I Like the Man's Attitude:

My colleague Professor Bainbridge writes, in a post entitled "On Becoming a Problem Child,"

John Dickerson makes a point about the Harriet Miers nomination that rings true for me:

The White House listens to these outraged voices but considers them more a nuisance than genuine problem.

I have the distinct impression that the Democratic Party sees the liberal blogosphere as being inside the tent, while the Republican Party views the conservative blogosphere as being somewhere between an irrelevance and a minor nuisance. Maybe this is true, at least in part, because many prominent "conservative" bloggers (Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, Stephen Green, and Eugene Volokh spring to mind) are not exactly stalwart Republican party loyalists but rather libertarians (or whatever) who put routinely put their principles ahead of party interests. Alternatively, maybe the Democrats have just decided to follow Lyndon Johnson's advice about keeping your critics inside the tent peeing out rather than outside the tent peeing in.

In any event, all of this raises the question of how those of us in the conservative blogosphere can elevate ourselves into the category of genuine problem as opposed to mere nuisances. I'm open to suggestions.

I have no opinion on the factual question of how the Republican Party views bloggers, and I don't want to speak in this post about what people should do about the Harriet Miers nomination. But as a matter of principle, I surely sympathize with any man who wants to be a problem.

...I surely sympathize with any man who wants to be a nuisance.

Agreed, and how! - see my screen name. But the Republicans will never take conservative/libertarian critics seriously until the critics walk away from the party and let it lose an election. Until then, we'll be regarded as a captive constituency needing no more than lip-service, just as Blacks are regarded by the Democrats.
10.6.2005 7:52pm
Karl Rove:
Great effing idea, Prof Bainbridge. Why didn't I think of that?! That way, the tent can be more than just a tent. Why, it might even become an echo chamber, kind of like the Dems and Kos! Becoming a genuine problem is, after all, much more important than actually winning elections. Now, where was that Cambridge phone book . . .?
10.6.2005 7:56pm
Hear, hear! Ultimately, my guess is that the person the White House is most concerned about is Senator Sam Brownback. Brownback probably can single-handedly sink Miers, and as a result Brownback might clearly indicate during the Miers confirmation process that he is no member of a "captive constituency needing no more than lip-service."
10.6.2005 7:58pm
Guest2 (mail):
Libertarians need to start thinking of themselves as Republicans-in-exile, as opposed to grudging Republicans who would stick with their own party if only it weren't so full of wackos. Maybe new labels would help to bring Libertarians inside the tent. "Small-government Republicans" vs. "Moralistic-government Republicans"?
10.6.2005 8:04pm
I don't understand Eugene's post. Bainbridge is saying that he DOESN'T want to be a "nuisance" - instead, he wants to be a "genuine problem". But Eugene says he sympathizes with "any man who wants to be a nuisance"... i.e., not Professor Bainbridge.

Does Eugene really mean that he sypathizes with a man who wants to be a "genuine problem" and not a "mere nuisance"?
10.6.2005 8:10pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Sorry, I was unclear -- I took Steve as saying that he wants to be a nuisance-plus, as it were, rather than a "mere nuisance"; but in any case, I've changed the post to say "who wants to be a problem," in order to be more precise.
10.6.2005 8:23pm
Rick Ballard (mail) (www):

Brownback better figure out how to get a printout of Rove's email address book first. He might even want to count up all the people on the RNC that he can absolutely count on for help in a national campaign before he makes a stab at getting the address book.

He'll roll over during the hearings for a good belly scratch. The speech will include "I've discovered the depth of her convictions". This is going to be as interesting as watching a Kabuki performance.
10.6.2005 8:31pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
""Small-government Republicans" vs. "Moralistic-government Republicans"?"

The problem is that a great many "moralistic-government" Republicans are also small-government Republicans. Why not just say libertarian Republicans?
10.6.2005 8:40pm
The Great Divider (mail):
Libertarians can best vote their interest by voting to keep Washington deadlocked. Every study that I have read, including an infamous one from Cato during the past election, indicates that we are better governed when the 2 parties split the executive and Congress (think Clinton &Newt and Reagan's great tax reform under Tip O'Neill). You tend to get tighter budgets, lets excesses and more genuine compromise. You also don't get the shameless aggrandizement of executive power.

That's why I meant to vote for Kerry in the last election. But, I just couldn't physically do it, so I abstained. Its a good theory though.
10.6.2005 8:51pm
TomFromMD (mail):
I'm no libertarian, but I'll definitely go for the Republican-in-exile label. The party has gone to crap since they took the White House...and looking back, maybe a little before that. A bunch of lobbyist sponging, gay-baiting, drunken-sailor-spending, back-scratching, see-no-evil wussies.
10.6.2005 9:03pm
Given that the Republicans control all three branches of government, it is natural that they would be disinclined to listen to suggestions that they should do things differently.

Once they start losing their share of the voting market, they will look for new ways to do things.
10.6.2005 9:13pm
Mel (mail):
How to be real trouble? Choose one genuine conservative candidate, promote him/her every day, threaten to draft him/her if need be. Advertise their position on the borders,on spending, and on Constitutionalist judges. Brownback's a possibility. Tancredo. Doesn't matter, as long as they're very conservative on the issues that are ticking off conservatives. If the GOP won't move right, follow through with invitations to speak, for interviews, guest blogging, etc. Get the candidate to run, and get out the vote for him/her. Whatever happens, the other candidates will have to move right to keep from losing the base.
10.6.2005 9:17pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Yes Tom, those evil Republicans forcing gay activists to file suits in liberal courts to fundamentaly alter the meaning of marriage without the input of the voters! Damn them!

That said, your other labels are well put.
10.6.2005 9:38pm
Jeremy (mail) (www):
I'm definitely a Republican in exile. I'm also a party officer in my state, which is why I blog anonymously. The party is NOT cool with blogging.
10.6.2005 10:19pm
Sydney Carton (www):
I don't think the solution is to vote Libertarian, sit out of the elections, hope for gridlock, or hope the Republicans lose so they figure out who their "real" supporters are. Those seem like dead-end solutions.

Politicians follow votes and they follow money. The best way to get involved is to donate or support primary candidates against incumbent Republicans. There's a tendency in the Republican party not to fight against incumbents, or to go along with preselected candidates for an open seat. That must change, else the party will continue to maintain a "safe middle" and not rock the boat.

Of course, there's the problem that many libertarians have with conservativism in general (especially social conservativism). That's a problem that stalls a solution, especially since the right-leaning blogosphere is more libertarian than conservative IMO.
10.6.2005 11:11pm
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
I think there has been a little too much emphasis over the last several elections on candidates, be they incumbents or challengers, who are most "marketable." That's fine as far as it goes. The question is, should Republicans be emphasizing candidates who are marketable or putting their efforts behind marketing the ideas/ideals they stand for and supporting candidates who represent those views? The former may, or may NOT, win elections. The latter is called having the courage of your convictions and providing the voters with an opportunity to cast a ballot FOR something they believe in instead of AGAINST what they don't.

It has become easy for Republicans to criticize the Democrats for being obstructionist while not providing any alternatives. The trouble is that the Democrat's "lack of message" has become the Republican's only real strength. What happens when the Democrats finally rediscover a message that resonates, for good or bad reasons, with the voters? What ideals, ideas, and/or identity do Republicans have to fall back on? I don't think they know.

A recent poll shows that Republicans would support Guiliani more than McCain or Rice. Now I have no knock against Guiliani except that he's pro-gun control, pro-abortion, supports gay rights... uh, did I miss a few new planks in the Republican platform? My observation has nothing to do with the merits of his positions, but to the lack of consistency with what the Party claims to be major, identifying factors.

At what point does political pragmatism become self-defeating? When Orrin Hatch is down to stumping for amending the Constitution so that Arnold (who shares some of Giuliani's political stances) can run for President, where is the Republican constituency left in their perception of the Party and its chances in '08? It is easy to identify oneself as NOT something else. The question is "What ARE you?" If the best you got is to put up people who espouse the positions in tune with what you claim NOT to be, then one is left to wonder if you have any idea what you ARE. Put another way, if you contend that we should support what you are not, then why would we want to support what you are?

Do I sense an intellectual trap anywhere in here?
10.7.2005 2:00am
Can we PLEASE stop referring to Sullivan as a conservative?
10.7.2005 2:14am
To be honest, as one of the libertarians who has at times voted republican, about the only issue left where I agreed with republican practice (as opposed to the smoke screen of their rhetoric) was the role of the courts. However, I have finally been convinced that the republicans simply want activist judges who agree with them rather than a real check on executive or legislative expansion (do any of you really believe that Bush would have selected someone willing to roll back 80% of his initiatives as unconstitutional?).

As such, I am left with a party that I actually disagree with in practice more often than the democrats (I'm somewhat young, so I judge based on recent decades). Perhaps this is heresy here, but I think it's more useful to abandon the republicans altogether. Long before any reform effort succeeded, it would become obvious that the 'reforms' were exactly the opposite of what most of the party wanted and either the reform would fail or the party would.

The coalition we thought to be based around small government seems to be more focused on power and control in a way that would have been familiar through most of history. We need to stop assuming that because convention groups libertarians and republicans on the right that we should accept this. The LP is as screwed up an organization as I've seen, but for the moment I'm more inclined to try to reform it into something electorally viable (in select areas) or at least enough of a nuissance to force compromise candidates than trying to reform a beasts like the republican and democratic parties.
10.7.2005 2:49am
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
As examples of the Republican party supporting incumbents for the sake of incumbents:

Supported Arlen Specter against small government conservative Rep. Pat Toomey (who is now running the Club for Growth)

Currently Support Lincoln Chafee (who opposed Bush's tax cuts!) against small-government low-taxes Republican Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey for the US Senate in RI
10.7.2005 4:32am
Shifted Thinking:
At times in our political past, parties have adjusted their ideology and moved in new directions. Republicans have been on that path since Reagan. Fiscal conservatism is certainly not a quality our current Republican party adheres to. You've got your Tax-n-spend Democrats, and now your Taxcut-n-charge-to-debt Republicans. What the Republican party's conservative values are most closely tied to these days is social conservatism rooted in the christian faith. The word "conservative" is beginning to take on that cast.

When I realized this shift was taking place, I changed parties from Republican to Democrat. I'm not a happy Democrat, mind you, but the Libertarian party still needs a bit more work before it's ready to roll.

If a notable Republican were to join the Libertarians and begin working towards forming them into a viable national party, that would be a "problem" the current party would take note of. A viable Libertarian party would siphon off many of the Republican moderates and individuals that put fiscal concerns over religious ones. It would, no doubt, capture a good number of Democrats as well, including myself.
10.7.2005 11:09am
Scipio (mail) (www):

You forget the classic example, when Trent Lott (a monumental example of GOP idiocy) saved Jim Jeffords from electoral defeat by pulling the Senate GOP together on the milk compact, only for Jeffords to stab the GOP in the back.
10.7.2005 11:11am
erp (mail):
Challenge, you're right that Sullivan is no conservative, but I suspect neither are Reynolds, Green or Eugene. They may back the president's position on the WoT, but that doesn't make them Conservatives or Republicans.

I hope that the disaffected from the left and right don't try to form a third party and throw a monkey wrench into our two-party system which elects one or the other candidate. The situation in countries with multiple parties and strange coalitions would lead to chaos at a time when we need strong foreign policy leadership.
10.7.2005 1:03pm
A reader:
Mr. Mandias:

"The problem is that a great many "moralistic-government" Republicans are also small-government Republicans. Why not just say libertarian Republicans?"

No: a "moralistic-government" paradigm is diametrically opposed to a libertarian paradigm, as it is by nature intrusive on personal liberty, seeking to impose particular (at present, sectarian) mores on all citizens.
10.7.2005 2:27pm