Huntsman: The Truer Conservative

September 7th, 2011 at 1:02 am | 31 Comments |

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Here’s a brief biography of two candidates:

One of them presided over arguably the best business climate in the nation, so good that Forbes magazine ranked it as the best state for business and careers. As governor, he enacted free-market health care reforms, balanced the budget, and thus far is the most public advocate of the Ryan plan to reduce long-term entitlement spending.

The other guy endorsed Al Gore and in a letter to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, asked for the government’s charity during its health care reform efforts. He has lured jobs to his state with subsidy programs which have cost his state’s taxpayers nearly $14,000 for every new job “created.”

The conservative punditry’s verdict on each man is clear: the first is a squishy moderate RINO, while the second is a principled conservative. Welcome to the modern Republican Party.

Jon Huntsman is, of course, the first guy. He took to the airwaves recently to declare himself the “center-right candidate for a center-right country.” The obvious implication is that he’s more moderate than Rick Perry (the second guy mentioned above) or Michele Bachmann or whoever else.

Huntsman does a disservice to conservatism by branding himself as a moderate. He’s not a moderate. He believes in low taxes, free markets, balanced budgets, the importance of the family, and the wisdom of an active—but measured—American foreign policy. His career is a testament to the vitality of these ideas. He shouldn’t run from them.

Perry and Bachmann’s conservatism is defined by what it opposes: science, liberalism, and gays. Others insist that their conservatism is reflexively anti-government, but each supports the Federal Marriage Amendment, a proposal that would annul the marriages of gay couples—ripping apart new families, many of which count young children as members.

Their assertions that evolution is “just a theory” miss the mark, and discourage otherwise sympathetic voters from joining the conservative cause. Jonah Goldberg recently argued that the Democrats are just as anti-science as Republicans, citing the president’s unwillingness to increase our nation’s nuclear energy production. I agree with Goldberg that the president’s policy is wrongheaded, but until President Obama tells the American public that nuclear physics is “just a theory,” I’m going to continue to give him the edge over Perry and Bachmann when it comes to science.

I became a conservative after reading Robert Bork’s Slouching Towards Gomorrah. I did not and still don’t accept all of its arguments, but what made Bork’s book so compelling was the way it described the American Left. Bork theorized that in the absence of religious faith, the modern Left had become a substitute spiritual movement for many Americans, complete with prophets, heroes, rigidity, and often inexplicable passion. That struck a chord with me: the liberals that I knew and saw on TV were passionate to a fault. The conservatives always seemed more mature and reasonable. That’s a big reason for why I became a conservative—I didn’t want to join the camp of unreasonable people.

With few exceptions this observation has been turned on its head. The American Right is no longer a bastion of maturity, but a factory of anger and contradiction. We fulminate against federal power, but our frontrunner would have the U.S. government destroy marriage rights created by the states. We criticize federal spending, and then lambast Jon Huntsman, the only candidate to endorse a serious plan to control it.

That same movement is ready to coronate Rick Perry, a man with no serious plan to curb entitlement spending. I am told by the talking heads that he is the true fiscal conservative, yet his jobs strategy has been built around confiscating the wealth of taxpayers and using it to bribe businesses to relocate to Texas.

I don’t buy it. I don’t buy that I’m a moderate because I don’t think the government should steal money from individuals and then redistribute it to large corporations. I don’t buy that I’m a moderate because I think that the federal government should not be in the business of taking away rights. I don’t buy that I’m a moderate because I think that families—all of them, even the ones headed by gay people—are vital to the survival of the Republic. I don’t buy that I’m a moderate because I believe what scientists say about evolution.

That’s why I’m not ready to buy Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann—not as my candidate, and not as conservatives.

Here’s what I will buy: that I am a conservative, and that my political philosophy has something to say about how this country should be governed. That’s why I’m supporting Jon Huntsman, the most conservative candidate in this year’s Republican field.

Recent Posts by J.D. Hamel



31 Comments so far ↓

  • Huntsman: The Truer Conservative – FrumForum | Conservatives for America

    [...] Huntsman: The Truer ConservativeFrumForumThe conservative punditry's verdict on each man is clear: the first is a squishy moderate RINO, while the second is a principled conservative. Welcome to the modern Republican Party. Jon Huntsman is, of course, the first guy. …Conservative icon Reagan was a pragmatistFort Worth Star TelegramTrail Mix: Ron Paul challenges Rick Perry's conservative credentialsDallas Morning News (subscription)Paul touts conservative creds, highlights Perry's Democratic rootsIowa IndependentNational Journal -Texas Insider -Los Angeles Timesall 2,223 news articles » [...]

  • greg_barton

    Are you the one true Scotsman, too?

  • Demosthenes

    Great article. I agree with your assessment of Huntsman and your description of Conservatism.

    One comment:

    Jonah Goldberg recently argued that the Democrats are just as anti-science as Republicans, citing the president’s unwillingness to increase our nation’s nuclear energy production. I agree with Goldberg that the president’s policy is wrongheaded, but until President Obama tells the American public that nuclear physics is “just a theory,” I’m going to continue to give him the edge over Perry and Bachmann when it comes to science.

    You have a point. But as Ken Silber said in the podcast discussion a while back, one of the persistent foibles of the Left is the double-standard when it comes to scientific results that contradict liberal ideology; Silber specifically mentioned results that contradict the idea that everyone is exactly equal in every way, as well as basic scientific consensus on the safety of nuclear reactors.

    I would add another, related issue: quantum physics. Silber, as Lowry in the article you cite, notes that evolution does not logically entail atheism. Liberals of course will often use evolution as “proof” (scientific or otherwise) that there is no God. To my mind, the idea that liberals often have, that the Democratic Party is the “party of science” and that liberalism and science go hand-in-hand, is patently absurd — most especially in the case of atheist materialists. The Copenhagen Interpretation is inherently anti-realist, at least if you conceive of reality as being composed of indivisible point masses (atoms, or even subatomic particles). Anyone who thinks that reality is material and composed of indivisible point masses, and thus cannot include an immaterial or transcendent God, is therefore well outside the bounds of the Copenhagen School. Other “schools” of quantum mechanics have existed, but do you really want to argue against Niels Bohr?

    Note that I am not arguing in favor of theism based on quantum theory; I am simply pointing out that if your argument against the existence of God is based on the idea that matter objectively exists as tiny particles with definite position and momentum, and that if you could know the position and momentum of every particle in the universe that you could then derive all successive states of the universe, and that somehow this means there is no God, then you have deviated from the scientific consensus on what things like matter and energy and time and space actually are.

    • indy

      Liberals of course will often use evolution as “proof” (scientific or otherwise) that there is no God.

      In virtually every poll I’ve every seen, only around 5% of the American population express the belief there is no God. So ‘liberals’ are using ‘evolution’ as proof there is no God and then running around and claiming there is one? As Silber says, evolution has nothing to do, one way or another, with the existence of a God. Anybody who argues that one proceeds from the other suffers from problems in logic which unfortunately is characteristic sometimes of both the left and right, as you so aptly demonstrate.

      By the way, the political affiliation of atheists has not been well studied as far as I know, but the few that have been made seem to indicate that atheists are left-leaning but not a homogenous political group by any means. Your implicit assumption they must all be Democrats, coupled with your obvious bias, certainly indicates the kind of formal scientific training you have had.

      • Demosthenes

        I agree with you, but if I don’t occasionally make a show out of criticizing “Democrats” and “liberals” and assuming they mean the same thing (along with “atheists”) from time to time, a) the right wing thought police will be after me and b) in the minds of some people that I had rather hoped to reach, I will be lumped into the same camp as the atheist secular humanist liberal Democratic Kenyan Marxist reparationists. Atheists of course are not a homogeneous bloc, witness “Prof” Nick who is an avowedly nonreligious, presumably atheist libertarian. But as you yourself acknowledge, anecdotal evidence suggests atheists tend to be more socially if not more economically liberal, and people who are socially and economically liberal tend to vote Democratic.

        My main point is that it was not always the case that upwards of 90% of working scientists would vote Democratic. Certainly that was not the case in the 1940s or 50s. Both parties have changed since that time: I am only trying to say that it is not inherently contradictory for someone to be a scientist, a Christian, and a conservatively-minded patriot. Or for such a person to vote Republican. You may not think of this as a big deal, but I guarantee you that people like Terry and TJ are rolling their eyes right about now.

      • CautiousProgressive

        As a quick aside: I’ve known at least 15 or 20 libertarian-leaning Republican atheists in my life. In particular, I’ve met a lot of brainy military individuals and mechanical/aerospace engineers who are conservative and atheist/agnostic.

      • Houndentenor

        Liberals of course will often use evolution as “proof” (scientific or otherwise) that there is no God.

        That’s not a “liberal” argument. Most liberals are theists. Some atheists are libertarians and conservatives. Given that the conservative dogma is based on the teachings of an atheist (Ayn Rand) it seems odd to try to label liberals as atheists. It’s simply not true and there is plenty of polling to prove that. It’s just another right wing lie. You’d think all those Christians would know that bearing false witness is a sin.

    • balconesfault

      one of the persistent foibles of the Left is the double-standard when it comes to scientific results that contradict liberal ideology; Silber specifically mentioned results that contradict the idea that everyone is exactly equal in every way, as well as basic scientific consensus on the safety of nuclear reactors.

      This is not a dispute with science … this is a matter of risk-aversion. A pro-nuclear person believes that the many positives of nuclear energy outweigh the risks of accidental release, and the long-term risk created by disposal of radioactive waste. Anti’s believe that these are unnecessary risks for society to take. While I can argue that anti’s are overly cautious – it’s not that they’re disputing that a risk might only be 10(-6) … it’s that they consider 10(-6) risk to be too great, or that the error bars on that risk might be a lot larger than the scientists have alloted for.

      In other words, it’s more akin to the dispute over whether climate change will be disasterous to humanity than to whether humans are causing climate change.

      • indy

        And what liberals claim that ‘everyone is exactly equal in every way’? Crazy ones?

        The idea that all citizens should be treated equally under governmental policy and legislation—regardless of any differences—does not seem particularly ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ to me. It seems like a fairly universal principle, not to mention a bedrock concept engraved into our founding documents, which of course didn’t quite live up to thier own ideals.

  • Bulldoglover100

    Agreed David. Huntsman is the ONLY Republican I would vote for out of the field of idiots the GOP has presented to me and I will only do so if he continues along his past actions. If he throws in the towel so to speak with the candidates who are dribbling down their chins to appease the Nut Jobs who are at this time running the party? Then I will vote for Obama. I refuse to be a part of electing someone who I seriously cannot imagine being fit for any job other than scooping dog poop like Bachmann or Newt or Perry. Perry bought his way to the top by selling out and his “Jobs” in Texas are mostly below living wage. If anyone seriously considers Perry? without educating their self to his past actions? God help us as a Nation.

    • medinnus

      Huntsman is the only GOP candidate with moderate/centrist/independant appeal. When the GOP nominates either the Most Boring Man in The World, or one of their shithead bugnutz crazies, I’m afraid that I’ll have to vote for Obama.

      And be damning the Tea Bagger Kock-suckers for making me do it.

    • wileedog

      My biggest problem with Huntsmen is his full throttled support for the Ryan plan, which is a complete and total financial farce, and also probably makes him un-electable in the general once its provisions for Medicare become common knowledge.

      But then again all of these whackadoodles have been required by GOP Law to support that hot mess, so its not like there is an alternative there.

      • diverik

        “My biggest problem with Huntsmen is his full throttled support for the Ryan plan…”

        I generally like Huntsman, but my biggest disappointment with him is his support for both the Ryan Plan AND the Balanced Budget Amendment. Considering that the Ryan Plan would be unconstitutional under a Balanced Budget Amendment, no one should be permitted to claim to support both. That kind of blatant logical inconsistency should not be tolerated.

  • rummager

    To “become” something, whether liberal, conservative, libertarian, or whatever, is to choose to see the world through a prescribed lens, to give up one’s individuality and thought, to a foregone way of thinking. Such people therefrom become captives to their select ideology and begin defending, and, eventually, accepting ideas they they know not to be true. I think, for instance, that private enterprise generally runs business better than the government; but, is all government business bad? I am not ready to give up on the post office until UPS will deliver my first class letter from New York to California for 50 cents. I suspect there are a lot of post office haters out there who might feel the same way. Unfortunately, their loyalty is not to logical thought but to a “religion” they’ve elected to become part of. In the here and now, christian fundamentalist and strict constitutionalist occupy the same holy ground. But, what kind of hoops must the christian fundamentalist jump through to make the “So help me god” bit attached to the oath, compatible with his strict constitutionalist position? But, make it compatible, he will! Logjams, angry discourse, mistrust, bad policy, etc. are all a result of this infernal “system” that has afflicted the United States far worse than most countries. Lets get beyond the intellectual boxes and use our heads, not for butting, but for what they’re best at: thinklng.

    • valkayec

      +1^

    • CitizenWhig

      I concur and well said. Far too many people find value in having and principled ideology. Ideology does nothing more than make us a slave to a certain ideas. Reason, critical thought and pragmatism should be the basis for our ideas, not a bedrock of unshakeable ideology.

  • Stewardship

    Great video that summarizes Huntsman appeal to conservatives, and the “wall” he’s up against in the GOP primary.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036697/#44378670

  • Oldskool

    Huntsman wouldn’t be able to straighten out your party anymore than Obama is able to. He would even have to appease the extremist wing.

    It would be better for the country if you nominate someone like Perry. We need another large dose of aversion therapy, and with any luck, the far right will be marginalized like it was in the good old days.

  • CautiousProgressive

    This article has inspired me toward conservatism more than anything else I’ve read in years.

  • balconesfault

    Sorry … but if supporting the Ryan plan, with its seriously flawed and sometimes pie-in-the- sky economic assumptions is a sign that someone is “Conservative”, than it’s clear that “Conservative” is simply a nicer term for “favoring concentration of wealth at the top”.

    The Ryan plan is a great charade, on par with the way the Laffer Curve was used by the Reagan Admininstration.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    good thread. not much to add but “I don’t buy that I’m a moderate because I don’t think the government” I dislike the way Adler is referring to Moderation, as though it is some kind of venereal disease. I am a moderate and moderation in all things is a virtue. This does not make one a coward or weak minded, I am fully aware if anyone tries to take away my rights that I will have to respond as forcefully as necessary to secure my freedom. And damn right I am a moderate who thinks Government should not take away my rights, and I am a moderate who believes that families—all of them, even the ones headed by gay people—are vital to the survival of the Republic. I do buy that I’m a moderate because I believe what scientists say about evolution. I think Adler is painting with an overly broad brush, defining as Conservative those things we should, and mostly do, all believe in. There are some things that Liberals, Moderates, and Conservatives all can believe in; our system of Government, our basic core freedoms defined in our Constitution.
    As to Huntman, I have zero problem with him taking an atitudinal form of Moderation, but lets face it, it is exactly the same kind that Obama has taken and it has not worked as well as we should wish, unless Adler wants to claim it is the base of the Republican party itself that is basically batshit insane and immune to reasonableness (certainly I admit the fringe of the Democratic party is, but they don’t run the party)

    • Demosthenes

      As to Huntman, I have zero problem with him taking an atitudinal form of Moderation, but lets face it, it is exactly the same kind that Obama has taken and it has not worked as well as we should wish

      Exactly. There are complicated reasons behind Obama’s lackluster economic performance, many of them systemic properties of the Wall Street/ D.C. nexus. But to blame it all on “the system” is to ignore the fact that the Republican Party as currently constituted is responsible for the lion’s share of dysfunction in our government. As many others have pointed out, this serves their electoral agenda, so there is a negative feedback loop where extreme and disruptive behavior paralyzes the government, leading to decreased confidence in the government and a great sense of despair, fueling the political campaigns of people who are running on hate and fear and the promise to their voters that they will continue to tear down the government where they can and to paralyze it where they can’t.

  • sinz54

    Mr. Hamel,
    you and David Frum keep leaving out one important thing about Huntsman:

    As a Presidential candidate, Huntsman is a wimp, who has not taken the fight to Obama.
    And that disqualifies him regardless of policy.

    http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/22/can-huntsman-be-civil-to-obama-and-win/

    To defeat an incumbent President is always difficult. You need a candidate who will go after the incumbent with all of the rhetorical and political tools at his command.

    It’s not enough to have good ideas and good policies. This is not an academic debate. It’s a fight to the end–there can be only one winner. And the challenger has to be able to persuade the voters to kick the incumbent out of office.

    Huntsman has not shown he’s willing or even able to do that.

    How many anti-Obama speeches has Huntsman given?

    • balconesfault

      It’s not enough to have good ideas and good policies.

      Hey … we’re all aware that for you, Sinz, it’s not even necessary for someone to have good ideas or good policies as a prerequisite for you voting for them over anyone with a (D) behind their name.

    • pnwguy

      sinz:

      Wouldn’t it be a damn nice thing to have a debate about POSITIVE things? Have a vision of what to do? Yes, it’s a ridiculously shallow electorate, but you’re upset essentially that Huntsman doesn’t want to engage in thermo nuclear war with his opponents. Well, a great swath of the middle of the political spectrum is getting to the vomiting point of a 24×7 war posture by politicians.

      Sounds more like you’d only be satisfied with a Republican candidate that promised to take Obama and have him hanged, disemboweled, intestines burnt while alive, beheaded, and quartered.

      The appeal that Reagan had to a wider audience than just hard-core partisans was a positive vision, a respectful attitude toward his opponents, and a classy way to disagree without being disagreeable. Something tells me that the pre-dementia Reagan, were he still alive at the moment, would be embarrassed for his party’s tone.

  • Watusie

    You say that Huntsman is “thus far is the most public advocate of the Ryan plan to reduce long-term entitlement spending”. Presumeably, you mean this as a point in Huntsman favor.

    However, the Ryan “Plan” is a pure fantasy built on absurd and unworkable economic assumptions. Advocating for it is advocating for making our financial predicament WORSE, not better. There is now way for it to meet either its revenue or its cost-cutting goals. It will increase the deficit.

    But maybe that is what true conservatism consists of.

  • WillyP

    Question: What is Huntsman polling?

    Answer: 1%

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/us/republican_presidential_nomination-1452.html

    Question: Why bother talking about a candidate polling less than the once-typical Mubarak opponent in Egypt’s elections?

    Answer: ?

  • Nanotek

    Great article to read … well-written and reasoned … thank you

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