the big tent

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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34 Responses

  1. Dan says:

    Is this not, in the end, a call for a new Contact with America? An appeal to a re-Gingriched right?Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Dan says:

      Well sort of – though I think different times call for different measures. And of course, the Gingrich of the 1990’s is not the same as the Gingrich of today.

      I suppose I do think that the reformists have the better case and should (and will) come out on top in the long run but that the movement itself will not die off. There will be a truce, and I hope that at the vanguard of the coalition will be the reformist camp with the new and better ideas.Report

  2. I would add that the size of one tent is often reactionary to the perceived failures of the other tent. For example: What does a upper-middle class gay accountant in San Francisco have in common with a lower-class black cab driver in NYC? They both perceive the Republican Party to be hostile towards their needs/wants. So in my opinion the path to success for the GOP is to bleed off the inevitable dissidents who joined Obama’s big tent by anticipating who they will be and creating policies that appeal to them. He promised so much that it’s a given he is going to disappoint some people.Report

  3. Bob Cheeks says:

    Speaking only for myself, I will no longer tolerate neos, rinos, or statist Republicans anymore than I tolerate the derailed Left. No coalition, no compromise, simply because the ideology advocated is constitutive of the egophanic revolt, e.g. the belief in a metastasis of reality through the distortion of a political magic that has captured the unwashed. Nowhere is it required that I must be stupid too.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      Bob, I knew you’d say that. And I anticipated this above to some degree. I only wonder if those in a coalition can’t also be dissident voices within that coalition? Or whether it’s at all worth it to begin with. Is it best to remain apart entirely? I mean, to be honest, there is little hope of a paleo resurgence just yet…Report

      • Bob Cheeks in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        You know, E.D., I really don’t want to pee on anyone’s parade but we are so divorced from those principles that established what was histories greatest republic, in many ways the Aristotelian summum bonum of nations, that if we are ever to re-establish those principles someone, somewhere is going to have to keep them guarded and protected and undiluted by progressivism. Maybe I’m just one of the janitors, an old monk guarding the old texts. That works for me!Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      (Full Disclosure: I have been banned from Redstate)

      This reminds me of a Redstate essay that I keep thinking about writing.

      Barack Obama won in 2008 with the biggest victory for a first term president, like, ever. He beat Eisenhower, the previous owner of that record. As a matter of fact, there was only one election that he did not outdo, and that was Reagan in 1984.

      The Republicans got *STOMPED* in 2008. Bad.

      Which brings me to the folks at Redstate.

      Reading their responses to the election there, one gets the idea that they have absolutely no idea why they lost in 2008 nor that they did as definitively as they did.

      The Republican party, as represented by Redstate, seems to have this attitude that they do not need people of a particular impurity (or impurer) to show up and say “I’m a Republican”.

      It’s my opinion that the Republican party needs folks as impure as I am (or impurer) a lot more than folks as impure as I am (or impurer) need the Republican party.

      In recent months, actually, the Republican party has begun to remind me more and more of the Libertarians… not in philosophy, mind, but in the whole “when purity is all you have and all you’re likely to continue to have, it becomes very important to define purity and to point out to others that they don’t have it” thing.

      I suspect that the pendulum will swing back due to Democratic overreach (as some, but certainly not all, of what happened in 2008 was due to backlash against Republican overreach). But the Republicans under George Bush traded their birthright for a mess of pottage… and it will be a good long while before voters think of anything but 2002-2006 when they think of Republicans. In the short term, the best that the Republicans can hope for is that people start agitating to “throw the bums out” (again).

      Much of that, I reckon, is because of attitudes similar to yours… that whole “we don’t want/need people of this impurity level or impurer” thing.

      I’ll just say that Republicans need the people who walked away far, far more than the people who walked away need Republicans… and until the Republicans realize that, they will continue to enjoy the endorphins that come from realizing that they have finally achieved a relatively pure coalition (without enjoying the endorphins that come from winning huge election victories).Report

      • Bob Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

        Dude, banned! Cool!Report

      • Dan in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’m very torn here. Does one become involved in the Republican Party despite the current crisis of both sanity and leadership, take the lumps that will inevitably come, and work to build a viable opposition party or resign oneself to the fact that it’s going to get worse before it gets better? Any thoughts?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Dan says:

          I voted Charles Jay, myself.

          16th place, baby!Report

        • E.D. Kain in reply to Dan says:

          I don’t think one becomes a Republican at this stage in the game. Stick with reform until reform becomes more mainstream. Only join the coalition once your ideas are taken seriously. But that should be the goal, nevertheless, to form the coalition eventually.Report

          • Dan in reply to E.D. Kain says:


            I appreciate your position which has been mine in action if not always in thought. This doesn’t stop me thinking however, how is reform going to become mainstream if the audience for it in the party doesn’t exist. If their constituency for the sake of argument: myself, you and Jaybird (Undoubtably an unseemly rabble of ideas but people willing to listen nonetheless) aren’t present at the meeting what’s to prevent them from simply being shouted down?Report

            • E.D. Kain in reply to Dan says:

              The only good answer I have for that is that perhaps the meeting isn’t ready to take place, and all meetings up to that point are a sideshow. Or, it’s all in the timing. But honestly, that’s a legitimate concern. I don’t know.Report

      • Kyle in reply to Jaybird says:

        Barack Obama won in 2008 with the biggest victory for a first term president, like, ever. He beat Eisenhower, the previous owner of that record. As a matter of fact, there was only one election that he did not outdo, and that was Reagan in 1984.


        By number of states won: Bush Sr. (40), Reagan (44), Ike (39), and even Nixon (32) beat Obama (28.2+DC)

        By percentage of popular vote: Obama had 53% which is historically moderate.

        By margin of victory in percentage of popular vote: Obama had a 7.2% lead over his opponent, which is lower than Bush Sr. by .7%, Reagan by 2.5%, and Ike by almost 4%.

        By number of electors: Obama had 365, Bush Sr./Reagan/Ike were all well over 400.

        By first term president elections. If you remove that qualification, quite a few more Presidents have more impressive electoral victories.

        The death of the Republican Party by demographics and President Obama is grossly overstated.Report

      • matoko_chan in reply to Jaybird says:

        Redstate is nuthin’, errone gets banned there.
        I been banned at TAS!
        Now that takes talent.Report

  4. Francis says:

    Since 1980, the Republican party has been organized around a single operating principle — the government is the enemy (except for the military & except for morality legislation). Now, as everyone hates paying taxes, that slogan makes for a great campaign slogan, but a lousy governance doctrine.

    Health care — people want to be in a cost sharing pool. They don’t want insurance and they really don’t want to deal with insurance companies. People also largely get the healthcare that they’re told to get; from what I’ve read and heard, “defensive” medicine is an excuse to run more tests and make more money. Having the public pool put pressure on doctors to run only the tests and conduct only the procedures that are medically appropriate may be called “rationing”; it can also be called “appropriate regulation”. The conservative proposal is to go in the opposite direction and force everyone to buy individual policies. This is ideology over public policy.

    Defense — When did the last major conservative voice speak up for lower defense spending? Ideology over public policy.

    Immigration — Conservatives are hopelessly divided between the nativists and cheap labor advocates. What about starting with major support for punishing the corporations in the ag, food processing, hospitality and construction industries that rely on illegal labor to keep costs down?

    Financial Regulation — When AIG failed, the government stepped up and paid off the CDSs. Why not make loans from the Fed Reserve to the banks making claims on the CDS instead? Ideology over public policy.

    A party can organize around the idea of low-tax, low-service government. But that means telling the DOD that it’s losing hundreds of billions, telling seniors that Soc.Sec. payments are being cut, telling Medicare providers and seniors that they need to explicitly ration end-of-life care to palliative services only, and tell states that they need to let more Medicaid patients die.

    Have at it.Report

  5. Kyle says:

    Having just gotten around to listening to the Conor/Dan debate from 10ish days ago, I have to say I’m somewhat skeptical of a new big tent Republican party occurring.

    Listening to Dan’s take (umbrage) regarding non-conservatives calling themselves conservative, he makes it clear that he’s fine with such people calling themselves moderate Republicans (or perhaps in the north east an endangered liberal Republican).

    However, the experience of the last decade or so, in my opinion, is that the coupling of the conservative movement and the Republican party is something the conservatives wanted and continue to want. So while Dan Riehl might be ok with conservatives in a coalition with moderate Republicans, the people with the money, the mailing lists, and GOTV efforts don’t see the distinction. Hence the Rino attacks, primary challenges, etc…

    Certainly more of that is to be expected when your party is in power but just as the Republican minority is done apologizing for Bush, it doesn’t seem as though a chastened conservative movement is eager to decouple themselves from the party or open the doors to collaborators who aren’t converts.

    There’s an argument in there for saying it’s just a matter of time, but the political left-right, conservative-progressive axis will undoubtedly shift. Where corporations fit into any realignment, where libertarians fit in, where evangelicals fit in, where minority groups fit in these are all open questions over the next ten, fifteen years.

    It also remains to be seen where the GWOT fits in, whether it will have the same influence on politics as Vietnam, whether gay marriage will be the new Roe.

    So, E.D. great forward looking questions but I wonder if the political forms and labels of the past twenty years are so are more rapidly losing their own relevance in connecting to the issues of the day.Report

  6. mike farmer says:


    Libertarians are purists because it’s the consequence of being right. We just happened to find the pure answer. Nobody wants to join our club, though, so there is not even a tent. Seriously, though, when you subtract politics and look out to free society, the libertarian society is pretty damned open and diverse — believe what you want to believe, just don’t force it on me. Want a joint?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to mike farmer says:

      I don’t touch the stuff, dude.

      This is one of those things that always got confusing at Redstate… (And it’s an intuition I understand. For example, I assume that the folks saying “dude, we’re all human, we have to be understanding!!!” of stuff like Mark Sanford are folks who have also tomcatted around on their wives. I assume that those who are appalled have not. So it’s a trap I fall into as well.)

      I am the squarest dude on the friggin’ planet. There are Baptists who have more exciting weekends than the ones I usually have (and the ones that don’t qualify are easily beaten by the Presbyterians). On a personal level, I am more socially conservative than Doctor Dobson, more fiscally liberal than Obama, and about as interventionist as the Birchers.

      I just very, very, very much resent being told how to live by people who are not my wife… and I try to not do to others that which is most hateful to myself.

      All that to say: I must decline… but I appreciate the sentiment behind the offer.Report

  7. Is this not, in the end, a call for a new Contact with America? An appeal to a re-Gingriched right?

    Did the Contract for America really help the Republicans regain the House? And didn’t Newt just disregard most(if not 98%) of it once they came to power?Report

  8. Rob in CT says:

    I’m a registered Dem at the moment (I never thought THAT would happen), mostly because they strike me as the clearly saner party. I have some libertarian leanings and some progressive leanings, depending on the policy under discussion. This, I suppose, makes me ideologically impure… though obviously I don’t see major inconsistencies (if I did, I’d be wrestling with them) in my views.

    I’ve watched the GOP over the past ~10 years with growing horror. To me, the GOP mainstream has moved so far to the right that I can no longer identify with it. It’s possible that my old ID was simply an artifact of being raised by staunch Republicans (NE Republicans, though – it was all about taxes and little else. They don’t get worked up about gays, guns, or God).

    I used to see the GOP as a party that was fiscally conservative (or at least fiscally sane) and smart about foreign policy. The Dubya years utterly destroyed that illusion. The GOP displayed itself as profligate in spending, stupid on taxes, and either insane or evil when it comes to FP. It has zero – absolutely zero – credibility left with me on those issues.

    Leaving what? The social stuff – guns/gays/God. I’m an atheist who supports gay marriage (actually I’d do civil unions for all) and doesn’t see a problem with reasonable regulations on gun ownership. The Sanfords of the world just amuse me at this point (oh look, another “Family Values” politician who can’t keep it in his pants).

    So, while I would like to see a healthy opposition (because I do worry about Dem overreach), I struggle to imagine how the GOP could win me back. The issues on which they could have me are those that they’ve thrown away. Time may heal the wounds, but man I’ll be wary.Report

  9. Rob in CT says:

    I should add that both parties have disappointed me terribly wrt to civil liberties/state secrecy. Going into the election, I’d pegged the Dems as superior on those issues, but now I’m pissed at them too.

    So there’s another issue on which I could be “had” but an issue on which the GOP’s position appears to be nearly 180 degrees from mine. I am left, once again, with bad and worse as my options.

    And yes, I’m aware of the Libertarians. I’ve voted Lib in the past. I may again. But they have their faults too.Report

  10. ED, somewhere in your essay you said this:

    “In four years, if he is as skilled a politician as he seems to be, he will have remade the party in his own image, and that’s dangerous for conservatives.”

    It strikes me as an odd thing to say. I’d agree with you had you said “dangerous for the GOP”, but you said conservatives – I can’t help thinking that conservatives won’t be in danger, and in fact may, as a group, be better off if Obama creates a new Democratic Party in his own image. It may be the case that it is always better for the GOP for the Dems to be successful as the very environment brought about by Dem policies favors conservatives – we are all susceptible to the platitudes of the GOP when things are going well. It’s only when things are in the tank (a predictable outcome of many conservative – or perhaps it GOP – policies) that the Dems become the go to party.

    Did you really mean “dangerous”, or is it more an expectation of a longer time in the wilderness? Frankly, the more successful Obama is, the shorter the time to and the longer run of the next GOP shot at running things. As long as conservatives remain Republican, then they can reasonably plan for that opportunity.


    • What I meant to say is that a feckless, fragmented Democratic party (which we have now) is weaker than a united party of Obama – and will require a more united, but also smarter and less – er – “picky” conservative movement. And while I am an independent I do think that it will be the Republican Party that reemerges once again as the spearhead of the movement. I am not a big believer in third parties.Report

  11. I also believe that there will be no 3rd party. More’s the pity. The GOP has pee’d in the pool a little too often for most people’s taste, I imagine.

    The best thing that could happen to us is to have an resurgent but ethically renewed GOP. Frankly, I don’t see that happening until the message the GOP brings is a whole lot less poisonous.