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The Conservative Minority

I feel like I’m beating a dead horse on the issue, but the continued high pitched battle between conservative Republicans who have rallied around conservative-come-lately Mitt Romney in hopes of defeating Teddy Kennedy’s Good Friend John McCain remains the most interesting story this election cycle.

Conservatives Love Romney

The most recent Rasmussen poll shows that “Romney leads by sixteen percentage points among conservatives while McCain has a two-to-one advantage among moderate Primary Voters.” Of course, Rasmussen shows Romney and McCain tied nationally, whereas Gallup and Fox show McCain leading by 20 and 28 points, respectively. Even Michelle Malkin acknowledges that the poll is “the anomaly.”

Still, that Romney is outpolling McCain among self-identified conservatives is a consistent trend. We’ve seen it time and again in the exit polls.

John Hinderaker asserts that, “as the primary season draws to a close, most conservatives are coalescing around Mitt Romney.” Bill Quick believes we are now engaged in “the War for the GOP” with the “GOP establishment attempting to remake the party in its preferred liberal-conservative image – an image in which the ‘conservative’ part is mostly window dressing for the suckers.

Republicans Voting for McCain, Not Romney

Yet, for reasons Eric Kleefeld lays out nicely, McCain is likely to emerge Tuesday night as the prohibitive favorite to win the Republican nomination. AllahPundit, who strongly prefers Romney but maintains a realistic outlook, concurs.

So, we have two countervailing trends:

  • Conservatives prefer Romney over McCain, hands down
  • McCain is winning Republican primaries against Romney

This, incidentally, despite Romney having outspent McCain by ridiculous margins in television advertising.

What is one to conclude from this?

Perhaps “conservatives” are now a minority, even among Republican primary voters? If so, given that there are virtually no conservatives remaining in the Democratic Party these days and that voters who aren’t aligned with either party are almost by definition non-ideological, that would mean that conservatives are a small minority, indeed, among the American electorate.

Alternatively, perhaps the definition of “conservative” has become so narrow and esoteric that it’s become virtually meaningless?

When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 and again in 1984, he did it by putting together a coalition of small government conservatives, social conservatives, and anti-communists. He famously engendered the support of blue collar folks who were dubbed “Reagan Democrats.” Most of that group simply became Reagan Republicans.

Has the country gotten that much less conservative since then?

In some ways, yes. We’re much more tolerant on lifestyle issues, notably the role of women and acceptance of homosexuality, than we were a generation ago. Abortion has now been legal for 35 years, not a mere seven. We’re also much further removed from the days of the military draft, which means fewer of our menfolk have served.

But, fundamentally, we’re the same country we were in 1980. We’re still the most religious country in the developed world and probably the most patriotic. We’re more citified and more homogenized than we were but we still cling to the John Wayne rugged individualist mythos to a large degree.

The conservative majority has become a Conservative minority.

The Conservative Movement has morphed from a handful of intellectual true believers trying to shape the debate into something approaching a civil religion with loyalty tests and a clericy that has the power to excommunicate.

John McCain was part of the 1980 wave that rolled into Congress on Ronald Reagan’s coattails. Indeed, McCain was among those Reagan was honored to stand with at 1974′s CPAC convention. But someone with an 82 percent lifetime ACU rating is considered a traitor to the cause. Much better, apparently, to flip 180 degrees on election eve and spout the right Party Line talking points.

As I wrote last year from CPAC, when throngs of so-called conservatives lined up for Ann Coulter’s autograph moments after she referred to John Edwards as a “faggot,” “Somehow, I can’t imagine Ronald Reagan being pleased.” Yet, the modern Conservative Moment seems to be dominated by the shrill nonsense of Coulter and Jonah Goldberg[*] and Michael Savage and Neil Boortz. In short, the Conservative Movement is no longer particularly “conservative” at all.

_______

[*] UPDATE: See Goldberg, Coulter, and Savage for a follow-up to this point.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Rick DeMent says:

    an image in which the ‘conservative’ part is mostly window dressing for the suckers

    When was this ever NOT the case?

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  2. [...] how self-described conservatives have been voting in the GOP primary, James Joyner contemplates the The Conservative Minority and asks: So, we have two countervailing [...]

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  3. superdestroyer says:

    What we are really seeing is the death of the Republican party. Given demographic changes in the U.S. along with the massive incompetence of the Bush Administration and the Congressional Republicans, the Republican Party is fading into irrelevance.

    The conservatives of the party have decided that the Republican Party should die from the chronic issues of changing demographics, lack of leadership, and incompetence.

    The McCain moderates have decided that a suicide of the Republican Party is better than a longer collapse. In giving in to the Democrats on immigration, campaign finance, political speech, there is no way that a “conservative party” can survive.

    Whether people support McCain or Romney, the Republican Party is eventually going to become irrelevant and the U.S. will become a one party state.

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  4. Steve Plunk says:

    A lot of big ideas but perhaps the simple explanation is the best.

    Republicans are working through a primary and have two issues to be addressed. What candidate best represents our viewpoints and what candidate has the best chance of being elected. The McCain-Romney decision seems to based upon that.

    This sort of infighting is what primaries are about yet everyone is talking the end of the party because we are struggling over the nominee. Nonsense. When the nominee is chosen you will see the party come together simply because the alternative is a Democratic president.

    Chill pills for everyone would be in order.

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  5. [...] Governor Mitt Romney yet voters in Republican primaries increasingly favor McCain. Here’s just a tiny taste of what Joyner writes; The Conservative Movement has morphed from a handful of intellectual true believers trying to shape [...]

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  6. Tano says:

    Conservatism and liberalism are eternal aspects of the human character. In truth, there are very few people who are either one way or the other in any complete sense, no matter what their professed position is.

    Liberals are the innovators, tossing off all manner of new ideas, most of them bad, like any entrepenurial enterprise. But some are good and become the basis for society moving forward.

    Conservatives are reactionary, the peer-review process that tries to shoot down all those new ideas, and since most of them are bad, those efforts are usually beneficial. But when liberals do stumble upon a good idea, conservatives become obstacles to progress.

    The sixties were one of the great periods of liberal awakenings in our history – with a stunning number of very good ideas being put forth, and being incorporated into the American political mainstream. But a lot of bad ideas too. And, in general, a very disquieting sense of upheaval.

    After the turbulence of that era subsided a bit, Americans went with the conservatives for an extended period of time, most likely because of an underlying sense that the liberal progress needed to be filtered, and the change managed in a slow and orderly manner.

    The reaction under Reagan and Bush Sr. had been so strong that it probably set the stage for a mild swing back to liberalism with the election of Clinton. But the dreams of some sixties revival were dashed by a counter-counter revolution two years later – one that soon burned out itself by overreaching within another two years. The country seemed to be searching for some peaceful resolution. When the two parties started pulling in their respective directions in ’00, the country split down the middle.

    Maybe in the long run the conservatives might end up regretting that all the votes were not counted in Florida. For in this context, they were handed a tainted prize, and have thoroughly discredited themselves.

    One senses that this long-term dynamic may be coming to an end. Conservatives have run out of things that the people really want undone from our recent evolution. And liberals seem ready to emerge from the defensiveness that has marked their post-sixties stance.

    I don’t know if he can pull it off in a simple electoral sense, but I sense that Obama is the only candidate, in either party, who feels in his bones the underlying dynamics of the moment. The desire for our politics to be redefined in a manner that is a closer abstraction of the reality of people’s lives and their thinking.

    At this moment, the country wants to move forward. That tends to favor liberals, though that is not guaranteed. A forward-leaning conservative, if that is not too oxymoronic a term, might fill the bill. It is hard for me to imagine that type of leadership coming from a 72 year old self-absorbed maverick.

    Maybe Romeny, with his analytic skill, once he secures the nomination, if that is at all still possible, might sense that dynamic and move, as he is wont to do, to represent it.

    But leaving aside consideration of the crazy calander of primaries, and the influence that may have on the outcome, I get the strong sense that Obama is the man of the moment – the only one in tune with the yearnings of the society at large – for transcendence of old political categories, and a new innovative spirit along lines that are informed by the lessons of the past, rather than attempting to combat those lessons once again.

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  7. Conservative Minority? Not Even Close…

    Always thoughtful blogger, James Joyner, wonders if conservatives are now a minority within the Republican Party. With all due respect to James, the analysis is terribly flawed. It cherry picks items to make the case and ignores those that make…

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  8. Brainster says:

    I agree with Steve Plunk, this is the normal course of events. Look at other years where the Republican nomination was wide open. In 1996, you could argue that we had the exact same situation. An “unacceptable candidate” (Pat Buchanan/Mike Huckabee) who wins a surprise upset in an early state, an obvious “his turn” candidate (Bob Dole/John McCain), and a wealthy businessman who managed to buy a few states (Steve Forbes/Mitt Romney). That’s a broad brush, but you get the point.

    And we have the blogosphere to make things more interesting; we all have these cyber-friends whom we’ve admired for years suddenly going crazy on us with their support for candidate X and their obstinate refusal to understand that candidate Y is the only one who can win.

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  9. DL says:

    Tano

    Liberals are innovators? (fifty years of socialistic atheism)

    Obama is a good choice? Tell us about his great innovations -please.

    The answer to both parties leaving traditional moral standards for hedonistic based and government controlled living is exactly what someone must have told those Romans – get ready for the end….

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  10. Tano says:

    DL,

    When I was a kid we used to have this staple of the cartoon pages – the guy walking around with a sandwich board that read “the end is near”.

    Good to see that you guys have made it into the digital age!

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  11. [...] Interesting piece by James Joyner about the Republican battle between McCain and Romney: [...]

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  12. Rich says:

    I consider myself very conservative but I have been so turned off by the racial hatred and general intolerance of the conservative movement (Savage, Levin, Limbaugh, Coulter, Malkin) and their cadre of bloggers that I have totally abandoned them. Conservatism became relevant politically when it applied conservative principles to solving problems, cut taxes, deregulate and control spending appeal to people, militia movements don’t.

    The conservative pseudo-intellectual movement has ruined the movement. They see the Goldwater debacle as a victory, not what it really is. America is tired of hate filled, whiny complainers, especially in a time of war. Democrats have Hollywood as their group of supporters blinded from reality. Conservatives have their talk radio hosts. I don’t think America is any less fundementally conservative, just totally turned off by its current leaders.

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  13. Conservative Minority? Not Even Close…

    Riehl World View

    Always thoughtful blogger, James Joyner, wonders if conservatives are now a minority within the Republican Party. With all due respect to James, the analysis is terribly flawed. It cherry picks items to make the case and ignores those…

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  14. floyd says:

    Tano;
    Thanks for revealing the lens through which you view the world. It explains the passion with which you hold your views.
    A classmate of mine once had a pair of glasses that,when viewed through them, the world shifted profoundly to the left.
    Progress,I reckon, depends on the lens after all.

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  15. yetanotherjohn says:

    Let’s put some perspective on this. We have a wide open political election year. No sitting VP or president running. The GOP is coming off a close presidential win in 2004, a great mid-term election year in 2002, a tough re-election in 2004 and a harsh mid-term in 2006. So we are seeing a wide variety of points of view coming forward. That is healthy. You want a big tent where a lot of people can feel they belong if you want to win elections. Compare this to the democrats where only the far left needed to apply.

    All the different view points get to make their sale to the republican primary voters. To the extent that a candidate is “narrow” they need to broaden their appeal to win the nomination. If you look over time, you see that all candidates have done just that (except Ron Paul who seems to have flat lined).

    Now here is a key concept that you need to get your mind around. There will be more losers and only one winner of the nomination. That means going into it you are more likely to be backing someone who won’t get the nomination than someone who does. The key is to make the sale on who you think is best and why, not to tear down the other candidates to make your favorite look best by comparison. I know that all candidates do some tearing down, but that is not the best way.

    Look at McCain’s numbers over the last two months on this ABC poll.

    McCain support
    2/1 1/12 12/9
    Republicans 48% 25 13
    Conservatives 37 25 15
    Evangelicals 33 25 12
    Independents 55 36 17
    Moderates 65 40 14
    Non-evangelicals 53 29 16

    McCain doesn’t have a majority in the republican party, but he has built a solid plurality overall. To complain that conservatives or evangelicals aren’t being heard as well as Independents, Moderates, Non-evangelicals is to ask for a narrower party. You have a couple days to convince the rest of the party that your conservative or evangelical position is the right one (not that McCain is the wrong one, that your candidate is the right one). After the tsunami Tuesday vote, the nomination won’t be sewn up. It may not even be close if Romney does better than expected by the majority of the polls), but the likely hood it will be all over but the shouting.

    You then have a choice. You can work towards the election of the democrats (either actively by contributing/working for/voting for the democrat or passively by not contributing/working/ voting for the republican). If you work actively or passively towards the democratic victory, then you get the blame/fame for whatever the democrats do if they win.

    Now if your choice doesn’t work, you can go the democratic approach to Iraq by ignoring the reality of what is happening and screaming your message louder or you can step back and examine why your ideas didn’t prevail. Was it the message or the messenger? Both on why the other message/messenger got the party nomination and why your guy didn’t. There will be another election year coming up. You can take the fruits of your examination and try an improved message/messenger next time.

    There is a lot more in the ABC poll, such as McCain growing from 19% to 60% as strongest leader (Mitt went from 11% to 21%). McCain went from 10% to 67% on best chance to get elected in November (Mitt went from 15% to 14%). Best reflect core republican values had McCain going from 18% to 41% while Mitt went from 14% to 25%. That last set of numbers should give pause to any conservative complaining about McCain will ruin the GOP and only Mitt can save us. You didn’t make the sale. For every republican Mitt convinced over the last two months that he represented the core values of the republican party, McCain convinced two republicans that he represented the republican core values.

    McCain went from 29% to 60% on best handle Iraq (Mitt went from 9% to 12%). McCain went from 26$ to 67% on campaign against terrorism (Mitt went from 7 to 13%). McCain went from 14% to 43% on best for handling the economy (Mitt went from 18 to 29%). McCain went from 18% to 47% on handling immigration while Romney went from 9% to 22%. McCain went from 11 to 35% on social issues such as abortion and gay civil unions (Mitt went from 16 to 20%). In short, there is a lot here to study on whether the message or the messenger didn’t make the sale in the republican party.

    Personally, McCain was not my first choice. He wasn’t my second choice. But while I disagree with some of the positions he has taken and some of the personality traits he has manifested, I am comfortable in voting for him in November. He has good solid conservative credentials on defense, spending and sanctity of life. If McCain gets the nomination he will be better than the democrats, especially when I consider the disaster an Obama or Hillery presidency would be.

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  16. mannning says:

    It is all about winning, and winning with grace. In a two-party system, one votes for one’s party nominee, or you are not in that party. To throw away your vote is really stupid. Neither of the front runners now were my choice, but if McCain wins the nomination, he gets my vote. Same for Romney.

    After the yelling is done, the conservatives will come out strongly for the nominee. They really have no other choice, now do they?

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  17. Punditry says:

    Movement Conservative Opinion Leaders Come Unhinged…

    We are seeing increasing evidence of McCain derangement syndrome among the movement conservative elites. Ann Coulter's threat to vote for Hillary Clinton is merely the most insane (but what else would you expect?). On the subject of movement opini…

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  18. So much of this reminds me of people who will get into an auto accident they could have avoided just because they know they have the right of way.

    As for “the yearnings of society at large”, the Beatlemania-like looks on the faces of the crowd at the Obama rallies in his commercial during the Super Bowl tonight tells me everything I need to know about the depth and seriousness of these yearnings and the political teenage wasteland of those who hold them.

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  19. Michael says:

    The answer to both parties leaving traditional moral standards for hedonistic based and government controlled living is exactly what someone must have told those Romans – get ready for the end….

    Rome ended under Christian rule.

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  20. LaurenceB says:

    I don’t call myself “conservative” anymore, but when I did, conservatism to me meant being strong on defense (not strong on offense) and being fiscally sound.

    Today’s “conservatives” believe in spending and borrowing and “pre-emptive” wars. They believe that U.S. citizens can be detained indefinitely without charges and without the chance to defend themselves in court. When they want to win an election, they find a way to demonize homosexuals, immigrants, or Muslims.

    Someday I may vote Republican again, but as long as “conservatives” are defined by Sean Hannity and Michael Savage, I’ll never be a conservative again.

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  21. [...] Joyner over at OTB wrote an interesting piece about how conservatives have become the minority within the GOP and the American electorate in general. He points out, correctly, that while [...]

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  22. DanBar says:

    These comments cement my current belief that if the GOP is going moderate/liberal it is time for a new 3rd party. Goodbye liberal McCainites and hello to the party that will stand for conservative principles. The NEW conservative party of conscience for America.

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  23. superdestroyer says:

    DanBar,

    The current Republican party cannot get candidates to run for all public offices today. What makes you think that another party will be any more successful. Splitting the current Republican Party in two does nothing but make the Democratic Party more dominate.

    Also, as the percentage of voters who are white shrinks, why split the white vote among three parties while leaving the black and Hispanic votes solidly in the Democratic camp? A Democratic-lite party would be as irrelevant as a reactionary, very conservative party. Neither would get any black, Hispanic, Jewish, or Gay voters.

    A more likely scenario is that the U.S. becomes a one party state and the moderates, conservatives, and liberals all fight it out in the Democratic primary. That neutralizes the black and Hispanic voting blocks and would give conservative more say in policy than they will get being a third party.

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  24. DanBar says:

    I accept the fact that it will be a long hard fight. But I stand on principles, specifically conservative principles. I don’t care if we “fracture” the republican party if it is the party of John McCain/George Bush who are intellectually dishonest to win the race and then legislate as liberals.

    I believe in the natural goodness and honesty in the people of America. If they see the principles that made America what it is being destroyed by the Republicrat parties they will eventually turn to the party that stands for the principles that made us great.

    That’s my belief and I’m stickin to it. No McCain votes in my psyche!

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  25. mannning says:

    A one-party system? Think about it! If the Republican Party disintegrates and third parties try to take up the slack, we will have Democrats in full control for years to come, until the rather slow-to-react public realizes the horror they have allowed in office, and the further shift into tax-and-spend, secularism and atheism they would legislate.

    To undo all the damage that they would do would be very difficult, if not politically impossible. The best course is to support the Republican Party NOW with full force, and to push strongly for a rightward, conservative shift everywhere as we go.

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  26. James-

    Are you seriously lumping Jonah Golberg in with Ann Coulter and Michael Savage?

    Unfreakinbelievable.

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  27. David Rogers says:

    In short, the Conservative Movement is no longer particularly “conservative” at all.

    Huh?

    How in the world did this non-sequiter appear at the end of this column? Nothing in the column supports this points. Apparently, the author is unhappy that conservatives are daring to challenge the moderates for control of the party.

    And the math doesn’t seem to work, either. Of course, liberal arts majors shouldn’t be expected to do math . . .

    John McCain is Bob Dole without the youth, energy, warmth, humor and conservatism. That should work out well.

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  28. Tano says:

    Wow, just wow.

    I remember, it was just a couple of years ago, how when I commented on various right-wing sites, I would be mocked and ridiculed as an adherent of a party and a political philosophy that had been thoroughly refuted, and terminally out of touch with the American people – and certainly unable to win another election in our lifetime.

    And now we discuss the dissolution of the Republcian party, of the conservative movement, and the coming of a one-party state? My party?

    Hehe.
    I guess there should be some solace in all this for Republicans. Our political parties are opportunistic, and they will find coalitions of people disaffected from those in power, and come back stronger than ever.
    Patience, my friends. Use your time in the wilderness to good effect.

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  29. superdestroyer says:

    Tano,

    The Republicans have two choices to try to stay relevant.

    One is to increase the percentage of the white vote that they get with each election cycle. In other words, that while it took 53% of the white vote to election President Bush, it will take about 55% of the white vote to elect Senator McCain. Such a scenario is very unlikely.

    The second choice is to try to appeal to blacks and Hispanics and get more than the few percentage that they get now. This scenario is even more unlikely.

    If you look at cities like Chicago or states like Maryland, the Democratic party is dominate and the Republicans have no chance of winning a majority in any legislative body.

    President Bush has been so incompetent that he not only gave Congress back to the Democrats he killed off the next generation of conservative politicians.

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  30. [...] The Conservative Minority [...]

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  31. Hubris says:

    Those interested in conducting ideological purity purges on the right in the belief that they are reflecting mainstream values would do well to read the Pew Research Center’s Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007. And maybe also the actual record of Reagan.

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  32. Brautigan says:

    Good post, James. You guys really need to ditch the Malkins, Coulters, et al, and get your shit together. This country really can’t function well without a sane, functioning conservative party, and we haven’t had that since Reagan convinced you guys that you can spin gold out of the Laffer curve, and Atwater taught you how to sell it to the rubes.

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  33. White Male, Jew of Liberal Fascism says:

    President Bush has been so incompetent that he not only gave Congress back to the Democrats he killed off the next generation of conservative politicians.

    I have to say amen to that, and I have to ask conservatives, how did you allow this to happen to your movement?

    I’ve been hearing a lot of conservatives lately trying to re-paint Bush as a liberal… a task about as nutty as Jonah Goldberg’s attempt to portray fascists as liberal and vice-versa.

    All I can say it, Hello, Mr. Conservative? When did YOU ever stand up against Bush? You’ve done nothing but enable him ever since he came to power, and look where we are now: our “shining city on the hill” is an international embarrassment, our military are bogged down in an endless quagmire, our national treasury is depleted…

    I call special attention to Bush’s unconstitutional use of “signing statements”, something which I’ve only ever heard the conservative Bruce Fein vehemently denounce.

    After all your years of blather about “original intent”, you guys just casually ignore Bush’s attempts to override laws duly passed by Congress.

    Well, all I can say is, don’t you righties dare start crying when a Dem president pulls this exact same shit.

    You had your chance to denounce it on principal, and you refused to do so, based solely on political expedience.

    I also note that now the concept of “state’s rights”, once supposedly so dear to the hearts of conservatives, has similarly been discarded for sheer expedience. You guys are suddenly struck silent when comes to the state’s right of California to enact tough pollution controls, or the state’s right of Massachusetts to allow same-sex marriage.

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  34. White Male, Jew of Liberal Fascism says:

    As John Cole at Balloon Juice blog said:

    Radically restructuring government to create an unaccountable executive is not conservative.

    Building a security apparatus that is designed to spy on citizens is not a conservative principle.

    Runaway spending and bloated budgets are not conservative ideas.

    Torture and permanent aggressive wars are not conservative principles.

    Fearmongering and keeping the electorate scared is not a conservative principle.

    And on and on.

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  35. Tano says:

    superdestroyer,

    I’ll offer you a third option. Accept the reform that Obama is pushing – one that constitutes one of the main reasons conservatives like him, to the extent that they do – namely, the ditching of the racial/gender/ethnic identity poltics of old.

    Forget about the “white vote”, hispanic vote etc. Just put out some good ideas that resonate with the people. The Dems sure aint gonna get everything right.

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  36. A Movement Without a Leader Is Just a Bunch of Bystanders…

    I think a third alternative is that conservatives see no candidate to rally around and are therefore a) sitting out the primaries, or b) flipping a coin to decide among McCain, Romney, and Huckabee, who are all conservatives of a kind, but nothing you …

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  37. EB White Reader says:

    Just for the record…. some folks keep using the word “dominate” when they should be using “dominant.” I thought you guys were supposed to love the English language.

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  38. superdestroyer says:

    Tano,

    It is odd that you would think that Senator Obama is leaving identity politics behind while he is getting over 90% of the black vote. He also supports an expansion of Affirmative Action (even to the point that his kids should get into the Ivy leagues based upon Affirmative Action) and started his political career in identify politics.

    There is nothing any conservative can do to appeal to blacks or Hispanics. Both groups have an illegitimate rates above 50%, both groups have high poverty rates, and both have developed a culture of voting for Democratic candidates. I would guess that most blacks have never voted for a Republican.

    There is no issue, no strategy, no candidate that can run as a conservative and appeal to blacks or Hispanics. When President Bush is used as an example of a successful Republicans because he got 1/3 of the Hispanic vote, it shows you that identify politics is alive and well and greatly beneficial to the Democratic Party.

    The U.S. just needs to brace itself that it is going to become a one party state. Why would anyone donate money, time, or run as a Republican with so little chance of winning and no chance of affecting policy.

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  39. conumbdrum says:

    Enjoyable column, James. Nice to see a conservative with a strong grasp of principle. If anything saves the GOP from a long slow gurgle into the drink, I fervently hope it’s thinkers such as yourself, and not the Karl Roves, James Dobsons and Michelle Malkins of this nation.

    The problem the Republican party faces today is that it’s continually shifted further and further rightward ever since the ascendancy of Reagan… and the base has followed right behind, ever ready to attack any deviance from the script. On the other hand, there has been no corresponding leftward move from the Democrats… if anything, the Democratic Party is less liberal than they were in, say, 1972. Meanwhile we have the likes of Jonah Goldberg publicly declaring that a man like Richard Nixon can no longer even be considered a conservative… and in the righter-than-thou environment of today’s GOP, he’s absolutely correct. (For once.)

    Now we have the spectacle of the GOP presidential nominees spending a shocking amount of their debates engaged in what amounts to playground taunts of, “I’M more conservative!” “No, I am! You’re a big dirty liberal!” With the sometime exception of Ron Paul, they distance themselves from Bush as if he were carrying cholera, meanwhile deviating barely a jot from his policies. God, how very much I wanted to hear Romney or Thompson just come out with it and say, “I’ll do everything EXACTLY the same as Bush would… only THIS time, it’ll WORK!”

    This is an era in which a charismatic Republican moderate could win hugely in a presidential campaign… problem is, moderates are all but barred from GOP politics. If Arlen Specter is what passes for a “centrist” Republican, I humbly submit that the very term is meaningless.

    Anyhow, I hope that the Republican party someday manages to get its act together in a sensible way, even though they certainly won’t in time for this November. And that’s why my vote will be going to the Democrat… after all, this country will have had eight years of Bush incompetence to clean up when Dubya finally exits, and I can’t see either McCain or Romney having the slightest inclination to roll up their sleeves and grab a mop.

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  40. White Male, Jew of Liberal Fascism says:

    after all, this country will have had eight years of Bush incompetence to clean up when Dubya finally exits, and I can’t see either McCain or Romney having the slightest inclination to roll up their sleeves and grab a mop.

    Vote Republican!

    It takes 8 years to ruin a country, but twelve years to kill it!

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  41. t4toby says:

    But, fundamentally, we’re the same country we were in 1980. We’re still the most religious country in the developed world and probably the most patriotic. We’re more citified and more homogenized than we were but we still cling to the John Wayne rugged individualist mythos to a large degree.

    Why is this anathema to being liberal? I am far left according to ‘conservatives’. My grandfather died in WWII, I love my country, I want the deficit reigned in, I want my family safe…but I also think people should be able do do anything they want, provided no one else is getting hurt. I believe that people’s lives are theirs to live, because I have enough problems. And I think that excessive wealth is as unacceptable as extreme poverty.

    The neo-cons that hijacked the Republican Party are complete and total idiots. I’m glad someone has owned up to that. Thanks, James.

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  42. t4toby says:

    But, fundamentally, we’re the same country we were in 1980. We’re still the most religious country in the developed world and probably the most patriotic. We’re more citified and more homogenized than we were but we still cling to the John Wayne rugged individualist mythos to a large degree.

    Why is this anathema to being liberal? I am far left according to ‘conservatives’.

    My grandfather died in WWII, I love my country, I want the deficit reigned in, I want my family safe…but I also think people should be able do do anything they want, provided no one else is getting hurt. I believe that people’s lives are theirs to live, because I have enough problems. And I think that excessive wealth is as unacceptable as extreme poverty.

    The neo-cons that hijacked the Republican Party are complete and total idiots. I’m glad someone has owned up to that. Thanks, James.

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  43. [...] James Joyner of outsidethebeltway.com says this: Perhaps “conservatives” are now a minority, even among Republican primary voters? If so, given that there are virtually no conservatives remaining in the Democratic Party these days and that voters who aren’t aligned with either party are almost by definition non-ideological, that would mean that conservatives are a small minority, indeed, among the American electorate. [...]

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  44. Some Guy says:

    “It is all about winning, and winning with grace. In a two-party system, one votes for one’s party nominee, or you are not in that party.”

    Unless it is Lieberman.

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  45. What is the conservative movement?…

    Take a look, for example, at how John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee after last night’s victories, is treated by the conservatives. dday has a great round-up of McCain-hate articles all attacking him from the right. Ann Coulter says she’ll campa…

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  46. Beth says:

    Posted by Rich | February 3, 2008 | 04:34 pm | Permalink

    Rich:

    What you wrote echoes my sentiments exactly. I mean exactly. I want nothing at all to do with those yahoos.
    They’ve completely abandoned Reagan conservatism–that is, inclusive, positive conservatism–and made it abhorrent. Why on earth would anyone want to be a conservative nowadays with them as our public faces and voices?

    James: In the “related posts,” there was a link to something you wrote about Ann Coultard five years ago, “How Not to Win an Argument.”

    I guess stuff like this sells books to fanatics. But one wonders how many fence-straddlers on the abortion issue are going to climb over to Coulter’s side after reading that?

    It’s a damn shame nobody seems to understand that. It’s the absolute truth.

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  47. [...] The Conservative Minority » Outside The Beltway | OTB “The modern Conservative Moment seems to be dominated by the shrill nonsense of Coulter and Jonah Goldberg[*] and Michael Savage and Neil Boortz. In short, the Conservative Movement is no longer particularly “conservative” at all.” (tags: 2008 election politics conservatives GOP McCain) [...]

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