Conservative Thinking in Today’s Politics and Punditry
The modern Conservative Movement has its roots in folks like Russell Kirk and William F Buckley. Their work was heavily influenced by the work of Edmund Burke. Like Burke, they sought to strike a logical balance between liberty and authority.
Kirk and Buckley were not alone. The Conservative Movement 50 years ago was a dazzling panoply of strategic thinkers, moralists, and idealists. It was a melding of a top-down/bottom-up movement. They built the foundation of the present Conservative Movement in an uncompromising fashion. They built the foundation for the rise of Ronald Reagan. While looking over the current political landscape, this foundation is being gutted by compromise and petulance. It is the sign of moral indifference and intellectual laziness.
I posit the Conservative Movement has broken into two significant groups: those who want to build/rebuild a conservative foundation on the local/state level and those who want to gain/maintain power in Washington DC. The former want change from the bottom-up. The latter promise a top-down change to begin from DC. It is the classic battle between the idealists and the status quo. This is inherently a battle of the Tea Party against the Establishment; where neither can co-exist without the other. The Tea Party won an impressive battle in the election of 2010. It not only helped the GOP capture the US House but also various state legislatures, state and local offices. It was a tremendous rebuke for Obama and the Democrats. The political future going forward looks bright. All that could change in 2012.
The presidential race of 2012 is extremely important for a couple of reasons; mainly, the continuation of the Tea Party and the end of the Obama rule by fiat. To that end, it is important that the right candidate win the GOP nomination.
For the most part, this primary race is between the contenders, the pretenders, and the never was. In many ways, it is a dog and pony show. At this moment, the presumed frontrunners are Gingrich and Romney. Both are technocrats; Gingrich being the governmental technocrat and Romney being the economic technocrat. Both are anathema to the interests of the Tea Party. Huntsman is a combination of both government and economic technocrat while the erstwhile Herman Cain was an economic technocrat. All four portray themselves to be ’outsiders’ and friends of the Tea Party but they are not. All four have promised change but their record is dismal to nonexistent. A nomination win by any of the four would be the end of the Tea Party. I will add that Michele Bachmann is nothing more than a Tea Party show horse with just as dismal to nonexistent record.
Yet, what interests me is the defense of Romney, Gingrich, Huntsman, and Cain by the conservative pundits. Romney is defended by the folks at NRO as the best hope for conservatism. We are told that we don’t understand the depth of Romney’s conservatism because he governed in a blue state and conservatives in a blue state govern differently from their beliefs. The problem with this kind of thinking is that nasty issue of RomneyCare; the impetus for ObamaCare. If it is so anathema to conservative ideals, why does Romney continue to defend RomneyCare. A hint: Romney is never, ever wrong.
Ann Coulter supports Romney as the only person who can defeat Obama. That alone is the reason we should coalesce around such a candidate. Let’s not examine whether Romney is truly pro-choice or pro-life; he is a multiple choice chameleon on all issues. Forget the flaws, full speed ahead. With such clairvoyance, it is amazing Ms. Coulter can not pick the winning lottery numbers on Saturday night.
Gingrich is a bit more interesting. He is a well-known commodity among conservative circles. He gets all the credit for the 1994 takeover of the House as well as all the blame from poor negotiating with Clinton over the budget to GOP election losses in 1998. There was an attempted coup to replace Gingrich as Speaker by the Conservative members of the House. Instead of being gracious and accommodating, Gingrich took to a whisper campaign against Bill Paxon, one of the ringleaders of the coup. It was a despicable act by a desperate man. This was the candidate who claimed the Paul Ryan budget was “right-wing social engineering”; only to walk balk on his statements later. The damage to Ryan was incalculable. As Ryan said, “with friends like Newt, who needs the Left,”.
Yet, there are folks rushing to the defense of Gingrich. They are led by folks at the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator (with the exception of Quin Hillyer–who has never relented on the Gingrich mistakes) and anyone willing to give Gingrich a microphone.
Huntsman would be better suited to run as a Democrat, yet, there are some conservatives who believe Huntsman is the type of conservative who would attract the political center. Perhaps, they should trash that argument after McCain’s dismal performance in 2008.
I am saving Cain for last. This is the candidate for whom I have had the least respect. First of all, Cain is a Libertarian and any definition that he is a conservative does injustice to the meaning of conservative. He is also a populist. This makes him a danger because he has no core convictions. He sticks his finger in the air and goes with the wind. His domestic and foreign policies were quite incoherent, yet he plodded along. When he was accused of sexual harassment, we heard defenses ranging from Camp Perry did it to ‘see how the liberal media treats a Black conservative‘. Cain was defended by all kinds of conservatives from Anne Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, to Sean Hannity. The most interesting defenses by far were made by Robert Stacy McCain at The Other McCain and The American Spectator. There was no pretense of objectivity or curiosity. It went all the way until Cain announced the suspension of his campaign. It was as though whatever Cain said was the Gospel truth. Have no fear, he is making up for his Cain coverage by attacking Perry.
I am not saying that none of these men have the right to run for office but let’s be honest as to who they are. The defense of these four is hypocrisy and show a break between today’s conservative thinkers and the legacy of the Conservative Movement. The Old Guard of the Conservative Movement would have vetted all four before investing their time, money, and energy on their campaigns. We all must do better but we should demand more from the folks who are extending the legacy of William Rusher, Paul Weyrich, William F Buckley, and the many others did the heavy lifting. We do them a great disservice when we compromise our principles.