Why the Right is Winning Online in 2010

Mindy Finn has done a public service in responding to this post by the Personal Democracy Forum's Micah Sifry belittling the online success of the Right and the Tea Party movement in 2010. 

Sifry is someone I consider a friend and genuine believer in the cause of digital democracy whatever our political differences, but he's wrong here. It was PDF, and their TechPresident blog (to which I've contributed) that obsessed over the online gap between Democrats and Republicans in 2008, even popularizing hour-by-hour charts of Facebook fans and Twitter followers to document the extent of Obama's lead over every Republican candidate. At the time, there wasn't much to argue with in these numbers. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, and Republicans have a opened up a lead in voter enthusiasm (which I would argue is inextricably tied to online activism) in 2010, Sifry tries to deny its significance by shifting the debate back to old-style political blog readership or creating straw men by citing inflated membership figures by one of a host of groups claiming leadership of the largely leaderless Tea Party movement. 

As someone who deals directly in Republican political activism and often watches confirmation emails flood my inbox as online money for candidate clients pours in, I don't there's any arguing that the right has at least reached parity with the left and outmatched it in important ways. And as someone who was doing this long before 2010, I can say this very definitely wasn't the case a few years ago. 

The Scott Brown phenomenon is not thought of as an exclusively online phenomenon, but the means by which it happened was largely online: $12 million -- more than 90% of the funds raised by the campaign -- coming in online in 18 days. 

Show me a Democratic Senate candidate in any race who raised that amount in that short of a time. Not Ned Lamont. Not Jim Webb. Not Bill Halter. Though there was a lot to be said for the digital smarts on that campaign, everyone knows that when something like this happens, it's almost purely a function of the collective strength of a party's grassroots rather than anything about the candidate or the campaign. When conservatives resolved themselves to beat Bart Stupak in the 24 hours after his health care vote, his Republican challenger Dr. Dan Benishek didn't even have a website, so they flooded his PayPal account. 

Had opportunities like these presented themselves in 2005 and 2006, I'm not sure that conservatives could have capitalized in the same way. Online fundraising surges on behalf of Republican candidates back then were unheard of, aside from the occasional $10K fundraising drive on RedState or some other blog. Meanwhile, progressive blog triumphalism was its peak. The netroots was raising serious money into highly symbolic special elections, starting with $80K for Ben Chandler in Kentucky back in 2003 and an eye-popping $500K for Paul Hackett in the OH-2 special in 2005. There was a legitimate infrastructure gap that should have had Republicans worried. And in the end, the tsunami finally crashed ashore in 2008. 

In 2010, Republicans have no reason to worry that their base won't be there for them online. Both Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell raised more than $1 million online in the 24 hours after their primary wins. Scott Brown was all of this on steroids. Republicans in every competitive special election have had no problem raising hundreds of thousands of dollars online apiece. And in perhaps the closest thing we have to a head-to-head match up, Joe Wilson caught up and outraised his Democratic challenger in the wake of a massive online mobilization after his "You lie" comment a year ago. 

Meanwhile, the netroots oomph just isn't there anymore. They're not winning primaries at the same rate as the Tea Party. The race they were most invested in, Halter vs. Lincoln, turned into a donnybrook for the movement, like Lieberman vs. Lamont before it. I had to check if there was still a successor to the "netroots candidates" on ActBlue anymore, and there is. It's called Orange to Blue and it's raised $376,000 for a handful of candidates, a far cry from the $2.4 million raised in 2008 and the more than $1.5 million raised by the Netroots Candidates list in 2006. The lack of many discernible Democratic opportunities this year has also meant that they just don't seem to be trying as hard. Most every post I read on the home page of Daily Kos in 2006 had the ubiquitous orange "Donate" and "Volunteer" buttons. No more. 

The lesson: online enthusiasm can't be separated from offline momentum. There is nothing intrinsic about the left or the right that makes one side or the other better online. The left won online in 2008 because it was winning offline. The right is winning online in 2010 because it's winning offline.


The facts don't fit the narrative that the netroots has carefully cultivated about why it succeeded early on. This sentiment is best expressed by Andrew Rasiej, Sifry's partner at TechPresident, who said at the height of the left's online momentum in 2007: 

“In a thumbnail way, Republicans have spent the last 30 years building a massive top-down communications infrastructure,” said Andrew Rasiej, founder of techPresident, a group blog that follows how technology is being utilized in the 2008 race.  “The culture of the Internet is completely foreign to them,” he added. “The Internet is all about bottom-up.” 

Of course, this caricature of conservatives as mindless rubes who do as they're told has been shown up by the massive revolt against the Republican establishment that's had real world electoral consequences in virtually every major primary this year. I think we can consign this particular left-wing conceit to the dustbin of history. 

Perhaps, the left will do better when they have something to believe in again. But for right now, I think you have to hand this round to the Republicans. 


Personal Hypocrisy

I empathize with Internet politics enthusiasts on the Left who are frustrated by the Right’s rapid online ascendancy. That doesn’t justify an obsession with undermining the online-fueled strength of the Tea Party movement, as Micah Sifry, Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) and TechPresident.com co-founder, does in this post.

Sifry writes:

I have two theories: first, that even with the growth on the right of the past two years, the online progressive base is still bigger than the online conservative base, and second, that the Tea Party's actual base of support--while large and important--isn't anywhere nearly as big as advertised.

He acknowledges that there is more base enthusiasm for Republican candidates than Democrats this year, but takes pains to prove this is not translating online. His proof? Counter-examples to the chart in this recent IBDInvestor’s piece that shows Republican online properties drawing more interest than similar Democratic properties.    

Compete.com shows DailyKos trouncing HotAir by a wide margin almost all year, except for the month of May (perhaps due to Rand Paul's breakthrough victory in Kentucky?. The same pattern holds when you look at other top right-wing sites, like HotAir, Michelle Malkin, or PajamasMedia.com.

However, this only shows that the most popular liberal blog gets more traffic than several popular conservative blogs, not an overall picture of conservative blog readership. It says nothing about activism levels.

To debunk the strength of the Tea Party movement online, Sifry hones in on the claims of the Tea Party Patriots, one of several “Tea Party” named groups with an online community. This misses the point.

The Right’s strength online hinges on Tea Party activism, but it also includes excitement around the individual campaigns, and the efforts those campaigns are exerting to harness that enthusiasm. It also includes a media mix of enthusiasm from talk radio.

Rise of the Right

When an online movement helped Democrats take the House and Senate in 2006 and the White House in 2008, they had reason to be confident in their online organizing prowess. Many believed this would help secure their place in power for years, perhaps decades, to come.

Yet, just two years later, it’s Republican elected officials, not Democrats, who have institutionalized YouTube communications; Republican Senate candidates have four times the Facebook support of their Democratic counterparts; the conservative base, under the banner of the Tea Party, has used their blogs, Twitter accounts and email lists to mobilize and fundraise their way to victory over powerful establishment candidates. And President Barack Obama, the Web 2.0 community’s great hope for embracing transparency and changing government through online innovation has faltered.

As Patrick Ruffini, my partner at Engage, and I stated in this January 2010 piece, the Right has caught up online. I’d even argue now that the Right has surpassed the Left. This all depends on what and how you measure, but I suggest an equation that includes, not only blog readership or individual Ning groups, but elected official, issue organization, campaign and grassroots activity.

Regardless, the true measure of a movement’s impact hinges on the number of people influenced to mobilize on the ground and vote. By this metric, Tea Party success this year has left little to debate or interpret.  

Sifry, a friend, a liberal progressive, and someone I admire and respect, has focused in the past on showcasing Democratic and Republican advances online in tandem. Yet, this post reeks of sore loser-ism. He couches his post as a heroic attempt to set the media straight. Instead, with a sub-heading “Tea Party Poop,” it comes across as an attempt to belittle.

Enemy of My Enemy

Sifry and I often see eye-to-eye, and here too we agree:

  1. The media tends to muddle the relationship between online activity and offline momentum, often reporting the former as if it has caused, not resulted from, the latter. This occurred during the 2008 election and continues today;
  2. You can’t take the numbers -- Facebook likes, blog traffic and Ning membership -- at face value.

I also agree with a point he has made in the past about money-ed organizations playing a role in Tea Party mobilization efforts, although I remind that they also did in supporting candidate Obama. Yet, neither of these points detract from the calculable rise of the conservative movement since the election of President Obama, made possible so quickly through the digital revolution.

If you truly believe that the Internet democratizes the process, you should have a level of appreciation for what is happening. An open democracy is one whereby all interested comers -- regardless of age, race or income -- may impact the process. You shouldn’t laud the virtue of more rank-and-file participation on one hand, and disparage it on the other.

That is unless you confine personal democracy to your own ideology. In that case, it’s just personal hypocrisy.

Is the GOP trying to snatch defeat from of the jaws of victory?

The combination of certain factors have created a near "perfect storm" to create a GOP majority in the House of Representatives this November: Democratic overreach, the Tea Party movement, the failing economy and a strong populist anti-incumbent fever.

Now it seems that the GOP plans to "unveil their new 'Contract with America'" which is modeled to some degree after the quickly forgotten document which helped bring Republicans to majority status in 1994.

To be sure, some suggested elements of the "America Speaking Out" program to be released Thursday seem quite likely to inspire Tea Party activitists while winning a sizable chunk of the independent vote. The Hill reports:

GOP leaders have already hinted at some of the ideas that could be included. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), for instance, has called for a two-year freeze in tax rates and a reduction in spending to 2008 levels. President Obama and Democratic leaders want to extend most tax cuts, but would raise taxes on families with incomes above $250,000 annually and individuals who earn more than $200,000 a year. Republicans have also pressed for repeal of the healthcare reform law, and for replacing it with new reforms. Some GOP figures have also called for repealing Wall Street reform.

Politico adds to the mix:

If a member questioned whether the House had constitutional authority to pass a bill, that challenge would receive debate and a vote.

The second major initiative would encourage — though not require — members of Congress to read bills before they vote. According to a senior House GOP source, Republicans plan to push for a new rule that would require the House to publish the text of a bill online at least three days before the House votes on it, also giving the public an opportunity to review legislation.

Now here comes the part about how the GOP plans to blow it. "Social conservatives have said they're confident their views will be well-represented in the document," reads today's article from The Hill.

Why Lisa Murkowski Lost

[It's been 1 year and 4 months since I wrote my last blog post here. For readers of The Next Right, I left my position as the RNC's Deputy Research Director back in May and am currently a Senior Communications Strategist with New Media Strategies in Rosslyn, VA. It feels good to be back in the blogosphere.]

Lisa Murkowski has now conceded. I have a great amount of respect for Joe Miller, but I have been a loyal supporter of Lisa Murkowski since her 2004 campaign. As a conservative from Alaska, I have disagreed with her positions on a few issues, but I believe she has been a good Senator for Alaska. Murkowski has been a thoughtful policymaker among her peers as well as an articulate leader on several key national issues including energy security.

Yet despite the enormous amount of admiration I have for her, I believe Murkowski has no one to blame except her own campaign for what is a stunning primary defeat. Bottom line up front: Lisa Murkowski's primary campaign should serve as a lesson in what not to do when you are being attacked by your opponent.

There has been a lot of talk about how wrong the polls were, the ballot initiative concerning abortion, and why Lisa Murkowski decided not to "go negative" on Joe Miller. Yet it's just not as simple as that. Here are four very interconnected reasons why Lisa Murkowski lost:

New York State of Mindlessness

It's (Still) The Economy, Stupid!

By George Scoville | @stackiii

I have fought every impulse in my being to weigh in on the Cordoba House debate, and to pontificate, lecture, and moralize from atop my libertarian mountain. Now that I'm actually writing about it I find myself stricken nearly dumb by the irony of what I'm about to suggest on a blog entitled THE NEXT RIGHT. But it has become clear that The Current Right has completely forgotten about The Last Right, and this could prove to be the foil for The Next Right -- at least that's my worry. I do not intend to debate the morality or legality of the construction of Cordoba House in either this post or in the comments - so if you're looking for an ideological fight, you've come to the wrong place. The Right has a new messaging problem, and if anyone intends to supplant the Democratic Party in any meaningful, long-term way, it will require pretty swift action.

The Republican Party is polling considerably well among registered voters (Gallup) on a number of factors: party identification, 2010 vote preferences among independents, and 2010 candidate preferences. The Republican Party also seems to be riding a wave of enthusiasm (RCP) that spreads quicksand all over the Democratic Party's uphill battle as November draws near. Finally, the Republican Party has retaken the lead on the generic ballot (PPP). Whatever successes the Republican Party currently enjoys it owes in large part to both the Tea Party movement and the fact that President Obama and the Democrats over-estimated their "mandate." This cannot be overstated, especially in light of the fact that only a handful of Republicans are engaging their Democratic counterparts substantively (The Weekly Standard).

Now, set all that aside for a moment. Step back 26 years to 1984.

Ronald Reagan wasn't polling well, hitting a 35% approval rating in 1983 (Gallup). The economy was in recession. Unemployment was high, though it dropped from 10.8% in '82 to 7.4% by Election Day '84 (Salon). We were at war -- each day every American faced an existential threat. Federal spending was at 22.9% of GDP (EconLib), in large part because Reagan's defense budget crested far above projections he made on the campaign trail in '79 and '80. But Reagan handily won re-election in 1984 because he kept the message simple -- this worked:

Why, then, is former Speaker Newt Gingrich -- a sort of de facto leader of today's Republican Party, an icon of the 1994 Republican Revolution, and potential 2012 presidential hopeful -- foisting a divisive cultural narrative (WaPo) onto an election cycle already dominated by anti-Big Government and anti-spending narratives that, heretofore, have been working (Pew Research via NPR)?

Ezra Klein is pickin' up what I'm puttin' down:

One political question about the Ground Zero Islamic complex/mosque/theater-space/swimming pool: Why are Republicans trumpeting this? And why, a week or two ago, did they start talking about the 14th amendment? Republicans are going to win a lot of seats this year. And they're going to do it on the backs of the economy. Getting into social issues -- particularly social issues that might anger minorities -- is a dangerous play. It loses them long-term votes that they just don't need to lose. It paints their party as intolerant and opportunistic. And it's unnecessary: It's not like they're hurting for things to talk about.

The Cato Institute's Gene Healy blames the Professional Right:

All this posturing is getting tiresome. The "mosque" controversy isn't about property rights or religious freedom. It's a bogus issue seized by the GOP establishment to distract the rank-and-file from the party's reluctance to shrink government.

Will Wilkinson, also of the Cato Institute, blames the amateur Right:

This idiotic foofaraw could be a distraction only if the GOP rank-and-file actually cared more about the size of government than the cultural politics of American identity. But they don’t. It’s not even close. American conservatism is a movement consumed by protecting and asserting a certain fabricated conception of the traditional American way of life against imaginary enemies. Support for small government is no more than a bullet point on the Right’s “What We Believe” cheat sheet, mouthed at opportune moments. I approve of what Gene’s trying to do here rhetorically, but the fact is that complaining about Muslims and keeping holy the memory of 9/11 and Ground Zero — the legitimizing altar of aggressive American imperialism —  is a direct manifestation of contemporary conservatism’s essence.

Personally, I don't really care who is to blame for the propagation of this narrative -- whether Gingrich is demagoguing, or the conservative, evangelical base needs some pandering. The bottom line is that playing with this narrative is like playing with fire, and could be as dangerous to the Right long-term as a Gingrich marriage proposal. In many ways the conservative base is like the fuel in a gas can, fuel that powers the political machine that winds up carrying water in elections -- but for God's sake, don't hand the Left a big, fat box of strike-anywhere matches. 2010 and 2012 can -- and should -- be a slam dunk for right-of-center candidates. Let's not botch it.


Ben Smith (POLITICO) notes that Gingrich's caustic remarks echo those of Mussolini:


A regular correspondent wondered why Newt Gingrich's recent declaration on the planned downtown mosque sounded so familiar, and found this:




There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.




There will be a mosque in Rome, the Fascist ruler said, only when a Roman Catholic church is permitted in Mecca.


The quote is frequently attributed to Il Duce, though I'd be grateful to any Italian-speaking reader who has a primary source.


Sorry, folks - you can call me a wet blanket all you want - independent voters just won't trade one statist polemic (Obama) for another (Gingrich).

Cross-posted at Liberty Pundits.

Further reading:

Jacob Sullum, Reason Magazine

Doug Mataconis, Outside the Beltway blog

Doug Mataconis redux, Outside the Beltway blog

David Harsanyi, Reason Magazine


Garrett Quinn, boston.com

Modernizing Government: A Renewed Focus on Innovative Solutions

Throughout the nation, people from all walks of life seem to share a general sense of unease about the future direction of our country and of our society’s seeming inability to solve the major challenges facing it. There is something beyond any single legislative debate, something more fundamental than any particular policy issue. Regardless of one’s party affiliation (or lack thereof), all increasingly share this sense that our nation has reached an important turning point.

For too many years, government has been responding to a seemingly endless chain of crises that have created an ad hoc patchwork of short-term fixes and lost opportunities. Once venerated public institutions, like dominos in a line, have repeatedly betrayed the public’s trust.

As the challenges continue to mount, this is a moment that demands a government dedicated to data-driven solutions – where the best ideas are free to prosper and where people of good faith can innovate together. We must enthusiastically engage the public’s creativity, imagination and expertise in increasingly meaningful experiences that directly impact the democratic process.

Let us respond to America’s challenges as Americans – united around a shared commitment to finding the best ideas, working together to build a better future for our country. The sacrifices that have made this nation possible demand nothing less.

Ultimately, greatness is a choice and it is a choice that each of us has to make – what will we do to make the future a better place? A country’s fate is the sum of individual choices, and so does the fate of our country rest with each of us, every day.

Something is happening in America – throughout the country, people are answering this challenge. They are entrepreneurs and oddballs tinkering with new ideas, willing to commit intellectual heresy and demand a better way; they are emblematic of America’s innovative culture that has always been the foundation for our nation’s success.

Let us move together to a new era of solutions, based on answering today’s challenges and not yesterday’s memories.


 Matt Lira currently serves as the Director of New Media for House Republican Whip Eric Cantor.


The Sunlight Foundation Misses the Point

I'll begin this post as I increasingly find myself doing, with a tweet

I wonder if folks at the @sunfoundation realize they’re creating a system where only billionaires can get elected

That's the question I posed to the Sunlight Foundation, whose good work on government transparency is marred by their vocal support for draconian campaign finance regulations. It's a fair question in light of self-funders steamrolling "career politicians" / "lifelong public servants" (pick your poison) in recent primaries.

Their response on their blog yesterday was a nonsequitur on the DISCLOSE Act. No, my specific beef is not with the DISCLOSE Act but the entire regime put in place the original "campaign finance reform" of FECA more than 30 years ago, and its subsequent bastardization that has given us the kind of influence peddling that the Sunlight Foundation now rails against. 

It is this regime of strict limits -- $2,400 per individual to a campaign -- that creates a massive de-facto advantage for self-funders who can pour in anything they want. 

In the past, I've noted the weak record of self-funded candidates actually getting elected. And I've noted, in general terms, the drawbacks of said candidates. The Sunlight Foundation's own analysis shows a low, but rising, success rate for self-funders -- from 9.4% getting elected in 2002 to 21.5% in 2008. 

But 2010 by any measure looks to be a watershed year for self-funders. Just look at Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina in California, Rick Synder in Michigan, Bill Haslam in Tennessee, possibly Rick Scott and Jeff Greene in Florida, maybe Mark Dayton in Minnesota, and in today's Connecticut primary, quite possibly three self-funded nominees for the top two statewide offices: Linda McMahon, Ned Lamont, and Tom Foley. 

There's no doubt that this trend is helped along by public disgust at the current Congress and Administration, and no contesting the fact that the politicians seem to have made such a hash of things that it seems like political novices can do no worse. William F. Buckley's dictum that he'd rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book remains as relevant today as ever. And it's not to say that primaries won by self-funders can't produce a good result (Synder and Haslam -- a current mayor -- seem to be good examples). 

But for each Rick Synder, there are other candidates with baggage so great that they wouldn't survive a primary in an instant if they had to raise it $2,400 at a time. Think Linda McMahon, the WWE, and steroids, or virtual nobody Jeff Greene who profited off the very credit default swaps that are at the heart of Florida's real estate collapse. 

Though the political winds might be at their back, self-funders have a massive structural advantage: in the context of a campaign, they are the only ones who can exercise their Constitutional rights under Buckley v. Valeo with unlimited contributions to a campaign. (There is surely an equal protection case in there somewhere, right?) 

The situation is made worse in states that are models for strict campaign finance regulations and public financing: Florida and Connecticut. In Florida, you can only give $500 a pop to a statewide candidate, but outside political entities who don't disclose their donors openly coordinate with cash-strapped campaigns. In the realm of the truly bizarre, the state party can also subsidize any campaign's infrastructure costs to get around these limits. Connecticut also has public financing and contribution limits, and we may well get an all-self-funder race for Governor today. 

Let's look, by contrast, at states like Texas and Pennsylvania, which don't have any contribution limits in statewide elections. Is there a serious case to be made that their system is worse, or more corrupt, than Florida's -- where money is funneled through shadowy outside groups precisely because the ambit of disclosed campaign activity is so small? 

In Texas, all major candidates have an opportunity to fund their campaigns at a level appropriate to the modern campaign, thus making the cost of entry for self-funders very high. That doesn't mean they don't try, but they must at least compete on a level playing field because their opponents have the theoretical ability to draw unlimited dollars from elsewhere. 

Which gets us back to what the Sunlight Foundation wants to talk about: the DISCLOSE Act. If we actually had a sane campaign finance system, there would have been no need for the Citizens United decision, because this activity would be happening in a fully open and disclosed fashion under federal campaign laws. It is only under a regime of strict limits that clever tricks that hide where money is really coming from begin to take root. PACs, soft money, 527s and the widespread use of 501(c)4's for political activity are all functions of campaign finance "reform." 

Paradoxically, it is only when money becomes a scarce resource in a campaign that where it comes from matters most. I for one would much rather have a system where an individual can give a candidate $100,000, fully disclosed, rather than the one we have now where members of Congress have to grovel before industry PAC representatives for 20 measly $5,000 checks. 

If there are reform-based objections to this, let's hear them. And let's also hear an answer to threshold question: how are things in Austin, Texas or Harrisburg, Pennsylvania worse today than in Washington, D.C.? 

Discretion is the better part of Moderation

TechPresident, writing about the Slate story reviewing moderation practices on Sarah Palin's Facebook page, says it is "less a cleaned-up open Facebook conversation than a some sort of curated narration to the life and times of Sarah Palin."

Dickerson and a colleague built a program that tracked comments on 10 Palin posts over the course of 12 days. Now, you might assume that team Palin took a hatchet to especially negative, anti-Palin commentary. And some of that, it seems, happened.

But that's not all that went down. The Palin enterprise also scrubbed from her feed comments where, found Dickerson, folks went after people who wrote mean things about her. Racial slurs were enough to get the boot, yes. So were suggestions that she shouldn't let her kids (Bristol, presumably) do reality TV or vaguely-worded notes about Barack Obama birth certificates. Also no good: excessive religious imagery and mild objections to Palin's picks of candidates to endorse.

So, the Big Story here is that Palin's staff tries to maintain a decent community by keeping things civil and focused, and weeding out the jerks?

Look, we've gotten too wrapped up in the idea of politicians and/or technology having clear, defined and consistent rules.  That just doesn't work in a social medium. If you create any kind of bright line "no racism/cursing/personal attacks" rule, then you have to make decisions about exactly what does and does not qualify as racism/cursing/personal attacks - and you will be attacked for your decisions no matter where you draw the line.

Social interactions are too fluid for that kind of strict rule-making.

So what is the answer?  I think there are two reasonable options: 

  • Safe Harbor: A couple years ago (I can't find it now), Patrick Ruffini pointed out that the more control you try to exert, the more responsible people will hold you for what you allow.  Moderation = Responsibility.  The Obama campaign went the other direction, largely allowing anybody to post anything and only exercising minimal oversight.  When you have a flood of content, nobody blames you for the idiots leaving drops on the carpet.
  • Discretion: As appears to be the case at Sarah Palin's Facebook page, discretion is the better part of moderation.  That makes sense.  We don't demand hard, fast, bright line rules in the offline world, because we couldn't possibly make rules to cover every social situation. We wing it.  We use discretion. We do the best we can and move on. 

Maybe that will be the best way for political organizations to manage their online communities, as well.  Politics is already complicated enough. The online world doesn't have to be much more complicated than the offline world.


VIDEO: Libertarians and Conservatives, Ad Nauseam

[Blogger's note: I didn't know that TNR couldn't embed Javascript; I will embed the video once Reason makes it available on their YouTube channel - sorry for making you click away in the meantime; at least it will pop open in a new window, and you won't lose your place.]

I have been blogging pretty exhaustively about a fissure in a traditional center-right coalition comprised of libertarians and conservatives (see here and here). The folks over at Reason have finally made video available of the three-way debate between the Cato Institute's Brink Lindsey, AEI's Jonah Goldberg (also of the National Review), and FreedomWorks' Matt Kibbe:

I've been blogging as often as possible about this ideological spat because a) as a political scientist, it's a generally interesting phenomenon to observe, particularly when set against the backdrop of the rise of the Tea Party movement, and b) the extent to which this (hopefully temporary) rift gets smoothed over will have, I believe, a significant effect on the 2012 presidential election, if not this year's midterm elections. Of course, I don't have a wealth of empirical data on hand at this point to evidence my thesis - so we'll just have to call it a hunch.

Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic is smellin' what I've been cookin' for awhile:

Economic libertarianism is the message du jour, and Pawlenty's budget cutting in Minnesota may get some attention. But really, and he and none of the sober wing candidates have figured out exactly what the non-Palin wing of the party wants. There's no way to get social conservatives on board with Palin or Mike Huckabee in the race. So who's left to help you win primaries and caucuses?


They are -- they could be -- to the Republican Party what the anti-war left was to Democrats in 2003 -- the out-of-the-establishment power center that can drive the narrative of the race. How do you get the attention of libertarians without losing conservatives? You could shift positions on the war in Afghanistan, or try to fashion a more realist foreign policy. That seems to be a non-starter; the consultants for these candidates are fairly covnentional and are risk-averse. Endorse medical marijuana? Legalized gambling? Something else?


Why Elizabeth Warren Should be Rejected

I have generally argued that the Senate should only withhold confirmation approval for manifestly corrupt or unqualified appointments. Otherwise, a President should get his nominees.

Megan McCardle makes a compelling case that Elizabeth Warren - a leadering candidate to run the new consumer financial protection agency - is an utterly incompetent academic.

I can understand why the Democrats would promote somebody who panders to their prejudices, but it is genuinely hard to understand how Harvard - or the academic journals that published her - could stand by while she has used their reputation to peddle propaganda as academic research.

If Elizabeth Warren is appointed, the Senate should not confirm her.

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