Tag Archives: center-right

Can Conservatives With Integrity Save Us?

Many thanks to all the readers who posted kind thoughts yesterday. They are much appreciated!

Among the regular readers of this blog are several people I came to know through Republican politics. Even then–“back in the day”–I had philosophical differences with a couple of them. (I generally described myself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, but even in my politically-active days, I defined “fiscal conservatism” as prudence, as “pay as you go”–not as ignoring the needs of the poor while being generous to wealthy purported “job creators.”)

The thing is, philosophical differences are philosophical. Rational adults can discuss them, agree or disagree about what the evidence tells us, and even find middle ground. As anyone who is following today’s political environment can attest, today’s GOP is neither rational nor philosophical. Its members bear virtually no resemblance to the center-right, generally Conservative party of which I was once a part.

The liberals and Democrats who dismiss help from the so-called Never Trumpers point out that many of them actively worked for the GOP for years and continue to hold very conservative political views. True–and that is their strategic virtue. The crazies who currently control the GOP and its various propaganda arms certainly aren’t going to listen to people like me; they most definitely aren’t going to listen to AOC and think, “you know, she has a point.” When the New York Times or the Washington Post reports that something from Fox News is false, they aren’t going to believe it.

However, when people who are known to be principled conservatives refuse to engage in the propaganda, some who are not entirely lost to the cult may pay attention. So when longtime commentators resign from Fox in protest, it is a hopeful sign.Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg just did that very thing.

We joined Fox News as contributors in early 2009. Combined, that’s more than 20 years of experience, relationships, and friendships. For most of that time, we were proud to be associated with the network, if not necessarily with every program, opinion, or scandal that aroused controversy. We believed, sincerely, that the country needed Fox News. Whether you call it liberal media bias or simply a form of groupthink around certain narratives, having a news network that brought different assumptions and asked different questions—while still providing real reporting and insightful conservative analysis and opinion—was good for the country and journalism.

Fox News still does real reporting, and there are still responsible conservatives providing valuable opinion and analysis. But the voices of the responsible are being drowned out by the irresponsible.

A case in point: Patriot Purge, a three-part series hosted by Tucker Carlson.

As they write, the Carlson piece is not the “hard-hitting expose” Fox is promoting.

it is a collection of incoherent conspiracy-mongering, riddled with factual inaccuracies, half-truths, deceptive imagery, and damning omissions. And its message is clear: The U.S. government is targeting patriotic Americans in the same manner —and with the same tools—that it used to target al Qaeda….

This is not happening. And we think it’s dangerous to pretend it is. If a person with such a platform shares such misinformation loud enough and long enough, there are Americans who will believe—and act upon—it.

This isn’t theoretical. This is what actually happened on January 6, 2021.

The two of them defend the news programming on Fox, which they say “routinely does what it is supposed to do.” If one only turned Fox on for the news, they’d be told that COVID-19 is deadly, vaccines work, Joe Biden won Arizona, the election wasn’t stolen, and January 6 wasn’t a “false flag” operation. But the news side of Fox has been buried by commentary masquerading as reporting, and they’ve had enough.

As they conclude:

With the release of Patriot Purge, we felt we could no longer “do right as we see it” and remain at Fox News. So we resigned.

We remain grateful for the opportunities we’ve had at Fox and we continue to admire many of the hard-working journalists who work there. This is our last recourse. We do not regret our decision, even if we find it regrettably necessary.

We often hear people bemoan the GOP’s “move to the right.” That isn’t really accurate. I don’t know where insanity falls on the political spectrum, but a collection of conspiracy theories and racial and religious animosities are not a political philosophy. Genuine conservatives with integrity understand that the Republican Party is no longer home to people holding genuinely conservative beliefs.Just ask Liz Cheney.

Ultimately, whether our “backsliding democracy” survives may depend on how many principled conservatives are willing to join Cheney, Goldberg, et al. and draw a line in the sand.



Defining Moderation

Remember our prior discussions of the Overton Window?The Overton window is the name given to the range of policies that are considered politically acceptable by the mainstream population at a particular time. It’s named (duh!) for someone named Overton, who noted that an idea’s political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within that range.

The rightward movement of the Overton Window over the past few decades explains why the hand-wringing of the “chattering classes” over the disappearance of “moderation” is so misplaced.

I have noted previously that in 1980, when I ran for Congress as a Republican, I was frequently accused of being much too conservative. My political philosophy hasn’t changed (although my position on a couple of issues has, shall we say, “matured” as I became more informed about those issues)–and now I am routinely accused of being a pinko/socialist/commie.

My experience is anything but unique. I basically stood still; the Overton Window moved. Significantly.

As the GOP moved from center-right to radical right to semi-fascist, the definition of “moderation” moved with it. America has never had a true leftwing party of the type typical in Europe, but today, anything “left” of insane is labeled either moderate or “librul.” That makes these tiresome screeds about the lack of moderation dangerously misleading.

As Peter Dreir recently wrote at Talking Points Memo,(behind the TPM paywall),

Here’s how the Los Angeles Times described how the infrastructure bill was passed: “After months of negotiation among President Biden, Democrats and a group of moderate Republicans to forge a compromise, the Senate voted 69 to 30 in favor of the legislation.”

The Times then listed the “ten centrist senators” — five Republicans and five Democrats — who worked to craft the bill: Republicans Rob Portman (OH), Bill Cassidy (LA), Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Mitt Romney (UT) and Democrats Jeanne Shaheen (NH) Jon Tester (MT), Joe Manchin (WV), Mark Warner (VA), and Sinema.

But by what stretch of the imagination are Cassidy, Portman, Romney, Collins and Murkowski “moderate” or “centrist” Republicans? None of them are even close to the “center” of America’s ideological spectrum. They all have opposed raising taxes on the wealthy, toughening environmental standards, expanding voting rights, adopting background checks for gun sales and limiting the sale of military-style assault weapons, and other measures that, according to polls, are overwhelmingly popular with the American public.

As the essay points out, there is no longer any overlap between America’s two major parties. There may be some overlap among voters, but not among elected officials.

What we have experienced is what political scientists call “asymmetrical polarization.” Over the past decades, as the scholarly literature and survey research make abundantly clear, Republicans have moved far, far to the right, while Democrats have moved slightly to the left.

Finding a center point between the far right and the center-left may be “splitting the difference,” but only in an alternate universe can it be considered “moderation.”

When I became politically active, people like Michael Gerson were considered quite conservative. But Gerson stopped well short of crazy, and he has been a clear-eyed critic of the GOP’s descent into suicidal politics.  Gerson recently considered the spectacle of DeSantis and Abbot, who have been playing to the populist base of today’s Republican Party.

These governors are attempting, of course, to take refuge in principle — the traditional right not to have cloth next to your face, or the sacred right to spread nasty infections to your neighbors. But such “rights” talk is misapplied in this context. The duty to protect public health during a pandemic is, by nature, an aggregate commitment. Success or failure is measured only in a total sum. Incompetence in this area is a fundamental miscarriage of governing. Knowingly taking actions that undermine public health is properly called sabotage, as surely as putting anthrax in the water supply….

The problem for the Republican Party is that one of the central demands of a key interest group is now an act of sociopathic insanity. Some of the most basic measures of public health have suddenly become the political equivalent of gun confiscation. It’s as if the activist wing of the GOP decided that municipal trash pickup is a dangerous socialist experiment. Or chlorine in public pools is an antifa plot. There can be no absolute political right to undermine the health and safety of your community. Or else community has no meaning.

If “moderation” means finding middle ground between sociopathic insanity and common sense, language has lost any ability to inform or communicate. When presumably serious commentators misuse such terminology, it just makes it more difficult to cure–or even understand– our manifest political dysfunctions.