TNR 09/02/04 "The Grumblers" by Franklin Foer
senior from Fordham University wearing an untucked white shirt stood to challenge the panel. "Bush spends like Carter and panders like Clinton. It feels like we've had the third term of a Clinton presidency," he said, decrying the dramatic growth of government on the president's watch. "Is there any betrayal that we wouldn't support?" With so many party loyalists in the room, you might have expected such comments to elicit boos. Instead, there was scattered applause. One man shouted, "Yes!" Stephen Moore, the president of the Club for Growth and the morning's moderator, solemnly turned to the speakers. "Why don't we address this? It's a serious question."
It wasn't just a stray moment of discontent. For all the encomiums GOP speakers have been showering on George W. Bush from the podium at Madison Square Garden, conservatives--especially conservative intellectuals--have a far less rosy view of the president. Last month, Andrew Ferguson wrote in The Weekly Standard, "[W]e'll let slip a thinly disguised secret--Republicans are supporting a candidate that relatively few of them find personally or politically appealing." Or, as conservative columnist Bruce Bartlett told me, "People are careful about how they say it and to who they say it, but, if you're together with more than a couple of conservatives, the issue of would we be better or worse off with Kerry comes up--and it's seriously discussed."
Do I think that Conservatives are going to defect en masse to Kerry? Of course not (though the article insinuates that one conservative academic-who I've quoted before-Prof. Niall Ferguson of NYU, has now thrown his support to Kerry). But its pretty hard to motivate the base when they are geniunely angry at their party's standard bearer.
The more interesting consquence could be that this could be the first election in a 100 years where both candidates are generally disliked. The animosity towards Bush on the left is legendary, and now his "allies" on the right are grumbling too. Liberals tend not have any love for Kerry (they'd vote for a trained monkey before they would vote for Bush...I summarize this view, my own, as "Better a freak chance than no chance."). Of course, Conservatives geniunely do think Kerry is an oppurtunistic flipflopper, and some of the more paranoid ones are even buying into the SBVT crap being put out there.
Ironically enough, this might be the perfect time for a third party candidate emerge, but the only viable one is Ralph Nader, and he's even more loathed than Bush or Kerry put together.
Huzzah for democracy!