In 2008, a few prominent conservatives hoped that Barack Obama might upend entrenched baby boomer attitudes and partisan dogmas. Aghast at the Bush administration’s financial and military recklessness, 20 percent of self-described conservatives voted for the “most liberal member of the Senate.”
After four years, President Obama’s case for re-election seems more a defense of the status quo than the call for change that propelled him into office: massive (though slightly smaller) deficits, a frail economy, Congressional dysfunction, and drift to war with Iran. The Bush-Obama status quo has amounted to the propping up of unsustainable entitlement programs and permanent, almost casual interventionism, accompanied by the decay of civil liberties and the growth of executive power. To this Obama has contributed a few unwelcome innovations, such as enhanced drone strikes and the HHS mandate, and some innocuous proposals: half-measures such as tax breaks for manufacturing and hiring more teachers.
There is a strong conservative case against Obama, but Mitt Romney has not made it. If Obama now represents the status quo, Romney offers nothing better than a promise to restore the radical policies that created the current conditions. As Daniel Larison notes, Romney is more likely to start a war with Iran by his own admission. It is revealing that his most prominent national security adviser is not a foreign policy wonk but a former Bush PR operative. At a time when the rich have seen unprecedented financial gains, the GOP nominee’s policies remain highly skewed to the wealthy, with special attention to the financial and defense industries. Amazingly, he seems to embrace the worst aspects of the Bush administration at a time when most Americans (rightly) blame Bush’s policies for our deep economic woes.
To the extent that Obama still offers a brake on the reckless forces of plutocracy and war (the Sheldon Adelson approach), which Romney plainly intends to restore, the conservative is left with no true alternative. In fact, the president’s re-election depends on a consensus around hard truths, the acknowledgment that immediately after the economic crisis, maybe we didn’t “deserve” to have the best years ever. Obama’s re-election, in a landscape hostile to any incumbent, would signify a certain reckoning, some actual grappling with the complexity of the crisis at hand, and a realization that neither Republican flag-waving nor sloganeering for “hope and change” are substitutes for hard choices. In this sense, the re-election of Obama might represent a surprising and mature moment in American politics.
Today on theamericanconservative.com, Jim Antle reflected on Ron Paul’s legacy (Kelley Vlahos’s take here, Daniel Larison’s here), William Lind challenged the conventional wisdom on Syria, and Scott Galupo called out the GOP’s cynical strategy on Medicare.
Today on theamericanconservative.com, Michael Dougherty imagined the GOP ticket that might have been, Scott Galupo downplayed the Romney-Ryan bump, and Samuel Goldman reflected on the politics of accents. Scott McConnell and Wick Allison complicated the Times‘s take on Republican factions.
Jordan Bloom and Michael Tracey reacted to Ron Paul’s farewell, Daniel Larison took issue with the GOP’s epistemic closure on foreign policy, and Rod Dreher braced for Isaac. James Pinkerton traced the school choice revolution, Mike Lofgren marveled at American plutocracy, and Philip Giraldi wondered if a ban on cell phone use while driving would have an impact.
This week on theamericanconservative.com, Daniel McCarthy delineated where intellectual conservatism went wrong, Scott Galupo wondered how a President Romney would frame his 2013 stimulus, and Scott McConnell homed in on the widening fissure between social conservatives and the GOP establishment. Jim Antle considered a maturing Tea Party, McCarthy excoriated Todd Akin’s redefinition of rape, and Michael Brendan Dougherty endorsed the conservative case for breaking up the banks. Robert P. Murphy argued that Paul Ryan’s ‘draconian’ budget is vastly overrated, Noah Millman chided Mediscaring on both sides, and elaborated on Obama’s small-”c” conservatism.
Michael Ostrolenk and Rep. Mick Mulvaney cut to the chase on defense spending, Samuel Goldman took issue with the NYPD’s utterly ineffective, Muslim-targeting ‘Demographic Unit,’ and Kelley Vlahos offered an overview of the (bleak) state of affairs in Iraq. Daniel Larison poured cold water on fears of future Chinese hegemony, and noted that Niall Ferguson seems to know even less about foreign policy than he does about the OMB’s report on Obamacare. Larison also discussed the illegality of a preemptive attack on Iran.
Today on theamericanconservative.com, Michael Ostrolenk and Rep. Mick Mulvaney cut to the chase on defense spending, Ron Unz remembered Alexander Cockburn, and Kelley Vlahos offered an overview of the (bleak) state of affairs in Iraq.
Rod Dreher studied Appalachia, Daniel Larison eviscerated Paul Ryan on China and Russia, Scott Galupo took on Rick Warren’s “covenant of civility,” and Philip Giraldi worried about the consequences of cyberwarfare. Help Rod pick the cover of his forthcoming book “The Little Way of Ruthie Leming” here.
Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law was upheld today. Dave Weigel, who covered the trial, has more:
I saw the petitioners (against the law) give a strong case, focusing on the difficulty of getting hundreds of thousands of voters sorted out before a November election. The state based its argument on the 2008 Crawford case, arguing that you couldn’t possibly strike down a law just because some voters would be inconvenienced — voting is inconvenient! What does the state’s win mean, effectively? The ACLU will eventually take its case to the state Supreme Court, which (due to a scandal surrounding one member) is split 3-3, Democratic and Republican members. If the court splits on this law, the Simpson decision is reaffirmed.
Samuel Goldman recently noted that the “practical impact of these laws … is likely to be more limited than either advocates or critics believe.”
Over the years The American Conservative has made occasional appearances on the “diavlog” site Bloggingheads (see Michael Brendan Dougherty, Noah Millman, Rod Dreher, and Daniel McCarthy). The site’s new series “The Good Fight” convenes thinkers from right and left for conversations about politics and ideas. TAC will be taking part, and in the spirit of civil yet spirited discourse, we’ll highlight segments from the series over the next several months.
In the debut installment, Daniel Foster and Amy Sullivan put the campaign for marriage equality in perspective:
Paul Goldberger reframes the debate — er, impasse — about the Eisenhower Memorial in the August issue of Vanity Fair:
For all that the war over the Eisenhower Memorial has been cast as a battle between modernism and traditional design, it’s really not that at all. The greatest memorials, whatever their architectural style, have conveyed a single, powerful idea with absolute clarity: the Washington Monument speaks of the singularity of the man who, more than any other, established the United States; the Lincoln Memorial of the democratic vision of the man who held it together. The Jefferson Memorial is weak because it fails to evoke Jefferson’s lively, inventive mind; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a success because its wall of names conveys, with heartbreaking directness, the way in which individual losses join together to create a tragedy of monumental proportions for all.
This is an important point. Frank Gehry’s design fails not because it does something new, but because it is incoherent (though it is not quite, as the traditionalist National Civic Art Society claims, a “monument to nihilism”). And give Gehry credit for his first consideration, which deals directly with the memorial’s wasteland-context:
The memorial is to be built on a four-acre site in front of the headquarters of the Department of Education, a dreary modernist box a block south of the Mall, set behind one of the bleakest concrete plazas in Washington, a hostile expanse that opens onto a view of parked cars and traffic running along Maryland Avenue, which slices diagonally through the space as it runs toward the Capitol. Long before it selected Gehry, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission chose the site as “Eisenhower Square,” and proposed the idea of turning the four acres into a park that would have a memorial as its centerpiece, in effect honoring Eisenhower and solving an urban design problem at the same time.
Gehry says he was searching for a way simultaneously to set off the memorial quadrant from its surroundings and obscure the ungainly façade of the Department of Education, but not block views and light for those inside the building, so he needed something that would be both large and semi-transparent.
But Gehry’s unfocused, narrative-driven structure doesn’t work: amid “shocking” tapestries of woven steel, it portrays Eisenhower as a barefoot boy “looking toward the statues that represent his future accomplishments.” The NCAS is doubling down in opposition, and on Tuesday met at a reception on Capitol Hill to showcase top entries from its 2011 counter-proposal competition.
We’re now accepting applications for TAC’s fall internship. Interns gain experience in all aspects of producing the print magazine and website, including writing blog posts and articles, proofreading, conducting research, contributing headlines and story ideas, and managing social media accounts. Clerical duties, such as answering the phone and handling the mail, are also involved.
The interns will join our growing team in Arlington, Virginia from August/September through December, and receive a small stipend. College students or recent graduates who would like to apply should send a résumé and writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 1. We’ll post more information about our spring and summer 2013 internships in the coming months.
Paul Gottfried’s column on the Pennsylvania voter ID controversy focuses on its political expediency, airing a counter-argument that isn’t actually a counter-argument but what might be the GOP’s second thoughts about ID legislation if they had them (the Republican Party can’t afford to alienate the affected demographics more than it already has – should this be reassuring?). To this he adds his inability to imagine a “situation in which Obama and Holder would refrain from challenging known Christian traditionalists and NRA lobbyists who are improperly registered to vote,” which sheds little light on the issue.
The counter-argument — focused on the fairness issue and the question of its impact — is that voter impersonation is not a systemic problem. But requiring millions of Americans to produce documentation that they do not have could be (for many of these voters, an ID can be costly to attain because of misplaced documents, misspellings, name changes, etc.). Regardless, the effect of ID requirements on turnout might not be as significant as Gottfried — and many Democrats — insist. As Samuel Goldman recently noted in his analysis on this blog: