Looking Ahead to 2012

While the Obama campaign certainly cannot afford to look beyond this year’s election, there is already speculation among those who believe that John McCain will lose as to who the Republican candidate will be in 2012. One question is which direction the party will go. Many hoped that picking John McCain would lead to a more moderate Republican Party, but instead McCain has chosen to move to the far right (which is a major reason why he will probably lose). Many in the libertarian wing even hope to see McCain lose in the hopes that the GOP could return to a limited government philosophy. Radley Balko (hat tip for a third time today to Andrew Sullivan) writes:

While I’m not thrilled at the prospect of an Obama administration (especially with a friendly Congress), the Republicans still need to get their clocks cleaned in two weeks, for a couple of reasons.

First, they had their shot at holding power, and they failed. They’ve failed in staying true to their principles of limited government and free markets. They’ve failed in preventing elected leaders of their party from becoming corrupted by the trappings of power, and they’ve failed to hold those leaders accountable after the fact. Congressional Republicans failed to rein in the Bush administration’s naked bid to vastly expand the power of the presidency (a failure they’re going to come to regret should Obama take office in January). They failed to apply due scrutiny and skepticism to the administration’s claims before undertaking Congress’ most solemn task—sending the nation to war. I could go on.

As for the Bush administration, the only consistent principle we’ve seen from the White House over the last eight years is that of elevating the American president (and, I guess, the vice president) to that of an elected dictator. That isn’t hyperbole. This administration believes that on any issue that can remotely be tied to foreign policy or national security (and on quite a few other issues as well), the president has boundless, limitless, unchecked power to do anything he wants. They believe that on these matters, neither Congress nor the courts can restrain him.

That’s the second reason the GOP needs to lose. American voters need to send a clear, convincing repudiation of these dangerous ideas.

While I would also prefer to see the Republican Party move in a more libertarian direction, there are also indications that they might remain under the control of the religious right. I’ve assumed that Sarah Palin would run in 2012 but my prediction has been that she won’t get any further than Dan Quayle. Marc Ambinder has some compelling arguments which are leading me to reconsider this prediction, assuming she survives the current scandals in Alaska.

I’m still not convinced that Palin should be considered a front runner for 2012, but a party which has nominated George Bush is capable of doing anything. Palin has the support of the far right, and at least so far they give no sign of abandoning her regardless of how poorly she does. Unless they are putting on a front for political reasons, they don’t appear to even understand how terribly she is doing. She will undoubtedly be better prepared to answer questions on national policy in a future run, possibly leading to greater respect from the conservative writers who are currently critical of her. It would be hard for her not to beat expectations.

Ambinder makes one argument which is plausible but which I’m not convinced about:

Pro-Palin voices will begin to talk a great deal about how the only person to ever come close to beating Barack Obama was Hillary Clinton. Palin will seem to fit the Hillary mold for many Republican primary voters.

Maybe, but I think that the recent courting of Hillary Clinton voters with fond comments about Clinton from the far right is a transient phenomenon, and in the long run comparisons to Clnton will not be helpful to a Republican candidate. Besides, even if they want to look at this pragmatically, Palin’s extreme anti-abortion views will not enable her to compete against Obama with the backing of many Clinton voters. (If necessary, Amy Poeler can again remind voters that Palin and Clinton do not agree on anything.)

Ambinder also argues:

Republicans tend to pick the next guy in line. Strangely enough, the next guy in line is now Sarah Palin, by virtue of her being the VP nominee this year.  She will have the benefit of being both an outsider candidate and the natural heir to the nomination; indeed, the only candidate who will have experience in a general election campaign.

This makes her a possibility, but I wonder if it will be enough. The “next guy in line” is typically someone who has been a party leader for years (or son of one), not simply a losing vice presidential candidate. I doubt Palin has Richard Nixon’s political skills to come back from being seen as a loser. Again, being the last losing VP candidate did not help Dan Quayle, and next to Sarah Palin even Dan Quayle looks like a genius, or at least competent.

With the lack of a clear front runner, a sitting GOP governor or Senator might be able to take a leadership position over the next few years, positioning themselves as the more obvious next guy in line. As Ambinder acknowledges, Mitt Romeny and Mike Huckabee will be obstacles. If they must go with a candidate of the religious right, at least Huckabee has shown far better understanding of the issues, and is less polarizing than Palin.

Again via Andrew Sullivan, there are also conservatives who see Huckabee as having a better shot than Palin. Daniel Larison believes, “all talk of Palin ‘12 will cease, and Republicans should certainly hope that it ceases.  Palin will go back to Alaska with both a poor national reputation among much of the public and a lack of support from the GOP establishment, which makes her an unlikely heir apparent.” He sees Huckabee as being able to achieve the support of a broad range of Republicans:

It seems to me that Huckabee now starts to look much better to the conservative elites who were ridiculing him as Huckleberry just half a year ago; he becomes the relatively safe governing choice who can also generate tremendous grassroots enthusiasm.  Many of his former critics may come to recognize the missed opportunity of running with Huckabee’s pseudo-populism on economics this year, and going forward he may be able to develop a policy agenda that is not limited to praising the wonders of the Fair Tax.  Not having been a critic of Palin, Huckabee will not have alienated her supporters, and he will probably carefully avoid doing so over the next few years in the same way that he stayed on good terms with McCain voters.  Provided that he never, ever again tells the ridiculous story about how foreign wars make it possible for children to have schooldesks, and provided that he could get someone to give him some money, he could become the presumptive frontrunner.  Having spoken out against the bailout early on, he will be well-positioned to satisfy libertarians and populists alike.  Given the deterioration of the McCain campaign since it went to war with journalists, the value of favorable free media coverage, which Huckabee was able to attract so effectively during the primaries, cannot be underestimated.


  1. 1
    Eric D. Rittberg says:

    The libertarian wing will work hard to recruit Sarah Palin to run in 2012.  We are already working on launching Draft Sarah Palin for President to be launched on Nov. 5.  It will be led by prominent libertarian Republicans.  If conservatives and social conservatives wish to join us, that’s fine. But my hunch is they’ll be backing Huckabee and/or Romney. 

    We libertarians could support Romney, but not Huckabee. 

    But doesn’t matter, cause Sarah Palin WILL be the GOP nominee for 2012!!!

    GO SARAH!!!

  2. 2
    Eric D. Rittberg says:

    BTW, Radley Balko is NOT a libertarian.  He’s a leftwinger, who uses the term libertarian.  But he has nothing libertarian about him. 
    Please stop applying the libertarian label to people who are clearly Leftists, and the opposites of libertarians.

  3. 3
    Eric D. Rittberg says:

    The problem with Sarah is that she does not have the full support of the religious conservatives.  She was picked cause of her libertarian background.

    The religious conservatives have always been suspicious of her.  And have been cool to her during this present campaign.  If McCain/Palin loses it will be because the Religious Right did not come to accept a libertarian as VP.

    And this may very well lead to open warfare in the Republican Party in the coming months between us libertrian Palin-ites versus the Religious Right. 

  4. 4
    Eric D. Rittberg says:

    Question for ya?

    Who started Draft Sarah Palin for VP?

    Answer: Adam Brickley a libertarian Republican from Colorado and Steve Maloney, a Pro-Choice Moderate Republican from Pennsylvania. 

    Who is Editor of Palintology, the first Palin website?

    Trish, a moderate Republican in Wasilla. 

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:


    A couple pieces of advice for you:

    1) Don’t waste your time on a Draft Palin campaign. It won’t be necessary. She’s highly ambitious and will jump into the race. No draft will be ready.

    Palin also did not get the nomination due to any draft effort. She was actively soliciting it from the McCain campaign. She also did have some pushing for her, but they were primarily those on the far right, not libertarians or moderates. She was the candidate being pushed by right wing talk radio and Rush Limbaugh.

    2) Don’t say someone else is not a libertarian. You just sound like a parody of yourself. You are already well known as a far right winger who calls himself a libertarian despite lack of  libertarian views. You are already a big enough joke in the libertarian movement. Saying someone else is not a libertarian only adds to that.

    Getting back to Palin, what world are you on if you think her problem is that she doesn’t have enough support from religious conservatives, and if you think she is a libertarian? Her main contribution to the ticket has been to bring in the support from the religious right.

    Palin’s the one who showed both her support for the religious right and her anti-libertarian views when she tried to ban books which were offensive to the religious right. (I’m referring to her actual, well documented attempt to ban books on homosexuality, not the internet hoax listing other books).

  6. 6
    movie fan says:

    If Palin runs for President in 2012, at least she has name recognition going for her… but, at this point, that may not work in her favor

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    The name recognition would definitely kill her chances in a general election but it remains to be seen how it will work out in the Republican primaries.

    Her name recognition places her in a category similar to that of Dan Quayle. A rational political party would not nominate her. I doubt the Republicans would, but if the far right continues to control the GOP it is possible she could wind up with the nomination. I doubt it, but it is possible that enough conservatives might think that she is a Ronald Reagan and not a Dan Quayle.

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