Home / Robert Farley / Falling in Line

Falling in Line


Shockingly enough, there’s something of actual interest in the latest “Ben Domenech” column:

One of the most interesting aspects of the 2012 election is how the tea party movement has proven more politically mature than the center-right’s self-styled elites, and those who spent much of the Republican primary season chiding swathes of people for being insufficiently pragmatic have turned out to be far more childish than the conservative base.

The tea party movement—once again proving its pragmatism once the general election season rolls around—lined up in the immediate aftermath of the Paul Ryan pick and has proven they can grow up. Professional concern troll David Frum, who spent most of the primary season telling liberals why conservatives were never going to suck it up and go for Romney, now seems very concerned that they have.  Michelle Malkin, who could be taking the wood to Romney on a daily basis for his infidelity to the immigration hardline, has morphed into a loyal soldier while Peggy Noonan is calling for Romney to bring in the 82-year-old Jim Baker to rescue his campaign (yes, really). Ann Romney seems a bit perturbed about this.

The roles of all these figures have completely reversed. Why is this happening? A number of reasons, but chief among them that the tea party movement just wants to beat Obama—they understand that as a necessary first step before continuing any of their internal battles on policy grounds. In contrast, while most insiders want to win, they value the importance of winning on their own terms. The tea partiers could be freaking out about any number of things from Romney.  Heck, his re-endorsement of Romneycare in the past few weeks barely got a peep.  They’ve largely sucked it up, making peace with the idea that they’ll have to keep him honest if he gets to the White House.


1. Do we know enough to say with certainty that Romney’s problems don’t involve an inability to motivate the conservative base? When I read this initially I concurred with the notion that Romney’s difficulties lay on the centrist side of the coalition rather than the right, but thinking about it now I’m not 100% sure. Even weakness in Ohio and Florida could come from far right distrust of Romney’s Mormonism, Romneycare, etc.

2. Rhetorically I think that the column is correct; whatever the private plans of Tea Party types, the right wing noise machine largely shut up about Romney’s deficiencies after he won the nomination. There’s certain to be blood in the future (lots of it if, as appears likely, Romney loses), but the right of the Right is holding its fire for now, even as conservative elites begin to scurry for cover. I have my doubts that the peasants will ever actually purge the lords, but it’ll certainly be fun to watch.

3. There surely is a productive comparison to be made between how the left and the right blogosphere treat their nominees. My interest in this is both academic and political, wherein both the “Why does the Right approach solidarity differently than the Left,” and “Should the Left accord a higher value to solidarity?” I haven’t blogged about the Friedersdorf column, but I should note that I find “Why don’t these liberals talk more about drones like they did with Bush?” an utterly uninteresting question on both empirical and normative grounds. Bloggers and commentators aren’t neutral; they expect to prefer one candidate over the other, and will tend strategically to focus on aspects of the record that make that candidate look good rather than aspects that make that candidate look bad.  What’s interesting, perhaps, is that active support for the drone program (among the larger set of civil liberties concerns) has been very restrained in the left blogosphere over the past four years; by and large (there are exceptions), pro-Obama bloggers have not convinced themselves that the drone campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen are positive goods to be celebrated.

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  • But why do you continue to be so blase about the deaths of brown skinned foreigners? Hmmmmmmmmm?

    Is that your artifice showing through?

  • I’m really not sure Domenech is right about any of it. Yes, Malkin’s a shill; big surprise. But she’s not Tea Party: she’s paleo.

    The reason Mitt Romney won the nomination — remember this? — is that the Tea Party split their votes among the various hacks and wheezes trying to ride their wave until the big money was lined up behind their old investment banker friend. That’s not “political maturity” (which sounds like a euphemism for “moderate centrist-approved tactics”) but something more like birth spasms.

    And I think “loyalty” is one of the most overrated political virtues in the whole lexicon. But I’m a liberal; conservatives apparently (the recent research says) see it as a much more critical value, on a par with equity, justice, reason, etc.

    Any “tactic” which requires muzzling spirited and fair discussions strikes me as illiberal and a-democratic. The appearance of unity isn’t worth that much to me.

    • Amok92

      Wrong, Malkin’s not a shrill, she a cheerleader!


      • Amok92

        She’s not shill either ;)

        • NonyNony

          There surely is a productive comparison to be made between how the left and the right blogosphere treat their nominees.

          If you want to compare how the right and left treat their nominees, you should start first with how the right and left treat members of their own camp. The left tends to be inclusive, and inclusivity promotes diversity. Arguments on the (American, 21st century) left tend to involve two left-leaning people screaming past each other about how each others priorities are screwed up not because they disagree about fundamental ideology, but because they rank things differently (i.e. war vs. labor vs. women’s rights vs. minority rights vs. …)

          The right tend to be exclusive, and exclusivity promotes conformity. Arguments on the right when they occur tend to be denunciations of insufficient fealty to conservative doctrine and a casting out of the one who is seen to be deviating from whatever is currently approved Right thinking.

          From there it’s pretty easy to see why the (American, 21st century) left and right treat their candidates the way they do, and also why “solidarity” occurs more easily on the right than on the left these days.

          • NonyNony

            I have no idea how that ended up as a reply to Amok92 – that was supposed be a reply to the post…

        • She is a shrill. A very very shrill.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Were it not for the Pam Geller “Don’t Cha” video which I assume has spontaneously combusted, that would be the the worst thing ever to appear on YouTube, including the Starship videos.

        • firefall

          It would be better for the world if you didnt toss out these challenges – you know someone will now make something even worse.

          • Yeah. Don’t poke the bear, dude.

            • RhZ

              Did Scott not read S,N! back in the day? Or The Editors?? TBOGG, even?

    • cpinva

      actually, i thought romney won the nomination by default, having simply sat back and waited, as the hacks in contention with him eventually dropped out, due to their basic hackery.

      was there something profound in cain and bachmann that i missed?

      • James E. Powell

        While he would likely have one the nomination anyway, a factor in making it easier for him is that he had the money to play whac-a-mole any time one of the right-wing heroes started to rise above the water line.

        • KCMO

          Don’t forget that mini-controversy where it was found out Ron Paul was acting as Mitt’s attack dog during the debates, followed by every Paulbot searching frantically for an explanation as to why “The best candidate EVER” would reduce himself to being an attack dog.

    • Well, that was time well spent.

  • herr doktor bimler

    Michelle Malkin, who could be taking the wood to Romney


    • cpinva

      yeah, thanks so much for that disturbing mental image!

      • Davis X. Machina

        The original was worse. English, unlike, say, Latin, depends on word order to convey syntax.

    • Worse: she’s doing it for his infidelity. She loves her some cheatin’ boys…

  • tt

    Is it actually true that the right approaches solidarity differently than the left? I think the broad pattern is the same: major, mainstream partisan blogs like DailyKos or Redstate fight among themselves during the primary but then mostly take the party line after the nominee is decided, while radicals and outsider blogs occasionally deviate.

    The most obvious difference I notice is that many of the DailyKos folk seem to actually like Obama, drones or no, while the anti-Obama to pro-Romney ratio at the mainstream right blogs is at least 10:1.

  • Jamie

    Obama bloggers have not convinced themselves that the drone campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen are positive goods to be celebrated

    …And on the right, the only commentary I’ve seen is what you might call a grudging respect in the form of how hard this makes it to call him a pussy.

    The dynamics of which make it obvious why the drone wars are such a problem, and why it will only get worse.

    • The Fool

      Are we reading different blogs? Because the (movement) conservative blogs I read find it very, very easy to call him a coward. They just look at Syria and Iran, sprinkle in his failure to be 110% in solidarity with Netanyahu over Israel/Palestine, then make up a bunch more stuff if that’s not enough to make their point. The idea of Obama as tough is positively laughable to them.

    • Did you miss Bolton calling the reaction to the Behghazi murders “limp-wristed?”

  • Is taking out the trash something to be celebrated?

    Washing the bathtub?

    Bringing the dog to the vet?

    Even the (rather large majority of) liberals who support the war against al Qaeda don’t think it’s something to celebrate. Expanding health care access to 30 million people is worth celebrating. Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is worth celebrating. The success of the auto rescue is something to celebrate.

    Blowing up Anwar Awlaki is, at best, a dirty job that no one is all that excited about, even though it has to be done. The right sees wars as ways to achieve their fondest desires, and thinks of them as something to get excited about. The left sees them as, at best, scrubbing the grout in the shower.

    • chris

      Furthermore, even leftists who overall support the drone war acknowledge that it has *some* collateral damage; they just think it’s (a) less collateral damage than bombing/cruise missiles/invasion would have caused and (b) less bad on the whole than allowing terrorists to operate unrestricted. (IOW, inaction also kills innocent people.)

      Now you can certainly argue against those positions, and that’s responsible for a lot of inter-left debate. But for someone who holds them, the collateral damage alone would be enough to forbid celebration, even if you think the antiterrorism itself would be worth celebrating.

      Personally, I’m pretty queasy about the whole business, but I’m open to the possibility that the option being pursued is the least bad.

    • Ian

      Blowing up Anwar Awlaki is, at best, a dirty job that no one is all that excited about, even though it has to be done.

      …and at worst, it’s the extrajudicial murder of an American citizen.

  • James E. Powell

    Anyone who still refers to the ‘tea party’ as a movement rather than a corporate sponsored effort to re-brand the right-wing after Bush/Cheney ruined its name is bullshitter.

  • Suffern ACE

    Ok. The elite wanted Miych Daniels or Chris Christie or Scott Walker or Tim Pwlenty or Jon Huntsman or…the elite had their own list of not Romneys. They just weren’t running. The fawning of the regular msm types over Rick Perry at the state fair…does no one recall this?

    Romney may have the odd distinction of having no backers at all. But…before the left blogosphere went off the rails this week decrying the loss of well known democrat conor f, he had an actually more interesting post. Just how did Romney become the conservative standard bearer…not in 2012, but in 2008.


    Basically, it is possible that the reason that Romney had front runner status in 2012 is that what we might consider the base mobilizers had already backed him in 2008. Perhaps he got those votes and money in the primary because some well known conservatives created him. He wasn’t foisted. People may have voted for him because they wanted to?

    • Jamie

      He wasn’t foisted. People may have voted for him because they wanted to?


      Sincerely, he I mostly agree with this. He was next in line, something the R’s tend to take seriously, once the folks who think they can win ’16 got out of the way.

      Were they going to pick Newt? 999 Pizza guy? The Texas yahoo who fumbles his own script? To be fair, they had a pretty shitty menu. Mittens really was the best they had, and the pecking order made it make sense.

      I won’t offer commentary on how that is working, other than to ask for more popcorn, please.

      • Suffern ACE

        I wouldn’t get my hopes up. The ire seems to be aimed at Noonan and then a bunch of unnamed elite. I for one would long for Bill Bennett, Sean Hannity and Rushbo himself to be listed in that elite and have to defend themselves against the RINO charge.

  • Derelict

    The supposed solidarity of the Tea Party is just them holding their nose and voting, however reluctantly, for the only candidate with an R next to his name. Since the choice for them is Romney or catastrophe, guess which they’ll pick?

    The real problem the Tea Party presents for the conservative movement is that the Tea Party controls the primaries. The Tea Party, having been spawned by the right’s generations-long drive to turn low-information voters into fantastically mis-informed voters, now dwells in its own reality. And in their fantasy land, there is no position too far to the right. Romney, to them is only acceptable because the alternative is unthinkable.

  • Brett Turner

    Yes. What Derelict said.

    Romney is has run a bad campaign, but the really shocking fact is, all of the serious candidates for the GOP nomination ran campaigns which were much worse. There are Republicans who could have run a better campaign—but they all declined to run.

    Why? Certainly not from any lack of desire to defeat Obama. Probably not because they were intimidated by Obama, who given the economy and the 2010 election returns is potentially beatable.

    The problem is the GOP right wing, whose definition of an acceptable primary candidate was too far right to win the general election. The better class of Republican candidates (Christie, Rubio, Jeb Bush) sensed this and stayed out.

    • Another Halocene Human

      But an incumbent has incumbent advantage. The smarter Republicans knew that 2010 was a fluke. Or not a fluke, exactly, it was planned that way, but planned that way knowing that was the R’s best chance. But they overplayed their hand, resulting in massive pushback in states like WI, OH, FL.

      Christie was pulling the same shit in NJ, so how well would he play in those states?

      He may be an empty blowhard but he’s not ENTIRELY dumb.

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