Answering Faimon about Peggy

This post is an attempt to respond to a statement that my old friend Faimon wrote in the comment section of my previous post: “I wonder Denny, if you are going to address the comment by Peggy Noonan that GWB destroyed the Republican Party.”

What Faimon is referring to is Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column titled, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” In this short essay, Noonan not only says that former President Bill Clinton is destroying the Democrat Party, she also charges President George W. Bush with destroying the Republican Party. She writes:

“George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.”

This is a provocative statement from Noonan, and Faimon’s question to me is a fair one. I’ll offer a few remarks in response.

First, I think it’s premature to say that the Republican Party has been destroyed—especially if Noonan means to say that the Reagan coalition of social, fiscal, and national security conservatives has been permanently torn asunder. The disarray that we are seeing on the Republican side of the Presidential race exists because no single candidate embodies all three of those principles. If there had been such a candidate, I think we would already have seen the old coalition come together around him or her. The potential for the coalition is there. There’s just no candidate right now to bring it together.

Second, I don’t know why Noonan thinks President Bush has caused this fracturing of the Republicans. To be sure, he has offended every section of the Reagan coalition. For instance, his attempt to appoint Harriet Myers to the Supreme Court baffled social conservatives (including me). His support for the failed Rumsfeld strategy in Iraq put off some national security conservatives (see also the attempted Dubai ports deal and illegal immigration). His support for government spending offended the fiscal conservatives (think medicare and the single biggest entitlement program in American history). Most would agree that President Bush ran afoul of different conservatives in these areas, but I don’t see how that fact has destroyed the coalition that has elected 20 years worth of Republican presidents since 1980. If anything, it shows that there are conservatives who are willing to stick to their principles.

I suspect that the division in the party has resulted from the fact that it does not have a presidential candidate who embodies all of the traits of a Reagan conservative. There are only niche-candidates: Huckabee for the social conservatives, Romney for the fiscal conservatives, and McCain-Giuliani for the national security conservatives. If there were a Hucka-guili-romney-cain candidate, no one would be talking about division in the Republican Party.

Third, I don’t care about the Republican Party for the Republican Party’s sake. The Republican Party (and the Democrat Party for that matter) is merely a mechanism through which citizens can implement what they believe to be the right policies for our country. Political parties are not ends within themselves, as if all that matters is that one’s party stays in power. Parties are a means to an end (just government, however that may be defined), and if a party ever ceases to be useful toward that end, then it can and should be jettisoned. In this sense, I am no rank partisan. If the sum total of a party’s platform adds up to grave injustice, I’ll be the first in line to bolt. I have no allegiance to the Republican Party per se, even though at the moment it happens to be the only party for life. I hope that this “mechanism” would retain its pro-life platform, but if it doesn’t it can go the way of the Dodo for all I care.

Faimon, I hope that answers your question. If not, we’ll let it go in the comments.


P.S. to Faimon: I am so happy that we have some Dawgs up in here!


  • jigawatt

    I myself am one former Republican who was dismayed at the lack of traditional conservative values from the President and Congress. All the talk was “just wait till we have a Republican congress with a Republican President – it’ll be a golden age”, then when it acutally happened they spent money just like the Democrats did.

    I have no allegiance to the Republican Party per se, even though at the moment it happens to be the only party for life.

    Actually it’s the only major party for life.

  • Paul

    sorry to keep being the poli-sci teacher around these parts, but I am snickering, reading people talk about social, fiscal and national security conservatives. Conservative means “less.” End of story. So, when a social conservative tries to ADD amendments to the constitution, they’re NOT BEING CONSERVATIVE. When our leaders make up 935 lies to try to convince us to use our resources to go into a preemptive war when we had a righteous war on our hands, they’re NOT BEING CONSERVATIVE. And it’s not news to anyone that our country hasn’t had a fiscally conservative leader in office in decades.

    A REAL social conservative would realize that the way to change the way things are done is by education, not by legislation.

    A REAL national security conservative would be an isolationist, except when we’re attacked, and then the notion of a kind or gentle or humane war would go out the window (and yes, this is a mennonite saying this).

    A REAL fiscal conservative would wipe out earmarks, cut ridiculous programs and departments and tax responsibly.

    And, golly gee, none of y’all are voting libertarian. How telling.

  • jigawatt

    And, golly gee, none of y’all are voting libertarian. How telling.

    While the LP doesn’t have an official stance, most of its members and candidates are pro choice. If there is a LP candidate for office who is pro life, I myself (of course I can’t speak for Denny or anyone else) will seriously consider voting for him. All you folks who came out a few months ago saying you wouldn’t vote for Giuliani because he’s not pro life – you’re just a bunch of Johnny-come-latelys.

    So, when a social conservative tries to ADD amendments to the constitution, they’re NOT BEING CONSERVATIVE.

    Suppose a congressman proposed an amendment to repeal the 16th amendment. Would you consider him a non-conservative?

    By the way, I don’t agree that conservativism as a political term means “less” in absolutely every case. Suppose there was a peacenik President who cut the US military down to nearly nothing. I hope a conservative candidate would favor “more” military in this case.

  • Faimon

    Ah, Tristan. If you are the Tristan that I think you are, then you know me too well. Are you still over-utilizing the jump-stop in all your drives to the hoop, btw?

    Also, Brooks was just here, he left this afternoon for South Africa. We talked about you in our reminisces – if you are the original T-Guth……

  • Ben Stevenson

    Paul: “A REAL social conservative would realize that the way to change the way things are done is by education, not by legislation.”

    Why could a social conservative not support both?

    What definition of “conservative” are you using?


    Paul: “Conservative means “less.” End of story”

    I thought that conservatism could be defined as follows:

    “disposition in politics to preserve what is established”

    “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.”

    “Social conservatism is a political or moral ideology that affirms behaviors associated with a culture’s traditions.”

    “tending not to like or trust change, especially sudden change”

  • Paul


    in order…

    1) Mike Badnarik, the Libertarian candidate in 2004 was pro-life. Did you vote for him? Also, Ron Paul, who is a Libertarian running as a Republican is also pro-life. Are you voting for him?

    2) I wouldn’t consider someone who repealed the 16th amendment a non-conservative. However, I would consider them a moron.

    3) In your national security case, you present a double negative of sorts. A true conservative’s army would be strong and streamlined (i.e., no more $300 toilet lids or $7billion per year spent on helium reclamation).

    Do I want a real conservative in office? Probably not. But these fools masquerading as conservatives are a far different and far more dangerous beast than a Goldwater conservative could have ever imagined.

  • jigawatt


    I did consider voting for Badnarik in 2004. My political opinions have changed enough since then (I was still a registered Republican) that I can say that I would very much more consider voting for him if I could redo it.

    I like a lot of what Ron Paul has to say. In fact, I went to his rally in Baton Rouge one week ago today. Since the election is over 9 months away, I still have not made up my mind on who I am voting for. Of course, it is very doubtful that he will get the Republican nomination, and I’m not sure if he’ll run otherwise.

    Since you desire a more precise example concerning the military, I will attempt to provide one. I agree that a true conservative’s army would be strong and streamlined. Suppose there was a non-conservative in office that had a weak and streamlined army. Suppose further that a person calling themselves a conservative called for a still streamlined army that was more strong. But to make a strong army out of a weak one will require “more” funding according to this person. Is this self-described conservative a false one since Conservative means “less.” End of story.?

  • jigawatt

    By the way, of the 4 LP candidates vying for the nomination of their small party, 2 are definitely pro choice (Root and Jackson), 1 is definitely pro life (Imperato), and 1 I can’t determine (Jingozian).

  • Paul


    Well, a strong and streamlined armed forces is just that. If one must spend more to get to a strong and STREAMLINED army, then so be it. The key words are strong and streamlined. You can’t have less than nothing. However, you can certainly spend your money in a more wise fashion than the pentagon does at the moment.

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