Right Wing Nut House



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Destination DeMint: Over a cliff.



Filed under: GOP Reform, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 10:44 am

When I was in grade school (St. Raymond, Mount Prospect, IL), there was a ritual that we looked forward to every Friday afternoon.

Along about two O’Clock, the nuns would herd us into the church so that the good priests (and they were good) could hear our confessions.

Now I don’t know how confession is done today in the Catholic church, having lapsed into first apostasy, then agnosticism, and finally atheism. But back then, you went into a closet sized little room with a wall separating you and the priest where you were supposed to spill the beans on all the sins you committed for the past week.

I should mention that if we were really lucky, confessions would last until three O’Clock which meant no more school for the day and an early start to the weekend. (In 8th grade, a few of us rowdies would make sure of this by spending 5 minutes listing our sins, thus assuring a glacial pace to the proceedings. One of the priests caught on and, although amused, asked us not to commit such sacrilege against the sacraments again.)

To be honest, I hated the whole idea of confession. I thought back then that it was one of those little tortures the Catholic Church invented to control their flock. The priest, after all, knew damn well who most of the penitents were - especially in my case since we lived 3 doors down from the rectory. What better way to control another than know their sins?

At any rate, the way I “confessed” was tell the priest stuff like “I sinned against the 2nd commandment 10 times, the 6th commandment 5 times, the 7th commandment twice…and I had impure thoughts 3 times!”

“Impure thoughts” at my age was making goo-eyes at Rene Russo and wishing I could see her with almost no clothes on while kissing her - on the lips! Our nuns (Sisters of Mercy) were very, very big on impure thoughts and constantly warned us how such could lead to hellfire and damnation.

It was all made up anyway. As a 14 year old, you probably have “impure thoughts” three times a minute much less in a week. And counting the transgressions against the second commandment of taking God’s name in vain would have required a room-sized computer to properly calculate.

Anyway, it’s a good thing some Republicans are on the ball when it comes to those in the party who might be thinking “impure thoughts” and thus transgress against the “principles” for which the GOP stands:

The battle among Republicans over what the party should stand for — and how much it should accommodate dissenting views on important issues — is probably going to move from the states to the Republican National Committee when it holds its winter meeting this January in Honolulu.

Republican leaders are circulating a resolution listing 10 positions Republican candidates should support to demonstrate that they “espouse conservative principles and public policies” that are in opposition to “Obama’s socialist agenda.” According to the resolution, any Republican candidate who broke with the party on three or more of these issues– in votes cast, public statements made or answering a questionnaire – would be penalized by being denied party funds or the party endorsement.

The proposed resolution was signed by 10 Republican national committee members and was distributed on Monday morning. They are asking for the resolution to be debated when Republicans gather for their winter meeting.

The resolution invokes Ronald Reagan, and noted that Mr. Reagan had said the Republican Party should be devoted to conservative principles but also be open to diverse views. President Reagan believed, the resolution notes, “that someone who agreed with him 8 out of 10 times was his friend, not his opponent.”

Looking over the list, I am happy to report that I support at least 8 and maybe 9 of the litmus test positions. (Long time readers might have some fun by guessing which one - or two - I can be considered “impure” for not supporting):

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run health care;

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

(4) We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.

A few quibbles; what is “effective action” against Iran and North Korea (#7)? I don’t support military action unless they are an imminent threat to us or Israel (or South Korea).

Also, “rationing and denial of health care” (#9) is already with us in private insurance company decisions. Is it the GOP position that it is ok for private industry to ration but not government? Tell that one to the old folks.

Of the rest, I think DOMA has got to go. Otherwise, I score well on this test and demand my copy receive a Gold Star and that I get an extra ration of chocolate milk at lunch.

But what’s the point? About 99% of Republicans support 8-10 of those litmus tests. Probably 90% support all 10. Instead of silly, stupid gimmicks, why not just come out and say, “Snowe, Collins, Crist, and the rest of you RINO’s get squat from us!” Why go through the rigmarole of pretending to weed out apostates by giving grown men and women a childish “test” of purity?

I will answer that by saying simply that we have a bunch of idiots in charge of the party. They - the elites - think they are being quite clever by trying to satisfy the base by showing that they are getting tough by denying funds to those who don’t quite measure up to “conservative principles.”

You want conservative principles” How about prudence? How “prudent” is it to brand the Obama administration “socialist?” What about “probity?” Integrity and honesty is lacking in a party that tolerates its members festooning bills with earmarks. What about “variety” which is a Kirkian principle of eschewing systems that promote a “deadening conformity?” What are these litmus tests but the very definition of conformity?

What about the principle “that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.” I see quite a bit of “permanence” in those 10 litmus tests, but no room for the American virtue of “change.” It’s the same old, same old in this stale repetition of talking points, not a reaffirmation of the viability of conservatism in American society.

Yes, deny funds to those who make a mockery of party principles and conservative ideas. This isn’t rocket science. Everybody knows who they are and party leaders are only making the GOP look ridiculous by making candidates act like 10 year olds, forcing this kind of conformity in the form of a “purity test” on them.

The nuns at St. Raymonds would no doubt have approved, however. Nothing they liked better than sniffing out “impure thoughts.”

Perhaps the next missive from national party leaders will contain the “penance” that must be performed before the transgressors get back in their good graces.

Five “Our Fathers” and whole recitation of the rosary ought to do the trick.



Filed under: Birthers, Blogging, GOP Reform, Government, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 10:54 am

I could have just as easily titled this piece “Ideologues vs. The Realists” or some other descriptive caption for what boils down to a debate now fully underway among conservatives about the best way back to power.

Are the ideologues in the movement correct? Is a lack of “passion” regarding opposition to the left, as well as a less than 100%, strict adherence to their idea of conservative “principles” responsible for the right’s slaughter at the polls in 2006 and 2008?

Or are the pragmatists correct that the demand for “purity” by the ideologues coupled with the prominence of a conspiracy mongering, angry, paranoid base has connected conservatism to an unsavory, and unelectable politics?

At stake, a battle for the soul of conservatism in America and perhaps even the preservation of republican virtues given the left’s ascendancy and their first real opportunity in 40 years to “remake” America in ways that are an anathema to the tenets of modern conservative thought.

In the midst of this fight, a book by Sam Tanenhaus called The Death of Conservatism has been published which has already added fuel to the fire. Tanenhaus’s thesis is that movement conservatism has undermined the Burkean roots of conservative philosophy and that rather than trying to preserve and “conserve” institutions, movement-cons, who he terms “revanchists,” seek to destroy that which has been carefully built up over centuries.

The book is based on a shorter essay Tanenhaus published in The New Republic (no longer available) that I wrote about in depth here. I found that the essay reflected some of my own beliefs about where conservatism had gone off the rails, but was seriously flawed in its analysis of what Tanenhaus believed were “excesses” of the movement.

In reviewing the book, Garry Wills pointed to the classic tension between Burkeans and the movement personified by one of the most intellectually productive relationships in American history; the friendship and mutual admiration society that existed between Whittaker Chambers and William Buckley:

Tanenhaus is a deep student of modern conservatives. He wrote a biography of Whittaker Chambers, a self-professed Beaconsfieldian (Disraeli was the Earl of Beaconsfield), and he has been working for some time on a biography of William F. Buckley Jr. This short book is a kind of bridge between his two great projects, and it fits his revanchist–Burkean paradigm. Chambers and Buckley, though friends, began at opposite ends of the “conservative” spectrum. Buckley, who admired Chambers’s witness against communism, tried with all his lures and charms to recruit him as an editor of National Review when it began in 1955. But Chambers thought Senator Joseph McCarthy, whom the magazine championed, would doom Republicans. Besides, he was loyal to his ally in the Hiss case, Richard Nixon, and to Nixon’s meal ticket Dwight Eisenhower, while the magazine opposed them both as impure compromisers. (In 1956, only one National Review editor, James Burnham, endorsed Eisenhower for reelection.)

But Buckley finally wore Chambers down—in 1957, with great misgivings, Chambers joined the magazine. Murray Kempton wrote that Chambers finally went to work for a boss he could respect—which was not saying too much, since “Chambers’s former employers happened to be Colonel Bykov of the Soviet Secret Police, the late Henry Luce, and John F.X. McGohey, ‘then United States Attorney’ for the Southern District of New York.”[2] Chambers soon had to withdraw from the magazine for health reasons, but he and Buckley stayed in constant communication, Chambers advising, Buckley deferential. Tanenhaus makes the case that Chambers finally converted Buckley from a revanchist to a Burkean. Kempton, who studied both men closely, doubts that Chambers’s advice ever really took: “Buckley worshiped and did not listen: the Chambers of his vision is a saint whose icon stands in a Church where his message is never read.”

So close, yet so far apart. What we should take away from that extraordinary exchange of ideas between two brilliant men is that it was done amicably, with great respect for each other, and the debate was carried out with the recognition that both were working toward a common goal.

I don’t see that being possible today. With the absolute refusal of the ideologues to abandon their purge of who they consider less than ideologically pure conservatives, and with the pragmatists fighting what amounts to a rear guard action to marginalize the crazies who are, if not embraced then certainly tolerated by the revanchists, there is no “common purpose” that could lead to any amicability or respect.

Indeed, the revanchists look with askance upon most attempts to criticize conservatism at all, believing that “intellectual elites” are simply playing into the hands of the enemy by taking fellow conservatives to task for their idiocy, or paranoia. Relatedly, any criticism of conservatism coming from the left is automatically dismissed - usually without even reading it - because that would be allowing your enemy to define you.

As for the former, the idea that honest criticism is rejected outright because we’re at war with the left reveals a sneering anti-intellectualism among the revanchists that flies in the face of conservatism’s most cherished and important virtue; a duty to the truth above and beyond loyalty to ideology.

And while I sympathize and agree to a certain extent about not allowing your political foe to totally define your philosophy, that shouldn’t preclude anyone from exposing themselves to ideas with which you may disagree or close one’s mind to looking at the world from a different angle.

Tanehaus is a man of the left (former editor of the Times Book Review section) but he has also immersed himself in the history and personalities of modern conservatism more than most. He is a sincere critic of the right, a thoughtful man who wants to engage in serious discussions about the issues he raises. And while there is precious little empiricism on which you can hang your hat in his writings, some of his analysis will ring true with students of history who have given some thought to what ails the right today.

When Tanenhaus points to the very un-Burkean beliefs of many movement-cons, he is questioning how these revanchists can square their conservatism with the more traditional school of thought represented by Buckley, Hayek, Kirk, Arnold, and others who believed that preserving society’s institutions was the right’s highest calling. A reverence for our past has morphed into a psuedo-reformist mantra that seeks to destroy rather than build upon, tear down instead of conserve. Hence, liberals should not be defeated, they must be annihilated, along with the Great Society, the New Deal, and other “socialist” ideas. Supporting anything less calls into question one’s “true conservative” credentials.

The recent efforts by Jon Henke and Patrick Ruffini to counter these destructive beliefs are instructive. Henke’s call for advertisers and the Republican party to boycott World Net Daily for their enthusiastic coverage and endorsement of the Birther nonsense (among other idiocies) and Ruffini’s defense of Jon, along with a general criticism of the revanchists that is both trenchant and on point:

As a fiscal and social conservative, I happen to think Jon is completely in the right here, both substantively and strategically. Don’t raise the canard that we ought to be attacking Democrats first. Conservatives are entirely within their rights to have public debates over who will publicly represent them, and who will be allowed to affiliate with the conservative movement.

The Birthers are the latest in a long line of paranoid conspiracy believers of the left and right who happen to attach themselves to notions that simply are not true. Descended from the 9/11 Truthers, the LaRouchies, the North American Union buffs, and way back when, the John Birch Society, the Birthers are hardly a new breed in American politics.

Each and every time they have appeared, mainstream conservatives from William F. Buckley to Ronald Reagan have risen to reject these influences — and I expect that will be the case once again here.

But there is another subtext that makes Jon’s appeal more urgent. As a pretty down-the-line conservative, I don’t believe I am alone in noting with disappointment the trivialization, excessive sloganeering, and pettiness that has overtaken the movement of late. In “The Joe the Plumberization of the GOP,” I argued that conservatives have grown too comfortable with wearing scorn as a badge of honor, content to play sarcastic second fiddle to the dominant culture of academia and Hollywood with second-rate knock-off institutions. A side effect of this has been a tendency to accept conspiracy nuts as a slightly cranky edge case within the broad continuum of conservatism, rather than as a threat to the movement itself.

In addition to “the trivialization, excessive sloganeering, and pettiness” exhibited by those in the movement, one might add the curious and debilitating attitude of equating thoughtfulness with “elitism.”

Stacy McCain, who can be brilliant when the mood strikes him, wrote this about Henke’s and Ruffini’s efforts at marginalizing the crazies:

Grassroots conservative activists are, by their very nature, not engaged in the political process as a career. They tend to be older, well-established in non-political occupations and less concerned about the Big Picture questions than in finding immediate, practical ways to oppose the menace of liberalism. The question one hears from the grassroots is not, “Whither conservatism?” but rather, “What can I do?”

The Tea Party movement — which will host a major rally in Washington next weekend — has given the grassroots something to do, so that joining en masse to voice their opposition to the Obama agenda, they are actively engaged in the political process.

However, grassroots activism has consequences. One of the consequences of a ressurgent conservative grassroots is that their concerns, beliefs and attitudes are sometimes not in sync with the concerns, beliefs and attitudes of smart young Republican activists like Patrick Ruffini.

Stacy, who later goes on to say that the Birthers “are diverting attention from more valid critiques of the Obama administration and its liberal policies. So they should be discouraged or ignored…” fails to see the Birthers as a symptom of a larger problem; movement-cons rejecting criticism - even of Birthers - as “elitist” and ascribing dissent from their closed, ideological worldview as the critic having insufficient attachment to conservative principles.

McCain doesn’t engage on quite that level but doesn’t mince words when it comes to taking down those he believes have “elitist” attitudes toward the movement (”rubes”). And while he makes some valid points about “careerism” and its deleterious impact on what passes for “acceptable discourse,” methinks he paints with too broad a brush at times. The Ruffini-Henke critique is hardly born out of a desire to advance or augment those two gentlemen’s standing with other conservatives or the Republican party but rather - and I think this fairly obvious - the practical, and pragmatic calculation that we can’t get there from here. Changes are in order so that the public face of conservatism has a smile, rather than a snarl, and promoting the idea that one can vigorously oppose Obama without descending into the fever swamps of conspiracy and hate.

The road back to political power and intellectual relevance for the right will not be found in the rantings of Birthers, the false accusations of apostasy directed against conservative critics, a dogmatic and ideological approach to defining principles, nor an unrealistic and unattainable political agenda.

Nor should we count on the self destruction of the opposition which, at this point, seems well underway. What we do when we achieve power is as important as how we get there. For that, Jon Henke, Patrick Ruffinini, and others like them should be heard out and their call for a return to reason heeded.



Filed under: Blogging, CPAC Conference, GOP Reform, Media, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 2:18 pm

Michael Moynihan has a post up at Reason’s Hit and Run that identifies at least one conservative “leader” who isn’t a talk radio host, or some other pop conservative polemicist.

After excoriating Republicans for spending like Dutch social democrats (and elevating halfwits to important leadership positions), I was asked recently by a radio host to name a Republican qualified to be “leader of the party.” The pickings are slim, but there are a few exceptionally bright, market-oriented contenders out there. So I plugged, with appropriate obsequiousness, the always impressive Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. When I sat down with Ryan last month to discuss Obama’s education policy, he quoted Hayek, talked at length about handing out Rand books to staffers, and discussed his previous life as an economic analyst. Such conversations should be de rigueur with members of the House Budget Committee, but I suspect Ryan is the only one that could name an Austrian economist.

Further proof that the Republican Party needs more Paul Ryans: Yesterday, he beat up on MSNBC host Carlos Watson and The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel regarding the “public option” and why Congress shouldn’t pass bills it hasn’t read. Imagine such a performance from, say, Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann:

Indeed, Ryan dispatches vanden Heuval with the greatest of ease:

Prior to hearing the Wisconsin congressman at CPAC, I didn’t know much about the guy. Michael Barone notes in The Almanac of American Politics that Ryan is pretty much a mainstream Republican, although more of a foreign policy centrist. He is a reliable conservative on fiscal matters and toes a pretty conservative line on social issues.

But this fellow is a thinker - a rarity among all politicians and especially among many legislators who call themselves conservatives today.

An example from his CPAC speech:

Our greatest leaders - from Lincoln to Reagan - succeeded because they anchored conservative thinking and policies in the founding principles of our nation. They did so not because of mere “history” or “tradition” - but because they understood the need to revitalize the unchanging truths that inspired the birth of America.

Let those truths inspire us again! Let them re-ignite the sparks of hope for a new generation of Americans who love freedom!

Without enduring principles we get “change” but no direction.

Guided by the founding principles we can direct “change” toward the ends that have made America the envy of the world: Individual freedom … growing prosperity … and equal rights secured by constitutional self-government.

America’s Founders did not discover ideas no one ever heard of. Their great achievement was to build a constitution of equality and liberty upon a foundation of self-evident truths as old as the beginning of mankind and as new as tomorrow.

What are those truths?

First is that the “laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” are the only sure touchstone of right and wrong … for individuals as well as societies.

A second is that all human beings are created with equal natural rights - the rights to live … to be free … to acquire property - and other means to fulfill our God-given potential for happiness.

Third, and most important for conservatives: The great purpose of government is to secure these natural rights: protecting every person’s life, liberty, and freedom to pursue happiness is the great and only mission of a government true to our founding.

There are very few congressmen who speak so eloquently of First Principles. Now, he frames those principles in a quasi-religious context, which is acceptable to me as long as it goes to fundamental truths espoused by the Founders who, like all natural rights supporters at the time, believed man was created by God and that these rights were simply self-evident manifestations of God’s desires.

His CPAC speech was necessarily more political than philosphical. But read this speech he gave at a Hudson Institute symposium on “Making Conservatism Credible Again:”

“Conservatism” at its best, defends the standards and qualities which define “people of character.” The original source for these standards is the Western tradition of civilization, rooted in reason and faith, stretching back thousands of years. The tradition as a whole affirms the high dignity, rights, and obligations of the individual human person. One of the glories of Western civilization was to break out of the mythological past which saw only groups and classes, ranked and organized by collectivist governments. Before the Western tradition began in ancient Israel and classical Greece, the individual person as a subject of rights was simply unknown.

Nowhere was the Western tradition epitomized more memorably than in our Declaration of Independence. By “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” all human beings are created equal, not in height, or skills, or knowledge, or color, or other nonessentials, but equal in certain inalienable rights – to live, to be free, and to fulfill their best individual potential, including the right to the “material” such as property needed to do this. Each individual is unique and possesses rights and dignity. There are no group or collective rights in the Declaration. Nor does basic human equality imply “equal result.” It means “equal opportunity”: every person has a right not to be prevented from pursuing happiness, from developing his or her potential. The results should differ from one to another because “justice” or “fairness” is giving each individual what each has earned or merited. That’s what fairness is.

The great conservative purpose of government is to secure these natural rights under popular consent. Protecting every person’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness should be the great and only mission of legitimate government.

After a stirring defense of the Adam Smith “invisible hand,” Ryan make a thoughtful attempt to unite libertarian and social conservatives by pointing to common ground:

A “libertarian” who wants limited government should embrace the means to his freedom: thriving mediating institutions that create the moral preconditions for economic markets and choice. A “social issues” conservative with a zeal for righteousness should insist on a free market economy to supply the material needs for families, schools, and churches that inspire moral and spiritual life. In a nutshell, the notion of separating the social from the economic issues is a false choice. They stem from the same root.

Take that Huckabee and all of you “crunchy cons.”

I tried to think of some other elected conservative who is making this kind of honest attempt to bring the factions back together and came up empty. Nor can I think of too many conservative legislators who quote Hayek, Mises, and Adam Smith, while speaking the language of social conservatives and espousing a decidedly libertarian economic viewpoint.

But he voted for TARP I which makes him poison to many in the base of the Republican party. I was disappointed so many conservatives voted for the execrable legislation except we have to understand the context. Everyone was being told that if this money didn’t get to the banks right away, there would be a financial meltdown that could lead to a panic which would plunge us into a worldwide, catastrophic depression. They were being told this by a president and Treasury secretary of their own party. They had no clue that the money would be used for everything but buying up those bad assets that were weighing down the balance sheets of the big banks. In my book, they were acting as responsible lawmakers.

For that reason, I am inclined to cut Ryan and others some slack for their vote on TARP I. And his subsequent statements and actions have shown Ryan to be an innovative and creative legislator. His alternative budget would have cut taxes to stimulate the economy the right way and done it in a revenue neutral manner. Just think where we’d be today if his plan had been followed.

I’m not the first to proclaim Ryan a future conservative leader. But I think he needs more exposure than what he’s been getting from conservatives on the internet as well as the pop-conservatives on talk radio. Elevating his stature would seem to be a smart thing to do given the man’s base intelligence and good ideas on a variety of public concerns. His criticisms of Obama have been reasonable, fact based, and without the hyperbole associated with more rabid conservatives in Congress. That too, is a plus in my book.

At age 39, he will be on the national stage for a long time to come. He may or may not run for higher office some day. But he will be an important voice for conservatives regardless of where his political career takes him.



Filed under: Blogging, GOP Reform, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 11:04 am

Salon’s “Dear Abbey” for hilariously confused and clueless lefties who ask questions of Glenallen Walken about conservatism - “Dear Wingnut” - is one of the most entertaining things about that publication. The childlike and simple minded questions asked by liberals of the author (and the comment threads his column generates) remind me of a kid asking his dad, “Why is the sky blue?” or maybe “How many stars are there, daddy?”

This week’s entry is typical:

Ronald Reagan left office 20 years ago and died five years ago. When are you conservatives finally going to move on?

Walken patiently tried to explain that Reagan’s convictions and principles were timeless and that “moving on” would be impossible because the Gipper showed conservatives how to win:

Part of that is because Reagan was, to borrow a phrase from Lady Margaret Thatcher, “a conviction politician.” He operated out of a set of deeply held beliefs that governed his view of the world, of morality and the presidency. Unlike Nixon or Clinton, Reagan’s concerns about public opinion were addressed in the way he dealt with issues and crises, not whether he dealt with them at all.

Ronald Reagan came into office in 1980 promising to do three things: 1) Restore America’s national pride; 2) Revive an economy crippled by stagflation; and 3) Win the Cold War. He did all three even though, thanks to Tip O’Neill and friends, he had one hand held behind his back. At the same time he cruised to re-election in 1984 with the largest Electoral College majority in history, winning 49 states while losing only the District of Columbia and, by 7,000 votes, his Democratic opponent’s home state of Minnesota. That is a feat that may never be matched.


Most importantly, it was Reagan’s achievement of building or at least maintaining a successful political coalition composed of social conservatives, libertarian-leaning voters concerned about the economy and the size of government, moderate, “birthright” Republicans, working class Democrats and voters worried about foreign policy issues that make him the enduring standard against which the party and conservatives measure their success today. The ongoing debate between many national Republican leaders and pretenders over what the party should now stand for, following back-to-back routs in 2006 and 2008 — is really a discussion of how best to replicate the Reagan model of campaigning and governance.

Walken also points out that asking the GOP to abandon Reagan would be like asking the Democrats to abandon FDR - neither party can escape the shadow cast by those two giants.

Walken has it about right although I wonder how might one replicate Reagan’s “model of campaigning and governance.” George Bush tried to emulate Reagan’s style of White House management to some extent by giving his underlings and cabinet secretaries enormous leeway in accomplishing broad goals set out by the president. It worked quite well in Reagan’s first term, much less so in the second due largely to poor choices in picking personnel. Bush had even less success, I think, due to his incuriosity about so many things. Reagan was known to grill his people about policy while Bush was, from what we know, much too trusting of his staff.

Also with regard to Reagan’s governance, there is one thing that the base never tires of pointing out to me; that Reagan stood on his principles. This is true - as far as it went. Reagan was also a master compromiser who was a lot less ideological than his critics ever gave him credit. According to many conservatives today, compromising with the Democrats is is worse than making a deal with the devil. Those who work with the other side are RINO’s or misguided fools and have no principles. They point to Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Medicare drug programs as the result of consorting with the enemy. Reagan himself was snookered once or twice by Speaker Tip O’Neil. But on the really big issues, where the Gipper needed Democratic votes to pass his agenda, both Reagan and Bush compromised in order to realize success.

I might mention that so far, I have yet to see any competence by President Obama in governance. The breathtaking reversals, the piss poor communications strategies, the laughably incompetent congressional liasoning, and the fact that most of his administration does not seem to be on the same page on many issues reveal a White House in turmoil with Obama uninterested in anything but campaigning for his agenda. If it had been a Republican administration, the press would have declared it a failure already.

This incompetence is manifested by the fact that nothing - I repeat, nothing - is getting done in Congress with all of his major initiatives either bottled up (health insurance) or dead in the water (EFCA, and TARP II). Everything that is happening in the Obama administration is the result of executive fiat. Anything that needs congressional approval is nowhere to be seen despite the fact that he has massive, overwhelming majorities in both chambers.

And as far as using the Reagan campaign “model,” as a path to victory for Republicans, that would really be sweet - if there was another Reagan hanging around somewhere. Unfortunately, such world-historical figures saunter by only once every several generations. And being able to excite the base (Palin, Huckabee) does not always translate into being able to win over a majority of voters.

But Walken does not address something that I feel many conservatives insist is also a lesson that should be culled from the Reagan playbook; that his agenda should be grafted on to a modern political campaign and that this is the key to victory.

The mantra of tax cuts, increased defense spending, and “small government” (whatever the hell that means) is repeated by many conservatives so often that it almost seems they think that sheer repetition will make it so - sort of like clicking your heels together 3 times and mouthing “I want to go home” except we ain’t in Kansas anymore.

With nearly 50 million families not paying any taxes at all and a budget deficit that will be close to a trillion or more dollars for the foreseeable future, it seems to me that someone who calls themselves a fiscal conservative might want to walk very quietly when talking about tax cuts - unless we are still in a bad recession in 2010 and they are designed to stimulate the economy in which case they will be targeted and perhaps even temporary.

As far as defense spending, that’s a subject that deserves its own post but suffice it to say, we’re already spending half a trillion - much of it buying weapons to fight the Soviets in the cold war. Temporary increases to make up for losses from the wars are needed but we have really got to get serious about changing our thinking on defense spending to address the needs of a modern, 21st century military.

My feelings about running on a “small government” platform have been made known on this site in numerous posts but a summary would be, I am 100% for that concept except no one who spouts about it ever gets around to truly, realistically defining it. It’s one thing to get rid of the Department of Education. But is it the position of small government conservatives that the hundreds of programs administered by the Department of Education are a waste of money and should all be terminated?

I am constantly amused by conservatives who say we should lop off one department of the federal government or another without realizing that one man’s “waste of money” is another’s lifeblood. And the reason many of these programs have been federalized is that the states won’t or can’t deal with the problems of special education and the like. You can’t just yank $62 billion from education spending and believe kids, teachers, and schools wouldn’t be catastrophically affected.

Does that mean we can’t take a very sharp scalpel and start cutting? Absolutely not. Reducing the size and scope of government should be any conservative administration’s top priority. But most conservatives are revanchists on the subject of cutting government, wishing to repeal the Great Society and even the New Deal in order to realize some mythical America where everyone is self reliant and if you needed help, you went to your church or your family. Such nonsensical thinking ignores the reality of living in a 21st century industrialized democracy of 300 million people.

So yes, adopt Reagan’s principles which are timeless artifacts of conservative thinking. Adopt his optimism about the future, his belief in the wisdom of crowds, his determination to overcome obstacles to achieve goals. But beyond that, there is not much the Gipper can teach us about society today that would help Republicans back up the ladder.



Filed under: GOP Reform, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 9:29 am

I’m absolutely convinced Newt Gingrich would love to be president. But every time he starts making noises like a candidate, he seems to back off as if remembering his sky high negatives and problematic personal life.

This is a shame because if ever we needed an idea man in the White House - someone who could grasp the essentials of a problem and offer a solution (some more viable than others), it is the former speaker, public intellectual, and I believe, the primary carrier of the Reagan legacy today.

Listening to Gingrich speak is a treat for the mind and his columns are equally thought provoking. His latest points up something that many in the MSM and pundit class are ignoring; that the vote in California rejecting tax increases was, at bottom, a vote against the political establishment and a victory for the grass roots:

This vote is the second great signal that the American people are getting fed up with corrupt politicians, arrogant bureaucrats, greedy interests and incompetent, destructive government.

The elites ridiculed or ignored the first harbinger of rebellion, the recent tea parties. While it will be harder to ignore this massive anti-tax, anti-spending vote, they will attempt to do just that.

Voters in our largest state spoke unambiguously, but politicians and lobbyists in Sacramento are ignoring or rejecting the voters’ will, just as they are in Albany and Trenton. The states with huge government machines have basically moved beyond the control of the people. They have become castles of corruption, favoritism and wastefulness. These state governments are run by lobbyists for the various unions through bureaucracies seeking to impose the values of a militant left. Elections have become so rigged by big money and clever incumbents that the process of self-government is threatened.

Sacramento politicians will now reject the voters’ call for lower taxes and less spending and embrace the union-lobbyist-bureaucrat machine that is running California into the ground, crippling its economy and cheating residents. This model of high-tax, big-spending inefficiency has already driven thousands of successful Californians out of the state (taking with them an estimated $11 billion in annual tax revenue). The exodus will continue.

Gingrich points out that this anti-establishment mood is exactly what powered Ronald Reagan into office as his victory followed closely on the heels of the 1978 anti-property tax revolt in California that then swept the country.

And Newt has some choice words for the Democratic party and their bevy of unions, interest groups, and bureaucrats who are pushing states like California and New York into bankruptcy:

This system of ruining communities on behalf of interest groups first appeared in Detroit. Bad government, bad politicians and bad policies drove a city that had, in 1950, the highest per capita income of any large American city to No. 62 in per capita income as of 2007. The population has declined from 1.8 million to fewer than 950,000. Recently, 1,800 homes were sold for under $10,000 each. The human cost of bad politics and bad government in Detroit is staggering.

Now President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid want to impose on the nation this style of politics in which interest groups, politicians and bureaucracies dominate. Look at their record: a $787 billion stimulus no elected official had read, 8,000 earmarks, an Environmental Protection Agency plan to control the economy through carbon regulations, the government threatening retaliation against those who would protect their property rights against theft in the Chrysler bailout — again and again, this team is moving toward a government that owns the country rather than a government that is owned by the people.

Watch Sacramento politicians and interest groups work to overrule the people of California. Watch Albany politicians and interest groups continue to undermine the economy of New York. Watch the arrogance of the elites in Washington as they impose their costs and special deals on the American people.

Then look again at the 62 percent-plus majority in California in favor of smaller government and lower taxes.

In the great tradition of political movements rising against arrogant, corrupt elites, there will soon be a party of people rooting out the party of government. This party may be Republican; it may be Democratic; in some states it may be a third party. The politicians have been warned.

I find it interesting that Gingrich doesn’t play any favorites when it comes to bashing the establishment. Clearly, a GOP governor in California, not to mention Pataki’s terms in New York (which differs from Paterson’s reign only in the fact that George had an “R” after his name) matters little in his broad criticism that the political elites from both parties are dragging this nation down.

On my radio show the other night, Stacey McCain talked about  shifting the debate in the Republican party from moderate vs. conservative to elites vs. the grass roots. There, he said, is the real divide. The elites are ignoring the very people who elect them by promulgating policies that go against the principles and beliefs held by the base. In this, I somewhat agreed, pointing out that most politicians are forced to show at least some pragmatism or they would be voted out of office. Stacey countered that this doesn’t excuse their abandonment of small government, fiscally responsible policies that would mirror the desires of their constituents.

And that may be the key to bringing factions together. Washington and statehouse elites must find a way to compromise on issues without abandoning what should be their core beliefs. I have said many times that this would require give on the part of the base in that “small government,” while a desirable goal, is quantified in different ways, in different areas of the country. At the same time, elites have to recognize this populist feeling for what it is; a true demonstration of how the base feels about the direction that the elites are leading the country.

Gingrich strongly supports the tea party movement and ties it in with the California vote, citing these twin protests as evidence there may be a groundswell of anti-government sentiment waiting to be tapped.

Is he the politician to do it and by doing so, ride that wave all the way to the Oval Office? As for the former, I have no doubt. But if he runs, he will reopen old wounds as well as bare his private life which at times has been pretty sordid. Moreso than Clinton’s? No, but what does that matter when he will have the MSM gunning for him in ways they never went after Clinton.

All of this I’m sure he is taking into account as he ponders his future while directing his intellect and energies toward fighting Obama and his ruinous policies. In the end, he may find that he can be more effective outside the political arena than in it.



Filed under: GOP Reform, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 10:06 am

True to my newly minted oath to report only good news about the Republican party, I am pleased to tell you that the popularity of the GOP is the highest its been - since yesterday:

The decline in Republican Party affiliation among Americans in recent years is well documented, but a Gallup analysis now shows that this movement away from the GOP has occurred among nearly every major demographic subgroup. Since the first year of George W. Bush’s presidency in 2001, the Republican Party has maintained its support only among frequent churchgoers, with conservatives and senior citizens showing minimal decline.

Hooray! We are now officially the old, white, male, southern, protestant party! Well, that might be a little optimistic.

Here’s a handy map of state party ID from a Gallup poll taken back in January:


Those three little red blotches look pretty lonely, don’t they? And my, my, will you just look at all that blue! Reminds me of spring and Robin’s eggs.

Of course, that map doesn’t tell the whole story. Like, how far the GOP has collapsed in party ID since 2001:


My question is where are all the conservatives hiding? I mean, according to the current logic being propounded by a lot of smart people, the key to a GOP comeback is to run candidates that the base finds acceptable. (If they can find any. Their ever narrowing definition of “conservative” and vastly expanded definition of “RINO” would make finding enough candidates to fulfill that mandate an exercise in futility.)

Then, people will come flocking back to the GOP like geese returning from their winter quarters in Tijuana. Those invisible northeastern Republicans will take off their magic cloaks and show up at the polls to vote for “true” conservatives. Those midwestern conservative farmers who buried themselves in the rich loam of the prairie will dig themselves out and rush to the polls in order to cast their ballot for “real” candidates from the right.

And all those college graduates and holders of secondary degrees will come out of their coma and realize what they’ve been missing in life; voting for a “genuine” conservative.

Of course, if all those candidates were, by some quirk of fate or turn of bad luck, lose their elections it would force “real” conservatives back to the drawing board where they no doubt will come up with the brilliant idea that the reason for the defeat was that those candidates just weren’t “conservative enough” which will require an even narrower definition of who can wear the non-union label of “true” conservative.

Eventually, there will be so many litmus tests for who can call themselves a conservative that the base will start eying even Rush Limbaugh with suspicion. Do real conservatives smoke cigars? And what about all those divorces? I don’t know any true conservatives who have ever been addicted to anything.

The point is simple, my friends. There aren’t enough “true blue” conservatives in the country who would vote for your idealized, highly (and rigidly) ideological conservative candidate to win many elections outside of the old south and the Goldwater west. Stacey McCain makes sense here but I don’t think even he grasps the difficulty of creating a coalition where membership is so exclusive that running candidates that appeal to only one segment of the group will lead to failure:

This is something that the Nutroots figured out in 2004: If the Democratic Party’s liberal base were going to sit around passively while the out-of-touch party elite and the “expert” consultant class kept “reaching across the aisle” (and predictably losing) then they were on the superhighway to political irrelevance.

Nothing succeeds like success, and nothing fails like failure. A political party that is disloyal and disrespectful toward its core constituents, as the GOP was during the Bush/Mehlman era, will not attract new adherents. Who wants to sign up to be treated like a doormat?

The Bush-era GOP believed that its base would be satisfied with superficial gestures (e.g., the Terri Schiavo drama) and ignore the party leadership’s pursuit of policies (e.g., McCain-Feingold, No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D) which were directly at odds with the party’s fundamental principles.

I don’t recall national Democrats “reaching across the aisle” at any time in the last 25 years. And the liberal party picked up 50+ seats in the House and 10 senate seats in the last two elections not by running Ned Lamont type candidates but rather Heath Shuler kind of Democrats who are strong 2nd amendment advocates, oppose gay marriage, favor tight controls on spending, and are business friendly. While some of the base grumbled, the netroots largely got behind the effort to find attractive, more moderate candidates to defeat conservative Republicans.

If the national Democrats had listened to their base, they would still be in the minority. As it is, the lure of power convinced activists like Kos and others that they should swallow some of their opposition to the Blue Dogs and embrace Dean’s 50 state strategy.

Stacey knows all this which is why I am puzzled about why he is insisting that more pragmatic candidates are not “true” to GOP principles (which doesn’t include getting the federal government to intervene in the Schiavo matter) and should be, if not drummed out of the party, then shunned as candidates not worthy of support. (I exclude Crist from this criticism because of the dishonesty of the NRSCC and Crist’s own chameleon-like political nature.)

So the base should support small government conservatives? Absolutely yes.

But how small?

And low tax, low spending conservatives? Yes please.

But what level of spending is “low?” And can taxes be so low that they cause the deficit to soar and damage the economy?

Stacey believes this is more a fight between the “elites” (who are apparently mostly RINO’s) and conservatives in the hinterlands who, it seems to me, view anyone who isn’t 100% at war with Democrats with a jaundiced eye. They chalk up such cooperation and nice talk to the idea that the elites have liberal friends and don’t want to be unpopular at DC or New York cocktail parties. This presupposes that the “elites” have no principles whatsoever and are shameless self promoters who want nothing more than to exercise power.

No doubt there are some GOP leaders who fit that bill. But to use a recent example, how about Jon Huntsman in Utah? I made a stink yesterday that many who consider themselves true conservatives were tarring Huntsman as a RINO despite the fact that his approval ratings in the most conservative Republican state in the Union is in the 80’s and he proved himself every bit the tax cutting, spending hawk, government shrinking conservative that the base loves.

However, Huntsman committed the sin of pragmatism by not only taking money from the Stim bill but actually saying nice things about the president in the bargain. He has also mentioned that perhaps less emphasis should be placed on social issues - not that they should disappear which some numskull social cons believe he said (If abortion and gay marriage can’t be front and center as national GOP issues, there appears to be a large minority of the base who believe that this would be “abandoning” conservative principles). “Less emphasis” means exactly that and no more. And yet, the litmus testers take that as a sign of apostasy.

Building a winning coalition means allowing more than those ideologically attuned to the positions on issues advanced by the base. As it stands now - and the base talks a good game about being “inclusive” but when push comes to shove, they do both in order to make people who don’t think like they do disappear - the only acceptable candidates who would receive the “Good Conservative Seal of Approval” are just as ideological, just as rigid and uncompromising on everything (not just principles) as the base.

And that’s the reason the GOP is in such a bad odor. Not because the majority of Americans agree with GOP pragmatists on the issues. They do. But because conservatism is seen as too rigid, too ideological, too white, too southern, too Christian, and too old.

Change that perception and the party’s fortunes will rise.



Filed under: GOP Reform, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 11:21 am

Ideological definitions on the right are fluctuating so wildly lately I am almost afraid to see where I am being pegged today. Having been drummed out of the party for my suspect committment to Obama hatred as well as my lack of enthusiasm for Rush worship, it has become something of an entertainment to discover where my critics are placing me on the ideological spectrum at any given point in time. It really doesn’t matter, I suppose, because the spite generated in my direction is usually illogical and not based on what I write or think but rather what some nitwit divines of my intent. Some of them need to undergo a high colonic and get rid of all that constipated spite welling up in their bowels else they will explode and make a smelly mess - something they are quite adept at doing without the benefit of colon cleansing.

Scatological humor aside, I am constantly amazed at the shifting definitions of who or what is a “good conservative” from people who themselves haven’t a clue of first principles and are especially ignorant of politics and governing. When you hit your knees tonight, you may thank God that none of these jamokes were present at the founding. Can you picture some of these purists at the Constitutional Convention? Holy Jesus, we’d still be operating under the Articles of Confederation - or worse.

“No compromise with that reprobate Hamilton, by God! And tell Madison he’s nothing but a squishy FINO (Federalist in Name Only)! How dare they compromise with those lickspittles from New Jersey to reach an agreement. Why do they always ignore what the Federalist base wants? They’re nothing but a bunch of elitists (Note: They were.). Not one red cent to elect any of them until they put up true Federalists for office.”

My broadly exaggerated point is that there would have been no Constitution without compromising closely held beliefs on the part of both sides. In fact, there is no governance without compromise as the Democrats are amply demonstrating these days in spades. The GOP may be the party of “no,” but that is only because none of their concerns about legislation are being taken into consideration. And, quite rightly, some issues cut so deeply as far as conservative principles are concerned that no compromise is possible. But on issues like health insurance and climate change, Republicans don’t even have a dog in the hunt to recommend changes that would both address the problems and be true to conservative principles. And that goes for legislation likely to be addressed down the line on education, trade, basic research, and social programs.

But these issues won’t be addressed by Republicans because it is believed that anyone who tries to cooperate with the Democrats gets nothing but the back of their hand and besides, those aren’t “conservative” issues anyway. No self respecting man of the right thinks about education in any way except by shouting at the top of their voice “Vouchers! Vouchers! Vouchers!” This mindless adherence to shallowness and closed minded arrogance leaves the political impression that Republicans don’t care about the concerns of ordinary voters - the overwhelming majority of whom are not as conservative as they are and are worried about their families and their jobs.

Case in point is the celebration by some conservatives that Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is eschewing a run for president in 2012 by accepting President Obama’s invitation to serve as Ambassador to China.

Utah, if you are not familiar with the state, is the most Republican outpost in the nation, regularly racking up 65-70% majorities for GOP candidates in national races. Needless to say, no squishes need apply if you are going to run for statewide office in Utah.

But apparently, Huntsman just isn’t conservative enough for some on the right - especially those who have taken on the job of policing the Republican party and trying to marginalize or, if possible, destroy those they consider insufficiently wild eyed and committed to the “cause.”

To refer to Huntsman as anything but a conservative is an indication of just how far right conservative activists have lurched since the election. It’s as if the defeat at the hands of a radical liberal has driven the base mad and any deviation from their extraordinarily narrow definition of “conservative” is cause to cast the luckless perpetrator into the outer darkness.

Incredibly, many in the base have referred to Huntsman as a RINO. The governor of Utah - the most socially conservative state in the nation - has been branded an apostate because…well, he accepted stimulus monies from the federal government for one. And he supports civil unions for gays. And he has doubts that climate change is a crock. And most egregiously, he thinks that the GOP should stop pushing social issues front and center in every election. He doesn’t support gay marriage or abortion. His values are as right wing as any conservative’s outside of very right wing Utah.

Other than that, the guy is more conservative than Reagan (he’s a tiger as a tax cutter and spending hawk not to mention an innovator in shrinking the size of state government). But being a governor in a severe financial bind that threatens to disable government services in his state, he can’t afford to posture like House GOP members and make the easy call (easy politically) and refuse the monies. So he was grateful for the cash and despite his record and conservative bona fides, his pragmatism gets him called a RINO by many who obviously don’t even know what a conservative is if they think Huntsman isn’t good enough. (My guess is he is conservative enough for about 90% of the country - maybe more.)

And yet, here’s some reaction from the conservative base to his being named Ambassador to China and the fact that the job will cost him a shot in 2012:

With all the RINOs in the Republican Party, it’s good to see whenever one of them bails. Latest is Utah Governor Huntsman who’s takin the ambassadorship to China:

That’s why I’d prefer Obama to “take out” all the RINOs. If the ony people left are true conservatives–in the same genre as Ronald Reagan–then Obama may yet go the way of “Jimmy” Carter–out in 1 term.

Oba-mao shuttles another rino into a post where he can dictate to him. Another rino turns his back on the USA for perceived self-interest.

Governor Jon Huntsman, RINO-Utah, who earlier this year was introduced to South Carolina Republican leaders at a dinner hosted by Attorney General Henry McMaster, has won praise from the leading homosexual advocacy group, Human Rights Campaign, for his support of civil unions. The liberal, Mormon Governor, who is expected to be a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, is a close associate of John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

Lest ye think that this is not a representative sample of what the base thinks of Huntsman, I suggest you simply Google up “Jon Huntsman RINO” and tell me if that belief isn’t widespread.

This is nuts. I know that there are many in the base who do not agree with that assessment but when so many are so quick to condemn a conservative for…what? Being a responsible governor? Believing that when Americans say they are sick of the devisiveness that social issues bring to the fore that a politician should listen to them? Having a different opion about gays than many in the base?

The battle is not between conservatives and moderates but between ideologues and pragmatists. When I am told I am not a good conservative because I think waterboarding is torture, one has to marvel at the mind that posits that notion. Since when does a conservative litmus test rest on whether one believes that a strict definition of the law should be applied in torture cases? Or is it just that you can’t be a good conservative unless you believe that inflicting pain on another human being is more than alright, that you also must believe they deserve worse?

Can you be a good conservative and not be a Christian? To many, no. Can you be a good conservative and believe in a government that must function in a 21st century industrialized democracy of 300 milion people and not some pie in the sky, radical “small government” paradise that no one can precisely define? Can you be a good conservative and believe that there’s more to environmental protection than opposing climate change, condemning the EPA’s very existence, and believing that environmental legislation and regulations should be written by business interests?

I could go on and on. The point being, there are conservative alternatives to liberal overreach on every issue congress will address. But as I mentioned earlier, the conservativebase doesn’t even want to make an effort to address the issues because even thinking about them is verboten. It makes you a RINO, or a “moderate,” or a “centrist,” if you see government as a sometime solution to problems and that Washington has a role to play in many areas that the states have either abrogated responsibility or refuse to address.

This attitude is so pronounced on the right that by the time these folks are done, the Republican party will truly be so insignificant that we will be 50 years trying to make our way back:

Too often, labeling one’s self as “centrist” is just the moral shorthand of saying, “I don’t care.” When asked about abortion, candidate Obama stated that questions about the beginning of life were above his pay grade. Translation: “I don’t care.”

I’m not calling Obama a centrist, he’s clearly not, but centrist do share with him a lack of moral conviction. Centrists avoid the hard work of forming opinions, preferring to let the “cool kids” tell them what they believe. Back to the subject of abortion, centrists will often say that they are personally opposed to it, but they are just okey dokey with other people killing babies. Translation: “If I answer, they’ll make me sit at the dork’s table in the cafeteria.”

If centrists have any credo at all it is, “let’s sit back and see how it all shakes out.” RS McCain points out more clearly than I ever could why cozying up to centrists is a loser’s game. Broken down, you can’t shape opinion by relying on people who have no interest in holding an opinion.

I debunked this nonsense here. But the ignorance is so ingrained that I fear equating pragmatism with unprincipled politics will be part of rote conservative dogma for the foreseeable future. Presently, the idealogues in the party have the upper hand in that they will make or break a candidate’s chances on election day. Pragmatists have no such power as will probably be proved when the last of them is tossed out into the cold for some apostasy real or imagined.

Will the last moderate conservative who leavese the Repubican party please turn off the lights?



Filed under: GOP Reform, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 10:48 am

They might want to call it “Death Wish 2010,” or perhaps, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Disaster.”

Just don’t call it “The Way Back.”

The Florida senate race, featuring moderate conservative Governor Charlie Crist being challenged in the GOP primary by former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, is shaping up to be a cage match between the party pragmatists and the litmus test conservatives. The contest will be played out before the entire nation and with the media gleefully watching as their newest made for television spectator sport — a real time broadcast of the Republican party’s destruction — comes to an HD flat screen near you.

Rubio, an attractive, dynamic, true blue conservative is the kind of candidate for which the right has been praying. John McCormick of The Weekly Standard got a little carried away in this panegyeric to Rubio, comparing the 37 year old to Barack Obama:

In some respects, Rubio is a little like another state legislator who ran for the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama. Like the president, Rubio points to his biography as a testament to the American dream. The son of Cuban immigrants who fled Castro’s regime, Rubio grew up in a working-class home–his father was a bartender and his mother a factory worker, casino maid, and Kmart stock clerk. He spent a year at Tarkio College in Missouri on a football scholarship before transferring to earn his bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida and his law degree at the University of Miami. He married his longtime girlfriend Jeannette, once a Miami Dolphins cheerleader and now the mother of their four young children. Raised and confirmed a Catholic, Rubio worships with his family at an evangelical church.

A compelling history indeed. Moderate Reihan Salam describes Rubio as something of a Republican Atlas with his “square-jawed all-American looks,” and a “deep belief in the healing power of tax cuts.”

Meanwhile, Crist had been the target of an intense lobbying effort by several top level GOP pols who believed that the governor would have the best chance of holding the seat being vacated by Mel Martinez. They convinced Crist to drop his re-election effort and enter the senate race thereby assuring the enmity of many conservatives in Florida and around the country.

To make matters worse, National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman, Senator John Cornyn, flip flopped on his promise to remain neutral in the senate race and 15 minutes after Crist’s announcement, he threw the resources of the NRSCC behind the governor. No doubt the endorsement was part of the deal to get Crist to run for the senate but it still makes the NRSCC look weak and untrustworthy.

Already, calls for Cornyn’s head are making the rounds in the conservative blogosphere and Eric Erikson of RedState started a Facebook Page “Not One Penny to the NRSCC.”

Rubio himself has already drawn blood by releasing an ad showing Crist with President Obama and a voice over of doom accusing him of being in favor of spending trillions of dollars and piling up debt for our children and grandchildren. It is very effective and gets to the nub of why conservatives are angry with Crist, who participated in a dog and pony show with President Obama, appearing with him at a town hall meeting supporting the stimulus bill.

But that’s not the only problem the base has with Crist. The guy is a political chameleon who a decade ago found it advantageous to portray himself as a Reagan conservative when it was kewl to be a man of the right. He even earned the nickname “Chain Gang Charlie” for his tough law and order personae during his stint as Attorney General.

Now, the political winds are blowing left and Crist is blowing with them. Salam has some choice words for Crist in his Daily Beast article:

One of the key conservative charges against Crist is that his decision to back President Obama’s stimulus package was utterly bankrupt. Crist seemed more interested in currying favor with the state’s army of public-sector workers than keeping the faith with conservative principles. And honestly, that’s exactly right. Crist is not a conservative. With his permanent tan and slick white mane, he’s more like a kinder, gentler Latin American caudillo, who wants nothing more than to be cheered on by adoring throngs. Crist would be right at home with Juan and Eva Peron, dancing the night away and promising free T-bone steaks to the impoverished masses. As governor, Crist has enjoyed tremendous popularity—he has Obama-like job-approval numbers—and he’s done it by hardly ever making tough calls.

There’s no question that Florida is trending Democratic, and it doesn’t help that the state’s economy is sinking into the marshy deep from whence it came. Crist is keenly aware of this, and he’s moved accordingly. In flush times, a decent number of Florida’s must-win Latinos, notably Miami’s highly influential Cuban-American community, were open to small-government Republicans. A punishing wave of foreclosures—which hit Latino families particularly hard—has changed all that. Earlier in his political career, when hard-edged conservatism was on the rise, Crist was known as “Chain Gang Charlie” for backing extreme punishments for convicted felons. Now he’s better known for his efforts to fight climate change and save the Everglades. There’s little doubt that Crist looks himself in the mirror every morning and sees a future president. So why not run for reelection as governor?

Why not, indeed, Salam points out that the next Florida governor will have to make some very tough calls as the tax base shrinks and needs grow. Crist decided to get while the going’s good in order to remain “the most popular political figure in Florida.”

Of course, his wooing by the NRSCC and establishment Republicans did not take into account that his run for the senate would leave a huge vacuum in Talahassee that a Democrat is very likely to fill come election time. Crist was a near sure thing for re-election and his playing musical chairs with GOP politics in Florida could very well cost the Republicans a governorship in a crucial swing state.

So instead of re-election, Crist will rain on conservative’s parade by elbowing Rubio aside. This is sure to anger Rubio’s mentor and cheerleader Jeb Bush who, despite being out of office, still maintains a great network of fundraisers and political operatives across the state. Will Jeb join in the civil war and choose sides, backing Rubio by steering money and political know how his way? I think it will depend on whether Jeb Bush wants to run for president himself some day. Going against establishment Republicans and openly supporting Rubio would anger the very people he would depend on for a presidential run down the road. Prior to Crist’s entrance in the race, it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would give a boost to his disciple. Already he had steered some fund raisers his way, resulting in a haul of about $360,000 in a couple of weeks. But the smart money says that Jeb will play a behind the scenes role while urging his supporters to do all they can to help Rubio.

What kind of a chance does he have? Better than you’d expect. A recent poll showed Crist far ahead with 54% to Rubio’s 8%. But that same poll showed only 23% of Republicans in the state who would “definitely” vote for him in the primary. And more than 65% of the state’s Republicans don’t know enough about Rubio to make a judgment.

With a solid base of support among Cuban Americans, Rubio may surprise - if he can raise the millions of dollars to compete with Crist’s proven fund raising acumen. Florida is a very expensive state to run a race and Rubio’s challenge will be to raise enough money - not as much as Crist but enough to be competitive - and hope that the anti-establishment attitudes that some pollsters are already seeing in the electorate will translate into victory for him in the August, 2010 primary.

The new conservatives have the race they say they’ve always wanted; one of their own versus a “moderate.” If the evangelical, family values, small government, low tax Rubio pulls it out it will shake the party establishment to the core. Not a bad thing necessarily although if Rubio gets slaughtered in the general election, where will the new conservatives be then?

Maybe they’ll say that Rubio wasn’t “conservative enough” and try again. One thing’s for sure, if the new conservatives can’t win in Florida, the question will be asked how they can possibly pull off a victory anywhere else?



Filed under: GOP Reform, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 10:40 am

I suppose it could have been worse. Instead of passing a resolution officially branding the opposition the “Democrat (sic) Socialist Party,” the RNC might have voted the GOP out of existence.

In the end, the one will hasten the day that the other is realized.

This may be the silliest thing a political party has ever done in American history. I’m with Allah 100%:

More than anything, this reeks of impotence, operating almost as a concession that the right’s argument on the merits that the left is evolving towards socialism isn’t working to shift public opinion. So now they’re going to up the ante by trying the hard sell: Just repeat “socialism” as much as possible to try to drive it into people’s skulls, never minding the fact that that term’s already lost some of its taboo and might well lose more as it goes further mainstream. Or at least, I hope that’s the GOP strategy here. The alternative, that they’re simply sticking their fingers in their ears and repeating “socialist” over and over out of spite like a five-year-old, is too depressing to contemplate. What’s next, a formal resolution declaring french fries “freedom fries” in the Republican Party henceforth and forevermore?

Unfortunately, I believe their reasoning for passing this resolution is more attuned to the latter rather than the former. There is no sense, no rhyme, no reason to “officially” branding the opposition socialists. It is nothing more than a cry in the wilderness; a pathetic ploy (and a childish one at that) to inititate a round of name calling and finger pointing when what is needed are policy alternatives.

This is truly the party of Limbaugh now. The casual use of the word “socialism” on talk radio, the internet, and anywhere the “new conservatives” gather is an affront to common sense not to mention proof positive that the party is in the control of ill-educated, anti-intellectual brigands. Since around 99.9% of American businesses are NOT being taken over by the government and a similar percentage of workers are NOT having their salaries and bonuses manhandled by the feds, one wonders where the idea that the Democrats want “socialism” came from in the first place.

What Obama is doing should be opposed with every fiber of our beings. But Obama is corrupting the free market, not eliminating it. Here’s George Will today:

This is not gross, unambiguous lawlessness of the Nixonian sort — burglaries, abuse of the IRS and FBI, etc. — but it is uncomfortably close to an abuse of power that perhaps gave Nixon ideas: When in 1962 the steel industry raised prices, President John F. Kennedy had a tantrum and his administration leaked rumors that the IRS would conduct audits of steel executives, and sent FBI agents on predawn visits to the homes of journalists who covered the steel industry, ostensibly to further a legitimate investigation.

The Obama administration’s agenda of maximizing dependency involves political favoritism cloaked in the raiment of “economic planning” and “social justice” that somehow produce results superior to what markets produce when freedom allows merit to manifest itself, and incompetence to fail. The administration’s central activity — the political allocation of wealth and opportunity — is not merely susceptible to corruption, it is corruption.

Not a peep about socialism from a man who was fighting the expansion of the federal government when most new conservatives weren’t even a lacisvious gleam in their father’s eye. If you wish to call what Obama and the Democrats are doing “socialism,” then petition Webster’s to change the definition. And what is that definition?

1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.
2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

Considering that a minuscule part of the economy is, at the moment, being run by the Feds, the grossly exaggerated (and, I would add, hysterical) notion that the Democrats desire to close Wall Street, seize all private property, convene an industrial production board to set targets for economic activity, prevent the creation of new businesses, and control capital on a much grander scale than they do now - can only be explained by a shocking ignorance of politicl theory and the lack of even a beginner’s overview of the nature of the political economy shown by new conservatives from the RNC down.

Are Obama’s moves troubling? You betchya. Not because he is instituting socialism but because he and the Democrats are ignorantly corrupting the free market. The more they fiddle with it the more they screw it up. That much should be obvious even to the Keyenesians at Treasury and the White House. But the basic principles of the free market as it relates to the macro economy are still well in play. If you doubt me, pay a visit to the Chicago Board of Trade where capitalism - real devil take the hindmost capitalism - still rules the roost.

The laws of supply and demand still propel our economy despite the Fed’s best efforts to muck things up. And that’s what makes this move by the RNC to brand the Democrats as socialist so silly. Not only are they tarring tens of millions of Americans (and potential voters) with the slimey appellation, but they are lowering the bar on the definition of socialism to the point that about the only people in the US who wouldn’t be considered socialists are pie in the sky libertarians and corporate Republicans like Limbaugh and his ilk on talk radio.

And what of our illustrious leader, RNC Chairman Michael Steele? A cigar store indian has more influence with the RNC than he does:

A member of the Republican National Committee told me Tuesday that when the RNC meets in an extraordinary special session next week, it will approve a resolution rebranding Democrats as the “Democrat Socialist Party.”

When I asked if such a resolution would force RNC Chairman Michael Steele to use that label when talking about Democrats in all his speeches and press releases, the RNC member replied: “Who cares?”

Which pretty much sums up the attitude some members of the RNC have toward their chairman these days.

Steele wrote a memo last month opposing the resolution. Steele said that while he believes Democrats “are indeed marching America toward European-style socialism,” he also said in a (rare) flash of insight that officially referring to them as the Democrat Socialist Party “will accomplish little than to give the media and our opponents the opportunity to mischaracterize Republicans.”

I can hear my new conservative friends already: “We shouldn’t care what the media and the opposition will say about us. Anyone who does is a cowardly wretch who willingly plays into their hands by accepting their characterization of conservatives and Republicans.”

Okay, you win. I totally and completely reject the characterizations of conservatives by the media and the Democrats. I’ll even agree that even thinking about the subject should be cause for being kicked out of the Republican party. We don’t want pantywaists who wet themselves if the media and the Democrats successfully paint conservatives as a bunch of loony tunes nitwits who smear 60 million potential voters by calling them socialists. Be a man. Stand up. Look like an idiot, go ahead.

Lord deliver us.

Michael Gerson calls it “A Driving Desire to Lose:”

Witness the reaction to the National Council for a New America — an anodyne “listening tour” by Republican officials recently kicked off at a pizza parlor in Northern Virginia. Social conservatives attacked this forum on education and the economy for the offense of not being a forum on abortion and the traditional family. Neo-Reaganites searched the transcript for nonexistent slights: How dare former Florida governor Jeb Bush criticize “nostalgia” for the “good old days”? Why didn’t he just spit on Ronald Reagan’s grave? Other conservatives criticized the very idea of a listening tour, asking, “What’s to hear?”

During a recent conversation, Bush described himself as “dumbfounded by the reaction.” He added: “I don’t think listening is a weakness. People are yearning to be heard. Perhaps we should begin with a little humility.”


Each of these policies — carbon restrictions, universal health insurance and immigration reform — could eventually be important to the Republican recovery. But would a candidate carrying these ideas transform the Republican Party, or be destroyed by it? The hostile reaction to the pizza parlor putsch provides one answer.

But this is a snapshot, not a prophecy. As the years pass, the kingdom of irrelevance seems less and less pleasant, even to its rulers. Policy shifts that seem incredible become inevitable. This is how a party prepares to win.

Fighting over who should rule this “Kingdom of Irrelevance” is all we have left. There are issues of vital importance to almost all Americans that the GOP continues to ignore not because there aren’t conservative alternatives to what the Democrats are offering but because the ignoramuses currently in the ascendancy in the party have deemed them “Democratic issues” and anyone who advocates conservative solutions to those problems is automatically branded a “moderate” - a virtual death knell in today’s purest atmosphere. The notion that addressing vital issues is nothing more than acting like a Democrat is so absurd on its face that it is little wonder serious people do not take the party seriously.

Steele has got to go. He’s been emasculated already so putting him out of his misery would seem to be the charitable thing to do. And as for the RNC members who want to make an irrelevant statement by passing an irrelvant resolution, from an irrelevant group representing an irrelevant party with irrelevant ideas - they should all be forced to take their pants down and a great big “I” for “Irrelevant” branded on their rumps. That’s my idea for “rebranding” the party.

That way, when they pass a resolution requiring Republicans to moon Democrats whenever they see them, people will know where they’re coming from.

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