Sunday, August 1, 2010

Conservative Embarrassment and Contradictions
Mike Rappaport

Stephen Bainbridge claims it is embarrassing being a conservative these days.  He lists ten reasons.  While I certainly agree with some of them, I wonder whether he has thought this out carefully.  Consider the following two:

4. [President Bush and the Republican Congress of 2000-2006]: Instead of tax cuts and spending cuts, we got tax cuts along with a trillion dollar entitlement program, a massive expansion of the Federal Government’s role in education, and two wars. That’s not fiscal conservatism it is, as others have said, fiscal insanity.

5. Thanks to the Tea Party, the Nevada GOP has probably pissed away a historic chance to out=st Harry Reid. See also Charlie Crist in Florida, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and so on. Whatever happened to not letting perfection be the enemy of the good?

Bainbridge seems to be missing something here.  Yes, the Republicans of 2000-2006 were excessively big government.  Now, why does the Tea Party want to see Marco Rubio instead of Charlie Crist, and the others?  Because the Tea Partiers believe, quite rightly, that Charlie Crist supported Obama's stimulus and would behave much like the Republicans of 2000-2006.  I would take my chances with Rubio and the possibility of real constraint. 

Bainbridge can't really have it both ways.  You can't criticize the Tea Partiers for wanting better conservatives and also criticize the old Republicans who were elected based on the idea of "not letting perfection be the enemy of the good."

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Mike Rappaport


There is zero chance that Reid would be part of some kind of useful solution. There is some chance that the Republican alternative would be. In any event, just having someone in the Republican Caucus (R+1, D-1) is better than the status quo, if not the best possible outcome.

There is no inconsistency in his position anyway. It's perfectly legitimate to criticize the Bush administration and prior congresses, while recognizing that the present situation is worse and even a (partial) return to the prior order is preferable (especially since a congress with one house controlled by the Republicans while the presidency is in Democratic hands is more or less optimal for keeping Washington from screwing things up too badly). Crist's support for the stimulus is irrelevant if he has a better chance of winning the general election and would caucus with the Republicans (if they need one vote to get to the majority. Otherwise, it's meaningless).

By opposing Crist, the tea party folks basically work to scuttle their chance of actually achieving anything. Bitching loudly and electing no one is pretty useless, as it happens. Politics is a game that Democrats are more adept at playing and Republicans are good at losing and whining about (oh, woe is us, the media is against us). If you let your enemy shape the battlefield, you've already lost. That's why people should be ashamed to be Republicans (or conservatives), because they cede the initiative and let their opponents abuse them.

Posted by: John Jenkins | Aug 1, 2010 9:10:30 PM

1. Would Charlie Crist caucus with Republicans? It is not at all clear.

2. It is very damaging for Republicans for the media to have two or three people who constantly say, "I'm a Republican, but this proposal or policy or statement is too extreme, even racist, for me." Better a Democrat than that.

3. There is a point, perhaps different for every person, where a politician's utter cynicism, narcissism, and hunger for power makes it impossible to support him, without regard to the alternative. Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist...if politicians can act as they do and still count on the support of the "the other guy is worse" crowd, we'll get a lot more of that kind of behavior.

Posted by: David T. | Aug 2, 2010 5:29:15 AM

Reid has paid his dues to the N.R.A. fugratively if not literally. Single-issue is single issue. The N.R.A. considers Reid to be a reliable ally in a legislative position of power. Were he defeated, and the Democrats to remain control of the Senate, which appears likely in any event, Schumer, N.R.A. public enemy number one, would become Senate Majority Leader.

It's all on the N.R.A. website. Those dumb rednecks are doing it again. You may not be interest in guns, but guns are interested in you.

Posted by: Lou Gots | Aug 2, 2010 8:58:19 AM

"if politicians can act as they do and still count on the support of the "the other guy is worse" crowd, we'll get a lot more of that kind of behavior."

The problem is not understanding that if the other guy really is worse, then on net you have a win.

Posted by: John Jenkins | Aug 2, 2010 11:38:50 AM

The problem is that by winning in one specific case you have changed the rules for allowable behavior which ensures you'll be playing on an increasingly difficult field in the future.

Posted by: David T. | Aug 2, 2010 6:08:29 PM

Then your philosophy is already doomed. If the only alternatives are bad guy and less bad guy, and good guy doesn't have a hope in hell of winning, then supporting good guy is always and only pointless because if you don't support less bad guy, bad guy is going to win, and then what it takes to win is seen as farther in the bad direction. Less bad guy stops (or slows) the inexorable shift. If you can't successfully move from less bad guy to good guy, then why do you think you can move from bad guy to good guy? That doesn't make sense.

Posted by: John Jenkins | Aug 2, 2010 7:36:40 PM

Nice post! Nobody who criticizes the earmarking Republican congresses can also criticize unseating compromising pols in favor of idealists. We've already proved that simply having a nominal majority isn't enough.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Aug 2, 2010 9:04:34 PM

I'm embarrassed by Professor Bainbridge. He has apparently chosen his own vanity and social status ahead of right and wrong.

Who did Hugh Hewitt or Marco Rubio or Sharon Angle or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin ever hurt? Show us a list of these folks' victims so we can see the substance of why we should be embarrassed by them. In truth, they've hurt no one, but Professor Bainbridge has decided to pick some sort of elitist class-based quarrel with them. And he apparently can't figure out what motivates so-called "anti-intellectualism". Look in the mirror professor.

Posted by: Ben W | Aug 2, 2010 9:05:22 PM

I lost a lot of respect for Bainbridge when he wrote that his law school's hiring committee discriminated against conservatives, but he kept serving on it, anyway. At some point you have to choose sides. This whole "I'm a conservative, but let me assure you, I'm really an elitist first and foremost" act is getting old very quickly.

Posted by: mike livingston | Aug 3, 2010 6:26:10 PM

Bainbridge is not making a strong intellectual case, he is reminding us of how socially unacceptable some conservatives are to liberals. Which is apparently meaningful to him.

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