Matt Welch, editor in chief of the libertarian Reason Magazine and author of "McCain, the Myth of a Maverick," thinks Obama's conservative support "comes as much anything else from people being exhausted with the Republican coalition, who are mad at one wing or another, and they just think it's time for them to lose. It's just, 'Look, we're out of ideas, we're exhausted, it's not working, we don't know what our principles are anymore, let's take one for the team and have a black guy be the president for a while.' "That "exhaustion" attitude is particularly true of professional conservative operatives in Washington. The older ones succumbed to Beltway fever at least five years ago; they're more concerned about getting new donors for their 501(c)s than advancing a conservative agenda.
While the Old Guard are now calmly re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, the younger staffers involved in the RNC/John McCain campaign are just collecting a paycheck and going through the motions. The McCain campaign is merely a resume-builder for them. None of these young staffers really believes in John McCain and none really expects him to win, and the honest ones don't mind saying so -- privately.
Most importantly, none of the Beltway conservatives, young or old, can give you a conservative argument in favor of McCain's election other than (a) "Obama would be worse" and (b) "What about judges?"
It's still possible that Obama may lose, but only because of his own inexperience and his campaign team's incompetence. The defeat of Obama will not be a mandate for a "John McCain agenda."
UPDATE: An exhausted Bill Kristol suggests bringing back Mike Murphy. Matt Lewis shrugs:
But I also have to think that in a worst-case scenario, McCain has to believe that if he has to go down, he should at least have the peace of mind in knowing that he went down doing things his way.The significance: Lewis appears to have accepted McCain's defeat as a realistic possibility, if not indeed the most likely outcome. Lewis is echoing the sentiment of most young Republicans in Washington, who are already mapping out their contingency plans for an Obama administration. The GOP is already psychologically defeated. John McCain's campaign is a symptom, not a cause, of this mindset.
UPDATE II: I didn't seek the "Yglesias Award," and was surprised to be nominated. The "Yggy" has been defined as honoring "writers, politicians, columnists or pundits who actually criticize their own side, make enemies among political allies, and generally risk something for the sake of saying what they believe."
Well, it's not a matter of what I believe, it's a matter of what is. The basic problem with the conservative movement during the Bush administration is that it has ceased to be a movement -- that is, organized political activism driven by the concerns of its grassroots supporters. The "movement" has been almost entirely co-opted by professional partisan operatives, who now issue orders telling conservatives what they're supposed to think, and banish anyone who dares disagree with the official GOP position.
Look at the No Child Left Behind Act -- an expensive, centralized, top-down, big-government program that doesn't work. Yet where are the conservative spokesmen who will say so? Where are the Republican congressmen and senators calling for NCLB's repeal? Where is that National Review or Weekly Standard cover story pronouncing the Bush administration's education agenda a flat failure? Most of all, whatever happened to the conservative Republicans who took over Congress in 1994 and vowed to end the federal role in education?
Those crickets are chirping loudly, aren't they? So now we see the Republican presidential nomination in the hands of John McCain, previously denounced by numerous movement spokesmen as an unconservative abomination. But are these conservatives now calling for his defeat? Are they organizing a protest in St. Paul? Are they in any way threatening to rock the boat?
Nope. Is it any wonder the GOP has no respect for conservatives? If you volunteer to be a doormat, don't complain about the footprints on your back.
UPDATE III: I find myself criticized by a commenter as "lazy" for presuming that the Washington correspondent of the San Francisco Chronicle could fairly be called "a liberal reporter." OK, for all I know Carolyn Lochhead is a closet Buchananite who moonlights anonymously at VDare and spends her weekends picketing abortion clinics. But if Ms. Lochhead is not actually a liberal, do we really want to alert her bosses at the Chronicle to this fact? It might be a firing offense.
UPDATE IV: Bruce Bartlett e-mails to inform me that he was the one who tipped Sully, thus the Yggy.