Conservatism

Romney's Wealth Problem

(Flickr/401K)

Americans have come to expect a certain patrician baseline from their political class. Congress is stocked full of millionaires, and in the 2008 campaign Joe Biden was considered working class for riding Amtrak, despite having a net worth in the hundreds of thousands. No one bats an eye now when Rick Santorum whines about his meager means on the debate stage then releases tax returns revealing that he rakes in over $900K a year.

Meanie Mitt Pulls Ahead

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Rick Santorum's improbable moment atop the GOP field seems likely to fade away just as quickly as his anti-Romney predecessors. A pair of new numbers from Public Policy Polling point toward tomorrow being a triumphant day for Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor leads by an insurmountably wide margin in Arizona. He's up 43-26 percent over Santorum, and carried early voters—which will constitute nearly half of Arizona's total vote count—by 48-25. And after trailing Santorum by as much as 15 percent three weeks ago, Romney has reopened a slight Michigan lead of 2 percent.

The Obama-ization of Everything

Man, those guys really don't like me.

For the last few years, liberals have been pointing out that conservatives radically shifted their opinions about certain ideas once those ideas were embraced by Barack Obama. The two biggies are an individual mandate for health insurance, which was conceived by conservatives at the Heritage Foundation as a way to get (nearly) universal coverage while maintaining the private insurance system; and a cap-and-trade system for reducing harmful emissions, which was conceived as a way to use market forces instead of government regulations to achieve an environmental good. All kinds of conservatives liked those ideas, but once Obama advocated them, the ideas became not just disfavored but presented as something so vile and socialistic they could only have been coughed up by Joe Stalin's decaying corpse.

That happened a couple of years ago, but now we're in an election year, so it's only going to get worse. And watching the entire conservative universe get pulled toward opposition not just to abortion but to contraception, for goodness sake, one has to wonder what they're thinking inside that universe. They surely know that opposing contraception is very, very bad politics. And for most of them I'm sure it's not even something they agree with on the substance. But all it takes is a couple of people within the movement to stake out a position, and before you know it everybody else has no choice but to follow along. There just isn't any incentive for any Republican to say, "Hold on fellas, I think we're going a little far here."

Because for them, everything is seen through the prism of Barack Obama. If he's for it, they have to be against it, no matter what they and everybody else used to think. I was reminded of that today hearing this story from NPR, about a move in New Hampshire, driven by Republicans and the Catholic Church, to allow any organization in the state to deny contraception coverage to its employees. The revealing part is in the history...

How To Make Romney Look Popular

(Ford Field/Kevin Yezbick)

Mitt Romney is set to speak before the Detroit Economic Club later this morning to expound upon his recently unveiled tax policy. Befitting the importance his campaign has placed on the event and his self-perceived status as the frontrunner, Romney will address the group at Ford Field, home to the Detroit Lions, a stadium which seats 65,000. The only problem for the Romney campaign is that there isn't a throng of thousands interested in turning out during lunch for a lesson on fiscal policy. As the Detroit Free Press reported, the stage and audience will be situated to make the 1,200 attendees look as if it's as packed as any NFL game:

Was George W. Bush a Real Conservative?

Remember this guy? Heh-heh-heh.

Conor Friedersdorf responds to a post I wrote, in which I noted that Ron Paul's attack on Rick Santorum basically amounts to assaulting Santorum for having been a Republican senator when George W. Bush was president, and today that means you're not a conservative:

Just to be clear, having supported "Dubya" does in fact mean that you weren't a real conservative! His hubristic attempt to remake the political culture of foreign nations via military occupation was not conservative. His profligate spending habits were not conservative. His empowerment of the federal education bureaucracy at the expense of state and local control was not conservative. His approach to immigration reform -- a guest-worker program -- wasn't conservative either. Perhaps it would be easier to respect his departures from conservative orthodoxy if he'd been a good president. As it stands, he was unprincipled and a pragmatist's nightmare.

If the conservative movement was more grounded in substance, and less concerned with tribal and partisan loyalty, then fewer Republicans would've gone along with Bush, and the ones that did would be pariahs now, rather than contending for the GOP's presidential nomination. Instead, the candidates are just sure to never mention Bush's name, and the base is going along.

Conor is a sort-of-conservative (I'm not sure what label he actually puts on himself) and a principled guy who has never been afraid to criticize Republicans. But he's right that tribal and partisan loyalty has always trumped principle, and I guess that means that as a species conservatives pretty much disappeared between the years of 2000 and about 2006 or so...

The Way the Girl Scout Cookies Crumble

(Flickr/juverna)

Between the Susan G. Komen controversy, the birth control panel, and Virginia's efforts at pre-abortion sonograms and personhood bills, you may have had enough of the culture wars and the fight against women. Well, tough—this week brings yet a new and bizarre episode. Indiana state Representative Bob Morris sent a letter to his colleagues urging them to oppose the resolution celebrating the Girl Scouts' 100th anniversary.

In his letter, leaked to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Morris didn't mince words. He writes that the Girl Scouts "promote homosexual lifestyles" and partners with Planned Parenthood: 

Jan Brewer's Case for Government Spending

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

It was the finger jab heard round the world. Normally finger jabs do not make noise, but I'm confident that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer got even the air's attention as she stuck her digit at the president when the two met on an airport tarmac in January. Brewer has developed a strong reputation as a conservative—she championed Arizona's controversial immigration bill, among the most extreme in the country. She's pushing for a measure now to give public workers a 5 percent pay increase—so long as they give up their job protections. So far, fairly typical Republican stuff, right?

A Tale of Two Gay Marriage Bills

(Flickr/Fibonacci Blue)

Last week, state legislatures in New Jersey and Maryland both passed measures to legalize gay marriage. In Maryland, Governor Martin O'Malley pushed hard for the measure and was largely credited with its success. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie killed the effort with a stroke of his veto pen. Democrat O'Malley and Republican Christie are both seen as future leaders of their respective parties—which means depending on political winds, gay marriage can either be a feather in their cap or a millstone around their neck.

What Real Class Warfare Looks Like

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So it looks as though Republicans are going to cave on the extension of the payroll tax cut, pretty much the only tax cut they don't like, seeing as it doesn't do much for the wealthy. But on their way to that capitulation, they made sure they could exact a price: drug testing of people applying for unemployment compensation! After all, we need to send these people a message.

Charles Portis's Guide to the GOP

An obscure book that just might explain the GOP race better than any pundit could

(Flickr/Austin Kleon)

Does today's Republican Party baffle you? Then I can help. A too-little-known book called Masters of Atlantis explains absolutely everything: They're Gnomons. Gnomons, every last one. While this is an inflammatory charge, I don't think I'm being reckless. If Masters of Atlantis can be trusted—and for reasons that will soon be apparent, I see no reason why it shouldn't be—Gnomonism, or Gnomonry, was introduced to the United States soon after World War I by Lamar Jimmerson, an ex-doughboy reared under Indiana's placid blue sky. While serving in France, he came into possession of a rare copy of the Codex Pappus: the only surviving repository of Atlantean wisdom, "committed to the waves on that terrible day when the rumbling began." 

Romney's Trouble On The Ground

(Flickr/yorkd)

I've been arguing over the last few days for journalists to be wary of the Santorum bubble, which I think will pop before it amounts to much, despite the current bounce in the polls. But Nate Silver raised an important point I missed earlier this week:

Republican Haves and Have Nots

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Republicans have reached their 1984. I don’t mean this in the Orwellian sense, though Republicans have more than their share of Orwellian impulses. Rather, I mean that the kind of divisions that have characterized Democratic presidential primaries since the 1984 contest between Walter Mondale and Gary Hart have now popped up in GOP primaries as well: This year, Republicans are dividing along lines of class.

Romney Is in Trouble, Just Not for the Primary

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

In an otherwise sharp article about Mitt Romney's sudden troubles in Michigan, The Atlantic's Molly Ball opens with an analysis that's been parroted by many in the media since Rick Santorum's sudden rise last week:

In one view, Mitt Romney has had it effectively wrapped up for weeks. Rick Santorum's freak victory in three contests last week was a meaningless blip -- a speed bump. Sure, Santorum now leads in some polls, but he's fundamentally a small-time candidate who's about to get crushed like a bug by Romney and his allies. What we're witnessing now isn't drama -- it's death throes.

Zombie Politics

Zombie politics—a play on Zombie Economics—refers to ideas about politics that have become so cemented in conventional wisdom that it is virtually impossible to dislodge them. It doesn’t matter what the data says, or what published research says, or what this blog or any blog says. Zombie politics means that even though the ideas are dead, they just can’t be killed. I regret using the by-now-hackneyed zombie metaphor, but it remains apt.

And so, George Packer:

Perhaps the biggest political puzzle of our time is why, as the lives of working-class whites have descended from the stability and comfort of “All in the Family” to the chaos and despair of “Gran Torino” and “Winter’s Bone,” these same Americans have voted more and more reliably Republican.

The George Washington Candidate

For a time, it looked as though Newt Gingrich would be the Romney alternative that the religious right and Tea Partiers would coalesce around. Now Rick Santorum has taken that spot after a string of victories in primaries last week and a huge rise in national polls. In a new ad, Santorum challenges Gingrich on another front: Which candidate can claim the most historical gravitas.

The ad features a series of quotes over soaring orchestral music as images of Santorum flash across the screen. "I adore Rick Santorum's conviction," the ad quotes Mike Huckabee, despite the former Arkansas governor's neutral stance on the 2012 race. "Santorum … one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America," the ad quotes Time.

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