Monday, November 3, 2008

Beinart: 'Palin is the end of the line'

The culture war is over and it's all economics now. Would you care to wager money on that proposition, Mr. Smarty-Pants?

What actually happened during the Bush administration -- as opposed to all that tendentious historical trend-mongering that Beinart indulges -- was a self-conscious choice by Rove, et al., to make three consecutive elections (2002, 2004, 2006) into foreign-policy plebiscites, casting all opposition as unpatriotic. It worked twice, but failed the third time. Now, having trotted out a hawk's hawk as their super-patriot candidate, the Republicans are paying the inevitable price for having failed to build support for a coherent limited-government domestic agenda.

Campaigning on foreign policy is ultimately a losing strategy, because most Americans don't give a damn about foreign policy. What Beinart derides as the "culture war" -- debating issues like immigration, gay marriage, education, etc. -- has proven far more effective for the GOP, since these are domestic quality-of-life issues that actually engage organized constituencies of religious conservatives. Yet if Republicans aren't willing to push hard on the fundamental issue of economic freedom and limited government, they surrender the game. Big-government conservatism (i.e., "National Greatness") is not conservative at all, and no amount of Republican posturing on abortion or patriotism can disguise this fact.

UPDATE: The Hill's Walter Alarkon seems to have misread this as a criticism of Palin. In saying the GOP "trotted out a hawk's hawk" -- i.e., McCain -- as their '08 standard-bearer, I meant to show how the party was continuing to repeat the mistake of overemphasizing the flag-waving foreign policy stance. Seven years after 9/11, the public has gotten burnt out on the jingo trip.

McCain was never a domestic-issues wedge-and-hammer conservative like Newt Gingrich, and McCain himself has said he doesn't know much about economics. McCain was running on his war hero biography and "the surge worked," and when the financial crisis reared its ugly head in September, he misplayed it badly. Whereas Obama (despite his personal ties to Fannie Mae, ACORN, etc.) was able to fit the financial crisis within his previously established narrative of "eight years of failed Bush policies."

Thus, my argument that the GOP had weakened itself by repeatedly campaigning on the war/patriotism message. I contrasted this to Beinart's (mis)interpretation that saw the impending McCain defeat as a negative referendum on the "culture wars" -- with Palin as "the end of the line." Beinart's spin is nonsensical because (a) McCain was never a culture warrior and (b) the McCain campaign didn't push cultural issues. And I am absolutely certain that cultural issues will continue to be relevant during the Obama administration.


  1. One has to wonder why party leadership, in spite of absolute evidence conservative notions are very winning practices choose to not include them, even forcing them and those who espouse them out of the 'big tent'. Well, for some there is a question. For many of us, there is no doubt. Hang them with the rest of the left, the "leadership" that is.

  2. Immigration and education are not part of the culture wars. Abortion, gay marriage, bible thumping, flag burning, pledge enforcement - those things are culture war items.

  3. Yeah, well, nail on the head with respect to thumping opposition as not patriotic. But small government conservatives are in direct opposition to law and order conservatives when the latter want to listen in on people's phone calls and read their emails and texts, and in the context of 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq (heaven help us), it was an easy step to getting anti-abortion/-gay marriage conservatives, law and order conservatives, and read-my-lips-no-new-taxes conservatives.

    I saw George Will decrying the passage of one budget with double digit increases on discretionary spending produced by a Republican President and Republican Congress, but that's it.

    I saw almost no one on the right decry torture, Jose Padilla's two year incarceration, very few willing to speak about Guantanamo, and a whole range of Patriot Act domestic spying that has not, and will not, be used to nab terrorists. But any transfers of money, expensive jewelry purchases, and auto purchases will be tracked.

    Education is part of the culture wars, unless you ignore the teaching of biology (as opposed to theology), and the presence of liberals in universities. No Child Left Behind has been the nationally dictated voucher system--no school can push its every category of its students to average, and so all schools will be on its watch and failure lists, and will have to provide transportation and funding to wherever the parents want to go. But private schools, parochial schools, Christian fundamentalist schools are not held to those standards, nor are they required to take the categories of students who can't move to average.

    That's why you don't hear about vouchers. They are already mandated federally. Blame Kennedy, but it's a conservative Trojan horse. The fundamentalists won.

  4. And I am absolutely certain that cultural issues will continue to be relevant during the Obama administration.

    I believe you because without the Fundies, the GOP will be a permanent minority party.