Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Horse Race, Part II

As a closet Rush Limbaugh fan, it's been extra interesting to listen to the conservative radio icon the past few weeks. For my money, Rush has always stood out as the voice of conservatism- both the parts I agree and disagree with. Rush has struggled to identity with any of the Republican candidates because none of them really fit the conservative template. Huckabee's supporters have been particularly aggressive in attempting to get Rush to recognize Huckabee's conservative positions on abortion and other social issues, yet Rush has consistently pointed out that a few social positions alone does not a conservative make. On economic issues, Huckabee seems to sound much more like a big government Democrat.

When it comes to the rest of the field, Fred Thompson seems conservative, but he has as much appeal as Law and Order: Trial by Jury. Rush hates John McCain and has made no bones in the past about saying that the man is not a conservative, which really only leaves Giuliani and Romney as possible Rush candidates of choice. I think, in the end, Rush could be happy with either Giuliani or Romney, but both have their downsides as far as conservatives go. Giuliani's downsides are a bit more transparent- his liberal social views on abortion, gay rights, and gun control. Romney's a bit more problematic, as he seems to have renounced all of the big government northeastern Republican bills he championed as governor of Massachusetts.

The problem for the Rush Limbaugh conservatives is that every candidate represents some sort of philosophical sacrifice, although clearly, some are worse than others. I really have no idea which Republican will ultimately win the nomination, but here are a few predictions on what might happen if particular candidates win:

* I think most conservatives would support McCain, however grudgingly. Even Rush would be on board because Hillary or Obama are certainly no better. The media still loves McCain, but I wonder whether he's too old at this stage of his career to really play the part.

* Romney seems to be the establishment candidate of choice, although the real question is how Evangelical Republicans will respond to a Mormon candidate. Out of the four here I think Romney is the most likely to fail in the general election. I just can't see how a guy who looks the part of a politician would fair well in a general election after repositioning themselves as a conservative Republican. He'll either have no appeal to moderates or he'll come across as a spineless, flip-flopping politician.

* Guiliani has the same centrist appeal of McCain, but with much more pull among the Limbaugh style conservatives. Guiliani stands a chance in a general election, but any presidential race about Guiliani will be all about 9-11 and Islamic terrorism, but not so much a policy type issue. Rather the race will end up being a referendum on 9-11 and terrorism in general. Not just the importance of terrorism, but how sick will middle of the road voters get of Guiliani bringing it up.

* Huckabee winning the nomination could literally mean a Republican crack-up. If you listen to what he says, Huckabee may actually be to the left of Hillary and Obama when you take the big social issues out of the picture. In my mind, Huckabee is an example of compassionate conservatism gone horribly wrong- a populist out to bring government into everyones' lives, melding the worst of the Democrat and Republican platforms. If Huckabee somehow managed to win, there may well be some conservatives who would not vote for Huckabee not only because of principle, but because the Democrat alternatives just didn't seem any different.


Blogger McMc said...

Here's the thing...It's not the worst thing in the world to have a Republican that is a little "liberal" on social issues. What people seem to forget is, just because you're conservative doesn't mean you have to always stand pat on all the same issues. Think of it like a football team. When a team gets too conservative, they don't put points on the board. They may play tough but they are beatable. Same goes for teams that are too liberal with the ball. Eventually, you're going to make mistakes. The key is, and always is, a solid mix. For Republican candidates, that perfect mix is conservative economic views and being a little liberal on social issues. Economics will always be the same in this country but social issues are always changing. It's not smart to just say no to everything. At some point, you have to take a chance on abortion or gun control and see what you get.

I'm just tired of these radio/TV personalities being the voice of the Republican party. Bill O'Reilly (although he claims to be moderate), Ann Coulter, Rush the long run they're doing more bad than good. It's easy to take a moral stance on something when you're sitting on your cushy perch. These people don't get down in the trenches, they just observe and they don't think like the average citizen. Republicans and conservatives, as weird as it may sound, need a voice of change. Albeit, not a radical change, but some sort of progression.

As as a conservative voter, I should know. Republicans rest too strongly on the support they always have from southern and other conservative states. It's one thing to win by a little, it's another to have the support of a country. Of all the candidates in this election, I think Guiliani is the man for the job. He did wonders in New York, both in crisis and in the norm. He's got that everyman quality that Bush has but at the same time he remains a politician. He's the best mix of conservatism and liberalism of the candidates and I think as long as he doesn't go overkill on 9/11 and terrorism, he could unite the people. I agree that McCain might be too old to play the part and I'm not sure he'd really look the part either. Romney isn't bad but people will have a problem with his Mormon faith and Huckabee just seems insane.

One last thing to think about though is this: It's not only about finding the best candidate for your party, but the best for the election. Huckabee definitely can't hold any water with Hilary or Obama and it's hard to say if Romney could. McCain and Giuliani are the ones with the real clout in this thing. If Rudy is the candidate, I think the Republicans take New York, even if he's against Hilary. Rudy is a beloved figure in New York City and I can't imagine the people turning their backs on him. If Rudy can just win over his own party (and I think he will), he can make a serious run at the White House.

(Also, how could you not vote for a guy that was on "Seinfeld" and "SNL"? He might be the most personable candidate of the whole group.)

2:18 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

I appreciate the comment here and thought it was worth a response.

I brought up Rush Limbaugh, because, in my mind, he's always been the popular voice of conservativism, for better or for worse. I've respected him because philosophically, he's always come from a similar starting point as myself- appreciation and respect for the individual combined with a natural distrust of the government's abilities to solve all of societies problems.

The real issue is, what really makes a conservative today, and I think that's precisely the problem the Republicans are dealing with this election cycle. Liberals tend to have the same problems, but the truth is, the Democrat candidates are much closer than the Republican candidates. Liberals believe government can solve problems and meld this belief with a belief of freedom in the personal realm.

I've always thought of Rush as a voice of conservativism because he's always stood as a counterpoint to what liberals stand for. The point is, if you start to take on what are considered to be liberal positions, than at some point that has to make you a liberal.

I agree with you on Rudi and the importance of being willing to change on social issues. It's unfortunate abortion is such a lighting rod, because it's not really an issue at all when it comes to actually making policy. And when it comes to gay rights, does it really make sense in the long run to hold positions that are going to drive millions of potential voters to the other party?

I think the real problem for conservatives are these social issues. Mike Huckabee should not be allowed to call himself a conservative when he basically governed as a liberal, but has kept conservative views on a number of key social positions. If Huckabee succeeds, he'll can lay claim to re-defining conservatism as an anti-abortion, anti-gay form of liberalism. And as I said, I think there will be a huge split if Huckabee somehow manages to win- there are a large number of conservatives and Republicans who don't much at all, either way about abortion and gays, but do care about lower taxes and smaller government. And if Huckabee runs, watch out, because a large number of Republicans make come looking in libertarian directions.

Truth be told, that might not be such a bad thing from my perspective

I disagree with him on immigration, gay marriage, and maybe his blind faith in a militant foreign policy,

2:49 PM  

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