Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Did I Mention the Constitution is Relevant?

No doubt in honor of the Constitution's 223rd birthday, the Washington Post is running an opinion piece by Damon Linker calling for the removal of the Constitution's ban on religious tests.

Of course, Linker says his religious test isn't really a religious test, at least of the "formal" Constitutionally proscribed type. Rather, he simply wants a couple of debates devoted solely to morals and faith, in order to "explore the dissonance" of religious conviction and democratic government. Naturally, it's quite obvious that he is really interested in outing religious Republicans as somehow disqualified by virtue of their faith from holding political office.

The questions Linker proposes include:

How might the doctrines and practices of your religion conflict with the fulfillment of your official duties?

How would you respond if your church issued an edict that clashed with the duties of your office?

What do you believe human beings can know about nature and history?

Do you believe the law should be used to impose and enforce religious views of sexual morality?

Atheists, "bearded Marxists," humanists, secularists, relativists and the such apparently have never had any ideas which might not be entirely compatible with democracy. (And note that anti-religious folks just can't get through a single thought without inevitably talking about sex.)

As might be expected, Linker has an example of a superb religious politicians: Barack Obama. Membership in a racist, anti-American, hate-group congregation is apparently just the sort of religious example which merits Linker's approval.

Categories > Religion


She's a Witch?

"I dabbled in witchcraft...."

"My first date was a picnic on a satanic alter...."

"There was a little blood there...."

We 're all trying, Christine. Really. But if Bill Maher really has more like this, could I please be the first to suggest that you politely step aside and let Mike Castle win Delaware for the Republicans?

Maybe O'Donnell can rebound with a clever, witty public statement and quickly change the subject to the economy. But supposing her numbers begin to sink, her loss in November might be a relief rather than a disappointment. Six more weeks of this sort of news would be all but unbearable.

Categories > Elections


Pence / Palin 2012?

The results of the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit Straw Poll are a good indicator of the tastes of conservative activists. I'd expect a decent percentage of Tea Party sympathizers at the FRC summit, so the poll is probably a good indication of where conservative energy is centralized.

The interesting details are that Pence has risen to national stardom amongst conservatives, whereas Palin is seen as a viable VP - but not a ticket-header. Huckabee, of course, is still a favorite

Presidential Candidates:

Mike Pence 170 24%
Mike Huckabee 159 22%
Mitt Romney 93 13%
Newt Gingrich 72 10%
Sarah Palin 51 7%
Rick Santorum 39 5%
Jim DeMint 38 5%
Bobby Jindal 15 2%
Mitch Daniels 13 2%
Chris Christie 11 2%
John Thune 11 2%
Bob McDonnell 10 1%
Marco Rubio 10 1%
Paul Ryan 7 1%
Haley Barbour 6 1%
Ron Paul 5 1%
Jan Brewer 1 0%
Undecided 12 2%

Vice Presidential Candidates:

Mike Pence 119 16%
Sarah Palin 112 15%
Rick Santorum 75 10%
Paul Ryan 51 7%
Jim DeMint 45 6%
Mike Huckabee 43 6%
Marco Rubio 43 6%
Bobby Jindal 36 5%
Bob McDonnell 31 4%
Chris Christie 25 3%
Mitt Romney 25 3%
Newt Gingrich 24 3%
Jan Brewer 20 3%
John Thune 15 2%
Mitch Daniels 10 1%
Haley Barbour 6 1%
Ron Paul 5 1%
Undecided 38 5%

Categories > Elections


Perspective in Delaware

This reminds me of the weekend when two clubs at Harvard both threw events - one had a cross-dressing drag-queen ball, the other held a meeting on sexual chastity in relationships. Guess which one  was so controversial that it made the school newspaper.

The Washington Post is attempting to stir up a scandal about Republican, Tea Party favorite O'Donnell. Apparently, 20-30 years ago, O'Donnell made "controversial statements in favor of 'sexual purity' and against masturbation in a 1996 MTV documentary." (Since when does sexual purity deserve scare quotes?)

In the video, a very young O'Donnell calls for a mature conversation with the youth about the morality and consequences of masturbation and pornography. Not only is there shockingly little scandal in her charmingly upbeat religiousness, but everything she says is rather rational, moderate and thoughtful. No fire and brimstone - just common sense opinions about sexuality.

On the other hand, her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, is a self-described socialist who fancies himself a "bearded Marxist." No scandal there. Merely par for the course in the Democratic caucus, I suppose. Coons held that "the ideal of America as a 'beacon of freedom and justice, providing hope for the world' was not exactly based in reality." Charming.

It's an interesting experiment in perspective to see which view the WaPo sees as scandalous in a U.S. politician. I wonder if Delaware shares the WaPo's views?

Categories > Elections

The Founding

Happy Birthday, Constitution

Mea culpa - I'm a day late in wishing a happy birthday to the Constitution.

Thanks to the Tea Party, the Constitution has been appearing center stage during this campaign season. However, it's interesting that present invocations of the Constitution focus on its core, structural provisions - limited government, vested powers, federalism - rather than the usual individual rights rhetoric. Impressive versatility and relevance for a document under 5,000 words.

And I gotta say - the old lady's lookin' pretty good at 223 years.

Categories > The Founding

Shameless Self-Promotion

Greens Hit the Wall

I deliver a fresh beatdown on the ineptitude of environmentalists in the Weekly Standard just today.  Happy Saturday!


Cracks in the Foundation

The NY Times laments that Unions are finding their members slow to march, zombie-like, to the Democrats' drumbeat. 

Labor leaders, alarmed at a possible Republican takeover of one or both houses of Congress, promise to devote a record amount of money and manpower to helping Democrats stave off disaster. But political analysts, and union leaders themselves, say that their efforts may not be enough because union members, like other important parts of the Democratic base, are not feeling particularly enthusiastic about the party....

Ironically, it is likely the Democrats' legislative victories - healthcare, stimulus packages - which most annoy the rank-and-file. Though these bills, like nearly all of the Democrats' Obama-era legislation, were intended to prostrate the party before labor unions, they have had the effect of ruining the economy, prolonging unemployment and alienating blue-collar workers (who feel these realities far more acutely than their union "leaders").

Perhaps non-management union members are finally alighting to a Tocquevillian sense of "enlightened self-interest" - and recognizing that a refusal to allow parties to compete for loyalty is just as self-destructive in politics as in the marketplace. 

Categories > Elections


Despicable Three

Lisa Murkowski joins Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter on the list of politicians who leave the Republican Party to launch Senate campaigns that have no principled rationale whatsoever. 
Categories > Politics


As Ohio Goes...

WaPo's Chris Cillizza wonders if the GOP have run away with Ohio. According to Quinnipiac, it seems likely:

The Q poll showed former Rep. John Kasich (R) leading Gov. Ted Strickland (D) by 17 points and former Rep. Rob Portman (R) ahead of Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D) by 20.

CNN/Time survey and internal polling from the Strickland campaign put the numbers a bit tighter. But when polls show that California, Washington and Wisconsin are up for grabs, Ohio is pretty much in the bag for Republicans.

Categories > Elections


Delaware, Deconstructed

By the ever-ingenious Iowahawk.  I'm still snorting my afternoon snifter of brandy.
Categories > Politics


The Right to Study and to Criticize

The right to burn a Koran is not the main issue.  The key issue is whether we are free to conduct research, and to publish conclusions like this:

[Sven] Kalisch, . . . scandalized the Muslim world with a 2008 paper claiming that the Prophet Mohammed was a figure of myth [1]. Citing the work of Western Koran critics, Kalisch claimed that the prophet's life was the fabrication of 8th-century apologists:

It is a striking fact that such documentary evidence as survives from the Sufnayid period makes no mention of the messenger of god at all. The papyri do not refer to him. The Arabic inscriptions of the Arab-Sasanian coins only invoke Allah, not his rasul [messenger]; and the Arab-Byzantine bronze coins on which Muhammad appears as rasul Allah, previously dated to the Sufyanid period, have not been placed in that of the Marwanids. Even the two surviving pre-Marwanid tombstones fail to mention the rasul.

Islam, he concluded, was a revival of the old Gnosticism expunged by Christianity and embraced instead by the Arabian tribes.

Categories > Religion


Friday Flotsam and Jetsam

So Jon Stewart is going to hold a rally for moderation on the Mall in Washington on October 30. I might turn up just for the anthropological opportunity, especially since I predict the likely audience will skew left and won't be able to help themselves.

And I trust everyone in cell phone range of the Ashbrook Center has caught up with this story of the lefty blogger who called John Kasich on a story about talking about the bad economy with an elderly couple at a Bob Evans restaurant, and then got burned by the tape.

Finally, over at, I give out Two Cheers for the Clean Air Act, which celebrated it's 40th anniversary this week.  Or would have if anyone noticed.  You'll have to read the piece to see why not three cheers.
Categories > Politics


Links Ahoy!

On Delaware:  Sean Trende brings the perspective.

On Debt:  Kevin Williamson and NLT's William Voegeli bring the horror.

Categories > Politics


Write Stuff

Wheat and Weeds suggested this Chronicle of Higher Education short piece laden with good writing tips--saves you reading piles of good books and gives sound advice for action. 
Categories > Education


Locke Box of Religious Toleration

Religious toleration is a major tenet of American constitutionalism, but it presupposed other, more fundamental principles:  agreement on natural rights and the ensuing rule of law.  Richard Reeb elaborates the historical and philosophical context of religious toleration:

As Europe freed itself from the rule of theocratic regimes, dissenting religious denominations sought toleration from the domination of the most numerous or powerful sect, which generally was Roman Catholic in the south and Protestant in the north. [John] Locke's remarkable letter [on Toleration], which aimed at "mutual toleration of Christians in their different professions of religion," declares as a necessary condition "charity, meekness and good-will in general towards all mankind, even to those who are not Christian."

That is, all long as churches are "regulating... men's lives according to the rules of virtue and piety," religious tolerance is possible [emphasis added].  As difficult as it was for Christians at that time to admit it, Jews and Muslims can be tolerated as long as their loyalty is to the civil government under which they live, rather than to a foreign power. In Protestant countries, toleration of Roman Catholics seen as beholden to the Vatican was governed by the same principle....

In short, the necessary condition for Muslims' full participation in American citizenship is to renounce Sharia law. As long as any ambiguity or worse on this matter is tolerated, Muslims cannot be good citizens and they undermine American law. We can tolerate religious differences, but we cannot tolerate defiance of American law.

Categories > Religion


The Problem Of Moderate (Liberal?) Republicans

Taking inspiration from commenter Art Deco in this thread, I think it is helpful draw distinctions between Republican candidates who are more liberal than most Republicans and liberals candidates who happen to be Republicans.  The second category is, at the congressional level, pretty small at the moment.  Lincoln Chafee comes to mind as the most recent example.  I'm generally in favor of running primary challenges against such liberal Republicans even if it throws the election to a liberal Democrat.  The main effect of such principled liberal Republicans is to give bipartisan cover to liberal initiatives.

The first group (to include Specter, Crist, the Maine Senators) is more complicated.  They usually don't have liberal (or conservative) principles.  They are running as Republicans in marginal or liberal-leaning constituencies (or maybe even right-leaning constituencies) for complicated and self-interested reasons.  Since they are all about themselves, they tend to take losing very badly.  They have to maneuver against powerful crosscurrents.  Their branding as "moderate" or "independent" Republicans (which consists of voting with the Democrats when they perceive public opinion in favor of a given liberal position) means they will be to the left of the Republican Party.  Their need to win primaries among right-skewing Republican primary electorates means they will vote well to the right of liberal (and most "moderate") Democrats.  It isn't for nothing that all the moderate Senate Democrats voted for Obamacare and all the moderate Senate Republicans against.  I would obviously prefer a conservative to a moderate (or just plain hack) Republican whenever possible. I'm glad we will (hopefully!) have Senators Rubio and Toomey rather than Senators Specter and Crist.  But it isn't clear that a trading a moderate Republican for a liberal Democrat is an upgrade.

That doesn't mean we are stuck with the moderate Republicans we have.  I think it is possible to get a Republican substantially to the right of Snowe and Collins elected to the Senate from Maine.  I don't just mean knocking Snowe or Collins off in the primary, I'm talking winning the general too.  It would take the right candidate, a populist message, a prudent, measured, and relevant issue agenda, alot of money and a favorable environment,  But that doesn't mean that nominating a badly flawed conservative no hoper (or very little hoper) and giving the Senate Democrats one more consistently liberal vote makes for a better Senate. 

Categories > Politics


Cry Not For Mike Castle

I don't have much sympathy for Mike Castle, though I do regret his defeat.  If you are going to have a chance as a moderate Republican in this environment you need to find a some high salience positions that get strong support from conservatives and enough support from nonconservatives so that you have majority support and push those issues really hard.  That is what Susan Collins did in 2008 with card check and what Scott Brown did in 2010 with Obamacare, tax cuts, and civilian trials for terrorists.  Check out Castle's website to get an idea of how badly he miscalculated the environment.  In fact, I'm thinking maybe we are better off with O'Donnell.

Actually not really.  There is a fairly narrow band of issues (where public opinion is ambiguous) where, because we will probably have a liberal Democrat rather than a (very) moderate Republican Senator, it is marginally more likely that liberal initiatives will be passed and conservative initiatives blocked.  I don't know how many such issues there will be, but Obamacare only passed the filibuster threshold by one vote. 

Categories > Politics

Pop Culture

Gaga Gags Paglia and Kills Sex

Camille Paglia in the UK's Sunday Times magazine, writes a systematic and devastating critique of the undisputed icon of today's popular culture, Lady Gaga.  The link provided will only get you a tease as (perhaps fittingly) you have to pay if you want the full satisfaction of witnessing the hammer come down on Gaga.  Though, after reading what Paglia has to say about Gaga, one wonders whether hammers or no hammers might be all the same to that purported Diva. 

Paglia is particularly repulsed by Gaga's "banal voice" and her "lugubrious face" both of which, Paglia argues, come together awkwardly in the Gaga music videos and live concert productions, to produce an over-manufactured as well as shamelessly plagiarized product that is anything but sexy.  Paglia takes pains to demonstrate how erratic and, seemingly, pointless are Gaga's borrowings.  There is copying that can come from inspiration and a desire to pay homage to a thing one considers great. But this is not what Gaga offers--for nothing is great and nothing moves in the Gaga universe.  Gaga, it seems, copies out of boredom--the way teenagers text at the bus stop or while "talking" to their parents.  Gaga is pop music at the end of history.  It is the place where the soul cannot be stirred. 

Her catchy, but soul-numbing lyrics in "Poker Face," Paglia suggests, offer a window into Lady Gaga's soul (though not, of course, into Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta's) and that "soul" amounts to an excuse for what Paglia considers her pathetic artistry.  Yet the "little monsters" of the digital age--who, like Germanotta, were raised in a political correct and sanitized world that offered almost no suggestions of an alternative--eat it up.  Sadly, rebellion without authority turns out to be pretty unexciting . . . and it degenerates, quickly, into a silent scream of horror.  It is fitting that Gaga calls her fans "little monsters" . . . for they, like she, have been denatured.

Paglia tries to illustrate this point by offering a contrast between Gaga and one of her presumed fore-mothers, Madonna, that bears repeating at some length:
Gaga's sexual reticence can't be chalked up to priest-ridden guilt: although she was nominally raised Catholic, her father (an internet entrepreneur who was once a bar-band rock musician in New Jersey) was clearly less repressive than Madonna's old-school authoritarian Italian-American father. In fact, the puritanical strictness of Madonna's background sparked her ambition and strengthened her best work. Without taboos, there can be no transgression -- which is why Madonna's ideas waned after she drifted into misty Kabbalah. There is no religious frame of reference in Gaga's songs, aside from the passing assertion, "Got no salvation, got no religion" (in So Happy I Could Die); there is nothing remotely comparable to the sweeping gospel-choir crescendo of Madonna's Like a Prayer. So it is unsurprising to hear that Gaga is consulting celebrity "spiritual guides" like Deepak Chopra. [Italics are mine, ed.]

We note, too, that in another of Gaga's more famous works (a work that earned her top honors at the MTV VMA awards), Bad Romance, the lyrics--to say nothing of the visual suggestions--are remarkably un-erotic horrors cheaply packaged in what is taken by those who haven't experienced real eroticism to be an erotic envelope.  Passing over without comment the mangled "tableau" at the end of video (which depicts a typically expressionless Gaga perched in bed over an incinerated corpse), take note of the tiresome refrain, "I don't wanna be friends."  

No, she doesn't.  But neither does she want that "something more" than friends suggested by true eroticism.  She does not want to know you, as there is nothing to know.  Paglia is disappointed that the only connections offered in a Gaga universe are those of a "filial" nature--and she disapproves, strongly, of Gaga's supposed celibacy.  But Paglia's use of "filial" strikes me as off.  Gaga doesn't want any of the varieties of friendship previously known or celebrated by humanity through the ages--nothing filial or erotic.  Instead, what she seems to offer is exactly the thing that is already tired and passé in this Facebook/My Space generation: the "friending."  Paglia bemoans the ways in which the "hook up"--once a kind of thrilling dash into the forbidden today, "blends friends and lovers, with sex becoming merely an excuse for filial hugging."  But the hugs that gag Paglia aren't even "filial" hugs.  They are less than that.  They are the utterly meaningless expressions of nothing; ways to pass time in stupefied comfort and they have about as much real meaning as air kisses.  Though those, at least, had a mild taste of disdain in them.  The "seduction" of a Gaga video is similarly indefinite and equally meaningless.  You might touch--you might not.  You might be an onlooker, you might erupt in flames.  You might be the equivalent of Facebook "friends" but you're really not anything to anyone . . . so you just aspire to acquire and conquer or kill for the sheer thrill of pretending to feel.  Because, hey . . . why not?  Nothing is real.  All is a lie.  What is the difference, then, if we incinerate and die?

Categories > Pop Culture

The Coming Catastrophe That's Pretty Much Like a Typical Day

"You Have No Idea How Bad a GOP Congress Will Be For The Environment," the New Republic headline shouts. OK. So, how bad will it be?

So bad, according to the story by Bradford Plumer, that all of the global warming legislation that hasn't been enacted by this Congress won't be enacted by the next one, either.  Legislation to advance policies like cap-and-trade "will be pulseless for the next two years," laments Plumer. But that bill hasn't had a pulse since it left the House in 2009. No one has ever been able to find 60, or even 50, votes for it in a Senate with 59 Democrats. And votes in favor of it have become one of the chief vulnerabilities of Democrats representing not-so-blue districts. 

Plumer has written a lot of helpful things about environmental issues, but this instance of missing the big picture is not an outlier.  As Walter Russell Mead recently explained, missing the big picture has become the defining quality of the modern, tone-deaf environmental movement: "The most Democratic Congress in a generation will not pass significant climate legislation before the midterms pull Congress to the right, and there will be no US law on carbon caps or anything close in President Obama's first term, and there is less public faith in or concern about climate change today than at any time in the last fifteen years. Has any public pressure group ever spent so much direct mail and foundation money for such pathetic results?"


Having Pestritto's Beck

Glenn Beck referred to Woodrow Wilson as "the most evil man we've had in office."  Wilson scholar RJ Pestritto may not put it that way, but he argues "Whatever I or anyone else thinks about Mr. Beck's programming or political views, on one central historical issue he is correct: The progressive movement did indeed repudiate the principles of individual liberty and limited government that were the basis of the American republic."  One shocking example is Wilson's belief in the compatibility of democracy and socialism.  Such monstrosity is possible when one rejects the natural rights basis of American democratic republicanism.

Yet the conversation can be pushed even further toward founding principles.  Progressivism and Calhounism have a common root in the belief in history over natural rights.  In this respect, in their belief in rights and the Constitution, the Tea Partiers comes closer to the founding than the neo-Confederate argument that often plagues conservatism.

Categories > Progressivism


Gonorrhea Lectim

I just recieved a warning from the CDC about this recurrant disease (it's pronounced: "gonna re-elect 'em"). Apparently, it's caused by inserting one's cranium up their rectum, and it's a real "obamanation." The drug Votemout has been prescribed, on a two-year cycle, to eliminate the disease.

In keeping with the spirit of the primaries today, I thought I'd pass along the information.

Categories > Elections

Foreign Affairs

Once Over the Globe, Briefly

A couple notes from beyond our borders:

Cuba's Fidel Castro apparently let down his guard recently with Jeffery Goldberg and confessed that the "Cuban model" of governance had been a failure (by all measures save enriching himself at the expense of his people, of course). Castro later recanted, so the "he said / she said" revolves around a question of credibility, but the Cuban government on Monday announced massive privatization reforms - including the immediate firing of one-tenth of Cuba's public sector workforce. Goldberg is publishing a series of articles summarizing his Cuban trip - they're certainly worth a read.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a referendum which will have the effect of consolidating power in his Islamic party by largely marginalizing the counter-balancing check of the nation's courts and military. The vote may have reflected the political wisdom that "it's the economy, stupid," as Erdogan's secular government has boosted Turkey's economic growth. As a de facto Muslim nation yet in the aftermath of a secular, democratic revolution, Turkey is a fascinating and critical perspective into the question of Islam and the modern world. The recent referendum seems troubling, given the present government's dim view of U.S. First Amendment-style rights and anti-American foreign policy - but President Obama has expressed gratification with the results. 

France's senate has passed the long-debated ban on veils in public. Proponents contend the law "will preserve the nation's values, including its secular foundations and a notion of fraternity." Observers might note that secular values always trump religious liberties in liberal societies - particularly within the most arrogant and self-congratulatory liberal societies.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Ideology Wins in Delaware, For Now

Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party candidate, has soundly defeated moderate Mike Castle to win the Republican nomination for the Delaware senate. The obvious question now, of course, is whether this conservative candidate can ride the winds of change-to-the-change in a liberal state - or did the GOP just kiss goodbye to their only opportunity this century to win a senate seat in Delaware.

Over at NRO, Jim Geraghty wonders (i.e., doubts) whether O'Donnell can even win over Rep. Castle's Republican supporters. I suspect most will see past their bruised feelings once they've an opportunity to size up the Democratic candidate, Chris Coons - who is likely celebrating just as hard as O'Donnell tonight, having just been rid of the more formidable of his potential opponents.

The Powerline boys summed up a likely O'Donnell win by wondering whether liberal activists, who have resisted the temptation to run extreme candidates in red states, are smarter then Republican activists, who may have just blown a once-in-a-lifetime chance. We'll soon see.

P.S. I expect Tea Party Princess Sarah Palin is pondering the same questions as raised above, though with a more personal motive and slightly loftier ambitions.

Categories > Elections


The Buckeye Stops Here

At National Review Online, Mytheos Holt writes a nice summary of the problems faced by Ohio Democrats in 2010.  Most convincing among his many astute observations is that, "[the Democrats are] running against a Republican establishment that was largely liquidated in 2006 and 2008. You can't run against the establishment when you and your party are the establishment."  Moreover, the negative ads that the Dems are running  (especially Fisher's charge that Portman is not a man of the people) don't have much sticking power with the voters and seem particularly vulnerable to the PeeWee Hermanesque comeback,  "I know you are, but what am I?"  
Categories > Elections

The Family

Uphill, Both Ways and Barefoot?

Remember the old saw trotted out by our parents and grandparents to remind their more fortunate progeny to be grateful for their many blessings:  "In my day, we had to walk to school uphill, both ways and barefoot!"?

Lenore Skenazy suggests that if the average kid of today would ever hear such a line, they'd be . . . jealous.

Why?  It's pretty simple, actually:  the longing in every human heart to be free.  If Skenazy is correct, then it's fair to question whether today's parents are doing their job when it comes to raising self-governing adults.

Ben Boychuk interviews Skenazy, author of the provocative and (I think) mostly compelling Free Range Kids:  How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts With Worry) for the Heartland Institute's School Reform Podcast.  You can listen to the interview here or download it from iTunes, here.

In the podcast, Skenazy discusses her recent Wall Street Journal column in which she argues against the growing trend away from allowing kids to walk to school.  Full disclosure:  my kids don't walk to school . . . yet.
Categories > The Family

Overdue Blogs

Been busy with a large and long overdue project, plus travel, so I'm behind in keeping up with NLT.

Over on the AEI company blog I've got an article up this morning about the lamosity of political science, as seen every year at the American Political Science Association meeting.

And a few days ago I lobbed a little grenade at what I call "Eeyore Environmentalism."  Enjoy!


Moderates! Ugh! What Are They Good For? Occasionally Something.

Matthew Yglasias worries that a Christine O'Donnell win over Mike Castle in Delaware's Republican Senate primary might push America's political culture to the right.  That is based on some shaky assumptions (like the one that the two parties are probably fated to divide time in power about equally - a possible outcome, but not at all certain), but it is worth thinking about conditions a conservative primary challenge against moderate Republicans might push the Republican Party to the right in the short-term, but shift the political culture to the left.

Within our present context, a "moderate" member of the Senate or House of Representatives (of either party) is usually an opportunist looking for attention and continued reelection to Congress.  That doesn't mean they have no principles at all.  They would probably continue to support democracy against Nazi or Communist tyranny even if support for dictatorship polled in the low fifties.  But within the current parameters of American politics, whatever principles they might have don't usually come into play in a decisive way.  Whether taxes go up or down five percent, whether there is a health insurance mandate, or whether cap-and-trade passes matter primarily to the extent that they impinge on the moderate's survival and prominence.  They will vote with their party when it is popular to do so and ostentatiously break with their party when the polls (either nationally or in their own constituencies) go sharply in the other direction.  When the polling is ambiguous on an issue of great public concern, they will usually demand bribes for their states or districts, as well as private and public stroking in return for their supporting a watered down version of their party's agenda.  They are a vain and infuriating bunch and no sentiment should be wasted on them.  Conservatives should seek to replace "moderate" Republicans with conservative Republicans whenever possible.

But in cases where a Republican conservative can't win (either because the constituency would not elect one or because the more conservative candidate is fatally flawed), a Republican moderate is usually preferable to a liberal Democrat.  Republican moderates can usually be counted on to vote for the popular parts of the Republican agenda whereas a liberal Democrat would be a vote against.  Moderates (of either party) can usually be induced to vote for policies that are supported by the majority of their party but are only marginally popular (or marginally unpopular.)  Winning their support can often be a painful, irritating process, but the presence of a moderate of your party rather than an ideologically opposed member of the other party can make the difference between a major policy shift or a stalemate.  Imagine how different the health care issue would have played out if Democrats had opted for ideological purity and nominated losing liberal Senate candidates in non-left-leaning constituencies like Indiana, Louisiana, and Nebraska and instead of "moderate" Democrats like Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, and Ben Nelson, we instead had conservative Republicans.  I'm not too concerned about about the short-term consequences of Republicans losing the Delaware Senate seat.  For 2011-2012, it is likely to be about the same stalemate whether the Senate Republicans have 49, 50, or 51 votes.  But it would be a shame if having a liberal Democrat Senator from Delaware rather than a moderate Republican prevented the passage of a major conservative reform of health care (or taxes or whatever) on the off chance (or maybe a little more than an off chance) that a Republican President was elected in 2012. 

Categories > Politics


Something From Newsweek Worth Reading. Really.

Newsweek has a very worthwhile article on Mitch Daniels.  It contains a few partisan cheap shots and some reasonable doubts whether the public will ever be willing to accept the spending restraint we need, but it is mostly admiring.  I especially like this:

His brand of reality-based conservatism might not propel him to the presidency in 2012. But eventually it could provide the GOP with something it desperately needs (and currently lacks): a convincing model of post-Reagan, post-Dubya, post-Obama governance.


Categories > Politics