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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