[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.