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On the shifting center of conservative gravity

Over at Powerline, my friend John Hinderaker takes the New York Times to task for assuming that if Ken Mehlman had come out in 2004, it would have been a headache for the GOP as opposed to the mostly blasé response it’s been getting today:

That is, I think, untrue. We didn’t care about Mehlman’s personal life then, and we don’t care now. I believe our attitude is characteristic of the vast majority of conservatives. We wish Mehlman well. But whether Ken Mehlman is or is not gay has no bearing on the public policy question of whether gay marriage is a good idea or a bad idea.

He’s right.  It’s been my experience, as a gay conservative blogger, that most conservatives could care less about my sexuality.  But, Times reporter Kate Zernike is right about one thing:

The muted reaction reflects not only changing values in the country generally, but also, more notably, among many Republicans and conservatives.

The center of gravity of the conservative movement in this election season is with fiscal conservatives. The Tea Party is infusing the Republican Party with new energy, and Tea Party leaders and supporters say they do not want to talk about social issues: even if they do not personally support same-sex marriage or abortion, they think the Republican Party spent too much time talking about them and not enough time trying to rein in spending.

Ms. Zernike may not be entirely up-to-speed about the conservative movement.  Fiscal issues were always important to movement conservatives.  Th is is not something new.  If you don’t believe me, then just take a listen to this 1964 speech.  But, she’s right in that the Obama Democrats big-spending initiatives which led to the rise of the Tea Party movement put those for whom fiscal issue are paramount back in the drivers’ seat.

During the Bush era, we were relegated to a side car.  We found it hard to gain traction when the then-Republican president was not himself a fiscal conservative, but was taking heat from the left on any number of issues, particularly the War on Terror.  We devoted our energies to defending him, believing that winning that war was paramount to our national security (another defining issue for movement conservatives).

So, Mr. Zernike is right, the center of gravity has shifted on the right, but back to where it has long been, but this is more a return, a restoration even, to the bedrock principles of American conservatism than anything else.

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24 Comments

  1. Hinderaker is deluding himself if he honestly believes that it wouldn’t have been an enormous political controversy in 2004 if the RNC Chair came out as being gay. Activists on both sides would have gone ballistic and the distraction would not have been helpful to the Bush re-election campaign. I may kvetch with the best of the them at times but I don’t have much of a vengeful streak so for Mehlman’s sake I’m glad he was spared that.

    Comment by John — August 27, 2010 @ 8:20 am - August 27, 2010

  2. Agreed.

    I guess the thing for me, John, is why is it anyone’s business which team he plays for? Posting in these comments, it’s been assumed that I’m gay, bi, or (most amusingly) a lesbian.

    He can choose to keep his private life private, or he can chose to make it public. He clearly chose the former. That’s no one’s choice except his.

    Given the vitriol spewed out in his direction, I wonder if he regrets his choice?

    Comment by The_Livewire — August 27, 2010 @ 8:25 am - August 27, 2010

  3. Over at Powerline, my friend John Hinderaker takes the New York Times to task for assuming that if Ken Mehlman had come out in 2004, it would have been a headache for the GOP as opposed to the mostly blasé response it’s been getting today:

    That’s too easy. As I posted yesterday, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Mehlman revealed his sexuality after leaving the RNC, and to pretend like it wouldn’t have hindered him before is just not fair. You’re rushing to give credit to the conservative movement for being open-minded and accepting where it simply isn’t warranted. Let’s see a Republican’s homosexuality be exposed before he or she wins an election or is appointed to a leadership post before we start talking about how far the conservative movement has come.

    During the Bush era, we were relegated to a side car. We found it hard to gain traction when the then-Republican president was not himself a fiscal conservative, but was taking heat from the left on any number of issues, particularly the War on Terror. We devoted our energies to defending him, believing that winning that war was paramount to our national security (another defining issue for movement conservatives).

    Well, that’s funny, because it seems to me like the Republicans are right back where they always are right before an election; desperately flogging frivolous social wedge issues to stir up enthusiasm in their mean-spirited and bigoted constituencies. The biggest story in conservative media at the moment is the building of a mosque in New York – would you care to explain how this shows the conservative movement has evolved? The big motivators with you guys are the same things they’ve always been – hyped up race/gender/religious issues.

    Comment by Levi — August 27, 2010 @ 8:43 am - August 27, 2010

  4. “Posting in these comments, it’s been assumed that I’m gay, bi, or (most amusingly) a lesbian.”

    I don’t think it means you are gay by posting in these comments or this website for that matter. I post here because I like the site and it’s commentary, but I am definitely not gay.

    Women piss me off most of the time with their entitlement-like behaviour simply because they were born with a vagina and know how to use it to get what they want, but most of the time, the furthest into the sexual abyss I ever think of going is engaging a post-op new-half. Haven’t taken the trip yet though, but I am thinking about it.

    Comment by Mike — August 27, 2010 @ 8:49 am - August 27, 2010

  5. Mike, I don’t either. I just find it funny that it’s a standard assumption of most posters.

    I used to joke I was the ‘token straight guy’ years ago. I personally find it refreshing that sexual orientation isn’t an issue in the identity of the posters.

    Comment by The_Livewire — August 27, 2010 @ 9:29 am - August 27, 2010

  6. Let’s see a Republican’s homosexuality be exposed ….

    Well here’s hoping some self-serving, gay liberal attention whore violates another person’s privacy and robs them of the opportunity to make a very personal choice. THAT oughta get the people who oppose gay marriage but support civil unions to REALLY like you.

    If that isn’t a display of Gay Inc. tolerance™ , I don’t know what is.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — August 27, 2010 @ 10:13 am - August 27, 2010

  7. Well, that’s funny, because it seems to me like the Republicans are right back where they always are right before an election; desperately flogging frivolous social wedge issues to stir up enthusiasm in their mean-spirited and bigoted constituencies.

    Yeah, it has nothing to do with the fact that your candidate is a colossally incompetent, tone-deaf prick, right?

    Comment by Eric in Chicago — August 27, 2010 @ 11:20 am - August 27, 2010

  8. It would be great if we could get back to the good old days when Republicans were rich and Democrats were workers and there was none of this leftist or rightist social agenda screwing up the system. The rich Republicans tried to get as much as they could out of their workers and pay them as little as possible, and the worker Democrats protected themselves with minimum wage, Social Security, Medicaid, etc. Everyone knew who they were and which side they were on.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — August 27, 2010 @ 11:25 am - August 27, 2010

  9. OK, I fully admit that I think everyone posting here is gay!…. er… homosexual!!! :-)

    I’m leaning more toward the Times on this one. Since Mehlman was at the RNC at the time, he’s not a good example to use. Let’s swap him with a generic former RNC chief who admitted he’s gay…. or maybe a current Congressman such as David Dryer. It would have been much more difficult for the party, as issues pertaining to gays, FMA, were very much on the table during that political season.

    After Bush left office, there has been a catharsis on the right, a gradual changing of the guard. The older generation, who had the most negative views toward homosexuality have retired or are retiring from the political scene and are being replaced by a younger generation who is used to having personal contact with normal gay people. Our generation is different as being gay is no longer the little secret on one likes to talk about. The shame is, essentially, gone.

    Let’s put it this way. Does anyone think that the CPAC events from 2010, where GOProud was able to participate as a member, and what’s-his-face would have been boo’d from the stage for being so hostile to the idea, could have happened in 2004?

    I don’t think so.

    PS. Not only am I gay, but… I Am Spartacus!!!!! :-)

    Comment by Sonicfrog — August 27, 2010 @ 11:32 am - August 27, 2010

  10. Sonicfrog, the guys name is David Dreher, not Dryer. Clothes, but no cigar. (Come on people, I like puns!)
    On a serious note, how come the Mehlman story is getting very little coverage on Fox News? Just askin’.

    Comment by Jim Michaud — August 27, 2010 @ 11:55 am - August 27, 2010

  11. I guess the thing for me, John, is why is it anyone’s business which team he plays for? Posting in these comments, it’s been assumed that I’m gay, bi, or (most amusingly) a lesbian.
    Generally I would agree with you, I could care less what team the party chairmen bat for. Yet in 2004 when this wasn’t just about “activist judges” and “gay liberal activists” the “will of the people”, but a concerted effort by the GOP trolling for votes by making gays a wedge issue in the campaign, which included not just a disagreement over marriage but also lies from social cons about many of these state amendments which banned civil unions/domestic partnerships as well. So yes, while John Kerry was a total putz, disgrace, and someone I never, ever want even visiting the White House, I haven’t forgotten the BS of the Republicans during that campaign. I don’t hate Bush but I’m not going to lie about the fact that this was one of Bush’s worst moments IMO.

    Comment by John — August 27, 2010 @ 3:04 pm - August 27, 2010

  12. You’re rushing to give credit to the conservative movement for being open-minded and accepting where it simply isn’t warranted.

    holy cow youre blind Levi, did you not see the rampant, venomous homophobic slurs by “progressives” at such places as the Huffington Post and throughout the leftist media when Mark Foley was outed, and how the liberal media portrayed him as a child molester even though no one he sexually harassed was a minor? Did you not see the rampant anti-gays slurs on the left when Larry Craig was outed? They are still all there in the comments AND the posts themselves at Huffinton Post and other leftist sites.

    Let’s see a Republican’s homosexuality be exposed before he or she wins an election or is appointed to a leadership post before we start talking about how far the conservative movement has come.

    You mean like this openly gay Republican running on the Republican ticket for governor of Taxachussetts? The openly gay Republican who, by the way, is going to help clean Deval Patrick’s clock in that unhappy state destroyed by socialized medicine and progressive policies?

    desperately flogging frivolous social wedge issues to stir up enthusiasm in their mean-spirited and bigoted constituencies.

    I guess that’s why the racist, Dr. Alveda King, Martin Luther King’s niece will be speaking at the Tea Party Rally tomorrow at the Lincoln Memorial — because she and her Republican uncle are mean-spirited and bigoted?

    Actually, its because these are NOT mean-spirited wedge issues, but issues that unite the vast majority of Americans, and the ONLY people they divide is the radical, America-loathing fascist left. Even CNN polls show that 68% of Americans oppose the construction of the mosque at ground zero — NOT that they think the builders dont have the right, as the lying left has been dishonestly saying, but that it is inappropriate.

    The VAST majority of Americans also want the borders secure, and support the completely constitutional Arizona law which is another big social issue this election, and overwhelmingly disapprove of Obama suing Arizona.

    And yes, a large majority of Americans still oppose gay marriage.

    So it is very pleasing to hear you unwittingly admit that the vast majority of Americans, and voters, are supporting Republicans against this unpopular, unsupported, fascist “progressive” government.

    Comment by American Elephant — August 27, 2010 @ 3:21 pm - August 27, 2010

  13. #12: “holy cow youre blind Levi, did you not see the rampant, venomous homophobic slurs by “progressives” at such places as the Huffington Post and throughout the leftist media when Mark Foley was outed, and how the liberal media portrayed him as a child molester even though no one he sexually harassed was a minor? Did you not see the rampant anti-gays slurs on the left when Larry Craig was outed?”

    See them? Please. Levi posted most of them, AE.

    Comment by Sean A — August 27, 2010 @ 3:46 pm - August 27, 2010

  14. Dan, I think you, Levi, and Kate Zernicke make the same mistake about the electorate albeit from different sides.

    I continue to get the impression that you do not appreciate the reality of the Republican coalition, which is that we enjoy majority support on the economy right now, NOT because the majority of Americans are fiscal and economic conservatives, but because the economy sucks right now and Democrats are the only party in power, and have been in power for the past four years, so the only ones who can legitimately be blamed.

    You want to believe that most Americans agree with you and I on economic issues, so you ascribe our beliefs to them.

    Levi, on the other hand, only wants to see hate when he looks at the Republican party, because creating bogeymen makes it easier for him to remain in denial and refuse to deal with being different, so he sees only the phony bogeymen he has created and ascribes the hate he has dishonestly manufactured out of whole cloth to the entire coalition.

    The truth is you are both wrong.

    The truth is that Republicans enjoy majority support on the economy because the economy sucks and they are the alternative. NOT because a majority of Americans are economically conservative.

    It is ENTIRELY possible, indeed likely, that this election will result in a recovery simply because a Republican takeover of either house will mean gridlock in Washington.

    BUT! When the economy recovers, and you have a Republican House, a Democrat Senate, a Democrat President, and a liberal Press. And guess to which party three out of four of those institutions will be giving credit?

    So once again, we have the very good chance of a very close election in 2012. (one in which you can put money on Democrats recruiting a third party presidential candidate like Michael Bloomberg), and one which Republicans are in danger of LOSING — ESPECIALLY if they wrongly assume that anger over a crappy economy and a government the people think does not have the consent of the governed means that the majority of Americans have embraced fiscal and economic conservatism. And ESPECIALLY if they wrongly conclude that they can ignore the 14% of voters who EVEN IN THIS ECONOMY say that they are more concerned with social issues.

    Say this to yourself, and repeat it over and over and over again:

    The Reagan coalition is a COALITION, not a fiscal conservative majority….

    The Reagan coalition is a COALITION, not a fiscal conservative majority…..

    The Reagan coalition is a COALITION, not a fiscal conservative majority.

    Comment by American Elephant — August 27, 2010 @ 4:44 pm - August 27, 2010

  15. :D @ Sean

    Comment by American Elephant — August 27, 2010 @ 4:45 pm - August 27, 2010

  16. We have to motivate everyone who voted for President Obama, to vote again for Dems. Give the man time to accomplish what he wants to do. God help us if the Republicans take over again. There is not a single one of them that can be trusted to help anyone but the rich.

    Comment by steve — August 27, 2010 @ 5:02 pm - August 27, 2010

  17. There is not a single one of them that can be trusted to help anyone but the rich the free!

    Why is it then that stufy after study after study not to mention the tax returns of Republican v Democrat politicians show that Republicans give FAR more of their money AND time to charity than do Democrats, and why is is that the entire Democrat leadership is made up of tax cheats???

    Because Democrats are only generous with OTHER people’s money, not their own! Republicans understand that the people are more generous with their own money than Democrats are with theirs, but that people are more RESPONSIBLE with their own money than government is as well.

    Comment by American Elephant — August 27, 2010 @ 5:29 pm - August 27, 2010

  18. We have to motivate everyone who voted for President Obama, to vote again for Dems. Give the man time to accomplish what he wants to do. God help us if the Republicans take over again. There is not a single one of them that can be trusted to help anyone but the rich.

    Ok, I’m calling bullshit. Calling me a “house faggot for the GOP” was probably your masterpiece. Your just phoning it in now, aren’t you? :-)

    Comment by Eric Olsen — August 27, 2010 @ 6:49 pm - August 27, 2010

  19. Give the man time to accomplish what he wants to do.

    Everything he’s wanted to do so far has run counter to what Americans want, so why the hell would they vote for him again?

    Which reminds me, I was watching a video this morning where Sarah Silverman was begging Jewish libs to “schlep” down to Florida to convince “Nana & Bubbie” to vote for Obama. She said that his policies on Israel were “much better” than McCain’s. We’ve seen how that’s turned out.

    I happened to notice that when she was listing some of his alleged attributes, she couldn’t look at the camera when she said that he was honest. She looked at the floor instead.

    http://vimeo.com/1808434

    How this isn’t racist, I’ll never know.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — August 27, 2010 @ 7:28 pm - August 27, 2010

  20. It’s 2 months and 2 weeks. The economic numbers are going south and people generally will be making up their minds over the next month to six weeks.

    There is no reason to panic because we will have a Republican House and a Democratic Senate and Presidency. They will have to work together and we will see some more moderate legislation pass.

    This will be good for the nation and will allow Obama to use the knucklehead Republicans in the House as a foil. It will guarantee his reelection in 2012.

    Comment by steve — August 27, 2010 @ 10:10 pm - August 27, 2010

  21. The GOP will gain some seats, perhaps a majority. They will fail. They will blame their failure on the obstructive tactics of the Dems. And so the circle of life continues.

    Comment by steve — August 27, 2010 @ 10:24 pm - August 27, 2010

  22. This will be good for the nation and will allow Obama to use the knucklehead Republicans in the House as a foil. It will guarantee his reelection in 2012.

    How? He’s doing that right now and his poll numbers still suck balls and continue their downward spiral. The defeat of the liberals won’t be just to play fair, it will be a message that the American people are sick of their shit. Why would they then turn around and re-elect the POSiC?

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — August 28, 2010 @ 4:00 am - August 28, 2010

  23. How? He’s doing that right now and his poll numbers still suck balls and continue their downward spiral. The defeat of the liberals won’t be just to play fair, it will be a message that the American people are sick of their shit. Why would they then turn around and re-elect the POSiC?

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — August 28, 2010 @ 4:00 am – August 28, 2010

    Because no one wants John Boner and Mitch McConnell in charge. They would be a disaster.

    Comment by steve — August 28, 2010 @ 10:16 am - August 28, 2010

  24. Because no one wants John Boner and Mitch McConnell in charge.

    One always knows that a salesman thinks his own product is pathetic when all said salesman has for a pitch is to tear down the competition.

    Looks like your strategy of voting based on skin color failed, steve. And fortunately, liberal racists like yourself are too stupid to realize that. We all know that you are incapable of doing anything other than believing that Obama is absolutely perfect and godlike because to do otherwise would mean you hate black people.

    Perhaps if you could judge by the content of character instead of the color of skin, you might have a chance. But as your party’s new leader, the Reverend Al Sharpton made clear today, your Obama Party is and will remain a party based on beliefs in racial superiority, hatred of white people, and demands for wealth redistribution based solely on pigmentation.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — August 28, 2010 @ 5:28 pm - August 28, 2010

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