22 February 2010

CPAC odds and ends

The Crossed Pond has a huge round-up of reactions to the straw poll at CPAC in which Ron Paul won more support than Romney (the highest-polling non-loon candidate) and, more surprisingly, far more than Palin. This poll, of course, is not a good predictor of the eventual Presidential nominee. What I think it reflects is the fact that, while Paul and Palin are both cult figures, Paul's cult is longer-established and better-organized (if also smaller) and is showing the same ability to make itself look more important that it really is that it displayed during the 2008 primaries. Still, the top three loon candidates (Paul, Palin, and Huckabee) won a total of 42% of support, more than the top three non-loons (Romney, Pawlenty, and Gingrich) with 32%. This does not bode well for the Republicans in 2012. Update (23 Feb.): The Frum Forum decries the Paulists as a divisive force within the right, and the lengthy first comment on the post seems to confirm this. And it's pretty sad when it's necessary to spend time on things like explaining why going back to the gold standard would be a bad idea.

More encouragingly, the fight against gay marriage did not score well as a "most important" issue even in the CPAC straw poll. Most conservatives are surely against gay marriage (though not all), but many are apparently not as fervent about it as sometimes seems to be the case. The fact that students were nearly half the sample probably helped -- younger people, even conservatives, are less hostile to gays. Update: read this, though.

Finally, Power Line questions the re-emergence of the John Birch Society as a co-sponsor of CPAC. In the 1960s, Goldwater and conservatism in general were so damaged by being associated with fringe elements like the JBS that William Buckley and the National Review took it upon themselves to drum them out of the movement; a JBS resurgence cannot be a good thing for the moderate right. Found via Liberal Values, which has more links and discusses the broader problem presented by the JBS.


Blogger B.J. said...

Thanks so much for the “Crossed Pond” link. You have to appreciate such hard work in behalf of readers. I particularly liked the quote that Paul’s supporters are “whistling past the neocon graveyard.” ’Tis a puzzlement that people throw their votes away by supporting candidates like Paul and Dennis Kucinich, who don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected. It is rather cultish, IMO. Near the end of the Crossed Pond post I felt I had entered a time warp with Hindraker at Powerline praising Dubya, proving that the lawyers at that site are still crazy! Finally, if Republicans think they have all the answers, why is it that they cannot come up with worthy leadership material? BJ

22 February, 2010 10:53  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Power Line is pretty out-there -- which makes it all the more significant that even they are calling out CPAC for accepting the JBS as a co-sponsor.

’Tis a puzzlement that people throw their votes away by supporting candidates like Paul and Dennis Kucinich, who don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected. It is rather cultish, IMO.

I'm still haunted by all those Nader votes in 2000, and by what might have been if people had been a bit less "cultish" back then. if those votes had gone to Gore, he would have followed Clinton as President and the whole disastrous Bush era would never have happened. Just because of those few votes. For want of a nail.....

22 February, 2010 16:17  
Blogger mendip said...

In regards to the JBS being "thrown out", I suppose that's technically correct, in that I don't remember them being "officially" tied into the Republicans after '64, (ironically, they were somewhat involved in the George Wallace candidacy in '72 in the Democratic party!). But the reactionary/populist Right that they represent has always been present, at least at the state and county level in the Republican party. The names just change, but it's all the same people - the Klan becomes the White Citizens Councils, which become the Citizens Councils, which become something else, ad infinitum. The Spotlight newspaper (the leading crypto-nazi newspaper in America) is now the American Free Press; and World Net Daily (or World Nut Daily as it's popularly referred to) swims in the same swampy waters. And all attract names and leaders within the Republican party, (Trent Lott and Bob Barr are two of the more popular and recent examples, but a little research will reveal many more since Buckley (who was a good friend of the Citizen's Councils when he thought it convenient), supposedly tossed people out. I am not saying that the entire GOP is in thrall to these people, but at certain levels and in certain areas they are quite comfortably ensconced, and always were.

22 February, 2010 17:02  
Anonymous Hugo Grinebiter said...

In a Euro-parliamentary system, people like Nader and Paul would have seats in the legislature, and if bigger parties needed their votes, they would get to enact some of their agenda. Not necessarily better, just different.

In the UK, first-past-the-post forces parties to be big, and thus incoherent, coalitions that are rather opaque to voters; on the Continent, you get lots of niche parties and everyone knows what they stand for. Making a government is then a PITA, but it shouldn't be too easy, should it?

23 February, 2010 04:48  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mendip: Groups like the JBS were, at least forced to hide what they were by changing names and so forth; they were no longer seen as a respectable part of the conservative coalition that could be publicly embraced. Letting such a group sponsor CPAC seems like a significant change from that.

23 February, 2010 04:53  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

HG: I see the dominance of the two parties as one of the strengths of the American system because it tames the fringes. In a completely proportional system such as (for example) Israel has, there is a hodgepodge of small parties in the legislature alongside the two big ones; every government has to be a coalition, and small parties can make exorbitant demands as a condition of joining one (thus, for example, small religious parties can impose religion-derived laws on a mostly-secular Israeli society).

Here, each of the two big parties is a coalition of forces. Fringe elements can be heard in proportion to what their numbers warrant by becoming part of one coalition or another, but not to the extent of being too distracting to the political mainstream. Groups that aren't willing to compromise and try to go the third-party route get frozen out. If they do have an impact, the result is to benefit whichever of the two big parties is more opposite to their own views, as in 2000. So tiny groups either work within the system and moderate their views, or work against it and get punished. Either way they can't force their own agenda on the mainstream.

By far the biggest fringe group in the US is the Christian fundamentalists. When they became politically active 30 years ago, they gained some influence by joining the Republican coalition, and for a couple of decades the results seemed quite threatening, but the system mitigated the damage -- abortion remains legal, gay marriage is moving slowly forward, etc. If the fundamentalists had gone the third-party route in the American system, they'd have been frozen out and also bled off so many votes on the right that the Republicans could never have won anything -- too bad they were too smart to try that! If they'd gone the third-party route in a porportional-representation system, they'd have been the only large third party, and neither big party could ever have governed without forming a coalition with them, and secularism in this country might well have been wrecked by now. Certainly our social progress would have been seriously retarded, probably reversed.

Nader and Paul wouldn't have much power in a proportional system; the forces they represent are too few in numbers. It's the Falwells and Dobsons who would be empowered.

23 February, 2010 05:11  
Anonymous Hugo Grinebiter said...

I take your point about the moral majority as a third party in a parliamentary system, though I think that in a Euro set up both Nader and Paul would have seats, quite possibly as one-man parliamentary parties. Those exist over here too.

Here in Norway, the second biggest party, polling between 25% and 33%, has as its bedrock vote racists, knuckle-draggers and the frankly unsocialised. No one wants to go into coalition with them, not even to achieve office, so they never get anywhere. Though one day we may find that no one can form a government at all. There are those who want to tame them by letting them take a turn at the wheel and make a mess of it (ie. thrown out of the Council of Europe).

It's morbidly amusing that they loudly complain that not letting them be the government when they have all of 30% is "undemocratic"; apparently it would be more democratic to deny the wishes of the other 70% who hate their guts. I'm sure you can point to similar attitudes over there, you "unReal" American you.

23 February, 2010 08:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

04 March, 2010 03:17  

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