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Tags: Conservatives

Conservatives and ‘Line in the Sand’ Issues



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Earlier today I had an exchange with a reader — whom I respect a great deal — who doesn’t agree with my Twitter argument about the folly of conservatives’ staying home and not voting this cycle (or any cycle, really).

His Republican governor agreed to expand Medicaid coverage, as permitted under the Obamacare law, and he finds that a deep betrayal.

I can’t argue with that. If the issue of expanding Medicaid is your line in the sand — and there are good reasons for that! — then you have every right in the world to say, “I can’t vote for that guy.”

Of course, if you have too many “line in the sand” issues, you end up with few or no candidates you can support. And when determining your “line in the sand” issues, you probably ought to account for local issues and dynamics. It’s really hard for a Michigan Republican to be a loud-and-proud opponent of auto-industry bailouts. A congressman who represents beach towns is probably not going to be a full-throated supporter of offshore drilling. These guys do have to be the voice for their constituents, and their constituents are not always going to be down-the-line conservatives.

This reader made a reference to “all of the GOP governors expanding Medicare,” which I interpreted as a claim that all Republican governors agreed to it. They didn’t. A lot held the lines, and in places like Virginia, GOP state lawmakers held the line.

Have no illusions, opposing a Medicaid expansion is a heavy lift for most GOP governors. If a GOP governor signs on, they get rewarded now, and their state will pay later (probably after they’ve left office). If they oppose it, they’re painted as mean and uncaring about sick and poor people. Yes, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Susana Martinez signed on to the expansion. But Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Scott Walker opposed it. You can’t paint the entire Republican party with too broad a brush.

Ask yourself, why should Republican governors take the political hit of opposing the Medicaid expansion when A) grassroots conservatives ignore them or pretend they don’t exist or B) self-described conservative Republicans who most strongly oppose the Medicaid expansion proudly announce they’re not going to vote?

It’s fair to fume at the “Democrats win, therefore we must be more like Democrats to win” philosophy, but if Republican voters stay home, the electorate that is guaranteed to show up shifts to the left. After a few cycles of conservatives declaring “I’m staying home because the candidates aren’t rightward enough for my tastes,” it makes absolute sense for Republicans to try to be more like Democrats, because self-described conservative Republicans announce they’re not going to vote.

A common lament of the “I’m staying home” crowd is the GOP’s failure to significantly reduce the size and cost of government at the state or federal levels. Right now there is not a public mandate for a dramatic reduction in the size and cost of government. I wish there was, but there isn’t. We have to build that. It is unrealistic to expect a Republican governor (or president!) to try to force through spending cuts that the public does not want.

You go to war with the army you have, and you govern with the electorate you have.

Finally, even if you find a GOP governor too squishy to support . . . is there anybody in the U.S. House, state legislature, city council/town council, mayor, or school-board level that you find to be any better than any other option on the ballot?

Tags: Medicaid , Governors , Republicans , Conservatism , Conservatives

Is America Better Off or Worse if Conservatives Will Do Anything to Win?



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Also in today’s Jolt, a discussion of Kurt Schlichter’s new book and just how far conservatives can or should go to win when they feel the future of our constitutional republic is at stake:

Kurt Schlichter wouldn’t claim to be the next WFB — few of us do, and I suspect that he would similarly roll his eyes at the tired, “you’re no William F. Buckley” sneer from lefties. But Kurt is attempting to do one part of the equation, which is paint a picture of what we’re fighting to achieve. His new book, Conservative Insurgency, is not pure righty wish fulfillment; in Kurt’s vision of the not-so-distant future, things get worse before they get better. And perhaps in response to that national decline, the next generation of conservatives gets tougher — and perhaps a bit more ruthless. One intriguing and troubling aspect of Kurt’s future conservatives is that they’ll do anything to win:

Sixteen years of defying the liberal establishment’s merciless counterinsurgency had endowed them with a ruthlessness that would ensure they would not hesitate to aggressively impose their conservative vision when given the chance. That ethic remains today within the conservative movement, even as critics now question whether the movement has strayed too far from the norms and values it had sought to revitalize.

. . . Even today, the norms and customs that preceded the Obama administration have not been completely restored. A generation of conservatives has arisen that never experienced them; they largely know only political/cultural warfare in which principle does not always take priority over expedience.

[Kurt's fictional future president, Carrie] Marlowe’s “conservative court packing” illustrated the challenge. Faced with a liberal Supreme Court, Marlowe did not hesitate — not even for a second — to drive the impeachment of three liberal justices so she could pack the Court with insurgent jurists. She did the same in lesser courts — Obama had overseen the end of the filibuster to create a majority on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Marlowe engineered a scheme to repack it by adding 10 new seats.

These, and other similarly aggressive actions, brought howls of outrage from liberals. A few more traditional conservative voices objected, but in vain. Sixteen years of facing ruthless aggression by the Obama and Clinton administrations had left the insurgents utterly indifferent to their objections and pleas for mercy.

Kurt envisions a big, effective alliance between the traditional Right and younger, Libertarian-minded voters. As one character describes it:

There was also drug law reform, which would bring in a lot of young people, libertarians, and especially minorities who were seeing a shocking number of their young men locked up. This was a tough bridge for cons to cross — hell, watery-eyed stoners lazing about on their moms’ couches halfheartedly watching reruns of Star Trek: Fifth Generation is everything we hate. But again, this was where conservative principles about small and limited government started crossing streams with our electoral self-interest.

Did you ever see Ghostbusters? Not the remake but the original from back in the 1980s? Do you remember the power of crossing the streams? They had these lasers and if you crossed the streams it was really bad, except at the end of the movie they did that to destroy the giant marshmallow man. Anyway, we crossed the streams with drug law reform. I guess liberalism was the giant marshmallow man. And we sure fried it too.

Kurt’s a fan of Easter eggs as well. From one section featuring an interview with a future Hollywood producer:

[Honda makes no effort to lower his voice as he speaks into his phone about the pioneering conservative comedy series about men under siege by a liberal world that he helped produce. "Cam, my man, here's my idea. Ready? We reboot Dudes as a movie . . . Listen, three words. Channing. Tatum. Junior. Hello? You still there? Yeah, well you talk to Jim, then my people will talk to yours. Two words. Ka. Ching! Bye now!"]

Tags: Conservatism , Conservatives

The Echo-Chamber Effect, Hobbling Obama as Much as the Right



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Also in today’s Jolt, hitting e-mailboxes now:

The Echo-Chamber Effect, Hobbling Obama as Much as the Right

Conservatives sometimes lament that we can become our own echo chamber, convinced that we’re reaching a larger audience than we really are, unable to relate to or persuade those who don’t already agree with us. It’s a fair criticism. We need to address it.

But the same phenomenon does occur on the other side, and arguably with more severe consequences. Here’s the president, speaking at UC Irvine this weekend, discussing his climate-change and carbon-emission proposal:

It’s pretty rare that you’ll encounter somebody who says the problem you’re trying to solve simply doesn’t exist. When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it; it was going to be too expensive, it was going to be too hard, it would take too long. But nobody ignored the science. I don’t remember anybody saying that the moon wasn’t there or that it was made of cheese.

President Obama is really, really, really bothered by the fact that some Americans don’t believe that human activity can significantly impact the climate. To him, this is something to fume about in public. It’s a top priority to him — even if climate change ranks near the bottom of the electorate’s priorities.

Here’s a Tweet from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Monday morning:

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The link is to an e-mail signup list for a U.S. State Department conference on oceans.

An audit of the Department of Veterans Affairs found that “more than 57,000 patients have been waiting more than three months for medical appointments at hospitals and clinics run by the VA, and nearly 64,000 others have been enrolled in the system for a decade but have still not been seen by doctors despite their requests,” and Monday brought new revelations of “dozens” of allegations of punishing whistleblowers who balked at falsifying records. One can reasonably argue that VA staffers ought to pay more attention to their actual jobs than to climate-change issues.

The U.S. State Department is currently evacuating nonessential personnel from Iraq, and by the time you read this, we may be evacuating essential personnel, too. They, too, may have more pressing concerns than promoting a conference on oceans.

But the Obama administration has set its agenda for 2014, and it’s not going to let little things like world events get in the way. Obama intends to run upon climate change, the minimum wage, the need for “common sense” gun control, and workplace equality.

He’ll campaign upon the need for “comprehensive immigration reform,” complete with a “path to citizenship,” even though we’re facing a humanitarian crisis on the border from a sudden influx of unattended children — an entirely predictable response to a policy change that provides a path to U.S. citizenship to children who enter the country illegally.

And he’ll spend the summer on his traditional golf and fundraising schedule.

If you ask a conservative what issues are on his mind, you might get a list that included the administration’s shameless dishonesty about the Benghazi terror attack, the national shame that is the VA scandal, and the sense that crises from Ukraine to Syria to Iraq to the South Pacific are spinning out of control. The border is unsecured. Obamacare is a mess, forcing people to buy coverage they don’t want, paying higher premiums than they expected, forced into narrow networks where they can’t keep the doctor they like. We’re letting the worst of the worst out of Guantanamo Bay for one imprisoned American.

You and I know those are legitimate concerns, but a lot of Americans don’t think about those topics much. If you asked those folks either in the middle or tuned out what worries them, and what they wish lawmakers would address, you would probably get a much simpler list.

People are having trouble finding jobs. The jobs don’t pay particularly well. It’s tough to find a good job with manageable hours and decent benefits. There’s no guarantee that your local public school will educate your kids particularly well. If your kids do make the grades they need to get into college, most schools are way too expensive. You can take out student loans, but you’ll spend half your life paying them back, and a college degree is no longer a guarantee of a well-paying job. Are young people able to start their lives, start their careers, get married, start families of their own? How long can young adults last in a perpetual adolescence? With all of these financial pressures coming at people from all directions, retirement seems like a more faraway goal.

It feels like a covenant with Americans, set a generation or two ago, is broken. Perhaps this is what Salena Zito is getting at when she describes the populist storm building in America’s heartland:

It is a cautionary thread — yet most people in Washington do not understand this moderate-in-tone populist wave. First, the wave is not going to take out every incumbent, so no “secret sauce” can “fix” it; second, it will have broad impact on both parties; third, it is relatively invisible because it has no name, no brand or party allegiance.

The problem is that while it’s easy to articulate what feels wrong about modern American life, it’s hard to put together a set of policy proposals that have a decent shot at fixing it. Ultimately, a lot of us would like to live in the America of the 1980s again — a booming economy capable of creating 500,000 new jobs in a month, a military buildup with no actual shooting wars going on, and Bill Cosby on our television screens.

It’s frustrating that the country’s middle or apolitical chunk of the electorate doesn’t share the concerns and priorities of the conservative grassroots. But they also don’t share the concerns and priorities of the progressive grassroots, either. President Obama is going to spend the next few months trying to get a country, beset by crisis after crisis, mess after mess, to ignore what’s worrying them and adopt the priorities of the Left.

Here’s the U.S. State Department home page right now:

Tags: Barack Obama , GOP , Conservatives

Why the Right Is Growing Cynical About the ‘Common Good’



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I’m scheduled to appear on Chuck Todd’s “Daily Rundown” on MSNBC around 9:40 or so this morning. It’s a busy media stretch for me, as I’ll go up to New York to appear on “Real News” on The Blaze on Friday evening, and then Sunday I’m on Howard Kurtz’s “Reliable Sources.”

The Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt features a lot about the Benghazi hearings, the notion of a conservative “ghetto” in media, and then these thoughts:

Why Conservatives Are Growing Cynical About the Concept of the ‘Common Good’

Pete Wehner wonders if conservatives have forgotten, or lost interest, in the value of community:

It strikes me that this ancient insight — of how we do not live in isolation, that we are part of a continuum — has been a bit neglected by American conservatives in recent years. The emphasis one hears these days has to do almost solely with liberty, which of course is vital. But there is also the trap of hyper-individualism. What’s missing, I think, is an appropriate appreciation — or at least a public appreciation — for community, social solidarity, and the common good; for the obligations and attachments we have to each other and the role institutions play in forming those attachments.

It’s not exactly clear to me why conservatives have neglected these matters. It may be the result of a counter-reaction to President Obama’s expansion of the size, scope, and reach of the federal government, combined with a growing libertarian impulse within conservatism. Whatever the explanation, conservatives are making an error — a political error, a philosophical error, a human error — in ignoring (at least in our public language) this understanding of the richness and fullness of life.

Conservatism has never been simply about being left alone. It is not exclusively about self-reliance, individual drive and “rugged individualism,” as important as these things are. We need to be careful about portraying life in a constricted way, since our characters and personalities and sensibilities are shaped by so many other factors and forces and people all along the way.

Permit me to offer a theory or two . . . 

We’ve always been a diverse country, but I suspect that a lot of conservatives click on the television or web or look at the morning paper or magazine and see a country they just don’t recognize anymore.

The sense of alienation isn’t racial, but it is cultural. How many conservatives look out upon large swaths of their fellow countrymen and feel as if they’re dealing with someone from another planet, someone whose thinking, values, worldview, and priorities are so alien, they simply can’t understand them?

Our political differences and culture wars are a big part of it. But I think it goes even further. How many times can a conservative encounter the low-information voters who don’t know who the vice president is, or watch the folks on the street get stumped by basic questions in Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segments, and not lose some faith in the American people as a whole?

For starters, I really have only the vaguest idea who Jodi Arias is. According to cable news producers, this trial is a really, really, really big deal.

I remember reading the joke, “Far in the future, aliens will come and find the relics of our modern civilization and conclude that Kim Kardashian was our queen.” I really don’t understand why I’m supposed to care about this woman, and I don’t understand why it seems that I’m constantly being told things about her.

I suppose someone could argue that my interest in football or superhero movies or Star Wars is similarly frivolous. But a functioning constitutional republic relies on an informed public to hold its government accountable, and it feels like large swaths of our public checked out of this whole process, finding any duties of citizenship to be a drag.

Any American who worked their butt off through college and did the entry-level, low-pay jobs at the beginning of their working lives looks at the Occupy Movement and wonders how the heck someone can begin adulthood with such a ludicrous sense of entitlement. Anybody who’s interacted with the government looks at a takeover of the health-care system as a nationwide slow-motion train wreck happening before our eyes. We saw more of it yesterday; anybody who watched the Benghazi hearing is left slack-jawed, marveling at the raw cynicism at work at the highest levels of our government.

It’s very hard to be motivated to help “the common good” when you sense that a good portion of the folks you’re being asked to help are exercising bad judgment, unwilling to work hard, unwilling to make similar sacrifices, unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, and so on.

Tags: Conservatives

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