The conservative crackup

We’re getting to the end of the conservative movement that really kicked into gear with the election of Ronald Reagan, and now we’re seeing the inevitable final stages, as the loons on the far right start reeking havoc on the Republican Party.

Future historians tracing the crackup of the Republican Party may well look to May 8, 2010, as an inflection point.

That was the day, as is now well known, that Sen. Robert Bennett, who took the conservative position 84 percent of the time over his career, was deemed not conservative enough by fellow Utah Republicans and booted out of the primary.

Less well known, but equally ominous, is what happened that same day, 2,500 miles east in Maine. There, the state Republican Party chucked its platform — a sensible New England mix of free-market economics and conservation — and adopted a manifesto of insanity: abolishing the Federal Reserve, calling global warming a “myth,” sealing the border, and, as a final plank, fighting “efforts to create a one world government.”

You can read the rest of the article for some of Glenn Beck’s greatest hits.

What’s left of the conservative movement and the Republican Party?

We have the Reagan worshipers who have become so dogmatic that they think tax cuts solve everything at every time in history, regardless of the circumstances. These folks seem to forget that George W. Bush enacted huge tax cuts that would be followed by the greatest economic collapse in 80 years. These folks also turn on former allies like Bruce Bartlett and David Frum who dare top open a debate on how conservatives might adapt to the changing circumstances of today’s economy.

Then we have the religious right, who’s leaders keep getting caught up in sex scandals. All these folks who preach morality can’t keep it in their own pants. Most of the public has tuned out these self-righteous fools at this point.

We also have moderate Republicans who would like to see the government spend less and who also tend to be social liberals. These reasonable folks abandoned the party and the conservative movement long ago.

And finally we have the Tea Party clowns. Many of these folks are angry as hell – some are angry at everybody, while others don’t know why they’re angry. As noted above, they can be a force at times, and they may be the GOP’s not-so-secret weapon in the fall as anti-incumbent fever hits new highs.

Or, they may just turn off everyone else with their peculiar brand of crazy. Nuts like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and and Michelle Bachman can rile up these nut jobs, but they may end up giving the Democrats a lifeline as well.

Most people don’t like the crazies. The GOP did a great job for years of exploiting the loony left and painting the Democrats with a broad brush, and now the tables are turned, and the Tea Party folks are giving Democrats some good talking points for the fall.

We’ll see how it plays out.


Conservative columnist David Brooks calls Sarah Palin a “fatal cancer”

More conservatives are speaking out about Sarah Palin. David Brooks thinks she’s not qualified, and he doesn’t pull any punches.

[Sarah Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party. When I first started in journalism, I worked at the National Review for Bill Buckley. And Buckley famously said he’d rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty. But he didn’t think those were the only two options. He thought it was important to have people on the conservative side who celebrated ideas, who celebrated learning. And his whole life was based on that, and that was also true for a lot of the other conservatives in the Reagan era. Reagan had an immense faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I’m afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices.

The conservative movement used to pride itself on ideas. With Sarah Palin, those days are over.


McCain’s disgusting campaign

We knew it was coming, but now that John McCain is plummeting in the polls, we’re seeing a renewed attack on Barack Obama and his “associations.”

It’s amazing that in these tough times John McCain is unable to engage in a principled debate on the economy. Commentators on this blog have put up conservative arguments, yet McCain seems to be completely unable to offer a coherent argument as to why he is the better choice when it comes to the economy. Sarah Palin can barely utter a coherent sentence at all. Instead, McCain sends out Palin to make personal attacks on Barack Obama. The strategy is clear – change the subject and hope that the fickle electorate will turn on Obama.

It doesn’t help, of course, that Obama has been calm and steady thoughout this crisis while McCain has acted like a desperate fool. It also doesn’t help that these disgraceful attacks will now give the press an excuse to look at John McCain’s past and Sarah Palin’s past. They each have their own questionable associations, and we will be hearing more about them.

We’re also seeing the fruits of McCain’s ugly campaign, as taunts like “kill him” and “sit down boy” come from their frenzied audiences. I guess this is what happens when you whip up fear and hatred.

Further, these allegations are not brought up in news conferences or in interviews, where McCain or Palin would be forced to answer tough questions about their allegations or about their own records. Palin has yet to conduct a single news conference. Yesterday, the press was also prevented from speaking with Palin supporters at a campaign event. Unbelievable.

Conservatives need to look in the mirror. Is this what you want from your candidates? Is winning at all costs worth it? Can you defend candidates who can’t even enunciate or defend conservative principles?

If this doesn’t work, this will be a fitting end to the Reagan conservative movement. By embracing a mediocre intellect like Sarah Palin, following the disaster of the George W. Bush presidency, conservatives will have proven that identity politics, cronyism and the politics of personal destruction have replaced conservative principles as the driving force of the movement. In many ways, today’s conservatives are the mirror opposite of Ronald Reagan, who relied on ideas and a sunny optimism to lead our country.

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GOP is a mess

George Will is leading a growing chorus of commentators arguing that the GOP is destroying the conservative movment. For years I’ve been hearing pundits (including Will) brag about the conservative revolution overtaking this country, but the success of the GOP has more to do with political tactics (see Karl Rove) and the inept Democrats (see Kerry, Gore, Daschle and Gephardt) than the power of conservative principles.

The most obvious example involves spending. The GOP controls the Oval Office and both houses of Congress, yet George Bush and his Republican buddies are spending like crazy and reversing the fiscal sanity of the Clinton years. Bush loves to throw around the word “irresponsible,” yet this term is one of the first that would come to mind when describing Bush (along with “incompetent”). The GOP is winning elections not by challenging liberalism, but by offering goodies like prescription drugs and massive tax cuts and dividing the country on the issue of security. Barry Goldwater has to be turning in his grave. If they offered small government conservatism to the public, their winning streak at the ballot box would surely come to an end. George Bush learned this the hard way when he interpreted the 2004 election as a mandate for gutting Social Security. His approval ratings have been in a free fall following that brilliant determination.

My favorite new phrase is “big-government conservatives.” Huh? Are you kidding me? Will addresses what’s really happening – the religious conservatives are taking over the GOP. Fortunately, principled small-government conservatives like Will are getting fed up. Silly issues like “intelligent design” might force a split in the party. The mess in Iraq isn’t helping. Now, can the Democrats seize this opportunity?


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