Faith-Based Politics In Place Of A Winning Program

Responding to a Salon article by Democratic Strategist Ed Kilgore on the Republicans’ “2012 problem,” RS McCain offers up a mixture of snark and political prognostication. The snark is arguably well-deserved, and McCain delivers it with relish. He doesn’t, however, seem to have taken as much interest in his own political speculation:

Is BHO not already the most protested POTUS ever? Should he not hold that dubious honor, he shall by 2012.

McCain’s heart may be in the right place, at least if you share his estimations of the Tea Party Movement and of Barack Hussein Obama, but “most protested POTUS ever” strikes me as a reality-free historical observation (Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard Milhous Nixon, a.o., are rolling over in their graves). It’s not really up to the relatively low standard set by Kilgore when, in downgrading Mike Pence’s presidential prospects, he reaches for his political almanac and points out that no sitting House member has won a presidential nomination since 1896.

You don’t have to be the sponsor of the Pence12 Facebook page to recognize how utterly irrelevant such factoids are to whatever is really going to answer run/not-run and win/not-win for a prospective candidate, but merely declaring that Kilgore is flacking for the Dems doesn’t make McCain’s own conclusions any less self-servingly wishful:

Counter-analysis: the 2010 election buys We The People a chance, but only a chance, to set the country on a course for recovery. The Tea Parties et al. continue their pressure and whoever wins in 2012 comes in with a mandate to begin the process of unwinding a century of debt, centralization, and diminished liberty. And the efforts of the Founding Fathers shall not have been in vain.

From McCain’s blog to God’s monitor, we might say, but this isn’t really an “analysis.” It’s a hopeful projection. Compare it to Kilgore’s final paragraph, dubbed by McCain a “watered down Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf outing”:

So let Republicans enjoy their 2010 comeback. It was all but foreordained by the last two cycles, and by the very demographics that threaten the GOP in the long run. Allow them to celebrate their “fresh faces”; they’ll have a lot of fine options for the vice-presidential nomination in 2012. But their 2012 prospects will go straight downhill starting on Nov. 3, 2010. That’s when Republicans will have to start to deal with the consequences of their recent bout of self-indulgent destructiveness, when they’ll begin choosing someone to take on Barack Obama not in press conferences or talking points or Tea Party protests, but in a presidential election.

Kilgore is summarizing here: “self-indulgent destructiveness” refers to his argument that Republicans have “brand[-ed] themselves as the party of angry old white people” in a way that may maximize advantages in 2010, but hurt them in 2012 and beyond, when the electorate will tilt more to the Democrats’ favor, whether under an incumbent Barack Obama or, going forward, as demographic factors shift.

It’s possible, perhaps likely, that both McCain and Kilgore are doing a little whistling past their own partisan graveyards here, but, even if you share McCain’s faith in continued “pressure” from the Tea Party and a quasi-apocalyptic awakening to the supreme self-evident truths of constitutional conservatism, Kilgore’s argument stands. It goes without saying that a perceived abject failure of the Obama Administration, and the aftereffects of any of several potential game-changers between now and November 2012, might make a hash of all conventional political calculations. Yet 2012 was always likely to be a more difficult climb than 2010, and we should also understand that what Republican conservatives promise or promote with effect this Fall may serve them a lot less well, or even weigh them down, when Obama is on the ballot again against a real opponent with his or her own campaign to run. If we reach for our own political almanacs, we can determine from polling history that even Jimmy Carter looked pretty good until Ronald Reagan finally closed the deal against him during 1980 campaign’s final days. We don’t know yet that BHO = JEC. As for the Republicans, if you can confidently declare one of the known suspects for a 2012 run to be another RWR, you may be a candidate – for de-programming (assuming you’re not receiving a check).

This isn’t the place to attempt a full-fledged comparison of 1980 to some imaginary 2012, or even to dial back to 1978 for a mid-term comparison, or to 1994/96 for an alternative set of potential parallels. It’s even less the place to wonder whether we don’t focus too much on the presidency, too little on how policy is really effectuated in the U.S.A. And unless we’re pushing a partisan or factional agenda, we have to begin and end by admitting that we don’t know what the future holds, and which rough beasts slouching toward Bethlehem might draw the nation closer to the President and the stationary state he and his allies are preparing for us – an effort that Ross Douthat recently characterized as aiming “to get everybody inside the barrel before it goes over the falls.”

We might just as well look back to that election of 1896 that I was just dismissing up above: That “last sitting congressman” nominee was William Jennings Bryan, who lost in 1896 and again in 1900 and 1908, but went on to become one of the most important and influential figures of that age in whose shadow McCain sees us still to be standing. A conservatism that aims to change the course of history, to “begin the process of unwinding a century of debt, centralization, and diminished liberty,” could do a lot worse than lose with a new Bryan, but it may not even achieve a fruitful defeat if it stands still, expecting the assumptions of a convinced minority to carry the day simply for having been asserted, and without regard for what and whom those assumptions seem to exclude.

34 comments on “Faith-Based Politics In Place Of A Winning Program

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  1. McCain’s heart seems to be in the right place,

    I think that I would like some proof of that, given the likelihood that it’s not delivering any great amount of oxygen upward.

  2. @ fuster:
    The line’s also weak because it assumes some sympathy for his perspective, and I was struggling to find something nice to say while anticipating an HA or HA-ish response. I’ll work on it.

  3. speaking of which, I still haven’t heard back from JEM. I hope you don’t mind if I give him to the end of the today before I bother the HA powers about the reg problems.

  4. Sorry – CK – illness and work has gotten in my way and I have been trying to look into my response on LF. What do you need?

    This is the first time I have opened the site in about a week. I will go looking backwards.

  5. Hey, JEM, sorry to hear you haven’t been well, though I hope the fact that you’ve been working indicates that the illness hasn’t been too serious. Have you been having e-mail problems, too!? What I need is an alternate user-name for HA, “JEM” having been taken.

  6. Well the presidents who did the most to expand the welfare state before Obama were all white people – white Protestants in fact (FDR, LBJ, Dubya) – and they didn’t just do it to coddle minorities. So maybe old white people need to get their own act together before preaching to everybody else.

  7. I beg to differ, CK, it seems Kilgore is the one going on faith, does it look like the employment picture will improve following the policies he is espousing, Penn and Schoen had a more positive agenda, but they will
    be ‘asked to leave the room’. Does the healthcare prognosis look all that rosey, as well. He seems to want to just rewind ’08 and everything will be fine

  8. @ narciso:
    Well, I suggested that both may be whistling past their own graveyards. 2012 may not be a rewind of 2008 or of any other year, but simply assuming that the Tea Party just needs to keep protesting strikes me as rather unrealistic. Let’s say the whole country has decided by 2012 that we have to do something big about the fiscal crisis: After 2 years of watching the Rs in Congress get nowhere, the electorate may very well choose the Obama-led stationary state/barrel over the falls with room for everyone, over “angry white chaos.”

  9. If you’re traveling to Salon Country Fair, say hello to two who live there:

    Glennnn the Wrennn and Jane the Thane

    Ask them why they write in vain

    Ask them why they’re so insane

    So much brain gout, so much pain

  10. Here’s Kilgore’s wisdom from July 1, 1999:

    Make no mistake: Today’s modest gun control proposals are just as popular as term limits, balanced budget amendments, and welfare reform were when Democrats controlled Congress in the 1980s and early 1990s. A May 16 ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 67 percent of Americans favor stricter gun control laws (55 percent favor them “strongly”); 89 percent support background checks on sales at gun shows (77 percent “strongly”); 75 percent support requiring trigger locks on all stored guns (61 percent “strongly”); and 79 percent support a nationwide ban on assault weapons (67 percent “strongly”).

    According to Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center, support for modest gun control measures is nearly as high among Republicans and independents as among Democrats and is stratospheric among women of every partisan description. Unpublished polls for several Republican presidential candidates reveal much the same. In fact, banning handguns is the sole gun control proposal still opposed by a majority of the electorate…

    It’s true that gun control perennially ranks low in polls of “most important issues.” But since the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., last April, it has moved into the top 10 in just about every such poll — despite that fact that violent crime rates have dropped sharply across America. If you probe a bit deeper, you’ll find that Americans today are more concerned about gun violence than “most important issue” surveys suggest. For example, a recent CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll found that 72 percent of Americans believe that easy availability of weapons is a “very important” factor in recent incidents of youth violence.

    Republicans who hope that Americans will “get over” Littleton by the next elections are whistling in the dark. According to Kohut, the Littleton massacre was the third most followed news event of the 1990s. Most schools in America conducted special discussions about Littleton with students, and most students discussed the massacre at home with their parents. Clearly, the GOP is in deep denial about the political cost of its alliance with the gun lobby.

    That’s especially true of Republicans involved in the massive effort to crown the “compassionate conservative” governor of Texas, George W. Bush, as their party’s presidential nominee in 2000. By expanding gun rights, Bush is moving in the wrong direction at precisely the wrong time.

    One of Bush’s first moves as governor was to support legislation, which he later signed, allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons. More recently, he supported and signed a bill prohibiting local governments in Texas from suing gun manufacturers for the costs of criminal use of their products.

    Cities suing gun makers is a new phenomenon, and the politics of the issue are still murky. Nevertheless, by actively supporting a ban on such suits Bush has clearly aligned himself with the less-than-popular gun lobby.

    The concealed weapons issue is probably a bigger problem for Bush. While Texas is one of several states to enact such laws, Missourians recently rejected a concealed weapons referendum backed strongly by the gun lobby. In addition, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in April found that 73 percent of Americans oppose “passing new laws to make it easier for people to carry concealed weapons.”

    More important, by signing the concealed weapons law Bush endorsed one of the gun lobby’s most suspect premises, namely, that crime and violence would plummet if all law-abiding citizens packed heat. Scratch beneath the surface of even reasonable-sounding concealed weapons laws and you find the proposition that Americans should act as their own security guards, patrolling their own streets and shooting it out with violent criminals. It’s a short distance from supporting that idea to supporting NRA President Charlton Heston’s less-than-politic contention that armed school administrators might have prevented the slaughter at Columbine High. The “armed nation” hypothesis is hardly a sound governing principle for a “compassionate conservative.”

    Republican presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole, meanwhile, is using support for gun control as a way to challenge Bush in the polls. It’s worth noting that she consistently ranks second to Bush in virtually every GOP presidential poll nationally and in the key states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Dole is clearly betting that the Republican rank and file will support her for supporting the very same gun control measures blocked by House Republicans.

    Good thing Kilgore warned the Republicans in time, before they could commit suicide by not picking a fight with 120 million gun owners. :)

  11. So what are you saying, CK? That the GOP should “distance” itself from the Tea Parties, i.e., wink and nod while the Democrats Tiananmen them?

  12. @ Ken:
    gun owners and suicide. yes, Ken, that pairing is just a natural.

    Welcome to California.

    From 1991-1997 firearm homicides consistently outnumbered firearm suicides. Since 1998 firearm suicides has outnumbered firearm homicides. In 2000, this pattern continued, barely: Of the 3,092 firearm deaths in 2000, 1,488 were suicides, 1,478 were homicides, and 53 were unintentional (the remainder were either police shootings or of undetermined intent).

  13. Hey, if you want to pick a fight because less than 1% of gun owners have shot someone, be my guest. 75% of the American people are pro-gun.

  14. @ Ken:
    Pick a fight???


    Just throwing in a fact or two.

    Is that threatening? Hope not, cause picking a fight with people who’ll kill their own ignorant selves can’t be any too safe for me.

  15. @ Ken:

    McCain seems to believe that just ardently being ardent constitutionalists will be enough to win power in 2012 and change history, and won’t require any possibly uncomfortable self-reflection and coalition-building. I think he’s wrong. The Tea Party is overall helpful, but it’s not enough.

  16. CK, I think that you are wrong. I think that the political pendulum is right on time for a swing hard to the right. There’s a 30-year cycle there, and 30 years ago Reagan was elected.

    I saw the first signs of this even before Obama’s election. First off, there was the Heller decision and the enthusiastic support for it by the majority of Americans. That even caught me by surprise, not so much the decision itself as how popular it was.

    A few months later, there was the huge support for both offshore drilling and nuclear power, even though it was the unpopular Bush administration that was pushing them.

    Then, unfortunately, came the bank collapses and the bailouts–but, notably, there was little support for them among the populace.

    To the extent that the GOP will need more than Tea Party support, I actually think that it will mostly need the support of other branches of conservatism–notably the national security types and the pro-life movement–rather than some squishy compromise with the Left.

    Remember what Robert A. Heinlein said: history never repeats itself, but sometimes it rhymes.

  17. @ Ken:
    I think you’re reading things into what I wrote – or defining anything that goes beyond furthest right lowest common denominator Tea Party principles as “squishy compromise with the Left.” That attitude – not yours personally, since I don’t know really where you stand – may turn out to be the best thing Obama has going for him when he runs for re-election, or further on down the line for the left generally, regardless of how 2012 turns out.

  18. @ Ken:
    I was thinking about Christie today, too, actually. But he’s got a war to win first. Interesting also that he’s NJ’s first pro-life governor in ages. I would have guessed he was pro-choice just from where he is.

    He’s articulate and funny and I’d vote for him – but it seems unlikely he’ll be even remotely ready for a presidential campaign as soon as 2012 – unless all of the conventional thinking about preparation is wrong (something I’m quite willing to consider, but not quite ready to bet on).

  19. I considered that too, CK, except that the flip side of that coin is that people who have been in office too long have their own negatives, having become part of the system. These don’t look like ordinary times, so why not take a chance? Personally, I think a Christie administration would be a lot more fun than either Huckabee (Obama with a Bible), Palin (I like her but it would be a soap opera), or Romney (don’t even get me started on that creep).

  20. Christie would be wonderful because he’s a BLUE state dude. Having a funny, popular blue state person run and win would really hand them a defeat they’d have trouble explaining; far better and far different from a Texan or even an Ohioan eating their lunch.

    Think positive, my frems. What a wonderful bench we have, especially if Meg Whitman wins in Ca. and if Paul Ryan continues to get face time.

    If the chips continue to fall right, many of the most loathsome clowns will soon be gone, including Boxer, Dodd & Reid.

  21. About the cyclical thing I was talking about earlier:

    This was originally a theory of the father-son historians, Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. and Jr. Both were staunch liberals, and they believed that American history, and British history before it, had a pattern of 30-year (actually, they usually had it a few years longer) swing from left to right and back to left again. They viewed politics as generally trending left, except not in a linear way, but more of a left-trending spiral.

    Although I didn’t share their political orientation, the theory seemed to hold. Theodore Roosevelt in the 1900’s, FDR in the 1930’s, and LBJ in the 1960’s all were giants of the liberal strain in American politics. The 1920’s, 1950’s, and 1980’s were all decades in which conservatives held the upper hand. The 1800’s are harder to pin down, but I would tend to agree with the Schlesingers that the early Republican Party was more liberal than conservative (in the modern definition of liberal), since it was using federal power to deprive Southerners of their property, even if in this case it was justified.

    What caused Schlesinger Jr. to abandon his own theory was the 1990’s. He had predicted a triumphant march to the left by Clinton; instead he got triangulation, welfare reform, balanced budgets, and eventually a return to GOP government.

    I would argue, however, that he and his father had been right in the first place, and that Clinton did represent the leftward swing of the political pendulum. Where the Schlesingers were wrong was in assuming that politics would keep moving left.

    Specifically, the fall of the USSR changed everything. Schlesinger, an old-fashioned Democrat, tended to be myopic with regard to Communism and radical leftists in general. He generally viewed any major Democrat politician as essentially another JFK, and this caused him to underestimate the political importance of Communism in American history. Basically, the leftward march of history met its first serious setback in the 1980’s, as first Eastern Europe and then the USSR fell to pro-capitalist revolutions.

    This also affected the Democrats. Although the Democrats don’t like to admit it, much of the theorizing behind the Great Society was based on erroneous CIA figures showing the USSR outpacing the US in economic growth. While JFK and LBJ were not even remotely Communists, they did want to emulate what seemed to be working, i.e., command economies.

    In the 1990’s, however, the opposite happened. Whereas 1960’s liberals like John Kenneth Galbraith had advocated “converging” the US system with that of the USSR, 1990’s liberals like Robert Rubin came to see socialism as a failure, and adopted moderate economic policies.

    Nevertheless, it is a mistake to see the 1990’s as a conservative decade. The overall thrust of Clinton’s policies was to the left. He raised taxes, enacted gun control legislation, attempted to take over the health care system, vetoed pro-life legislation, and, most ominously, signed the Kyoto treaty (although it was never ratified), and, most ominously, expanded the power of the federal government through the abuse of executive orders.

    However, the leftward drift in the 1990’s was considerably less than the leftward surges in the 1900’s, 1930’s, and 1960’s. Clinton’s tax hikes still left the top rates short of where they had been midway through the Reagan years; his gun control legislation ultimately expired, while the gun rights movement made a huge comeback; support for abortion, and numbers of abortions, peaked in the mid-1990’s and have been going down since; and, well, yes, we still have way too many executive orders.

    So I would argue that the 1990’s represented not the end of the Schlesinger cycles, but rather a reversal in their polarity, so to speak. The 1980’s were a huge success for the political right, in a sense that the passively conservative 1950’s and the ultimately disastrous 1920’s never were. The 1990’s were a passive liberal decade following the huge changes of the 1980’s.

    I would argue that we are now looking at the Second Reagan Revolution, separated from the first one by one 30-year cycle.

  22. I should have stressed that I believe that we will continue to see 30-year cycles, except that now we will see the country getting more conservative with each cycle rather than more liberal.

  23. What a wonderful bench we have, especially if Meg Whitman wins in Ca. and if Paul Ryan continues to get face time.

    You should see the ads that the true conservative or wanna-be true conservative is running against Whitman. She’s not my dream ideal, but Poizner is claiming she “has Barack Obama’s immigration policy” and “agrees with Barbara Boxer on taxes” or some such. “Isn’t it time for a real Republican?” Nothing unusually vicious, and Whitman’s been negative on him for a long time, so probably deserves to take some hits – and probably doesn’t mind at all being painted as too squishy in a state where BO is still >+10 approval. Point is, I think she’s far to the squishy left of the con-cons.

    Don’t get me started on that Ryan person.

  24. Poizner, he was the one handled by that consultant with the sojourn,
    in the Vojeur club, that guy, the insurance commissioner who was surprised by Anthem’s 39% increase, even though he would have had to approve them

  25. @ narciso:
    Don’t see the point of that – although from skimming the piece it makes me re-think my bending over badkwards to be evenhanded between him and RS McCain, since I think Kilgore may actually be a pretty thoughtful guy for a partisan Dem (I know, not saying much, but still).

  26. CK MacLeod wrote:

    Hey, JEM, sorry to hear you haven’t been well, though I hope the fact that you’ve been working indicates that the illness hasn’t been too serious. Have you been having e-mail problems, too!? What I need is an alternate user-name for HA, “JEM” having been taken.

    How about JEM and some number like JEM1 or JEM2 or something like that? Does that work?

    I haven’t been very good on email either! Sorry. I will check it. Bad allergy attacks, and the medicine for treating it puts me in lala land! Got a steroid shot today finally looking to get back to normal. I have used all my hours where I feel OK for work. Thankfully – I am blessed to be very busy.

  27. @ JEM:
    You sure you wouldn’t rather be U238 or maybe 90SR? JK – I’ll propose you as JEM + [first available serial number]. Check your e-mails for response probably from Allah Pundit.

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