Ross Douthat. "A Hole in the Center". May 4
Oscar Levant and Bernard Herrmann were discussing the myriad ways conductors have interpreted the first four bars of Beethoven's Fifth. "How would you play them, Oscar?" Hermann asked.
"Oh, I'd omit them," Levant replied.
IT is, from where I sit, May 6, 2009 of the Current Era, and the beginning of the Second 106 Days of Franklin Delano Hussein Obama's Charm Coup. You can subtract roughly ten weeks to get the date of the Official Demise of the Current Republican Party last November. Back up a scosh over two months from there--the day before John McCain introduced Sarah Palin to her first audience which was not simply too numb to care--to find the last time Republicans could claim a ray of hope, and that one being that Barack Obama would manage to lose the election, not that the Republican elephant would suddenly stomp its way back from utter disgrace. It's about two years back from there, to the beginning of Campaign '08, to their last real hope, which involved a massive write-in vote for Joe Lieberman, possibly linked to Ward Churchill endorsing Hillary, Hillary endorsing Ward Churchill, or a high incidence of contrail episodes up and down both coasts. Shortly before, with the Schiavo case, all those Republican factions Brooks is always telling us about suddenly split upon catching sight of one another. Prior to that, of course, i.e. the first Bush II term, everything was going perfectly.
So I suppose my question is, th' fuck are both "conservative" Times columnists writing Wither Republicanism? columns yesterday? Don't they at least call ahead to make sure they aren't wearing the same outfit?
Now, I have no problem entering into this sort of ratiocination--though the rarefied Burkean air does make it difficult to catch your breath--but, y'know, for me it's more like two bucks worth of Army men, a magnifying glass, and a sunny day in July. Maybe actual Republicans ought to be a bit more circumspect about laying out the sorry remnants of the family linen where decent folk can catch a glimpse. As Basho, or maybe Keye Luke, said, "There can be no future for your party until you shut th' fuck up about the future of your party".
Or maybe it was that guy in Mystery Men. Anyway, the big shocker is that both of them think the key to a Republican resurgence is for the party to start looking more precisely like themselves. (This is not actually Brooks' theme this time, unlike the last seven or eight times he's solved the problem, though it can be a little tough to tell since he projects everything onto people who have actually been to The Olive Garden. This, not exactly by coincidence, offers Brooks the ability to alter, even reverse, his public opinion by proxy whenever the last one crashes in flames, as they inevitably have, taking out an orphanage, a hospital, and an orphanage hospital. Brooks, by the way, appears to be the only man on the planet who imagines no one notices this.) Wasn't that what Douthat was up to with last weeks' piece, which imagined the now-chastened Not Ross Douthat Republicans crawling back to him after a Cheney election fiasco? Wasn't he on the hustings before this gig, peddling a book about the same topic? Arlen Specter? Weren't you hired to talk about Jesus?
Okay, let's deal with that Brooks piece.
Well, that didn't take long.
Seriously, is the greeting card industry as bad off as newspaper publishing? Can't Hallmark come up with a line of condolence cards for Republicans and give this man the job he's fit for? "Sorry for your loss, but remember, the American people will never lose the drive to succeed!" Imagine being seated next to this guy on a Trans-Pacific express flight:
• Republicans generally like Westerns. They generally admire John Wayne-style heroes who are rugged, individualistic and brave.
• Today, if Republicans had learned the right lessons from the Westerns, or at least John Ford Westerns, they would not be the party of untrammeled freedom and maximum individual choice. They would once again be the party of community and civic order.
• Republicans are so much the party of individualism and freedom these days that they are no longer the party of community and order. This puts them out of touch with the young, who are exceptionally community-oriented. It gives them nothing to say to the lower middle class, who fear that capitalism has gone haywire. It gives them little to say to the upper middle class, who are interested in the environment and other common concerns.
• If the Republicans are going to rebound, they will have to re-establish themselves as the party of civic order. First, they will have to stylistically decontaminate their brand. That means they will have to find a leader who is calm, prudent, reassuring and reasonable.
Thus David Brooks, the erstwhile U. of Chicago liberal sophomore who saw the light at a Milton Friedman speech.
And look: I don't care if David Brooks changes his mind. He should. But you spend twenty five years, not simply as a steadfast privateer, but as a man with a public soapbox urging us to greater and greater heights of creative greed, and now, suddenly, it's time to worry about "community." Own th' fuck up, then. I'm pretty sure no one was keeping the last quarter-century's results of rampant Reagan Republicanism on the vast majority of Americans from you just to spare your digestion.
And Douthat. Sheesh. It's bad enough that the Times went looking for another "conservative". Did it have to look for a cut-rate one?
What’s required instead is a better sort of centrist. The Reagan-era wave of Republican policy innovation — embodied, among others, by the late Jack Kemp — has calcified in much the same way that liberalism calcified a generation ago
We won't speak ill of the recent dead, but the idea of Jack Kemp is another matter. It's worthy of note that the same party that's looking for a way out of its current state of being as dead as Jack Kemp still spouts off about the glorious snake-oil hucksterism of Supply Siderism even as it begins the process of picking off the feathers and cleaning up the tar it just received as a result.
And so in place of hacks and deal-makers, the Republican Party needs its own version of the neoliberals and New Democrats — reform-minded politicians like Gary Hart and Bill Clinton, who helped the Democratic Party recover from the Reagan era, instead of just surviving it.
Yeah, thanks; always interesting to get a history lesson from someone who wasn't there and never's bothered to look. First, Jimmy Carter wasn't "the calcification of American liberalism"; that's something you memorized from your party's Lil' Reaganaut Historicity Flash Cards. Carter was the Southern, moderate response to the defeat of George McGovern. Second, whatever other talents they may have, the primary political concerns of both Senator Hart and Governor Clinton seem to have revolved around their own Presidential asperations; they were the public face of the DLC in that they represented a Boomer break with New (or Old) Liberalism for the easily convinced, in a way Sam Nunn or Chuck Robb did not. I'm unaware of anyone, to this day, who imagines the Democratic Leadership Council had, has presently, or will, in any imaginable future, ever acquire any principles other than the one about McGovern-Mondaleism being insufficiently lucrative; and if you can name me a single example of someone they inspire I'll be able to start a list, and Evan Bayh can get his 2016 campaign goin'. To pretend--or simply to not know--that the Democratic party throughout this period housed a Scoop Jackson/ Sam Nunn wing is simply a result of being too convinced to have to bother looking, and one suggests the creation of the DLC "led" to Clinton's victory in '92 the same way other people eat things they find at convenience stores.
No equivalent faction — rooted in conservatism, but eager for innovation — exists in the Republican Party today. Maybe something like it can grow out of the listening tour that various Republican power players are embarking on this month.
Or maybe this cream the doctor gave me will continue to keep the flying anal monkeys in check.
Maybe it can bubble up outside the Beltway — from swing-state governors like Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty,
Checked Daniels' record lately? We thought he'd just forgotten to pack his high chair, but it turns out he's actually become invisible. [Incidentally, Ross, whatever else Mitch has done, if anything, he's pretty much tried to keep the religious nutball wing of the party under wraps. And that's in Indiana, Ross. Just so you know.]
or reformists in deep-red states, like the much-touted Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Utah’s Jon Huntsman.
A dead guy and Mitt Romney, Except With Daughters. Really, you guys didn't learn anything from that Big Jindal PR Rollout?
But to succeed, such a faction will have to represent something legitimately new in right-of-center politics. It can’t sound like Rush Limbaugh — but it can’t sound like Arlen Specter either.
And for now it'll just have to remain a beautiful dream.