Moving Goalposts of American Conservatism

Rush Limbaugh, who three years ago said Mitt Romney embodied all three legs of the conservative stool today declared that Romney is not a conservative. He was right both times.

What started off as an early-morning answer to a blog comment turned into my latest for The Atlantic, “The Changing Definition of ‘Conservative’.”

It’s based on two data points.

First, Rush Limbaugh, who today proclaimed ”Romney is not a conservative. He’s not, folks. You can argue with me all day long on that, but he isn’t,” was proclaiming Romney the only candidate who “embodies . . . all three legs of the conservative stool” om February 2008–nearly two years after the “RomneyCare” law that Limbaugh cites as his primary evidence and a year after Romney left the governor’s mansion.

Second, David Frum — who made his name as a conservative opinion writer at The Wall Street JournalForbes, and the The American Spectator and whose  first book, Dead Right (1994), was described by William F. Buckley as “the most refreshing ideological experience in a generation” and who, as speechwriter for George W. Bush coined the phrase “axis of evil”–yesterday resigned from NPR’s “Marketplace” on the basis that he couldn’t in good conscience represent the conservative viewpoint as a counter to Robert Reich.

My explanation:

Parties losing elections tend to take one of two paths. Either they collectively decide that their platform is out of touch with public sentiment and adjust accordingly, or they decide that their problem was a poor candidate and weak messaging and double down.

[…]

The Republican Party took the second course after its 2008 defeat. Despite respect for his enormous courage during seven long years as a prisoner of war, conservatives never considered John McCain one of their own. He was nominated almost by default when Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and others more popular with the base imploded before the race really got started. And conservatives had been sold the idea that a relatively moderate candidate who could count on favorable press coverage would do well with the coveted “swing voters.”

[…]

This sentiment grew into a force of nature with the tea party movement. Ostensibly a backlash against government bailouts and out-of-control spending, it became something of a purge of Republicans who were deemed too moderate, with tea-party-backed candidates challenging Republican incumbents and establishment favorites — including McCain, who for a time looked likely to lose his Senate re-election race to former congressman J.D. Hayworth, before rallying for a comfortable win.

Longtime Delaware congressman Mike Castle was defeated by upstart Christine O’Donnell for the party’s Senate nomination. Longtime Utah senator Bob Bennett lost to Mike Lee. Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski was beaten in the primaries by tea-party favorite Joe Miller. All three of the tea-party candidates lost, although Murkowski narrowly won re-election anyway, as an independent.

To be sure, conservatives had plenty of successes, most notably the populist Scott Brown taking the Massachusetts Senate seat long held by liberal lion Teddy Kennedy. And Marco Rubio, who successfully primaried sitting Republican governor Charlie Christ, went on to easily win the general election and looks to be a rising star in Republican politics.

The result of all this — in addition to retaking the House and coming close to taking back the Senate — is a Republican Party and conservative movement that is largely bereft of the moderates of the past. After years of political leaders spouting conservative mantras without doing much to turn them into policy, the congressional delegations now feature a critical mass of True Believers.

Democratic leaders have charged their Republican counterparts with bad faith and hypocrisy for filibustering and vilifying policy proposals that their own party had proposed in the recent past. In some cases, this is justified. In many, though, it’s simply a function of the center of gravity having suddenly shifted. Proposals that came from the pages of National Review or the halls of the Heritage Foundation in 2006 may not be “conservative” by 2011 standards.

As many have noted, while conservative politicians constantly reference Ronald Reagan’s legacy as the gold standard, it’s arguable whether the Gipper himself would pass tea-party muster. After all, he signed a huge amnesty bill for illegal aliens into law and his signature tax cut left the top marginal rate at 50 percent. As we all know, anything above 35 percent is socialism.

Thus far, the presidential nominating process seems to be the last redoubt of the old conservatism, with Romney looking to be the likely nominee. But it’s been a rapid, stunning transition.

 

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Published Elsewhere, US Politics
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.

Comments

  1. Bob says:

    I would just point out that Mike Lee won. Tea Party was 1 for 3 not 0 for 3.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Bob: Should have fact checked that; of course the Republican won in Utah.

  3. steve says:

    Nicely worded James. For those of us who grew up Republican thinking that it meant an emphasis on balanced budgets and a strong defense, the modern conservative is difficult to countenance. I keep hoping they will find their way back to a more sensible approach as the alternatives are not all that great. However, given what the GOP now offers, I see little choice. Even voting for Romney means that you have to assume he is just pandering to the base with some of what he says, hoping that he is really the more reasonable guy that we think he is.

    Steve

  4. EddieInCA says:

    As a regular reader of Frum Forum, it would not surprise me to see David Frum announce he’s voting for Obama if the candidate is Perry or Cain. Romney, I could see him voting for, but the others, not so much.

    Who knew Sullivan was ahead of the curve when he supported Obama in 2008?

  5. MBunge says:

    You’ve got a good analysis there, but you should probably leave Limbaugh out of it. He turned on John McCain the day after he won the 2000 New Hampshire primary and started attacking him like he was the equivalent of Castro or Lenin. He did that after specifically complaining just weeks earlier that GOP candidates should stop attacking each other and just go after Gore because any of them were better choices. Though he certainly helped out by later going after the Religious Right, McCain’s expulsion from conservatism began as nothing more than his getting in the way of George W. Bush, a man no more right wing than McCain by any intelligent standard.

    Likewise, Rush’s indifferent rejection of Romney now is only because his little black heart was set on Palin and he’s still pouting over that. Principle, policy or ideology doesn’t really factor into it with him.

    Mike

  6. Ernieyeball says:

    @MBunge: “Principle, policy or ideology doesn’t really factor into it with him.”

    For Mighty Mouth it is ratings, ratings and ratings. He will say whatever his audience wants to hear. Truth be damned.

  7. ponce says:

    You’ve got a good analysis there, but you should probably leave Limbaugh out of it.

    Many people have left Rush out of it.

    His ratings have dropped so much he is practically a non-entity now.

  8. sam says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    For Mighty Mouth it is ratings, ratings and ratings. He will say whatever his audience wants to hear.

    So what’s his animus against Mittens? Sound like soul brothers to me.

  9. Ernieyeball says:

    @sam: Yer askin’ me to read the mind of Brush Lintoff? I’d rather take a nap.

  10. Moosebreath says:

    Interesting analysis. As some of us have been saying, the Republican center of gravity has moved so much that Reagan would be kicked out of the party these days.

  11. jan says:

    Rush Limbaugh, IMO, is an embarrassment to any politico-speak he engages in. He is the master of hyperbole. His ego is beyond belief in it’s girth. And, yet for some his show is followed like a pied piper in considering the pros and cons of people/issues.

    If his ratings are diminishing, all the better…….

  12. Terrye says:

    I am just annoyed by Rush’s hypocritical stance on this.

    Back then McCain was the Rino and Romney was the conservative..now Romney is the Rino…who will be the Rino in 3 or 4 years? Cain?

    After watching Obama sink further and further as he gets in over his head more and more, I find myself longing for a smart competent president who knows what the hell he is doing.

    I think that is probably going to be Romney.

  13. john personna says:

    It is interesting that the stubbornly moderate crew around here contains so many ex-Republicans.

  14. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Hell, Limbaugh doesn’t remember what happened 3 hours ago much less 3 years ago. The guy is not the sharpest tool in the shed. We’re talking about a failed sportscaster with no advanced education and very limited overall experience who lucked into a goldmine through limited efforts of his own and, ironically, because of a lack of talent. Nobody in politico land has done more with less. That said, putting aside the why’s and the how’s, the guy has managed to make himself more money that I even can imagine. I give him mad respect there. Other than that, however, he’s a walking and talking farce.

  15. mattb says:

    As much as he infuriates me, I think its a mistake to call Limbaugh talentless as some commenters have. He makes really good radio. It’s just that good radio is not the same as good politics.

    I think a good question to as is how much Limbaugh’s shift in position recognizes and anticipates a shift in his audience — one that began in 2006, when after the election he announce he was done carrying water for the Republican party.

    I also can’t help but wonder how much his anti-Romney turn may hurt Republicans and Romney’s chances. He’s not exactly motivating the core base.

    All of this turns Florida into a pivotal state for “grass roots/tea party” activists. No matter what the results are there, no one is going to be happy.

  16. RWB says:

    Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich crucified G.H.W. Bush over “read my lips” and managed to keep Republicans home from the polls, giving the presidency to Bill Clinton; then they whined about it for the next 8 years. Looks like Rush is determined to get a Democrat elected again.

  17. An Interested Party says:

    After watching Obama sink further and further as he gets in over his head more and more, I find myself longing for a smart competent president who knows what the hell he is doing.

    I think that is probably going to be Romney.

    It’s nice to see that the subject of Rush Limbaugh isn’t the only comic relief on this thread…

  18. michael reynolds says:

    As a Democrat I hate the idea of a Romney nomination. But as an American I welcome it. I’ll still vote for Obama, but Romney is not insane. He may, if he wins, lead the GOP back to reality. I favor the idea of two candidates, both sane, both competent.

  19. Eric Florack says:

    The country as a whole has been tilting increasingly left for decades, James. Witness JFK talking about Tax cuts creating jobs, and increasing tax revenue. Tell me, who holds that banner today? Certainly not the Democrats.

    And what is bsing passed off as Conservative, these days?

    RUSH: At any rate, last night on PMSNBC’s Last Word hosted by Larry O’Donnell, an avowed socialist, he spoke with former Romney health care consultant and MIT professor of economics Jonathan Gruber about his having helped the regime craft health care reform. O’Donnell said, “Come on, come clean. You were in the room with Obama discussing health care reform and you did in fact work with the Romney administration in Massachusetts. Come on, Professor, you gotta tell us the truth here.”

    GRUBER: The truth is that the Affordable Care Act is essentially based on what we accomplished in Massachusetts. It’s the same basic structure applied nationally. John McDonough, one of the other advisors who worked in both Massachusetts and advised the White House said it’s the Massachusetts bill with three more zeros, and that’s basically a good description of what the federal bill did.

    RUSH: Well. Duh. John Gruber, Romney health care consultant: The truth is the Affordable Health Care Act is essentially based — that’s Obamacare — based on what we accomplished in Massachusetts. The same basic structure applied nationally.

    Whatever Romney is, he is certainly no conservative. THere’s no escaping this one.

  20. Eric Florack says:

    @michael reynolds:

    As a Democrat I hate the idea of a Romney nomination. But as an American I welcome it. I’ll still vote for Obama, but Romney is not insane. He may, if he wins, lead the GOP back to reality. I favor the idea of two candidates, both sane, both competent.

    I seem to recall similar comments fron the Dems over McCain. Hp\ow’d that work out, gang?

  21. Eric Florack says:

    Some heavy reading that gets into some of James point:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/16/magazine/does-anyone-have-a-grip-on-the-gop.html?_r=1

    James… perhaps you’ve forgotten that the Establishment GOP wasn’t too happy about Reagan, either? I mean, were you there for the 76 primary? I was.

    Whatever the Establishment GOP is, it is not conservative.

  22. anjin-san says:

    hosted by Larry O’Donnell, an avowed socialist

    Interesting that you should repeat this. I have asked you a number of times to back up your claim that Jerry Kellman is “an avowed communist”. All I am asking you to do is support your claim. Why do you keep punking out?

    Guess it is because we both know it is complete BS.

  23. anjin-san says:

    Establishment GOP wasn’t too happy about Reagan

    If Reagan could see what people like you have done to the conservative momement, he would never stop throwing up.

  24. Terrye says:

    Eric:

    When the Mass health plan was brand new, the Heritage Foundation supported. Jim DeMint supported it..not that they would today.

    The idea that somehow or other Mitt Romney is responsible for the Democrats coming up with a national health care plan is ridiculous. The Democrats have been trying to do something like that since Truman was President..they very nearly got it done when Clinton was president.

    There are both similarities and differences between Romneycare and Obamacare, but to many conservatives have decided to exaggerate the similarities and ignore the differences. In reality if Romney had been Governor of a conservative state and if he had a Republican legislature to work with that plan would look a lot different today. But the real issue is that it is a state plan and more than 80% of the people in Mass support the plan.

  25. Terrye says:

    @Eric Florack: Eric, Reagan was an establishment Republican for heavens sakes. He was a two term Republican Governor from a large state. The socalled establishment just wants to win elections and they knew Reagan could do that.

    Honestly, the idea that Romney who was supposedly the conservative alternative to McCain just 3 years ago has become some liberal or something is ridiculous. I am not a liberal. I am not a Democrat. And I am not going to pick my candidate based on what pundits and talk radio people tell me to do.

  26. Terrye says:

    @An Interested Party: Obama is in over his head. It is almost painful to watch. Too bad the rest of us have to pay while he tries and fails to learn on the job.

  27. anjin-san says:

    I seem to recall similar comments fron the Dems over McCain. Hp\ow’d that work out, gang?

    You tell us. You are the genius who said “Obama can’t win”

  28. David M says:

    @Terrye: Have you paid attention these last several years and seen the GOP’s unprecedented obstruction in response to the very moderate proposals from Obama? You’re going to have be a lot more specific,or I’ll assume you are just parroting GOP talking points that may just as well have come from Limbaugh.

  29. Janis Gore says:

    Fails to do what, Terrye? The most interesting thing that the Republican party has done was to delay the full impact of the collapse until the very end of Bush II’s term. Damn right it would be blamed on the Democrat.

    I stand by the Onion headline: “Black man, 47, given nation’s worst job.”

    But, man, Herman Cain will give us all confidence because he can run a pizza chain.

    I said then, and think to this day, that that was not the moment for “health care reform.” There’s the origin of the Tea Party.

  30. anjin-san says:

    I favor the idea of two candidates, both sane, both competent.

    You must be one of those jihadunists

  31. Janis Gore says:

    Anjin, I do think that”health care reform” was mistimed.

  32. ponce says:

    Anjin, I do think that”health care reform” was mistimed.

    Kinda like how the Palestinians, who have been negotiating for their own state for 65 years, jumped the gun by applying to the U.N. for statehood, Janis?

  33. Janis Gore says:

    Palestinians in Israel are not my problem, Ponce. African-Americans in the South are. Don’t screw up. Do what you can what you can do day-to-day.

  34. Nikki says:

    Do what you can what you can do day-to-day.

    In other words, wait your turn. Meanwhile, the world comes crashing down around you….

  35. Ben Wolf says:

    Witness JFK talking about Tax cuts creating jobs, and increasing tax revenue.

    Perhaps we could witness it if you actually linked to it, assuming you didn’t once again just make something up.

  36. Terrye says:

    @Janis Gore: Janis, George Bush tried on less than a dozen occasions to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Democrats stopped every attempt. In fact in 2005 McCain even tried to get legislation going to that effect and Democrats like Barack Obama refused to support it. They just did not see a problem there. The idea that Bush staved off the problem until the end of his term in some deliberate attempt to blame Democrats is ridiculous. If he could have done that no doubt he would have kept it from happening until he was out of office.

    In fact if you want to look at blame go all the way back to the 90s when Clinton and a bipartisan Senate repealed Glass-Steagall. It is not as if there is not enough blame to go around.

  37. Terrye says:

    @David M: What is unprecedented about it? After all the Democrats have already set the bar by ignoring the other party the first two years of Obama’s time in office..so I guess the new mantra of I won works both ways.

  38. superdestroyer says:

    To progressives Democrats, “sane Republicans” are the moderates who give the Democrats whatever they want. If the Republicans are not doing to propose anything that is different than the Republicans, they why have a second party.

    The Republicans are irrelevant today and will fade away in the near future. Instead of arguing over the irrelevant Republicans, why not think about what politics will look like with only one relevant political party. The most probable model shows that election s will soon be a contest inside the Democratic primary where blocks inside the Democratic party (including all of the former Republicans) fight over government entitlements, who pays, and who receives.

  39. James Joyner says:

    @Ben Wolf: Kennedy certainly advocated tax cuts for precisely that reason and got them. Ronald Reagan talked about it all the time, too. What’s lost in that, however, is the rates themselves: Kennedy was talking about a top marginal rate of 91 percent. He put into motion a plan that cut it to 77 and then 70–where it stayed until Ronald Reagan cut it to 50.

  40. mattb says:

    @Eric Florack:
    Limbaugh:

    RUSH: Well. Duh. John Gruber, Romney health care consultant: The truth is the Affordable Health Care Act is essentially based — that’s Obamacare — based on what we accomplished in Massachusetts. The same basic structure applied nationally.

    ok… Heritage Foundation:

    As for the comparisons between Gov. Romney’s health care plan, on which our analysts provided technical assistance on creation of a market-based health insurance exchange, Massachusetts residents can certainly debate the success or framework of his efforts at health care reform, but it is disingenuous for the White House or anyone else to pretend that Obamacare is one and the same [as Romney’s plan].

    And at least in 2007, Heritage was pretty happy with the plan as well:
    http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/04/the-massachusetts-health-plan-an-update-and-lessons-for-other-states

    So which Conservative outlet is right?

  41. Todd Kiehn says:

    I guess I prefer to see the “moving goalposts” as thoughtful changes in policy based on changing circumstances. This is especially true when comparing “conservative” positions from 25 years ago to day. Illegal immigration was a different scale of problem in 1986, and the failure of the “amnesty then border control’ approach drives conservative policy and political strategy today. But that can also be true of issues from 3-5 years ago, as priorities and facts change. It seems reasonable to say in 2006 that RomneyCare looks ok, and say in 2011 that, after several years in action, it doesn’t make any sense?

  42. c.red says:

    Sometime in the last ten years, the modern Republican Party has become a reactionary group, terrified of losing what it never had and incapable of accepting anything that does not conform to its pre-conceived world view. Anything that absolutely can not be denied is the fault of the mean old liberals or the main stream media or the muslim jihad or whatever else is oppressing it this week. It has lost all the level-headed pragmatism, vision and charity that made it somewhat appealing when I was growing up. It has become a farce.

    Then there is the Limbaughs, the Palins, the Cantors and the Murdochs that are exploiting its fear to make crap tons of money and/or to maintain political power and fuel that fear and sense of victimhood however and whenever they can.

    And there are a VERY, VERY few old school Republicans that look around and can’t figure out what the hell happened and are forced to give up any principles and shamelessly pander to the base (Romney) or get labeled as a RINO and become entirely irrelevant (Huntsman).

  43. MBunge says:

    @Todd Kiehn: “It seems reasonable to say in 2006 that RomneyCare looks ok, and say in 2011 that, after several years in action, it doesn’t make any sense?”

    Except, why doesn’t it make any sense? In what way has RomneyCare failed or produced negative results? As far as I can tell, Republicans didn’t turn on RomneyCare based on evaluating its performance or reconsidering its principles.

    Mike

  44. David M says:

    @Terrye: Here’s your unprecedented.

  45. Eric Florack says:

    If Reagan could see what people like you have done to the conservative momement, he would never stop throwing up.

    Somehow, Anjin, I have my doubts on your overt concerns over the state of the Republican party.

    When the Mass health plan was brand new, the Heritage Foundation supported. Jim DeMint supported it..not that they would today.

    So they did. And I want DeMint nowhere near power today as a result… and have been taking Heritage with a grain of salt as well. In both cases, their conservative bonafides has been irreparably damaged.

    Interesting that you should repeat this. I have asked you a number of times to back up your claim that Jerry Kellman is “an avowed communist”. All I am asking you to do is support your claim.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=5Oe6sjt3SWMC&pg=PA138&lpg=PA138&dq=Jerry+Kellman+socialist&source=bl&ots=al9dXZpA2W&sig=Dzkn8C6cp2_q16k0c0akFAud8Wk&hl=en&ei=THCYTq3_EKj30gHO9MXMBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Jerry%20Kellman%20socialist&f=false

  46. Eric Florack says:

    For Mighty Mouth it is ratings, ratings and ratings. He will say whatever his audience wants to hear.

    So, you’re admitting there’s a huge number of people (Rush’s listeners) who have Romney pegged as someone who is not a conservative?

    And doesn’t it go farther, since so many lefties in here apparently prefer him… they don’t think he’s a conservative, either?

    @James Joyner:

    So what you’re saying is the same principles were not being employed by both men?

    Sometime in the last ten years, the modern Republican Party has become a reactionary group, terrified of losing what it never had and incapable of accepting anything that does not conform to its pre-conceived world view.

    Sounds like a rather apt description of the Democrats for the last 40 years, hmmm?

  47. de stijl says:

    Talk about moving the goalposts, try entirely redefining a word – Republican “conservatism” in 2011 is not conservative by any stretch of the imagination. Today, Republicans are radical, right-wing, and reactionary.

    The last thing they are is conservative.

    I remember conservatives. They were good to have around. I didn’t vote for them, but they filled a vital role on the political stage. They are gone and I miss them.

    Imagine if the New Left had become the mainstream of the Democratic party in the early 1970’s and how that would have been a distortion to the political status quo and what that would have meant for us as a nation. Well, the exact same thing has happened, but it happened to the Republicans and it has happened in the last 10 years.

    I am generally an optimist and have a high regard for Americans and our ability to deal with our problems, but I am concerned. I hope this is the last gasp of the Southern Strategy playing out and not some permanent realignment. But given the take-no-prisoners attitude of modern day Republicans I am starting to doubt my optimism.

  48. Hey Norm says:

    Thanks de Stijl…
    I was trying to find time to type something similar…but it wouldn’t have been as well done.

  49. Rob in CT says:

    “Imagine Peace!!!”

    Forty years pass…

    “Imagine The Gilded Age!!!”

  50. Ernieyeball says:

    @Eric Florack: Define Conservative for me and I will ignore you, Rush and his other listeners every weekday at 11:00 AM CDT.

  51. An Interested Party says:

    What is unprecedented about it? After all the Democrats have already set the bar by ignoring the other party the first two years of Obama’s time in office..so I guess the new mantra of I won works both ways.

    Umm, perhaps your memory is a little faulty, and you have forgotten about the No Child Left Behind Act or Medicare Part D or the Iraq War Resolution or the Bush Tax Cuts…yeah, the Democrats where just as bad as the Republicans are now…keep dreaming, sister…

  52. David M says:

    @Terrye: This is also a perfect example of the simplistic thinking the GOP is taking continously advantage of:

    the Democrats have already set the bar by ignoring the other party the first two years of Obama’s time in office

    The GOP can either choose to be bipartisan or not, the Dems have absolutely no control over the actions of the GOP. The GOP has decided it is in their interest not to cooperate and let Obama have many bipartisan successes. Obama and the Dems have bent over backwards looking for responsible members of the GOP willing to negotiate in good faith, and there aren’t any. This shouldn’t reflect badly on the Dems though, as the GOP owns their own actions.

  53. Eric Florack says:

    Define conservative?
    I think this article will help you understand…. and at the moment at least you clearly do not.

    http://www.fff.org/freedom/0400a.asp

    The historical perspective should help… a huge number of Americans have come to the same conclusion Hornberger did years ago… although it may now be too late

  54. Eric Florack says:

    @MBunge: How has Romneycare failed?
    Well, read.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/09/us-usa-massachusetts-healthcare-idUSTRE74808920110509

    (Reuters) – Almost everyone in Massachusetts has health insurance under a state mandate, but many doctors do not accept the subsidized insurance programs available to low-income residents, a new study shows.

    Residents in some areas also face long waits in getting doctors’ appointments, or find that overstretched primary care practices are not taking on new patients.

    “Insurance coverage doesn’t equal access to care,” said Alice Coombs, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society and an emergency room physician,

  55. mattb says:

    @Eric Florack:
    Here’s the pull quote from Eric’s link (the conclusion)

    When people live in a free society, conservatives are likely to fight hard to conserve their freedom. The problem arises when people live under the yoke of such socialist programs as Social Security, national health care, state schooling, and income taxation. When that happens, conservatives unfortunately subordinate their dedication to freedom and free markets to conserving the tyranny under which they suffer.

    Oy… That isn’t conservatism, it’s radical libertarianism.

    Note that in the article:
    national health care = medicare/medicaid
    state school = public schools

    What I find even funnier is the idea of a “historical perspective” being what supports this position. While one might be able to float that argument about social security — the essay discusses how it had nothing to do with the founding fathers — its tough to do that with public education, considering that the first public school was establish in the colonies more than a century before the founding of the country.

    Likewise, noted Modern Liberal John Adams had this to say about the necessity of public education:

    “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”
    — John Adams, U.S. President, 1785

  56. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Joyner:

    Kennedy certainly advocated tax cuts for precisely that reason and got them. Ronald Reagan talked about it all the time, too. What’s lost in that, however, is the rates themselves: Kennedy was talking about a top marginal rate of 91 percent.

    You’re exactly right, because you actually know the history: Kennedy’s advisors believed the cuts would increase revenues and economic performance because the top rate was excessive. Eric the RedState distorts Kennedy’s actions and words into a blanket statement, effectively turning a truth into a lie. I can’t tell whether that was intentional, lazy or that Eric just doesn’t understand.

  57. anjin-san says:

    Somehow, Anjin, I have my doubts on your overt concerns over the state of the Republican party

    I am sure you do. You have proven over and over that you are not a thoughtful person.

    I was a Republican long before I was a Democrat. I left the GOP with regret, and I joined the Democratic partly reluctantly. In between, I was an independent for 15 years. I am not a fan of people like Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Fienstein. Despite that, as I saw the damage the Bush administration was doing to the country, I felt I could not remain a fence sitter any longer. That, and the fact that I am a big fan of Howard Dean led me to register as a Democrat.

    This county desperately needs two rational, healthy political parties. The Democrats have their own issues and negatives. It would be nice to have an option. It is never good to have political leaders who are able to regard blocks of votes as a sinecure.

    The decline we are seeing in this country in the 21st century can be partially attribute to the absence of a healthy two party system. Of course I care about the state of the GOP. Of course a blindly partisan hack such as yourself does not get that.

    .

  58. EMRVentures says:

    I have to disagree vehemently with the posters above who call Limbaugh a talentless or uneducated hack, and agree wholeheartedly with those who acknowledge his talent.

    Limbaugh is a singular talent on radio. He is engaging and mesmerizing when he talks into a mike. Read a transcript of one of Limbaugh’s broadcast — he has a way of taking unvarnished hostility and nastiness towards those he disagrees with and making it palatable to listen to. On paper, the things he says are awful. Godwin’s law is a regular part of his broadcast (“Feminazis”). Liberals are not people with whom you disagree, they are dehumanized evil actors who seek at all times to “take your money to Washington” or “tell you how to raise your children.” His listeners are beset on all sides by agendas — the Feminist Agenda, the Homosexual Agenda, the Liberal Agenda, the Socialist Agenda, the Secular Agenda.

    It’s a wonder his listeners can get out of bed in the morning, what with all the agendas that are set against them. And there are millions of them.

    But he sells it, and his audience buys it. If he’s going to go whole-hog against Romney, then Romney has got a problem that is not insignificant — the consistency, coherence or truthfulness of what he’s saying notwithstanding.

  59. mattb says:

    @EMRVentures:
    Totally agree. I always though his greatest work was, during the majority of the recent Bush administration, when the Republicans (and remember this was when he was “carrying their water”) controlled both Congress and the White House, sustaining the meme that they were the party out of power.

    He — like Beck — knows how to make good radio. I think it’s also to note that Limbaugh’s skill has largely also only been restricted to radio. He was ok in books (but what was the last thing he published) and absolutely aweful on TV.

  60. Eric Florack says:

    The idea that somehow or other Mitt Romney is responsible for the Democrats coming up with a national health care plan is ridiculous.

    Certainly the Democrats co-opted most of it. But neither of them are motivated by conservative principles. That’s the point.

    I was a Republican long before I was a Democrat. I left the GOP with regret, and I joined the Democratic partly reluctantly.

    A Republican, but never a conservative. One operting from conservative principle would NEVER sign on for what the Democrats are selling, as you have.

    I was a Republican long before I was a Democrat. I left the GOP with regret, and I joined the Democratic partly reluctantly. In between, I was an independent for 15 years.

    Living out there will do that to one. THe slow steady drift to the left and away from freedom.

    Oy… That isn’t conservatism, it’s radical libertarianism.

    Which is exactly what the country was founded on. We’re in trouble to the exact degree we’ve moved away from those values.

  61. Eric Florack says:

    You’re exactly right, because you actually know the history: Kennedy’s advisors believed the cuts would increase revenues and economic performance because the top rate was excessive. Eric the RedState distorts Kennedy’s actions and words into a blanket statement,

    No, I suggest that those two data points go a long way to indicate the validity of the principle.

  62. An Interested Party says:

    Which is exactly what the country was founded on.

    Outside of libertarians and those on the far right, who actually believes that this country was founded on radical libertarianism…

  63. mattb says:

    @Eric Florack:
    I would counter that your first mistake is that the country (if we’re talking about the US as created during the constitutional convention) was founded on a single identifiable set of values — beyond general contintental-filtered-through-England concepts of Liberalism (the historic philosophical type). Beyond that the Country was largely founded on pragmatic compromise.

    If we’re talking about the US colonial project, things get even more dicey.

    But it’s not like you ever let history/facts get in the way of your grand narrative. Though imagining how your brand of ideological purity would have gone over at the Constitutional Convention (and how many founding father’s you would have drummed out of the room before you were rode out of town on a rail) is a pretty fun exercise.

  64. Eric Florack says:

    Outside of libertarians and those on the far right, who actually believes that this country was founded on radical libertarianism…

    What were the founders if not radical libertarians?

    Consider: If they were conservatives, we would still be property of England.

    They certainly were not big government types, given the constitution they formed, which had the sole purpose of<strong> limiting the power of government.

  65. Barb Hartwell says:

    I hope some space junk lands on his house with him in it.