In Defense of the Buckley Rule

Posted: November 12, 2011 by socklessjoe in Conservatism, Fun with Elections, GOP FAIL, Notes on the Revolution, Op/Sped

[Note – I started writing this as ‘Yet Another Newt Analysis’, but I needed to set the table a bit with my interpretation of the Buckley Rule.  Hopefully my Newt bit will follow soon. -Sockless Joe]

Generally speaking, I’m of the “not Romney” persuasion for this election cycle. But I’m also a believer in the “Buckley rule”. I think a candidate has to be electable for me to support him or her in a primary election, and I’m trying to keep that in mind as I search for my “not Romney”. Conservatives and Republicans face two problems with the Buckley rule. First, they misapply it; Second, they ignore it. These two problems are related in that certain people ignore it because they misapply it.

Consider the conclusion of this recent freelance piece on the Daily Caller:

If the American voters aren’t ready for conservative political ideas and solutions now when the consequences of Obama’s liberal policies are plain to see, then they might as well pack the whole effort up and go home to cling to their guns and religion.

In any contest, some battles are lost before the war is won.

In the current presidential race, Republicans should nominate the most conservative candidate. A true conservative can speak clearly against the failed policies of Obama. A solid conservative can hold out hope that morning will again come to America.

Rather than fretting about a conservative candidate’s electability, Republicans should stick to their message of limited government, self-reliance, community and faith-based social support and a strong national defense. Success will follow a conservative candidate who is true to these principles.

Um, no. I am continually amazed that folks can get paid to write crap like this. One can almost see the word “Reagan” oozing out of the preceding paragraphs. But guess what – not every conservative is a Reagan.

Barry Goldwater, “Mister Conservative”. Got his ass handed to him by Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Then we got the Great Society. And while movement conservatives like to point out that we needed Goldwater to get a Reagan, in the mean-time the liberals of both parties implemented the very programs that now threaten to tear our entire society apart. Every silver lining has its cloud, and there’s a certain danger to blindly supporting the guy who can most firmly stomp his foot on the ground and proclaim himself a conservative.

The improper application of the Buckley rule implies that there’s an inherent tension between electability and a candidate’s conservatism. This is not true. This interpretation of the Buckley rule relies on a widely accepted but deeply flawed bell-curve ideological distribution model of the electorate. To wildly over-simplify, the “median voter” model assumes that voters (-especially swing voters) are rational creatures. If you think swing voters who voted in 2004 for Dubya and then for Obama in 2008 are rational creatures, I suggest that you might want to reduce your consumption of psychoactive drugs.

Conservative candidates can be elected. But they have to be a Reagan. Or a Toomey. Or a Ron Johnson or Paul Ryan. When you’re shopping for conservative candidates who can win, you have to look for somebody who is able to sell the product of conservatism.

There’s a little voice in my head that keeps telling me that I’m just being paranoid by thinking Obama could do (further) irreparable harm to the US, perhaps eventually collapsing our government, but that little voice is getting fainter by the day. Accordingly, I’d vote for Romney in a heartbeat over Obama should he become the nominee. No, I don’t trust him, but I also shudder to think what could happen if Obama managed to get another term as President. It’s really not even a question in my mind that Romney would be a better President than Obama, but then again, that’s a pretty low threshold. Heck, I’d probably even vote for that irascible, diminutive Texan Congressman should he manage to pull of a miracle and win the GOP nomination. (Now excuse me for a moment while I go throw up and take four or five showers.)

Buckley understood that democracy is rarely about a final, Armageddon-style battle for the soul of the country. It’s a marathon. An ultra-marathon, even. The author of the Daily Caller piece seems confident that the American voters are ready for conservative ideas. The polls suggest otherwise. They might not like Obama, but they don’t really like Republicans either, and they’re fairly keen on raising taxes on high-income earners. Winning people to conservatism is not an overnight event. It is a long, inter-generational struggle.

I’m most certainly not for Romney in the primary, but don’t try to tell me that we’d be better off with another four years of Obama than Romney just because Romney is a notably flawed conservative. Don’t try to tell me that we’re better off having had Obama than McCain. And don’t try to tell me that the American people have an insatiable hunger for conservative ideas when the worst President since James Buchanan stands a decent chance of being reelected. I’m not buying it.

  1. chad98036 says:

    don’t try to tell me that we’d be better off with another four years of Obama than Romney just because Romney is a notably flawed conservative. Don’t try to tell me that we’re better off having had Obama than McCain. And don’t try to tell me that the American people have an insatiable hunger for conservative ideas when the worst President since James Buchanan stands a decent chance of being reelected. I’m not buying it.

    Watch out or Rush and Glenn Beck will have your conservative card pulled. I have made this same argument over at the head moron’s place numerous times, although this is the first time I have heard the term Buckley Rule. The response is usually something on the order of “It takes a Carter to get a Reagan”, unfortunately that only works when there is a Reagan available.

    I don’t remember where I saw this but somewhere I saw someone say that they blamed Rush Limbaugh for Barack Obama. He so poisoned the well against John McCain that there was no possible recovery. The more I think about it the more I agree with that.

  2. Gundo says:

    No. McCain is the one who poisoned the well against McCain. He spent most of his electoral career repeatedly shitting in the well and then pretending he hadn’t. It’s not like he lost in a landslide, even with the near-unanimous support of minitru behind his opponent.

    • chad98036 says:

      “It’s not like he lost in a landslide, even with the near-unanimous support of minitru behind his opponent.”

      That kind of makes my point. If Rush had acted like a fucking grown up we wouldn’t be dealing with Obama. But then I have the feeling you’re one of those Glenn Beck followers who feels like Obama was the better choice.

      • veeshir says:

        But then I have the feeling you’re one of those Glenn Beck followers

        Dude, why attack him instead of just responding to what he said? He didn’t attack you, he disagreed with you.

        Personally, I agree with what he said, it’s just common sense.

        In 2008 most people didn’t realize exactly how bad Obama was going to be.

        I did realize that so I voted for Palin, but I could understand not voting.

        McCain spent much of his career sticking his finger in my eye to make the NY Times happy and suddenly I’m supposed to love him?

        I’ll repeat the biggest point about 08, most people didn’t know how bad Obama would be. The media hid him from the electorate, politically astute people either knew or should have known, but to harry joe voter, who only pays attention to what’s on the CBS Evening News, Obama looked pretty moderate and all post racial.

      • alexthechick says:

        That is utter fucking bullshit. The problems with McCain where McCain’s, pure and simple. What, are you claiming Rush fucking lied about McCain? Sorry, but I do not buy that.

        But hey, I’m just a Beckian, right? Even though I problem haven’t listened to more than three minutes of Beck in my entire life. And, hey, I want Obama more right? It’s not that we disagree or anything. Oh no, not that, it’s got to be FUCK YOU YOU WANT OBAMA.

        Fuck that shit sideways. I expected better of you. Seriously. I’m very sorry to find out I am wrong about that.

  3. Loki says:

    The problem with the Buckley Rule is that the “moderates” in the party don’t follow it. If a conservative wins a close primary, the “moderate” either votes for/endorses the dem or stays home. Every. Single. Time. The 2010 cycle was egregious. In the middle of a wave election in FAVOR of their supposed side, just about every “moderate” who lost a primary endorsed the dem and went all out to poison the well against the repub. The constant giving in to “moderates” is why we are in this mess.

    The largest self identified politcal affiliation in the US is conservative. Double (DOUBLE!) the number of people who identify as liberals but election after election conservatives have had to choose between Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich because the “moderates” cry and moan and scream when they don’t get their way. So the repub leadership becomes “compassionate conservatives” who can’t balance a checkbook much less a budget and never saw pork they didn’t like. Because of “moderates”, the pull has always been to the left. If they had sucked it up even a little, we could have had real differences between the leadership on the different sides of the aisle. We might have swung back and forth a little around the center but it would have been stable.

    But no, they yanked us toward the left a little here, a little there, a lot over there, and now we are so far down the debt slide that even a little more will kick us so far down the rabbit hole we will NEVER get back. Romney’s record is liberal. We wouldn’t have Obamacare without Romneycare. It doesn’t stop there. He never governed as a conservative … always as a liberal. People call Romney a flip flopper because he SAID he reversed positions. Bullcrap. Politicians lie. I look at how a politician governs/votes and according to that Romney is died in the wool, leading the charge, Progressive. We are at the point where if we do not REVERSE course, we are utterly screwed. We are past the point of just stopping where we are now.

    I have held my nose and voted for establishment repubs all my damn life. My first presidential election was 1988. During my life, the only thing “moderates” have said to conservatives is a variation of “Lie back and think of England” or maybe BOHICA usually yelling “Buckley Rule, Buckley Rule” the whole time. I sucked it up one last time in 2008 and voted for McCain even though he HATED conservatives and never tried to hide it. No. Damn. More. I will vote for people who share my beliefs. Romney does not.

  4. doubleplusundead says:

    Not voting for Romney under any circumstance, Romney offers nothing that I want in a candidate, as far as my interests go, he’s as bad as Obama. Romney’s views on the Second Amendment tell me all I need to know about him. Regard for the Second tells us if the person views us as free citizens, or animals to be controlled…Romney has made it clear he sees people as animals to be controlled. As for the Buckley Rule, done with playing by any rules, reasoning with establishment/RINO types is like trying to talk a junkie out of seeking out that next hit. You know what? Fuck’em. They want to make deals with the devil, they damn well better not seek my help when it’s time to reap what they’ve sown, and I’d just as soon let things go to Hell now than make the next generation have to face the mistakes of this one.

    As for McCain, McCain screwed McCain. McCain spent 10+ years jamming his thumb into the eyes of conservatives every chance he had. Not gonna fight hard for someone who sees me as a bigger enemy than the guy he’s running against. Rush merely vocalized what most of us thought of McCain.

  5. Mark E says:

    a) Romney is not a conservative. Never has been. He is a big govt elitist and is a moderate only in comparison with Obama. He has never met a govt program that couldn’t be improved if the right people were in charge.
    Obama-care — Romney will (or maybe won’t) issue waivers to everyone so that son of Romney-care becomes optional rather than mandatory. He won’t eliminate anything which means that the private sector will be killed off (but slowly). Having him anywhere on the ticket takes any criticism of Oba-Romney-care off the table.

    b) He is not electable.
    Even in Iowa (which tends to go with any candidate that promises to maintain farm subsidies), Romney can’t get to 25% — even though he has promised to continue ethanol mandates.
    He won’t excite anyone. Facing the dem machine that means that he will make McCain look like wildfire.

  6. […] Comments Dr Spank on Maybe I should give yoga a sec…Mark E on In Defense of the Buckley…doubleplusundead on In Defense of the Buckley…alexthechick on In Defense of the […]

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