Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Disagree

Ed Kilgore has some interesting thoughts on the state of the Republican Party. I concede that I should take his ideas with a grain of salt if only because he writes for a journal called The Democratic Strategist. But I think he significantly misstates the current choices facing Republicans. He may do this intentionally to limit those choices and maintain the GOP's current stagnation, or he may just be an idiot. I'll let you decide. But let's take a look.
For those Democrats who were settling down with a bag of popcorn to watch an orgy of ideological strife among Republicans, it's beginning to become apparent that the war may be over before it began. Sure, there's plenty of finger-pointing and personal recriminations over tactics and strategy, some of it focused on the McCain-Palin campaign, and some looking back to the errors of the Bush administration. There's clearly no consensus on who might lead Republicans in 2010 or 2012. But on the ideological front, for all the talk about "movement conservatives" or "traditionalists" at odds with "reformers," it's a pretty one-sided fight.
I'd love some definitions. Or citations. Or something to tell me what Kilgore means by these three categories. Movement conservatives, of course, are usually set at odds with the "Old Right," which I would call traditionalists. Kilgore seems to think that they're the same thing, which confuses me. And then there are reformers. I suppose this is like reformed judaism? In other words, conservatives who don't think we need to appeal to the old ways?

Okay, so how do we classify someone like me? I'm a libertarian conservative. I believe very strongly in small government, period. Low taxes, little interference in our lives, social liberties, civil liberties, etc. Am I a movement conservative? Well, based on my understanding of the definition, no. Am I a traditional conservative? I'd again argue, no. Am I a reformer? Probably not? I don't know.

The problem is, Kilgore paints a fight between "moderate/liberal" Republicans and... something else. But the term "moderate Republican" doesn't mean anything precisely because you cannot contrast it with anything. The mistake here is the characterization. The battle isn't about moderation, it's about direction. It's between small-government conservatives (often not among those considered "moderate") and big-government "conservatives." It's between fiscal conservatism and social conservatism. On this scale, you can see quite readily where I fit. One more quote:
Karl Rove's famous strategy for building a permanent Republican majority, which relied on strategic public-sector activism deisgned to attract Latinos (immigration reform); seniors (Medicare Rx drug benefit); and married women with kids (No Child Left Behind), was based on the recognition that there simply wasn't a majority for hard-core small government conservatism.
No, there isn't. Never has been. Hopefully someday will be. But Rove's "famous strategy" failed. Why?

Rove's strategy was predicated on the idea that small-government conservatives would always vote Republican, so he could safely expand the role of government to win these other constituencies without losing the base. Well, he was wrong. He lost the small government conservatives as Republicans violated the premise of the Reagan Revolution. Reagan brought social conservatives in because he convinced them that their ideals were best protected by protecting everyone from the government.

He succeeded, and the social conservative movement took over, abandoned those beliefs, and decided to use government to their advantage.

And the rest of us left the party.

So don't listen to Kilgore. This isn't about moderates vs. traditionalists. This is about sticking to the principle of small government.

[Apologies if this post is a bit disjointed. I'm still working through some of these thoughts, and should have more in the coming days and weeks to clarify my position. In the meantime, this post gets at the same idea, but a little more effectively.]

No comments: