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Heritage Lost… This Time

[ 21 ] December 23, 2010 |

While I would like to believe the argument made here by Max Bergman, I’m afraid I’m a good deal less optimistic regarding the influence of Heritage:

The hard right Heritage Foundation, one of the pillars of the conservative movement, made defeating START one of its top institutional priorities. Yet 13 Republican Senators ended up bucking Heritage and voted to ratify the START treaty. Heritage ended up so far to the right that it was unable to convince any significant number of Republicans to follow its nonsensical substantive attack on START that the treaty would lead to massive nuclear proliferation and eventually to a nuclear war…

Yet despite all this effort, a quarter of the Republican caucus bucked Heritage’s advocacy campaign and its lobbying efforts to support the treaty. As the facts came out and it became increasingly clear that none of their anti-treaty arguments held any water, Republicans increasingly relied on process complaints to oppose the treaty, rather than substance. In the end, few Senators, with the exception of Jim DeMint, really embraced the Heritage line. The pressure they exerted on Republican members was in the end outdone by the coalition of progressive groups that pressed to ratify the treaty.

There are two issues worth revisiting.  The first is that conservative Republican opposition to arms control isn’t something particularly new or unusual. Right wing Republicans denounced Reagan, after all, for pursuing arms control with the Soviet Union.  The split within the Reagan administration is very similar to the split in the contemporary GOP, except that opponents of arms control have probably grown stronger since the 1980s.  A notional President McCain may have pushed for New START, and if he had pushed would probably have gotten more than 71 votes, but “we need to deny Obama a victory” isn’t the only motivation for Republicans on this issue.

The second is that the arms control opponents appear to be winning the battle within the GOP.  The New START debate over the last month has been held largely under the assumption that the treaty would die if it wasn’t ratified during the lame duck session.  I suspect that this assumption is accurate.  Moreover, the two most important potential GOP presidential candidates have “authored” op-eds that are essentially collections of Heritage Foundation talking points.  Finally, the GOPsters who supported the treaty are mostly (although not all) old and outside of the GOP mainstream.

I’m afraid that I have to concur with Mary Beth Sheridan’s account; Heritage failed, but demonstrated its strength within the GOP caucus. The anti-arms control faction of the GOP was much more careful and serious about developing a network of institutional support than the pro-arms control faction, and at this point the latter is on life support.

Comments (21)

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  1. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    On the other hand, Heritage can take some pride in having its healthcare proposals (c. 1993) becoming the law of the land earlier this year.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      When a public option is eventually put into effect, are you going to damn it as a Republican idea, too?

      After all, just like the subsidization of health insurance and a universal mandate in 19923, the public option once put forward in bad faith by Republicans in an effort to stall an actual health care bill.

      Isn’t it funny how the Republicans, who controlled both houses of Congress from 1995-2007, and controlled the White House for six of those years, never got around to making any effort whatsoever to adopt “their” health care plan?

      • DocAmazing says:

        When a public option is eventually put into effect, are you going to damn it as a Republican idea, too?

        Dumb statement. The health care proposals of the Heritage Foundation are a matter of record. Not once did they ever suggest a public option. Heck, given that Obama took the public option off the table, your statement doesn’t even work as hyperbole.

        If you’re going to equate poison pills and stalling tactics with policy proposals, and celebrate when one such poison pill is adopted with a few tweaks as policy, i would suggest that you need to do a lot more studying of health care and public health needs.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Perhaps you should have followed the health care debate in Congress a little closer, Doc.

          You don’t seem to remember, but the House Republicans offered an amendment to the revised Affordable Care Act in the House, an amendment creating a public option, in an effort to undermine the Democrats’ efforts to pass the bill.

          If you’re going to equate poison pills and stalling tactics with policy proposals…

          That’s just the point: the Heritage “proposal” was never a serious policy proposal. It was a poison pill – a fake proposal put forward in bad faith for no reason than to undermine support for an actual health care reform bill that could actually pass. That’s why it was released in the midst of the debate over the Clinton health care plan, and that’s why absolutely nothing was ever done by the Republicans or the Heritage Foundation to make it happen after the Clinton plan failed.

          I think, as the DADT debate demonstrated, that Congressional process and the path of bills through the Capitol is clearly not your thing; so really, it would be a good idea for you to demonstrate a bit more humility when replying to others who have gotten these questions right. You’re really not an expert here, and you really aren’t in a position to talk down to anyone, now are you?

  2. timb says:

    Heritage has used its money to buy Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin, et al which means their lobbying efforts will have a large “grass-roots” appeal. I would expect them to have a lot of influence over the new members of the House, because, you know, the Tea Party is not connected to the Republican establishment…

  3. DrDick says:

    So you are arguing that the Republicans who voted for START are the tattered remnants of a still sane and responsible (if still retrograde and reprehensible) Republican Party, while the rest all ate the wrong mushrooms and drank the koolaid at the Heritage Foundation holiday party, rendering them batshit crazy zombies?

  4. joe from Lowell says:

    Excellent point about the genuine, principled, albeit insane, opposition to arms-reduction treaties among much of the right.

    This wasn’t a pose, and it wasn’t all about Obama. There is a large segment, perhaps a majority, of conservatives who are genuinely opposed to treaties that limit our freedom of movement, and who believe that our military and economic dominance means that arms races are to our ultimate benefit.

    • DrDick says:

      I refer to it as the Goldwater-Haig foreign policy axis.

    • Joe says:

      Sometimes, hard as it is for people to believe, it actually is principle. Still, sometimes hard to see that principle (in a big ‘p’ sense, not anti-Obama principle) guides the Republican Party in the Congress.

      • DrDick says:

        If you want to call the will to power and world domination a principle, I suppose so. Otherwise, it is exactly the same as their desire to thwart Obama and the Dems.

        • Malaclypse says:

          “Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Donnie – at least it’s an ethos.”

        • Joe says:

          Yes, there is a difference between unilateral domination or some such and being against one political candidate.

          • DrDick says:

            Only as a matter of scale. Opposition to Obama (actually to all Democrats) is about national domination by the Republican Party. They are all and only about controlling power.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              I don’t think that’s true. There are clearly things they genuinely believe in.

              They genuinely believe in an imperialist foreign policy.

              They genuinely believe in the right of the wealthy to political dominance.

              They genuinely believe – many of them, anyway – in maintaining the dominant position of Christianity in our society.

              They genuinely believe that efforts to reduce inequality – economic, but also between white Christian males and those in other demographics -are wrong.

              These aren’t just poses they strike to win elections. They actually believe in these things.

              • DrDick says:

                As I said, they are all about controlling power. I never said that they did not believe that they deserved it or had a right to it.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          It is a principle, albeit a harmful one.

          The greatest danger doesn’t come from cynics and hypocrites; it comes from the true believers.

    • Malaclypse says:

      There is a large segment, perhaps a majority, of conservatives who are genuinely opposed to treaties that limit our freedom of movement,

      Limiting nukes restricts us georgraphically somehow? How? Be specific and use examples.

      and who believe that our military and economic dominance means that arms races are to our ultimate benefit.

      You do realize that the moment the Chinese stop subsidizing our military that it goes away, don’t you?

      Dominance is never forever. The smartest thing the British did was shaped a port-empire world in which they could still prosper. Us, not so bright.

      • Malaclypse says:

        “post-empire.” I blame treaties that restricted my freedom to type.

      • DrDick says:

        There were a number of conservatives during the cold war who (wrongly, IMHO) opposed such treaties on principle (and a whole lot more who did so just because they were batshit crazy like Haig and Goldwater). Those rationales, however, depended on the geopolitical context of the cold war and disappeared after the collapse of the Soviet Union. There is no rational reason to oppose such treaties today.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          It’s rational, if you accept their assumptions.

          I think it’s their assumptions – that state vs. state conflicts are still our greatest security threat, the the nuclear threats to our security that we face in the 21st century can be deterred by our own nuclear arsenal – that are wrong. If you accept their assumptions, though, then the conclusion they come to rationally follows.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        “geographically?” What on earth are you talking about? I sincerely hope you’re playing dumb here, because I shudder to think that you are actually struggling with my point.

        You do realize that the moment the Chinese stop subsidizing our military that it goes away, don’t you?

        The Chinese weren’t subsidizing our military from 1950-2000.

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