and proclaim that the ship had not sunk yet would have, I’m sure, given absolutely no comfort to the passengers. And yet conservatives have rallied around Phil Gramm, clapping him on the back for “telling the truth” regarding our weak kneed countrymen who just don’t know how good they’ve got it.

Perception is what matters in this case. And regardless of where you believe the American people got their ideas about the economy being in trouble – a biased media, the evil Democrats, or even their own personal experience – telling them they are imagining their economic plight and that if they open their mouths to complain about the doubling of gas prices or the slow torture of watching food prices rise every week at the grocery store that they are akin to blubbering babies only shows that Republicans not only deserve to lose, they must lose for the good of the country.

The American people don’t want handouts. They don’t want government to give them a job or secure their futures. They want to know someone is listening to their concerns and understands their problems. The health insurance crisis is real. It keeps real people awake at nights worrying about their loved ones and their future. Now I don’t truck with a purely government solution to this problem and neither does McCain. But unless we understand how fundamental this concern is to the vast majority of the American people, conservatives deserve to be consigned to the back benches of power until they are educated about what affects the real lives of real people.

What defending Gramm shows is that conservatives live in an opaque bubble where they can only see shadows and undefined shapes outside of their little cocoon. They know that the people are out there but they have no insight into what their dreams and desires might be. They don’t have a clue about what moves them, what causes them concern, what worries they have about their children’s future. They are oblivious to their fears. And to top it off, they appear to be uncaring if they suffer.

Does this sound like an ideology you would vote for? Is this the recipe for conservative victory at the polls?

To demonstrate such ignorance and then be proud of it bespeaks a monstrous disconnect between political reality and the way conservatives have taken values like self-reliance, prudence, independence, and thrift and turned them into a club to beat their fellow countrymen over the head. There are ways to encourage people to practice these values without disrespecting their perception of their own personal economic situation.

Gramm and his defenders have failed to do that and have instead substituted a gross economic “survival of the fittest” critique that demonstrates a singular soullessness when it comes to lecturing their fellow citizens about how conservatives have gleaned the “true” economic conditions in the country and that any other theory that contradicts this revealed truth is evidence of mental disease.

This is not the conservatism of Reagan or anyone I am familiar with. One needn’t disconnect the brain from the heart to be a conservative. But for the defenders of Gramm, there appears to be some faulty wiring that has not only led to turgid logic but also a misfiring of the empathy gene.

Not a good combination if you’re a conservative and expect success at the polls.

By: Rick Moran at 1:00 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (31)

Maggie's Farm linked with Phil Gramm puts foot in mouth...

The following is the first in a series of blog posts on “What Ails Conservatism.” It is inspired by George Packer’s brilliant New Yorker essay where he traced “The Fall of Conservatism” from its initial electoral successes under Nixon to what most observers believe is its collapse under George Bush.

This first part is a critique of Packer’s essay by other conservatives as well as some of my own thoughts regarding one of Packer’s major themes – namely, that conservatism’s electoral success has been built on the politics of resentment and polarization.


Believing that we can roll back the size of government and make it “small” is a pipe dream and, along with the idea that we can demand government do a million things and not raise the taxes to pay for them as well as ask government to protect us from impersonal corporations who seek to destroy competition, exploit workers, endanger our environment, foist their dangerous products on us, and generally wreak havoc on our lives and families without someone looking over their shoulder is absurd.

The idea that the market will fix dangerous working conditions for miners or force companies to end exploitive work rules and policies in service industries is just not tenable in a 21st century industrialized democracy. Neither will the market clean up toxic waste, sensibly protect the environment, establish minimum standards for drinking water and breathable air, or ensure that some of the remaining green places left in the United States can be enjoyed by our grandchildren.

These are not luxuries that we can afford to privatize or do without. They are as vital to our survival as the new Air Force fighter being developed. The question that should occupy conservatives is not whether we should have strict standards for drinking water but rather how do we reconcile conservative principles with the needs of the people in a modern society?
(Rick Moran, 10/23/07)

According to Buchanan, who was the White House communications director in Reagan’s second term, the President once told his barber, Milton Pitts, “You know, Milt, I came here to do five things, and four out of five ain’t bad.” He had succeeded in lowering taxes, raising morale, increasing defense spending, and facing down the Soviet Union; but he had failed to limit the size of government, which, besides anti-Communism, was the abiding passion of Reagan’s political career and of the conservative movement. He didn’t come close to achieving it and didn’t try very hard, recognizing early that the public would be happy to have its taxes cut as long as its programs weren’t touched. And Reagan was a poor steward of the unglamorous but necessary operations of the state. Wilentz notes that he presided over a period of corruption and favoritism, encouraging hostility toward government agencies and “a general disregard for oversight safeguards as among the evils of ‘big government.’ ” In this, and in a notorious attempt to expand executive power outside the Constitution—the Iran-Contra affair—Reagan’s Presidency presaged that of George W. Bush.

After Reagan and the end of the Cold War, conservatism lost the ties that had bound together its disparate factions—libertarians, evangelicals, neoconservatives, Wall Street, working-class traditionalists. Without the Gipper and the Evil Empire, what was the organizing principle? In 1994, the conservative journalist David Frum surveyed the landscape and published a book called “Dead Right.” Reagan, he wrote, had offered his “Morning in America” vision, and the public had rewarded him enormously, but in failing to reduce government he had allowed the welfare state to continue infantilizing the public, weakening its moral fibre. That November, Republicans swept to power in Congress and imagined that they had been deputized by the voters to distill conservatism into its purest essence. Newt Gingrich declared, “On those things which are at the core of our philosophy and on those things where we believe we represent the vast majority of Americans, there will be no compromise.” Instead of just limiting government, the Gingrich revolutionaries set out to disable it. Although the legislative reins were in their hands, these Republicans could find no governmental projects to organize their energy around. David Brooks said, “The only thing that held the coalition together was hostility to government.”
(George Packer, 5/20/08)

The election of 1948 was turning into a nightmare for Democrats. Their convention saw a Southern walkout against a liberal civil rights plank pushed through by the young, energetic mayor of Minneapolis Hubert Humphrey (“[T]he time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadows of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.”)

Meanwhile, on his left flank, President Truman had to deal with one of the more prickly personalities of 20th century politics in Henry Wallace. The former Vice President under FDR was an unreconstructed socialist who was unhappy with Truman’s lack of committment to the more liberal domestic ideas being pushed by Wallace’s enthusiastic followers and decided to run for president himself on the Progressive Party ticket.

Faced with a three way split of his own party, Truman decided to not only make the Republican Congress (a majority achieved in 1946) the issue but also build resentment against the “barons of privilege” represented, he said, by his opponent New York Governor Thomas Dewey.

It was not the first time the Democrats used class warfare as a wedge issue to divide the electorate and appeal to a coalition first constructed by Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. It was “us” (ordinary Americans) versus “them” (the GOP “establishment”) and despite the divisions in the party, the old coalition held and Truman was elected by a comfortable margin. Using highly personal attacks on Dewey and the Republicans, Truman earned the nickname “Give ‘em hell, Harry.” The president gave the Republicans “hell” and then some, tying their “do nothing” Congress to the idea that they were out of touch with what ordinary Americans needed, that they were elitist, rich snobs, born to privilege and lacking in compassion.

I use this example from 1948 to try and illustrate some facts that Mr. Packer left out of his critique of conservatism’s electoral success. In fact, Packer writes his brilliant essay as if the entire modern history of conservatism and the GOP took place in a vacuum; that much of the strategy and many of the ideas that resulted in conservative victories at the polls were not a reaction to what the Democrats had been doing to the GOP in electoral politics for the previous 40 years encompassing their most successful period in history.

I suppose in a piece dedicated to chronicling the fall of conservatism that such details regarding the way both parties use voters’ resentments to win elections are unnecessary since Packer was looking exclusively at conservatism. But the explanation he seems to be offering as to why the GOP “Southern Strategy” and “Positive Polarization” became buzzwords posits the notion that these are concepts that have “helped the Republicans win one election after another—and insured that American politics would be an ugly, unredeemed business for decades to come.”

I’ve got news for Mr. Packer; American politics has always been an “ugly, unredeemed business.” To actually believe that the politics of fear, of division, or deliberately appealing to racial differences and divisions is something invented by Nixon and the Republicans is absurd.

In fact, I could argue that politics today is cleaner, more uplifting, less personal than the battle royales of elections past. Examine some of the post Civil War elections during the Gilded Age and you will find not only outright lies being circulated in newspapers owned by both parties but rank appeals to racism, a nauseating, virulent strain of populism that threatened violence against the middle class, and a frank discussion of the inferiorities found in various immigrant groups. And always, lurking in the background of the anti-immigrant message was the eternal Jew and his “control” of banks and money lending.

In the end, Packer’s omissions about the origins of today’s politics skew his entire narrative toward a view I found shockingly common among left wing analyses of his essay; that these tactics are unique to the right and that because they are employed by conservatives that they represent a strain on the right that will do “anything” to elect their candidates. Or what one armchair psychologist referred to as “an essentially nihilist politics of vicious opportunism, where the entire goal is power for its own sake.” Considering how much conservatism has altered the landscape in America, “for its own sake” rings hollow indeed. The road to power is always run with a mixed bag of good intentions and self-aggrandizement. It’s what gives politics its charm and attracts not only the wide eyed reformers but the gimlet eyed operators.

Conservatives plead guilty to doing anything necessary to win – as should those who deliberately tell seniors that Republicans want to take away their social security checks or run commercials in African American communities hinting that the GOP wants to reimpose Jim Crow. Doing “anything” to win is what elections are all about – have always been about in America.

Should there be a better way? Of course. But no one – not even the New Messiah – has ever run a campaign that doesn’t try and raise the temperature of the voter by bringing their resentments and fears to the surface so they can be flogged until the voter is sufficiently motivated to vote against one candidate and not for another.

But this is really just a symptom of what ails conservatism according to Packer. He’s dead right. And so much of what the author identifies as signposts on the way down for the right is so true that one can make no argument about his diagnoses: that modern conservatism is basically a negative ideology in that through its hostility to government – all government – its draconian social strictures (most notably against abortion and gay marriage), its hyper partisanship, and its encouraging the belief that liberals are immoral, unpatriotic, anti-Americans, conservatism’s claim to governance has run its course and the American people are ready for a change.

Packer is not saying anything new in his essay. Indeed, he quotes from several recent books (Packer did not quote from Without a Conscience, John Dean’s lengthy tome purporting to show the right is in love with authoritarianism and dictatorship perhaps because serious problems have been found with the methodology used by the authors of the study on which the book is based.) written by serious historians who themselves aggregate many of the concepts about the fall of the right gleaned from other sources. Packer’s brilliance – as with all great writers – lies in the way he organizes the material and intersperses personal anecdotes taken from interviews done with both old and new conservatives.

Conservative reaction to Packer’s piece has been off the mark and generally feeble. James Joyner is the only one on the right I’ve seen who has made an effort to analyze Packer’s piece in depth. Most have sniped at Packer by tearing a small piece away from the whole and calling him out for one sin or another while missing the overall.

Michael Goldfarb:

Pronouncing the death of political movements is a facile thing, especially when one appears as down in the mouth as conservatism appears at this moment. But in truth, it’s not conservatism that’s down in the mouth, but the politicians and the party that conservatives entrusted to carry out conservative principles that are in peril.

Much of Packer’s article focuses on political tactics and strategy, particularly the uniquely craven ones devised and implemented by Richard Nixon and a young Pat Buchanan. What Packer never completely acknowledges is that politics is supposed to be only the means, not the ends. One of the reasons so many nostalgic conservatives tiresomely invoke Ronald Reagan is that Reagan often seems like the last successful Republican politician to fully personify that standard. Not only did Reagan come to office with a full set of conservative principles to guide him, he only sought office because his passion for those principles compelled him to do so.

I think Goldfarb is making Packer’s point perfectly while not seeing the nose in front of his face. Yes it is conservative ideology that has fallen – and for exactly the reason Goldfarb inadvertently gives; its ideas were fresh 30 years ago when Ronald Reagan ran for president but stale as 3 week old bread today.


The fact that the least conservative, least divisive Republican in the 2008 race is the last one standing—despite being despised by significant voices on the right—shows how little life is left in the movement that Goldwater began, Nixon brought into power, Ronald Reagan gave mass appeal, Newt Gingrich radicalized, Tom DeLay criminalized, and Bush allowed to break into pieces. “The fact that there was no conventional, establishment, old-style conservative candidate was not an accident,” Brooks said. “Mitt Romney pretended to be one for a while, but he wasn’t. Rudy Giuliani sort of pretended, but he wasn’t. McCain is certainly not. It’s not only a lack of political talent—there’s just no driving force, and it will soften up normal Republicans for change.”

On May 6th, Newt Gingrich posted a message, “My Plea to Republicans: It’s Time for Real Change to Avoid Real Disaster,” on the Web site of the conservative magazine Human Events. The former House Speaker warned, “The Republican brand has been so badly damaged that if Republicans try to run an anti-Obama, anti-Reverend Wright, or (if Senator Clinton wins) anti-Clinton campaign, they are simply going to fail.” Gingrich offered nine suggestions for restoring the Republican “brand”—among them “Overhaul the census and cut its budget radically” and “Implement a space-based, G.P.S.-style air-traffic control system”—which read like a wonkish parody of the Contract with America. By the next morning, the post had received almost three hundred comments, almost all predicting a long Republican winter.

Yuval Levin, a former Bush White House official, who is now a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, agrees with Gingrich’s diagnosis. There’s an intellectual fatigue, even if it hasn’t yet been made clear by defeat at the polls,” he said. “The conservative idea factory is not producing as it did. You hear it from everybody, but nobody agrees what to do about it.”

Pat Buchanan was less polite, paraphrasing the social critic Eric Hoffer: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

And in this piece I did for PJ Media on ridding the conservative movement of Reagan’s ghost, I make the argument that the only way for the right to move forward is to move on:
The Democrats faced a similar dilemma back in the 1960’s and 70’s with the haunting presence of Franklin Roosevelt hanging over the party. The perceived commitment of FDR to the less fortunate among us allowed the Democrats to invoke his name while opening the floodgates of government spending on social programs. The debate back then was not whether a program for the poor should be passed, but rather how much we should be spending to fund it. And the party continued that kind of suicidal rhetoric well into the 1980’s until the Reagan revolution squelched it for good.

Might the Republicans be in similar danger with their reliance on the Reagan legacy to win elections and run the government? The Reagan leadership personae has moved from fond memory into the realms of myth and legend. This makes us forget certain inconvenient truths about those years such as huge deficits and the leadership failures brought to light in the Iran-Contra imbroglio. There is much good to take away from that time. But how much of the good can be transported to the present and grafted on to the current Republican party and the ideological movement that is conservatism?

Reagan stands a silent sentinel over the modern GOP, still evoking powerful emotions and loyalty among conservatives. Perhaps it is time to carefully place his legacy and memory in our national treasure chest, taking them out on occasion to examine them for the lessons we can learn rather than pushing that legacy front and center in a futile attempt to recapture the power and the glory of days long gone and a time that will never come again.

Indeed, it may be that all of us – Packer included – are confusing the GOP with conservatism. Michelle Malkin and others make that point. Packer responds in a follow up article by saying:
Here are a few conservative replies to my article “The Fall of Conservatism,” by Yuval Levin, Michelle Malkin, the editors of the New York Sun, and Andrew Sullivan. The first three defend conservatism from the charge of being “brain dead” by pointing, basically, at themselves or people like them, and adding that liberalism isn’t exactly throbbing with vitality these days. Readers can decide whether Malkin, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh,, and Senator Lieberman are indicators of a movement on the rise. All three responses have the air of protesting too much; they remind me of the mocking self-satisfaction of liberals when the water was rising around them in the late nineteen-seventies and early eighties.

And the New York Sun responds to Packer by basically saying conservatives don’t need new ideas, the old ones are just fine thanks:
What the New Yorker calls a lack of “fresh thinking” may be a surfeit of abiding principles and enduring ideas. The Bible is thousands of years old. The capitalism of Adam Smith is hundreds of years old. Freedom is as universal and God-given a right today as it was when it was set forth in the Declaration of Independence. What matters is less whether the ideas are “fresh” than whether they are correct. And the latest panic of beltway Republicans or New Yorker writers notwithstanding, the view from these columns is that the death of conservatism has been greatly exaggerated.

I will say this to all my friends on the right; the point is not whether conservative principles are in need of overhauling. Capitalism, freedom, belief in a just God, even American exceptionalism don’t need to be tossed out or given a scrub and repackaged with some kind of snappy jingle to accompany them. These principles are timeless, have born the test of time and cannot be abridged or destroyed because of some temporary electoral setbacks.

It is not Packer who is confused. It is all those who talk about the conservative movement and confuse it with the philosophy of conservatism who are in need of being straightened out. Sean Hannity is not conservatism. Ann Coulter is certainly not conservatism. They use conservatism as a slot machine – put in a few raggedy ideas, pump the handle, and out pours a book or two that sells well, gets the author notoriety, and creates legions of worshipful fans who salivate at the opportunity to buy the next book.

In fact, a big part of the problem is that the Coulters dominate the movement while the principles espoused by people like Buckley, Kirk, and Kristol end up being ignored. I put it thusly a few months ago:

The disconnect I speak of above arises from the cage that Republican candidates have been placed in by the various factions of conservatism that makes them slaves to an agenda that is out of date, out of touch, and after 2008, there’s a good chance that it will lead to Republicans being out of luck.

Breaking out of that cage will be difficult unless the party continues to lose at the polls. And part of that breaking free will be making the Reagan legacy a part of history and not a part of contemporary Republican orthodoxy. The world that Reagan helped remake is radically different than the one we inhabit today and yet, GOP candidates insist on invoking his name as if it is a talisman to be stroked and fondled, hoping that the magic will rub off on them. Reagan is gone and so is the world where his ideas resonated so strongly with the voters.

But Reagan’s principles remain with us. Free markets, free nations, and free men is just as powerful a tocsin today as it was a quarter century ago. The challenge is to remake a party and the conservative movement into a vessel by which new ideas about governing a 21st century industrialized democracy can be debated, adopted, and enacted. Without abandoning our core beliefs while redefining or perhaps re-imagining what those beliefs represent as a practical matter, conservatism could recharge itself and define a new relationship between the governed and the government.

But before reform comes the fall. And even if, as Yglesias believes is possible, the party and the movement are able to limp along for a few years with a cobbled together coalition, eventually the piper must be paid and the wages earned. It won’t be a quick or easy process. But it will happen nonetheless. And out of the bitterness and recriminations will emerge a different Republican party, animated by conservative principles and true to a legacy that has as its foundation a belief in individual liberty and personal responsibility.

Packer’s analysis of what ails conservatism is generally correct. And it is troubling to see so many front line conservatives either dismiss what he has to say or ignore it altogether.

To my mind, we are at exactly the point that the left was in 1980 – one reason this election is beginning to stink like a landslide for the Democrats all around. We are mostly running on the past without a clue about how to address the concerns of voters today. Where liberals were still evoking FDR in the 1980 election we are still praying for a Reagan to save us. Where liberals still believed they could propose massive new government spending programs back in 1980 (much less than the modest $800 billion over 5 years asked by Obama) conservatives today believe that we can continue to get by without addressing health insurance, wage inequality, inequitable trade agreements, and yes, climate change.

We are the dinosaur watching the comet streak toward the surface of the earth without a clue as to what is about to hit us. How we deal with the coming cataclysm will determine how long we spend wandering in a blighted wilderness.

Next on 5/31: Russ Kirk and I go to war.

By: Rick Moran at 4:36 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (34)

Maggie's Farm linked with Dead, or just resting?...

He’s not going to score any points with the media for doing it – not after so many months of mealy mouthed statements about the candidate not agreeing with many of Pastor John Hagee’s positions but welcoming his endorsement anyway. And McCain probably shouldn’t receive much in the way of plaudits for finally disavowing the support of this clownish hater.

But McCain is the first Republican candidate for President in a long time who has stood up to this weird strain of evangelical hatred directed against non-Christians and unequivocally said he doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. And to reinforce his action, he disavowed the endorsement of another, less well know Christian hate monger Rod Parlsey.

Throwing Parsley under the bus may prove to be more problematic than lancing the Hagee boil. The Ohio preacher’s anti-Islam spiel appeals to not only evangelicals, but to a segment of conservatives who fancy themselves Islamic scholars – perhaps because they’ve read some half baked analysis of a few lines from the Koran purporting to show that Muslims worship the moon – and are attracted by Parsley’s hellfire and damnation talk about Muslims and where they can stick it.

But it is the very act of disassociating himself from those two religious nut jobs that may herald something new in Republican politics; a distancing of the rational, secular, center-right from the nauseating moral certitude and hate based rantings of a small, but influential segment of the evangelical community.

I would say that this is something that absolutely must be done if the Republican party is ever going to achieve majority status again. If it were up to me, I would drive them out of the party as Jesus drove the money changers from the temple – with a whip and some good old fashioned righteous wrath. There is no place in modern American politics for this kind of hate to be spewed and considered “mainstream” by anyone in the Republican party.

Hagee and Parsley preach a Christian exclusivity that has no place in America. By the numbers, we may be a “Christian” nation. But by law, by tradition, and by common sense, we are universalists when it comes to worshiping God. Hagee and Parsley sought to set Christianity apart from this notion of ecumenicism and use faith as a litmus test in measuring the worth of an individual soul. That means that if you happen to be gay, or Muslim, or some other group not part of their narrow, prejudiced biblical worldview, you’re a sinner or worse. It never penetrates the thick skulls of these dimwits that calling someone a “sinner” and saying you love them anyway is the most humiliating thing you can say to a gay person or anyone else who fails the Christian test.

McCain’s statement of disavowal was strongly worded and left no doubt where he stood:

“Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them. I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well,” he said.

Later, in Stockton, he told reporters: “I just think that the statement is crazy and unacceptable.”

Then in an interview with The Associated Press, McCain said he rejected Parsley’s support, too.

“I believe there is no place for that kind of dialogue in America, and I believe that even though he endorsed me, and I didn’t endorse him, the fact is that I repudiate such talk, and I reject his endorsement,” McCain told the AP.

Hagee had sparked controversy since the San Antonio pastor endorsed McCain on Feb. 27 shortly before the Texas presidential primary. Parsley’s views were aired Thursday in an ABC News report.

McCain actively courted Hagee, who leads a megachurch with a congregation in the tens of thousands and has an even wider television audience. Former GOP presidential rivals also sought Hagee’s backing.

Hagee has referred to the Roman Catholic Church as “the great whore” and called it a “false cult system.” He also has linked Hitler to the Catholic church, suggesting it helped shape his anti-Semitism. And Hagee said Hurricane Katrina was God’s retribution for homosexual sin.

When McCain first received the endorsement of this bigot, I thought he should have disavowed it immediately:

Doesn’t McCain realize that Hagee’s “spiritual leadership” includes filling the heads of the faithful with hate filled rants against Muslims, gays, Catholics, and others? How can a presidential candidate who says he wants to change the quality of dialogue in this country accept the endorsement of this bigot?

McCain is no stranger to controversies like this. In the 2000 campaign, he spoke at the notorious Bob Jones University where interracial dating was against school policy.

(As an aside, why aren’t these people read out of the conservative movement the same way the Birchers and other extremists were kicked out by Buckley and others in the 1950’s?)

Simply saying you don’t agree with everything Hagee says isn’t good enough. There are some endorsements that should be rejected out of hand. Saying “I reject John Hagee’s endorsement and all the bigoted statements he has made…” would be political suicide with a segment of evangelicals but might be the start of sweeping these extremists out of the party.

I realize that last statement may be a bit optimistic. But how about reducing their influence? How about going out of your way to condemn their outrageous bigotry? How about banning them from party events like the convention?

At the very least, such actions would prove that McCain is on the side of tolerance, respect, and dignity for all. You don’t have to agree with the gay rights agenda in order to grant dignity and worth to those espousing it. Nor does one have to support jihad or Sharia law to give Muslims the same constitutional benefit of freedom to worship God anyway they choose.

These things are so self evident it is amazing to me that there would even be an argument forthcoming from some evangelicals. That’s the problem, of course. And during the last decade (and especially the last two presidential elections) as Karl Rove shamelessly – and successfully – used wedge issues like gay marriage to maximize the turnout among the evangelical community, hideous figures like Hagee and Parsley gained influence because of the size of their following.

Now McCain is gambling that he wins more than he loses by disavowing the endorsements of these two extremists. Does he pick up support among independents and “Reagan Democrats” as a result of this move? Or does he so anger the evangelical community that millions will stay home or worse, support Obama?

It’s impossible to say at this point. One would like to believe that principled actions (or at least actions that can be construed as principled) would be rewarded and McCain’s disavowal of the haters ends up being a big plus.

But there’s another axiom in politics that might equally apply in this case; no good deed goes unpunished.

By: Rick Moran at 7:36 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (24)


The Party of Lincoln has officially become The Whitebread and Cracker Party. According to Politico, there are no African American Republican candidates given a serious chance of winning in the House, the Senate, or a governorship:

At the start of the Bush years, the Republican National Committee — in tandem with the White House — vowed to usher in a new era of GOP minority outreach. As George W. Bush winds down his presidency, Republicans are now on the verge of going six — and probably more — years without an African-American governor, senator or House member.

That’s the longest such streak since the 1980s.

Republicans will have only one minority governor, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, an Indian-American, when the dust settles on the ’08 elections. Democrats have three minority governors and 43 African-American members of Congress, including one — Illinois Sen. Barack Obama — who is their likely presidential nominee. Democrats also have several challengers in winnable House races who are either black or Hispanic.

Despite having a Spanish-speaking “compassionate conservative” in the White House, Republicans’ diversity deficit seems to have only widened.

“In 1994, when I first ran, we had 14 African-American Republicans running for Congress. ... I was the only one that won that year, but we had 14, and we had some good candidates,” said former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts, one of the party’s most recognized African-American voices. “I am grateful for what Ken Mehlman did when he was RNC chairman, but I knew that wouldn’t last — that was one person. I’ve never gotten the impression that it was institutionalized.”

Mehlman worked tirelessly in his outreach programs to try and build bridges to the African American, Hispanic, and Asian communities. But J.C. Watts – a man much to good for the Republican party and for politics in general – hits the nail on the head when he talks about institutionalizing that kind of outreach. The GOP never followed up or tried very hard to maintain those bridges so it’s perhaps no surprise that they would have totally collapsed due to a combination of factors but mostly just a lack of effort.

There were high hopes when the Mehlman project began:

Bush’s share of the black vote went from 8 percent to 11 percent between 2000 and 2004, according to exit polls. Despite the small increase, Bush doubled his share of the black vote in Ohio and Florida.

“There are some obvious signs that we are on the verge of a breakthrough when you look at what we have to do to be successful,” said Michael Williams, a black Republican elected to the Texas Railroad Commission, a statewide energy board. “If we can just move to 20 or 25 percent of the African American vote, that is a cataclysmic change in vote count.”

Seeking to build on successes in Ohio and Florida, Mehlman has intensified the recruitment of black candidates for statewide and national offices. The Rev. Keith Butler announced his candidacy against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Michael S. Steele, Maryland’s lieutenant governor, is widely expected to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Paul S. Sarbanes (D), and former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann® is considering running for governor of Pennsylvania.

That was three years ago. In the interim, Karl Rove decided that white evangelicals were the key to GOP victory and worked on getting anti-gay marriage referendums on state ballots in 2006 believing, as was the case in 2004, that such measures would energize the religious right and send them to the polls in droves.

Unfortunately for Rove and the GOP, things didn’t quite work out the way they hoped. The anti-gay marriage referendums passed handily but rather than voting for Republicans, those opposed to gay marriage were just as likely to vote for the Democrat, leading to the loss of 30 seats in the House. Mehlman’s hard work went for naught as the Democrats picked up 90% of the black vote and 70% of the Hispanic vote.

No serious effort has been made by any nationally organized Republican group to reach out to African Americans since then. Indeed, the GOP candidates for president hurled an insult to the NAACP when they refused to show up at a debate sponsored by the organization. True, the candidates would have been entering hostile territory and the questions were liable to have been pretty testy. But at the time, it smacked of cowardice to me as it does today.

The GOP has much to answer for as far as African Americans since the 1960’s. Long gone are the days when a coalition of northern Democrats and Republicans passed landmark civil rights legislation. Since then, Republicans have sought to use race as a wedge issue in the south, effectively polarizing the electorate so as to maximize the white vote. And there have been some disgraceful attempts over the years to try and tamp down the African American turnout in some parts of the country.

But beyond that, it is my opinion that the GOP’s candidate recruitment efforts suck and their efforts with regard to recruiting minorities to run for office is, if possible, worse. Indeed, we are seeing a repeat of 2006 as far as the relative abilities of the two parties to recruit candidates of all races. In most competitive races, the Democrats have been able to field strong House candidates with district-wide name recognition who are well funded and well organized. The GOP, not so much. Admittedly, it is a tough sell trying to get a popular state senator or state official to run on the GOP label in what promises to be a Democratic year. It must be even harder to convince a black candidate to run when the likely Democratic nominee is himself an African American.

There’s another reason why blacks aren’t running as Republicans and you won’t find it mentioned on any lefty blog. The hostility shown by Democrats toward black GOP candidates is nauseating and certainly plays a role in their refusal to stick their necks out. Michael Steele had Oreos thrown at him. Black GOP candidates are openly called “Uncle Toms” and race traitors. Even if they win, they face the same fate that befell J.C. Watts; being kept out of the Congressional Black Caucus and ostracized by those of your own race.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that there are no serious candidates of color running for any GOP House, Senate, or Governor’s seat. But if the party ever wants to achieve majority status anytime soon, it is not going to be done by appealing solely to male white, middle aged, church loving gun owners. A way must be found to broaden the GOP coalition to include more women, more blacks, more Hispanics, and turn a rather monochromatic party into something more like a rainbow.

Otherwise, get comfortable on those back benches boys. Might want to buy a pillow and set a spell because it will be a long time in the political wilderness for the GOP otherwise.

By: Rick Moran at 8:17 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (13) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Convention Chief Resigns Over His Firm's Work for Burma...

A while back, I got fed up with the stupidity of the Republican party and disassociated myself from its intolerance, corruption, and milquetoast adherence to conservative principles.

That didn’t mean I would not support or vote for Republicans. Only that I was no longer a “party man.” No longer would I stretch my conscience and principles to defend those who failed so miserably in acting on their supposed beliefs while stinking up the Capitol with their pork happy spending, their deviant personal peccadilloes, and hypocritical actions on a wide range of issues from immigration to earmarks . I was comfortable with that decision then as I am now.

In fact, the recent tantrums thrown by many over John McCain’s candidacy and inevitable nomination has reinforced my decision ten fold. Party activists have proven themselves just as blind, just as arrogant, just as stupid as GOP politicians – perhaps more so. Taking action by sitting home on election day that will insure the election of a Democratic president and Democratic lawmakers who will seek nothing less than a political realignment of the country is beyond madness, beyond suicide.

I refuse to follow those of you who insist that it is a viable option to deliberately allow the election of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, thinking that they will make the American electorate so angry that a victory by “true” conservatives in 2012 will be a cakewalk. This is not an option. It is delusional. It is equally ridiculous to suppose that conservative sabotage of a McCain candidacy will somehow strengthen our position within the party. Like the old joke about the pope giving advice on a couple’s sexual problems – “You no playa the game; you no maka the rules.” How much influence did sitting out the 2006 election get those of you who chose not to vote? You sure showed ‘em, didn’t you?

I regret to inform my friends who are taking this tack, but my self destructive behavior only extends to eating too much red meat and smoking.

I know exactly where these people are coming from. It’s not that I am insensate to their abhorrence of Mr. McCain. The Arizona senator will see to it that conservatives are largely frozen out of policy and personnel decisions. If he doesn’t do that, the media will be all over him for not living up to his label as a “maverick.” Judging by many of his campaign aides, I fully understand the anger directed at him.

But it cannot be said enough that elections are about choices. And politics is a business that is bound to break your heart if you live it long enough. This is why cynicism is so dominant among the pros and political press. Unless you drop your silly illusions about ideological or personal purity of one candidate or another, you will end up like those who are stomping their feet like three year olds and refusing to come when mommy calls.

Here’s a toddler who has the routine down pat:

I’m deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, who voted for embryonic stem cell research to kill nascent human beings, who opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, and who has little regard for freedom of speech, who organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language.

“I am convinced Sen. McCain is not a conservative, and in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are. He has at times sounded more like a member of the other party. McCain actually considered leaving the GOP in 2001, and approached John Kerry about being Kerry’s running mate in 2004. McCain also said publicly that Hillary Clinton would make a good president. Given these and many other concerns, a spoonful of sugar does not make the medicine go down. I cannot, and I will not vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience.

How will your conscience feel, Mr. Dobson, when gay marriage is the law of the land? Or embryonic cell research is federally funded and widespread. Try putting this on your conscience; it will be your fault.

Better yet, how will it feel to watch our boys coming home from Iraq while al-Qaeda dances in the streets with glee before moving back into places that many of our soldiers paid the ultimate price to clean them out in the first place? How does re-imposition of the Fairness Doctrine grab ya, Doc? You’d be off TV quicker than you could say “equal time.”

And how long would it take for your head to explode before a Hillbama administration named a couple of Supreme Court Justices who would laugh in your face if you suggested overturning Roe v Wade?

Your choice was to allow this to happen. My choice is to prevent it at all costs. Who holds the moral upper hand here, Doc? Whose position would end up being best for America?

But its not about America. It’s about selfishness. It’s about the arrogant belief that your conscience is more important than the future of the country. That’s one helluva conscience you’ve got there, Doc. Why not feed it a little more self-inflated ego and top it off with a little moral blindness while you’re at it.

And lest you think Republicans are the only ones with arrogant sophists, how about this bit of idiocy from Chris Bowers of Open Left:

If the institution that exists to resolve disputes within the American center-left does not operate according to democratic principles, then I see no reason to continue participating within that institution. If that institution fails to respect democratic principles in its most important internal contest of all—nominating an individual for President of the United States—then I will quit the Democratic Party. And yes, I am perfectly serious about this. If someone is nominated for POTUS from the Democratic Party despite another candidate receiving more poplar support from Democratic primary voters and caucus goers, I will resign as local precinct captain, resign my seat on the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee, immediately cease all fundraising for all Democrats, refuse to endorse the Democratic “nominee” for any office, and otherwise disengage from the Democratic Party through all available means of doing so.

Holy Jesus could this guy act any more like a 13 year old drama queen? Forget about the personal preference of a superdelegate – who after all was given the power by the party to act in just such a situation that exists with Hillary and Obama. What matters is that he follow “intra-party democracy.”

Bowers wants elected Democrats who make up the large majority of Superdelegates to forswear their own judgment of who the best nominee for the party might be in favor of voting for whoever has the most delegates or votes come convention time. One might note that it would be entirely possible for one candidate to have a majority of primary votes while the other had a majority of delegates – a dilemma Bowers can’t comprehend in his tiny, narrow version of “democracy.”

So much for “intra-party” democracy – especially since, most undemocratically, Bowers wants to force people to vote for a candidate based on entirely arbitrary and capricious criteria. What about electability? What about personal preference and judgment? These things don’t exist in Bower’s democracy because they would likely lead to a result he opposes.

One party’s base will refuse to vote for a candidate because it troubles their conscience. The other because the process might favor one candidate over another. Two parties. Two ideologies. Two polar opposite reasons to stay home on election day.

But one bunch of spoiled brats.

Michelle Malkin has the only principled option for those who believe they cannot support McCain but refuse to allow a Democrat to sit in the Oval Office; stay calm, stay rational, keep your powder dry, and use your support as leverage to try and alter the direction of the McCain campaign. She approvingly quotes See-Dubya:

Conservatives’ one card left to play is whether we endorse McCain or not. Why should we show it now? If all conservatives declare unanimously against him, pledging undying hostility and staking our reputations on opposing the guy, well, he may decide (as we did with him when he and his partisans like Lindsey Graham and Juan Hernandez fumed about us) that we mean what we say.

Likewise, if we all fall into line, even grudgingly, well, we’re taken for granted…But if we keep our cards close to our chest, McCain still has to work for our vote. He can’t take us for granted and he dare not alienate us any more…

…Just to clarify, I’m not telling you whether to vote for him or not. I see the arguments on both sides. My point is that whether you wouldn’t vote for McCain if he was the last Republican on earth, or if you’ll probably just pinch your nose and pull the handle anyway, or whether you’re genuinely undecided, it’s in the interest of conservatives everywhere to act as if you could possibly be won over by credible and verifiable movement to the right on McCain’s part…Oh, and when pollsters ask you who you’re voting for, tell them you’re undecided.

I don’t agree with the strategy but I think it a defensible position to take and at least has the advantage of being based on principle and not the personal pique of a selfish adolescent mind.

I care about the outcome in Iraq. I care about staying on the offense in the War on terror. I care about the danger of Iran. I care about getting conservative judges on the bench. I care about tax cuts, entitlement reform, drastically reducing earmarks, preventing mandated health insurance, and 100 other things that a Hillbama Administration would do or fail to do.

Those who intend to sit at home in order to assuage their “conscience” can go to the devil. With so much at stake, sticking your head in the sand, hoping that this will win conservatives power and influence in the Republican party is a ludicrous strategy and will only end up setting the conservative cause back years if not decades.

The choice in November will be between a wildly imperfect John McCain and a Democrat. Not much of a choice to be sure but a clear one nonetheless. And if you’re an adult, an easy one.


Regular readers of this site may recall that about the time Fred Thompson dropped out of the race, I said that if Fred weren’t nominated, I might not vote in November.

It’s true that I wrote it. But further reflection (and getting farther away emotionally from my investment in Thompson) showed me the error of my ways and I have since adopted my current position of purchasing one of these gadgets to assist me in the most unpleasant task of punching the hole next to McCain’s name on election day.

Many of you are probably a little upset at my language, thinking that a more moderate tone would be more conducive to changing people’s minds.

That’s a laugh. My language is not meant to persuade but to chastise. To believe that any of you close minded, stubborn as a mule conservatives would change their minds and vote for McCain is laughable. Might as well try to lever the earth as alter the universal constant of the extremist’s position once his mind is made up.

By: Rick Moran at 5:32 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (30)


I must apologize for my cynicism up front because I know it is not shared by many – at least not in polite company. But I just can’t help it.

There were times during that debate last night where I had to remind myself that these were actually Republican candidates for President. At times, it sounded more like a John Edwards political rally with talk of “evil” Wall Street companies and Huckabee’s “two Americas lite.” And Romney’s penchant for throwing a couple of hundred billion dollars at voters sounded more like some other Massachusetts politician except I’m sure Mitt is a better driver.

When the presidential selection process began, there were several candidates that any conservative could have supported if not enthusiastically then at least by giving lip service if they had ended up the nominee. Now by default, we are left with a man who ran for governor as a center left moderate, governed as a centrist, and then adopted a slew of conservative positions on the issues just in time to be seen as a viable candidate for the White House. For many, giving Mitt Romney the benefit of the doubt for what John Hawkins has refereed to as his “Road to Damascus” conversion to conservatism is a matter of desperation. There isn’t anyone left in the race who espouses bedrock conservative principles mostly across the board except Romney.

For me, the question has never been that Huckabee and McCain aren’t “true” conservatives. By the lights of most who read this blog, I am not a “true” conservative either. The question is one of conservative governance and in both men, there is a lack of commitment to some truly basic conservative principles that calls into question just what kind of president they would be.

Huckabee cannot see beyond class. He has wedged class in his campaign in a pale imitation of John Edwards by trying to demonize the wealthy and speak for “ordinary Americans.” He has further carved out support by shamelessly and constantly appealing to Christian conservatives, calling himself a “Christian leader” and invoking the name of God every chance he gets.

Since when is initiating class warfare a conservative campaign tactic? Pundits call his philosophy “conservative populism” but it’s really much simpler than that. He is using class as a political scalpel to snip away a portion of the Republican electorate while slicing the bulk of Christian conservatives away from more traditionally conservative candidates. There is no path to the White House for Huckabee employing these tactics. But he should be able to harvest a couple of hundred delegates on Super Tuesday by winning 2 or 3 primaries while picking up delegates for finishing second and third elsewhere. He will then be in a position to humbly offer his services as Vice President to John McCain who will, if things remain relatively unchanged, come out of Super Tuesday with a huge lead in delegates on Mitt Romney.

For McCain, I suspect his fealty to conservatism and conservative principles will last until he wins the White House. It will be at that point that we will get a glimpse of just how important he thinks his conservatism is by looking at his cabinet appointments and the manner in which he fills other important posts in his Administration. I daresay there will be many “maverick” choices – including Democrats – that will curdle the blood of most movement conservatives and dismay the rest of us.

Would Romney be any different? The former governor and CEO would almost certainly look for the most competent people he can find to run the government. No doubt we would be disappointed in some of his choices. At least we could be assured that his selections were not made to “stick it” to conservatives – a disease McCain seems to have acquired over the years as his contempt for the right has been demonstrated on numerous occasions.

McCain and Huckabee can say they’re the best conservatives in the race until doomsday and it won’t make it so. And Romney can call his conversion to conservatism true and honorable until the cows come home and there will always be that nagging doubt in the back of everyone’s mind.

In my PJ Media column today, I look at McCain, Huckabee, and Giuliani and see a Republican party that is moving inexorably toward the center.

There may be many moderate and moderately conservative Republicans, as Jennifer Rubin muses in The Observer, who wish the party to do something about climate change despite the adamant opposition of many in the base. It could very well be that there is close to a majority of Republicans who want to solve the illegal immigrant problem by closing the border and then granting some kind of path to legality to those already here.

The proof is in the pudding, friends. John McCain supports those positions and is the presumptive nominee. All other GOP candidates opposed those positions and are toast.

While these positions would have been seen as “moderate” 8 years ago, those McCain supporters who identify themselves as “somewhat conservative” may also hold positions on continuing the mission in Iraq, fiscal responsibility, pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and other issues where they would find agreement with the base.

Does this mean that the party has lurched leftward while no one was looking? Perhaps not as much as it would appear but more than the base is willing to admit.

Would independents and even some Democrats really support McCain in a general election against either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? Not unless McCain made a conscious decision to virtually abandon the conservative base and adopt a more centrist platform. That’s because the country itself has moved slightly leftward in the last 8 years. On a variety of important issues including health insurance, the environment, and Middle Class entitlements, the American people appear ready to accept more government as the solution to perceived problems.

So in the end, it becomes a question of how many conservatives are willing to hold their noses and vote for McCain so that Hillary Clinton – the presumed Democratic nominee – is prevented from getting her clutches on the levers of government. I will probably be one of those conservatives who votes to keep Hillary Clinton out of the oval office. How many others would follow that example will determine the winner in November.

By: Rick Moran at 7:55 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (36)

CATEGORY: GOP Reform, History

When I was 24 years old and fresh from the ivory tower world of the university (having been rudely disabused from the idea that I could make a living as an actor), my father sat me down and asked me what I was going to do with my life.

It wasn’t as simple as that, of course. He was quite subtle about it. He drew me out by asking what my interests were, where I saw myself in 10 years, and other questions designed to discover where my passions lay.

Somehow, our discussion turned to politics. It was at that point that he surprised me by recounting almost verbatim a conversation we had a couple of years previously where I had complained about a course on the American revolution I took my senior year. The long forgotten professor took a decidedly deterministic view of that event and I spent a very long semester reading long forgotten Marxist treatises showing how the revolution was actually a counterrevolution by eastern merchants and the plantation class who were eager to see their debts to British bankers disappear – or some such nonsense.

We resolved nothing with that little talk but a few days later, he gave me a book that was to change my life; Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind. For him, a New Deal Democrat, it must have pained him to realize one of his offspring had eaten of the forbidden fruit and had skewed to the right in his politics. And the hell of it was, I didn’t even realize my transformation. I had always thought of myself as a liberal – largely as a result of my opposition to the Viet Nam war. But reading Kirk’s seminal work on conservatism, I recognized to my surprise that I had much in common with Mr. Kirk’s view of the state and society.

There followed something of an exploration – from Burke to Buckley to Strauss and Hayek, I delved into many different strains of conservative thought, realizing there were dichotomies but ultimately putting them aside believing some of the internal contradictions of conservatism – order versus liberty, tradition versus change – would eventually sort themselves out sometime in the future.

Well, the future is here and the internal contradictions of conservatism have generated cracks in not only the political coalition that animated an ideology but also the intellectual framework that has defined it for more than half a century.

I took some time in describing my own ideological journey because with conservatism at a crossroads, I am a firm believer in the idea that before you can fix something, you must go back to the beginning and retrace your steps to discover where you went astray. There are two examples in the last quarter century or so that illustrate that thought:

  • Reagan’s courting of the religious right in 1980. Reagan’s rhetoric in support of social conservatives never matched his actions in support of their agenda – an example followed by his successor George Bush #41. Not surprisingly, after a decade of lip service to their agenda, the social conservatives became resentful and sought to increase their influence in the Republican party, rightly thinking that only then would their concerns be met.
  • Pat Buchanan’s “Culture War” speech at the 1992 Republican convention. One can draw a direct line from Buchanan’s bombast to Mike Huckabee’s rise as a viable presidential candidate without deviating an inch. The rise of the social cons at the state and local level was a consequence of Buchanan’s run against Bush #41 so that by the time George Bush ran in 2000, the process was heavily influenced if not controlled by the religious right.

Herein lie the seeds of conservativism’s current dilemma; the idea that a decent society supports a just moral order coming into direct conflict with the need for simple, human liberty in order to allow for freedom of thought and action.

The various factions representing strains of conservative thought have started to come unglued as a result of this singular dichotomy – as basic to conservatism as breathing is to living. In the past, differences between social cons and other conservative factions were papered over or, more often, simply ignored. But the shock from being slaughtered in the 2006 mid-terms has brought the fractures into bas relief and the fight for the soul of the Republican party and hence, conservatism itself has been joined with a relish many thought impossible just 4 years ago.

Ross Douthat links to a liberal critique of this phenomenon written by Michael Tomasky, editor of the Guardian-America:

But the important question is not how the nominee will position himself next fall. Think, after all, about Bush’s talk of “compassionate conservatism” in 2000 and about how the national press fell for it. The important question is how he will govern should he win. And the generally ignored story of this race so far is that in truth, dramatic ideological change among the Republicans is highly unlikely. Despite Bush’s failures and the discrediting of conservative governance, there is every chance that the next Republican president, should the party’s nominee prevail next year, will be just as conservative as Bush has been—perhaps even more so.

How could this be? The explanation is fairly simple. It has little to do with the out-of-touch politicians and conservative voters Ponnuru and Lowry cite and reflects instead the central hard truth about the components of the Republican Party today. That is, the party is still in the hands of three main interests: neoconservatives; theo-conservatives, i.e., the groups of the religious right; and radical anti-taxers, clustered around such organizations as the Club for Growth and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. Each of these groups dominates party policy in its area of interest—the neocons in foreign policy, the theocons in social policy, and the anti-taxers on fiscal and regulatory issues.[2] Each has led the Bush administration to undertake a high-profile failure: the theocons orchestrated the disastrous Terri Schiavo crusade, which put off many moder-ate Americans; the radical anti-taxers pushed for the failed Social Security privatization initiative; and the neocons, of course, wanted to invade Iraq.

Three failures, and there are more like them. And yet, so far as the internal dynamics of the Republican Party are concerned, they have been failures without serious consequence, because there are no strong countervailing Republican forces to present an opposite view or argue a different set of policies and principles.

Tomasky leaves out a few important factions; libertarian conservatives and their cousins, the federalists. Nominally supportive of fiscal conservatives like Norquist and hawks on foreign policy (wary of neocons but equally disdainful of Scowcroft realists), the libertarian conservatives and federalists (recently described as “Leave me the hell alone” conservatives) are bunched on the internet and dominate the conservative blogosphere. They consider themselves the true heirs of the Reagan legacy.

Tomasky’s analysis is pretty shallow and his criticisms, as befitting an editor of The Guardian, are exaggerated (“radical” anti-taxers?), selective (support to invade Iraq was broad based among conservatives), and just plain wrong (“conservative governance” hasn’t been discredited because it hasn’t been tried) except for his denoting correctly the three strains of conservatism that run the the Republican party.

Ross Douthat responding to Tomasky:

It’s true that the current conservative intelligentsia, forged in the crucible of Ronald Reagan’s successes, is heavily invested in keeping the triple alliance intact – hence the Thompson bubble, the anti-Huckabee crusade, and the “rally round Romney” effect. And it’s true, as well, that if the Republican Party recovers its majority in the next election the alliance will be considerably strengthened. But such a recovery is unlikely, and already, in the wake of just a single midterm-election debacle, it’s obvious that the Norquistians and neocons and social conservatives aren’t inevitable allies – that many tax-cutters and foreign-policy hawks, for instance, would happily screw over their Christian-Right allies to nominate Rudy Giuliani; or that many social conservatives don’t give a tinker’s dam what the Club for Growth thinks about Mike Huckabee’s record. (So too with the neocon yearning for a McCain-Lieberman ticket, which would arguably represent a far more radical remaking of the GOP coalition than anything Chuck Hagel has to offer.)

The “movement” institutions, from the think tanks to talk radio, have resisted these fissiparous tendencies, and if Mitt Romney wins the nomination they’ll be able to claim a temporary victory. But if the GOP continues to suffer at the polls, in ‘08 and beyond, the (right-of) center can’t be expected to hold, and the result will be a struggle for power that’s likely to leave the conservative movement changed, considerably, from the way that Tomasky finds it today. Like most such struggles, this civil war is beginning as a battle of the books – Gerson vs. Frum; Sager vs. Sam’s Club, Norquist contra mundum – but it’s likely to end with political trench warfare, and the birth of a very different GOP.

Sing it, brother.

Matthew Yglesias concurs and offers a realistic scenario for the near future:

Alternatively, maybe Romney gets the nomination and Romney gets beaten pretty badly. Then maybe conservatives say he was done in by (a) flip-flopping, (b) anti-Mormon bias, (c) bad political headwinds and decide nothing really needs to be done. Then, the congressional GOP just realizes that the conservative movement is really more comfortable in a quasi-opposition role, sets about using the filibuster and the timidity of the remaining southern Democratic senators to make the country ungovernable, does well in the 2010 midterms, and everything just kind of keeps on keeping on. It could happen. One’s natural desire, as an observer of the political scene, is for something dramatic and interesting to happen. And sometimes something dramatic and interesting does happen. And it really might happen. The signs are there. But then again, it might not.

Yglesias is referring to Dr. Johnson’s dictum of how the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates the mind wonderfully. The very threat of the coalition’s break up before next November will force the factions to seek accommodation – save perhaps the hard liners like Dobson and Richard Viguerie who would most likely sit out the election rather than form a third party.

Kevin Sullivan:

Richard Viguerie–a pioneer in direct mail fundraising–was one of those young activists. He has warned and petitioned against Giuliani’s candidacy, recently telling the Concord Monitor that “he’s wrong on every single social issue,” and under the mayor’s stewardship, “the Republican Party will be unrecognizable.” And it would be, at least as far as the party’s base is concerned. The thought of a socially liberal adulterer, with a weak record on all of the hot button base issues, getting the nomination must startle Republicans like Viguerie.

Viguerie has been grousing for years – going all the way back to Reagan’s presidency - that the party leader was betraying conservative principles. Ironically, what he and Dobson and the rest of the social conservatives have done is make both conservatism and the Republican party unrecognizable from the party and movement that was built in the 1970’s and 80’s that stressed personal responsibility, individual liberty, and that most wonderful of all conservative attributes; prudence.

Reading Russell Kirk’s “10 Conservative Principles” makes us all see how far the social cons have taken the Republican party away from its core conservative beliefs. At the expense of personal freedom, of “variety,” and “restraints upon power and human passion,” the social cons have elevated “a secure moral order” and consecrated themselves to making it their business in enforcing it.

This has led to pushing social issues to the fore of the Republican party’s identity, a monumentally bad idea politically that cost the party in 2006 and will no doubt lead to ruin in 2008 if a candidate like Mike Huckabee is nominated. While the chances are slim of that happening, stranger things have occurred in politics.

But no matter who is nominated and elected in 2008, the fracturing of the conservative movement, already well underway, will remain a huge issue. While I wouldn’t expect a rethinking of basic conservative principle, when the dust settles it is possible that conservatism and the GOP will not be as joined at the hip as they are now – especially given the animus between many mainstream conservatives and the social cons. I laid down some thoughts on what a post-fractured conservative movement might need to think about:

For conservatism to survive and even thrive, a new paradigm must be realized that recognizes we live in a different world than the one inhabited by our ancestors and that many of the old verities we cherished are just no longer relevant to what America has become. For better or worse, the United States is changing – something it has always done and always will do. Without altering most of the core principles of conservatism, it should be possible to change with it, supplying common sense alternatives to liberal panaceas for everything from health care to concerns over climate change.

Obviously, there is no lack of ideas in this regard if you read the policy prescriptions appearing on the pages of Heritage, AEI, Cato, or other places where academics and policy wonks gather to supply these alternatives. But there seems to be a disconnect between the thinkers and the doers – politicians, pundits, and activists. Having read most of the Republican candidates stands on issues, outside of Fred Thompson’s detailed critique of entitlements and his ideas on a muscular kind of federalism, there isn’t much in the way of deep thoughts being generated in this campaign so far. In fact, there appears to be little in the way of original thinking at all; just a rehash or recycling of projects and programs that wouldn’t stand a chance of passage in Congress.

Now I am not saying that conservatives should compromise their principles to gain success in the legislature nor am I saying those principles should be abandoned in order to gain electoral victory. But there is a difference between having a vital conservative movement that shapes and informs government and one that has no relevancy whatsoever to modern America.

Clearly, applying conservative principles to governance should be the goal. And just as clearly, there is no lack of ideas on how to make that happen. The disconnect I speak of above arises from the cage that Republican candidates have been placed in by the various factions of conservatism that makes them slaves to an agenda that is out of date, out of touch, and after 2008, there’s a good chance that it will lead to Republicans being out of luck.

Breaking out of that cage will be difficult unless the party continues to lose at the polls. And part of that breaking free will be making the Reagan legacy a part of history and not a part of contemporary Republican orthodoxy. The world that Reagan helped remake is radically different than the one we inhabit today and yet, GOP candidates insist on invoking his name as if it is a talisman to be stroked and fondled, hoping that the magic will rub off on them. Reagan is gone and so is the world where his ideas resonated so strongly with the voters.

But Reagan’s principles remain with us. Free markets, free nations, and free men is just as powerful a tocsin today as it was a quarter century ago. The challenge is to remake a party and the conservative movement into a vessel by which new ideas about governing a 21st century industrialized democracy can be debated, adopted, and enacted. Without abandoning our core beliefs while redefining or perhaps re-imagining what those beliefs represent as a practical matter, conservatism could recharge itself and define a new relationship between the governed and the government.

But before reform comes the fall. And even if, as Yglesias believes is possible, the party and the movement are able to limp along for a few years with a cobbled together coalition, eventually the piper must be paid and the wages earned. It won’t be a quick or easy process. But it will happen nonetheless. And out of the bitterness and recriminations will emerge a different Republican party, animated by conservative principles and true to a legacy that has as its foundation a belief in individual liberty and personal responsibility.

By: Rick Moran at 1:41 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)