Monday, June 15, 2009

Being Conservative is Being Mainstream

The results of a national Gallup poll declares that 40% of Americans declare themselves to be "Conservative", or at least "describe their political views as conservative". The rest can be drawn out as
35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal... 9% call themselves "very conservative" and 5% "very liberal."
Leave aside the specifics of how "Conservative" and "Conservatism can be defined, how they are defined and what individuals intend when he or she refers to himself or herself as "conservative" or what political views are considered to be "conservative". I will also set aside the specifics and vagaries of how the results were gathered and how the poll is taken. Obviously polls are intended to be representational and thus it cannot be taken as an absolute that a sample can literally mean that that quantity of individuals or citizens in this country definitely believe a given thing. Especially since statistics never mean that every sampling of individuals will reflect the statistical results of a given sample in a specific instance of research. After all, just because one in every 12 bottles of Mountain Dew has a cap that will give away a free bottle of Mountain Dew as they bottles were manufactured and filled, does not mean that every gathering of 24 bottles of Mountain Dew you will see in a fridge in a gas station has two winning caps (because three winning bottles got purchased already back when there were 36 bottles at the gas station). No! We take all that into consideration and set it aside as irrelevant when I take it as given that 40% of Americans consider their views to be "conservative" or further right than that.

The first point is that different people take diametrically opposing viewpoints of war, abortion, and education as "conservative" and consider the view opposite his or her own as something not conservative. Yet both declare that their views are "conservative". Hence why Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo and Fred Thompson could declare themselves, present themselves as "Conservative" (not "libertarian") and their arguments/presentations were all equally credible.

The actual point is that John McCain could not credibly argue that he was "conservative" or a "Conservative" and that was the reason why he failed to win the 2008 presidential election. In order to win an election a candidate has to secure a base then expand to other group and blocs of voters. The conservative base includes most Republicans and a number of individual I cheerfully refer to as "Reagan Democrats", as well as quiet, willful non-visible union members, teachers, and auto-workers. Those labeling themselves as "Moderates" generally/usually do not vote for conservatives, but liberals, Democrats, and certain sorts of Republicans. Since Senator McCain failed to secure the Conservatives and only grabbed the most honest of "Moderates" (a cursory examination of self-proclaimed political "Moderates" that I saw on Facebook shows that most of them "supported" "Barack Obama" as a politician instead of his opponent; Barack Obama is an avowed leftist and John McCain certainly is a Moderate). A true Conservative could grab hold of 40% of the electorate, presuming a statistical alignment of stated political beliefs and voting habits among Americans, if that Conservative candidate is unapologetic, and then expand to various single-issue individuals and thoughtful people who are not otherwise stringently tied to left-wing political parties and/or candidates.

Even though George Bush 43 was, in hindsight, clearly a being closer to the political center and socioeconomic left than that of fiscal conservatism (and thus was an activist for government taking an increasingly larger role in the American sociopolitical fabric/continuum) he still held a greater appeal to/for the American right, the so-called 40% than did either of his respective opponents in 2000 and 2004. Frankly his speeches during the 2000 Presidential election hid nothing and it's easy to see or deduce that he is/was not a purist in the philosophical sense for Conservativism and certainly not the standard for the Conservative ideology, as it stands as an ideology.

Now for some Conservatism is a philosophy and not an ideology. For others the distinction does not matter and there clearly it is more of an ideology. That most people are not educated in the history and background of Conservatism in this country is obvious, sad, and borderline irrelevant. To Russell Kirk and his followers this matters and to a great extent the success of political activists is determined by whether they grab hold of Conservatism as a philosophy and not merely an ideology. The simplest distinction is that it is an ideology for those less educated; in terms of victory it might not matter. Yet if more Americans were educated in what it means then they would not have swallowed/accepted/believed so much propaganda from the Left that George Bush 43 was some sort of Conservative ideologue or an "Ultraconservative". Then again, greater and more widespread understanding of what it means to hold "conservative" ideals would mean that less people would believe the standard educational claptrap that "fascism" is a "far right" ideology. Logical people would not readily believe anyway that a facet of political belief could include both a libertarian and totalitarian line of thought without spontaneously destroying itself. That President Bush states that he "abandoned [his] free market principles to save the free market system" rings entirely hollow to me.

Keep in mind that in order to win an election a candidate merely has to achieve 50%+1. That is far less than 51% of the votes and certainly an oversimplification in a system that includes an Electoral College. Which means that in specific states a sorting of votes is required. 50%+1 of all votes must be obtained in patterns of states that would make up that magic number of electoral votes to gain victory. Once you have that, gaining votes from people who declare themselves as "liberal" or "very liberal" is merely frosting on the electoral cake. If a Republican loses an election, assuming an even geographic spread of this 40% (and I will), it was only because his views, presentation, character, and history were not compatible or appealing to those with that 40%, an easy demographic to identify. To this point we should not race to appeal or transform into a Colin Powell or a Michael Steele archetype. The character, presentation, and history of George Bush 43 had a great enough appeal and while it did not quite cut into a certain 21% of Americans as Senator John Kerry and Vice-President Al Gore clearly could, it worked easily enough.

Also with some geographic specifics the demographics necessarily vary, hence Rudolph Giuliani, Sam Brownback, or Tim Pawlenty. New York City elected a man who would turn out to be weak defended the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and be entirely a defender of abortion yet is a "warhawk" regarding terrorists and the state that backs them. Kansas elected Senator Brownback and despite his moralist views on abortion and traditional marriage he is not the most stringent defender of American sovereignty regarding the border or how the wars in the middle east should be executed. Yet despite the contrasting views on war, Mayor Giuliani was secure in his belief that New York City could function well as a Sanctuary City to illegal aliens. Tim Pawlenty seems like a genuine Conservative in so many ways yet his policies regarding the environment are statist and certainly lean towards a greater commonality with Al Gore than to Fred Thompson, Jerry Doyle or Glenn Beck.

This revelation has a great, clear impact on Michigan. One does not have to infiltrate or turn the 40% to win an election but merely take advantage of a "right-wing" candidate failing to engage that 40% sufficiently. Dan Pero (and others) stated that Dick Posthumus failed to secure his base in the 2002 gubernatorial election which is why Attorney General Jennifer Granholm managed to grab hold of sufficient numbers of what voters there were and take victory, become our governor. Now Mister Pero stated also that if the election were held a couple of weeks later then Lt. Governor Posthumus would have won. Elections are races literally in the sense that whoever is in the lead by the finish line is reached, wins. If at the speed of the running the losing competitor was due to catch up at a later point, then he would simply have wished the later point is where the finish line was; if the finish line was further away Jennifer Granholm would have lost. This is only an issue at all because Dick Posthumus could not excite the base and certainly if he could engage a sufficient number of voters he did not do so at the right time.

Dick DeVos lost a gubernatorial challenge against Governor Granholm, and Sheriff Mike Bouchard lost the US Senatorial race against Debbie Stabenow because they disengaged from the interests and enthusiasm of the base (look again at how sizable that base is) when they stood against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. The MCRI won because right-minded people of that base and additional right-minded people embraced it. Traditionally the opponents of the MCRI were philosophically leftist and so among those expected to oppose it were the Democrats. Yet both the Democrats and the Republican establishment in Michigan campaigned against the MCRI, with the exception of Attorney General Mike Cox. The right-minded people did not see worthy candidates in the Republicans, and the people who were going to vote Democrat voted Democrat as they would anyway. That base is the source of volunteers and activists to help convince people for a candidate and when Mr. DeVos and Sheriff Bouchard (not to mention MIGOP Chair Anuzis) spoke, and even campaigned, against the Civil Rights Initiative it discouraged volunteerism and activism, hurting and perhaps killing the respective Republican campaigns.

This sort of conjecture is fun, although draining. I don't expect anyone to have read this whole thing given that I never read the whole Gallup poll article. Yet we clearly demonstrate right here that we work against ourselves when we don't fight for beliefs that logically would be our own. How can this not make sense? If we had a candidate that was so clearly one of our own instead of an aborted attempt to act as a fusion of "us" and "against-us" (which certainly describes Senator McCain or any Michigan Republican who opposed MCRI) then we would certainly have an easier time and a more substantial foundation to convince a conservative to not vote third party or even to consider a Democrat to be a reasonable choice. When we blur the line between Republican and Democrat why would a Moderate consider a Republican? More importantly a conservative makes a better ideological ambassador to moderates than a moderate makes an ambassador to conservatives. A Conservative Republican has to simply get "Moderates" to vote for them, which is an easier task than getting a Moderate Republican to convince conservatives that he is conservative and then getting those conservatives to vote at all!

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