With President Obama nominating someone new to the Supreme Court, we were spared the expected narrative aboot how those mean spirited tea partiers have taken over the Republican party and claimed soon to be former Utah Senator Bob Bennett. There were a few of the usual suspects in the editorial pages expectedly singing from the DNC playbook…you know, boringboringboring – intollerant conservatives, boringboringboring – no room for moderates, boringboringboring – HOW DARE YOU SIR?!?
I blogged aboot the real Republican civil war, not the faux one between conservatives and moderates, but the actual ones between reformers and politicians who think they are above the voters. You know, the Republicans who endorsed Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist, told us we needed to nominate John McCain if we had any chance to win the Presidency, and who seem to think the wisdom of a few senators in D.C. matter more than the voters who sent them there in the first place.
And as with most things, even the battle between “conservatives” and “moderates” is a lot more nuance than anyone in the media (save a few) will even acknowledge, as Erick Erickson lays out perfectly in his most recent post on Redstate.com. He goes into why Bennett matters and what we need to do next, but as for where the media gets it wrong…
The media wants to boil this down to TARP. It is the arrogance of the media that thinks it can encapsulate an entire story into one nugget, as if it was just the image of Charlie Crist hugging Barack Obama that made the good people of Florida reject him. Ousting Bob Bennett had nothing to do with TARP per se. It had everything to do with Bob Bennett being one of those Republicans who hid behind the safety of an 80% American Conservative Union rating without realizing he was still the 8th most liberal Republican in the United States Senate, even though he’s from the most conservative state in the nation.
Thus we arrive to what this is about. For a long time conservatives entangled themselves with the Republican Party. Everyone got cushy. And when conservatives started being sold out by the Republicans in favor of greater government expansion, conservatives sucked it up. By 2006, the balance was getting out of whack, but the media so long used to the short cut of Republican = Conservative failed to realize that the tangled mess was starting to come loose. What sealed the deal was President Bush’s actions in 2008 and the arrogance of people like Bob Bennett to lash out at conservatives for daring to disagree with the policy prescription of killing the free market to save it.
The media gets this story wrong because the media is collectively lazy. They live on a playbook adopted in the 80’s and left unchanged. Republicans are conservatives according to the media. A move by conservatives against Republicans must therefore be to push already existing conservatives even further to the right. The media has gone on for so long collaborating with the left, it has missed not just one, but two of the biggest political stories of the past decade. (1) Conservatives effectively marginalized themselves within the Republican Party except on the issues of judges and abortion and (2) conservatives are now fighting to disentangle themselves from the Republican Party, leaving some of their own behind as too far gone to be helped…
Now, the great disentangling of conservatism has begun. Conservatives have had enough of being just a token of a Republican Party that never actually opts for smaller government and never actually believes in the limited powers of a federal government. Bob Bennett, for example, voted that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, but he refused to take it out of his own health care alternative because notwithstanding its unconstitutionality, he thought it was needed. He also famously declared the constitution “an outmoded document of an agrarian society”. If you want a nutshell explanation of Utah, it is this: Bob Bennett decided he was smarter than all the folks back home and the folks back home decided he needed to be humbled.