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March 06, 2013

"Do We on the Right Still Trust the People?"

Jim Geraghty asks that provocative question in his Morning Jolt newsletter and concludes the answer is...not really.

It's a very interesting essay that I think gets near but not at the heart of the matter. Yes, the Democratic narrative is as he lays it out...

In the beginning, there was Bush, and Bush was bad. There was war, and it was bad; the war created the deficits, and so did Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. Because all the money went to tax cuts and wars, the government didn’t make necessary “investments” in “roads and bridges” and “green energy.” People couldn’t get health care. The oceans were rising.

Then we elected Obama, and it started getting better immediately! Okay, not everywhere, and maybe the progress and improvement was really hard to measure, but Obama inherited the worst crises of any president ever. Nobody could have generated better results than he did. The arc of history bent more toward justice, and better days are ahead, just you wait and see…

Now, you can come up with dozens of objections to those few sentences, but for the average Obama voter, that’s the gist of the state of the country from 2001 to today. It’s not all that different from your usual religious narrative, you have a fall of paradise (the election of Bush) the Devil (Bush), the messiah figure (Obama), the coming of a new kingdom and ultimate utopia. The purpose of the believer is to continue to believe in the redeeming messiah figure in the face of skepticism and doubt, because belief in him makes you one of the special and enlightened ones, and so on.

The problem for conservatives is the story starts before that. The internecine fighting we see today on the right isn't simply on how we should react to what Jim describes as "swarms of voters who believe that government – the very same government who had disappointed them and failed them time and again – will solve their problems." Our problem is we don't trust each other as conservatives. It's the "grassroots" vs. "establishment" fight were seeing and it predates "fiscal cliffs" and sequestration.

The Gingrich Revolution of 1994 eventually became the Hastert-Bush conservative malaise. Yes, the War on Terror dominated the Bush presidency but from No Child Left Behind to Medicare Part D and across the board spending hikes, many conservative felt betrayed. You can even argue it goes further back than that. The Reagan Revolutionizes saw their hard work to move the GOP to the right rewarded with...George H.W. Bush.

One reason so many on the right are unwilling to allow the governing part of the GOP/conservative coalition any room for strategic retreats is we've simply seen that when you give them an inch, they'll take a mile.

Conservatives hear how the GOP is a wholly owned subsidiary of the far, far right, we look at H.W. Bush, Dole, W. Bush, McCain, Romney (along with Lott, Frist, McConnell, Hastert and Boehner) and say, "if only!".

You can say, well they were elected and nominated by Republicans (including conservatives) and you'd be right. That's the problem. Most conservatives don't trust other conservatives or Republicans let alone moderates or liberals.

Until we find a solution to the fractured nature of the center-right coalition (beyond "we hate Obama"), the Obamabots are a secondary problem.

As for those Obama voters, yeah I trust them. I trust them to mindlessly internalize media propaganda. I trust them to continue to talk a good game ("polls show most Americans want a smaller government!") and then vote like the big government liberals they are.

That's why I think Jim's question misses the mark, it's not whether we trust them to be the people we think they can and should be but why to we continue to disbelieve them when they've been saying for longer than Obama's been around, "no, we're not those kinds of people".


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posted by DrewM. at 09:53 AM

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