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October 14, 2011

Flip-Floppers: Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin Have Changed Their Position on Mitt Romney's Conservative Bona Fides

The writer here says his intent is not to indulge in mere "gotchas."

However, bold statements were made in 2008, which are the direct opposites of equally bold statements made in 2011.

Explanations are required.

Yesterday, Rush warned his massive audience that Romney is no conservative:
"Romney is not a conservative. He's not, folks. You can argue with me all day long on that, but he isn't... This isn't personal, not with what country faces and so forth. I like him very much. I've spent some social time with him. He's a fine guy. He's very nice gentleman. He is a gentleman. But he's not a conservative."

That's not a vitriolic attack in the least, but it's certainly an ideological judgment -- one that many people share. But what was Rush's assessment of Romney a few years ago, when he was in a dogfight with John McCain and Mike Huckabee for the Republican nomination? Let's hop into the memory machine and flash back to Rush's broadcast on Super Tuesday, 2008:

"I think now, based on the way the campaign has shaken out, that there probably is a candidate on our side who does embody all three legs of the conservative stool, and that’s Romney. The three stools or the three legs of the stool are national security/foreign policy, the social conservatives, and the fiscal conservatives. The social conservatives are the cultural people. The fiscal conservatives are the economic crowd: low taxes, smaller government, get out of the way."

Following that monologue, Rush posted this headline on his website:

I sort of understand the flip-flop, as I've done it myself. I got all aboard Team Romney (after being on Team Giuliani and then Team Thompson first) as an Anyone But McCain (or Huckabee) move. And yet, despite endorsing him (late in the game) in 2008, I have been in Anyone But Romney mode for some time.

So I understand this... some.

I guess what Benson wants explained -- and what I'd like explained too -- is how Romney was categorized as "conservative" in 2008 and is now apparently "not a conservative" in 2011.

You can say we can do better, or we should try for a stronger conservative, someone who's politics aren't so tactical (and therefore changeable); but to say he's not a conservative at all? After that kind of an endorsement in 2008?

One reason for this is that people don't realize themselves they've flip flopped, or that their positions have at least changed and hardened, and only notice the changes in others' positions. As Joe Walsh sang (ironically) in "Life's Been Good:"

Everybody's so different,
I haven't changed

Biggest example here: No one was particularly upset by RomneyCare in 2008. As a group, conservatives might have been unimpressed by it, or even wary, but they weren't ideologically and pragmatically hostile to it.

We hadn't thought enough about it to have a firm opinion. (Most of us. I'm sure some people hated it from Jump Street.)

But by now, in 2011, we have now considered this issue, and have made some firm conclusions, and our conclusion is that ObamaCare is awful, and its forerunner is awful too.

There's nothing wrong with that-- except that most of us don't realize we ourselves have shifted in opinion. Because the change feels organic to us, we are scarcely even aware there was a change at all.

Something similar happened with immigration. Bush was yammering about a Pathway to Citizenship very early in his presidential career. Most of us shrugged. Personally I wasn't a super-fan of this kind of talk, but I wasn't really bothered by it either.

Until he actually tried to ram his plan through. By that point I had thought more about it, had pieced together what I thought and why I thought it. (And the "why," of course, is Racism.)

But Bush didn't really "change" in 2006. I had changed.

The Republican Party has gotten a lot more conservative on ten major issues since 2006. When liberals say "They're more conservative than Bush was!!!," they're right. We are. We've shifted, most of us, and as a group at least, a good 10 or 20 degrees to the right since 2006.

My point is that if everyone's shifting, it's not altogether fair to point at a couple of politicians and shout about now heretical positions they once held, back when they weren't heresies at all (or only minor heresies).

What matters is currently-held positions. Or at least that matters the most.

Now, this doesn't really get Romney off the hook because he's still defending this monstrosity. And it doesn't get Perry off the hook about in-state tuition for illegals because he too is still defending it. (Or was, until his heartless comment cost him the election.)

But overall some perspective is needed. The stuff Rush Limbaugh is talking about now, the stuff he's agitating for, the tip-top stuff on his agenda, is not what he was talking about in 2008.

All of us are talking about different things. We are not the same people we were in 2006 or 2008, and we're not the same party.

It's a little silly for we, who have changed our own politics, shifting further to the right consistently for four years, to get too incensed about a politician's positions from before the Great Red Shift.

I put politician in italics because politicians are not philosophers. They're salesman for a particular electoral politics that can get a 51% share at the marketplace. What they sell depends largely on what the public is buying.

And the public -- the conservative electorate -- is buying something different now.

I guess I'm just more cynical on this than the average base voter. I expect these guys to be whores and pander to me. If they weren't pandering to me, I imagine I'd find a candidate who does pander to me more. In other words, these guys aren't Shapers of the Base's Beliefs. They do some of that, but mostly they are themselves shaped by the base's beliefs.

Given that the Great Red Shift is real, and really did move the party to a more purist/back to basics/constitutionalist/question everything mode, I'm not that upset that a politician might have been squishy, like much of the movement was, in 2006 or 2008. Bonus points if he never deviated from current doctrine, but the most important thing is where he is now.

Another Example: From 2002-2006 or even 2008, the thought of "bugging out" of Iraq and Afghanistan was anathema to conservatives.

Currently, I'd say it's a majority or near-majority position (minus the semantics of calling it a "bug out").

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posted by Ace at 12:29 PM

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