January 14, 2012

Conservative Cannibalism

Do Not Touch.
The primary season is meant for people to pick their candidate, back their candidate and fight for their candidate.  At the end of the long haul towards the nomination everyone is supposed to come together behind the eventual winner and march towards the general election arm-in-arm.  In theory that's the case.  This year though, there is something different happening.  Conservatism, which had been re-invigorated by the Tea Party in 2009 and 2010, seemed to have been split in two with establishment conservatives falling in line with Mitt Romney and distancing themselves from the Tea Party and grassroots conservatives and in fact have gone so far as to start attacking them.

To be fair, the Tea Party has been after establishment Republicans for as long as they've been after president Obama, just to a lesser degree.

Josh Painter describes the current situation as defining the conservatism down.  By that he seems to mean diluting the purity of it.
But in 2011, things changed. Coulter was no longer praising Palin, as she had done in 2008. Instead, she was smearing her on Laura Ingraham’s radio program, with Ingraham piling on the attack against the GOP’s most recent vice presidential candidate and the first woman to have that distinction.

Now in 2012, we have the spectacle of Rush Limbaugh shilling for Mitt Romney and attacking Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry. Former editorial sources of conservative comfort, including National Review and the Washington Examiner, have endorsed Romney and are attacking Gingrich and Perry. But mostly they rail against Gingrich because he’s one within striking distance of Romney.

It’s like the familiar “alternate universe” science fiction plot in which the protagonist wakes up one day and finds himself in a world which looks exactly like the one he’s known all his life, but people familiar to him are behaving in quite unfamiliar ways. They seem like pod people whose bodies have been inhabited by some alien consciousness. It’s as if the world he knew had suddenly gone mad...

What happened to erstwhile conservatives in the year between the 2010 midterm elections and late last year? I’m at a loss to explain it and can only take my best guess. I think its because conservatives are so desperate to hold Barack Obama to a single presidential term that they are willing to define down their conservatism because they have been convinced that is the only way to send him packing. They have bought into the “electability” myth — hook, line and sinker.
Another way to look at the situation is conservatism cannibalism, or more appropriately, conservatism eating itself.  The end result could be bad unless the outcome of the primaries (which is indeed a healthy process), is that conservatives rally around the common cause of defeating Obama, regardless of the name of the nominee.  The danger is, the primary process might make that harder to happen this time around.

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