Some Conservative Pundits Tout...Moderation

Is the conservative media establishment suddenly getting less conservative?

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s stinging defeat on Election Day, some of the right’s strongest voices are—dare I use the word?—moderating a bit.

Now there’s nothing wrong with pundits and politicians rethinking their positions after a period of soul-searching. Republicans have, after all, lost the popular vote in five of the last six elections, and the presidency in four of them. What was obvious to many analysts—that the party was driving off a demographic cliff by alienating Hispanics, women and gays—is now staring its members in the face.

Still, it’s surprising how fast all this is happening.

Bill Kristol didn’t waste any time. The Weekly Standard editor and onetime Dan Quayle aide declared on Fox News Sunday: “It won’t kill the country if Republicans raise taxes a little bit on millionaires.” He added that the GOP should accept President Obama’s offer to extend the Bush tax cuts for families making under $250,000, or bargain for a higher number: “Really. The Republican Party is gonna fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic, and half of whom live in Hollywood and are hostile to Republicans.”

Sean Hannity, an influential figure with the GOP, has abruptly changed his stance on another hot-button issue.

“We’ve got to get rid of the immigration issue altogether,” the Fox News host said on his radio show. “It’s simple to me to fix it. I think you control the border first. You create a pathway for those people that are here. You don’t say you’ve got to go home. And that is a position that I’ve evolved on.”

It’s hard to overstate how complete an evolution this is for Hannity. During the campaign, he opposed the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status and give college tuition assistance to children of illegal immigrants with good grades, as “amnesty.”

Now Hannity may be slightly to Obama’s left on the issue. While the president has imposed by executive fiat a limited version of the DREAM Act, he got nowhere in his first term when it came to pushing a pathway to legalization for all illegal immigrants without criminal records. In fact, his Justice Department went beyond the Bush administration in stepping up deportations.

Columnist Charles Krauthammer goes further than Hannity. Republican victory next time—especially if Marco Rubio is the nominee—“requires but a single policy change,” he writes. “Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty. Use the word. Shock and awe—full legal normalization (just short of citizenship) in return for full border enforcement.”

Boy, that was easy.

The lesson here is that Republicans can count. Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote after Romney took a hard line on immigration during the GOP primaries, calling for “self-deportation” by those here illegally. Given the population vote in the Latino community, that’s a formula for political obsolescence.

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Not everyone in the conservative media crowd agrees, of course. Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham, among others, say conservatism is not the problem, it is the solution. Ingraham dismisses what she calls “the panicked calls for ‘moderation’ from Republicans who think the only way to grow a majority following is to become more like Democrats.”

Erick Erickson, the Red State founder, is particularly passionate on this point:

“For five years I have consistently maintained that Mitt Romney could not be elected president of the United States. The only thing that changed was Barack Obama’s terrible debate performance and I made the unfortunate mistake of going with the herd toward ‘he can win now.’ A year ago — to be precise, November 8th of last year —I wrote that Mitt Romney would be the nominee, conservatism would die, and Barack Obama would win. Regrettably, I told you so.”

Romney was a failure, says Erickson, and “because these conservatives cannot accept that they were wrong, they must conclude that conservatism itself is somehow broken.”

This argument will be going on for awhile—at least until the next Iowa caucuses.