The Right’s To-Do List and Obama’s Central Thesis

Patrick Ruffini often writes about attempting to get the right back on track. He identifies one problem:

One of the biggest reasons for the Right’s decline in the Bush era is that we had long since completed most of the items on our to-do list. Low marginal tax rates? Check. The Soviet Union gone? Check. Welfare reform? Check.

I wonder how many conservatives agree with him that they have accomplished most of the items on their to-do list. I’ve seen similar arguments in the past from liberals that they had accomplished their major goals. If  it was really the case that both liberals and conservatives felt their goals were achieved there should be far less of a divide between right and left!

One problem which both explains part of the partisan divide and which makes it harder for conservatives to recover is that so many conservatives have totally incorrect views about the goals of liberals. In this post Ruffini claims that Obama’s central thesis is  “that government ownership and central planning can outpace returns in the private market.”

Fortunately it isn’t necesary to go any further than his own comments from many readers who point out that, not only isn’t this Obama’s central thesis, but it isn’t even something he believes. With such rational comments posted I wonder if they are coming from conservative readers who aren’t fooled by such claims from the right or if they are part of Obama’s secret army of blog commenters.


  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    It can be argued that Bill Clinton’s presidency brought so many victories for the right on economic issues (welfare reform, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, corporate tax reform, etc) that President Bush had to start keeping promises to the religious right because there was little else for a Republican president to accomplish. I don’t know if it is true, but I do believe it can be argued.

    Even those liberals who are advocating emergency nationalization (Paul Krugman and Bernie Sanders come to mind) don’t believe that ‘government ownership and central planning can outpace returns in the private market’. Indeed, one of the fundamental arguments made by economists on the left is that much of the ‘growth’ on Wall Street in booming economies is artificial as a result of speculation rather than actual economic growth. Their argument is that we must be willing to give up some of the ridiculous market growth we get during bubble periods in order to prevent the kind of economic correction that follows a bubble. This school of thinking says that economic stability is better for real economic growth. No one believes ‘government ownership’ would make the market grow faster. Indeed, the whole point from the left is that out of control ‘growth’ is extremely dangerous for the economy.

  2. 2
    Pug says:

    Ruffini’s claim that Obama’s “central thesis is  “that government ownership and central planning can outpace returns in the private market” is ridiculous.  He doesn’t, and can’t produce any evidence to support that claim.

    There’s a problem for Republicans that most of them seem blissfully unaware of:  In 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected, the electorate was 89% white.  In 2008, when Obama won, the electorate was 68% white.  If it was still 89% white, McCain would have won easily.  Whites will continue to shrink as a percentage of the electorate.

    Republicans spent decades pandering to the racial fears and prejudices of that 89% white electorate.  Now, the chickens are coming home to roost, so to speak.

    When the overwhelmingly white electorate elected conservatives like Reagan it was all about demographics.  It’s still all about demographics, but now those demographics are killing the GOP.

    Ironic, isn’t it?

  3. 3
    Christopher Skyi says:

    “One of the biggest reasons for the Right’s decline in the Bush era is that we had long since completed most of the items on our to-do list.”

    Interesting, and probably some truth to it, but by itself, it’s a very serious mis-diagnosis. 

    The biggest problem with the “right” today (and their well-deserved decline) is that they consistently “beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in [there] own eye.” In short, they are all too ready to jump all over Obama for his liberalism, and to exaggerate his positions into full-blown socialism, and yet during the Bush years, there was nary a peep from them about his arguably fascist-socialist excesses.

    Jonah Goldberg, founding editor of National Review Online and a Pulitzer-nominated columnist for The Los Angeles Times, wrote a controversial book called “Liberal Fascism” that many libertarian-conservatives, like myself, had a hard time fully embracing.

    Steve Horwitz of the Austrain Economist blog ( sums up, quite nicely, though indirectly, the real reasons behind the decline of the “right” when he tries to explain why libertarians didn’t embrace Goldberg’s book (

    “Let me offer a reason why so many libertarians were so hesitant, and it’s also reflected in my review of the book in The Independent Review:  it was hard for libertarians to swallow whole a book that devoted over 90% of its fire on liberals/Democrats with really only the afterword noting that the Bush Administration (and, I would argue, other Republicans/conservatives) could be seen through the same lens, albeit with some different shadings.

    Put differently, because LF had it sights mostly on the left, libertarians were not about to endorse it completely lest we imply that we shared that sense that the fascist temptation was nearly totally a left-wing phenomenon.  Which most of us don’t.

    If libertarians have drifted left (or at least drifted away from the right) over the last decade, it’s because the right has unfurled its fascist flag quite a bit more under Bush, as the afterword admits to some degree.   From our perspective, our drift to the left shows that we agree with your argument but just think it applies more broadly than you do!”

    Chris Edwards, Director of Tax Policy, Cato Institute makes a convincing case that Obama’s out of control spending plans simple build on out of control spending precedents set by President Bush:

    Patrick Ruffini needs to “get real” and “grow up.”  If there’s any hope to be found for the eventual rehbiliation of the “right,” that hope will not come from the likes of Mr. Ruffini.

  4. 4
    Fritz says:

    Pug, your thesis does rest on a central thesis that all the non-white groups are similar and will all unite on cue against the dreaded white Republicans.  In California decades ago Asian voters got rather irritated at the Democrats when racial quotas, er, affirmative action policies at state universities specifically excluded Asians.

    The GOP had a good fighting chance to attract a large chunk of Hispanic voters, but rather blew it by not being able to agree on immigration reform.  Nonetheless, the interests of black and Hispanic voters are not always in alignment — and the GOP still can, if it gets its act together, attract Hispanics. 

  5. 5
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Fritz, Pug’s main point is apt. The GOP of here and now, by and large, defines ‘America’ as a white, ‘Christian’, ‘capitalist’ utopia. Those who are not white and/or ‘Christian’ are welcome if they accept white, ‘Christian’, ‘capitalist’ mores. Everyone else is less than entirely American.

    I put ‘Christian’ and ‘capitalist’ in quotes because I do not happen to accept the right wing definition of either Christianity or capitalism as being correct.

    As long as this remains the attitude of the Republican Party, they are not going have to have significant or sustained success attracting minority voters. They will continue to hemorrhage educated white voters as well.

    I wish to correct your statement about Republicans and Asians in California, as well. Republicans were able to gather a significant degree of support in Southern California (particularly Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties) because of racial tensions between the African-American and Mexican-American communities and the Asian-American community based primarily on economic issues. They were able to stir up Asian support on illegal immigration and affirmative action because of these existing racial tensions. This is not a function of their ability to appeal to the ‘Asian community’, when they began to aggressively advocate ‘English only’ education and bureaucratic regulations they lost a great deal of Asian support.

    California Republicans did not attract Asian votes because of their ability to appeal to Asian issues. They were able to attract Asian votes based on issues that also attracted strong support among middle class whites, because the Asian community and middle class whites had the same fears related to those issues.

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