Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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See, What Did I Tell You?

Ramesh Ponnuru and Ross Douthat offer Mitch Daniels constructive criticism on his idea of a "truce" on social issues.

Department of I told you so: Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Mike Huckabee both go after Daniels on the "truce."  Daniels actually started taking heat on this a little earlier than I expected. I think Daniels should listen to Ponnuru and Douthat.

I'm interested in how Romney will treat Daniels.  I think Daniels is a much bigger potential threat to Romney than to Huckabee.  Huckabee can use Daniels as a foil with Daniels as the economy-focused (and spending cut-focused) candidate with Huckabee as the social conservative/conservatism of the heart alternative.  Romney's two main strengths were his support (or least-of-all-evils acceptance) among movement conservative institutions (he was endorsed by National Review and he took less fire from Limbaugh and such than Huckabee or McCain) and his record of competence as an executive.  Daniels seems to have made the conservative press swoon with very friendly profiles in National Review and the Weekly Standard, and in retrospect, would you rather have Romney's record on health care policy or Daniels'?  If  I were Romney, I would be preparing attacks on Daniels as a tax raiser (it would be misleading but I'm assuming that wouldn't stop Romney) and a defense cutter along with being a social issues squish. 

I say all this as a Daniels fan who likes his record in Indiana and would really like him to run in 2012.  It is just that politics is already tough and unfair enough without Daniels making extra trouble for himself with this truce stuff.

Categories > Politics

Discussions - 10 Comments


"It offers an ersatz system of direct representation in which an increasingly segmented audience absorbs what it wants from its trusted sources, embellishes it in their own voices on blogs and websites and chatrooms, then hears their views echoed back as “news.”

See the Tea Party Jacobins by Mark Lilla.

The use of the term "truce" by Daniels was mistaken because it has folks like Pete and Ramesh and Ross arguing over what exactly Daniels, whose pro-life credentials are impeccable, means. Fortunately, it's June 2010 not June 2012.

It would have been wiser for him to have defended cultural conservatism -- citing his own history, perhaps? -- while noting that some aspects of the cultural conflict may need to take a back seat until the economic issues are dealt with. Preventing public funding for abortions seems like a secondary concern if public funding for national defense (or Social Security or Medicare ...) becomes problematic.

Rick, I agree that the word truce is problematic in itself, but the substance of his later comments is even more damaging. Very few would have objected if he had said that economic issues would take up more of the President's time and energy than social issues. I don't see how that constrains Daniels from venturing an opinion on the public funding of abortion or many other issues over which the President will, inevitably be involved in policy formation. I just don't know who this strategy is supposed to win over. Not funding abortion through taxes is alot more popular than cutting Medicare funding down to a sustainable level, so a policy that alienates social conservatives on issues like that (as opposed to on issues where the social conservative position is not as popular) only makes getting elected and governing on economic issues harder.

Replying to questions about abortion judges or whatever by saying the economy is more pressing will likely be recognized as the non sequitur that it is. Obama was right when he said a President has to handle more than one thing at a time and I don't think social conservatives will be mollified at being told that their concerns will be totally put aside by a Daniels administration.

Perhaps we're talking past one another, but if social conservatives can be bought off by politicians who vow to never fund abortions with tax dollars and yet refuse to even discuss how to tackle Medicaid and Social Security because such talk is unpopular, well, then, I have no use for them.

Social cons need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, too.

Rick, I'm pretty sure we are talking past each other. My two points were that 1) social conservatives would probably not accept the need for economic reforms as an excuse for not taking action on popular social conservative policies and 2) a strategy of letting social conservatives know that Daniels will take no action to further their policy goals even when those policy goals are popular, makes economic reform harder rather than easier. Many social conservatives (or broad spectrum conservatives who are also social conservatives) will support someone else in the primaries and some will stay home in the general election. And all of this is for no gain. No one is (or almost no one) going to be more willing to vote for Daniels on a platform of entitlement cuts because he refuses to take a position on the government subsidy of abortion (or any number of other issues.) Tacking the economic issues becomes easier if the Republican candidate has a cautious, incremental social agenda that is not emphasized, rather than seeming to tell social conservatives that their policy priorities will be ignored for some indefinite period of time.

Pete, maybe I'm missing something. (Time to call a truce?)

I think Danleis was clumsy -- unnecessarily so -- by using the term "truce." But the reaction of the more vocal social conservatives was offputting to me as well. You're acting as if he openly insulted you. And I didn't see that.

If you believe that a candidate with the unwavering social-con credentials of Daniels would turn off social cons in a general election against Obama, or any Democrat I can think of, so that they stay home, then the Republic deserves what it gets. What immaturity.

(To some degree, this all comes back to Huckabee, who may be the social cons' darling in 2012. That would be a huge mistake -- imagine a Mike Bloomberg-type nanny-stater in the White House who's also bad on economic policy. At least Michelle is only the first lady. If Huck wins the GOP nomination, the nation loses no matter what happens that November.)

Rick, thats a truce I can get behind.

Daniels didn't insult me. He worried me, because I think that Daniels is one of the very few Republicans I can think of who can make the case on economic policy - which I think has been the real domestic policy weakness of Republicans in the last decade. I would like him to have a good chance to get the Republican nomination.

I don't think that biography or credentials will save Daniels if he isn't willing to even comment on policy issues that social conservatives are interested in - even when those socially conservative policies are broadly popular. If you seem to tell people that you will not take action on their concerns, you will tend to alienate them.

Huckabee is the best obvious foil for Daniels' current tack, but I think that the way primary voters choose among Republicans is complicated. There are lots of pro-lifers who are not single issue pro-lifers. A Daniels who seems like the best on the economy and acceptable (as an incrementalist who does not emphasize the issue) on abortion might gain votes from this group. If he comes across as someone who is going to do nothing for pro-lifers as President, those voters might go to a second-best economically conservative candidate who doesn't seem to demand that pro-lifers put their policy goals aside until... whenever. As for the general election, there are lots of people who are more against late term abortion than they are in favor of Medicare cuts or consumer-driven health care. I don't see why one might want to alienate (or insult as immature) this group when we are talking about popular policies. I also don't think that a kind of hostage tack (put your abortion principles aside or the economy gets it.... I mean gets Obama) will help keep this group in the fold either.

I'm no big fan of Huckabee either, but some perspective is in order. Even if he had, by some miracle, been elected President in 2012, we still wouldn't be getting the Fair Tax. We also wouldn't have gotten Obamacare and (making the questionable assumption that Souter and Stevens would have resigned during a Huckabbe presidency) we would have gotten better Supreme Court Justices.

I agree with your formulation that a Daniels who is unafraid to articulate a culturally conservative vision (and not be seen as a potential phony, ahem, Romney, ahem) would appeal to pro-lifers even if his first through fourteenth policy priorities are fiscal conservatism, economic growth, national security, etc.

The potential problem for any GOPer who's seen as uninformed about economic policy (or worse, squishy on it) in the fiscal environment we're facing for the foreseeable future would be vulnerable to a third-party challenge from a Perot-type deficit hawk. I have no idea who this might be.

But the conservative coalition, fractious as it may be, would be poorly served by a managerial, commandeering sort who is completely uninterested in (if not hostile to) conservative cultural arguments.

If the choice in 2012 is between a wounded Obama and Rev. Huckabee, then Mr. Fix-it becomes an appealing alternative to the vast majority of voters who aren't regularly engaged in these issues.

Rick, I almost entirely agree (see, I'm all about the peace.) When it comes to Huckabee vs. Obama, I was only discussing my own policy preferences, not likely election outcomes. I don't see how the Fair Tax doesn't sink him in a general election (short of a depression or something

Huckabee is our best shot at taking Obama the socialist out of the White House. Huckabee is like Reagan in that they are both gifted communicators and debators. They both had the warm and fuzzy public appeal to Americans across party lines and with non-informed voters. Huckabee will establish strong contrasts between himself with the conservative republicans against Obama the liberal progressive socialist movement and agenda. I am not saying that Huckabee is the next Reagan, but that he is more like Reagan in the area of communication and public appeal than anyone out there. Those who oppose Huckabee often do so for their own insecurities about religion. If you look past that you will see Huckabee is the obvious choice. Besides Huckabee is not going to impose his faith on other people or Run the Nation like a Church. But his moral values will help to assist him in decision making and in his personal conduct because Character does matter in order to provide real leadership.

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