Let’s Not Elect a Potomac Man in 2012

Posted by on May 23, 2011 4:15 pm
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Dana Millbank is a columnist for the Washington Post who I have little respect for, being more like a court jester than a serious newspaper columnist. A few years ago he wrote a book, Homo Politicus, an amusing piece about the ruling class politicians that he refers to as “Potomac man.” As a liberal, most of his mocking is directed toward Republicans, but what does make it amusing is that there is a kernel of truth in his screeds. I borrow from his descriptions of different segments of Potomac man and relate them to the 2012 GOP candidates I have a problem supporting with any enthusiasm.

The Avenger
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is avenging his father’s embarrassing collapse as a presidential candidate; George Romney, then governor of Michigan, claimed in 1967 that he had been “brainwashed” over Vietnam.

The Deviant
Potomac Man is surprisingly tolerant of those who deviate from his social norms–as long as that person is a member of his political party. Ron Paul would legalize prostitution and drugs and opposes the Iraq war, but his fellow partisans keep him on the stage in debates because they need his fellow libertarians to vote Republican in November.

The Shaman
Potomac Man is idolatrous: He worships the gods of public opinion, and his sacred texts are polls. Those who can shift public opinion–particularly those who can convert members of the rival tribe–are believed to have magical powers. Huntsman and Santorum are wannabe shamans who have served the opposition as ambassador to China or worked hard to find a bill to cosponsor with Sen. Boxer.

The Berserker
In medieval Iceland, the fiercest of all Viking warriors were known as the berserkers. They prepared themselves for battle by donning animal skins, drinking the blood of bears and wolves, biting their shields and howling. The berserker tradition continues in Potomac Land–exemplified by Newt Gingrich. In response to a question about the Paul Ryan plan for MediCare, Newt said: “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

This leaves me with four candidates who do not fall into any of these Potomac man groups. I include Sarah Palin, who says she has the “fire in the belly,” and I include Gary Johnson. Some may ask why I include a social liberal, Gary Johnson. My answer is that he is not a social liberal, but he is a libertarian. I think conservatives and libertarians should be a natural alliance instead of foes.

Let me explain the difference on two issues, abortion and gays, between social conservative authoritarians, social liberal authoritarians, and libertarians. The social conservative authoritarians believe in having the authority to declare – that no hospital or clinic or physician can provide for or facilitate abortions, in any way shape or form. The social liberal authoritarians believe that no hospital or clinic or physician can refuse to provide for and facilitate abortions, and the taxpayers should fund abortions for those who can’t afford it. Gary Johnson, the libertarian, wants to give the hospitals, clinics, and physicians the liberty to let their own conscience guide what they will and will not do, and his view of taxpayer money to provide or facilitate abortions is exactly the same as Mike Pence’s view.

The social conservative authoritarians believe in having the authority to declare that no church or church leaders can provide for or facilitate a ceremony for a couple of gays in any way shape or form. The social liberal authoritarians believe in having the authority to declare that any church or church leaders must never refuse a ceremony for a couple of gays, and a couple of gays have to be recognized by all as having all the legal rights a traditional married couple are entitled. Gary Johnson, the libertarian, wants to give the churches and church leaders the liberty to let their own conscience guide what ceremonies they will or will not facilitate, and there are no legal rights granted at all. Gary Johnson is not asking conservatives or liberals to stop debating these issues and attempting to win hearts and minds. It is still early, and Gary Johnson may not get any kind of traction and end his campaign. I have three candidates I would choose before him, but for the explanations I provide he is my #4.


Sarah Palin 48 at time of inauguration
9th Governor of Alaska
In office:December 4, 2006 – July 26, 2009

“I want to make sure America is put back on the right track and we only do that by defeating Obama in 2012.”


Tim Pawlenty 52 at time of inauguration
39th Governor of Minnesota
In office: January 6, 2003 – January 3, 2011

“He would rather pretend there is no crisis and attack those who are willing to stand up and try to solve it rather than risk doing anything about it himself. In Washington, they call that “smart politics.” But I’m not from Washington.”


Herman Cain 67 at time of inauguration
Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
In office: 1995–1996

When asked if Obama was unbeatable, Herman Cain said, “He is not unbeatable because one right decision does not a great president make,” indicating the bin Laden raid was Obama’s one right decision.


Gary Johnson 60 at time of inauguration
29th Governor of New Mexico
In office: January 1, 1995 – January 1, 2003

When asked if Obama was unbeatable, Gary Johnson said, “Only Republicans are capable of solving the problems that exist right now.”

37 responses to Let’s Not Elect a Potomac Man in 2012

  1. vassarbushmills May 23rd, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    This is super, Pilgrim. Just super. Sets the tone for a lot of things we’ll be talking about here over the next few months. UP is the place to come to get the right low-down on the GOP race. Not the MSM.

  2. Mike gamecock DeVine May 23rd, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    HomoCockius leans to HomoPawlenticus!

    • pilgrim May 23rd, 2011 at 6:31 pm

      I lean to Pawlenty also. How many delegates he receives out of Iowa is going to matter a lot for him.

      • Mike gamecock DeVine May 23rd, 2011 at 7:11 pm

        If the nomination fight lasts a long time after Iowa, NH, SC and Super Tuesday, delegate numbers in small states matter. What usually happens is that 1-2 candidates get momentum after winning 2 of the big 3, rides that thru Super Tuesday and in the end, one wins by delegate margins that dwarf any of the delegate margins of Iowa, SC and NH. I suspect that is what will happen. My guess would be that Paws and Mitt go to SC with respective victories in Iowa and NH and that Paws wins SC and on to the nomination. But I have not run this by the oracle in the Azores yet…smile

  3. Mike gamecock DeVine May 23rd, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    I doubt the libertarian vote is very significant except in squeaker elections in which the electoral votes of one state decide the election. Most elections are decided by the economy in which the votes of libertarians get lost in the wake. And I certainly would not grant any kudos to Gary Johnson (Is he still in the race?) on the issue of life unless all we care about is taxpayer funds and have given up on reversing Roe and Casey thru SCOTUS replacements. Yes, those Libertarians that want the DemLibs out of their wallets and every aspect of life should be happy to settle the matter of abortion at the state level post-Roe with GOP judges and voters. If Pence favors letting taxpayer money be spent by any hospital, nurse or doctor for whom it doesn’t harm their conscious, then that is news to me and it certainly doesn’t help Johnson and his fatal flaw: The GOP is the pro-life party. We think it is unconscionable to kill babies, period. Whether taxpayer funds are involved or not. Abortion is cheap. No one does without one due to lack of taxpayer funds.

    • pilgrim May 23rd, 2011 at 7:15 pm

      Thanks for giving me a reason to believe that there will always be a split between libertarians and conservatives. There will also always be a split between libertarians and liberals. I never wrote that Mike Pence favors taxpayer money be spent by any hospital, nurse or doctor for whom it does not harm their conscious. Mike Pence introduced a bill to defund planned parenthood on the fiscal grounds that taxpayer money should not be used to facilitate abortions. Gary Johnson agrees completely with Mike Pence on the bill he introduced.

      • cactusjack May 23rd, 2011 at 10:40 pm

        I don’t know how to put libertarians and conservatives together in 2012 and I am not a libertarian so I can’t even begin to address this electoral issue. All I know is, when libertarians feel comfortable with the Republican candidate in the national election, however that occurs, they show up to vote, and as a matter of history we will likely get 1980 and 1984 redux.It (R+L)seems to effect some kind of cosmic electoral shift, as when Reagan brought the libertarians along and it paid off bigtime for us all.

        • pilgrim May 23rd, 2011 at 11:25 pm

          I do not know either how to do it. Reagan was personally pro-life, but he was not especially authoritarian about forcing by law for everyone else to be just like him. His oldest daughter, Maureen, was very much into the woman’s movement and pro-choice, and nobody was upset with Pres. Reagan over that. Libertarians did go strong for Reagan.

          • Mike gamecock DeVine May 24th, 2011 at 11:37 am

            Reagan lobbied for a Constitutional Amendment to ban abortion, ie make it a illegal for all except to save the life of the mother. You don’t get more “authoritarian” than that. No, he didn’t lock his daughter in a cage but the pro-choicers were quite “upset” with Reagan over his position on the issue, the book he published advocating laws (including Shiavo-like laws after the baby Doe case) and constitutional amendments that would make it a crime to transgress. Reagan didn’t compromise on the Life issue. Others compromised with us if they voted for him.

          • Mike gamecock DeVine May 24th, 2011 at 11:45 am

            Reagan was not a mere “personal” pro-lifer. You know better than to trot out that line that is used by pro-choicers that want the issue left up to the individual choice. Reagan was a strong advocate for making abortion illegal nationwide except to save the life of the mother. Please don’t join the libertarian revisionist non-historians. We covered this matter ad nauseum at Redstate and you were one of those that joined in denouncing this Big Lie re Reagan. Everyone needs to read the Evil Empire speech from 1983 and Reagan’s book on abortion that he published while President. And his policy of speaking out against Roe v Wade at least once/month while President and his intention to appoint only those that he was assured would overturn Roe; only to have O’Connor and Kennedy betray him after lying to him; all after trying to get the best justice on life and all other issues on the court in Bork.

        • Mike gamecock DeVine May 24th, 2011 at 11:51 am

          Libertarians are a small part of the electorate. They show up when they are properly educated on failed dem-lib econ policies and see that the Dems want to be in all rooms of their house and wallet as fed govt minders; whereas Repubs just want to prevent the killing of babies and are happy to have happiness pursuits that don’t kill babies determined at the state and local level, with hands off the wallet and the liberty to make money as much as possible consistent with ordered liberty. The libertarians were fresh off the carter failure and Reagan recovery in 80 and 84. They also drank tea when they saw the failed ObamaDem supermajority mess in 2010. Hopefully they will realize the reality in 2012, but the wave that hit in 2010 and should in 2012 doesn’t depend on libertarians getting their minds right. They are loud on blogs, but their numbers are tiny and usually not dispositive. But in any event, they have no business voting Democrat and there is not reason to give in to their fantasy demands re Ron Paul or Gary Johnson isolationism etc.

      • Mike gamecock DeVine May 24th, 2011 at 11:39 am

        You should be more complete in your elucidation of the issue when you try and tie pro-abortionists with Pence. Yes, there was a lot you left unsaid that you should have said rather than leaving an impression that Johnson is any way close to Pence on the life issue. He is not.

  4. Mike gamecock DeVine May 23rd, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    One characteristic that describes most all Potomac Ruling Class Men: They are pro-abortion. The GOP nominee will be pro-life, not merely Libertarian on the margins of the life issue.

    • cactusjack May 23rd, 2011 at 10:30 pm

      Wow GC you have uncovered a truism I have always wondered about. It is true Potomac ruling class men are someof the biggest supporters of liberalized fed-funded abortion. Why is that? (And some of those are even Catholic on paper, I don’t get this the way I don’t get why a lot of American Jews will still probably vote for -0- in 2012). Is it due to a Kennedyesque guilt complex for their serial abuse and cavalier treatment of women throughout their personal lives, thus they feel they have to “make it up” to women? Is it that they cravenly need the $$$ that NOW and NARAL can kick into their campaign coffers?

  5. redneck hippie May 23rd, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    May I refer you gentlemen to madam lineholder’s dispatch to your right? Good news on the way abortion is viewed by Americans.

    • pilgrim May 23rd, 2011 at 8:02 pm

      I saw that one, and I like that trend.

  6. Lady_Penguin May 24th, 2011 at 9:05 am

    What’s interesting, ‘Pil, is the way Potomac man fits the DC politician to a tee. And the Ruling class is made up of them from both parties. Avenging, berserkers, deviants and shamans. What’s missing in the equation, and what they have in common? Principles. That’s what’s missing.

    The candidate we need in 2012 is one who has a solid core of principles.

    • pilgrim May 24th, 2011 at 9:08 am

      Thanks LadyP. I agree with that need completely.

    • Mike gamecock DeVine May 24th, 2011 at 11:33 am

      Yes, as well as Country Club blue bloods in the NY Hamptons and libertarian governors from the Land of enchantment. Liberals are everywhere, not just near DC, and the #1 defining characteristic is usually that they are pro-abortion and insist on being called pro-choice. I don’t give libertarians “credit” for merely being against federal funding for abortion because the libs sue that puny issue to get passes on the larger issue. Millions of abortions have been performed since 1973, very few of which would not have been gotten due to lack of federal funding. The market has driven down the price quite substantially. During the ObamaCare debate, some so-called pro-life Dems used the ruse of fed funding and Obama’s exec order to justify cramming ObamaCare down our throats. The issue is LIFE, ie the killing of the very small and disabled so that BMW payments are more easily made.

    • nessa May 24th, 2011 at 11:52 am

      I must admit, being of Norse descent I was not at all appreciative of the “Newt as Berserker” characterization, but I’ll learn to live with it.

      • pilgrim May 24th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

        Somehow I thought about you when I copied that bit about berserkers from Millbank. 🙂

        • nessa May 24th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

          LOL pil! I see Newt as one of the fat friars my ancestors used to take lunch money from.

        • streetwise May 24th, 2011 at 4:33 pm

          That’s not fair. Nessa hasn’t sacked a monastery all week.

  7. Mike gamecock DeVine May 24th, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Past DeVine Gamecock crowings re uniting so-cons and libertarians via federalism and a realistic view of how Republicans are not in the same league with Dems and liberals re privacy and liberty intrusions:

    https://manyfacesofbarack.com/2009/11/25/1453/

    https://www.examiner.com/law-politics-in-atlanta/moderate-democrats-and-extremist-republicans-do-not-exist

    more later

  8. vassarbushmills May 24th, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Great conversation here, Pil and GC (mainly). A stroke of genius to include Johnson, Pilgrim, if for no other reason than a Libertarian’s position on social issue, from abortion to drug use to marrying a lamb(ie pie) matters little in being president, for the Libertarian, true Libertarian …Big L, believes those things to be the arena of the state. The prez, outside of appointing judges, has little to say about it.

    Libertarianism is essentially a philosophy of self-actualization, not governance. When any person wished to govern by personal whim I will declare him to stupid, first, then Leftist, Marxist, fascist, etc, second. Gary Johnson doers not (yet) convince me is of the little “l” tribe.

    • pilgrim May 24th, 2011 at 6:43 pm

      Thanks VB for your encouragement. I am not ready yet to believe this is some kind of stroke of genius. It is early enough for the wheels to completely come off and a campaign comes to an end. It was mostly my intent to suggest that there are a certain number of folks who do not want a US Government that is too thuggish and authoritarian. Obama and the mod libs have shown this trait, and they know they do not like it. They have a concern too much force and authoritarian nature can happen with a Gary Bauer conservative. I believe you are correct that the prez can not do much to them, but the Atlas Shrugged movie goers are not so sure. If these folks get comfortable with our conservative pick for prez, then we can have a 1984 type landslide victory. I would not want our pick to compromise or change his views, but he needs to not scare anybody that is not a perfect conservative voter away.

    • Mike gamecock DeVine May 25th, 2011 at 9:23 am

      The only true American “authoritarians” of which I am aware are liberals and Democrats, especially those in robes that truly do “impose” their will on We the People by usurping our right to self-government, thru court decisions that re-write a Constitution ratified by super-majorities. This is how abortion was unconstitutionally made “law” in an authoritarian manner. All laws passed legitimately are “authoritarian” in the sense that they are law. We have free speech and elections and rule of law. Too many libertarians elect democrats due to love of marijuana, gambling, etc and the supposed great liberators called Dems, while stupidly ignoring that Dems don’t liberate much on those puny subjects while they truly do break the rules while imposing their non-libertarian will on all aspects of our lives, especially including our right to earn a living so that we can eat and have shelter and pursue happiness sometime this decade? No, Reagan was not authoritarian even though he was for a constitutional amendment prohibiting all abortions not necessary to save the life of the mother and neither are those social conservatives that seek such an amendment or other ways to restrict the slaughter of a barbaric people.

      • pilgrim May 25th, 2011 at 1:36 pm

        I agree with you that the liberals are thuggish authoritarians. They try to make a big pitch about how they will stay out of your bedroom, and then they show us how they get into your wallet, your garage, and every other room in your home. I also think those who are frightened off by thinking that conservatives are authoritarian have misplaced fears. Reagan was a master at communicating with people so well that they voted for him despite disagreeing with him on some things. They were comfortable with voting for him. I do not like the idea of electing a US President with just pure conservative votes because there are not enough pure conservatives to get a majority. The best candidate is the one who can hold true to what he believes, and not frighten away those who have disagreements with him.

  9. lineholder May 24th, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    All I’ll add is this comment…I’m so sick of the corruption in government that there are days when hope seems dim. It’s destroying our nation, and I want it to end.

    I’m more than willing to support someone who will try to provide the kind of leadership that will move this nation back in the right direction.

    • pilgrim May 24th, 2011 at 8:33 pm

      I am with you 100% lineholder. Some may think I am using too broad of a brush with the Potomac man meme, but it seems reasonable to me, with as much corruption that exists in Washington, to be looking for someone outside the beltway to find someone to provide the right kind of leadership.

      • lineholder May 24th, 2011 at 9:37 pm

        I don’t think your theme is too broad at all, pilgrim. I think that given the circumstances our country is facing right now, it is absolutely necessary for us to evaluate the character of those who may run for office. Your theme of Potomac Man is right on the money in that regard.

        You did well on this, and thanks.

  10. JadedByPolitics May 24th, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Herman Cain is my main man right now but I can tell you Pawlenty has my antenna up, he called out ethanol in IA and today in Florida he hit the 3rd rail straight up, called for reforming SS and Medicare….I think he knows what I believe I know and that is a majority of American are not greedy gusses and they are not willing to allow their greed today to be placed on the backs of their children and grandchildren and the future unborn!

    • pilgrim May 24th, 2011 at 10:12 pm

      I like Cain, I disagree with some who compare him to Huckabee. They are two completely different people. The only thing they could have in common is winning the Iowa Caucus. I also like Pawlenty, and if Sarah Palin decides to run I like her also. We only get one picked to run in the general election, but I disagree with the meme that the GOP has weak candidates running. All three I listed are strong not weak.

      • mriggio May 25th, 2011 at 9:56 am

        pilgrim, absolutely agree. My mind is as wide open as the Grand Canyon (some might say just as empty also) and a little voice says ‘Its still early’. But those who lament a weak field are unicorn-sniffers. We have some exceptional candidates already declared, perhaps more in the wings. I’ll continue my process of elimination, seeking the principled candidate to support as the process unfolds, but now, we’re blessed with a great field, an embarrassment of riches! I could easily support any of the three you mention.

  11. lineholder May 24th, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    For those who are poll watchers, here’s a new poll out today that presents GOP candidates in the context of name recognition versus positive intensity.

    First of, it’s Gallup, and I usually question Gallup’s data reliability to a certain extent. But the data is interesting to say the least.

    https://www.gallup.com/poll/147782/Herman-Cain-Begins-Race-High-Positive-Intensity.aspx

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