Tony Blankley has a thoughtful piece on a problem that plagues all presidents, the fact that the base is quite fickle because it sees any sign of compromise as tantamount to treason:

This is why politics is an art, not a science. Whether a liberal or a conservative, a president must intuit the narrow point at which his base is still motivated to strongly support him, but is not fully satisfied. As Richard Nixon once observed, if your base is happy, you are doing something wrong. That is not a cynical observation, but a practical one. Unless you can persuade 50 percent plus 1 of the electorate to share your view, you have to appeal to at least some voters beyond your base.

And, as only about 35 percent of American voters are conservatives, Mr. Bush needs to pick up the difference through some combination of the strength of his personality, leadership, policy compromises and shrewd campaigning. Conservatives (both rank-and-file and activist) tend to think that leadership should be sufficient to that end. Professional political advisers almost invariably lean hard toward policy compromise. A successful conservative elected leader must not listen too much to either of those siren songs.

As if to make Blankley’s point, Jonah Goldberg laments,

Among conservative journalists and activists, the disappointment in the Bush administration’s, and the GOP congressional leadership’s, domestic policies is mounting daily.

On free trade, the President has proved less reliable than – shudder – Bill Clinton. His acquiescence (i.e. capitulation) on Medicare has been total, refusing to fight for significant free-market reforms while agreeing to shovel hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars for new entitlements.

In general, Bush has been spending money like a man with a week to live. The GOP-led Congress deserves some blame, too. But even when they overspend above his overspending, Bush refuses to use his veto power.

On the cultural side, things aren’t much better. The White House literally celebrated the Supreme Court’s affirmative action fiasco and mumbled its disappointment about the court’s sodomy ruling. Just last week, the administration sneakily released word that it would surrender completely to feminist activists on the issue of Title IX.

He does admit that Bush has done a few things conservatives like but says this is a distinctly different brand of conservatism:

…in the final analysis, Bush doesn’t quite look like the president conservatives hoped for, and he certainly doesn’t look like the monster the Democrats say he is. It turns out Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” is more than just a marketing label.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.