Last night I tweeted, “If you’re a Republican who is STILL yammering about how the Cruz strategy was bad, you’re doing it wrong.” I’m not sure what good it’s doing at this point. Let’s discuss.
It is a politics of perpetual intra-Republican denunciation. It focuses its fire on other conservatives as much as on liberals. It takes more satisfaction in a complete loss on supposed principle than in a partial victory, let alone in the mere avoidance of worse outcomes. It has only one tactic — raise the stakes, hope to lower the boom — and treats any prudential disagreement with that tactic as a betrayal. Adherents of this brand of conservative politics are investing considerable time, energy, and money in it, locking themselves in unending intra-party battle.
Actually, except for that third (objectionable) sentence, this applies as much –if not more so– to the “moderate”/establishment faction of the party. I mean, did I imagine John McCain’s and Lindsey Graham’s incessant bitching and name-calling?
I could go on at length about who was actually at fault here, but at this point it really doesn’t matter. Nevertheless, the “establishment” insists on playing the part of the nagging girlfriend – “I told you we should have turned left at Albuquerque!”
The key premise that has been guiding these conservatives, however, is mistaken. That premise is that the main reason conservatives have won so few elections and policy victories, especially recently, is a lack of ideological commitment and will among Republican politicians. A bigger problem than the insufficient conservatism of our leaders is the insufficient number of our followers. There aren’t enough conservative voters to elect enough officials to enact a conservative agenda in Washington, D.C. — or to sustain them in that project even if they were elected. The challenge, fundamentally, isn’t a redoubling of ideological commitment, but more success at persuasion and at winning elections.
This is an oft-repeated fallacy, or at least vast oversimplification, the narrative of the ideological purists (“priests” in Mike Murphy’s parlance) demanding more ideological commitment from the “mathematicians”. Say three Hail-Reagans and sin no more, my child. Yes, there are some “priests” –just as there are genuine RINO squishes– but this is a toddler’s crayon drawing of the problem.
The problem, as has been discussed recently on AoS, is that of not ever making the case for freedom/markets/enlightened self interest/etc. Scoring an inconsequential political vote might get you a five-second mention on the news and a good fundraising bit, but the summation of all this nothing is… nothing. The problem conservatives wish to address is exactly that – of conversion and education.
Are they always good at it. No? Is the establishment? Ask Presidents Dole, McCain, and Romney.
In their piece, Lowry and Ponnuru continue to play the nagging girlfriend for what seems like forever. They’re wrong on a whole host of points, but rather than give myself a migraine and carpal tunnel syndrome going back over it all, I’ll take my own advice and shut the hell up about the shutdown.