Yesterday, Soren Dayton wondered what it says about conservatives and Republicans that they've become so nonchalant about -- even supportive of -- naked pandering:
So the pattern is clear. Run on some positions your whole life, then change them to win the nomination. Then what?Now Patrick Ruffini responds with a spirited defense of flip-flopping. Ruffini argues that it's better to support a panderer who'll give you what you want than an "authentic" candidate (he has McCain in mind) who's "authentically" wrong:
Is that a healthy way for a political party or a political movement to behave? What does this say about our intellectual class?
But that's the problem isn't it? McCain led. He led on BCRA. He led on CIR. He led the fight against the Bush tax cuts. He led the Republicans for the Kyoto treaty. All of Romney's flip-flops don't change the fact that McCain is responsible for the abomination that is the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. Whenever McCain leads, it's usually in the wrong direction. That's why conservatives don't trust him.He also points out that, having flipped, it's unlikely that Romney et al will flip back again to more "liberal" positions -- it would be political suicide to do so in the election, and history tells us that presidents generally govern more or less as they say they will during their campaigns (subject to all kinds of caveats, but let's concede the point for now).
But the frame against Kerry was that he was too unsteady and indecisive to win a war.Can McCain credibly make that case against the others? That Rudy Giuliani will wilt against al Qaeda because he moved on CFR? Please.This is nonsense, of course -- an ex post facto attempt to justify a meta-flip flop, a flip-flop on the subject of flip-flopping. And Bush's "decisiveness" is precisely what got us into a disastrous war, and what is causing us to lose that war. But that's a tangent.
But the more profound lesson is that the greatest politicians create their own issues, ones that no one knew existed. Was the mood in California favorable for Reagan's conservative message in 1966? Obviously, or else Reagan wouldn't have won; he wasn't a magician. But he was--yes--a great communicator, confident of his gifts. By listening and interacting with ordinary people, and sniffing out where his own sense of right and wrong dovetailed with what he heard, he divined a certain inchoate mood....One might argue that too much tolerance of poll-driven phoniness will strangle them just as surely.
That's the danger of even the best polling: its power to smother intuitive leaders in the cradle.