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.

Update:

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:

 

Gingrich:

 

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

 

Mussolini:

 

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

Ben Smith, POLITICO

Garrett Quinn, boston.com

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Comments

Good call

n/t

Exactly

You've nailed this.  This is EXACTLY what I hoped the Next Right was going to be like.  Persuasive, thoughtful, well-laid-out arguments for Conservative campaigning and policies (not what this is about, but you get my drift), coupled with an honest assessment and ownership of mistakes made by the Right in the past.  I'm an unabashed liberal, but I think a coherent, stable and sensible opposition is crucial to the proper functioning of democracy.  I wish more The Next Right posts were like this one.

You want sensible opposition to the NY mosk ? Here ya go...

The Imam is on an international fund raising trip, because he needs lots more money. Ok ? Proximity means more Intl. $$$$s from you know who....and it isn't Muslim Americans.

Then, its not gonna be your regular Mosk, Its a terrorist recruitment, indoctrination and training center, because of its proximity to Ground zero.

There, prove that the Future of the Mosk is not what all NY UNDERSTANDS IT WILL BE.

"What...

...in god's name are you talking about!"

 

New rule.  If you can't spell something correctly, you can't criticize it.  A typo is one thing, but you're simply lazy and rude.

I'm referring to the GZ Imam's trip, and what is it for.....?

Here is what I'm referring to, the Ground Zero Imam's trip, secretive trip....even Deanie doesn't know about it.  I'm guessing its to raise $$$'s.  If you find spelling errors in the link, please drop them a note.  

I'll credit the future potential of the Ground Zero Mosk, to popular opinion.

New rule.....majority of Americans do not agree with Deanie, an expert speller (supposedly).

Nice.

I'm glad you don't even understand the meaning of the word "rule".  You're absolutely brilliant.

And they say Liberals don't have a sense of humor ?

Sarcasim is wasted upon the humorless. My posts seem to have an incongrous quality about them, to some.

Mosk Rules

More like imbecillic rather than incongruous.

New York City and State are upset, majority Dems live there

Why ya dragging the Republicans into this hornets nest of an issue in a Democrat run state, full of Liberals wall to wall ?
The 911 Families are upset that a Religious marker is being built where the 911 plane's landing gear destroyed a building.
Then we have a court ruling in Utah about ya can't put a cross on a hiway marking the site where Utah Police have been killed.
I'm confused. Why would anything a Republican says about a Democrat run NY State local issue cause you any concern ?
I'm hearing the the 911 families and the still sick 911 first Responders are really angry about being ignored.
I haven't heard about Gingrich. Sounds like you are saying he agrees with the Majority of NY Democrats to me.

Let all of those NY Democrats take the lead on this one.

You should welcome their support. Looks like a great opportunity to prove you’re a conservative before you’re a Republican. I could care less & would rather not dedicate any of our national political capital to a local zoning issue.

I went and found what Gingrich spoke about on shariah law

What's Gingrich, 1994, Reagan in the 80's, have to do with the current grass roots 70 % majority thinking on Immigration and now the same majority thinking on the 911 Mosk ?
Gingrich would make a good political appointee of a Republican president in 2012 but he'd be somewhere in line beyond Bolton or Petraus.
America is picking new and improved heroes, and ignoring McCain and the other former heroes.

Or maybe its Gingrich joining a 911 demonstration in NY COMING UP with none other than Bolton that is driving the Gingrich obsession by the left ?

Running scared, are we ?

Indeed, real conservatives think mosque has perfect right...

... to be built as proposed:

http://thinkprogress.org/2010/08/18/mosque-olson/

That's right.  Ted Olson, whose wife died in the 9/11 attacks!

Ted Olson’s a TrueConservative™ now?

I though his his advocacy of a unitary executive made him a war-mongering neo-con faker.

Did I say that anywhere in my comment?

Doesn't look like it.  Just wondering.

Did I say that anywhere in my comment?

Doesn't look like it.  Just wondering.

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Project 51

This issue seems to be dying a well-deserved death.

I live in NYC, I was here on 911.  I marched here against the Iraq war in 2003, and I am all for a Mosque on the site of the old Burlington Coat factory on Park Place.

I am joined in this  by a sizable number of 911 families, as well as millions of New Yorkers just like me.

See, I love my country, and I love the Constitution.  And I can't stand racism and bigotry, and the GOPigs who use them to gain power.

Most of all. I resent GOPigs like 4speed who would need Google, GPS, and a tourist map to even find Ground Zero in my NYC telling me and my city what we should hallow, and what we should be doing with our uniquely personal exeprience of 911. 

We will never forgive the GOP and Conservatives for this.  Not now, not ever.

I never told you anything about what to do in NY

May I quote myself......"I'll credit the future potential of the Ground Zero Mosk, to popular opinion."

But feel free to do your liberal attack, insult, thingie, and minimize/demonize any opinion that you don't agree with.  I'm watching the hypocritical action from afar.   Bloomberg is the one on the NY firing line, and he has a few supporters, not many, but a few.