Conservative Civil War well underway

We at American Thinker have covered the first shots in the conflict between traditional conservatives and what many are referring to as conservative "elites." Just this week, we've featured several excellent articles on our front page including "Betting Against the Elites on Sarah Palin by  J. Robert Smith and "Noonan's Slipped a Peg" by Jan LaRue.

We will continue to follow this ideological struggle closely because we believe it to be the most important story of this young century.

Who is a conservative? Who gets to decide that question? Has conservatism "failed?"

These and other questions will no doubt roil conservative media outlets, think tanks, and conferences for the next several years. I hasten to add that this is a healthy thing for the right - as long as the debates stay away from the personal and concentrate on  issues and tactics.

But perhaps, that's too much to ask. Already, as we have seen, there are some influential conservatives who believe that some of the "elites" in Washington and New York have failed to help the movement by their tepid support of McCain and, most importantly, how they view the personality, the politics, and the future of McCain's running mate Sarah Palin.

As this interesting perspective penned by Tim Shippman of the UK Telegraph shows, the fault line in the conservative schism is most evident between those who love Palin and those who don't:

One wing believes the party has to emulate David Cameron, by adapting the issues to fight on and the positions they hold, while the other believes that a back to basics approach will reconnect with heartland voters and ensure success. Modernisers fear that would leave Republicans marginalised, like the Tories were during the Iain Duncan Smith years, condemning them to opposition for a decade.

Mr Frum argues that just as America is changing, so the Republican Party must adapt its economic message and find more to say about healthcare and the environment if it is to survive.

He said: "I don't know that there's a lot of realism in the Republican Party. We have an economic message that is largely irrelevant to most people.

"Cutting personal tax rates is not the answer to everything. The Bush years were largely prosperous but while national income was up the numbers for most individuals were not. Republicans find that a hard fact to process."

Other Republicans have jumped ship completely. Ken Adelman, a Pentagon adviser on the Iraq war, Matthew Dowd, who was Mr Bush's chief re-election strategist, and Scott McClellan, Mr Bush's former press secretary, have all endorsed Mr Obama.

But the real bile has been saved for those conservatives who have balked at the selection of Sarah Palin.

In addition to Mr Frum, who thinks her not ready to be president, Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan's greatest speechwriter and a columnist with the Wall Street Journal, condemned Mr McCain's running mate as a "symptom and expression of a new vulgarisation of American politics." Conservative columnist David Brooks called her a "fatal cancer to the Republican Party".

The backlash that ensued last week revealed the fault lines of the coming civil war.

Traditional conservatives led by Rush Limbaugh seem to be in no mood to take righties like David Frum at their word and instead, have attacked them personally for being "cocktail party conservatives.." The Frum faction, for their part, respond to such criticism by, if anything, being more condenscending ("Cutting personal tax rates is not the answer to everything..." is an extreme oversimplification of the traditionalist's point of view.)

Jim Nuzzo, a White House aide to the first President Bush and a Palin supporter, is in a take no prisoners frame of mind:

"There's going to be a bloodbath. A lot of people are going to be excommunicated. David Brooks and David Frum and Peggy Noonan are dead people in the Republican Party. The litmus test will be: where did you stand on Palin?"

There has been much speculation that many in the McCain campaign will seek to blame Palin for what is shaping up to be a landslide defeat. The backbiting has already started as this New York Post story shows:

A McCain insider told The Post that relations between Palin and some of the campaign aides with her have soured. "She's lost faith with the staff. She knows the $150,000- wardrobe story damaged her," the insider said.

But the novice vice-presidential candidate is partly to blame, the campaign official sniped. "She's an adult. She didn't ask questions about where the clothes came from?" the source said.

"She's now positioning herself for her own future. Of course, this is bad for John. It looks like no one is in charge."

Palin is not likely to roll over and let herself be scapegoated if things don't go well on Nov. 4.

"She's a lot savvier, politically speaking, than people give her credit for," said a GOP strategist.

Conservatives should be careful in making Governor Palin into some kind of litmus test or indication of "loyalty" to the Republican party or conservative principles. There must be a broader debate about the issues and the party. It serves no useful purpose to narrow the scope of discussion to "Were you pro or anti-Palin?"

One thing is for sure; the next few years are going to be very important and very interesting for conservatives.



We at American Thinker have covered the first shots in the conflict between traditional conservatives and what many are referring to as conservative "elites." Just this week, we've featured several excellent articles on our front page including "Betting Against the Elites on Sarah Palin by  J. Robert Smith and "Noonan's Slipped a Peg" by Jan LaRue.

We will continue to follow this ideological struggle closely because we believe it to be the most important story of this young century.

Who is a conservative? Who gets to decide that question? Has conservatism "failed?"

These and other questions will no doubt roil conservative media outlets, think tanks, and conferences for the next several years. I hasten to add that this is a healthy thing for the right - as long as the debates stay away from the personal and concentrate on  issues and tactics.

But perhaps, that's too much to ask. Already, as we have seen, there are some influential conservatives who believe that some of the "elites" in Washington and New York have failed to help the movement by their tepid support of McCain and, most importantly, how they view the personality, the politics, and the future of McCain's running mate Sarah Palin.

As this interesting perspective penned by Tim Shippman of the UK Telegraph shows, the fault line in the conservative schism is most evident between those who love Palin and those who don't:

One wing believes the party has to emulate David Cameron, by adapting the issues to fight on and the positions they hold, while the other believes that a back to basics approach will reconnect with heartland voters and ensure success. Modernisers fear that would leave Republicans marginalised, like the Tories were during the Iain Duncan Smith years, condemning them to opposition for a decade.

Mr Frum argues that just as America is changing, so the Republican Party must adapt its economic message and find more to say about healthcare and the environment if it is to survive.

He said: "I don't know that there's a lot of realism in the Republican Party. We have an economic message that is largely irrelevant to most people.

"Cutting personal tax rates is not the answer to everything. The Bush years were largely prosperous but while national income was up the numbers for most individuals were not. Republicans find that a hard fact to process."

Other Republicans have jumped ship completely. Ken Adelman, a Pentagon adviser on the Iraq war, Matthew Dowd, who was Mr Bush's chief re-election strategist, and Scott McClellan, Mr Bush's former press secretary, have all endorsed Mr Obama.

But the real bile has been saved for those conservatives who have balked at the selection of Sarah Palin.

In addition to Mr Frum, who thinks her not ready to be president, Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan's greatest speechwriter and a columnist with the Wall Street Journal, condemned Mr McCain's running mate as a "symptom and expression of a new vulgarisation of American politics." Conservative columnist David Brooks called her a "fatal cancer to the Republican Party".

The backlash that ensued last week revealed the fault lines of the coming civil war.

Traditional conservatives led by Rush Limbaugh seem to be in no mood to take righties like David Frum at their word and instead, have attacked them personally for being "cocktail party conservatives.." The Frum faction, for their part, respond to such criticism by, if anything, being more condenscending ("Cutting personal tax rates is not the answer to everything..." is an extreme oversimplification of the traditionalist's point of view.)

Jim Nuzzo, a White House aide to the first President Bush and a Palin supporter, is in a take no prisoners frame of mind:

"There's going to be a bloodbath. A lot of people are going to be excommunicated. David Brooks and David Frum and Peggy Noonan are dead people in the Republican Party. The litmus test will be: where did you stand on Palin?"

There has been much speculation that many in the McCain campaign will seek to blame Palin for what is shaping up to be a landslide defeat. The backbiting has already started as this New York Post story shows:

A McCain insider told The Post that relations between Palin and some of the campaign aides with her have soured. "She's lost faith with the staff. She knows the $150,000- wardrobe story damaged her," the insider said.

But the novice vice-presidential candidate is partly to blame, the campaign official sniped. "She's an adult. She didn't ask questions about where the clothes came from?" the source said.

"She's now positioning herself for her own future. Of course, this is bad for John. It looks like no one is in charge."

Palin is not likely to roll over and let herself be scapegoated if things don't go well on Nov. 4.

"She's a lot savvier, politically speaking, than people give her credit for," said a GOP strategist.

Conservatives should be careful in making Governor Palin into some kind of litmus test or indication of "loyalty" to the Republican party or conservative principles. There must be a broader debate about the issues and the party. It serves no useful purpose to narrow the scope of discussion to "Were you pro or anti-Palin?"

One thing is for sure; the next few years are going to be very important and very interesting for conservatives.