Conservative dissonance: 2012 edition

Bird Dog's picture

"Moderate" is a bad word to many in the conservative movement. So, apparently, is "rational". I can't help but notice the increasing incoherence.

First, the ardor for Santorum. Jennifer Rubin has been prolific in opposing Santorum, and with good reason. Here is one example. Glenn Reynolds:

But here’s my question: Back in 2008, the social-cons were all-in for Romney, to the point where Hugh Hewitt’s take became a running tagline (“You know who this is good for? Mitt Romney!”) that’s still used by by bloggers from time to time. Now, not so much. So what changed about Romney since 2008 to make him un-conservative?

The answer, of course, is McCain, which hearkens back to the incoherence and irrationality of 2008. It still amazes me that so many conservatives do not believe that McCain is a conservative, despite all the evidence. Throw a word out like "immigration" or a phrase like "worked with Ted Kennedy" or "opposed waterboarding" and emotions block out thought.

On the economy, Tyler Cowen asks a similar question: Why doesn't the right-wing favor a looser monetary policy? By disfavoring it, the conservative movement puts itself into a smaller box when it comes to prescriptions. We can't solve our structurally imbalanced deficits just by restraining spending. Increasing tax rates is verboten, and even raising revenues via other avenues is frowned upon. What's left is not the fiscal conservatism that I know.

On Iran, the conservative movement puts itself in a similarly small box. The candidates all say, including Obama and excepting Paul, that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, but if that's true, if Iran brings itself to the cusp of having that capability, what are the options if "unacceptable" is the policy? We're pretty much stuck with military strikes or a blockade. Is that really a sensible approach? To me, no. Here's what we know so far, courtesy of the DNI and DIA:

In other words, according to the heads of the IC and DIA: (1) against all odds, the supposedly “mad Mullahs” of Tehran are endowed with the capacity for rational human thought, and thus there might be diplomatic or economic inducements that could compel an agreement on outstanding questions regarding the nuclear program; (2) the United States has at least a year; (3) Iran is not looking to start a war with the United States; and (4) Israel has not yet decided to undertake a preemptive war with Iran.

So, despite characterizations that the Mullahs are basically insane, they are affected by outside influences and can make reasonable decisions. Another unspoken deterrent is the likelihood of KSA getting a nuke if Iran gets one. MAD lives on.

One other thing. The economy is improving, so comments that Obama is ruining the economy will increasingly fall flat. It's no secret that the situation was bad to horrible when he took office, and it is more and more obvious that the worst is behind us. It's not much, but Obama can run on that. The conservative movement is going to need a different message on the economy, hopefully one that makes sense, but I'm not bullish. Back in 2004, the liberal sentiment was ABB, anyone but Bush. You all know where that took you. This time around, I predict that ABB (Anyone But Barry) will be similarly unsuccessful.

UPDATE: The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget puts numbers to the dissonance.

The national debt is likely to balloon under tax policies championed by three of the four major Republican candidates for president, according to an independent analysis of tax and spending proposals so far offered by the candidates.

The lone exception is Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who would pair a big reduction in tax rates with even bigger cuts in government services, slicing about $2 trillion from future borrowing.

According to the report — set for release Thursday by U.S. Budget Watch, a project of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget — former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and former House speaker Newt Gingrich would do the most damage to the nation’s finances, offering tax and spending policies likely to require trillions of dollars in fresh borrowing.

Both men have proposed to sharply cut taxes but have not identified spending cuts sufficient to make up for the lost cash, the report said. By 2021, the debt would rise by about $4.5 trillion under Santorum’s policies and by about $7 trillion under those advocated by Gingrich, pushing the portion of the debt held by outside investors to well over 100 percent of the nation’s economy.

The red ink would gush less heavily under former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the report said — at least under earlier Romney proposals that paired $1.35 trillion in tax cuts with $1.2 trillion in spending reductions and would leave the debt rising on a trajectory that closely tracks current policies.

So the Romney plan is more fiscally conservative than the others (except for the crackpot's), but it isn't fiscally conservative. This is a main problem with the movement today. "Fiscal" has been removed from the lexicon.

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Pried from their cold dead hands?




h/t firedoglake

Reduce government


to a size just small enough to shove up a woman's vagina.

Not a trick question


Are you anticipating the coattails of a Romnney victory in the general would bring more rationality to the conservative movement and the Congress, or less?

"Something I think most liberals don't understand is exactly how stupid many conservative leaders are." - Matt Yglesias


Bird Dog's picture

what Andrew said. Second, the conservative movement has bounced Romney from the tribe, so if he wins (which I doubt), he won't be beholden to the Tea Party or hardline conservatives. What we do know is that he's smart, he's a capable executive, and he's made a set of pledges. Some of those pledges, like repealing Obamacare, are fairly worthless and mostly symbolic because the Dems in the Senate will filibuster anything that goes too far.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

I wasn't asking about Romney


I was asking about his coattails should he win the general.


Also please to provide a list of Romneys non-worthless/symbolic pledges.

"Something I think most liberals don't understand is exactly how stupid many conservative leaders are." - Matt Yglesias

If elected,

Bird Dog's picture

Romney would be the de facto leader of the GOP. The Tea Partiers and other hardline conservatives have a choice to make. If they don't go with his program, then Romney's agenda--and the GOP's agenda, for that matter--goes exactly nowhere and the status quo of the prior administration remains. Whether enough of those folks make that choice in favor of Romney, I won't speculate. As it is, they're not enthused enough to give Romney much support in the general and the economy is clearly improving, so the discussion is fairly academic at this point.

I'll trust that you can go to Romney's webpage and discern the worthless/symbolic pledges your ownself.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Can't answer for BD


but I think that the model is that of the California Republican Party.  Basically if you lose, you decide that it's because you weren't right-wing enough and so move further to the right.  You then lose some more, decide that it's because you weren't running enough True Conservatives and so move further to the right, etc.


There are anomalies like the 2010 election--continuing recession, low turnout, and 29% of the population made angry enough to turn out in droves--but my suspicion is that your going to see a long-term reduction in GOP power over the next decade.

Romney won't have coattails?


I find it hard to believe, that a Romney victory in the general would result in simultaneous reduced majorities for R's in the House & increased majority for D's in the Senate. Should Romney win the general isn't it likely that we will also see an increased majority for R's in the House and perhaps a switch to a R majority in the Senate?

"Something I think most liberals don't understand is exactly how stupid many conservative leaders are." - Matt Yglesias

Are republicans winning?


People are talking mostly about birth control and religion. That in itself is a victory for the right.


The only narrative shift I've noticed recently has been by Occupy. Is the Democratic leadership capable of controling the news cycle? 

That's a step up

brutusettu's picture

At least people aren't talking about sending their kids to the Christian k-8 school so their kids don't talk like n*****s or are near Mexicans, but I digress with multiple anecdotes.

You jest


they're even managing to lose the republican primary.

"Something I think most liberals don't understand is exactly how stupid many conservative leaders are." - Matt Yglesias

I don't think so

HankP's picture

people talking about birth control and religion might be good for Santorum among conservatives during the nomination process, but I'm pretty sure it would be a death sentence for a Republican nominee in the general.


And no, the Dems cannot control the news cycle. Haven't you learned anything?

I blame it all on the Internet

Cowen should be asking why conservatives at the Fed


don't favor looser monetary policy.


conservatives on the street have been inculcated with "govt is the problem" and believe that only govt getting out of the way of the private sector will help our free markets work their magic. The Fed is the government and can therefore only play a neutral role.


The economy is fragile and when it was stagnant earlier in the year Obama was extremely beatable. 


Don't count Romney out yet, high oil and Europe imploding could still take all the wind out of the economy's sails. 

Surely an imaginative conservative


Surely an imaginative conservative can think up other excuses for attacking Iran than their closeness to acquiring an atomic bomb. Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and others had nothing in the way of nuclear programmes.


About the economy, isnt there big trouble brewing in Europe? They are far from resolving the issues around Greece, Spain, Italy &c. There doesnt appear much a role for Obama in this unless its lending yet more money to these troubled debtors.

You will kill 10 of our men, and we will kill 1 of yours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it. - Ho Chi Minh

I don't see any dissonance

HankP's picture

the current Republican party is completely consistent if you accept their axioms:


- Democrats hate America and are actively working to destroy it. They're all Marxists once you scratch the surface


- Social conservatism is the foundation of conservatism, because it delineates Right from Wrong. If it's not biblically based you have social relativism, which lets people marry animals


- There are Makers and Takers. The GOP and it's constituents are Makers and the Dems and their constituents are Takers - especially welfare queens and strapping young bucks buying steaks with food stamps


- Taxes are theft, taking hard earned money from the Makers to give free money to the Takers


- Loose money policies are theft from the Makers. They allow borrowers to pay less than they agreed to over time


- Any foreign country that disagrees with us has forfeited their right to exist


I blame it all on the Internet


Bird Dog's picture

That would be what you perceive as their axioms, particularly 1, 4 and 6. Between your perception and the reality is fairly wide chasm.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Dude, most of my libertarian friends


totally believe that taxation is theft unless it's going to the military.

You might want to look into

HankP's picture

the quotes of Rick Santorum before claiming that there's a chasm in my understanding. That would be Rick Santorum, frontrunner for the GOP Presidential nomination.

I blame it all on the Internet

Are Romney and Obama both Christians in your view?


I'd be curious to hear Santorum's answer.

I once had a conversation with a couple of libertarians


who basically independently said that collecting taxes for anything but the organized application of violence (and *maybe* infrastructure) amounts to theft and Marxism.  Because the Tenth Amerndemnt.


I'm not entirely sure how one argues with someone that holds such a perspective.

I guess it depends on how you define "infrastructure"

HankP's picture

whether it's only material things, or can also be concepts and principles of organization for advanced societies. Social insurance could be considered an infrastructure that allows for labor mobility and more efficient risk management across the entire population.

I blame it all on the Internet

Not really

Bird Dog's picture

It depends on your understanding of terms like invidious and overgeneralizations. But if you want to play the game of "take the extremist and apply the extremist's views across the entire party", your call, but so much for the aspiration of semi-contructive conversation. Judging by the title of your latest diary, bashing your political enemies is a higher priority, so thanks for clearing that up.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

You're free to make the argument

HankP's picture

that Franklin Graham isn't any of those things, but I'd watch the video first.

I blame it all on the Internet

Who says I didn't see the video?

Bird Dog's picture

You're free to vent your prejudices and to cry wolf on "lies".

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

I wonder..


Any of our other resident righties willing to step up to the plate and correct the heresies BD is preaching here?

"Something I think most liberals don't understand is exactly how stupid many conservative leaders are." - Matt Yglesias

Why doesn't the right favor looser monetary policy?


Probably for the same reasons that a lot of them don't favor things like debt re-arrangements.  I'm getting lest of a National Interests of the U.S. vibe off of conservatives these days and more of a People Must be Punished Because Suffering is Good sort of vibe.


(The conservatives and libertarians that I've encountered get absolutely hopping mad at the notion that debts might ever be forgiven because contracts are the most sacred thing ever and Responsibility.)

Thats being unfair to conservatives


They think it's perfectly fine to break contracts with unions.