Monday, October 5

Wither "Conservatism", Vol. MDCCXXXI

STOP, You're Killin' Me, Vol. CDXVII:

"What is the world coming to when Chicago can't fix an election anymore?"

--diminutive Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, commenting on the Olympic committee vote while in Chicago

Quote courtesy the cremains of the Indianapolis Sunday Racist Beacon's political stovepiper's grab-bag "Behind Closed Doors", which heretofore has saved the one-liners for last, but which now leads every week with a Daniels item, apparently as a contractual obligation. The Mighty Atom responded in kind by appearing in ads promoting the state's newspapers, meaning he justifiably reckons his risk of personal exposure by the Hoosier-centric press at zilch. I tried to hide it (the quote, I mean) from my Poor Wife, who spent the weekend getting progressively no better from this year's case of whatever the Walking Petri Dishes of Psycho Death Germs known as "her students" gave her, since hysterical laughter leads to five-minute coughing spasms, and it's impossible to hear the teevee over 'em. But she got to it before I did, and I missed the last ten minutes of The Sports Reporters.

My Poor Wife's illness discombobulated everything, of course, to the extent that we didn't hear Jon Stewart's routine about "at least the mainstream media won't pick up the blatantly-partisan, transparently absurd complaint that the President 'has better things to do' than make a twenty-minute speech in favor of the 2016 Olympics being held in Chicago, as told by the same people who thought six months worth of brush clearing in a four year term was a model of sound political husbandry," (followed, of course by mass-market news doing precisely that) until Sunday. And this was two days after the issue had been explained to everyone's satisfaction by Channel 8 Statehouse reporter Jim Shella, the Dean of non-charismatic Indiana Teevee Political Reporters by virtue of his twenty years helping inform the public how insiders imagine it should think about things. This is a lot like qualifying for your own cooking show by virtue of spending 5-10 on the serving line at the Michigan City pen. Shella--who got the first toss of the night (from an anchor desk which had, just 24 hours previously, been festooned with the Timeline for the Thrilling Chicago Olympics Announcement) to cover the "political fallout"--explained, rhetorically, about the story he had been given five-minutes' airtime to masticate, "Is this fair? Maybe not. But if Chicago had gotten the bid the President's supporters would have been giving him all the credit." Q.E.D.

Y'know, it's not like I expect, let alone hope for any better; it's just that I would like to see the theoretical construct of something other than an immediate and enthusiastic dive for the bottom turn up on occasion, just to prove that math is still a force to be reckoned with.

Which brings us, first, to David Brooks' Friday column, a rare opportunity to attempt a Shorter ("If Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh really ran the Republican Party, Mike Huckabee wouldn't have been the 2008 nominee"), and its double-reverse Slate doppelgänger, this "Book Club" discussion of Sam Tanenhaus' The Death of Conservatism, between Tanenhaus and Ross Douthat co-Republican apologist and Third Runner Up for the role of the quirky lab technician in NCIS: Los Angeles, Reihan Salam. The exchange is notable for the patient concision of Tanenhaus' dismantling of the "My Conservatism is the product of Burke, Bill Buckley, and Irving Kristol, and has nothing whatsoever to do with racist yahooliganism" routine that sprung like Athena's nerdy, pretentious cousin from the shitpile of George W. Bush's presidency:
Dear Reihan,

Actually, what you call a polemic means to be an interpretive history that makes the opposite case from the one described in your account. Revanchist conservatism did not originate as a form of populist protest. Rather, it was the brainchild of the very elites you say have no influence on our politics. It was conservative intellectuals who argued that the "managerial elite" (James Burnham), the "liberal establishment" (William Buckley), or the "new class" (Irving Kristol) had seized control of American politics and later our society. This argument, in its inverted Marxism, gave theoretical shape to the unarticulated anxieties and suspicions—anti-government, anti-institutional, antinomian—of the "small but intense and vocal minority," many of them "white evangelical Christians," who today populate the eroding island of movement conservatism. Even today the right insists it is driven by ideas, even if the leading thinkers are now Limbaugh and Beck, and the shock troops are tea-partiers and anti-tax demonstrators.

In other words, the movement has thrived not as a top-down operation, nor as a bottom-up one, but as a convergence of shared prejudices and cultural enmities. Thus, the right's first great modern tribune was Joe McCarthy, whose theatrical "investigations" of "enemies within" were either endorsed or indulged by each of the intellectuals mentioned above.

And can we just mention, here, that the fifth anniversary of Schiavo, aka, the point at which principled Burkeans looked up from their Waughs and Wodehouses and tried to determine where that rank smell was coming from, is but three months distant? When does the desire, or "desire", to address the problem some day, time and elections permitting, stop being news?

1 comment:

cleter said...

Ok, conservatives--here's how the Olympics works. You know that final stage, where there's an American city, and a Brazilian city, and so forth, and a group of European socialists finally pick one to be THE Olympic city? Well, before that stage, there's a competition WITHIN the US to try to be THE US city at the finals. Back in Ought Six, when you guys controlled everything, the cities vying to be THE American city included Houston, San Francisco, Philly, and, of course, Chicago. Chicago beat those other cities. In other words, if it is a mark of shame that Obama was unable to convince the IOC to pick finalist city Chicago--then it's extra bonus shameful that George W Bush was unable to persuade the USOC to pick his hometown, Houston, as the American city. As you deride Obama for not winning in the finals, please remember that your guy blew it in the octo-finals. Didn't even make the final four.