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December 9, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Cognitive dissonance in the GOP

A big reason for the defection of mainstream conservatives from Republican ranks is the hollow pretense that party insiders make about their ideological purity as they shove aside anyone who does not fall in lock-step with their agenda. A perfect example of this tendency is John Hawkins, who recently laid out "Five Hard Truths For RINOS." * Like many of the simple-minded actvists who see the world in terms of black and white, he posits a false dichotomy -- "between the people who want the party to become more principled and those who want to turn the GOP into a poll-driven pile of mush that they believe will be more appealing to centrists." He then makes five dumbed-down, red-herring arguments that have almost nothing to do with GOP core principles or winning elections. Oh, brother, here we go again with more right-wing delusions...

With that in mind, I offer "Five Hard Truths For The Base":

  1. Appealing to centrist voters does NOT mean abandoning conservative principles, it means using logic rather than emotion.
  2. Wanting to put more emphasis on fiscal conservatism (as I do) does NOT mean wanting to "kick social conservatives to the curb," it means restoring a sense of balance and fidelity to the Republican Party's own heritage.
  3. To many non-partisan voters, the Republicans' failure to seriously address the problem of illegal immigration is proof that the GOP doesn't know how to govern, but just wants to exploit anti-immigrant sentiment to win elections.
  4. In terms of politics, the president who has held office for the last eight years has been more devoted to courting the GOP "Base" (e.g., using wedge issues) than even Ronald Reagan himself.
  5. In terms of policy, that very same "Base-focused" administration has been notorious for betraying conservative principles whenever it was expedient.

The fact that so many people on the Right refuse to face up to the glaringly obvious contradiction between the last two points is truly "one of the most surreal aspects of the post-2008 campaign," using Hawkins' own words. It's people like him in the Republican leadership who are in dire need of a reality check. President Bush and "The Base" are two peas in a pod, and in a way it's funny to watch those people get themselves all tangled up in twisted logic as they blame "RINOs" instead of their own Chief Executive. To put the crux of the matter in even more simple terms, No one can honestly claim to be both a principled conservative and a loyal supporter of President Bush. In sum, what we have here is a classic example of "cognitive dissonance": simultaneously holding two contradictory ideas in one's mind, and refusing to act upon the awareness thereof. (For example, when people keep smoking cigarettes even though they know it's potentially lethal.) Those folks can keep howling at the moon all they want, but it won't change the fact that they are living a lie.

For the record, while other Republican activists were loudly cheering "W" and chastising others for "disloyalty," I've been calmly but persistently warning about Bush's waywardness since 2005. I made cautionary allusions about him even further back. Bush not only squandered the opportunity for reform following his 2004 reelection, he has left the Republican Party in a shambles that will take years to repair.

* That's "Republicans In Name Only," for you folks in Rio Linda.

Conservatives for Obama???

According to Joel Mowbray in the Washington Times (hat tip to Connie), a critical factor in Barack Obama's electoral victory was support from conservatives. "What???" Many conservatives no longer consider themselves to be Republicans, and, according to Curtis Gans, from American University, "many culturally conservative Republicans still did not see [John McCain] as one of their own and stayed home."

Actually, it shouldn't be much of a surprise, given that neither John McCain nor the right-wing faction that currently dominates the Republican Party are really conservative in any meaningful sense of the word. McCain is a pragmatic moderate, and the folks belonging to "The Base" are, by and large, pseudo-conservatives, a term coined by Richard Hofstadter. It refers to ideological zealots with a paranoid tendency to suspect outsiders; see October 2006, and scroll down to the second item. I'll have more to say on that subject later.

Wait, Jeb, wait!

Should Jeb Bush run for the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated by Republican Mel Martinez two years from now? That depends mainly on whether there are good alternative candidates in Florida. For the time being, the Bush "name brand" is more likely to do the GOP harm than good, so I would prefer that Jeb wait a few years before making a run for such an office.

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 09 Dec 2008, 2: 18 PM

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