Recently, it’s as if the president has been looking for ways to slip up when speaking to large, public crowds. In fact, his many gaffes have made it seem that these statements aren’t mistakes at all: they are just politically incorrect verbalizations of what Obama really thinks.
As referenced in my post below, David Frum cites as one of the reasons that the GOP lost a lot of members last election – members who had been on the wagon 20+ years – was that the party has become too extreme (in a sampling from the state of PA; excuse me, Commonwealth of PA). Not only were these longtime GOP voters; they were affluent and educated. So what gives?
That was essentially the answer given by General Motor’s CEO, Rick Wagner, when he proposed that a gas tax hike was “worthy of consideration.”
Let’s consider the logic behind this. When gas reached (and exceeded) four dollars a gallon last summer, drivers were redlining. Toward new automobile purchases, however, they responded by buying hybrid vehicles. Thus, the GM’s logic is that by forcing Americans to pay a higher gas tax and maintaining gas prices at a minimum four dollars a gallon, car buyers will once again flock to the beloved hybrid.
Not coincidentally, increasing hybrid sales fits perfectly into GM’s roadmap, “around 2015” predicts GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, “we’re going to have to sell a ton of hybrids whether people want them or not.” (emphasis mine). GM, whose stock has dropped 94% since June 2007, has already begun implementing its program. During the height of the gas extravaganza, Wagner promised, “If you want to talk hybrids; we are introducing four more hybrids in the US this year. In fact, counting the new Saturn Green Line, we are introducing sixteen hybrids in the next four years. That’s one about every three months.”
But that gas has dropped to below two dollars a gallon, hybrid sales have fallen just as hard as GM’s stock.
Meanwhile, GM is on life support. And, of course, the government is generously providing enough capital to weather the financial storm. One string attached to the bailout though is the requirement that GM submit a viability plan to prove that GM will not be an utter failure. One can only wonder if Rick Wagner’s statement proposing a gas hike is an effort to please Uncle Sam. But if GM’s best response to demonstrate its future profitability is by suggesting a raise to the gas tax so Americans buy hybrids (“whether people want them or not”), then I fear to the car company has lost touch with basic economics and thus deserves what probably inevitable: failure.
Reihan Salam, co-author of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream, has an interesting article today on Governor Mark Sanford, the studious and professorial governor of South Carolina. Sanford made waves last week by becoming the first of the nation’s governors to reject a portion of the “stimulus” funds. More accurately, he asked the Obama administration for a waiver to spend the state’s portion of the stimulus money shoring up South Carolina’s fiscal health, a move consistent with his 15-year political career, and a request that was predictably denied today.
Salam notes some of the appeal of Gov. Sanford: his dogged determination to keep the government from involving itself where the private sector is best suited; his consistent approach to reducing government spending; and his popularity among fiscal conservatives across the country. As Salam states, Sanford is among the few Republicans who actually governs according to his professed principles.
While calling Sanford “impressive,” Salam’s assessment of the political efficacy of his brand of conservatism isn’t so rosy. He views Sanford as a Goldwater-type figure, starting a conversation that may produce political results in the future, but not politically successful on the national level himself. Other authors, however, have a different view.
If anything, as Salam notes, Sanford’s focus on limiting spending to sustainable levels, which prevents the boom-bust budget cycles through which we constantly suffer, might actually be more effective at producing limited government than the starve-the-beast tax cut approach (because re-election-seeking Congressmen tend to replace cuts with debt-financing, not corresponding budget cuts). Whatever Governor Sanford’s future political plans, he has clearly taken the role of opposition leader to President Obama’s fiscal mayhem, and any accusations of political grandstanding are made by the ignorant: throughout his political career, Sanford has taken –and will continue to take–principled positions that anger the echo chamber, while remaining wildly popular among the voters.
Several legal scholars have suggested that the bypass provision of the Obama “stimulus” bill could be unconstitutional. Basically, the argument posits that Congress may allocate funds subject to conditions, but may not bypass the recipient states’ constitutional structure.
In an act surely to prolong an already protracted debate on embryonic stem-cell research, the president just signed an appropriations bill that outlaws the use of federal funds for such research–funding that he ceremoniously approved a matter of days ago.
So I was flying back from NYC this Saturday and I pretty much read the March 16th Newsweek cover-to-cover. The cover tells the cover story – conservatism has had enough of Rush Limbaugh. The author, David Frum, is a resident fellow at AEI and runs a blog, newmajority.com, subtitled “building a conservatism that can win again.” His conservative credentials are unquestionable. And he thinks Rush should stick a fork in it.
Frum has two main jabs at Rush, as far as I can tell. One is that Rush cares more about promoting himself than the common good of society. Two is that Rush thinks, as he stated at CPAC, that conservatism “is what it is forever. It’s not something you can bend and shape.” And for all you Dostoevsky-reading amateur psychoanalysts out there (like myself), these two are obviously related – of course a man who has made his self-image on the Reagan-era brand conservatism is going to argue for its immutability.
Frum believes that conservatives should reject Rush’s flamboyance because it makes a bad face for the movement among the voters that we need to reach – especially independents and women. And they should reject his view of the immutability of conservatism because 1) the old form isn’t successfully governing anymore, and thus 2) it isn’t getting us votes (which is the founding purpose of Ex Deserto).
I think Frum is right for one simple fact: Without votes, conservatism means nothing.
Holding the line in an absolute sense to a certain political ideology is treating politics like religion. It is putting an absolute hope in the political order, as if politics were able to save man, to give him all he needs. That is Marxism. I don’t know about you, but my Savior is a person. Politics is not religion. Politics is about governing, about ordering society well. In politics, you have to go with what works; you have to do as much good as possible and avoid as much evil as possible; and you are never going to know the exact outcome of your actions. Prudence is the name of the game.
And this is where Frum goes (minus the political theology). His critique of Rush is a springboard into his argument for how conservatism needs to change. Conservatism (in order to actually be a force again, i.e. to reach voters)
1) needs to become less extreme
2) needs to modulate its social conservatism
3) needs an environmental message
4) (above all) needs to take governing seriously again
I have to write an appellate brief now. But I’m going to cover each of these topics later. You should read the article.
Conservatives aren’t particularly pleased with much of President Bush’s legacy: the bank bailout, No Child Left Behind, the prescription drug bill, increased deficits, etc. However, it’s inarguable that President Bush performed valiantly in the area of national security, considering that there have been no more terrorist attacks on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001. Here, former Bush press secretary Ari Fleisher defends the Bush legacy. He does an outstanding job, if you can handle the Chris Matthews bloviating long enough to hear Fleisher’s points.