Rick Moran's blog

To My Friends in the Tea Party: Don't Stop Now, Guys

The "Tea Party Federation" - a group that purports to represent tea party groups across the country - has exorcised a demon from its midst.

Mark Williams, a radio talk show host by trade, and a self-proclaimed "tea party leader" has been banished from the TPF for writing what might be the most tone deaf, racially insensitive blog post this side of an article praising the Confederate Battle Flag.

Bennett's Mistake: Too Rational for the GOP

How can you claim that a senator who has a lifetime score of 85 from the American Conservative Union to be "not conservative enough" for any state?

You can if you are a member of the modern Republican party. You can if the senator in question - Bob Bennett of Utah - made the horrible mistake of taking his responsibilities as a senator seriously. Senator Bennett was unaware that the modern Republican party demands that he seek to constantly score political points against his opponents by exaggerated and outrageous name calling rather than thoughtfully approach issues that concern his constituents and look to address their problems.

For this, he has been tossed aside by Utah Republicans and will not appear on the ballot this November.

Bennett, along with his Democratic colleague from Oregon Ron Wyden, made a serious attempt to address the health insurance problem in America with a flawed, but earnest effort at comprehensive reform. Called "The Healthy Americans Act," the bill incorporated some standard liberal thinking like an individual mandate, but was also innovative in the way costs would be shared and how the program would be administered at the state level. It would also have done away with Medicaid - a plus in any conservative's book. In short, it was a good old fashioned senate compromise on a thorny issue that, in another less mindlessly partisan time, would have served as a starting point for the two parties to work out their differences.

It wasn't just his dalliance with the "enemy" that angered right wingers in Utah. Bennett courageously voted against the Constitutional amendment to prohibit flag burning back in 2006 - one of only three GOP senators to do so. He also supported comprehensive immigration reform. While there was a lot wrong with that bill, the guest worker provision had broad bi-partisan support and Bennett worked tirelessly to improve it. As for the rest of it, the best that could be said of the measure was that it was attempting to address a problem for which there are probably no good answers. That Bennett felt responsible enough as a legislator to lend his name and support to the bill reveals much about how seriously he views his office.

Alas, Bennett's base of conservatives in Utah didn't see it that way. Egged on by a massive infusion of cash by the Washington, D.C. based Club For Growth, Utah conservatives plotted to ambush Bennett at the state convention where he needed at least 40% of the delegates to vote for his candidacy in order for him to take part in a closed primary with the other leading candidate. (If he had received 60%, he would have won the nomination outright.)

In the end, Bennett received 26% at the convention and his 18 year senate career of exemplary public service will come to an end. Chris Chocola, President of Club for Growth, who poured $200,000 into the effort to defeat Bennett, said, "Utah Republicans made the right decision today for their state and sent a clear message that change is finally coming to Washington." The CFG is angry at Bennett for supporting TARP in the fall of 2008 – a bill desired by a Republican president and pushed by a Republican Treasury Secretary.

How "conservative" is making a change simply for the sake of change? Not very conservative at all. And despite the fact that polls showed a plurality of Utah Republicans supported Bennett's candidacy, he was defeated largely because he is identified with a GOP leadership that is perceived as insufficiently rabid in their opposition to President Obama and the Democrats. The Tea Party forces don't want cooperation with the opposition to address the pressing needs of the people; they want war. And any Republican incumbent viewed as less than ideologically committed to total victory will be in trouble this year.

Senator Bob Bennett may not be as far to the right as many Republicans in Utah would wish. But their loss is more than they can imagine. A senator with Bennett's seniority shouldn't be sidelined so precipitously, and it very well may be that right wingers in Utah will rue the day they so gleefully shelved a fine public servant.

The Tea Party Narrative Just Jumped the Shark

And it was all going so well for Democrats and liberals in the media.

Display a picture or vid clip of angry, contorted faces of the tea partiers, add the race card, accuse the “core” of the movement of being birthers, and generally play to the idea that this vast, grassroots movement is a small, insignificant bunch of sour grape Republicans who hate Obama.

Well, it worked for a while. But something funny happened on the way to smearing millions of ordinary Americans worried about the future; surveys of tea partiers show them to be almost as mainstream as a McDonald’s french fry:

The national breakdown of the Tea Party composition is 57 percent Republican, 28 percent Independent and 13 percent Democratic, according to three national polls by the Winston Group, a Republican-leaning firm that conducted the surveys on behalf of an education advocacy group. Two-thirds of the group call themselves conservative, 26 are moderate and 8 percent say they are liberal.

The Winston Group conducted three national telephone surveys of 1,000 registered voters between December and February. Of those polled, 17 percent – more than 500 people — said they were “part of the Tea Party movement.” …

Yeah, yeah OK. Let’s trash the results because the Winston Group is “Republican leaning.”

I suppose Gallup is in the GOP’s pocket too?

Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. That’s the finding of a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted March 26-28, in which 28% of U.S. adults call themselves supporters of the Tea Party movement.

Tea Party supporters are decidedly Republican and conservative in their leanings. Also, compared with average Americans, supporters are slightly more likely to be male and less likely to be lower-income.

In several other respects, however — their age, educational background, employment status, and race — Tea Partiers are quite representative of the public at large. (Emphasis mine)

Gallup actually gives better numbers for party affiliation than the GOP leaning Winston Group; 48% Republican and 43% independent with 8% self identified Democrats. And did Gallup really measure 32% of all Democrats in America supporting the tea partiers?

Ooops. There goes the narrative - mostly. With 28% of all Americans supporting the Tea Partiers and 26% opposed, you are bound to get a few kooks and crazies. You know the type; the one in ten thousand who hold up a sign comparing Obama to a witch doctor who somehow is portrayed as representative of protestors.

But I find it interesting that a group that is representative of the racial makeup of the US would be…racist. Can’t use the excuse that voters aren’t aware of the charges of racism made so casually, so nauseatingly by opponents. They’d have to be oblivious to the avalanche of media reports and opinion pieces that make the racist charge so cavalierly.

Beyond that, it is also not surprising that the majority would be conservative Republicans, although one might refer to most tea partiers as “nominal Republicans” in that I doubt whether there are more than a handful of GOP politicians that tea partiers are happy with.

I have been very critical of those in the tea party movement who seek to use anger and fear as a wedge to gain support for their cause. It is still my belief that reason wins a lot more converts than screaming, and fear mongering is self defeating - as seen by the failure to stop Obamacare. That vocal minority has done more damage to the tea party movement than most are willing to admit.

But the left is going to have to start coming to terms with this group based on reality, not their own, politically motivated smears. It is possible to argue against their positions without referring to them as racist, although I admit it’s a challenge to defend deficits of more than a trillion dollars as far as the eye can see. It is also possible to critique their arguments without trying to marginalize them as kooks. “Birtherism” has been so discredited that only a fringe now tries to keep the idea alive that Obama isn’t a natural born citizen. At any rate, is is a deliberate smear to posit the notion that the “core” of the tea party movement are birthers, as the president suggested in his Today Show interview.

Is the conservatism of the tea party movement farther right, in general, than the mainstream? We have little relevant data to make any kind of intelligent determination but my sense is that there is a distinct hard right flavor that, as Gallup might indicate, places the tea partiers on the edge of mainstream politics; not fringe by any means but some distance from the “center-right” that makes up the bulk of American voters. I would peg them as more ideological than much of the mainstream which skews their views in many respects. The fact that only 28% of all adults support them while 46% either have no opinion or don’t know shows there are a lot of adults in America who are suspicious of the tea party movement, as most Americans tend to be of excessively ideological people.

But even with those caveats, you cannot escape the notion that the narrative created by tea party opponents to smear them has been dealt a serious blow by these surveys. I’m sure on April 15th, when the tea partiers gather en masse once again, that we will get the same kind of coverage in the media that we have gotten previously; ignoring the tens of thousands of peaceful, reasonable, passionate demonstrators and highlight the kooks. At least, judging from the results of the surveys, the American people appear to be looking beyond that narrative and are focusing on the message of the movement; that we are spending too much and burdening future generations with obligations they will not be able to meet.

Some Thoughts on Change, Large and Small

There is nothing new about one’s political opponent’s trying to define your philosophy. This is a part of politics as old as the republic, and the more stinking and fearsome you can define how your enemy thinks, the more hay you will make with the electorate.

It worked so well for movement conservatives that they have chased the designation “liberal” from public discourse, perhaps for all time, by demonizing, exaggerating, and ultimately condemning those who identified themselves thusly as less than patriotic, less than American.

And previous to that, liberals worked wonders with the word “conservative” as they branded anyone of that philosophical bent a frothing at the mouth anti-Communist, a danger to American liberties, an ignorant, unlearned rube distrustful of intellectuals, and a mossback who looked with suspicion on international entanglements.

So goes the unending war between the two great philosophies – the yin and yang of the soul of America, forever condemned to be at odds while the country would find it impossible to do without both.

The complementary forces at work that make both liberals and conservatives necessary for a healthy society far exceed the puny efforts to rip asunder the the soul of America where these philosophies reside. While we have seen in recent decades an excessive partisanship that seeks dominance and control over the mechanism of government, what has been happening beneath the surface hasn’t changed; the slow, grinding forces of history that shape the destiny of America in ways we can only understand when we remove ourselves from the present political skirmishes and see the contours revealed by looking over our shoulder at what we have become.

American history is not a straight line proposition. It is tempting for narrative historians to paint it that way, but by doing so, much is missed in the translation. And the reason that is basically true is because of how America changes over the years, and the nature of change itself.

Generally speaking, America is a nation created to embrace change. Our Constitution has codified this notion by including the radical idea that future circumstances may require that the founding document be amended. But at the same time – and this is the key – the founders made it damn near impossible to alter their masterpiece. The Constitutional amendment must be passed by a 2/3 vote Congress and then approved by 3/4 of the states. A tall order that, as evidenced by the fact that, excluding the Bill of Rights, we have altered the text of our founding document only 17 times in 221 years.

Clearly, the founders wanted a little built in prudence to govern the engine of change. There is nothing wrong with that, as any conservative could tell you. Prudence is perhaps the most important civic virtue to which a society and by extension, government can aspire. It allows for change without overturning society in a helter skelter effort to address the issue of the day, putting a break on passion and forcing the citizenry to deal with what needs to be done in a rational manner. Change should be managed and well considered with a sharp eye directed toward consequences both seen and perhaps unseen.

This has usually been the case in America. And when it hasn’t been so, the worst consequences have usually been outweighed by the gains we have made by marching into the future with little or no idea of where we were going. Only the fact that we were moving ahead seemed to matter.

You can pick your own examples from history but I like the radical change found in Jacksonian democracy overturning the established order and giving ordinary people power they were previously denied. The “Age of the Common Man” had begun and since then, politicians have pandered to that notion of the “ordinary American,” sometimes masking schemes that accomplished exactly the opposite by claiming solidarity with regular folk.

Thinking of what has been done by government in the name of the “Middle Class” is to contemplate the unforeseen consequences that Old Hickory unleashed. And yet, we certainly wouldn’t trade what we have with what the Jacksonians defeated; the idea that there was a landed aristocracy who should rule by birthright.

In a similar fashion, we welcome the effects of destroying slavery even with the monumentally awful consequences of war, bitterness, divisiveness, and the system of Jim Crow that replaced bondage because slavery was such a fundamental evil that the unforeseen consequences didn’t matter. It could be said that in the case of getting rid of involuntary servitude and flushing it forever from the Constitution, that we could well say to hell with prudence, the actions we’re taking are long past due.

There are other examples of great change leading to unforeseen and deleterious consequences. Think of the Great Depression and the revolution in government begun by FDR. Until that time, the only contact people had with Washington was basically through the post office, or the draft. FDR changed that forever by initiating a massive government intervention in the economy in order to “save capitalism” while ordinary people were helped via government assistance with jobs, food, and housing. By today’s standards, these changes were modest indeed. But whether you are a liberal or conservative, you have to agree that there were unintended consequences to these changes and that not all of them were good.

Think of World War II and the rise of the national security state, the baby boom, the creation of a consumer driven economy – all changes that have good and bad consequences for our society, most of them unforeseen. War seems to accelerate change whether we want it or not which is a consequence in and of itself. How different we would be if we had not been drawn into the conflict? Alternate history parlor games notwithstanding, it would be impossible to say.

This brings us to the present and our president’s charge that opponents of his health insurance reform plan failed to embrace it because of their fear of change. There is something to that idea, although I would strenuously argue that for many on the right, it was not a question of being fearful of change per se, only the imprudent, unforeseen, uncontemplated changes inherent in a 3000 page bill few had read, fewer still understood, and no one could imagine the worst of what this effort at comprehensive reform of 1/6 the economy would mean.

Russel Kirk may be talking about conservative philosophy here, but I think he speaks to prudent people everywhere:

Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity. Liberals and radicals, the conservative says, are imprudent: for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away. As John Randolph of Roanoke put it, Providence moves slowly, but the devil always hurries. Human society being complex, remedies cannot be simple if they are to be efficacious. The conservative declares that he acts only after sufficient reflection, having weighed the consequences. Sudden and slashing reforms are as perilous as sudden and slashing surgery.

It’s almost as if the old professor had health insurance reform in mind when he wrote those words more than 50 years ago. The difference here between “real conservatives” (Kirk) and “true conservatives” (Palin) is probably lost on the partisans from both sides. But there is a universality to what Kirk is saying that strays beyond ideology and speaks to something far more important; our innate common sense.

President Obama has made a passionate case for health insurance reform. Indeed, many on the left have declared America deficient because we refuse to follow the lead of our European betters and embrace government run health care. I don’t doubt for a minute their sincerity in believing what the Democrats hath wrought on health care reform isn’t good and necessary, although I would gently point out that our founders went about writing a Constitution that put as much distance as possible between us and their ancestors across the sea.

I do question their common sense and prudence in advancing legislation that so many don’t want, and so many have pointed out potential disastrous consequences. Given that all change brings with it these unforeseen happenstances, and that the bigger the change, the more potential for catastrophe, one can only conclude that this kind of massive reform of the entire health care system was unnecessary and imprudent.

Change for the sake of change is mindless idiocy. Change because we are unique, and altering our society to conform to someone else’s idea of what is proper is nonsensical. There must be purpose, logic, and reason to change or you allow passion to govern. And if that be the case, you not only lack prudence, but judgment as well.

The American people would have embraced a far less ambitious, less costly, more tailored reform effort. We could have insured the uninsured and made insurance available to those denied it because of a pre-existing condition. We could have placed the hand of regulation less heavily on insurance companies while forcing them to conform to better standards, with more consumer protection. We could have done all of this and then carefully weighed the consequences before proceeding further.

But we didn’t. And the unforeseen consequences of this imprudent alteration in our health care system may far outweigh any good done in the passing of it.

Frum's Fall a Telling Blow to Pragmatism on the Right

Would the last intellectual conservative to leave Washington please turn out the lights?

The fall of AEI senior Fellow David Frum is not only a loss for intellectual conservatism, but a warning to conservative apostates everywhere that tolerance for opposing viewpoints on the right in the Age of Obama will not be a paying proposition. The previous firing of Bruce Bartlett, former Reagan senior policy analyst from the National Center for Policy Analysis in 2005 for writing an anti-Bush book should have been seen at the time as a shot across the bow by the moneybags who largely fund the conservative movement and who are apparently so insecure in their own beliefs that they are terrified of the independent mind, of thoughts and ideas that don’t match up with their own.

Most of the internet right is joyful today at the humbling of Frum who has stood four square against the emotionalism and excessive partisanship demonstrated by those who consider themselves true conservatives. He has lambasted the cotton candy conservatism of Beck, Limbaugh, and other pop righties whose exaggerated, over the top rhetoric may bring in ratings but ultimately damages the cause they purport to espouse.

Does this mean Frum was always right? Nobody is always right, which is one of the main points of intellectual conservatism. A healthy conservatism would have intelligently debated Frum’s frequent critiques of the right and the GOP. Rather than questioning his motives, his ambition, or his commitment to the right, a dynamic colloquy could have ensued that would have benefited all.

Alas, such was not - could not - be the case. Instead, Frum’s numerous critics accused him of naked ambition, trying to curry favor with the left and the press in order to further his career. He was dismissed as a non-conservative or a RINO because he didn’t believe government was the enemy. He was charged with practicing punditry under false pretenses, of not really believing what he was talking and writing about.

I can tell you from experience that it is that last criticism that hurts the most and is the quickest to bring anger to the forefront of one’s emotions. Frum knew that his critiques would diminish him in the eyes of the very people who were paying his salary. Perhaps some of his critics should try doing that in their own job someday. The squeaky wheel often does not get the grease, but rather, is replaced - and quite easily as is the case with Frum.

Indeed, Frum speculates to Politco’s Mike Allen that it was his Waterloo article that proved the last straw for some of AEI’s biggest contributors:

David Frum told us last night that he believes his axing from his $100,000-a-year “resident scholar” gig at the conservative American Enterprise Institute was related to DONOR PRESSURE following his viral blog post arguing Republicans had suffered a devastating, generational “Waterloo” in their loss to President Obama on health reform. “There’s a lot about the story I don’t really understand,” Frum said from his iPhone. “But the core of the story is the kind of economic pressure that intellectual conservatives are under. AEI represents the best of the conservative world. [AEI President] Arthur Brooks is a brilliant man, and his books are fantastic. But the elite isn’t leading anymore. It’s trapped. Partly because of the desperate economic situation in the country, what were once the leading institutions of conservatism are constrained. I think Arthur took no pleasure in this. I think he was embarrassed. I think he would have avoided it if he possibly could, but he couldn’t.”

That “economic pressure” was in the form of a donor revolt, made even more remarkable, Bruce Bartlett writes, because of the cone of silence that dropped over AEI health policy wonks who were instructed not to talk to the press because they agreed with some of the things Obama was trying to do:

Since, he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI “scholars” on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

It saddened me to hear this. I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn’t already.

Sadly, there is no place for David and me to go. The donor community is only interested in financing organizations that parrot the party line, such as the one recently established by McCain economic adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin.

I can see the gloat on the faces of Frum’s critics as they read that “the elite isn’t leading anymore.” This has been the biggest bone of contention between the few conservative critics on the right who rail against the mindless, ideologically driven opposition of many movement conservatives to anything they don’t agree with vs. the reasoned and logical, more pragmatic opposition that is more open minded, more accepting of the notion that compromise is necessary for government to work.

In fact, this was the thesis of Frum’s Waterloo article; that by choosing not to engage the Democrats in crafting Obamacare, the GOP shot itself in the foot by not only appearing weak, but eventually being unable to block the monstrosity of Obamacare. In achieving this dubious honor, the governing elites were driven like a herd of cattle, being prodded on by talk radio and Fox News buffoons who lead the movement and where any deviation from accepted wisdom was met with a withering blast of mockery and threats of excommunication.

Why has conservatism turned into such an echo chamber? Why do most on the right only read and digest that with which they agree and not open their minds, test their basic assumptions against opposing views? What is it that frightens them so that they see those who criticize the rank emotionalism of a Beck or Limbaugh as “the enemy” rather than the normal give and take among people who disagree?

I searched for an answer to these and other questions in my 5 part series “Intellectual Conservatism Isn’t Dead.” And while I never came right out and said it, I think what I was driving at was that the rejection of intellectuals or “the elites” is symptomatic of a lack of confidence in what conservatives should stand for. Issues aren’t the problem. There is broad agreement on which issues are important and what position conservatives should hold.

Rather, it is a lack of confidence in what conservatism as a philosophy should be all about. Witness the health care debate and the eagerness with which many conservatives are embracing the rush to federal court to have Obamacare declared unconstitutional. Does anyone see the titanic irony in, on the one hand, declaring fierce opposition to “activist judges” while on the other hand scurrying off to court in order to plead with a judge to take an activist stance against legislation with which the right disagrees?

This is the kind of emotional partisanship that is killing conservatism, driving the right off a cliff. And it comes from closing one’s mind to alternative viewpoints; to understand where the other side is coming from (both the left, and opponents on the right) while being terrified that one might be harboring views that are not in lock step with the majority. It is fear that is driving this kind of excessively partisan, morbidly ideological behavior on the right - fear that being cast outside of the groupthink that has become modern conservatism will leave the apostate without a political ship on which to sail.

Reading and listening to Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, and other pop conservatives without investigating alternative viewpoints, without challenging your own beliefs from time to time, marks one as a philistine. It is the antithesis of conservatism to close one’s mind and reject alternative viewpoints based not on their relevancy or reason but rather on the source of the criticism.

It is easy to dismiss conservatives like Frum by chalking up their opposition to the groupthink by wittily offering that they say those things so that they can get invited to liberal cocktail parties, or advance their careers in the leftist MSM. This kind of personal criticism is easier than having to respond directly to the charges that modern movement conservatism has lost touch with reality, and has become irresponsible, loutish, anti-science, and anti-intellectual. Greedy, selfish, cynical, and most of all, intellectually rigid, what is being identified as modern conservatism has no coherence, no basis in logic, and proudly represents itself as the party of little or no government at all.

And people like Frum, David Brooks, Peggy Noonan, Bruce Bartlett, and others like them who are in bad odor on the right for being “traitors” will go on being ignored and marginalized because actually dealing with their criticisms by debating them on the merits or demerits of their opinions opens a chasm beneath the feet of most movement conservatives. Even the tiniest of hints that not all they believe may be true is enough to throw the fear of God - or Rush - into them and send them scurrying back into the safety and warmth of blissful ignorance found on talk radio and conservative internet salons.

The apostates are not always right. On health care, it is naive to believe the Democrats were prepared to work with the GOP on anything that would have stopped short of the kind of comprehensive remaking of our health care that eventually passed. This, the GOP could not countenance under any circumstances and remain a viable political party. In that respect, the main thesis of Frum’s Waterloo article is hopelessly wrong. But should that be cause to force him out?

Not if conservatism was a healthy, dynamic, politically relevant entity. If that were the case, the conservative moneybags would have gotten their money’s worth because conservatism would have been better for the subsequent debate. Instead, lockstep lunacy reins and Frum - and the rest of intellectual conservatism - finds itself on the outs.

Shallow, Misinformed, and Feaful: Tea Partiers or Their Critics?

The answer is, Alex -- both, of course.

From the beginning, opposition to the tea party movement has sought to portray participants as a fringe element of conservatism; radical, anti-government protestors who never met a program they could support, or a Democrat who wasn't either a communist or socialist. Racist, homophobic, rabidly partisan, and dangerously myopic, such analyses of the tea partiers was de rigueur in both liberal and major media outlets.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday

A lot of things have happened this week that have entered the airy cavity sitting atop my neck and floated around waiting to be recognized as conscious thought.

I can imagine all these little snippets of inner dialogue waiting patiently in some line, bitching about how slow a goose I am at moving them from the dark of my subconscious where they effect my thinking in mysterious ways, to the light of consciousness where I can examine them, caress them, milk them for their illuminating properties.

The Difference Between Passion and Paranoia

I have been taken to task in the past for railing against those whose rants against President Obama have crossed the line of reason and entered the dangerous world of paranoia. I include in this category the Birthers, of course, as well as those who believe Obama wishes to set up some kind of dictatorship, and those who believe our freedoms have been "destroyed" or are in the process of destruction.

As for that last charge, I don't think it accurate to say that Obama wants to destroy freedom in America, but there is little doubt his policies "infringe" upon personal liberty. That's the point of his "common good" agenda; that sometimes, individual rights must be subsumed for the good of all. The fact that the Supreme Court occasionally agrees with that idea is troubling but not indicative of any bent to eliminate constitutional protections for speech, religion, or assembly. The idea that the courts, or the opposition, would simply stand aside and allow our individual liberties to be "destroyed" is therefore, paranoid thinking.

There is a line between passionate, reasoned opposition to Obama and the kind of paranoid thinking that drives Birthers and others to oppose the president. The terms are not mutually exclusive but one kind of thinking is productive and effective while the other is poisonous and unbalanced.

Movement Conservatives vs. The Pragmatists: The Battle is Joined

I could have just as easily titled this piece “Ideologues vs. The Realists” or some other descriptive caption for what boils down to a debate now fully underway among conservatives about the best way back to power.

Are the ideologues in the movement correct? Is a lack of “passion” regarding opposition to the left, as well as a less than 100%, strict adherence to their idea of conservative “principles” responsible for the right’s slaughter at the polls in 2006 and 2008?

Or are the pragmatists correct that the demand for “purity” by the ideologues coupled with the prominence of a conspiracy mongering, angry, paranoid base has connected conservatism to an unsavory, and unelectable politics?

Angry Ideologues vs. The Statists

Conor Friedersdorf, writing at Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, has a thoughtful critique of Mark Levin's huge bestseller Liberty and Tyranny.

It caught my eye because I finished the book last week and was as impressed as Conor with some of Levin's arguments, especially how he constructed a logical, and coherent framework for applying traditional conservatism to problems associated with modern America. It was a brave attempt to marry philosophy with politics and Mr. Levin should be congratulated for going beyond the usual cotton candy conservatism we get from the Hannity's and Becks of the right.

However, like Conor, I was troubled by what might be termed, Levin's problem with "enemy identification:"

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