[Also by Peter Bradley: Racism 101 At The University Of Virginia]
"Do Conservatives Need to Declare Independence from the GOP?" asked the headline on the July 10 National Review Online. (The article is also in the July 27 print edition, which is just going off newsstands.)
To someone like me who became a conservative in the early-to-mid 1990's, it was a familiar question. Back then, the GOP was scared to death of alienating conservatives and causing a mass exodus to a third party. But that time is long gone.
In making their case against the Republicans' "Left Turn," the NR editors pointed to the recent Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action and gay rights, as well as to the $400 billion dollar pharmaceutical drug bill:
"Republicans have been complicit in each of these debacles. Both the affirmative-action and sodomy decisions were written by Reagan appointees. President Bush actually cheered the affirmative-action decision for recognizing the value of "diversity." Bush has requested spending increases, and not just for defense and homeland security. . But let it not be said that the president has led his party astray. Many congressional Republicans have strayed even more enthusiastically."
Why this surprised NR is anybody's guess. Even before the 2000 election, George W. Bush was on record as supporting bilingual education and high rates of immigration. When pressed on affirmative action by Al Gore in their televised debate, Bush famously and pathetically asked the moderator to move on to the next question. If September 11 never occurred, I think it's likely we would have already seen some form of amnesty for illegal aliens (although Steve Sailer did predict this particular Bush betrayal would not succeed).
The rest of the GOP establishment is no better. On the same day, NRO ran an article by Henry Payne about how the Michigan Republican establishment is coming out against a ballot initiative by Ward Connerly to end affirmative action in that state. "I fear this ballot initiative would openly serve to further divide people along racial lines, which would be entirely counterproductive," said GOP party chair Betsy DeVos. "Our hope is that our opposition prevents it from getting on the ballot," adds Greg McNeilly, executive director of the Michigan GOP.
There are a few strong conservatives left in the Republican Party—Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo speaks out tirelessly against immigration and Colorado Gov. Bill Owens publicly disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action.
But the GOP as a whole has not just dropped the issues comprising the "National Question"—affirmative action, immigration, bilingual education—it is often on the wrong side.
So obvious is this that even George Will and Andrew Sullivan have noticed it.
Politically, it's all too disgustingly understandable. Personally, I have known since 1996 that the GOP was not going to carry the ball on the National Question, and have long stopped voting for the Stupid Party. But too few conservatives went along with me in voting for Pat Buchanan in 2000 (he got 0.4 percent of the vote). Most were tired of Bill Clinton and believed Bush would be "better than Gore." While this attitude helped defeat Al Gore in 2000, it has left Bush with no right flank to worry about.
Now that Buchanan's political career seems over, there is literally no one disaffected conservatives can turn to. Karl Rove knows this—and that is why we have talk of immigration amnesties, the lynching of Trent Lott, increased funding for bilingual education and Head Start, support for mandated "diversity" and affirmative action, and the "Hispanic strategy."
It is not just nationalist issues that get this treatment. Last month, Christian leaders announced they were not satisfied with Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot's meeting with the Log Cabin Republicans and the Bush administration's lack of support for Sen. Rick Santorum (who had compared homosexuality to incest and bestiality). This threat was met with total indifference by the GOP Establishment. This should tell "moral conservatives" that they are the next to be dropped from the Republican "big tent."
Without any threat of defections from the right, the Republicans can move to the center-left on cultural and social issues. As long as they are to the right of the Democrats, the GOP Establishment thinks it can keep its conservative base while (supposedly) attracting blacks, Hispanics and "white suburban moderates."
In addition, Bush has delivered to some extent on tax cuts, free trade and a strong military—three staples of Beltway conservatism. All of this is packaged with enough flag waving and personal references to Jesus to keep orthodox "conservatives" happy.
The NR editorial concluded: "as recent events underscore, this is not a bad time for conservatives to declare their independence from the GOP Establishment."
But NR's only concrete suggestion was to support conservative Rep. Pat Toomey over liberal Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
The real time to declare independence from the GOP would have been in the mid-90's through 2000. The Republican Establishment never embraced Props 187, 209 or 227 and didn't challenge affirmative action, bilingual education or mass immigration, even though they had the votes. It was partly out of frustration with Republican cowardice on social issues that Pat Buchanan bolted to the Reform party in 2000. National Review, supposedly the flagship publication of American conservatism, could have urged a protest vote for Buchanan. But in fact it was one of Buchanan's fiercest detractors. The magazine was also one of the most slavish supporters of Bush.
While there are no current political alternatives for conservatives, many are starting to realize that Bush is no friend on social issues. Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter and even NR's own John Derbyshire are just some of the conservative writers who are not afraid to criticize the GOP. Popular web sites such as VDARE.com and LewRockwell.com routinely put the spotlight on Republican betrayal of conservatives. Activists such as Ward Connerly, Ron Unz and Craig Nelsen continue to take their campaigns to the American people despite the open hostility of the GOP Establishment.
Eventually a real conservative leader will emerge.
But when such a leader does emerge, and offers a political alternative to the Stupid Party, we can be sure that NR will be the first to editorialize against him.
Peter Bradley[email him] writes from Washington D.C.