Friday, September 5, 2003

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Rumblings of discontent from the right

I've given the Bush administration a rough ride this week on its trade policy and its Iraq policy. Some may think I'm going wobbly and abandoning my idiosyncratic melange of conservative and libertarian principles.

Actually, surfing the blogosphere, I'd say it's the Bush administration that has gone wobbly. In the past week, the White House has shown itself to be enthusiastic about protectionism, profligate in its domestic spending, and passive in it's foreign policy management. What's conservative about this?

Think I'm exaggerationg? Go read Andrew Sullivan, Jacob Levy, Glenn Reynolds, Kim du Toit, the Spoons Experience, and yet more Andrew Sullivan. We're hardly monolithic in our politics, but there is a common denominator -- free markets, limited domestic government, robust foreign policy -- that this administration has left unsated.

Let me be as plain as possible -- the ideologies of conservatism and libertarianism cannot be reduced to unwavering support for tax cuts. Very few people on the right share Britney Spears' position on supporting the President.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee disagrees, believing that the Democratic alternatives are so bad that real conservatives have no other choice (that's du Toit's view as well).

This position is certainly consistent with the median voter theorem on how to win elections -- and, as I observed recently, the Dems are currently experiencing technical difficulties in finding an exciting centrist alternative. However, since the median voter theorem assumes 100% voter turnout, the Bush team may be overestimating the enthusiasm of those on the right to go and vote for the least offensive alternative in November 2004.

I'm not giving up on the administration -- Bush has an uncanny ability to demonstrate his leadership qualities when the chips are down. However, I'm not going to be rejecting the Democratic lever -- or pulling no lever at all -- anytime soon.

posted by Dan on 09.05.03 at 11:08 AM


Reports from this month's Dean Meetup in our modest sized town indicate that 10-15% of our meeting consisted of Republicans turned off by Bush

a. budget profligacy
b. cluelessness in Iraq
c. protectionism
d. cronyism
e. heavy handed federalism

It may not be Dean who gets the final nomination, but judging by one quiet night in early September 2003, Karl Rove is going to have a really lousy fourteen months before the next election.

posted by: Dean Man on 09.05.03 at 11:08 AM [permalink]

c) Isn't Dean just as big a protectionist as Bush? Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't he say that the problem with farm subsidies is that there isn't enough of it? Also, isn't he worried about jobs being outsourced overseas?

d)Call me skeptical, but I can't imagine any person from any party going to a meeting of a candidate from another party because of "cronyism" from a politician in their own party. If that were a regular occurance we'd have a lot more Republicans in Massachusetts right now.

e) What exactly is "heavy handed federalism"? How is it different from the non-heavy handed variety? Isn't federalism by definition not heavy handed? And don't Republicans like federalism, anyway?

I think it's probably an anomaly that 10-15% of those in that Dean Meetup were Republicans.

posted by: Hei Lun Chan on 09.05.03 at 11:08 AM [permalink]

I don't know about the right, but as a moderate - what Andrew Sullivan calls an "eagle" - I'm feeling a colossal amount of discontent.

I'm fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and favor an extremely active foreign policy. I'm stuck with an administration that can't stop spending and won't admit it, that keeps flirting with disasterous protectionism, that seems to have been completely unprepared for the complexity and cost (in $ and manpower) of trying to democratize the Islamic world (a policy I support 100%), and that isn't exactly on my side on separation of church and state or homosexual rights.

I don't quite understand why the right-wing media and commentators are constantly complaining about what "the liberals" are doing to the country. Last time I checked, the right had the White House, both houses of Congress, the federal court system, and if not the majority of the media influence at least far more than they had five years ago.

Meanwhile, those "liberals" are about to nominate a candidate solely out of anger, one whose vision of foreign policy could not be more different from mine. The Democratic presidential race is filled with accusations that the men I support, Lieberman and Edwards, are "Democrats in Name Only" while over on the right the National Review puts Arlen Spector on the cover with the title "The Worst Republican."

If people like me are too left-wing for one party, and too right-wing for the other, where the heck are we supposed to go?

posted by: Aaron on 09.05.03 at 11:08 AM [permalink]

To Aaron and the rest of those carping on Bush's lack of perfection, please stop it right now. Bush is being bombarded from all side and we shouldn't be adding to it. He will do the right thing, but he has to "choose the hill he wants to die on." Without 60% in the senate he can't get what he wants. Let's show him we are supporting him.

If Bush looks weak, McCain may step in as a third party candidate. If that happens, say hello to President Hillary.

posted by: erp on 09.05.03 at 11:08 AM [permalink]

Well, think how we feel.

Clinton did a good Republican job on free trade, a balanced budget, the suze of government, and a few other issues. In doing so he defied a major part of his own constituency, leading to the Nader splinter party. As a reward for being a good Republican, he was almost impeached by the Republicans on grounds that can best be called fraudulent. Many respectable Republicans and "thoughtful conservatives" paricipated in this disgraceful panty raid. For these and other reasons (including, IMHO, election fraud and a politicized legal ruling) the Reoublicans regained control of the Presidency.

Immediately the Republican president betrays the Republican principles Clinton and the Democrats sacrificed for.

And of course we still hear that, unlike Bush, Democrats are not credible on defense issues. Yeah, sure.

Somehow there's a structural incivility, creepiness and weirdness here involving Bush, the media, the Republican party, and also (my point)the so-called thoughtful conservatives. You guys played your part.

I hardly ever troll, and I hate trolls. Along with Bartcop, I'm one of the leading liberal spokesman for illwell and incivility. Frankly, democrats and liberals have to learn to play the game the way it's played.

posted by: zizka on 09.05.03 at 11:08 AM [permalink]

Perhaps the current "grand coalition" of interests that makes up the Republican Party (to name a few: Religious Right, Fiscal Conservatives, Business interests, Neo-conservatives, rural voters) is simply not coherent enough to be a governing coalition. Bush (or perhaps more accurately Rove)is in a position where he has to constantly be looking out for the interests of a variety of different groups. This can be kept up for a while with a few policies that most interest groups are able to agree on, but as a coherent body of policy will not be sustainable.

The differences can be covered over by what some (see Talking Points Memo) are referring to the "post-modern presidency." But I think it is a mistake to see this as a goal or end point. It is a symptom of strain. Money and bashing opponents can also help keep certain parts of the coalition satisified.

However, as time goes on choices have to be made. Currently there are some choices which are not keeping Drezner and Bush supporters of his ilk happy. But you can bet they are calculated either to not piss you off too much, or piss off segments of the population who will be disinclined to support the opposition.

It is the same problem the previous poster had with Clinton. And I doubt there is a universal solution to this problem. My current solution is to look at the mess of polcies, comprimises, and shifts in the last 3 years and realise that it is simply not putting national prosperity and peace top of the agenda (rather attempts to maintain the coalition are top). I think it is unsustainable and dangerous, and thus I will probably support whoever is against Bush.

posted by: Rich on 09.05.03 at 11:08 AM [permalink]

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