Friday, June 6, 2008

The mysterious 'we'

Having previously complained about Allahpundit's employment of the first-person plural in reference to the Republican Party and John McCain, I now notice that Allahpundit's referring to Bob Barr's "daring master plan to make his name as widely reviled among the right as Ralph Nader’s is among the left."

If John McCain fails to get 270 electoral votes in November, why should Barr be "widely reviled among the right"? Why not revile McCain instead? If Barr is really such an insignificant fringe character -- and if John McCain is the Savior of Conservatism -- then shouldn't we expect John McCain to win a Reaganesque landslide, so that the Libertarian Party's votes don't even matter?

John McCain is not a conservative, and is arguably the weakest presidential candidate the Republican Party has fielded since Gerald Ford in 1976. To portray him as some sort of sacred vessel into which conservatives should pour all their hopes and dreams -- the basket for all our eggs, so that conservatives must "revile" anyone who doesn't wholeheartedly support his election -- strikes me as the antithesis of political wisdom.

Conflating conservatism with the Republican Party, so that the electoral success of the latter is viewed as a barometer of the political merit of the former, is exactly how the GOP and the conservative punditocracy have reached their current nadir.

You can go back to David Brooks' "National Greatness" article and see how this happened: Brooks confused the electorate's rejection of Bob Dole in 1996 with a rejection of the limited-government philosophy that had animated the "Republican Revolution" congressional insurgency of 1994.

Bob Dole was never a limited-government conservative and, while Dole was en route to a feeble 41% showing, the Republicans were maintaining their congressional majority. Yet the GOP brain trust swallowed Brooks' confused notion that somehow the 1996 election could be viewed as a negative referendum on limited-government conservatism

This resulted in the Republican elite deciding to abandon conservatism. By 2001, a Republican president was cooperating with Ted Kennedy to enact the anticonservative No Child Left Behind Act. By 2002, a Republican president was signing into law the anticonservative McCain-Feingold bill. By 2003, a Republican president was signing into law the anticonservative Medicare Part D prescription-drug benefit.

Each of these measures represented an expansion of big government; each was supported by Republicans. Yet where are the eminent conservatives denouncing these measures and calling for their repeal? Nowhere. They've punked out.

Having learned that conservatives would roll over and play dead so long as liberal ideas were advanced by Republicans, the GOP then twice tried to ram amnesty for illegals down the throats of an unwilling electorate.

And now what do we behold? Soi-dissant "conservatives" urging us to rally to the banner of John McCain, the darling of the "National Greatness" crowd and a key proponent of the abandonment of limited-government conservatism. "We" must support him, or else be "reviled."
If conservatives never stand up to the Republican Party, if conservatives just cheerfully accept whatever policies and candidates the GOP serves up, why should the Republican Party have any respect for conservatives? If you offer to be a doormat, don't complain about the footprints on your back.

If Republicans want to continue their steady fade into irrelevance -- becoming a big-government, open-borders, global-warming, entitlement-expanding "me too" party -- I confess that I am powerless to stop them. I'm neither a fat-cat donor nor a "key strategist," and thus have no reason to expect that the party bosses will pay any more attention to me in the future than they have paid me in the past, which is to say, none at all.

Yet it is worthwhile to declare the truth merely because it is true, and the truth is that if the Republicans continue on their present course, they'll go the way of the Whigs.

The Republican argument that "a vote for Barr is a vote for Obama" is self-evidently false, based on the bogus fixed-pie premise that there is some percentage of the vote to which every Republican candidate is automatically entitled. This is false, suggesting that elections are a process of subtracting from 50 percent. In truth, every candidate starts with zero votes, and each candidate's final total is the product of accumulation within a competitive electoral environment.

Heaping imprecations upon the heads of those who refuse to climb aboard the John McCain bandwagon will not fix what's wrong with the GOP. I reject as hopelessly myopic the suggestion that the election of a big-government Republican is a goal of such vital national importance that conservatives must "revile" anyone who might prevent it.


  1. Right on RSM! If McCain can't build his own support in Nov, then maybe the republicans should have picked a stronger candidate. Of course, it's easier for them to blame someone else, like Ron Paulers or the Bob Barriers for not joining the fold.

    Maybe the GOP folks should be out there energizing their crowd, rather than picking scape goats to blame for their failure.

  2. Talking about the Barr effect is more a parlor game than anything. It's up to Sen. McCain to earn the votes of those tempted to check off the box for Barr.

    One point about wanting a GOP leader to call for the repeal of NCLB, McCain-Feingold, and the drug benefit. Back in the Gingrich days Congressional GOP leaders shouldn't get enough of their caucus on board. Conservatives didn't do enough to convince more Congressmen to have the strength to back shutting down swaths of cabinet departments. Then when they lost the government shut down battle with Clinton they calculated the public wasn't as anti-government as they thought. Thus the rise of "compassionate conservative" George W. Bush.

    The lesson to be learned is to fight to the death to never let big new programs come into existence since they're impossible to repeal.