You know, I rarely agree with David Frum on anything, but much of his assessment of the McCain campaign in this morning's Washington Post hits the nail pretty much on the head. Here's an excerpt:
A year ago, the Arizona senator's team made a crucial strategic decision. McCain would run on his (impressive) personal biography. On policy, he'd hew mostly to conservative orthodoxy, with a few deviations — most notably, his support for legalization for illegal immigrants. But this strategy wasn't yielding results in the general election. So in August, McCain tried a bold new gambit: He would reach out to independents and women with an exciting and unexpected vice presidential choice.
That didn't work out so well either. Gov. Sarah Palin connected with neither independents nor women. She did, however, ignite the Republican base, which has come to support her passionately. And so, in this last month, the McCain campaign has
Palinized itself to make the most of its last asset. To fire up the Republican base, the McCain team has hit at Barack Obama as an alien, a radical and a socialist.
enthusiasm among Republicans, these last weeks have at last energized
the core of the party. But there's a downside: The very same campaign
strategy that has belatedly mobilized the Republican core has alienated
and offended the great national middle, which was the only place where
the 2008 election could have been won.
Like I said; it's difficult to argue with that sentiment. John McCain
will likely lose this election, because he played to the Republican
base, and not to the real strength in this election, which is the
middle of the ideological spectrum.
But there's something in the above that really bothers me, and has
bothered me for a while, and that is the concept that the Republican
"base" represents anything resembling what Frum calls "conservative
There is nothing about the current Republican base that represents
"conservative orthodoxy" in the least. What is in any way
"conservative" about what wingnuts believe? Conservatives believe in
small government, right? Well, the only president since 1980 that has
reigned in the size of government was Bill Clinton; all of the neocon presidents, Reagan and the two Bushes, have expanded government and government power.
The current president, George W. Bush, whom the Republican base adores, gleefully presided over the creation of the most massive government bureaucracy in history, with the ridiculous "Department of Homeland Security," as well as the most insidious incursion of government into our lives, with their programs for spying on us, and their suspension of habeas corpus.
Is that now "conservative orthodoxy"? And if it is, when did it change? Aren't conservatives supposed to believe in reigning in spending, and paying all of your bills? Well, Bill Clinton left the "conservatively orthodox" George W. Bush with a budget surplus, and Bush proceeded to cut taxes, and explode the deficit once again. Even in the face of war time spending, Bush couldn't give in to his conservative instincts, and at least restore tax rates to where they had been when the budget was in balance. Instead, he just lte the deficit run wild, and shrugged his shoulders and said "don't worry about it" when it was mentioned that such spending might come back to bite us later.
And speaking of money, since when is it "conservative orthodoxy" to leave the financial markets, which are, after all, made up of our money, unregulated, and then to print money at will, when the markets collapse under the weight of their own greed, to bail them out? I always thought conservatism was all about paying your way, and entering the capitalist market with eyes open, and taking your losses yourself. Has it really become "conservative orthodoxy" to create a "daddy" state, in which you can take all sorts of stupid risks with your (and other people's) money, and then demand that the government bail your ass out? When McCain was stupidly recommending "buying up bad mortgages" as a solution to the current economic crisis, was he actually expressing "conservative orthodoxy" in doing so?
And what about the "social engineering" types of crap these "orthodox conservatives" have been treated to in the last several decades? When did the "conservative orthodoxy" move away from "strong personal freedom"? Why is it now "orthodox" for so-called "conservatives" to demand that government make pregnancy decisions in place of a woman, and to decide whose marriage should be recognized by the government?
And when did it become "conservative orthodoxy" to use our military to run interference for oil companies, or to attack a country that didn't serve as a viable threat, and to continue to use them to occupy that country, as wel pillage their resources? Is it truly "conservative orthodoxy" to put our military people in harm's way, with no clear mission and no clear exit strategy? Shouldn't an exit strategy be part of any military action from the beginning?
And here's a question for Frum; if these positions are so "orthodox," then shouldn't McCain be winning by a wide margin? Because, I think most of us share a somewhat conservative vision with regard to most things. One of the reasons the neocons have been able to get themselves elected is because they were able to couch their extremist views in terms that real conservatives could accept. McCain has chosen not to do that; he is expressing neocon sentiments in their rawest form, without the pretty ribbons that usually hide their true agenda.
Come on, David; if the neocon "vision" was actually so "orthodox," then people would be flocking to McCain's side while he calls Obama a "socialist" and his insane running mate suggests visions of Obama as a latter-day Stalin, because that really is how neocons see the world.
The reality is, Freepers are not "orthodox," nor are they "conservative." They're political freaks of nature, and they deserve to be relegated to the fringes. And that is what you're seeing here, folks; fringe groups are being forced back to the fringe.