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The GOP’s fruitless search in 2012 for a real Reagan Republican?

Where, I asked in January, “is the conservative candidate at this conservative moment?” “In the current contest, . . . no candidate has emerged to take on Reagan’s mantle.”  In their search for a charismatic and principled conservatives who could rally the party faithful, many Republican voters, dissatisfied with the frontrunner and eager to find an alternative, have embraced, at various points during the campaign, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and now Rick Santorum.

Unlike Bachmann, Cain or Gingrich, however, Santorum has never really embraced the libertarian economic policies which defined the Gipper’s domestic policies — and now form the basis for the Tea Party’s agenda.  Moreover, as Ace observes, echoing John Podhoretz, Santorum lacks Reagan’s sunny disposition:

Santorum’s problem, again and again, is that he doesn’t want to make apositive uplifting case for things. He might have given a speech encouraging a newfound, recovered respect for the trades. He might have given a speech about the positive virtue of sweat. And it’s importance in America.

Instead he just brands those who wish their kids to go to college “snobs.”

Taking issue not with Santorum’s tone, but with the content of his recent robocall (faulting Romney for supporting TARP while opposing the auto bailouts), Jay Nordlinger seems dumbfounded, “And this is our guy? Santorum is the conservatives’ guy?

Many conservatives supported the bank bailout and opposed the auto bailout. You can look up arguments within NR editorials. Conservatives all over the country, in all sorts of forums, made arguments for and against — for and against either bailout. Those arguments continue now, retrospectively.

But is there any thinking or respectable conservative who uses Rick Santorum’s language — the bank bailout was for Mitt Romney’s “Wall Street billionaire buddies” while Michigan workers got their faces slapped? (Santorum opposed the auto bailout, too. Was he slapping workers’ faces?)

Ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t conservatism. It’s more like street-corner Marxism. What a strange and tragic pass we’ve reached.

So eager are some conservatives for a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney that they have embraced a candidate who is far from the “full spectrum conservative” he claims to be.



  1. Here is the problem with the Republican party… They’re looking for a Reagan Republican.

    The Republicans need to move beyond the fixation on Reagan and find someone to be his own man. Part of Newt’s failure is he has been trying to run on Reagan’s coat-tails, when Reagan’s coat-tails were pulled in probably after Bush Sr lost to Clinton in 1990, and certainly after Dole lost in 94.

    Things Change. Parties must also change.

    The Dems had a similar problem for many years – They were always looking for a JFK Democrat. With the exception of the Jimmy Carter win, which was still part of the hang-over from the political nuclear explosion that was the Nixon resignation, the Dems didn’t win until The whole JFK thing was out of their system. Oh, sure, the name was still bandied about, but, with the exception of Dan Quayle / Lloyd Bentson debate, JFK in reality didn’t matter much anymore. Why, because a huge proportion of voters were not adults when Kennedy was alive, and had no real personal connection to him. Sure, they know some of the stuff he did, and maybe liked some of the stuff he did; but they didn’t have the familiarity with him. People vote because of things in the here and now, not based on memories of Presidents who are long gone from office.

    Comment by sonicfrog — February 28, 2012 @ 7:38 pm - February 28, 2012

  2. Good critique, sonic.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — February 28, 2012 @ 7:57 pm - February 28, 2012

  3. To expand on my last comment.

    When Ronald Reagan found success, he was riding a wave started by the Barry Goldwater campaign. But people weren’t looking for a Goldwater candidate, and they certainly weren’t praising Reagan as the Goldwater guy. But Goldwater changed the party. The last guy who had any real Goldwater connection was McCain, and he didn’t fare that well within the party.


    Because the party has moved beyond Goldwater, or Reagan for that matter. You need something new…. Something vital. Mitt doesn’t bring it. Santorum? Certainly not. Newt is too much like Pat Buchanan, sometimes brutally honest saying what needs to be said, but will distort fact at the drop of a hat if it suits him. I know many of you don’t like him much, but i think the game-changer for the Republican party is Ron Paul. I think, for good and for not so good, he’s going to cast a long shadow of influence in the party for years to come.

    PS.. I also think that, because of his blatant honesty, Chris Christie can be considered in the same mold as Ron Paul.

    Comment by sonicfrog — February 28, 2012 @ 7:59 pm - February 28, 2012

  4. Ha, i just noticed your previous post is following the same tack as my last comment… Great Mind And All That! 🙂

    Comment by sonicfrog — February 28, 2012 @ 8:01 pm - February 28, 2012

  5. I cringe whenever I hear one of the candidates mention (or worse compare himself to) RR. Unfortunately, RR was one of a kind and, as Sonic alludes to with JFK, the Reagan era was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

    I saw a CNBC report that the markets are starting to price in a second Obama term. Terrifying, isn’t it, that that’s even in the realm of possibility.

    We, the people, have lost our way.

    I am now fully on-board with the Derbyshire-Steyn-Buchanan “We Are Doomed” scenario. Oh, I hope I am so wrong.

    Comment by SoCalRobert — February 28, 2012 @ 8:30 pm - February 28, 2012

  6. It is unfortunate that Rick Santorum expressed his idea in a way that is so easily demagogued, because much like his comment that income inequality was a good thing (which it is, unless you want your WalMart Greeters and your neurosurgeons on the same pay scale), he is correct that higher education is a waste of money; definitely on a societal level.

    The number of women’s studies graduates, urban studies graduates, and social workers in our country has exceeded the carrying capacity of our economy and society. We really only need so many diversity coordinators and deputy program analysts. (Technically, the number of those people we actually need is 0). We sure as hell don’t need any more lawyers.

    We could use more engineers and scientists, but the system isn’t set up for us to fund those students without funding students studying worthless crap.

    And the nut of Santorum’s argument is that those who’ve studied and practiced worthless crap (e.g. community organizers and hospital “Vice President’s in Charge of Patient Dumping”) look down their elite noses at people who do actual work in society.

    We don’t need more people studying contemporary culture or any major with the word “studies” in it. We do need skilled mechanics, technicians, and tradesman. A person with an Ivy League Degree in Transgendered First People’s Poetry may look down on someone with a degree from ITT Tech, but ultimately, the latter is contributing more to society.

    If Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio had made precisely the same point, y’all would be falling all over yourselves to commend his insight.

    Comment by V the K — February 28, 2012 @ 8:39 pm - February 28, 2012

  7. And, unfortunately, Mitt Romney is one of those out-of-touch snobs.

    Comment by V the K — February 28, 2012 @ 8:40 pm - February 28, 2012

  8. In 2008, Romney was The Conservative. This year, Santorum is The Conservative. So the candidates are gradually growing right. Perhaps by 2024, we’ll see a candidate who’s read Buckley, owned a business, and understands PhD dissertations are not the basis for economic and foreign policy.

    Comment by DaveO — February 28, 2012 @ 10:08 pm - February 28, 2012

  9. Like all 4 “survivors”, Santorum is a weird mixture of the good and the bad. I don’t like any of them.

    Can I trust a candidate who seriously think that the libertarian influence in the Republican Party (such little as it is) is a bad thing? No, I can’t.

    Part of Newt’s failure is he has been trying to run on Reagan’s coat-tails

    No, actually. It’s more that Newt can’t possibly run on them without provoking laughs from the knowledgeable. Also, that Newt is no more a positive leader than Santorum is; Newt whines pettily, when he feels that his person has been insulted, making him like Obama.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — February 28, 2012 @ 10:08 pm - February 28, 2012

  10. The markets have not even come close to pricing in an Obama victory. You all have to VERY careful with any story from any left leaning source. All they are doing is attempting to get under your skin, demoralize you and have you give up and not show up on 11/6/2012.

    Since March 2009 the market (measured by the S&P 500) is up 106%. Please don’t tell me the market was discounting an Obama victory in March 2009. No way!! Beyond the usual greed and fear, the current market is only reacting to the rise in corporate earnings, which is THE MOST IMPORTANT data that drives markets. I could go on and explain more, but you may get bored.

    One more point I will say is that we may very well be at the doorstep of one of the most historic bull markets in history. The consumer, investors world wide, and corporate America is wound up like a tight rubberband. If certain events happen this year, the market will unleash over 12 years of a “do nothing market.” The market was at a similar doorstep in August 1982, and it didn’t stop till March 2000 with the Dot-Com explosion. Just think about who was the democrat disaster of that time, and you can see the similarities.

    Comment by mixitup — February 28, 2012 @ 10:14 pm - February 28, 2012

  11. mixitup, I partly agree / partly disagree. The markets are up on a combination of:

    (1) years of QE (which BTW is ongoing, despite everyone pretending that it is not; shall I explain further?) – and
    (2) “Europe exhaustion” – sentiment about Europe was so negative and so weighing on everything in the last few months of 2011, that some sort of snapback was inevitable.

    As markets do swing like pendulums and most of the economic & corporate news has been a little better lately and tons of cash are still sitting on the sidelines (waiting to go in), I agree that we could see a nice bull market… oh about now.

    But it is (or will be) a form of denial. U.S. financial fundamentals remain awful, people are right to be scared, Obama does have a good chance of re-election (that still needs to be priced in), etc. So I don’t expect any bull market to last. It will crash again, when the next financial crisis hits – probably when the sovereign debt crisis eventually moves from Europe to Japan, and finally the U.S.

    The U.S. stock market has “secular” (large-scale) bull and bear cycles lasting 14-20 years. We are only 12 years into the current secular bear. It’s too soon to come out of it. What happens at the end of the secular bear is, (1) “everyone” hates stocks and is out of them, (2) the government realizes that it needs to change its awful policies. Think 1982. We’re not there yet. We will be… but not yet.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — February 28, 2012 @ 10:33 pm - February 28, 2012

  12. V the K @ #6, great comment.

    However, I’ve found some things Rick Santorum has said difficult to understand precisely what he means. I guess that is inevitable when you mostly get your quotes second-hand (as I do), and especially with someone whose views are misrepresented so incredibly much.

    Anyway, I am assuming Marco Rubio would have found a better way of saying it, if that is, in fact, what Santorum was saying.

    Comment by Rattlesnake — February 28, 2012 @ 11:01 pm - February 28, 2012

  13. Rattlesnake, there’s just a lot of visceral hatred for Rick Santorum here and on other blogs; which is unfortunate because despite his weaknesses as a candidate he is a good, decent family man.

    ILC, I initially thought the economy was experiencing a ‘Dead Cat Bounce,’ but I now think what might have happened is that the correction has worked itself out as well as it can under the current circumstances (those circumstances being high taxes and over-regulation) and while it will continue to underperform, the economy will improve just enough to drag the SCOAMF’s skinny ass across the finish line in November.

    Comment by V the K — February 28, 2012 @ 11:07 pm - February 28, 2012

  14. Yes V I think that’s quite possible… but remember, The Other Shoe is still to drop. (U.S. sovereign debt crisis)

    I’ve said for awhile that if it drops by Oct. 2012, SCOAMF loses… if it takes a few years longer, SCOAMF wins… either way, it’s in the next 5 years, and drops on the SCOAMF.

    I wish it would be sooner, just from the standpoint of getting it over with. The longer it takes, the bigger the underlying problems will be when it does hit – and so, the worse the collateral damage to America.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — February 28, 2012 @ 11:13 pm - February 28, 2012

  15. V, by the way:

    there’s just a lot of visceral hatred for Rick Santorum here

    Can you be more specific? Do you mean from lefties? If not, what did you have in mind as being hatred?

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — February 29, 2012 @ 1:25 am - February 29, 2012

  16. Willard Mittens after his double win: Lookin tired, soundin good:

    (And no, that doesn’t mean I like him. Just news.)

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — February 29, 2012 @ 1:34 am - February 29, 2012

  17. There has been a notable tone of disdain for Santorum in this forum. Over the last week, Santorum has been called in this forum a “sourpuss” a “useful idiot” A Ron Paul attack ad was posted just for the sake of slamming Santorum. But, there’s been absolutely no mention of Mitt’s “My wife has two Cadillacs” or “I have friends who own NASCAR Teams” gaffes.

    Granted, it’s been much, much worse at Ace of Spades, where some commenters have been openly calling for a purge of social conservatives from the party.

    Comment by V the K — February 29, 2012 @ 6:40 am - February 29, 2012

  18. “useful idiot”

    That was mine. I’ve been equally as harsh (or gentle, haha) on the others when I thought it equally deserved. As for Willard Mittens’ (see?) gaffes, they no longer impress me; they’re something I expect. So, without taking any definitive stand against your larger point and without refuting every example you might cite, neither am I well on my way to agreeing with it.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — February 29, 2012 @ 9:02 am - February 29, 2012

  19. ILoveCapitalis –

    We may agree more than you think!

    First, I was primarily responding to SOCalRobert in #5 – Rush even referred to the same article today and warned his listeners it is nothin more than “phony ballony good time rock and roll BS.”

    QE 1-2-3 and son of QE did and will have an impact, as well as Europlosion – but they fall under the fear/greed catagory, and market noise. Earnings have been and for the forseeable future will always be what drives markets. S&P 500 earnings have shown strong growth fron 2010 to present day. I won’t detail why earnings are up, but they are and projections are also similar. All else is noise and what drives the day to day gyrations.

    You are right about the major bear/bull cycles. We are actually 12-14+ years into the bear cycle. Large cap stocks peaked in 1998, and quite a few have never seen those values. Coca Cola(KO) hit 86 in 8/98, today it is only 69. Catapillar(CAT) has hit a new all time high. Merck(MRK) hit a 93, today it is only 38. Microsoft(MSFT) hit 60+ in 1999, today it is 31. All Dow 30 components, all large cap, and some 14 years from their highs.

    As for my bull market prediction. It ONLY applies if Obama is ousted. If he is not, we will see a sell off like in 09 from his inaugaration to the March lows. We experienced a (25%) loss in about 25 days. That doesn’t include the 2008 sell off from his election to inaugaration of (23%), for a combined sell off of (43%) from election day to March 09 low.

    I also never said it will be a new bull market cycle. I only said we will have a huge rubber band/rebound rally if he is defeated. I have warned all my clients that there then will be a hell of a sell off after that rally, which means we have to be ready to take profits. And yes, the basis for a new bull cycle will be unfolding solid fundamentals. With all the damage Obama has done, and all the genies that will never be put back in their bottles, I think you are 100% right about troubled waters ahead. But for me I embrace it – it’s what I do and love: MARKET VOLATILITY

    By the way, I too LOVE Capitalism……….

    Comment by mixitup — February 29, 2012 @ 2:38 pm - February 29, 2012

  20. As for my bull market prediction. It ONLY applies if Obama is ousted.

    Ah, fair enough. I was just thinking of a more short-term bull, floating up over S&P = 1400 on all the phony baloney, before the next crash.

    Yes – one must trade the volatility. You sound interesting, feel free to drop me a line sometime at ILoveCapitalism, at hotmail.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — February 29, 2012 @ 3:25 pm - February 29, 2012

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