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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Conservatives need to get a grip 


Christopher Buckley, who absolutely writes the funny words good, has a little fun while arguing -- seriously -- that conservatives ought to get over their issues with John McCain. Best part:

Some of the anti-McCain shrieks on the right have averred that it would be preferable to let a Clinton (Hillary, technically) or an Obama have the presidency, so that the post-George W. Bush (“compassionate conservative,” small or large C not mattering much at this point) mess will land on Democratic laps and not ours.

This is an odd and sour banner to unfurl. It’s hard to imagine Ronald Reagan, or for that matter other conservative icons (Churchill, Margaret Thatcher), pounding the podium and announcing: “O.K., here’s the plan — we’ll tank this one and then look like heroes four years from now. Let us march!”

Conservatism is — among other things — a question of character. Mr. McCain has never been boastful on this score. He admits his failures with almost suspicious candor. He can in fact be a real bore on the subject. His Keating Five disgrace so offended his own sense of personal honor that he enacted an auto-auto-da-fé crusade for campaign finance reform: very unconservative.

And yet the sum of Mr. McCain seems (to me, anyway) far greater than the parts. How many elections offer such an inspired biography as his? And who among “us” — with the exception of Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who issued a statement saying that the thought of Mr. McCain in the Oval Office sent “chills up my spine” — would not sleep soundly knowing that the war hero was on the job calculating how to dispatch more Islamic fanatics to their rendezvous with 72 virgins, without an interlude of waterboarding, while in his spare time vetoing Senator Cochran’s latest earmark.

Conservatives who want to pull the rug out from under John McCain -- as opposed to nudging him to the right -- obviously have a very different view of their political position than I do. From where I sit, conservatives are massively misjudging how far the country has moved to the left in the last six years. The magnitude of the move has been masked by the war, which inspires patriotism and exposes the anti-Americanism of the activist left, but it has been dramatic nonetheless. The Bush administration has been far more anti-business than the Clinton administration was, and we know that it has nothing to do with its predilections. It is responding to popular opinion flowing from Clinton-era corporate governance scandals. Massive government entitlement programs are no longer out of style as they were in the nineties. Free trade is under seige, and it was the Bush administration that cracked first over steel tariffs. Regulation is now the favored solution to virtually every problem, a condition we have not seen since early in the Carter administration. Social conservatives are losing essentially every battle, from attitudes toward condoms to gay marriage to abortion. Finally, it is not original to observe that "nation-building," a central tactic in the counterinsurgency we now fight across the Muslim world, was high on the list of things that conservatives detested as recently as seven years ago. The only issue that seems to have moved in the conservative direction is immigration.

Meanwhile, conservatives sound more like whiners than winners. They could not carry the day for the candidates they preferred because the Christian right and the capitalist right could not agree, and now they cannot come to terms with the candidate chosen by the Republican rank-and-file.

The ugly truth is that four or eight years in the wilderness will not help conservatives unless they get incredibly lucky (as the Democrats have been to a great degree). Unfortunately, conservatives may not be able to avoid that even if they get behind John McCain with their money and their time right now, because the left side of most policy arguments is more vigorous and innovative than the right. The conservative ideological well is more than a little dry, and that has to change before the right starts winning elections again.

Conservatives need to man up, support McCain like they mean it, and get back to building the intellectual case for the conservative point of view. Otherwise, it will be 1960 all over again.

15 Comments:

By Blogger Fire, at Tue Feb 19, 09:24:00 AM:

::unfurls sour banner:: Sorry TH but I'm lobbyng for change....

Be a conservative suicide voter and vote for Barack!

There's nothing worth than an arrogant RINO like McCain and I'd vot4e for Hillary if I could believe she'd have a hottie under the desk of the white house with a cigar in hand....  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 19, 10:16:00 AM:

TH until you had laid out the argument, I know I had not realized how far left we have swung. Two quick comments to this morning's article:
1) Ronald Regan's conservatism has been so romanticized that people seem to forget that part of what made him great was that he cut the best deal possible given the political circumstances. They seem to mistake his own personal beliefs with the policy deals he cut (e.g. Amnesty deal, tax increase in 1986, Sandra Day O'Connor)
2) Conservatives have to realize that they are fighting a battle of ideas and principles against a group of people who are fanatics for "their" side, similar to a Greenbay Packer fan or a Philadelphia Eagles fan. Now it is not to say that there are more then a few Lefties who idiologically, would like our country to swing towards Mao. It is to say that the rank and file Democrat still votes not because they necessarily line up with what the party platform stands for as much as they want "their" team to win or to beat those damn Republicans. So as soon as conservatives realize there is a different fight, one in which I think McCain can win; otherwise we all might be on the outside looking in to some really dreadful policy for the next four years that will take many more years to "unfurl..."

QuakerCat  

By Blogger Unknown, at Tue Feb 19, 10:29:00 AM:

I'm sorry, my principles are just not flexible enough to side with McCain. Will be looking for a third party candidate for my vote.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Tue Feb 19, 10:34:00 AM:

My Dad wrote a great letter to the editor of the WaPo saying essentially what Quaker Cat did. He (of course) lived through the Reagan years and is somewhere just to the Reich of Genghis Khan, but he still understands that if you don't live under a dictatorship, you have to get along with people who don't share your world view.

The killer line in his letter was, "how dare the likes of Rush and Ann Coulter try to tell me what a 'real conservative' is?"

Peggy Noonan and her positively menopausal ravings aside, it ain't George Bush who is going to destroy the Rethug party. If anyone is going to do that (and let's get a freaking grip people, parties are more resilient than that so pour yourself a nice stiff drink and straighten the seams in the Hanes ultrasheers) it's the folks who fail to understand that hard right conservatives have nowhere near the critical mass needed to elect whatever the Hell a "true conservative" is to the Oval Office.

When we do, we can stamp our feet and hoot an holler all we want. But until then we still have to share our toys with the rest of the country or we won't get a juice box before nap time.

Lighten up, Francis! Sheesh!  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Tue Feb 19, 11:02:00 AM:

TH, first of all, get over 1960 ASAFP. You have no cause or expertise to doubt the right outcome there. Second, you got the year wrong. What conservatives fear is 1952, and 1956. What they fear is the second coming of Dwight Eisenhower who, despite the cupidity of neocon old witches like Gertrude Himmelfarb, actually steered a moderate course in the conservative white bread 50s. Indeed, were the 50s even that conservative and whitebread? No, for look what simmered under the surface, and it was Ike who set the stove burners. No, we didn't attack Russia or China. Yes, we rebuffed Israel in the 1956 Sinai War. Yes, we left conservative governments in France, England etc out to dry over imperialism and colonies in revolt. Yes, Ike appointed Earl Warren; yes Ike told the South to kiss his ass over desegregation. Ike told Coulter hero Joe McCarthy to pound salt (and allowed liberal proxies like Ed Murrow to take him on). Ike invented the warning over your precious military-industrial complex. Ike geared up federal spending for huge public works projects, and didn't truly lift a finger to make life cushier for corporate interests.

Now, sometimes my view of Sen. McCain leans toward the late Lloyd Bridges' roles in "Hot Shots" and "Hot Shots Part Deux," but hey--he could very well fit this Ike paradigm. He doesn't have a Cheney behind him or a Rove in front, or intellectual circus clowns like Irving Kristol or Irving's evil spawn Bill filling his head with right wing thesis statements. What--you really think he'll appoint Jonah Goldberg as WH Press Sec, or make George W Bush ambassador to the UN? These are the same people who tried to pillory him in 2000 and 2004 (lest we forget the South Carolina primary back in the day). This old fart is basically a 70 year old "Captain Willard" from "Apocalypse Now." If I were a wingnut, or a neocon, or Wall Street Republican, or whatever gene splicing "The Fly" combo that Tigerhawk's become ;-) I'd be concerned. Scared? No. But nervous.

Better to deal with someone like Obama, who has proven time and again he's not out to destroy, deride or screw anyone (and perhaps that philosophy is alien or more scary to you) and develop a new cadre of leaders not beholden to hedge funds, defense contractors, Jesus freaks or Richard Perle, than be utterly disappointed with John McCain, eh?  

By Blogger Elijah, at Tue Feb 19, 11:39:00 AM:

As long as America and capitalism continue to protect what leftists regard as the global order of social injustice, all reforms and social advances within the existing structures of American democracy are illusory.

Example #1

The oppressed and the oppressors.  

By Blogger David M, at Tue Feb 19, 01:19:00 PM:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/19/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 19, 03:47:00 PM:

Usually I retch when Christopher Chambers leaves a comment, but on this subject he makes some intriquing and nettlesomely accurate points. Personally I think McCain frightens Democrats as well--and not for the reasons conservatives would hope.

Kudos to Chambers for the "Hot Shots" reference. Sick but amusing.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 19, 04:43:00 PM:

Concur. However, that laundry list of Eisenhower acts seems like it's presented as things conservatives should hate, whereas I see most of them as wise moves.

He should have told McCarthy to fuck off.

He should have reacted harshly to the Suez plot.

He should have opposed lingering imperialism.

I'm ambiguous about the Little Rock intervention because I question its legality (it seems to my lay eye to infringe upon the Posse Comitatus Act).

Why should I be nervous? That all sounds way better to me than electing an inexperienced socialist dreamer.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Tue Feb 19, 04:44:00 PM:

Chris, the reference to 1960 was merely this: The Republicans were basically out of it for 20 years thereafter. Yes, you had the Nixon/Ford terms, but by then Nixon had moved so far to the left on domestic policy that there was no theory under which he was an actual conservative, and the Democrats had massive majorities in both houses of Congress during the entire period. Ugly for Republicans to be sure, and it took the humiliations of the Carter years to climb back to parity. So I do think that if conservatives sit on their hands and let McCain go down they will be out of power until 2024-28.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 19, 05:07:00 PM:

John McCain survived years in a North Vietnamese POW camp, under extremely harsh conditions, that would have probably killed most of us.

I don't think that Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh have got him running scared.

Or Christopher Chambers, either. :)

The difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is primarily mastery of rhetoric and charismatic appeal (Hillary has neither to a measurable degree, except with NOW). The separation between the two on most issues is pretty thin. They are both disciples of Saul Alinksy, to some degree. Make of that what you will.

-David  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Tue Feb 19, 05:44:00 PM:

OTR, those aren't your principles talking. That claim from some on the right is a self-deception. Either that, or it sets a standard by which you would never vote if you lived in any other country, and would vote only once or twice a lifetime in America.

I urge you to contemplate what you would do if you were voting in a typical election in Romania, Brazil, or Finland - or even UK or Germany.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 19, 06:30:00 PM:

As a Virginian the word I hear is that our Democratic Senator Jim Webb thinks McCain is a senile loon. He is an Obama supporter (secretly) because he thinks a President Obama will make Secretary of Defense. Politics is indeed a sick game.  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Tue Feb 19, 06:59:00 PM:

Very good post and comment thread guys. I (and several thousand Conservatives) would do well to take this to heart. Leaders do not say “Lose Big Because It Is Important.”

Hillary and Obama are well on the way to buying perpetual power thru class, race and gender warfare, not by playing to lose. My view of McCain is now focused on the 70% of things I agree with him in contrast to the 90% of things I disagree with the modern Dem party about (such as my wallet and who it belongs to).

Conservatives main problem will be once McCain takes office and looks for a signature piece of legislation to pass which will be certain to go crosswise with the party base and cost a mint. Bush had No Child Left Behind. Reagan had TEFRA. Clinton had Welfare Reform. Perhaps we would be much better off with a President who did not go for Big Things That Are Capitalized, and stuck to “small ball”, and a constant set of guidelines given to the legislative branch on what he will Veto and on what grounds. Hmm, sounds a lot like W recently.  

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