Politics

09.18.12

Conservative Schism? Not Getting My Hopes Up

This morning I took note of Bill Kristol and guessed that we may see a full-blown split on the right over Romney's remarks. It's looking that way. Tim Noah of TNR rounds up and counts noses pretty nicely here:

I mentioned earlier that Ramesh Ponneru of National Review trashed it [the basic world view Romney expressed] last year. Others now criticizing Romney’s remarks include the Weekly Standard’Bill KristolReason’s Matt Welch, the Daily Caller’s Jim Antle, and even National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, who ordinarily displays a weakness for blowhard arguments. Over at the New York Times, David Brooks wants nothing to do with Romney’s remarks, and neither (to judge from his Twitter feed) does Ross Douthat.

Conservatives Agree: Romney’s Wrong,” declares Michael Warren on the Weekly Standard’s Web site. That’s taking things a bit far. In fact, plenty of other conservatives are in complete agreement with Romney. Slate’s David WeigelCBS’s Stephanie Condon, the liberal watchdog group Media Matters, and Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray have been counting noses. Rush Limbaugh, of course, has long been an outspoken 53-percenter (“47 percent of the population is content to be slovenly, lazy takers”) and so has Fox News’ Sean HannityNational Review’s Michael Walsh is calling this Romney’s “Gettysburg moment.” The somewhat classier John O’Sullivan, also of National Review, is similarly calling Mitt a misunderstood truth-teller. So are Rep. Allen West, R.-Fla.; Red State founder Erick EricksonDean Clancy of FreedomWorks; and Todd Starnes and Laura Ingraham of Fox News. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which created this Frankenstein monster, is lying low for the moment, but will surely end up defending Romney’s remarks (perhaps echoing Romney’s lame excuse that they were “inelegantly stated”).

Fascinating. Usually, most of the people in the first graf just stay silent when they disagree, or bruit their objections in extremely gentle ways. But Brooks, for one, was pretty darn harsh this morning. So maybe we'll see a full-blown schism, or at least hot debate, here as the campaign progresses. Downballot, as some Senate candidates are asked about Romney's comments, some will distance themselves, as Scott Brown did today, but that will be only a few.

I'm not counting on a big split. People on both sides have a way of closing ranks as Election Day approaches, and especially on the conservative side. Andrew hopes he sees in this division the seeds of a "return to sanity" if/after Romney loses. I'm skeptical. It's going to take more than one column from Brooks to even begin to level this playing field. A lot more. And rather than fight with them, they'll just excommunicate and ignore him, which half of them have already done anyway, probably.

I'm on record saying I don't think the GOP returns to sanity until they lose Texas in a presidential race. Or maybe Georgia. The latter is also big enough to mean that, if they lose their purchase on it, they can never win the White House again with their current politics. That's what it will take, I believe: for them to realize that they cannot win the White House under any reasonablly imaginable circumstances unless they change. Then and only then, they'll change.