The Right Is More Divided, Thankfully

Over at The American Conservative, Daniel McCarthy explains "Why We Criticize Mitt." Excerpt:

Unfortunately, what happened [after 2008] was exactly what had given us George W. Bush in the first place: conservatives reinforced the GOP once more, as galvanized in opposition to Barack Obama as they had once been against Bill Clinton. And sure enough, history repeated, with a GOP this year nominating a candidate who, if anything, is worse than Bush: more reckless in his foreign-policy pronouncements, more statist in his governing record, and more detached from the concerns of the heartland. There is simply no evidence to suggest that Romney will be more conservative or, more important, a better president than Bush was. All the evidence points in the opposite direction.

So we are at the task we were at in 2002. It's not the election that matters, it's the conscience of conservatism: whether Romney or Obama wins, the country is in serious trouble. But how conservatives react to its trouble makes a tremendous difference: will they organize in opposition to Obama's wars and power-grabs, or will they overlook (indeed support) measures of exactly the same kind if they are enacted by Mitt Romney? Conservatives have to undertake the painful separation of philosophy from partisanship, otherwise they will wind up like Winston [from 1984]. The consequences for the country will be dire: it's not as if the left, which has never come to its senses since the end of the Cold War, offers the slightest alternative. A localist, federalist, prudent right is the only alternative to the welfare-warfare state. But building such a right, especially amid all the noise generated by partisan propaganda, is difficult. Yet it has to be done.

McCarthy's column (read his Reason archive here) embodies a fact that Frank Rich discovered in an interesting New York magazine article in which he immersed himself in the non-liberal media (including Reason) during the Republican National Convention: "Away from the convention stage and from the mainstream media's coverage of it, dissension of various stripes was rife throughout the GOP coalition."

The battle for the conservative soul is one of the most interesting things happening in modern mainstream politics, and there is no counterpart action on the left. Though you have to squint your eyes to get optimistic about where that battle might end up, the rude truth is that someone will have to have a set of policies ready for the day when the country's debt load and entitlement commitments become unbearable. Mitt Romney will not be that guy, but some of the non-Democrats currently pushing him around may eventually qualify for the job.

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  • Calvin Coolidge||

    The Republican brand (as opposed to the reality) used to be: small government, fiscal responsibility. Now, it is increasingly defined by a refusal to admit defeat in the great intellectual battles of the 19th century. Opposition to teaching evolution, a puritanical need to dictate sexual behavior, a desire to "get back to the principles of the founding fathers. BIBLICAL principles!".

    I'm embarassed to self-identify as a Republican any more. And it plays right into the Team Blue playbook - point out the growth of spending under Obama, and the reply is something along the lines of "But Team Red was even worse! Also, go back to your cave and stop telling people who they should marry."

    At some point, the Christian Conservatives need to be left behind and a new governing coalition will have to emerge that embraces limited government as a realistic alternative to the Team Blue progressives who want government to be always busy, always boldly experimenting, always finding new ways to better manage your life.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "new governing coalition will have to emerge that embraces limited government"

    That's what the Tea Party is supposed to be about.

    "At some point, the Christian Conservatives need to be left behind"

    Christian Conservatives didn't get what they wanted in Romney. He's a Mormon, something many of them don't think is even Christian, and he isn't promoting social issues as they would like. Other than being paid a little lip service they're already being left behind.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    It isn't anti-evolutionism, traditional marriage, etc. which ballooned the debt and created the actual - as opposed to hypothetical - epidemic of government officials running people's lives.

    The progressives, in addition to hitting the accelerator as they drive toward economic catastrophe, are also the ones promoting government dictation on social issues.

    Christian conservatives aren't siccing the government on private businesses with the "wrong" definition of marriage, the "wrong" approach to medical insurance and contraception, etc.

    Christian conservatives *are* the ones opposing these progressive initiatives, which in a rational world would inspire some appreciation from libertarians, even if only on "we accept you as temporary allies for certain purposes" grounds.

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    The thing is, the Christian Conservatives are an embarassment. Any attempt to establish the intellectual legitimacy of the cause of small government founders on the rocks of "aren't you the guys who don't believe in evolution?".

    A false equivalence, to be sure, but it is also true that, if you lie down with the dogs, you can't complain when people assume you have fleas.

  • Libertymike||

    The Republican brand has always been bigger and bigger government. It was Red from the start.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Better Red than dead, amirite?

    Wait, Patrick Henry disagrees...

  • Lyle||

    You just need thicker skin and the ability to fully respect religious freedom. To win at politics you have to stand with people you don't fully agree with.

    Social conservatism continues to evolve on issues as well. Pat Robertson now supports legalizing marijuana. And stronger families probably translates to fewer people needing services from the government.

  • Jeff||

    The great intellectual battle of the 19th century was over slavery, and I'm pretty sure the Republicans won that one.

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    They won that intellectual battle by the end of 18th century, it just took another hundred years or so to translate the victory into boots on the ground.

  • SugarFree||

    The Christian Conservatives who are committed to fiscal sanity and not pushing their social agenda through governmental coercion are not the problem.

    The main distorting effect of the other set of religious conservatives is finding a candidate they find acceptable. Those usually end up grotesquely anti-liberty (Santorum, Huckabee) or blandly inept and mostly anti-liberty (Romney).

  • Robert||

    I don't think Romney's inept, although people will discount for his eptitude out of consider'n of family, and I don't think he's mostly anti-liberty either, compared to the avg. American.

    The major candidates, esp. among Republicans, tend to have already recognized family political names. Those are the people most likely to be found acceptable, and they do tend to be at least as bland as the relatives who established those political names. We went in presidential terms from Bush to Clinton to Bush, and almost to another Clinton.

  • Mr. Soul||

    no presidential candidate will "be that guy". The Congress is all that matters. Thankfully, a Romney presidency will flip-flop towards a conservative congress. Nick is right, there is no counterpart on the left.

  • Drake||

    My hope too. A fiscally conservative Congress is elected - and Romney rubber stamps whatever they do. (As opposed to a second Obama term in which we have a series of showdowns and shutdowns over spending, debt, and taxes.)

  • Mo||

    Wasn't Congress conservative in 2000? They were essentially the same guys elected in 1994 on fiscal discipline. And that discipline lasted as long as the prez had a (D) next to his name.

    We're more likely to have a fiscally conservative Congress with Obama staying on and the Republicans winning the Senate.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "Wasn't Congress conservative in 2000?"

    Yeah, that Tom Daschle was the most conservative majority leader of the Senate. Ever.

  • Mo||

    And Mitch McConnell is?

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "And Mitch McConnell is?"

    And this has something to do with congress being conservative in 2000?

  • Mo||

    No it's relavent to whether Congress would be conservative today, which is what the original comment stated.

  • Mr. Soul||

    Thanks Mo. My original point was that of the real choices we face a) an emboldend 2nd Obama administration or b) a Romney administration...b) could work and a) will not.

    The Rs lost their way after '94. They may again. The Ds havent lost their way, it will be big govt. When the Ds get their own Tea Party caucus, I'll consider things have changed.

  • Drake||

    In '94 the House was somewhat conservative, the Senate was moderate Republican. By 2000, both were full Rino.

    Their defining moment was in 2005. After his reelection, Bush proposed fixing Social Security with some privatization. Despite being in the majority, the Republicans in Congress ran like bitches.

  • robc||

    Some of the more fiscally conservative freshmen from '94 term limited themselves.

  • Drake||

    Damn shame they couldn't have term-limited everyone.

  • Robert||

    Unfortunately it's going to take more than fixing a political party to overcome this. Whether it was the president (Reagan) or Congress (under Clinton) who "shut down the federal gov't", or threatened to, in brinksmanship between Congress and the president, the major news media blamed the Republican(s). This resulted in public pressure on the Republican president or Republican Congress to settle on terms more favorable to the Democrat(s).

    To avoid this problem, we rather than statists need to more often be the analysts that people turn to to tell them who's at fault re problems in the world.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    We're DOOOOOOOOOMED.

  • Tim||

    Frank Rich says we're on thr right. It must be so.

  • GILMORE||

    Not only that, you are part of a dangerous fanatical subsect of the traditionalist, racist, reactionary enemy of progress... even tho you want to end the drug war, approve gay marriage, reduce law enforcement excesses...

    ...because reducing the tax burden, you see, is anti-american

  • Tim||

    If Romney gets the gold ring he will act immediately to "repeal Obamacare" except for the parts he likes, which would be everything but the name "Obamacare". Then he will move on to not ending any wars. Next he will not sell our GM shares and not cut any spending. You might get a tax cut, if by tax cut you mean "no tax hike".

  • R C Dean||

    I see the passengers on the Titanic are having yet another argument on how to arrange the deck chairs.

  • Tim||

    ENough chairs stacked all the way to the bottom could have kept her above water.

  • Mo||

    And sure enough, history repeated, with a GOP this year nominating a candidate who, if anything, is worse than Bush: more reckless in his foreign-policy pronouncements, more statist in his governing record, and more detached from the concerns of the heartland.

    I dunno, the Bush that ran in 2000 would have been an awesome president. He wanted to pay back the peace dividend to tax payers, keep us out of foreign adventurism and keep the budget balanced. The problem is that President Bush is as fictional as the President Obama that ran in 2008.

  • John||

    Mitt Romney will not be that guy, but some of the non-Democrats currently pushing him around may eventually qualify for the job.

    True. But it won't be anyone writing for the rag that is the American Conservative unless you want the answer to be marching on Poland and rounding up all of the Jews.

    Yeah, I went there. But any magazine founded by Pat Buchanan deserves to be Goodwined. Since when does Reason stand for protectionism and nativism?

  • GILMORE||

    There is no Goodwine.... Its Der Godwin. Mach schnell mit ze verbalkraft! Veider! Ve know vays to make you talk!

    (i learned all my german watching WWII movies.... apologies)

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Sei entschuldig.

  • Mr. Soul||

    Hielten sich für Captain Kirk

  • GILMORE||

    LTC(ret) John| 9.20.12 @ 11:18AM |#

    Sei entschuldig

    Gesundheit. Do you need a tissue?

  • tarran||

    But any magazine founded by Pat Buchanan deserves to be Goodwined.

    Awesome textbook example of an Ad Hominem.

  • John||

    Pat Buchanan is a anti-Semitic nativist scum bag. He is not just wrong, he is a bad guy who believes loathsome things.

    If David Duke had a magazine, would that fact make the articles in it less credible?

    Sometimes the source does matter.

  • GILMORE||

    You just hate the Irish

  • tarran||

    Pat Buchanan is a anti-Semitic nativist scum bag.

    I agree - doesn't change the fact that arguing that anything he or his associates write is automatically wrong because he is a scumbag is an ad hominem.

  • John||

    Not all ad hominem is wrong. Again, sometimes the source matters. Pretending it always matters is wrong. But you can't pretend it never matters either.

  • GILMORE||

    BLUE TIE BAD

  • robc||

    source doesnt matter on factual stuff.

    Facts are facts regardless of the source.

  • entropy||

    Um, strictly speaking yes the source never matters to the veracity of the claim. It is true or false regardless of what kind of shmuck he is.

    Ad hominem is always wrong, if by wrong you mean 'incorrect'. You want to argue that in some cases it matters because it is morally justified, it's your business, but it's still a logical fallacy.

    It doesn't matter if you are raping a child WITH a puppy while you say it, 2 + 2 still equals 4.

  • Robert||

    The source matters when you don't have the time to check out the facts -- and unfortunately, for all of us, that point is reached frequently in our ordinary lives. We all have limited att'n, and can afford to devote it to only so many things. Evaluating the source is a shortcut we all use more or less as a filtering criterion. We do it when we choose to spend more time reading here than reading, say, HuffPo, for instance. I bet you have people in your life that if you hear stuff from you automatically discount.

    With Buchanan, yeah, hard to tell sometimes whether a hidden agenda is influencing what he chooses to tell you. He certainly must look at certain things cockeyed to come to the conclusions he does, and being anti-semitic is a plausible explanation for some of that, and in some cases a compelling one.

  • Robert||

    (I had in mind his attitude regarding Demjanjuk.)

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    I'll take your lazy ass ad hom as admission that you have no substantive complaints about the article.

    Good to have you on board John! Do you feel like a Nazi yet?

  • GILMORE||

    "Yeah, well why don't you just go vote for Obama then"/weknowwho

  • Drake||

    It would take an act of Congress to repeal or change Obamacare, set spending levels, or change the tax code. As I said earlier, the hope is for a conservative Congress that he signs off on.

  • John||

    Congress is more important than the President. Reid and Pelosi did more damage than Obama. They are the ones who wrote Obamacare and approved all of the spending.

    People obsess way to much over the Presidency. I would take a real no kidding fiscally responsible Congress over even the best President any day. And I wouldn't worry about who was President if we had such a Congress.

  • GILMORE||

    AS LONG AS THEY DONT WEAR NO BLUE TIE

  • robc||

    I would take a real no kidding fiscally responsible Congress

    Which is why the tea party primary challenges were so important. But they didnt really exist this time around.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Dick Lugar and Scumbag Dewhurst disagree.

  • Ken Shultz||

    There should be a link in this post to that time Gillespie asked Rachel Maddow to name something she disagreed with Obama on, and she just sat there in stunned silence with a sheepish look on her face--until Bill Maher finally bailed her out.

    If you can't think of anything critical to say about whomever? You might be in a cult.

    Christians don't have anything critical to say about Jesus. Muslims don't have anything critical to say about Mohammed. Moonies don't have anything critical to say about the Reverend Moon, and Progressives don't have anything critical to say about Barack Obama.

    Incidentally, a lot of Objectivists don't have anything critical to say about Ayn Rand, either. And if that's funny? It's funny 'cause it's true!

  • John||

    Propietist swore up and down yesterday that all of his lefty friends are really angry at Obama over civil liberties.

    I didn't believe him either.

  • robc||

    Maybe his are, but I havent met any.

    The leftists I know thinks Obama did all the things that they thought he would do 4 years ago.

  • Proprietist||

    Ok, John. I guess you were never really angry about the Bush administration spending either, since you stuck with Team Red. You "say" you were, but you're obviously lying.

    Do you understand how asinine that logic is?

  • Randian||

    Yeah, John isn't very mad about spending, obviously.

  • John||

    Sure I was. Of course the big spending came after 2004 after it was too late to vote against him.

    But I considered the war on terror to be more important than spending. So my ability to complain about at least Bush level spending is a big undercut.

    In the same way your lefty friends care more about socialist economic policies than they do about civil liberties.

    At some level they care. But it is not important to them. As long Bush was willing to fight the war on terror, I was willing to give him a pass on spending.

    In the same way, as long as Obama keeps giving these guys the socialism they love, they will keep giving him a pass on civil liberties.

  • Proprietist||

    Good, now you're finally starting to see my point. You thought "even though I'm angry Bush's annual spending had jumped $300b per year by the end of his first term, surely Kerry would be worse." That's exactly what the Left is telling themselves about Obama drone killing citizens in foreign countries ("well, at least it's not a full scale war") and increasing deportations ("they're only deporting real criminals instead of poor, innocent families like Romney would.")

    That doesn't mean they aren't critical of Obama - they are just powerless to make any difference and stuck in the false dichotomy fallacy.

  • John||

    If the Democrats had nominated someone in 04 who I trusted on the war and pledged to actually do something about spending, I would have voted for him.

    If the Republicans had nominated Gary Johnson, someone who really would do something about civil liberties, no way would your lefty friends have voted for him. Worse still, if by some miracle Romney is better on civil liberties than Obama, your friends still won't be voting for Romney in 2016.

    Ultimately they voting D no matter what. So that means they care more about being D than they do about civil liberties. So don't tell me they care because they don't.

  • Proprietist||

    Are you even listening to yourself? You're EXACTLY PERSONIFYING everything we talk about when we lambaste the "Team mentality".

    You didn't trust Kerry over Bush to cut spending and Bush would keep your warboner fed, therefore you were voted Team Red. But you claim you genuinely do care about spending, even though Bush was horrific on it.

    On the other hand, they believe Romney will be worse than Obama on civil liberties and know Obama will keep their welfareboners fed. But them voting Team Blue means they obviously don't genuinely lying about how much they care about civil liberties because Obama is horrific on it.

    If they care about the D more than they do about civil liberties, don't you also just care more about the R than you do about real fiscal conservatism?

    Wearing team-colored glasses makes you colorblind to your own hypocrisy, and it drives those of us without these glasses up the wall.

  • Proprietist||

    That was a little incomprehensible, but that's your fault my brain is so flustered.

  • Robert||

    A lot of Obama's vote comes not particularly from Team Red or Team Blue, but from Team Black. If he'd switched to Republican, Libertarian, Consitution, or Green for 2012, they'd still vote for him.

  • John||

    Obama killed an American citizen in a drone strike and your lefty friends still are willing to vote for him. Don't tell me they give a shit about civil liberties. They don't. And when Romney wins and does something similar, their complaint will be nothing but partisan whining and have no moral force whatsoever.

  • Proprietist||

    ...and then you miss the point again. Jesus, look in the mirror for once.

    Most of us here have realized that the Democrats don't care about civil liberties or peace and Republicans don't care about limited government. That doesn't mean that every person who votes for one team or another could care less about those issues.

    I believe you when you say you were angry about Bush's spending, so why can't you possibly imagine Jane Hamsher, Dennis Kucinich, Glen Greenwald or my friends you don't know personally are being truthful when they say they're angry about Obama's civil liberties and foreign policy track record?

  • GILMORE||

    Progressive: "....uhm, he's been hamstringed by a conservative congress? That's bad? plus... uhm....why do I have to pay for college?"

  • GILMORE||

    Whoo hoo! This is the hotness =

    Girls beat up Iran cleric over dress code

    To bite a bad pun....but so bad it's good... "they put the 'jab' into 'hijab'!"

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/20/.....topstories

    "The cleric said he asked "politely," but the girl's angry reaction and some pugilistic double-teaming with her friend landed the holy man in the hospital, according to an account Monday in the semiofficial Mehr News Agency"

    mmmm.... pugilistic doubleteam....honey.... get the burkah.... call me effendi....

  • LTC(ret) John||

    allah bil khair!

  • Agile Cyborg||

    As a Libertarian-minded individual who consistently reads rags covering a broad political spectrum I find it almost revolting that the Left is utterly without balls. They kowtow easily to their party lines and vectors. They regurgitate with little logic applied. Many of them cannot even look past their own fucking TV set to determine what, if anything, their precious commander in chief is doing that may be unethical or undermine their liberties. Frankly, the Left of the 60's has turned into a sad mash of submissive and simplistic hunchbacks dribbling repetitious verbiage drawn from a small cadre of masterful political manipulators. They have lost the ability to self-critique and internally analyze conceptual corruption or illogical political assumption.

    I'd call this a perfect storm of voters.

  • T o n y||

    You may be right, but it is not irrational to appreciate that there are only two choices and that on all those issues you care about and that the left purports to care about, Republicans would without question be worse.

    The tides have turned. The right is splitting and the left is united. The reason for the latter is that we have a decent, if imperfect, president, and a whole lot of motivation to work against the right, who managed to take 8 years to fuck the country up beyond anything that should have even been possible.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The right is changing.

    Obama is staying the same as he always was, which makes Obama almost exactly like George W. Bush was...on practically every issue.

    I'd like to think someone like George W. Bush couldn't get nominated in the Republican Party today. That day may not be here already, but it's approaching.

    Maybe then Obama's Democrats will be the only place warmongers, budget busters, and people who want bailouts for Wall Street can turn to.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Exhibit A

  • Proprietist||

    Not being a partisan shill since I have zero love lost for Republicans or the Bush Administration, but the Democrats did control both houses of Congress in 2007 2008 when the economy went to hell.

    The economy was a perfect storm of bad bubble economics from both the Left and the Right combined with bad Fed policy and a downturn in the business cycle. The reason we haven't really recovered was because of the reactions of both Congress and the Administration which merely worsened the moral hazards that got us here in the first place instead of letting the market correct itself.

  • GILMORE||

    Agile Cyborg| 9.20.12 @ 11:14AM |#

    ....the Left is utterly without balls...

    T o n y| 9.20.12 @ 11:40AM |#

    ...it is not irrational to appreciate that ....

    You developed an unhealthy fascination with your disrobed Ken doll as a child, didn't you? It explains much.

  • Proprietist||

    Agile,
    That's just because they're in power. When they're out of power, they'll again be non-conformist civil libertarians opposing the police state and corporate welfare, because Republicans will be the one doing the bad things. That's how it always works.

  • Robert||

    Yes, it does tend strongly to work that way, because loss of political success by a candidate is seen by many as a wrongness about the team who supported hir, and hence that team's policy positions. And that works for Team Black as well as Teams Red y Blue.

    A lot of people are voting for Obama's re-election because they're afraid that, no matter how bad his policies might've been, he'll be seen as a failure if, and only if, he doesn't get re-elected. If he loses re-election, they think other voters will think, "We gave the nigger a chance, and he blew it, so let's never vote for niggers for president again." In other words, his failure will redound negatively on others of his race. And since these voters (who themselves are of varied races) want to see blacks have political opp'ties even for the highest office, they think his re-election is more important than his original election was. But if he's re-elected, that must mean his policies are good, right? Because the voters are wiser than any independent evalu'n of his actions. "Everybody" loves a winner, even a mean and nasty winner like Stalin.

  • Robert||

    This is also the logic of trial by combat. "Does not your law say good is stronger than evil?"

    If my team wins, that will convince some people we're good in a broader sense. If we don't stay behind the guy we originally picked, that will be seen as a sign of weakness and hence badness.

  • John Thacker||

    Indeed, surprisingly interesting article by Frank Rich. Considering his columns, I suppose that the problem is that the editors at the New York Times are terrible.

  • Leonardo Fibonacci||

    The Right and Left need each other. A country hopelessly locked in the center goes nowhere. The friction is a result of who has the soul of either party - the point of this article.

    As a Leftie, in my lifetime, I see the Republican Party always had a gravitational pull to God and Country. But in 2000 either as a result of "The Contract With America" or maybe exemplified by it, the country had become polarized like never before. To reach a majority both parties had to extend their reach of voters to include fringe elements on both sides. For Repubs this included evangelicals and the religious right. I can remember when Drinan and Coughlin were debatable topics and 'should these guys be allowed to express political opinions?' It used to be that way.

    Earlier someone talked about Rachel Maddow not being able to name something she didn't like about Obama. As a Leftie I've got a big list most of it having to do with him being way way too centrist. Politically he needs to, there aren't enough voters elsewhere and right now they're easy pickin's because the Right is so divided. The coalition Repubs put together in 2000 is an uneasy coalition. Social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, uber capitalists, neocons, and old white men who have Englebert Humperdink on their iPods. Very Uneasy, nothing in common and even competing attitudes at times.

    Awaiting civil commentary, thanks.

  • GILMORE||


    Awaiting civil commentary, thanks

    filthy starving feral weasels could crawl up your distended rectum and vomit blood and die in your colon and rot and the stench of your dead-weasel-rotting farts would still be more appealing than the ridiculous nauseating idiotic uninformed pseudo-intellectual nonsense you spewed here like a 8month old baby on an Ipicac bender. Why you thought anyone would have the faintest interest in your self-satisfied, pretentious-yet-banal musings is astounding.

    Welcome to the list.

  • Proprietist||

    LOL

  • GILMORE||

    The funny part is I toned it down from "Sugarfree"-levels. I don't want to step on homie's toes. *he's* an artist.

  • Mr. Soul||

    We all saw this episode in 1968, Star Trek episode "Day of the Dove".

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    That's the episode with a shirtless George Takei in it. Best not to mention it in the presence of the Christian Conservatives.

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    At some point, having been in politics your entire life without ever taking a controversial stand on any issue whatsoever, and thus alienating a wide swath of the potential voters for your team, will cease to be a prerequisite for holding higher office, and may even become a liability

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