My friend Doug Masson blogs that yesterday proved the Tea Party toothless. I’m not so sure. There was an overabundance of candidates in key open races, so name recognition won the day — and incumbency gives name recognition along with the other perks that inadvertently invariably accompany campaign reform (Coats has some of that name recognition still).
It’s hard for a conservative to disagree with the Tea Party’s “free-market principles, limited government and individual liberty” mantra, but its attitude that every issue is non-negotiable is making it look obstructionist, and may kill it or kill a more pragmatic conservatism. This is my take-away from Kathleen Parker’s column at WaPo today (Parker was, as I recall, one of the first conservatives to point out that Empress Palin has no clothes):
What non-ideologues may see as cooperation, however, is viewed by true believers as weakness. Any attempt at compromise is viewed as surrendering principle. Under the new order, a Good Conservative wouldn’t cross the aisle to perform a Heimlich maneuver.
(Gotta love that last phrase.) Michael Gerson frets that such an attitude threatens genuine innovative conservatives (is that an oxymoron? Must we use yesterday’s nostrums to address today’s problems?) like Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, a red governor of a blue state who may have gotten there partly by being genial rather than harsh.
(Trivia question: can you think of any other breakthrough candidates whose outward niceness hid his inner ideologue? Hint: Are the initials “B.O.” familiar?)
Another attitude that makes conservatism unattractive to the “reality-based community” (a liberal neologism with some valence when many conservatives are unhinged — and the press makes sure we know it) is that tax cuts are the no-fail Miracle Gro of revenue generation so we can go on having our tasty slop from the government trough. Ross Douthat at NYT
suggested recently that “conservative domestic policy would be in better shape if conservative magazines and conservative columnists were more willing to call out Republican politicians (and, to a lesser extent, conservative entertainers)” for advancing bad ideas and bogus arguments,
hoping thereby to elicit things like
Kevin Williamson’s fine piece on supply-side economics from the last National Review, in which he goes after the panglossian misinterpretation of supply-side theory that’s become dogma among too many Republican politicians and activists — namely, that tax cuts generate so much economic growth (and with it, increased government revenue) that they more than pay for themselves. As Williamson notes, the most prominent supply-side theorists themselves don’t believe this ….
What may save conservatism is things like the Florida’s Marco Rubio (okay, Marco is a person, not a thing, and his website reflects the “no Heimlich Maneuver for liberals” attitude as I post this), a Latino in the broad sense, and the Frederick Douglas Foundation, which are giving the GOP a welcome — ahem! — suntan. No longer need blacks or Latinos be simply contrary to declare themselves conservative and, yes, even Republican.