Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 27, 2009

KRISTOL CLEAR.... The Washington Post's Bill Kristol has some advice for his Republican allies. As he sees it, the key to electoral success in the near future is ... you'll never guess ... being more conservative.

The GOP is going to be pretty unapologetically conservative. There aren't going to be a lot of moderate Republican victories in intra-party skirmishes. And -- with the caveat that the political world can, of course, change quickly -- there will be a conservative Republican presidential nominee in 2012. [...]

The center of gravity, I suspect, will instead lie with individuals such as Palin and Huckabee and Gingrich, media personalities like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and activists at town halls and tea parties. Some will lament this -- but over the past year, as those voices have dominated, conservatism has done pretty well in the body politic, and Republicans have narrowed the gap with Democrats in test ballots.

And to think, Time magazine and the New York Times let a brilliant political visionary like Kristol go. It's hard to imagine.

To support his argument, Kristol relies on a Gallup poll released yesterday showing a 40% plurality of Americans consider themselves "conservative." That, the columnist insists, is proof that Republicans need to move even further to the right going forward.

But there's more than one way to look at the data. As Mori Dinauer explained, "This is as good a time as any to remind ourselves that when you let poll respondents self-select labels, those labels immediately lose precision as a way of defining political beliefs. It's also worth noting that the data presented, going back to 1992, hasn't actually changed all that much in those 17 years."

It seems more interesting to note that, as Republicans have moved further and further to the right this year, their national support has deteriorated. Last week's Washington Post/ABC News poll found that only 19% of the public has confidence that congressional Republicans can make the right decisions for the country's future, and only 20% self-identify as Republican voters -- the lowest single number in Post-ABC polls since 1983.

Also last week, a CNN poll found the Republican Party's favorable rating at lowest level in 11 years.

Kristol seems to think the key to turning this around is for the GOP to go from the far-right to the even-further-right. Given his track record for prognostications -- Kristol was confident McCain (173 electoral votes) would defeat Obama (365 electoral votes) last year -- I suspect Democrats hope Republicans take his advice.

Steve Benen 9:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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In other countries America's GOP would be called the "ultra right."

Posted by: pj in jesusland on October 27, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Ideological purity forever!

A new FB group is named Rid the Republican Party of RINO's. Featured in their logo are Snowe, Collins, McCain, and Graham. And the comments, well, they are Kristol's target crowd.

Posted by: TonyB on October 27, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, right. The "center of gravity" of the party is a drug-addled bloated blowhard, a Quitter, a guy who doesn't believe in evolution, and a self-described rodeo clown. Oh, almost forgot the disgraced former speaker on his third (fourth?) wife. This is where the "policy" and "new ideas" will come from.

Posted by: g on October 27, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Before the Republicans got a strangle-hold on the government (all the better to drown in a bathtub, I guess), the USA pretty much led the world in all sorts of things. After 30 plus years of "conservatism" which is actually regression and failed policies, we lead the world in military spending and nothing else.

On a more mundane level, a regular middle class person, the backbone of America, has suffered mightily under Republican's regressive policies and contempt for both government and for them.

Their policies have failed miserably -- and still the Dems bend over backwards to cater to them and still they have a loud & obnoxious voice in political discourse. Still they're the "serious" thinkers the Fourth Estate plays up & bows down to.

If they're marginalized as they deserve very soon, it'll be too late for us to continue to "lead" anything, except the charge over the cliff.

You can't lead if you're standing athwart progress and digging in your heels.

Posted by: zhak on October 27, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

He also said "In last week's Post-ABC News poll, a plurality of respondents disapproved of Obama-type health-care reform. In other words, they agree with the Republicans in Congress," while pointing to a poll in an article headlined "Clear Majority Backs Public Plan."

I mean... wow.

Posted by: PCC on October 27, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Why do you progressive idiots keep denigrating those who the most brilliant of the Republican Party?

William Kristol has proven over and over again that his analysis and predictions are unfailingly accurate! We republicans shall continue to follow his lead into our future dominance of power in our country.

Newt Gingrich has been proclaimed by our corporately owned media as being the 'intellectual heavyweight' of our Republican Party! We republicans shall push to have his intellect continue to lead us into our future dominance of power in our country.

Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee are the emotional leaders of our party! We republicans can never go wrong in following their leads in stirring the emotions of our voting base.

With leaders like these, we republicans know that we will soon be back on track for Karl Rove's vision of endless Republican control of power in our country!

I suppose it is just the jealousy of you democrat progressives attacking them because you do not have the intellectual and emotional leadership that the Republican Party has!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on October 27, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Sigh -- should be "if they're NOT marginalized ..."

One of these days I'll start proofreading.

Posted by: zhak on October 27, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Don't forget that they're running folks like Doug Hoffman as the new 'face' of the GOP. Accroding to his website (the link is to a cached page, not the actual website) he was endorsed by Dick Armey and has been on a triumvirate of Ultra-right-wing blow shows.
They just don't get it. There are more folks who DON'T watch Fox News than those who do.

Posted by: Gridlock on October 27, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

I think the point that Kristol fails to note about the cited poll was that respondents self identified as conservative not batsh*t crazy. A rather convincing argument can be made that as the GOP lurches to the ultra right it will contunue to lose conservatives. You know those folks who believe in electing qualified people to public office, actually believe in the First Amendment and as long as the government stays out of my religion I will keep my relligion out of the government, letting people make choices about their lives, respecting the law etc. Conservative by definition means slow to change and a clinging to the status quo--the folks Kristol touts are the antithesis of the way things have operated in this country since the Depression with the unpopular Dumbya administration being the exception.

Posted by: Terry on October 27, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Last week, we held a meeting which 100% of the progressives in Indiana attended.

23 of the 27 of us agreed with the hope that the rethugnican party would follow it brilliant leadership into a similar national standing.

The other 4 hold out for the rethug party to completely disappear.

Posted by: AmusedOldVet on October 27, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Bill Kristol: "The lunatics should run the asylum."

Posted by: Dennis-SGMM on October 27, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol's appeal to the conservative-moderate-liberal split is just silly and even he must know it. Many people in the US say they are conservative and want to cut taxes on the poor and increases taxes on the rich and especialy corporations. Normal people just don't use the words "moderate" and "conservative" the same way Republican politicians do.

The gap between the generic congressional ballot and all other polling information is a bit more interesting. It can be explained with one word -- Rasmussen. Rasmussen reports a large fraction of total generic ballot polls (over a third). Rasmussen regularly reports the Republicans ahead, while all other pollsters almost always report them behind usually far behind.

Of course Rasmussen doesn't explain how their likely voter filter works. That likely voter filter is the sole basis for Kristol's claims.
I'd say Scott Rasmussen and William Kristol deserve each other and I really hope the Republicans follow their guidance.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on October 27, 2009 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

All this becomes much less mysterious when we realize that the entire Right half of the Democratic party is pretty Conservative as well.
Anyone who isn't wearing tinted glasses realizes that the Obama administration is NOT radical, is NOT soft on defense, IS supportive of the status quo among our Military and Intelligence agancies, is interested in balancing the budget as soon as the economy allows, IS somewhat tone-deaf when it comes to LGBT issues and overall is right smack in the middle of American thought.
As the right becomes more and more cartoon-like and insist on seeing their opponents throught the same fun-house glasses, the rest of the country will get on with the business of governing....

Posted by: Paul Dirks on October 27, 2009 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

" a Gallup poll released yesterday showing a 40% plurality of Americans consider themselves "conservative."

Yes, and I'm one of them: I don't spend more than I have, borrow against the equity in my house so I can take a vacation, set fire to the neighbor's cat, practice serial polygamy, or attack foreign countries to 'straighten them out'.

-I'm not sure Kristol and I agree on the definition. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 27, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats, take heart: there's no better sign that you're on the right track than when William Kristol says you're doomed.

Posted by: Mustang Bobby on October 27, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

" ... conservatism has done pretty well in the body politic ... "

Yes, rather like the AIDS virus.

Posted by: Skepticat on October 27, 2009 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Preach it Brother Kristol. Testify. It's not like Kristol's ever been wrong before.

Posted by: Bobo Teh Clown on October 27, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol: "over the past year, as those voices have dominated, conservatism has done pretty well in the body politic"

Really? Palin, Huckabee and the teabaggers have "dominated"? Really?

And "conservatism has done pretty well" as a result of this "dominance"?

Um, OK. I guess if you're relying on the Gallup self-ID poll. Oh wait, he is - Kristol thinks the Gallup poll proves something important. Silly boy!

That Gallup self-ID poll has remained static through the Bush Sr. loss to Bill Clinton, the Republican Revolution, the Clinton impeachment, Bush v. Gore, 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, the 2006 Democratic landslide and the election of Barack Obama.

As a predictive tool it just might be the most worthless poll in American politics. And it should be noted that only half of those conservatives - 20% - will admit to being Republican. But hey, if he thinks this is a winning strategy then who am I to complain?

This is excellent news for John McCain!

Posted by: sloan on October 27, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

As [Kristol] sees it, the key to electoral success in the near future is...being more conservative.

Like Limbaugh, Beck, and others, Kristol's success is based on telling right-whingers exactly what they want to hear.

Posted by: grape_crush on October 27, 2009 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, almost forgot the disgraced former speaker on his third (fourth?) wife.

g at 9:31 gives the new-era wingnuts too much credit. As Taegan Goddard points out this morning the Malkinites are now calling Newt Freakin' Gingrich a RINO.

If that isn't a sign of full-on cannibalism in the Repub Party I don't know what it would take. And I couldn't be happier about it.

Posted by: zeitgeist on October 27, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

I really wonder what the official reaction will be in November 2012 when Obama wins re-election in a gigantic landslide.

Posted by: SaintZak on October 27, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Come on Sarah Palin, split the party! Run for President! You've got what they need girlfriend, a culture war icon that's easy on the eyes (and tiny brains). Kristol can be your political advisor!

Posted by: Trollapia on October 27, 2009 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

I Republicans are going to be the party against evolution, then they would do well to cease acting like ape men.

Just a suggestion.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on October 27, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol has a sure-fire recipe for a conservative comeback: more of the same. Conservatives/republicans, take his advice, please.

Posted by: majii on October 27, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

And the band played on...

Posted by: ComradeAnon on October 27, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol has an uncanny track record predicting the future. I hope the Republicans take his advice.

Posted by: qwerty on October 27, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

The Bill Kristol Black Box (TM) really is amazing, isn't it?

INPUT: 40% of people in a single Gallup poll self-identify as "conservative".

OUTPUT: The majority of people are ultra-right-wing, and the GOP should follow suit.

From the mind that brought you Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin, ladies and gentlemen.

Posted by: DH Walker on October 27, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol has an uncanny track record predicting the future.

Absolutely. No one could possibly be that consistently wrong. Even random chance beats Kristol like he was the Redskins on thorazine. :)

Posted by: DH Walker on October 27, 2009 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Bill Kristol is a secret liberal mole. He infiltrated the conservative movement decades ago, built up his conservative bona fides, and lay dormant until GWB ran for President.

He then used his position as a conservative icon to intentionally propose the absolute worst courses of action for Republicans and Conservatives to follow. Bush was dumb enough to follow most of Kristol's recommendations, to his deep regret.

Just look at his record over the last 10 years he has been wrong on almost everything. This is no accident.

As soon as Democrats have strong enough majorities in all three branches of government, Kristol will come in from the cold and write a brilliant memoir detailing his career as a Democratic spie in the heart of Conservative circles.

You read it here first.

Posted by: Winkandanod on October 27, 2009 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

It's interesting about that self proclaimed 40%. I worked with a self proclaimed conservative during the Bush-Kerry election. A news organization put out a questionaire with 100 questions. The idea was to see how you would answer them and compare your total number of answers to how Kerry and Bush answered them.
Well Mr. Self proclaimed conservative answered 58 questions the same as Kerry. When that was pointed out to him that he was much more liberal that conservative , he simply stated I'm a conservative in spite of who i agree with.

Posted by: Gandalf on October 27, 2009 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Robert Waldmann:
Kristol's appeal to the conservative-moderate-liberal split is just silly and even he must know it.

I must disagree on your latter point; I don't think he knows he's being silly. From what I've seen over the years, Kristol's greatest talent is for self-delusion. He is perhaps the most consistently wrong of anyone in public life, and it never has any visible impact on his confidence in his next pediction.

Posted by: Redshift on October 27, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure that 40% of the country considers themselves to be conservative, but I don't think that 40% of the country considers themselves to be Kristol-style movement conservatives. For example, many of these people support the idea of minimum wage laws, where Kristol-style movement conservatives do not.

A number of those people are simply small "c" conservatives - interested in small tweaks and not wholesale changes, and open to a Democratic candidate. Whereas the number of liberals open to a new GOP candidate is virtually nil.

A broad poll like this is not going to capture the differences between how Kristol uses the term, and how people think of themselves.

Posted by: NovaGuy on October 27, 2009 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Cons have spent the last 40 years making 'liberal' a dirty word...it's no wonder people won't identify themselves as one...Good read on the subject, Ted Rall's 'Wake up America- you're liberal!'

Posted by: donald Macomber on October 27, 2009 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK
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