The divided conservative mind

The three of us contributing to this site seem to me to reflect the division among conservative Republican voters trying to find the strongest candidate to take on Barack Obama. We are in search of the rightwardmost viable candidate. We are united by our desire to overcome Obama. But how to do it? The answer is not obvious.

John Hinderaker is among a host of prominent conservative commentators coming to the conclusion that Mitt Romney is the guy, but I think John got there first. Steve Hayward isn’t exactly supporting Newt Gingrich — perhaps he is only resisting Mitt — but he is toying with the idea in a historically minded way. And me, I’m undecided. I am struck by the weakness of the GOP field in general and by the offsetting strengths and weaknesses of the frontrunners in particular.

It’s almost enough to make you want to take another look at the left-behinds, like Huntsman and Perry. That’s what George Will did in a recent column. I understand the impetus for the column, but no. To Will’s column, which provides some historical context, I recommend adding Bill Kristol’s Weekly Standard editorial “Hughes, Dewey, Nixon, Dole…?”

Every presidential election seems like the most important of our lifetime. Gore v. Bush, Kerry v. Bush, Obama v. McCain — we thought they were epochal elections. The prospect of four more years of Obama (and the coming of Obamacare) seems like the apocalypse to me. There’s a lot of ruin in a country, but we’re testing the outer limits here.

Professor Paul Rahe provides additional historical context to our current situation in “The return of John Lindsay.” Professor Rahe offers a glimmer of optimism:

It is, of course, possible that the Republican Party will hand Obama another victory. None of the figures seeking the Republican presidential nomination inspires confidence. All are either inept in some obvious way or have baggage that voters might find off-putting, and the one most likely to be effective in debating the President has the most baggage. It is easy to see how Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich can be demonized.

But I nonetheless think that the Republicans are likely to win. The John Lindsay coalition [Rahe’s description of the coalition that elected Obama in 2008] is an exceedingly fragile one. One might even say that it is apt to self-destruct. The material interests of upscale voters and those of Americans dependent on government largesse do not coincide, and in a time of straitened circumstances and widespread unemployment the tensions between those who pay the bulk of the taxes collected and those on the take are apt to be extreme. How many upscale voters want to see their taxes dramatically increased in the near future? It may not be bread alone that determines voting patterns in the US, but during economic downturns such concerns loom especially large. I could easily imagine a new coalition taking shape – one that unites upscale voters, working stiffs, and small businessmen against public-sector workers and those who live off government patronage. Such a coalition, forged in a time of suffering, might last a very long time, and, if it did, the number of public-sector workers and of those living off government patronage would steadily decline.

To this analysis, we can add one more item. Barack Obama has done for the United States what John Lindsay did for the city of New York. He has brought us to the edge of bankruptcy, and he has made us look into the abyss – and he has compounded the problem by saddling us with Obamacare, which grows less popular with time….

I have said it before, and I will say it again. Barack Obama is a gift to the friends of liberty. He is the sort of man who gives a bad cause a bad name.

Thanks. I needed that.


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