Sunday, February 12, 2012

Notes on fusionism

The Athens and Jerusalem blog expresses frustration at libertarians who urge the GOP in strong terms not to nominate Rick Santorum. I am a bit baffled by the claim that encouraging people who share your core convictions to stay home on Election Day, rather than voting for the GOP,  is somehow remotely equivalent in shrillness or thuggishness to encouraging people to send themselves to the gas chambers.
Nonetheless, in the spirit of the Welch/Golberg show I wrote about a few days ago,  let me do my best to slap a few Band-Aids on the fusionist alliance.

Look, I can't claim to speak for every libertarian everywhere generally. I'm sure that somewhere, there is some libertarian who would reject every single viable-ish candidate as being too impure. I don't read Nate Nelson regularly and can't entirely speak for him.  But, speaking  as someone who is married to a libertarian more prominent than she and who hangs out regularly with other Beltway libertarians, there are plenty of viable-looking options whom many of us would consider a reasonable compromise pick, especially in contrast to Santorum. In fact, I think for all of us, every other candidate whom the GOP has put up so far would be better. Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan's names both get thrown out a lot in this vein, although both are more socially conservative than many of us and in Ryan's case also probably more hawkish. I also occasionally hear Tim Pawlenty's name being floated in this vein. I know less about him because he didn't stay in the race that long, but I'd have been willing to consider it.  I have much the same impression of Chris Christie. At least some libertarians held out hope for Rick Perry; it was his persistent debate fumbles, more so than his ideas, that did him in for many of us. And yes, even Romney or Gingrich would be a better pick than Santorum.

Yes, I'm aware that Santorum has made some effort to move to the right on fiscal issues. But I view this in much the same way that many social conservatives view Mitt Romney's movement right on abortion; i.e. more opportunistic than sincere. Yes, Santorum might be willing to follow his party on economic issues. Yes, he might be willing to do what his advisors say he must to placate the Tea Party. But I doubt that entitlement and tax reform will ever be the issues that get Rick Santorum out of bed in the morning. The content of his book suggests that Santorum's heart lies elsewhere, whereas economic issues appear to be much higher priorities for  Daniels  or Ryan. Is it really all that unreasonable for libertarians to urge the GOP to nominate a candidate like that -- especially given that both Daniels and Ryan seem to be fairly conservative on social issues?

Karl Rove once said (I believe I read this in David Frum's book a few years ago) that winning elections was like trying to pick up as many magnets as possible from a big pile.  Trying to grab some means that inevitably, you repel others. You have to think strategically about which ones you want to attract, repel, and why. Trying to attract populist voters who support special measures to protect manufacturing means that one will repel libertarians. Nothing odd or strange about that; such is the political process.

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