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Friday, September 17, 2010

The Buckley Rule Is Not A Rule

Prior to last week, when is the last time anyone heard of the "Buckley Rule," a supposed prescription by William F. Buckley, Jr.?  Now it is all the rage for pundits whose man in Delaware lost.

The Buckley Rule now rolls off the tongues, keyboards and pens of the punditry as if it were a law of conservative nature.

Charles Krauthammer describes the Buckley Rule as "a timeless rule of sober politics," as follows:
"Support the most conservative candidate who is electable."
Timeless?  When is the last time Krauthammer cited the Buckley Rule prior the Delaware primary?  Admittedly, I'm not the best at Google searches, but I can't find it (someone provide a link it you locate one).  Even if there is a mention, it hardly has been a guiding "Rule" of politics until recently.

There is no such "Rule."  The text comes from a comment about why Buckley would support Richard Nixon:
“The wisest choice would be the one who would win. No sense running Mona Lisa in a beauty contest. I’d be for the most right, viable candidate who could win. If you could convince me that Barry Goldwater could win, I’d vote for him.”
Why does that comment about a specific election and a specific candidate become a "Rule" applicable to all times and all elections?

Charlie Crist was the most conservative Republican electable until Marco Rubio -- written off as a long shot fringe Tea Party-backed candidate -- took him out.  Should we have buried Rubio early on because Crist appeared at the time to be the more electable candidate?

How everyone in the Republican Party now sings Rubio's praises.  But it was not always that way.

The "Buckley Rule" never was and is not a Rule devoid of time, place and person. If it were, it would be a license for a permanent incumbency and tyranny of the establishment, because by definition those backed by the party apparatus always start out as the most electable.

In fact, Buckley had a great disdain for entrenched, self-perpetuating elites epitomized by the faculty of Harvard:
I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.
Make your case for a particular candidate in a particular race.  But don't invoke some illusory "Rule" just because you don't like the outcome.

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24 comments:

  1. The ONLY Buckley rule I know of is "I would rather be governed by the first 500 names in the Cambridge phone book then by the faculty at Harvard,"

    Given the track record of our current Ivy Overlords, WFB is still Right.

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  2. Just came to this post after have read Iowahawk's latest from T. Coddington Van Voorhees VII. It's like deja vu all over again.

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  3. Nevertheless ... the rule doesn't come into play AFTER the vote has been counted. At that time, it should be an all out coming together for the winner. No matter what. All these sour grapes after the election is over only undermines the candidate and makes them an easy target for the D's (ie, using those "quotes" in their ads.)

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  4. People who know Buckley better than I do can cite numerous examples of Buckley breaking his own "rule." Didn't he break the rule when he ran for mayor?

    Last time I checked, the words of Buckley, Reagan, et. al. hadn't been canonized. I have immense respect for great conservative leaders of previous generations, but we need to be thinking for ourselves instead of regurgitating bastardized quotes.

    Let's stay focused on the goals of maximizing liberty and minimizing statism.

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  5. The Establishment - of which Krauthammer is a part - is becoming increasingly desperate. It's the kicked dog that yelps.

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  6. When Charles Krauthammer coined the phrase "Bush Derangement Syndrome" he was a rock-star to the right, now that he's slipped off the right-wing echo chamber's tracks and calls it like he sees it with his new term the "Buckley Rule."

    So now he's the bad guy because he's speaking the truth, which we all know has a liberal bias and therefor is unpalatable to the right.

    That's the thing about the right and the teapartiers, you're "in" as long as you stick to the echo-chamber's script, deviated one bit with independent thought and you're eaten alive.

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  7. What I am growing increasingly weary of is those "establishment" folks telling me who is, or who is not, worthy of being backed. One only has to look at those who abandoned all conservative principles and looked down their noses at Sarah Palin and then backed Barack Obama - Peggy Noonan, Kathleen Parker, David Brooks, et al. In looking down at Sarah and her inadequate pedigree, they also looked down on most of us.

    Those of us in the great unwashed, uncouth, masses simply don't give a rip what the establishment says anymore. They have blown their cover. We have seen their motivation of "we must stay in power at all costs" and are rejecting it.

    Mike Castle wasn't even "plug your nose and vote anyway" worthy. On his best day, he would have been a 50/50 conservative vote. Closer to Arlen Specter than anything else. He's in his 70's, time to retire.

    Good riddance.

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  8. The problem with the so called Buckley Rule is that voters don't know in advance who is electable and who isn't.

    Who could have imagined professional wrestler Jesse Ventura was "electable" prior to his election to governor? Why was professional baseball pitcher Jim Bunning "electable"? Who could have imagined a far left radical community organizer with a teleprompter but with no executive or leadership experience could be elected president?

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  9. Echo Chamber? -- Really? It appears to me the sudden explosion of interest in the 'Buckley Rule' indicates where the real 'echo chamber' exists--in the establishment camp.

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  10. Of course, it's not a Rule. It's a rule of thumb based on the simplest form of common sense. And how to apply it in each individual circumstance does not take a political genius. When Rubio took on Christ, pro-Christ people could make an argument that Charlie had a better shot at winning -- but this was Florida, a classic swing state where a strong Republican candidate would always hae a good shot statewide. And Rubio was manifestly a strong candidate, a person of accomplishments with less baggage than Christ.

    Professor, every time you trot out Florida, Nevada, Alaska, Kentucky etc., you ignore the salient difference between them and Delaware: Delaware is an overwhelmningly Democratic state and one where everyone conceded that Castle was a shoo-in. In a wave election, yes, you might buck the blue tide there and elect a more conservative candidate, But a more conservative candidate who is also dragging around so much negative baggage? She's no Scott Brown, that's for sure.

    I wush her luck because she'll need a lot of it. But it's past time to knock off the foolish glossing over the problems with electing her and face up to them. Only by overcoming them does she have even an outside chance. Making silly arguments about what exactly WFB meant is a distraction from that task. He clearly meant to use your head and make a sensible judgment in each case.

    New we see Murkowski may inject herself back into the Alaska race and perhaps that will hand the seat to the Democrats. Stuff happens -- stuff you can't predict, which is why you must take victories when you can.

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  11. What I would like to tell Krauthammer:

    "I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said."

    I forget who said that but he was probably a conservative.

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  12. I never heard of the Buckley rule before either, but as it was stated, even without evoking Buckley, it was a very intellectually pleasing "rule." Call it what you want, but it is still a good idea to weigh electability against the desirability of the candidate. I feel like you're comparing apples to oranges with Rubio and O'Donnell. Maybe I wasn't paying close attention enough, but the same bloggers who were getting flack for Castle (Powerline, Weekly Standard) were strongly for Rubio because he is suitably impressive. Everyone is taking calculated risks. Pro Castle people wanted to take the 90%+ chance of a Obamacare repeal vote at the cost of the occasional liberal vote (which only matters if it's no. 60) instead of the 10% or less chance of a solid conservative vote on all issues. Especially when the alternative is a solid communist vote. Just because someone happens to be on the side of the establishment on this vote doesn't make them part of the establishment. So please stop fighting everyone that disagrees with you as if they aren't worthy to be on the same side of you. We need everyone, and my way or the highway is going to stick us with some of the legislation we're trying to prevent.

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  13. Hats off to the creator of this blog. I refer to it often in my blogging.

    For what it is worth, I agree with the general theme of the comments, above. What I do not get is the angst of Krauthammer and Rove. O'Donnell was selected by the people in her state. Is THAT the problem ? The people ?

    Krauthammer is wrong and Rove just needs to shut up. Over the past two days, he has become O'Donnell's worst nightmare. Does she need to deal with her publicized shortcomings? Duh.
    Does she have to "close the gap between her and Coons" (Rove on O'Reilly tonight) - again, Duh !!

    O'Donnell will be a part of the Senate GOP caucus. The pro-masturbation Democrat Party misses that point. She is not going to DC to push her personal agenda. And it is the natonal agenda that is under scrutiny in this miditerm election.

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  14. Unfortunately, I can't take original credit for this (Rush said it first, AFAIK);

    Can anyone tell the future? No? OK, then, how does anyone know who's electable and who's not?

    I saw where Karl Rove quasi walked back his O'Donnell criticism. He still falls back on the Rasmussen 10-point lead that Coons has. Compared to a greater than 6-point primary win, is this current Coons lead *really* so insurmountable as to say that O'Donnell is unelectable?

    Especially after having raised somewhere in the neighborhood of north of $1.5 million in 48 hours?

    Who's fooling whom on electability?

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  15. Phil -- no one can tell the future, sure. We might all be dead come November. But everything in politics -- conservative or liberal, Dem or GOP -- is all about making the smartest projections or at least good guesses about the electoral future. Why should anyone give money to candidate X if it's exceedingly unlikely that X will win while Y and Z, who are on the same side as X, have a good shot?

    This is exactly what the Democrats are doing now with their funding resources at the DNC and DSCC and DCCC -- they're dumping candidates who they believe cannot be saved in order to concentrate resources on those who still have the best shot with the maximum help. No, they don't know the future to a 100% certainty -- but they have to make choices, so they do.

    What's so hard to grasp about that. It's a certainty as of now that Chuck Schumer will be reelected but his fellow New Yorker is somewhat more vulnerable and could conceivably be beaten. Meanwhile, Harry Reid is on the edge and Connecticut's Blumenthal is moving closer to the edge by the day. And over in Arkansas, it won't be long before Dems stop wasting money on Blanche Lincoln because the odds of her winning are de minimus.

    There! I just predicted the likely future, not certain but likely, in five races. Guess I'm a genius? Nope, just doing what people in politics ALWAYS do -- unless they are deluded.

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  16. Frankly, sir, your sneering about the Buckley Rule is insulting to those of us, like me, who have operated off that presumption for a while before getting any sort of name or connection. Further, your comparison between Rubio and O'Donnell is off the mark (a tendency I notice increasingly over here).

    The rule you cited was: "Support the most conservative candidate who is electable." Then below, you say the Buckley Rule would lead to "a permanent incumbency and tyranny of the establishment, because by definition those backed by the party apparatus always start out as the most electable." The shift from "support the most conservative candidate who is electable" to "we would have to support the establishment candidate, because they're the most electable" -- wow. Sir, I'm a grad student in philosophy, I wade hip-deep in fallacies every semester, and still, that's as elegant a straw man as ever I've seen.

    An illustration. Certainly, at the start of the primary, Crist was MORE electable than Rubio -- and many people, including myself, defaulted to Crist on that basis. (I wouldn't go so far as to say I was a Crist supporter. I didn't give him money. I just regarded him as better than your average Democrat...which, at the time, he was. Though I admit that's funny now.)

    But there was never a question, from the moment the primary started, who was more conservative. And as Rubio began to prove he could stand well in a general election, people like me, who were extremely soft on Crist, moved to Rubio hard. I have given him $50 so far (which, for me, is a BIG stretch), and haven't regretted a penny of it. That's the Buckley Rule in action.

    Meanwhile, people like me remain unconvinced that O'Donnell can win in Delaware. Yes, she's had some success fundraising since. Sarah Palin does bring the money with her, and Mike Castle was (deservedly, in some respects) a nice soft target for Tea Party wrath. But not a single thing happened, before the primary, to convince me that O'Donnell is electable in Delaware. So, assuming I was right about O'Donnell, I was right to throw my support behind Castle. And frankly, bad arguments like these don't do your position any favors.

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  17. As Jeffrey Lord noted at the American Spectator, Buckley didn't actually follow the "rule" attributed to him:

    "He supported Barry Goldwater for the 1964 GOP presidential nomination over Republicans Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Cabot Lodge, either of whom, if nominated, would surely have managed a better race against the more liberal Lyndon Johnson than Goldwater, who carried a mere five states. Buckley personally challenged liberal Republican Congressman John Lindsay for the New York mayoralty in 1965. Lindsay was the Mike Castle of New York City -- yet Buckley plowed ahead, winning 13.4% of the vote and ignoring pleas he might cost Lindsay the election."

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  18. "is this current Coons lead *really* so insurmountable as to say that O'Donnell is unelectable?"

    Both have their base locked up, the question is whether swing voters in a liberal state will be swayed to O'Donnell. Assuming that a hostile media will continue to portray her as an extremist, it is very unlikely. And, being a political new girl, she's going to make mistakes that will give them ammo. This will likely cause swing voters to break left.

    The mistake conservative pundits are making is this: the Tea Party has brought all the quiet conservatives to the front, so we don't have any reserves. So if we don't have the votes, we're not going to find many more.

    The Republican machine, since they follow polls and demographics, knew this. They don't just say this stuff because they hate True Conservatives.

    "Can anyone tell the future? No? OK, then, how does anyone know who's electable and who's not?"

    You don't have to tell the future any more than you have to tell the future to determine when to buy and sell stocks, or to determine how to maneuver troops in war.

    You can't guarantee any individual election, but you can devise a strategy that, over the long run, will advance your agenda the most.

    You have to consider your strategy in light of the fact that your ideological opponents will be attempting to derail your efforts and advance their agenda similarly.

    The Buckley rule is such a strategy, as is the Rush rule. The Buckley rule will get you more candidates in office; they won't be as conservative, but you'll have the majority leader or speaker more often. The Rush rule will get you fewer candidates, but they'll be more reliably conservative.

    But the Rush strategy is stupid: it's assuming you can't tell who is electable, but the reality is you can make a pretty good guess. You can poll people and see where the sentiment is. Sure, you'll be wrong in some surprising cases (Scozzafava, for instance) but you'll be right far more often; that just won't get reported.

    Being right as often as possible is what will get your people into office. A few dramatic upsets makes for great theater, but you'll get a perpetual minority that way.

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  19. "Support the most conservative candidate who is electable."

    No rule was violated..

    Mike Castle wasn't a conservative.

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  20. As others have pointed out here, Bill Buckley personally violated what some are calling his "rule" when he ran for Mayor of New York.

    He clearly knew that there was no chance for him to succeed. The evening of the election he was publicly interviewed and asked what his first official act would be if -- against all odds -- he woke up to find out that he had been elected Mayor of New York City.

    Said Buckley in response, "I'd immediately demand a recount!"

    It was his best line of the campaign, but it came too late to attract the kind of media coverage that would have gotten a real public debate going. And even that would not likely have made a lick of difference in the long run.

    If Bill Buckley had a flaw, it was that he always seemed so intent on proving that he was the smartest guy in the room. Most of the time he was! But it also meant that he had a hard time connecting with a broad spectrum of people. In that sense, he was personally unelectable, and he knew it.

    Liberals, on the other hand, love that about their favored politicians . . . that their guy is (or claims to be) the smartest guy in the room. It is why I think they so frequently fall for the truly narcissistic, cult of personality type candidates -- e.g., Clinton, Gore, Obama.

    Those sorts will constantly run polls to find out what their positions are (or should be), on a wide swath of issues. They are all about the power wielding.

    But a conservative nominee has to be able to connect well with his or her voters and with independent voters, including voters who will vote for that person even if they do not agree with them on some issue or other.

    I think Christine O’Donnell has the ability to connect with a broad enough base of people in Delaware to be elected. But I also think that Karl Rove has a valid point about her not immediately attracting a comfortable poll bounce coming out of the primary victory. It does not mean she cannot win . . . it just means she has work to do. She should actively seek the support of other establishment Republicans – broadening her base. And show a humorous side, including about herself. That will work to more clearly define Castle as the sore loser among those of his supporters who are still holding back from supporting her.

    The other guy should be defined as the iffy stiff in the campaign . . . Mr. "True Marxist Self" himself!

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  21. 47% of registered voters in DE are Democrats, 29% are Republican, and 24% are "Others".

    http://elections.delaware.gov/reports/e70r2601sd_20100901.shtml

    For perspective, MA has even fewer registered Republicans. While it's true many of the northeastern states thought of as liberal have far more registered Democrats than Republicans, it's also true they have a significant percentage of Independents. And we all know it is independents who decide elections on the margin.


    Now, using those numbers, I can think of a few scenarios where O'Donnell is a winner. For example, both Huck and Rove have said recently that Republican turnout this primary season has been stronger than anytime since 1930. That implies a very large chunk of the 29% Republican base will turn out. Next, certain elements of the Obama coalition are not going to turn out like they did in 2008. Blacks, represent 21% of the Delaware population.

    http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/10000.html

    Blacks also historically vote 90% Democrat. So, in Delaware, about 18% of the Democratic coalition is the black voting bloc (90%*21%=18%). Does anybody really think blacks will turnout this year in numbers even remotely close to when Obama was on the ballot? I don't.
    Or what about the idealistic under 30 crowd who were so moved by the "Hope and Change". Are they going to turn out in the same numbers as when Obama was on the ballot? Again, I don't think so.

    While I can't see any Republicans voting for Coons, it's at least theoretically possible some "weak Democrats" will crossover to vote Republican as they learn from Byron York's reporting that Coons raised property taxes 5% in 2006, 17.5% in 2007, and 25% in 2009 -- all after pledging he would not raise them a penny while running for the job of executive of New Castle county. He's a tax and spend Marxist.

    An uber strong Republican turnout, combined with weak turnout of blacks and younger idealists, together with a big chunk of Independents deciding to vote Republican (I saw a poll where Independents preferred O'Donnell over Coons by 8 points), and some weak Democrats crossing over to vote Republican, and O'Donnell wins.

    It will take many stars lining up just right, but O'Donnell can absolutely win. However, she won't win if Rove, Krauthammer, McCormack, Geraghty and the grassroots don't stop bashing her and continue to plant the seed in voters minds that she can't win.

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  22. So now, it tunrs out that Bill Maher has clips of Christine O'Donnell from his show in 1999 that he plans to dribble out. The first dribble has her saying she dabbled in witchcraft and Satanism:

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2010/09/christine-odonnell-i-dabbled-i.html

    Good grief! But who could have predicted this future, eh?

    I'm sure we'll see the O'Donnell do-or-die crowd double down on their wail that it's all a smear by the "Establishment" and their assorted fellow travelers. But here's the thing: when you can plainly see that someone has several very flaky, even kooky things in her recent past, it should not be a surprise to find out that there are even more crazy things that you haven't discovered yet.

    The fatal thing about O'Donnell as a candidate isn't and never was that she's an "extremist." It's that she's a self-promoting screwball. You had to be nuts to get onto Bill Maher's show in the first place. I suspect that O'Donnell failed at promoting herself in that kind of arena, so she thought she'd try GOP politics where maybe there were more people to fool.

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  23. Any Democrat who votes for someone who raised taxes when he has to take the heat for raising them deserves to have his taxes raised.

    A vote to send him to the Senate is insane. No one is ever held responsible in Congress for anything.

    Only 1 ad is needed in Delaware and it has already been written.

    "they learn from Byron York's reporting that Coons raised property taxes 5% in 2006, 17.5% in 2007, and 25% in 2009 -- all after pledging he would not raise them a penny while running for the job of executive of New Castle county. He's a tax and spend Marxist."

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  24. When one gets from Bill Maher is leftist propaganda. Here's how far wrong he is in just one show.

    http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/bschaeffer/2010/05/03/george-will-skewers-bill-maher/

    "“Bill, can you just explain to me in what sense Brazil ‘got off oil’?”

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