The Unprincipled Conservative.

Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

Related Post Roulette

30 Responses

  1. Bayesian says:

    Yeah, but per Knapp’s quote

    [T]he candidates have to adhere to at least seven of these principles “as identified by the voting record, public statements and/or signed questionnaire of the candidate.”

    So Hoffmann being off the reservation on one of them isn’t disqualifying.

    I sort of agree that any party hoping to be a national party probably needs some sort of accommodation of variation like the 7 out of 10 rule – one could imagine the DNC equivalent including things like support for SSM, public option, etc.

    I agree with his fisking of the specifics of course, though in some alternate universe where the DNC was hegemonic enough to come up with an equivalent list I suspect/fear it would be at least 50% as fiskable.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to Bayesian says:

      Good point about Hoffman. One big problem about this, though, is that the principles are worded in as broad a manner as possible rather than confining them just to the policy they attempt to address. It would be one thing if they just said “we oppose cap and trade,” but it goes beyond that to “We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation.” The other issue, of course, is that for so many of these principles the way in which candidates are supposed to “support” the principle is by “opposing” the Dems. The notion of any kind of compromise or of working with the Dems to create policy that would in fact advance the underlying principle is completely tossed aside.Report

      • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        “One big problem about this, though, is that the principles are worded in as broad a manner as possible rather than confining them just to the policy they attempt to address.”

        That’s a very good point. The GOP needs to essentially redo the Contract with America as far as drawing bright lines and building unity around substance. But what we don’t need is political theatricality and atmospherics, as things stand and with the recent history of the GOP that will distract from our message which we can’t afford at the moment. Otoh, I don’t think this “defect” is as severe as you might think. Let me try to edit:

        1. We opposed Obama’s “stimulus” bill; in general we support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes.

        2. We oppose most or all of this year’s Obama or Democratic-sponsored health care “reform” bills.

        3. For this Congress, we oppose cap and trade legislation, the Kyoto treaty and any economically onerous climate change legislation.

        4. Ok as is.

        5. We oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants and support assimilation into American society for legal immigrants.

        6. We supported the surge in Iraq and support General McCrystal’s recommendation of increased troop levels for Afghanistan.

        7. Has to go. I can’t think of a good bright line.

        8. Ok as is.

        9. We oppose government funding of abortion.

        10. We support the right of to keep and bear arms. In general, we oppose government restrictions on gun ownership.

        Let’s note that Mr. Knapp’s post is one of the weaker attempts at “fisking” we’ve seen come down the pipe in a while. Whatever problems there were in drafting those points, they were pretty clear as written. His real beef seems to me to be the attempt, in general, to assert accountability over the political class. And to the extent that is his beef, I think he’s wrong and the RNC is right.

        Finally, let’s not forget that we’re in the middle of a contentious debate over a huge expansion of the entitlement state right now. Anybody who really believes in prosperity and limited government ought to be with us already.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    I think that they’re trying something like “The Contract With America” without doing something that is likely to remind everybody that the stuff they proposed in the original contract didn’t exactly take place.Report

  3. sidereal says:

    If I had a lot more free time I’d go through and demonstrate votes that make upwards up 80% of the current GOP violate 1, 2, and 5. Medicare Part D would do most of the heavy lifting. The rest are either so vague that it’s trivial to wiggle out of them or so specific (Iran!) that they’re ridiculous inclusions on a list of principles.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to sidereal says:

      Excellent point.

      Though, as a statement of principles, this is probably as close to an apology for Bush as we’re going to see. Those of you who want to see the Republicans repudiate what happened between 2000-2006?

      There you go. It’s right there.Report

      • trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

        I think the problem is not lack of apology, but the fact that many Republicans seem perfectly content on supporting this purity test and simultaneously maintaining the belief that the Bush efforts were generally effective, if prone to compromise.

        The point of an apology is not (just) schadenfreude, but to make sure the same events don’t happen again. Yet this very document contradicts its first point (“We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes”) with the subsequent points about Iraq/Afghanistan, Iran/Korea and arguably DOMA/Card-check.Report

        • Koz in reply to trizzlor says:

          “Yet this very document contradicts its first point (”We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes”) with the subsequent points about Iraq/Afghanistan, Iran/Korea and arguably DOMA/Card-check.”

          Uhhh, no. Do you not understand the basic economics of guns vs. butter?Report

          • Nob Akimoto in reply to Koz says:

            It’s fundamentally dishonest coming from a party whose main attack line on health care has been “they’re going to cut your medicare!”

            Given that medicare entitlements make up the single largest liability on the books (nevermind Part D…) then it seems like that’s fundamentally dishonest.

            Also pick one.

            Lower deficits and lower national debt, or lower taxes. Can’t really have both.Report

            • Koz in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              “It’s fundamentally dishonest coming from a party whose main attack line on health care has been “they’re going to cut your medicare!”

              Actually the old people figured that one out on their own. If anything, they clued us in more than the other way around.

              “Lower deficits and lower national debt, or lower taxes. Can’t really have both.”

              Yes and no. We’ve never cut significant dollars from the entitlement state, but the Laffer curve is real. The people who think it’s been “discredited” characterize it to mean that tax cuts pay for themselves, which is more than what it actually says.

              More than that, the idea from Bartlett et al that we should raise taxes enough to pay for the welfare state isn’t practical, let alone desirable. I don’t think the economy will those levels of taxation and at the very least we shouldn’t blindly assume that it will.Report

              • trizzlor in reply to Koz says:

                Your main point seems to be that the GOP has chosen to pick up certain constituencies (elderly, the “entitled”) at the cost of some central dogmas (anti-entitlement, anti-deficit). This isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s completely incongruous to a purity test.Report

              • Koz in reply to trizzlor says:

                Sort of. “Purity test” sounds pejorative to me, so there’s no reason why the GOP should be forced to think of it that way. It reminds me of the “purity pledges” that teenagers take to remain virgins until marriage, which is probably what it’s meant to evoke.

                As far as which constituency goes with which party, that’s a more interesting one. As far as I’m concerned, the old people are joining us, we’re not joining them. The GOP will be in a harder spot when and if it has to take the lead in breaking down the entitlement state. But that’s not where it is now.Report

              • Cascadian in reply to Koz says:

                Really? I mean between medicare and the military what’s left? What entitlement spending are you talking about?Report

              • trizzlor in reply to Koz says:

                Granted, let’s call it a “statement of principles”; it remains to be seen how strictly the GOP will enforce this … and that’s pretty integral to the argument here. I see the GOP at a cross-roads where the party wants to return to it’s core values in theory, but also continue the Bush-era transgressions that got them votes. This statement, at this time particularly, does nothing to change my mind because it simply side-steps the contradictions.

                Tying in to your other point about Medicare pandering, I agree that the GOP is courting short-term vote gains (particularly as older voters generally come out in midterms) if not on who’s flocking to whom. And maybe their gamble will be a long-term win if it helps defeat health-care reform, but it certainly doesn’t lend any credibility to this list of principles. Either stop compromising on them, or admit the fact that a minority party has to use all of the political tricks available to maintain leverage.Report

              • Koz in reply to trizzlor says:

                “And maybe their gamble will be a long-term win if it helps defeat health-care reform, but it certainly doesn’t lend any credibility to this list of principles.”

                I don’t think it’s pandering. In some way, fiscal responsibility and Medicare cuts “ought” to be on the same side. In this case they’re not, because the other team has, with the agenda they are pushing, defined the terms of the debate that way.Report

  4. Nob Akimoto says:

    Well, at least now we can start holding them responsible whem their rhetoric doesn’t match their “purity test” principles, right?Report

  5. Kyle says:

    This is the exact opposite of the 50 state strategy. The one time the Republicans need to import a structural idea from the Democrats, of course, they’d run in the opposite direction.Report

    • Koz in reply to Kyle says:

      Uhhh, no. This is the 50-state strategy (a very effective strategem from Howard Dean btw, to give some credit to the other team). There is some wiggle room for local temperament, but for the most part we want a credible national brand that conservative and independent voters can get behind.

      Republicans in Illinois went the other way. Because they had no credible principles to uphold, the dwindled almost to the point of ceasing to exist.Report

      • Kyle in reply to Koz says:

        Well not so much the 50 state strategy IIRC, was all about supporting Democrats in well – all 50 states – by building the teams, campaign apparatuses, and working with state and local democrats to field candidates that could win. It was a combination of top down support for grassroots politics.

        This is structurally the opposite. It limits top down support to those who toe a top-down articulated line. What’s amusing to me is how ridiculously tone deaf the whole thing. One of the things that came out of Conor Friedersdorf’s The GOP Speaks project was how resentful local Republicans were of the national establishment and this is just more in that mold.

        This is ostensibly done in response to the NY-23 brouhaha, which is silly because the problem wasn’t that the RNC backed Scozzafava instead of Hoffman but that she was undemocratically chosen as the Republican candidate, which automatically put her in a position to get RNC funding. Which means if Republicans were capable of accurately analyzing problems and crafting meaningful solutions, they’d adopt a resolution banning the use of funds to back candidates not democratically chosen in a primary vote and throw in an exception for extenuating circumstances.Report

        • Koz in reply to Kyle says:

          I’m not getting this at all. It’s far better to support a candidate like Hoffman than Scozzafava, win or lose. Furthermore, it’s pretty clear that the “voters are moderate squishes” line doesn’t hold much water either. To a substantial extent, the voters respond to the choices put in front of them. It’s worthwhile to make sure there’s at least one good choice.Report

          • Kyle in reply to Koz says:

            The point is it’s far better for the RNC to support the Republican candidate chosen by the Republicans of the NY-23rd. Which is kind of the point of representative government. For the people…to chuse [sic] people they want to represent them. Not to sound too much like Teddy Roosevelt here but how Scozzafava was chosen was basically an undemocratic throwback to the 19th century. Moreover, the idea of the parties choosing who to support from up on high based on fealty to the national party is structurally what Republicans criticize all the time.

            A.) It tramples over state prerogatives and local “solutions.”
            B.) It’s pretty much what China does, China who Republicans consider to be an evil bastion of undemocratic nefariousness.
            C.) It’s supporting people who are “out of touch” with the voters based on what in-the-(conservative) beltway types think is best.

            Hoffman was a bad candidate for that district who simply said all the right things to get conservative support. That he didn’t know much about the district or its constituents or its needs is an embarrassment to himself and his supporters. He was a conservative carpetbagger and really, the irony of that is too great to ignore.

            This list is literally incoherent and would push out some major players in the Republican Party.

            #1 – Sarah Palin – who as governor didn’t actually say thanks, but no thanks
            #2 – Mittens
            #3 – John McCain & Sarah Palin
            #5 – The great Ronald Reagan himself, not to mention Bush 41, McCain, and a number of other Republicans who were around and voting in the 80’s
            #6 – Pat Buchanan, George Will, and the paleos
            #8 – Conservative icon, Barry Goldwater and if you extrapolate to the FMA, Dick CheneyReport

            • Koz in reply to Kyle says:

              Ok, there’s two general things to be said, first the context of the list and second about the items on it.

              The parts about representative government and such seem to ignoring the political and other contexts of the list, things that seem fairly obvious to me. The point being is that, if this resolution is approved and enforced, that these will be the criteria for getting national party campaign funding. Why the RNC should be funding Scozzafava’s and Specter’s and so on is a mystery to me. And of course this funding is toward free general elections. Finally, this empowers grassroots control at the expense of the inside game, ie, Scozzafava and Specter.

              Let’s also note the things on it are fairly representative of where the base of the party is now. Wrt Palin, there’s nothing wrong with taking federal money, it’s not like she was the one agitating for it. Wrt Romney, MassCare would not fly as a nationwide HC “reform”, he’s said as much himself. Wrt cap and trade, that’s been fixed thankfully. Wrt Reagan, immigration is a different issue now than it was 25 years ago. Etc, etc.

              The point is, the individual items are pretty narrow, but overall they give the sense of someone who is in tune with the party vs. someone who isn’t. I flunk #6 myself.Report

              • Kyle in reply to Koz says:

                “Why the RNC should be funding Scozzafava’s and Specter’s and so on is a mystery to me.”

                Because the point of the RNC isn’t to fund conservatives, it’s to fund Republicans who can pass legislation. You’re not going to get a conservative in the CT-4 but you might get a small government, pro-business moderate. Which is a likely Rep vote from the CT-4 rather than a determined vote against conservative legislation.

                Basically the party can choose between purity and winning. It can’t have it both.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Koz says:

        That’s not exactly true. Peter Fitzgerald was *EXCEPTIONALLY* principled.

        It was the RNC that decided to stop supporting him (and run an up-and-coming star named Jack Ryan) against Obama in 2004.

        The Republican, in this case, was principled. The RNC was nothing even close.Report

        • Koz in reply to Jaybird says:

          Peter Fitzgerald is my canonical case in point. He was by far the best prominent public servant from Illinois in the last 15 years or so. Furthermore, he was well inside the mainstream for the national GOP but ran afoul of the state party and all their self-dealing crap. If guys like Peter Fitzgerald are willing to make the campaign we should be running them. We’re far better off with running good candidates and losing than running squishes like Judy Baar Topinka or frauds like George Ryan.Report

          • Bayesian in reply to Koz says:

            Koz, you are the same Koz as Eunomia’s Koz, right? (if not, the two of you need to decide who owns the nick – a duel in Weehawken would be historically appropriate)

            Do you live in IL? Do you have a formal position in the GOP (by which I don’t limit to paid positions – e.g. precinct captain is a formal in my book)?Report

            • Koz in reply to Bayesian says:

              Yeah, I’ve commented at Daniel’s site, though I haven’t very much lately. I’m in Chicago. I’ve got no formal political role but every once in a while I’ll go drinking at a Young Republican event.Report

  6. Katherine says:

    Removing the spin, to be a Republican according to their list of principles one must:
    1. Oppose any increases in taxes or spending.
    2. Oppose health care reform that includes a public option (or anything else the Republicans don’t like – they opposed the current bill even when it lacked a public option).
    3. Oppose cap-and-trade (and point #1 also excludes a carbon tax, so in effect a Republican must oppose action on climate change).
    4. Oppose card-check.
    5. Oppose amnesty / path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
    6. Support any troop increases in overseas wars suggested by the military (never mind that this contradicts #1).
    7. Support keeping DOMA (as Knapp noted, a problem for federalists and libertarians as well as social liberals).
    8. Support a hard line against Iran and North Korea (this one certainly is vague, but it’s pretty clear based on Republican rhetoric that this means “no negotiations; sanctions; use of military force if sanctions aren’t effective”).
    9. This is opposition to health care reform again. Strangely, while they’ve included opposition to government funding for abortion in this one, support for restriction on abortion doesn’t appear anywhere in their list of principles, despite it being issue #1 for a lot of social conservatives.
    10. Opposition to gun regulation.

    Leaving aside the fact of vagueness and contradictoryness, requiring 7/10 of these doesn’t seem hugely out of line. There are plenty of Democrats who would say it’s no use having someone in the party if they oppose all of health care reform, the stimulus package, cap and trade, and same-sex marriage.Report

  7. A Conservative Checklist for Republican Candidates: The Dumbest Idea I Have Ever Heard

    I am rarely surprised when the group of conservatives that the mainstream media calls the “Far Right” decide to grab something and run with it, but this one really has my head shaking. This group of “Right Wingers,” that clearly lacks the ability to set down their Going Rogue textbooks long enough to recognize that conservatism is not about a checklist of talking points and issues, has decided to draft a resolution to submit to the RNC that would force Republican candidates to adhere to a 10-point checklist of key issues / principles. To be as kind as I can about the matter, and to avoid using the expletives I screamed out loud as I read about this (I am trying to clean up my potty mouth a bit), I will simply state that this is the dumbest Republican idea I have heard in my lifetime. I understand that I may not be as old as some who may read this, but nearly three decades of stupid ideas and gimicks all pale in comparison to this one. My only hope is that the idiots who drafted this resolution, and those who allowed it to leak to the press, are so fringe, so far out in “lala land”, that no one in the Party gives them even a moment of their time. These people are not the “right wing” of the Party and they are not conservatives. They think they are because they purport to stand for “conservative” issues and principles, but they lack any understanding of the fundamentals of True Conservatism.

    True conservatism is about a principled and virtuous adherence to the fundamental intentions of our Founding Fathers expressed through our Founding Documents. The principle and the virtue are individual in nature and are not derivative of any one religion or culture. The intentions are strictly interpreted and rely primarily upon the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Conservatism is NOT about a laundry list of issues. This is why many on the “far right” lose me. They get so caught up in defending issues they deem to be “conservative” that they lose sight of the explanation and justification for their arguments. This is where religion gets infused with conservatism on a compulsory level and discredits the message altogether. The religion, or more accurately the principle or virtue, are supposed to be individual in nature. Our Founding Documents which we as conservatives purport to protect make it so. That is the very idea behind the 1st Amendment.