But there is a much more important proposition that, I think, was proved false last night: that America is a center-right country. This belief is one that we conservatives have cherished for a long time, but as of today, I think we have to admit that it is false. America is a deeply divided country with a center-left plurality. This plurality includes a vast number of citizens who describe themselves as moderates, but whose views on the issues are identical or similar to those that have historically been deemed liberal.
That's from a post entitled The Meaning of Yesterday's Defeat from John Hinderacker of Powerline, Time magazine's first ever “Blog of the Year”, an A-lister in the conservative blogosphere.
It is exactly correct. I'm pretty sure it's the first thing I've ever read from Hinderaker that I have ever agreed with, and may well be the last.
If you know anything about conservative culture, this challenges a fundamental article of faith. I feel stunned reading it. It was Hinderaker who inspired Digby to say this:
Movement conservatives are getting ready to write the history of this era as liberalism once again failing the people. Typically, the conservatives were screwed, as they always are. They must regroup and fight for conservatism, real conservatism, once again. Viva la revolucion!
There is no such thing as a bad conservative. “Conservative” is a magic word that applies to those who are in other conservatives’ good graces. Until they aren't. At which point they are liberals.
Get used to the hearing about how the Republicans failed because they weren't true conservatives. Conservatism can never fail. It can only be failed by weak-minded souls who refuse to properly follow its tenets. It's a lot like communism that way.
If Hinderaker doesn't forget that he said this as soon as it becomes inconvenient for him, he ought to read one of my favorite articles about American politics, Living on the edge, but still taking up way too much space by Cervantes at Stayin’ Alive.
Almost everyone in Fishtown claimed to be a conservative, and expressed scathing contempt for liberals. So what were some of their conservative ideas? This was the time of the Arab oil embargo and (gasp!) gasoline at a dollar a gallon. Many of Fishtown's rabid conservatives advocated nationalizing the oil companies. Other popular conservative ideas included government sponsored health care, a higher minimum wage, stopping the developers who were deliberately creating blight so they could buy up large tracts for upscale development, massive investments in public transportation (the Kensington Ave. trolley was a foretaste of hell), cleaning up the air pollution -- all kinds of radical right wing ideas. They were mostly Catholic and went to church, but I can't remember anybody giving a shit about abortion or keeping people on life support.
Now, actual real conservatives have an iron grip over all three branches of the federal government. In public opinion polls, many more people label themselves conservative than label themselves liberal. But a majority of people also tell pollsters that they are willing to pay more taxes to protect the environment, improve the schools, and do other good things; that they want universal health care; that they want curbs on development to protect communities and the environment; that they favor keeping Roe v. Wade (that one's not even close -- 65% to 29%). 82% of Americans opposed intervention in the Terri Schiavo case by the Congress and King George. In other words that particular maneuver was less popular than legalized wife beating. And oh yeah -- the majority favor sensible regulation of gun ownership.
Now the US does have a large minority committed to a perennial American political / cultural tradition that we currently refer to as the “Republican base” or the “Tea Party”. Hinderacker is one of them. These folks think their philosophy is what America stands for, what all true Americans believe in their hearts. They think they are the only real Americans.
Over the last forty-five years, the Republican party has succeeded in bringing them under a single party banner for the first time in our history, making a big voting bloc their own. In so doing, the party has bound itself tightly to those folks. And maybe that wasn't such a good idea for the GOP. They are a large and vocal minority, but they are only about one in four Americans.
Because while many more Americans like the idea of conservatism, and like calling themselves conservatives, mostly they don't like conservative policies. Survey after survey shows it. (There is one key conservative idea that these “conservatives” care about. I'll not spoil the surprise if you cannot guess what it is; click through and let Cervantes lay it out for you.)
The Republican party has managed to build a strong party through rhetorical seductiveness of “conservatism” despite Americans' sentiments. But if Hinderacker can see the cracks in that edifice, maybe it really will fall.
Ooh. I got linked by the mighty Digby herself! Check out what she says, as she is more astute than I am.