The Case of Howard Ahmanson

Rod Dreher took note of this a little while ago, and over the weekend Kathleen Parker based a column around an interview with Ahmanson, a big-time GOP fundraiser and social conservative who's decided to re-register as a Democrat out of frustration with the California GOP. Ahmanson is a quirky figure, to put it mildly, and you don't want to read too much into his registration flip. But like Obama's surprising gains among traditionalist Catholics, it suggests that my anxieties about our potential Californian future - with a bloated, largely-unbeatable Democratic Party facing off against an anti-intellectual GOP rump - should be extended beyond the possibility of "liberaltarian" voters and thinkers moving into the Democratic column. There are plenty of economically-moderate religious conservatives (pro-life Rawlsekians, if you will) who could say to hell with the GOP too - and the more out-of-touch the Republicans look, the more plausible it becomes for people with views like Howard Ahmanson's to decide that they might as well join the liberaltarians in trying to get whatever they can from the Democrats and let the GOP go hang. (California, you'll recall, is the home of Doug Kmiec as well.)

You could argue that this is just what the Republican Party deserves, but I can't see how it would be good for the country.

Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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