Just What on Earth is a Conservative?

A New Conservatism is needed to stop America going down the road of Welfarism

Iowa is upon us. 2012 is upon us. How will it all end? It may just all end in tears. Tears because Obama wins, or tears because the GOP did    not offer a viable alternative. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure: this is a time to stand up for conservative principles.

But, just what on earth is a conservative, and can one win the White House this year?

To answer this means agreement on just what a conservative is, and your answer to the second part of my question depends on the answer to the first part.

Simply put, Conservatism is a set of instincts and principles guiding decisions, which are applied according to historical context. Today’s conservative may discuss different situations and policy options then an 18th Century conservative, but then they will adhere to some broad principles as if there had been no intervening centuries. The conservative whom is central to American modern conservatism is Edmund Burke, and he spelled out some core conservative elements of thought:

  1. People are basically religious, and religion is the foundation of civil society. A divine sanction infuses the legitimate, existing, social order.
  2. Society is the natural, organic product of slow historical growth, with institutions drawing on the wisdom of previous generations.
  3. People are creatures of instinct and emotion as well as reason. Prudence, prejudice, experience, and habit are better guides than reason, logic, abstractions, and metaphysics. Truth exists not in universal propositions but in concrete experiences.
  4. The community is superior to the individual. Rights derive from duties. Evil is rooted in human nature, not in any particular social institutions.
  5. Apart from an ultimate moral sense, people are unequal. Social organization is a complex of classes, orders, and groups. Hence, differentiation, hierarchy and leadership are the inevitable characteristics of any civil society.
  6. A presumption exists “in favor of any settled scheme of government against any untried project.  “Man’s hopes are high, but his vision is short.”  Thus, efforts to remedy existing evils usually result in even greater ones.

We find echoes of these elements in the influential 1953 essay “The Conservative Mind”, where Russell Kirk offered what he called “six canons of conservative thought”. Like Burke, the divine plays a foundational role:

  1. Belief that a divine intent rules society as well as conscience
  2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of traditional life
  3. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes
  4. Persuasion that property and freedom are inseparably connected and that economic leveling is not economic progress
  5. Faith in prescription and distrust of “sophisters and calculators”
  6. Recognition that change and reform are not identical

In 2012, how many of these foundational canons of thought are taught in our educational system? Again the answer is simple: none. What does happen is that these foundational principles are undermined and dismantled at every level of education and public life. To be a conservative is to swim against the cultural tide, against the consensus which is taught in schools and parlayed by the chattering media.

Winning a political election means appealing to the consensus, and today’s consensus is not tolerant of principles, or even thought for that matter. In today’s climate, a conservative cannot win the election. You can only look at the GOP field and vote for the consensus candidate, in other words the nearest thing to an electable conservative. This is not a ringing endorsement of Mitt Romney, but he is the only candidate who can compete with Obama.

But then in the grand scheme of things the presidential election is a mere sideshow, because the real battles lie ahead in establishing a new conservative agenda for an America systemically in doubt and unsure. The enlightenment trajectory of Europe down the road to Welfarism, with its self-destructive repudiation of civilized principles, is the trajectory America is now following.

The answer is not to be found in this election, a new conservatism that tackles the causes of decline in enlightenment civilization is needed. A new Burke or Kirk is needed, because conservatives cannot simply look at Obama as the cause of America’s identity crisis, he is a symptom of the decay of the principles these thinkers set out so clearly.

Iowa Caucus Locator: Find the Location of Your Local Caucus Precinct

If you are an Iowa Republicans and are not sure of where your caucus is located, please click on the link below:

A Message To Iowa Republicans

Bookmark and Share   Iowa Republicans are being provided a truly special honor today.  They have been reserved the right to provide our nation with the first official evaluation of the people who want to lead our nation based upon a conservative ideology that is designed to preserve the founding principles of our government.

For nearly three years now, under the leadership of President Barack Obama, we have seen a profoundly different ideology at work.  It is an ideology that believes government needs to do far more than our founding fathers ever intended the federal government to do.  That ideology has led to a stagnation of our economy, a reduction of liberty, the shackling of the free market, a lack of confidence in our future, and a state of affairs at home and abroad which can only be seen as having been one big step in the wrong direction which leaves us worse off now than we were three years ago.

Today’s Caucus is the first attempt to help our nation take a step in the right direction and the people of Iowa are given the chance to lead the way.

Like most Americans, Iowans may not find any of the candidates to be perfect.  But our Constitution was never meant to achieve perfection.  It was designed to preserve freedom and to prevent any state and federal authority from gaining the type of control over lives that would get in the way of our dreams and hopes.  And that is what Iowans should keep in mind when they finally decide upon who they want to replace President Obama with.

While I find most all of the Republican candidates to be better equipped to lead our nation in the right direction then President Obama is, I have chosen Newt Gingrich as my first choice.  In addition to having proven himself to be intellectually prepared to face the challenges of our nation, he has a proven record of  reform and innovation and it is my belief that if we intend to turn this nation around, we need to do so with innovative reforms that will challenge the failures of the status quo and usher us in to a new era of strength, security, and prosperity.  For it is obvious to me that the status quo is not working.

I am of the belief that while Newt is familiar with the inside of politics, he is a political outsider by nature and as such, I believe that he will challenge the political establishment more so than any other candidate in the race.  And at the same time, I believe that Newt is a genuine conservative who shares the basic principles which make most of us Republicans.  Like the others, he is not perfect, but he is promising.

But no matter what the people of Iowa decide, it is my greatest hope that they have taken advantage of the attention that they have received from the candidates.  As the resident of a state that is one of the very last to have a say in the nomination process, I have not been afforded the attention from the candidates that most Iowans have. And I will not be afforded that type of attention.    Which is why I truly hope Iowa republicans take this decision seriously.  And it is also why I hope that Iowa Republicans do not ignore this responsibility by sitting at home on Tuesday night.

Given the election laws that govern the Iowa Caucuses, people who believe in a different kind of America than us will be afforded the chance to decide who they think should be our nominee and represent our beliefs.  If too many Iowa Republicans do not take advantage of the responsibility given to them by not participating in the first in the nation caucus that they are blessed with, than the liberal ideology which we oppose and hope to defeat in November  can consume our beliefs.

So if you are a Republican, if you are a conservative, do not shirk your responsibility and risk our one chance to defeat Barack Obama.

With that in mind, I am happy  to provide you with this link to the Iowa GOP Caucus Locator.

If you you do  not yet know where you need to go in order to vote in tonight’s caucus, go to it now, type in your address, and find that location.  Then get yourself ready to go there and do your part in this most basic of American civic responsibilities.

Click here to find out where to vote in the Iowa Caucus

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Iowa’s Mold Breaker Might Matter

We are discovering the 2012 election cycle dynamic every day.  One thing we have learned already is that things that didn’t matter last week are crucial this week.  The thing we are learning this past week is that money matters, as Mitt Romney surrogates bought waves of negative airtime, Ron Paul bought Michele Bachmann’s Iowa campaign chairman, and Newt suddenly began to realize what a nice thing it would be to have campaign staffs, ground crews, or even counter advertising money.

To Huntsman’s dismay, we may be discovering that Iowa matters.  Let me put it this way.  If Newt Gingrich wins Iowa, it doesn’t really matter.  If Santorum wins Iowa, it will give him some false momentum but Iowa alone won’t matter.  If Bachmann wins Iowa, we will all drop our jaw and then move on with the real race.  If Paul wins Iowa, mainstream Republicans will spend the next few days complaining about how he did his usual ballot stuffing tricks, but then move on.

However, if Mitt Romney wins Iowa, that will be huge.  Iowa has typically stuck to mainstream, evangelical, more conservative than moderate candidates.  Iowa has granted hope to Mike Huckabee in recent years, and Michele Bachmann this year.  Now, with Mitt Romney leading in the polls, it appears that more conservative, evangelical voters are accepting that Romney will win the nomination.  In fact, in this case I wonder what type of dynamic Ron Paul is attributing to Romney’s rise.  Are Iowans viewing Gingrich, Perry and now even Santorum as third party spoilers?

I think with the Iowa dynamic, voters may actually prefer Santorum in the current field.  Instead, it appears that Iowa may end up being about who can beat Barack Obama, or more immediately, who can beat Ron Paul.  At any rate, if Mitt Romney wins, Iowa matters.  As McCain proved in 2008, voting for a candidate primarily because of electability is a tough paradigm to crack once it is set.

One thing is for sure.  If Romney does win in Iowa, Newt is dreaming if he thinks he can turn everything around in New Hampshire.

And the Winner of the Iowa Caucus is……….

Romney and Santorum may surprise all with a first and second place finish, respectively, but South Carolina will be the real winner of the Iowa Caucuses.

Bookmark and Share I am predicting that Mitt Romney will in Iowa and it will go a long way in establishing a sense of inevitability that will help him wrap up the nomination sooner than later.   However; unless Romney racks up a win with 30 or more percent, the results will not matter a great deal and in the end, the real winner will be South Carolina.

Iowa’s caucus history shows that the winners of their nominating contests do not usually go on to become the nominee and President.  More often than not, Iowa caucus voters seem more intent on sending a message to the establishment than sending a nominee to the White House.  This time may be different in the sense that Iowa Republicans may believe that their support for most of the existing candidates will not send any strong message and that Ron Paul, the only candidate for whom a protest vote for would send a clear message, is not in any way a responsible and realistically, viable candidate.   As it is, most Iowa Republicans do not support Ron Paul.  His perceived success in the state so far is due mainly to the Independent and Democrats who are allowed to vote in the caucuses if they change their Party affiliation.

This is something which Paulbots have been planning on taking advantage for a very long time and they are doing a good job at it.

But not good enough.

In the end I believe that between all the back and forth of frontrunner status for one candidate or another, Mitt Romney who has been consistently at the top of the polls in Iowa and who has the strongest organization of all the candidates in the state, will benefit from a social conservative and evangelical vote that is sharply divided between at least four candidates, and from his perceived electability against Barack Obama.  These factors will allow Romney to win the caucus, but unless he wins by an overwhelming amount, it will not do much to help him convince people that he will definitely be the nominee.  That job will be left up to South Carolina, which will actually be the big winner coming out of Iowa.

Everyone knows that Romney will win New Hampshire, so there is little suspense there.  That leaves South Carolina which follows the Live Free or Die State, as the most pivotal of all the early state contests and the greatest beneficiary of the results in Iowa.

It is where Newt Gingrich has been trying to build a firewall and hoping to establish himself as either the frontrunner or the only real viable alternative to Mitt Romney.

South Carolina is also a prelude to the Florida and the momentum provided to the candidate who wins in South Carolina will go a long way in helping that candidate’s chances of winning in the Sunshine State’s primary. 

Even in the unlikely event that Romney blew out all his rivals with a win of  30% or more,  South Carolina will still be an early contest that either solidifies Romney’s lock on the nomination or gives someone else the opportunity to be Romney’s true chief rival as the race moves forward.

These are just simple facts which will not be changed by any result that Iowa produces.  If Senator Rick Santorum happened to pull off a Huckabee-like, 2008, come-from-behind victory, Romney will still dominate in the New Hampshire primary and South Carolina will still host the contest that play a somewhat more decisive role than either New Hampshire or Iowa.

When all is said and done, Iowa will serve one chief purpose.  It will help weed out the field of candidates.  It will help to begin sealing the deal for several of the lower tier candidates, especially Rick Perry.  But even in that capacity, Iowa is not likely to end anyone’s candidacy.  Once again, that mission will be accomplished in South Carolina.

That said, in the tradition of making predictions as one year ends and a new one begins, while I hold true to the belief that Iowa will really only matter if Romney comes in anywhere under third pace, or wins with a large plurality, I also believe that the candidates will finish as follows:

  1. Mitt Romney – 26%
  2. Rick Santorum -21%
  3. Ron Paul – 17%
  4. Newt Gingrich -16%
  5. Rick Perry – 11%
  6. Michele Bachmann – 7%
  7. Jon Huntsman – 2%

I am quite uncertain about those totals, but very confident in the order of each candidate’s placement.

These results will produce several storylines coming out of Iowa.  One will be about whether of not Mitt Romney has a lock on the nomination as he is now on a path to becoming the first non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate to sweep both Iowa and New Hampshire?  The other story will be is Rick Santorum, the new Mike Huckabee and can he translate his strong Iowa showing into a victory elsewhere? 

The other stories that will provide the filler for 24 hour cable news programs, will be can Newt comeback “in South Carolina”? What happened to Ron Paul’s surge? And is this the end for Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann?

The answer to all these questions will be determined by the state which I argue will be the ultimate winner in the Iowa Caucuses…..South Carolina.

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The Importance or Lack of Importance of Iowa to Each of the Candidates

Bookmark and Share    While readers are free to disagree on this point, it is nonetheless a political reality, that the Iowa Caucuses will bolster or diminish the chances of several candidates but in the end will do little to determine the ultimate Republican nominee.

The fact of the matter is that the lack of an undeniable favorite consensus candidate among Republicans and a higher than average number of undecided voters at this stage in the game will allow for wide swings in popularity for one candidate or another based upon regional idiosyncrasies and local influences in ways that are far more significant than in recent presidential nomination contests.

With the economy still proving to be the issue at the forefront of the election,  Mitt Romney and his succesful background in such things as business and even his incredibly well engineered turnaround of the 2002 Winter Olympics, has allowed him to squeak by as one of the most promising figures when it comes to that critical issue.  However; Romneycare and doubts about his committment to social conservatives issues have prevented Romney from capitalizing on his positive economic credentials as much as he could have.  Meanwhile, social conservatives have failed to find a single figure that they can comfortably get 100% behind.

Given these circumstances, Iowa’s results will still leave the field with very inconclusive results that will not begin to get any clearer until South Carolina and Florida hold their primaries. Nevertheless, at this point in time, the stakes are higher for some than others in Iowa.

Do or Die:

For Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum, anything less than a third place showing will leave them struggling for relevance, a position that will only be compounded by the difficulty they face in New Hampshire where Mitt Romney’s victory is a foregone conclusion and which is the only state that longshot candidate Jon Huntsman finds himself to be much of a factor.  This will make South Carolina Bachmann, Perry, and Santorum’s only hope of becoming viable candidates as the nomination contest moves ahead.  So for these three candidate the race is on for third place.  Anything better than that would be considered a surprising finish tha will give them a brief opportunity to take advantage of the spotlight.

Establishing Themselves as the Clear Alternative to Romney:

Newt Gingrich is the candidate who has the best chance of truly establishing himself as the alternative to Mitt Romney, in order to do this he can ill afford anything less than third  a place finish.  Short of that, Newt will have a hard time maintaining momentum as he heads in to South Carolina and Florida.

Saving Face:

There is a low bar for Mitt Romney to meet in Iowa.  He merely needs to avoid being embarrassed with a finish any lower than third place.  But even if he did happen to finish towards the very bottom of the pack, chances are he will still win in New Hampshire and go in to South Carolina with a strong organization and the backing of the state’s popular Tea Party Republican Governor, Nikki Haley.  But on the flip side, a first place showing by Romney will go a long way establishing the type of impression of inevitability that could stymie the momentum that other candidates may be establishing in their plight to become the candidate with the best chance of beating Romney.

Mattering:

Jon Huntsman is considered the top of the bottom tier candidates that consist of Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer. However being slightly ahead of two candidates who nobody really knows is running for President or really cares if they are running for President, does not say much. And Iowa is a state that that Huntsman simply ignored in order to focus on New Hampshire.  For this reason, Jon Huntsman is essentially of no consequence in the Iowa Caucus and just wont matter.  The only way his name will even be mentioned is if he somehow manages to beat anyone else and not come in last place.

Achieving Undeniable Viability:

Ron Paul’s rise in statewide polls of Iowa has now put him in the unenviable position of needing to meet very high expectations.  With such high expectations anything less than second place will generally be seen as a setback and will do little to help Ron Paul to begin turning around his numbers in other states, most of which place him in the middle of the field.  But if Ron Paul does meet current expectations with either a first or second place finish, he will merely remain a significant barrier between Romney and the emergence of a viable alternative to Romney.

A first or second place finish for Paul in Iowa will make him an undeniably significant candidate who can not be ignored, even by me, a die-hard anti-Paul conservative, or as Pauliacs call me, a neo-con.  However; as Newt Gingrich stated, it will be hard to imagine that Ron Paul will fly among mainstream Republicans and “decent Americans”.   While his limited government views are applauded, his isolationist tendencies which he denies having, will ultimately disqualify him in the eyes of voters who understand that the first constitutional responsibility of an American President and our federal government, is our national security and foreign policy.  Ron Paul’s unwillingness to come up with a proper defense and foreign policy, will ultimatelylead to the type of conclusion of Ron Paul that  Newt Gingrich expressed in his Tuesday afternoon interview with Blitzer, when he stated;

“As a potential President, a person who thinks that the United States was responsible for 9/11, a person who believes,…who wrote in his news letter that the World Trade Center bombing in ’93 might have been a C.I.A. plot,  a person who doesn’t believe that it matters if the Iranians have a nuclear weapon, I’d rather just say, you look at Ron Paul’s record of systemic avoidance of reality,”

Ultimately, I believe rational Republicans will come to the same conclusion that Newt believes they will.

The But:

Given the incredible anti-establishment sentiment within the electorate and a deep TEA movement-like desire to send a message to both Republicans and Democrats, and the lack of a singular candidate with very strong support behind them, even I can’t be sure that Ron Paul will fail in his attempt to draw the nomination down to a contest between himself andMitt  Romney.  If there is one thing I know in politics, it is that you never say never and given the volatility and indecision of the Republican electorate, Ron Paul might benefit from a social conservative vote that is deeply divided by far too many candidates, and an unusually high desire by voters to cast a protest vote for Ron Paul and make him the vessel through which they make their anger known.  Realistically, such circumstances will merely help assure Mitt Romney of the nomination in the end but it will still make Ron Paul a far more significant figure in the 2012 election than many other than Paulites, assumed possible.

Key Factors in the Closing Days

In these final days of the Iowa Caucuses, several factors will have a significant effect on the results.

A very large undecided vote can be swayed  in to the camp of one candidate or another by any number of things.  Most powerful of all would be an embarrassing last minute disclosure that could cost the unlucky victim support they already have and the support of those who were leaning towards them.  The other would be a successful pitch that inspires social conservatives to get behind one candidate and that candidate’s ability to coordinate the type of Get Out the Vote operation that delivers that social conservatives support to their caucus locations on Tuesday night.

Organization and momentum will be key and anyone who inspire and channel that momentum in these closing days, could pull off a surprise finish.  The two candidates with the greatest potential in that area are the two Ricks.  Both Perry and Santorum are best situated for such a result.

The final influence over the results in the Iowa Caucus will be something that no campaign can really effect……..the weather.

Bad weather favors Ron Paul.

His supporters are fanatics who will not allow anything to prevent them from voting for him.  If there is 6 feet of snow falling and a windchill factor of 6 below, expect Ron Paul to land a big win.

Others who would benefit from bad weather, but to a lesser degree than Ron Paul, are Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum.

Their supporters tend to be more deeply committed than are those of Romney, Perry, and Gingrich and they too will show up in significant numbers despite any foul weather.

Good weather favors Romney and Gingrich.

Both these men have established relatively wide support that does not run very deep.  This means with good weather, their large but not highly motivated number of supporters will actually show up to cast their caucus vote for them.  Such would not be the case if  bad weather made getting to their caucus location seem more trouble than that it was worth to them.

At the moment, it looks like the weather in Iowa on the day of the Caucus will be cold but clear.

Bottom Line:

Iowa will will have at best, a minimal effect on the race.  Just as it did in 2008 when the eventaul Republican nominee, John McCain, came in fourth place behind Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson, and just as it did in 1988 when then Vice President George H. W. Bush found himself in third place behind Bob Dole and Christian Broacast Network founder, Rev. Pat Robertson.  And it will probably matter as much in 2012 as it did in 1980 when George H. W. Bush defeated Ronald Reagan in that year’s caucus.

The start of the real race won’t occur until January 21st.  It is then that South Carolina’s primary will set up the race between Mitt Romney and one other candidate as they race moves on to Florida which holds its primary on January 31st.  And it is Florida which will produce the best indication of who the ultimate nominee is likely to be.

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Iowa Presidential Candidate Power Ranking: If the Caucuses Were Held Today…..

 Bookmark and Share   This my analysis of what would happen if the Iowa Caucuses were today, and not my candidate preferences. I have yet to endorse a candidate, and may not do so. For my candid thoughts on each candidate as an undecided voter, click here.

1) Ron Paul (18%)

He remains the candidate in the race with the best combination of an excited base and quality organization, which is the best in the state. I personally saw his organization pull in over 500 people on a Saturday morning to a National Federation of Republican Assemblies event, and he was the only candidate with any real support there. However, the January 3rd Caucus date does not work in his favor because it could leave a lot of his younger voters still away for the holidays out in the cold.

2) Newt Gingrich (17%)

He could be on the brink of a surge here down the stretch, and the way he is running his campaign by being substantive on issues and taking the high road on his primary competition allows him to appeal to Bob Vander Plaats (grassroots) and Terry Branstad (establishment) types alike. If he can stay disciplined the rest of the way, and with Gingrich past history indicates that is always a big if, he will be formidable. Three months ago Gingrich lost his campaign apparatus to Rick Perry, now he has twice his support.

3) Mitt Romney (16%)

The ascendancy of Gingrich hurts Romney, because it gives those who no longer view him as a palatable champion a natural alternative, since those are also folks that may not be comfortable with any of the more grassroots-type candidates.

4) Herman Cain (15%)

He’s already peaked, gone supernova, and peaked again.

5) Rick Santorum (13%)

Every time he’s on the brink of a breakthrough someone else steals his thunder. Prior to the Straw Poll it was Michele Bachmann. Now it’s Cain and Gingrich overshadowing him. However, he’s definitely a candidate a lot of former Mike Huckabee supporters are considering, and he might have the second best organization in the state, so he will be a factor.

6) Michele Bachmann (11%)

She seems to have rediscovered her boldness since the last time we rated the candidates, but now she needs to re-establish her organizational footing.

7) Rick Perry (10%)

So far he just hasn’t sold himself to Iowans, and has already failed to make a good first impression. The overall race is so fluid that it’s not hopeless for him, but the clock is ticking. Here’s a question: Chuck Norris is the most outspoken Christian Patriot celebrity in the country, so why hasn’t he endorsed for president the guy that’s been his governor for the last 11 years?

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