Tuesday, December 06, 2011


Conor Friedersdorf reanimates the undead in a post titled "Why a Newt Gingrich Candidacy Would Doom the Tea Party":

...Tea Partiers with a better instinct for self-preservation would see that none of the Mitt Romney alternatives still running would be as corrosive to their cause as the former Speaker of the House.


The Tea Party wasn't just a reaction to President Obama or the financial industry bailouts. As Jonah Goldberg puts it, "a major motivating passion of the tea-party movement was a long-delayed backlash against George W. Bush and his big-government conservatism." Support for the War on Terrorism and the invasion of Iraq caused many conservatives to stay loyal to Bush. But that didn't mean they liked No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, the attempt at a guest worker program, TARP, or the Harriet Miers nomination. Especially after the defeat of John McCain, many on the right insisted they'd never again support Bush-Rove conservatism.

And Gingrich supported almost all the most controversial Bush-Rove policies! ...

Where do I start?

I could make the obvious point that your argument is doomed if one of the sentences you write to defend your thesis begins, "As Jonah Goldberg puts it..." -- but do I even have to resort to snark at Goldberg's expense? It's true that the teabaggers claimed they were disgusted by George W. Bush and "big-government conservatism," but the reason this backlash was "long-delayed" was that the 'baggers had absolutely no problem with "big-government conservatism" while Bush was winning. When he had liberals and Democrats on the defensive, nobody gave a crap how big the deficit became. If we had another Republican president who could do what he did in his first term, the 'baggers would feel the same way, no matter how big the government grew.

And, yeah, the 'baggers and 'baggers-in-embryo were upset about Bush's immigration policies, about Harriet Miers, and about TARP. But, well somebody bought two million copies of Bush's book, at the height of Tea Mania. It sure wasn't Elizabeth Warren fans.

Friedersdorf's argument just gets dumber:

Another Tea Party talking point is its suspicion of Washington, D.C., insiders....

But Gingrich? He is the epitome of the Inside the Beltway insider....

Yeah? Well, a long-time right-wing talking point is "Hollywood is evil." But who's the biggest hero on the right? Ronald Reagan. Right-wingers valorize the military -- and then embraced draft-dodger George W. Bush against two Vietnam vets, one a multiple medal winner. (And the leaders for the 2012 nomination are two more chickenhawks.) Right-wingers hate the Eastern elite -- and voted for George Bush pere and fils six times as president or VP. These people have no consistent principles, except hating liberals and Democrats.

Oh, but Friedersdorf's argument gets even dumber:

Ron Paul supporting Tea Partiers would be the first to bail from a coalition that reshaped itself around Gingrich. In Reason magazine, Jacob Sullum runs through some of Gingrich's appalling positions on civil liberties: that the War on Terrorism somehow makes null certain rights to free speech and due process; that the government should stop the construction of a mosque until the day when Saudi Arabia permits churches and synagogues to be built; the proposal to escalate the War on Drugs by executing drug smugglers; support for warrantless wiretaps; and extreme hostility toward the co-equal judicial branch. It's true that only a small subset of Tea Party voters actually care about civil liberties with any kind of consistency, but Gingrich will alienate them.

Well, it's simply not true that "only a small subset of Tea Party voters actually care about civil liberties with any kind of consistency." Most of them care about civil liberties with astonishing consistency -- they're against them! Or at least they're against civil liberties for lefties, Muslims, and whoever Fox is priming them to hate this week. A few support the rights of people they hate -- but most adore Gingrich's take-off-the-gloves positions on these issues.

And finally:

... rally[ing] around the GOP nominee, even if it is Gingrich ... might do even more damage to the Tea Party....

President Gingrich would take office, and proceed to behave like... well, a decades-long Washington insider... Every conservative betrayal would be a reminder that the Tea Party helped elect just the sort of man they'd so righteously vowed to eschew.

The label wouldn't stand for anything anymore.

That's ridiculous. It would stand for crushing liberals and Democrats. If Gingrich were president and were doing that successfully, he could do whatever he wanted, including most, if not all, of the principle-violating stuff.

And a Gingrich loss to Obama? In a world where the Tea Party was seen as responsible for his rise, it would be discrediting, as losses always are for the faction that urges a divisive candidate.

The very people who "urged a divisive candidate" in 2008 -- Sarah Palin as VP -- weren't discredited at all: they became 'baggers and won the 2010 election. Hell, they're essentially the same people who backed the divisive George W. Bush. Republicans don't get discredited anymore. Not for long they don't. They just get infinite mulligans.


c u n d gulag said...

Letter perfect - from the title of the post to the period at the end of last sentence.

For a change, I'm at a loss for words, since you said what I thought much better than I would have. So, I'll shut up.

PS: You should cross-post this at Booman.

Steve M. said...

Well, Booman's on a roll right now posting about FDR. I don't want to interrupt that.

BH said...

What c u n d said. Right on the money.

Steve M. said...


Betty Cracker said...

One more point on the "tea party hates DC insiders" crap -- Dick Armey runs one of the largest "grass roots" tea party organizations. You're 100% correct, Steve; they don't give a shit about any principle except hippie bashing. They are SoCons in patriot drag, as one of my co-bloggers put it.

Greylocks said...

All the wingnuts really want is a virile daddy figure who bashes libruls. That's why they were enamored with Herman Cain, and why they're now enamored with Newt. Newt's serial adultery is only proof of how virile and manly he is. (It would have worked for Cain, too, if he hadn't overgroped).

They will accept a "flawed" candidate as long as they can persuade themselves that he's "right" on most issues, whether or not this is the case - their capacity for self-delusion about they people they support cannot be overestimated.

That's why Newt has a real chance to win the nomination. It has nothing to do with his positions on anything. It's because he's perceived as the tough-talking, librual-bashing daddy figure they long for.

Romney may win the nom, but if he does, it will be because Newt's campaign organization is virtually non-existent, and it may be too late to get it ramped up in time for the early primaries. Polling well does not translate to votes in primaries unless you have boots on the ground to GOTV, and at the moment he doesn't have that organizational capacity.

Greg said...

You keep pushing hard on the "Republican voters is crazy!" idea, as you should. It's obviously an idea that a lot of powerful people have a stake in not grokking.