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October 12, 2006

Why Are Conservatives So Down On The GOP?

The reasons offered, usually, are immigration, overspending, corruption, and general political ineptness.

But I wonder about that. At least, I wonder about the first three.

One that's not mentioned as frequently is the War in Iraq. Which I think is more of a factor in conservative disatisfaction that many conservative war-supporters are willing to admit, perhaps even to themselves.


The GOP was willing, it seemed at first, to go along with Bush's amnesty plan. Although the plan has supporters in Congress (like, for example, John McCain), no one would be suggesting such a plan were the President himself not pushing it, putting his own political capital and political muscle behind it.

It seems, then, wrong to blame congressional Republicans for Bush's political misadventure. Furthermore, of course, the congressional Republicans actuallly listened to their angry constituents and wounded Bush by refusing to support his plan, voting for a fence-first plan.

On overspending, the GOP has much to answer for, but at least they again listened and began, however slightly, to reform the corrupt and wasteful earmark system.

And on corruption: I think most conservatives believe government is inherently corrupt, which is one of the reasons we seek to limit it. (Actually, being realists, we believe humanity is inherently corrupt.) And while there has been corruption, it is not unexpected, it is not rampant, it is not being covered up. And of course the Democrats are more corrupt. (See Reid, Harry.)

And it's just not true that the GOP-controlled Congress hasn't managed anything positive. They voted through Bush's plan for detainees. They voted through quite a few acceptable constitutionalist judges (maybe the second biggest agenda-item after winning the war on terror). They've cut taxes and seek to make the cuts permanent (the third biggest agenda-item) and even talk of cutting them more.

So why so down?

I wonder if the last answer -- political ineptness -- is the driving reason. It's more fun to root for a winning team, isn't it? As a Giants fan, I know that when the Giants lose badly, not only am I depressed, but I actively wish them to lose all their games, partly to punish them for disappointing me, and a bit to force changes to the team (fire Coughlin!) and get better draft picks the following year.

Although a dispirited fanbase can hurt a team when it gets no cheers at home, the effects are fairly limited.

But in politics, of course, it's not really "the team" -- the candidates themselves -- who decide the outcome of "the game." It's the fans. The fans decide, by voting.

The dark mood of conservatives is part of a vicious cycle -- the GOP is perceived to be doing poorly at the polls, prone to make mistakes, failing to capitize on Democratic missteps, and just generally getting in their own way. This breeds resentment, which leads to conservatives declaring they won't vote for the GOP, which pushes the GOP down further in the polls, etc.

How much of the dextrosphere funk is due to objective policy failures of the GOP, and how much is due to the feeling they're losing, which disappoints us, and so we vent by wishing further failure on them?

I also wonder if the War in Iraq has an effect. The war isn't going well. We expected a fairly quick war and a fairly quick occupation; we got the former, but definitely not the latter.

Conservatives were, by a majority of perhaps 90%, in favor of the War in Iraq, most of us strongly so. (I know I was.) I wonder if criticizing the GOP on other issues is a way of expressing a disatisfaction with the War in Iraq which seems, somehow, forbidden. We pushed it, after all; we can hardly blame Bush for it. Myself, I savaged Bush online when he seemed to be backing away from a commitment to remove Saddam Hussein, or to be overly concerned with the UN and diplomacy and giving inspectors a chance and all that rot.

So I wonder if there's a bit of buyer's remorse here, magnifying the GOP's failings on other issues due to a possibly-unconscious need to lash out at Bush for the continuing chaos and violence in Iraq.

As Andrew Sullivan says -- I'm not endorsing this, I'm just airing it.

Actually, that's bullshit; I'm endorsing it, although tentatively. The conservative backlash against the GOP seems disproportionate to its sins, real and perceived. There has to be something else going on here, I think -- partly the sports fans' perpetual cry of "Fire all the bums," and partly a disatisfaction with the War on Iraq, which we feel has to be supported, and has to be won.

Which it does. It's just not as easy to do so as it once was, and it's beginning to look quite possible we will, in some ways, actually wind up losing a war we can't afford to lose, and no one from Bush on down seems to have any miracle solutions to reverse the state of things.


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posted by Ace at 02:57 PM

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