Monday, May 14, 2007

Ron Paul

No one could be better-suited as an ideal candidate for Sullivan’s rhetorical pose as the Last of the Goldwaterites than Ron Paul, who is as genuinely libertarian and constitutionalist in reality as Sullivan pretends to be during one of his “fundamentalist”-induced panic attacks, yet you will not see someone like Sullivan (or anyone else in a similarly prominent position) lift a finger to advocate for Dr. Paul’s candidacy. Why? Because he is “not serious.” Of course, candidates can never be really “serious” until large numbers of people support them, so instead of complaining about Ron Paul’s candidacy antiwar, realist, small-government and constitutionalist conservatives might actually stop whining about how the movement and candidates have failed them and back the one person who has had the integrity and willingness to defend these positions when most of them were hiding or on the other side. - Daniel Larison

Daniel Larison has been working the Ron Paul candidacy as a hobbyhorse for a while now, unfortunately he also carries with it the typical "We wuz robbed" whingeing with it.

Truth be told, I don't think he'd neceesarily be that a President. If I had to make my own personal ranking with the Three Amigos leading in the polls, I'd put Romney first, then Paul, then McCain, then Rudy. But as Daniel knows yet still finds painful to acknowledge, the reason that his candidacy is languishing isn't because of lack of respect from the pundit class, but simpler than than. Nobody, proud or humble, supports him.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Note on fusionism

Fusionism is the idea that the Right in the United States is not a atomic entity, but essentially a coalition of groups of somewhat disparate motivation. In its original form, associated with former National Review editor Frank Meyer, there were three elements; anti-communists, economic conservatives, and traditionalists. This was essentially the coalition that elected Ronald Reagan some decades later, and carried the Republican party to majority or near-majority since.

Now with the Republican reverses in 2006 and dark outlook now, there is a great deal of speculation that the "fusionist" structure of the Republican coalition is going to be realigned, much of it plausible. The overall structure of our political culture is in greater flux now than I can ever recall, so it's very likely that certain things that have held together before will be shaken loose.

But when you look at the various sources of dissatisfaction on the contemporary right (paleocons, libertarians, crunchy cons, fiscally conservative green-eyeshade types), it's at least as likely to think that that traditionalist and economic conservatives should unite against the mainstream Republican establishment as it is to think that they should split apart.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

This is ridiculous

This piece is salutary in that the contemporary Republican party seems to want to reincarnate itself as Alfred E. Newman. Well they ought to worry, becuase they are in very real danger of being rendered into Tory-style irrelevance. It's very difficult to overemphasize the straits the GOP has wandered into.

Nonetheless Mr. Bartlett has done it. First of all, it is a very dubious proposition that Mrs. Clinton is any kind of conservative, even relative to the other Democratic Presidential contenders. It's very plausible that she will be elected President and if she is, we'll hope for the best, but let's get real. It's not just that Hillary has walked in the circles of the hard Left for the whole of her adult life. It's not just that she has essentially had no career outside of being a proconsul for the Nanny State, though those would be bad enough. But in addition to that, ever since the health care plan debacle, all of her political maneuvers have been very carefully orchestrated for political positioning without much if any regard for what she truly believes in. Frankly she has done this for so long I don't think she knows herself what she truly believes, even if she were willing to tell you.

It's also a trope of political parties that have fallen out of favor that they try to return to favor by embracing things that are even less popular than they are. In Mrs. Clinton's case, I wonder if Mr. Bartlett is aware that there's a fairly well-known poll out that says that something like 48% of the voters won't vote for her under any circumstances.

Finally, no matter who wins the Democratic nomination, the Republican priorities in the next election cycle are clear. Win the Presidency and/or Congress, and if that isn't possible then to rehabilitate the GOP brand. The GOP needs to put aside distractions and penny ante crap, and demonstrate independently of George W. Bush, what it's willing to go to the mattresses for. When push comes to shove, I suspect it's a pretty small list: low taxes, abortion (and judges), immigration, the War on Terror. Furthermore, all of these issues are more popular than the GOP right now (even Iraq), so the Republicans have nothing to lose by embracing them.

Things are bleak at the moment, but some perspective is in order. We have had a President Bush before, and Republican credibility was at a low end then too. But he left the scene, and the party recovered. The current President Bush has hurt the party a great deal. But the damage will won't be permanent, unless those of us who are left are unwilling to stand up for what we believe in. And if that is what happens, we can only blame ourselves.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ramesh on Fred

"But a lot of conservatives have been telling themselves that Republicans lost the election because they were insufficiently committed to conservative orthodoxy: that if they had just eschewed pork and prescription-drug benefits, the voters would have been kinder to them. It is a comforting theory with almost no basis in fact." - Ramesh Ponnuru

Ramesh writes an interesting article on Fred, most of which I agree with. I might get back to it later, but I wanted to touch on this a little bit, becuase I am one of the conservatives who believes this, at least to the extent that the GOP could have mitigated some of the damage of last year's election and in any case would be in much better shape than they are right now. Not necessarily because the libertarian hordes would tip the balance over the GOP, but a series of more subtle reasons.

First of all, political parties are expected to represent certain established issues and groups of people. They are charged to defend those interests in the political process, they are charged to advocate for their issues in the conversation at large. But, the attention of the public square is a finite thing, and any one political party will only have a fraction of that even. Whatever constituencies the GOP represents, pro-lifers, tax cutters, gun owners, they were all being crowded out because, in the public mind, the Republican Congress was associated with Jack Abramoff and the Bridge To Nowhere.

Second, I think we underestimate the degree to which the political fates are determined by issues of character and personality rather than policy. You would think it wouldn't be the case in a society as celebrity-obsessed as ours, but nonetheless that's the way it seems to me. Especially in a comment such as Ramesh's above. In various circumstances, you can vote for a political figure that you disagree with, or that you don't like. But it is very difficult to support someone you have contempt for. And the GOP's sins of corruption and mismanagement of the public purse has earned them a substantial measure of contempt that will be very difficult to erase.

Finally, there's a third reason that's sort of halfway between the first two. Politics is not just determined by the erstwhile personal relationship between the politicians and the voters, but also by the personal relationships among the voters themselves. Every political movement depends on the people at the grass roots level to advocate for it. And not necessarily in an organized way either, but also between friends over beer or as acquaintances sharing a bus ride. An accountant in Wichita might feel in his gut that the Republican party is the best hope for America, but if the political class is Washington is completely unaccountable, he won't be able to communicate that to his neighbor, and the other team wins by default.

Maybe we can call him Paleocon Demigod instead

"For the past few months, while he has virtually been crowned Antiwar Republican Demigod by certain enthusiasts, I have complained that Chuck Hagel said a lot of promising-sounding things but never actually did anything."
Daniel Larison