The ever sensible Ross Douthat

The ever sensible Ross Douthat November 10, 2012

urges conservatives to treat with reality.  Treating with reality is also known as the virtue of prudence and is the first cardinal virtue.  Our Tradition instructs us to cultivate prudence.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • dpt

    “That era will not last forever; it may not even last more than another four years.”
    Exactly. In ‘o8 we were told by some pundits that the GOP has been pushed into a minority status, yet the 2010 elections changed that.

    I recall hearing in ’04 that the GOP, under the guidance of Karl Rove, rendered the Dems to minority status for years to come.

    All the pontificating just keeps the pundits employed, and we tend to forgot their claims from one election cycle to the other.

    • Ted Seeber

      The problem is, I don’t see the Republicans as the end of the present era, just the continuation of it.

      We have much work to do in catechisis.

  • Michael F.

    While everyone seems to be talking about President Obama winning because of the increase in minority voters (favoring Obama), single women (favoring Obama), etc., I think two figures tell a much more important story: 1) Romney received 2 million fewer votes than JOHN McCAIN did in 2008 and 2) Obama received 9 million fewer votes than he did in 2008. Romney received many more independent votes than McCain, so the primary cause of Romney’s loss was *not* because of some new groundswell of support for President Obama and some fundamental change in the composition of the electorate (although the electorate *has* changed somewhat) or because Independents broke for Obama (they didn’t). The primary reason Romney lost is because his own Republican base just didn’t like him enough. If Romney had even managed to get as many Republican votes as the hardly beloved John McCain did in 2008, Romney would have won.

    I think Paul Kengor is right here: “The old adage is true — people prefer to vote for someone rather than against someone.”

  • vox borealis

    Of course, the lesson the GOP will likely take from all of this—it’s surely the advice I’ve read in about a dozen opinion pieces—is that the GOP must accept the supposed leftward shift and abandon all social conservative issues. So yeah, I think the GOP will face up to reality—or to “reality”—and the US will end up with a right-leaning party like Canada’s Harper-led Conservatives: happily adjusted to same-sex marriage and abortion really indistinguishable from the left except for slightly lower tax rates.

    • Dante Aligheri

      It’s unfortunate that they feel they must jettison the social conservatism. Why can they not simply move a little bit on economic issues instead? Like the defense budget?

      • Richard Johnson

        The simple answer to that question…money talks. There is little or no money to be made in the social issue arena for the GOP. The only reason they tolerate social conservatives is because they need them at these inconvenient things called elections. Otherwise they would jettison social conservatives with absolutely no regrets.

        • Ted Seeber

          I also think that the only reason they keep social conservative issues around is to win votes. If they actually did anything substantial about abortion, 50% of their base would become Democrats instantly, seeing the pro-life fight as being won.

  • Obpoet

    I just do not find his arguments persuasive. Usually, his are. I suspect that the forces at work here are far more sinister than he credits. And the ideas that motivate voters are far more shallow.

  • William R.

    Bearing in mind that you obviously strive to embrace and promote a truly Catholic worldview, politically speaking, Mark Shea, it seems that you would tend to consider yourself a conservative, but are disappointed with the conservative movement in general because you believe it has gone astray. It fails to present itself in a way that could be attractive to others; it sets itself up for failure; it’s gone crazy; you want to identify with a conservative movement that is reasonable and positive and which has the power to win elections and get good things done. These are all fair and perfectly understandable desires. Though I don’t think I see eye-to-eye with you on all points I certainly share what I perceive to be your desire for a potent conservatism that we can all stand behind and support — one around which we can cheer when it wins, if it wins. Check me if I’m mis-reading you on any of these points.

    Having said this, where I’ve been getting lost in reading your posts the last few days is that you are so critical of conservatives in general that one could almost confuse you for a liberal who’s started a blog to hate on right-wingers. If you are so dissatisfied with conservatism as it stands today, why do you spend so much time berating conservatives for not doing their job well enough, while you, seemingly a conservative yourself, do nothing to advance the position(s) that you believe should be the rallying point of conservatives? It’s clear enough that you are unhappy with the conservative movement, and no one can fault you for that. But what you won’t do is get in the dirt with the rest of us and work. You won’t help the cause. You won’t take a risk by suggesting, as a fellow conservative, the path you believe we lowly idiots are missing. So my challenge to you is this: if we’re not getting it right, then show us what to do. Lead the way. It’s easy to piss on Mitt Romney, but at least he put himself in a position to be pissed on in the first place.

    By the way, the reason I’m spotting you as a conservative is that you seem disappointed that the Republican Party lost the election. If you’re not a conservative, and maybe just strongly dislike the Republican Party, I would think your posts would take a different tone — in that case you would be happy we lost the election. But if you are a conservative, you spend an awful lot of time attacking your political allies and almost backing up your political adversaries and that’s screwed up.

    • Andy

      CAtholics ar not conservative or liberal, democrat or republican. They are Catholic. It sad that so many people confuse political allegiance to the republican party with their CAtholic faith. That is the message that Mark is sending – nothing else.

      • Sandy

        That’s ridiculous. I know of no Catholic who confuses his or her faith with the Republican party. Silly.

        • Andy

          I see lots of people confusing faith with the republican party – a quick review of why people should have voted on this blog for Romney shows that. What is silly is that many Catholics live in denial about the conflation of the two. Think about Romney and torture, abortion – he moves away from the CST yet he is a good conservative, deems are evil therefor we must vote for him.

          • vox borealis

            Every Catholic I know who voted for Romney voted for him as the lesser of two evils. None was under any illusion that he was a great candidate. They calculated that Romney’s rather less aggressive support for abortion in all circumstances put him ahead of Obama. They calculate that a Republican president this term had a somewhat better chance to replace up to three supreme court justices with possibly “better” justices. They felt that since the Republican party at least pays lip service to limiting abortion, there was a better chance to make some progress with a Romney administration. They calculated that there was some chance the objectionable HHS mandate would be lifted under Romney. And so forth. That is to say, they made a calculation that a Romney administration would be better, or at least less worse, and that’s all. They calculated it was the best they could given the constraints of the entrenched two party system. They certainly did not conflate their faith with the Republican party.

        • Andy is right, there probably are some who confuse support for the Republican party with Real Catholic Faith. Of course there are probably others who confuse support for the Democratic party with Real Catholic Faith just the same. And then there are those who likely confuse a pox on both parties and voting for a third party candidate or not voting at all with Real Catholic Faith, too. A lot don’t, and it’s not a good idea to generalize, but I imagine the temptations are there no matter which way a person goes.

          • Peggy R

            I agree that much over-generalization is going on here. I am with Vox B on probably what most Catholics who voted Romney thought.

            As for expanding the base and ideas–.
            1. The first stop has to be the black clergy who courageously spoke out against unwarranted fealty to the Dem party that espouses abortion and gay “marriage” morally repugnant to most blacks.
            2. I normally dislike Bill Kristol, but he is on to something today. The GOP should respond to O’s call for higher taxes on the wealthy. Start at $1M, but settle for $500K. This would protect small entrepreneurs and many who are “middle class” in costly coastal states. The most wealthy are liberals anyway. Give them what they asked for. And why fall on one’s sword for people who don’t vote GOP and whom the rest of the country has decided must be punished.
            3. I’m not ready with ideas on immigration yet. Many people have followed the rules and are still waiting. The INS or ICE is quite backlogged with folks who are working within the rules.

            • My guess is that most people actually gave it quite a bit of thought. I also agree that there can be many plausible solutions, and opposing one here or supporting another there does not always equal stupid or evil. I can’t speak for what went on with those who supported Romney. Most who comment here followed what you say – that he was only the lesser of the two evils. That much I do know. Otherwise, I mostly know what went on in my own thinking last Tuesday.

            • Ted Seeber

              I think likely the middle ground in that negotiation is $350k, not $500k. That’s about the break between “working 80 hours a week to run a small business that hires others” and “working 10 hours a week trading paper to suck profits away from those who worked for them”. VERY few people earn between $350k and $2 million anyway, less than .01% of America have incomes in that range. It’s one of the black holes in the continuum of income.

        • Ted Seeber

          I know large numbers of voters who confuse Catholicism with the party of their choice- on both sides of the fence. Not just pro-life Republican Catholics, but also pro-Social Justice Democratic Catholics do this. I have been told by both that I’m going to hell for voting third party.

      • William R.

        Andy, I never said that Catholicism is conservatism or liberalism. In fact I tried to make it clear that I do not confuse the Church with a political party. This is why I wrote, “Bearing in mind that you obviously strive to embrace and promote a truly Catholic worldview…”