I’ll borrow the title of one of Jim’s articles as I respond to his post. He gets to the nub of the matter when he writes, “much of what paleos oppose has become less popular with the country as a whole — if not the Right.” That’s the fork in the road: we can stick with the conservative movement, which has been the one part of the country that hasn’t come to agree with us on the war; or we can tactically support the Left, which agrees with us on the war but little else. When the early neocons faced a similar choice in the late 1970s they, of course, switched sides — from Scoop Jackson Democratic Left to proto-Reaganite Republican Right. Their gamble paid off.
One plausible strategy for paleocons would be to give up on attempts to reform the Right — which has rebuffed paleo entreaties for over 25 years — and instead try to influence the Left, which a.) may be more receptive to our ideas at this time, and b.) is more likely to have political power over the next decade. The trouble with this strategy, beyond the compromise of principle that it would entail for paleos, is that the Left seems less open to converts than the Right was in the ’80s. (Indeed, it’s hard not to notice that for 70 years the American Right has been shaped by ex-leftists: ex-Progressives and former New Dealers in the ’30s and ’40s, ex-Communists in the ’50s, and ex-liberals later on. The Left, by contrast, has never been similarly informed by migrating Rightists, the occasional Michael Lind aside.)
I don’t favor adopting the neocons’ party-switching strategy. As a short-term tactic, though, it has its place. It was in order in 2006, when even many movement types admitted that the Republicans deserved to lose Congress. Unfortunately, in Bush’s last two years, and with the nomination of McCain, the Republicans have learned none of the lessons they should have taken to heart after 2006. They’re still pro-war, weak on immigration, more sanctimonious than moral, and fiscally incontinent — the phony issue of earmark reform notwithstanding. That’s why some traditional conservatives are tempted to vote Democratic again this year.
I have deep reservations about doing that even as a temporary tactic. But the Republicans keep doing their best to make voting Democratic seem sensible — and even conservative.