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Posts Tagged ‘Republican Party’

Bush adopted his “compassionate conservative” agenda on the theory that the harsh rhetoric and self-consciously anti-government conservatism of Gingrich’s “Contract with America” was unpopular and unlikely to win. There may be some truth to this. But, at the same time, Bush downplayed conservative positions on everything from abortion to affirmative action. He instead emphasized his support for No Child Left Behind, help for those suffering with AIDS in Africa, and an aggressively pursued, but ultimately liberal, neo-Wilsonian agenda of democratizing the Middle East.

Elections are funny inasmuch as we don’t know whether people voted for or against someone for any particular view or position they held. Each candidate always advances a grab bag of positions ranging, which many voters do not fully understand and upon which much of the campaign machinery is designed to put a positive spin. But if anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives can succeed in such liberal states as California, does this not suggest that the libertarians have it all wrong and the social piece of the traditional conservative coalition is not only popular but the most likely wedge with which to pry away socially conservative democratic voters. Instead in the 90s and now again, many of the professional pundits such as David Frum counsel that conservatism must abandon many of its “red meat” issues while also failing to fulfil its traditional role as the “tough medicine” slowing down or stopping profligate new entitlements. Instead of elections being referenda on gun control and gay marriage, we’ll instead have dueling neologisms such as “Compassionate Conservatism” and “Change We Can Believe In.” I doubt we’ll win any of those battles, not least because some of us at least don’t want to see the welfare state expand, nor do we have much use for “compassionate” conservatism other than as the punch-line for a joke.

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I think it’s low down and pathetic that McCain’s operatives are blaming Palin for his loss.  If anything, she pumped him up.  Surely the proposed Lieberman pick would have been a complete flop.  McCain did better in the popular vote than I ever expected considering what an unpleasant mediocrity he was on the stump and considering how much he alienated conservatives with his aggressive attacks on immigration reformers.

Palin is hated because of who she is.  Like Mike Huckabee, she represents a populist appeal and rural way of life and value system that is absolutely terrifying for the “K Street Conservatives.”  The professional punditariat in Washington DC and New York are indifferent or hostile to everything that matters to their base, including abortion and gay marriage as well as gun control and immigration.  I don’t agree with everything from the populist wing, but I do share their concerns and their necessity as a group to a well balanced country, as I argued here earlier. 

Our elites are more out of touch than ever with these people. Their diagnosis of Bush Senior as “too conservative” in 1992 is why we ended up with a big government disaster with almost nothing to show for itself under the rubric of Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.”  To make Palin’s untutored instincts a symbol of the authentic conservatism of America’s interior ignores the real intellectuals–Tom Fleming, ISI, Vdare, the Von Mises Institute, Thomas Sowell–making intelligent and rigorous contributions to our understanding of culture and policy far away from the most prominent institutions of “conservative” opinion. 

Consider Andrew Sullivan.  He’s still obsessing over this threatening, fertile and religious woman.  And he’s lost all sense of proportion and reason, for example:  “The trouble is that Palin confuses what is settled reality and what is settled reality insider her own head. . . . 46 percent of the country was prepared to have this delusional whack-job as a potential president . . . . Give us the proof of Trig’s maternity now!”  It’s telling that a whack-job like this works at the Atlantic.

The soon-to-be-vicious conservative infighting about what to do next will chiefly be between the neoconservative right as represented by the coastal elite institutions that guided the Bush presidency and the anti-intellectual populist-nationalist institutions and people of the interior, the Huckabees, Palins, and Buchanans.  Of course, sometimes the elites are right as on Hariett Meirs or Bush’s penchant for cronyism.  But on the whole they’ve been a disaster both politically and on policies, whether immigration, Iraq, the economy, or the Bush presidency as a whole.

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