Where’s a Conservative to turn on election day?

There’s too many good, smart people blogging and too few running for office.

Daniel Larison, to whose blog I just resumed subscribing, has several items in the last week on the incoherence of “movement conservatism” – i.e., the fake conservatism of the current G.O.P., Fox TV, TownHall.com, etc..

In The “Republican Obama” Syndrome on April 6, he writes, in the context of Movement Conservative Hosanna’s for some neophyte named Marco Rubio, about a paradox:

Obama causes a very strange reaction in Republicans. On the one hand, they want to regard him as a joke and an incompetent, but they also desperately want to find someone who can imitate his appeal and success, and so it is almost as if they go out of their way to anoint whatever young politician they come across as their new hero and then disregard all of the person’s liabilities by saying, “Well, he’s no more inexperienced than Obama was” or “She’s still better than Obama!” It is an odd mix of contempt for Obama mixed with admiration for Obama’s success and an even stranger need to outdo him in the categories that originally caused them to view Obama so poorly.

In Hawks Are Just Embarrassing Themselves on April 7, he deconstructs a particular hawkish comment (about Obama’s supposed contribution to “a startling period of auto-emasculation” in nuclear policy) and thus reveals a common genre of attack on Obama:

“The substance of Obama’s positions is unchanged from the previous administration, but it is imperative that I make him appear as a weak buffoon, so I will simply invent a complaint about entirely superficial appearances that mean nothing.”

[The author of the lame hawkish comment] is just one among many conservatives thrown into apoplexy by basically nothing.

One Republican Obama critic actually lamented that “Obama will downsize the military-industrial complex.” Really?! And that’s bad?!

On a roll, on Thursday Larison questions in The Triumph of Ideology the claim that the conservative mind has closed by denying that the “Movement Conservative” mind was ever open.

The conservative mind of the sort described by Kirk is one that is both grounded in principle and also very capable of critical thinking and self-criticism, but what I think we have seen in recent years is not much the closing of such a mind as its replacement by an ideological mentality that is basically hostile to a conservative mind …

Where conservative intellectuals once had to prove themselves by the strength of their arguments, they could now increasingly get along by repeating not much more than slogans and audience-pleasing half-truths …

The creation of the conservative media as an “alternative” to mainstream media gave way to conservative media as a near-complete substitute for their conservative audience. At one point, there was a desire, which I think was partly very genuine, for greater fairness to the conservative perspective, but this soon morphed into the need to construct a parallel universe of news and commentary untainted by outsiders …

[T]he supposed radical reactionary extremists [so labeled by Movement Conservatives] were actually the far, far more reasonable ones who were not advocating all of the things that have become so important to movement conservatives: aggressive war, reckless power projection, expansion of state surveillance and detention, exaggeration of the nature and scope of foreign threats, and absolute deference to the executive in “time of war” ….

I’m not keen on Obama (and neither is Larison), but give me some criticisms that aren’t brain-dead sound bites, for gosh sake!

One wonders where Republican hawks can possibly go from here. They have almost three more years of an Obama Presidency to endure, and already they have gone mad with alarmism, hysterics and overreaction to fairly ho-hum policy decisions. Obama needs a credible, sane opposition to keep him in check and challenge him when he is actually wrong. Right now, he doesn’t have that, and all of us will suffer for it. His own party will not hold him accountable, because a President’s party never does, but in any contest between an erring Obama and a mad GOP the latter will keep losing.

(Deterrence and Disamarmament, April 8, again by Larison – emphasis added).

I’ve been reading for the first time Russell Kirk’s classic, The Conservative Mind (alluded to by Larison), and I am struck by the extent to which today’s putative conservatives are not true conservatives, but hawkish and cynical statists. Having lost the “evil empire” in 1989, they keep looking for enemies we supposedly can and must eradicate, and dissing the Democrats for insufficient eradicatory zeal.

Do you think I exaggerate? Are you going to fling 9-11 at me?

My take on 9-11 and terrorism, after more than a little vacillation, is “if there’s no solution, there’s no ‘problem.'” Problems have solutions. Terrorism has no solution and thus is not a problem. Terrorism instead is an evil, a dark mystery with which we must live for the foreseeable future – taking reasonable precautions, of course, but stopping short of “aggressive war, reckless power projection, expansion of state surveillance and detention, exaggeration of the nature and scope of foreign threats, and absolute deference to the executive in ‘time of war.’”

In 1972, I voted for McGovern over the patently-crooked Nixon. Having absorbed in subsequent years the radical change wrought in the Democrat party that year (I’m thinking of blogging on that change), I’m not sure I could do something like that again. Not that I slavishly follow its endorsements, but Indiana Right to Life announced this week a blanket policy of endorsing no Democrats in 2010. My first reaction was negative, but it’s a decently-thought-out position:

Whereas the Democratic Party officially endorses the right to unrestricted abortion on demand; and

Whereas Democratic leadership continues aggressively to advance federal policies that undermine the right to life of unborn children; and

Whereas Congressman Brad Ellsworth, Congressman Baron Hill, and Congressman Joe Donnelly betrayed the trust of pro-life Hoosiers by voting for the pro-abortion federal health care reform bill; and

Whereas the Democratic caucus in the Indiana House, under the leadership of Speaker Pat Bauer, continues to block all legislation aimed at limiting, restricting, and reducing abortions in the state of Indiana; and

Whereas candidates of the Democratic Party are responsible for the policies and actions of the party and its leadership;

Be it resolved that the Indiana Right to Life Political Action Committee will grant no endorsements to any Democratic candidates for any public office.

Still, Republicans: give me a credible choice! Voting for McCain was the hardest Presidential vote I’ve cast since 1972. I’m beginning to understand people who stay home muttering “to hell with them all.”