The GOP field is weak largely because Red State-style conservatives have elevated flawed candidates. Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain were all enthusiastically embraced as potential nominees, before anyone thought very much about their flaws, almost entirely on the basis of their success signalling that they'd zing liberals, antagonize the media, and hate on Barack Obama. Their elevation might have been harmless, except that at the same time, Mitch Daniels, a popular governor with solid conservative credentials, was discouraged from running because he was too conciliatory in his rhetoric. Tim Pawlenty went nowhere because he wasn't exciting enough for the base. Chris Christie was shown that an occasional heretic like him wouldn't be able to maintain good feeling around his candidacy if he declared. And Jon Huntsman was totally ignored despite his genuine conservatism.
Let's focus on Huntsman, because the way Erickson has treated his candidacy is the quintessential example of what the grassroots right is doing wrong. It's all summed up in another item he posted on Tuesday. "I could not support Jon Huntsman ever for what many consider a very esoteric reason," Erickson said. "He went to work for the President of the United States and while working for the President of the United States decided to run against his boss." Really? Even though he always planned to be ambassador to China for just two years, did a good job, and served in a diplomatic position that in no way requires or implies that he supported politically the man who appointed him? I'd have thought that "if I appoint you ambassador you won't run against me in the future" would be exactly the sort of Washington insider backscratching Erickson would abhor. Public servants owe loyalty to the people, not their bosses.
Alas, the worst is yet to come.
"I know nothing about Jon Huntsman," Erickson acknowledges later in the post, itself a discrediting admission for a guy who wants to influence the Republican Party's nominating process. "But unlike Mitt Romney, Huntsman is not running away from his record as Governor," Erickson continues. "He has some moderate to liberal tendencies of gay marriage and the environment, but he's never flip-flopped on abortion, the need for tax cuts, etc. I still find it shocking that the guy running as the liberal in the race, or at least the media accepted moderate, came up withe boldest, most conservative economic plan. His deficit reduction plan alone makes all the others look weak."
Isn't that something?
By Erickson's lights, Huntsman is more reliable and substantively conservative -- he even has the best position on taxes, job growth, and deficit reduction -- yet he is still said to be "running as the liberal in the race." Yes, I know what Erickson means. Huntsman has deliberately levied criticisms at fellow conservatives, been conciliatory toward the media, and adopted the rhetorical style of a centrist, in much the same manner as Daniels. What I wonder is why Erickson puts style over substance in placing him on the political spectrum, and deciding whether or not he is worthy of support.