Friday, November 07, 2008

Listen to Perkins!

Chief of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins is out blaming the moderates for GOP losses in 2008. What's needed, he says, is a party more committed to pure Republican principles -- fiscally and socially.

This, to put it mildly, is tough to swallow in the face of the evidence. The fact is that there are several seats in deep red territory that are now Democratic directly resulting from Republican intolerance of moderate politicians. The Maryland first, gerrymandered specifically to elect a Republican, will be sending a Democrat to Congress after a right-wing challenger knocked off a moderate incumbent who would have assuredly cruised to re-election. The Michigan 7th saw the same thing -- a right-winger who defeated a moderate incumbent in 2006 got defeated in 2008. Bill Sali, the furthest right-wing candidate in a multi-member primary in 2006, lost his Idaho(!) seat this year to a Democrat. The blood red 2nd Ohio district is competitive every year because Jean Schmidt is their representative. And so on.

Put more broadly, there is very little proof that "pure" conservative principles enjoy broad popularity in the United States (gay-bashing, alas, is a major exception). Most Americans voted for Barack Obama even though they (wrongly) believed he was raise their taxes. There isn't much proof that Americans really oppose spending on social welfare programs. Even on social issues, this was a pretty good year for liberals (outside of gay rights), winning battles on abortion, marijuana, and assisted suicide.

The fact is that, at the moment, conservative governance is not all that popular. They can talk all they want about how conservatives "abandoned conservative principles", but if they respond to this election by lurching even further to the right, they're going to spend a long time out in the cold.


Matt said...

I usually try to stay out of political strategizing, but is this like Clinton's move to the center, which has since been denounced as a poor long-term strategy?

PG said...

winning battles on abortion

Keep in mind that the measures being proposed to limit abortion were frankly insane. Declaring a fertilized ovum to be a human being is one of those things that even Tony Perkins wouldn't believe if he actually thought through it. I'm continually befuddled as to why social conservatives don't go for more appealing measures, like putting European-style limitations on abortion and strictly limiting it for post-viability fetuses. I'm not sure this actually would reduce the total number of abortions that much (there are barely any post-viability abortions as it is, and the low abortion rates in Europe have a lot to do with their having low rates of unwanted pregnancy in the first place), but pushing such sane measures would force Democrats either to concede or to look too radical.

It would be a lot smarter than the Palin position of "You're a 14-year-old raped by your father, now we're going to make you have this baby; but in an effort to make myself sound sympathetic, I'll say that you shouldn't go to jail for an abortion, your doctor should."

I suppose the "partial birth" abortion was an effort of this sort. I just hated it because it was so antithetical to genuine concern for women's well-being. "In defense of life, we'll now regulate abortion to ban the safer procedure, but not do anything to prohibit actual late-term (i.e. post-viability) abortions."