Strange Bedfellows

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Over at Slate, some prominent conservatives are having a post-mortem discussion about what went wrong and where to go from here.  One comment from Tucker Carlson I found interesting:

The various Republican constituencies need some reason to hang together. It’s not obvious what socially conservative, big-government types like Mike Huckabee have in common with economically conservative libertines like Rudy Giuliani. So why are they in the same party? It used to be because they both hated communism. Then it was Bill Clinton. Most recently, it was a shared fear of Islamic extremism. What now? Time to think of something—quick. There’s no natural reason these two groups should be connected. In fact, they sort of despise each other, as you’ll notice immediately if you ever eat with them.

I have long wondered about the odd marriage of these two groups.  I even asked the uber-libertarian guy I work with right now whether he felt at home in the GOP given the Religious Right (he classifies himself as “areligious”).  He said he doesn’t care about feeling welcome, just that economic issues take precedence over social issues for him.  I suspect that is true for a lot of libertarians, and I’ll refrain from giving my views of the characters of such folks.  Anyone have any thoughts about the economic conservative/social conservative partnership and its future?

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3 Responses to “Strange Bedfellows”

  1. urbino Says:

    I’m astonished that Carlson said something interesting. Usually, he’s that twerp who you just want to hold down and put dirt in his ears, every time he opens his mouth. Nonetheless, I think he has it right about what held that coalition together: fear/hatred of the Red Menace, the Clintons, and Islamic radicals. And since at least 1980, they’ve had Reagan as a shared object of devotion.

    My guess is that the GOP coalition will be pretty fractured for a while; how long depends on events, but barring something huge, I think it’s going to be something like a decade before they really get their feet back under them, and a good deal longer before they develop anything as powerful as what they had in 1994. (That doesn’t mean I think the Democrats will dominate all that time; just that I think it’ll take that long for the GOP to put back together a durable, reliable coalition.)

    OTOH, there’s always something around to be hated and feared. Or at least something that can be demagogued into something to be hated and feared. There’s always something to gesticulate at as the new “existential threat.” Before the Bolsheviks, conservatives had immigrants to unite in opposition to, and corporate capitalists as objects of devotion. Those are certainly still available for use. The latter is a tough sell just now among the libertarians, but a few years of Democratic policy will likely cloud their memory. After all, we’ve already heard the argument that the financial collapse was the fault of overregulation, in the form of the Community Reinvestment Act. Nothing unites corporate conservatives and libertarians like the “existential” necessity for deregulation.

    Whatever they come up with, it will require some serious thought on the Right. That, in itself, can only be an improvement. They’ve gotten lazy over the last 10-15 years, relying almost exclusively on demagoguery. A serious, thoughtful Right is a useful thing. The Right we’ve had recently is a national cold sore.

    BTW, Tucker’s quote doesn’t even mention another issue on which conservatives are now divided: foreign policy. The neoconservatives are still pushing for ever more militarism and international activism. Traditional conservatives and libertarians, of course, don’t like foreign adventures and entanglements. (They opposed even WWII, let’s not forget.)

    I’d love to see the latter groups drive the neocons into the wilderness, but it’s not obvious to me that that’s what will happen. I disagree with traditional conservatives and libertarians on most things, but at least they aren’t philosophically committed to lying to the voters.

  2. DeJon05 Says:

    Were I to contribute any thoughts to the prompt I would only embarrass myself, and I admit Mark Lilla’s piece isn’t really on point. But I wanted to share.

  3. urbino Says:

    Now that I’ve read the Slate discussion, I see Tucker returned to his twerpitude later in the discussion. Knew I could count on him.

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