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Posts Tagged ‘conservatism’

Beck to GOP: Apologize — and mean it!

Posted by Richard on February 22, 2010

Allahpundit has the complete video of Glenn Beck's keynote speech at CPAC. I don't have time to watch it tonight, but it sounds like a humdinger. I love the pull quote:

“It’s not enough to not suck as much as the other side,” said Beck, on how Republicans can regain their ideals. “The first step to redemption is admitting you have a problem. … When they do say they have a problem, I don’t know if I believe them. … They’ve got to recognize they have a problem. … ‘I’m addicted to spending and big government.’”…

Beck went on to compare GOPers to Tiger Woods, who recently gave his first public apology for his cheating candal. Beck said some people believed he was only sorry because he got caught. Beck, to GOPers in Congress: “You got caught. Are you sorry?”…

More Beck: “One party will tax and spend. The other party won’t tax, but spend. It’s both of them together. I’m tired of feeling like a freak in America.”

If CPAC is any indication, the conservative movement has become decidedly more libertarian, as well as more energized. Limited government, fiscal sanity, and other economic liberty issues are at the forefront. Social conservatism has taken a back seat or faded altogether. For instance:

  • A warmly received Dick Cheney said he's OK with gays serving openly in the military.
  • Ron Paul was the top vote-getter among potential presidential candidates in a straw poll of attendees. 
  • In that same straw poll (PDF), 80% said their most important goal is "to promote individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government," versus 9% who chose "to promote traditional values by protecting traditional marriage and protecting the life of the unborn."
  • The poll found that 52% chose reducing the size of the federal government and 33% chose reducing federal spending as one of their top two issue priorities. Only 5% chose promoting traditional values, and 1% chose stopping gay marriage.
  • A speaker who criticized the inclusion of the gay Republican group, GOProud, was roundly booed. (To be fair, Ron Paul's straw poll finish was booed too. But I can think of some pretty good reasons for that, even from a libertarian perspective.) 

My experiences with the Tea Party movement tell me that the "conservative" grass roots of America are already pretty libertarian in many respects. About half of the 10,000 attendees at CPAC are 25 or younger, suggesting that conservatism is going to move even closer to libertarianism in the future. 

That's change I can believe in! Hopenchange, man, hopenchange!

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Conservatives aren’t credible on scientific matters

Posted by Richard on July 2, 2009

Dafydd at Big Lizards has identified the greatest weakness of the conservative movement, the one that cripples them in debates over some of today's biggest issues (emphasis in original):

… What do all these contemporary issues hold in common?

  • Cap and Trade — rather, Cripple and Tax
  • The expansion of nuclear power generation
  • The EPA's attempt to outlaw CO2 (and now NO2 as well; hat tip to Hugh Hewitt)
  • Missile defense, both theater and strategic
  • Nationalization of major industries
  • Nationalization of health care to a single-payer, government-controlled system
  • The promiscuous proliferation of "endangered species" that are, in fact, not endangered

First, each of these controversies is a wedge issue by which Republicans and conservatives can oust Democrats and liberals from Congress — and potentially from la Casa Blanca, as well.

Second, each is fundamentally a scientific question, from climate science, to nuclear physics, to aeronautics and cybernetics, to the optimal pursuit of medical research, to economic science, to the biological sciences.

And most important, for each of these wedge issues, the Right can only win if it is more credible when speaking about scientific matters.

It's not good enough merely to be no less credible than, on a par with the Left — in this case, a "tie" in rationalism goes to whoever is best at slinging emotional arguments; and in that arena, the Left always has the home-field advantage.

All of which leads me, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, back to the hubris-flaw of conservatives; and that is, of course, the squirrely refusal of so many prominent conservatives to accept the findings of a century and a half of evolutionary biology.

Read the whole thing.

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A village of pygmies

Posted by Richard on November 19, 2008

Jerry Bowyer began his recent TCS column about what's wrong with conservative leadership by telling a great Winston Churchill story I hadn't heard before. It was after Churchill was defeated by socialist Clement Atlee. Churchill was at a urinal when Atlee walked in and took the urinal next to him:

… Churchill looked up at him, zipped up, moved a couple of urinals farther down and resumed his business. "Why Winston, I had no idea you were so modest.", said Atlee. "It's not modesty, Prime Minister. It's only that every time you find something that is large and functions well, you try to nationalize it, and I thought it best not to take a chance!"

But the subject of the column isn't the giant that was Churchill:

Let me say in print what so many of us believe in our hearts: the present generation of conservative leaders has failed us miserably. For the most part, congressional republicans are a village of pygmies. Few have genuine leadership qualities. Fewer still can compose a clear English sentence in defense of our ideas. Our president, whom I love, certainly cannot. Our nominee is a man who spent too many decades in the DC Skinner Box where he learned to flinch every time his inner Reagan threatened to say something true about the left. Sen. McCain said in his most recent appearance on Meet the Press that he had appeared there more than any other guest in its history. He thought that was a good thing. I thought, "That's why he's losing."

How could he have possibly believed that he could win an investor-bashing bidding war with a utopian socialist?



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Bill Buckley, wordsmith

Posted by Richard on February 28, 2008

On the TECHWR-L mailing list for technical writers, Yves Jeaurond noted the passing of William F. Buckley and pointed out that Buckley's last National Review column (about a Clinton-Obama debate) drew heavily from and profusely praised Henry Fowler's  Modern English Usage, a work much revered by us tech writers. The column, Jeaurond observed, was "a fitting end piece for a fan of the English language, articulate speech and voluptuous prose."

Buckley was a big fan of Fowler:

My reluctance to quote at such length from the great Fowler is mitigated by my serious wish that students of the English language would themselves take the initiative of familiarizing themselves with the profundities and niceties of the points being made by Mr. Fowler.

I wasn't a big fan of Bill Buckley, but did admire his erudition and humor. Here are a couple of quotes I particularly like. The first demonstrates that he wasn't the snobbish elitist he sometimes appeared to be:

I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.

The second reminds me of a much longer John Stuart Mill quote ("War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things…"). Buckley's take is marvelously succinct and powerful:

World War is the second worst activity of mankind, the worst being acquiescence in slavery.

Buckley apparently passed away at his desk, writing — an entirely fitting and proper end for an outstanding wordsmith.

UPDATE: One of the most important things Buckley did for the conservative movement that he helped grow and shape was to insist that there was no room in that movement for racists, anti-Semites, and kooks like the Birchers. And that reminds me of another great Buckley quote. The John Birch Society's Robert Welch accused President Dwight David Eisenhower (among others) of being a communist. Buckley's reaction: "Eisenhower isn't a communist. He's a golfer." 

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General dissatisfaction

Posted by Richard on November 15, 2007

A new Gallup opinion poll found that Americans are feeling "distinctly negative" toward congressional Democrats — as negative as they were about the Republican Congress just before the 2006 elections. In six of seven major issues (the economy, government reform, health care, Iraq, immigration, and the budget deficit), a clear majority (53-68%) said they were disappointed or angry. Only on Democrats' handling of terrorism did a majority (52%) say they were pleased or neutral.

It's actually worse for Democrats than those numbers suggest. Although Gallup lumps the responses into two categories — Pleased and Neutral on one side, Disappointed and Angry on the other — that's quite misleading, because Disappointed doesn't counterbalance Neutral, it counterbalances Pleased.

Gallup's rating scale has two negative responses and only one positive response. Neutral is neither. A more fair scale would consist of Enthusiastic, Pleased, Neutral, Disappointed, and Angry. Maybe they tried that, but the number of Enthusiastic responses was statistically insignificant. 🙂 

On all seven issues, the clearly negative responses (Disappointed and Angry) far outweigh the clearly positive (Pleased). The margin ranges from about 3:1 (47% – 17%) to almost 10:1 (68% – 7%). 

Mark Tapscott warned Republicans not to gloat about the Democrats' "abysmal failure." He thinks these numbers reflect a wider and deeper problem, one for which the Republicans, too, bear responsibility (emphasis added):

We have created a federal Leviathan that promises to deliver something for everybody, with its regulations and taxation directing virtually every corner of daily life. There is no way any government can do that, so failures are inevitable. But over a period of time, as the failures in particular arenas multiply, there comes a point when the many specific failures merge into one general mood of dissatisfaction.

Within the next decade, as the seriousness of the entitlement crisis becomes more evident, it is likely that the general dissatisfaction with government that promises everything and delivers nothing but higher taxes, more waste and policy paralysis is going to grow more intense and deeper rooted.

This widespread dissatisfaction with the inability of Big Government to deliver on its promises presents conservatives with an historic opportunity to refocus public debate to redefine what is expected of government, to slim it down to more manageable proportions so that it can deliver on the most important things.

In short, the coming decade could be the greatest opportunity this generation is likely to see to make the case for a rejuvenated federalism of limited government. We simply have to find new ways to speak the timeless message of Ronald Reagan's first inaugural:

"It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government.

"Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work — work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it."

There is one more lesson of importance here for conservatives and it is one that ought to give us heart. When your political power depends, as it does for our liberal friends, on promising more and more, but doing so assures that you will be able to actually deliver less and less, you sow the seeds of your own downfall.

I think Tapscott might be right about the rising dissatisfaction and liberals' downfall, but not necessarily. After all, liberal politicians have been promising to solve a multitude of problems with government programs for many decades now. On how many of those promises have they delivered? Yet their supporters have generally ignored all those failures because their intentions were good.

The outcome Tapscott envisions will only come about if those who ostensibly desire that outcome do a much better job of "redefin[ing] what is expected of government" and "mak[ing] the case for … limited government" than they've done in the past — better even than Reagan did (or maybe just sustained more consistently over a longer period of time).

To do that, they'll have to make the moral case as well as the practical, they'll have to stop being defensive, apologetic, and half-hearted about the principles they claim to embrace, and they'll have to stop tolerating hypocrisy, cynical pragmatism, and corruption on their side.

The behavior of the Republican leadership over the past few years suggests they're far from up to the task.  

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The GOP’s wrong turn

Posted by Richard on September 12, 2006

This looks like a terrific read:

In THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, New York Post and columnist Ryan Sager argues that the GOP has lost its way and that its wrong turn will cost it — not just in conservative dreams deferred, but ultimately at the ballot box.

The problem — the elephant in the room, if you will — is the so-called “big-government conservatism” embraced by President Bush and the leaders of the GOP Congress. The conservative movement has long been a fusion of social conservatives and libertarian conservatives around a shared commitment to minimizing the power of Washington, D.C. But as the GOP has taken over the nation’s capital, it’s gone native — and now all bets are off.

What’s more, as the nation’s population and electoral map shift South and West, the current Republican Party increasingly favors southern values (religion, morality, and tradition) over western ones (freedom, independence, and privacy). The result? The party is in danger of losing crucial ground in the interior West — specifically in “leave-me-alone” states such as Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Montana.

All hope is not lost, however, as Sager proposes a way out of the mangled mess. He calls it a renewal of fusionism, a better blend between liberty and tradition, between freedom and responsibility; one that emphasizes small government instead of Republican-controlled government, morality instead of moralism, and principles instead of politics.

The book’s subtitle is "Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party." Read Bruce Bartlett’s review at Human Events. Read the first chapter of the book at TCS Daily. I’m ordering a copy.

I suspect the only thing preventing even more libertarian-minded, limited-government Republicans from bailing on the party is the thought of what a Congress led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid would be like.

Apparently, quite a few Americans are having second thoughts about that prospect. Throughout the spring and summer, the polling numbers for the GOP have been grim, and every media pundit in Washington has said that the Dems practically have a lock on taking control of the House and a good shot at the Senate. But Mike Franc at Human Events thinks the prognosticators may be all wet, and he points to recent polling showing significant shifts (emphasis added):

The September consensus: nearly unanimous. “Voter anxiety over the economy, health care and financial security,” the Washington Post’s Dan Balz observed, “threatens to put Republican candidates across the country on the defensive this fall.” Veteran Congress watcher Stuart Rothenberg predicted “a heavy-damage scenario for the Republicans.” The House minority leader even guaranteed that “we’re going to win the House back.”

Those prognostications were made in September 2002, before the last mid-term election, and they were all wrong. …

Four years later, Republican lawmakers are again facing ominous headlines: “GOP’s Hold On House Shakier” (Los Angeles Times), “GOP Seen to Be in Peril of Losing House” (New York Times) and “More GOP Districts Counted as Vulnerable: Number Doubled Over the Summer” (Washington Post). … With independent voters “alienated” and the Democratic base “energized,” once-safe Republican incumbents are now “on the defensive.”

Ignored was a Gallup Poll released in late August that found an unexpected tightening in what pollsters call the “generic ballot” question: “If the election were being held today, which party’s candidate would you vote for in your congressional district?” …

… The advantage for the generic Democratic candidate slipped from 11 points in late July, to nine points in early August, and then to a statistically insignificant two points (47% to 45%) in its August 18-20 survey. Among those most likely to vote, moreover, the Democrats’ advantage disappeared entirely, with Gallup reporting a dead heat: 48% to 48%.

Anxious to understand this movement toward Republican candidates, Gallup sorted the responses to the generic-ballot question into two new categories. Are Democrats, it wanted to know, “competitive in U.S. House districts currently held by Republicans,” or “just getting a larger-than-normal share of the vote in the districts they already hold”? …

Using area codes and exchanges to identify whether the voter resides in a district represented by a Democrat or a Republican, Gallup reviewed the 13 polls in 2006 in which it asked this question. Through July, Democrats not only posted two-to-one margins in districts they currently represent, but were unusually competitive in Republican-held districts as well.

For example, Democrats outpaced Republicans in Republican-held districts in several polls, with their advantage peaking at an astounding 11-point margin (51% to 40%) in late June. This verifies the widespread perception in conservative circles that Republican base voters were in open revolt against their party earlier this year.

But then Democrats began to lose favor in Republican districts, falling steadily from 51% in late June, to 46% a month later, then to 43% in early August, and finally to the current low of 40% in the August 18-20 survey. Support for Republicans, in contrast, rose 14 points in six weeks, from a low of 40% to its current level of 54%.

Personally, I think a good portion of that turnaround isn’t due to anything the GOP did — it’s disgruntled Republicans looking at and listening to the country’s leading Democrats, and saying, "Whoa… are these folks for real?!?" — and then swallowing real hard and deciding that the good-for-nothing, unprincipled Republican who they had no use for a few weeks ago may be tolerable after all.

I can understand that. I hate that things are that way, but I can understand it. My best-case scenario for this November’s election is that the Republican base is just pissed enough to badly scare and chasten the GOP, and maybe get some of them listening to people like Sager (or even Gingrich) — but that we avoid having to live with Speaker Pelosi. [shudder]

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Social conservatism on the wane?

Posted by Richard on September 10, 2006

Matt Towery wrote an interesting column the other day entitled Republican voters rejecting social conservatives. His sample size is still a bit too small for drawing sweeping conclusions, but it’s certainly noteworthy when Florida Republicans reject a social conservative for a candidate who endorsed gay civil unions:

… Following the election blowout of Judge Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore in Alabama and the defeat of former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed in Georgia comes Tuesday’s overwhelming victory by Florida’s moderate Republican Attorney General Charlie Crist. By a two-to-one margin, he defeated the more socially conservative state Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and moved one step closer to succeeding Jeb Bush as governor.

Towery noted that backing civil unions would once have been the "kiss of death" for a Republican, and he has a theory about what changed that:

But ever since Congress, in 2005, rushed to pass through a law to keep alive brain-damaged Terri Schiavo in defiance of Florida and federal courts, the public’s mood on core social issues has shifted.

Indeed, a spokesperson for Schiavo’s family during her final days alive was beaten soundly in a Florida state Senate race on Tuesday.

This trend can be seen in public survey after survey across the nation over the past months.

This isn’t to say social conservatives and the organizations through which they speak and act — like the Christian Coalition — won’t again rise to prominence. But for now, Republican voters across America are tending toward moderation on social issues. They are instead showing more concern for things like immigration, energy costs, security and their own financial futures.

I certainly hope he’s right, and that the GOP gets the message. Here in Colorado, we have a great opportunity to pass the Domestic Partnership Amendment (Referendum I), and I’d like to believe that lots of reasonable and fairminded Republicans will be persuaded by the simple argument of proponents: "It’s not marriage. It’s basic legal rights."

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