Wednesday, May 6

Oh, So That's Why The Times Needs Two "Conservative" Writers: The Competition Breeds A Better Audience Of Imaginary Animals

David Brooks, "The Long Voyage Home". May 4

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.

via Clifton Fadiman, The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes

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.


Anonymous said...

Wither RepublicanismThou art a punmeister of the worst kind.

Kindly maintain.



the bunny said...

My favorite quote from Mystery Men:
The Party of Ronald Reagan: "And why do I have my dick in this goat?"
The Sphinx: "I don't remember telling you to do that."

arghous said...

Grand Old Pond
Elephant falls in
Gaseous sounds!

This, like the screeds of Rush Limbaugh/Yukio Mishima, always sound better in the original Japanese.

Christopher said...

Hey, David Brooks has a point. Remember when the party of freedom and personal responsibility made an impassioned effort to protect the right of Habeas Corpus for all men, and then incessantly campaigned for the people who tortured our prisoners to be tried in public? And then how that issue was a big loser for them because the public doesn't care about shit like that?

I stopped reading Douthat's column after I got to the part where Arlen Specter proved himself to be a bad Republican when he decided to flout everything the party stands for and vote for, gasp, deficit spending!

Grace Nearing said...

Maybe something like it can grow out of the listening tour that various Republican power players are embarking on this month.Or maybe not, since Limbaugh has already buggered Eric Cantor into rebranding the listening tour as the re/education tour, or Shut the F*ck Up and Vote for Us.

bjkeefe said...

When I read that Douthat sophomore slump of a piece, I thought about pointing you to the line about Your Mr. Daniels. Decided not to, figured you'd see it on your own.

However, in what may be proof that there's another cabal besides Journolist, I just read this passage in Time:

Outside Washington, moderates like Charlie Crist in Florida and Jodi Rell in Connecticut as well as pragmatic conservatives like Mitch Daniels in Indiana and Jon Huntsman in Utah have remained popular despite their brand.

James Briggs Stratton "Doghouse" Riley said...

It'd be a little more instructive to consider how Daniels got re-elected despite being unpopular, and despite leading the first state ticket to select a Democratic presidential candidate in forty-five years.

1) he raised a shitpot full of money; 2) he ran campaign commercials from before the May primaries straight through; 3) those commercials lied about his economic record; but 4) he had Indianapolis media in his pocket (thank you, Daylight Savings Time); and so 5) they touted them instead of calling him on 'em. Didn't help matters that the Democratic candidate got nasty in the primaries when it looked like she'd lose, never made up with her opponent, and was apparently out of fight by the general. Plus--no surprise--the last time we saw Evan Bayh was when he thought he was going to be Vice President, the stupid fuck.

I think Mitch is too smart to imagine he's going to become President, but he's got an ego bigger'n any three other governors, so you never know. Id say he wants Lugar's job, but Senator Eagle Scout says he'll run again in 2012, when he'll be something like 107, and Lugar could grope the State Fair Queen and get elected so long as he runs. God knows he hasn't done anything for the state in all that time besides leave it.

Joyful Alternative said...

Speaking of Republicans, Arlen Specter started off his 2010 campaign the other day at the Penn State Medical School by telling the assembled docs that had the Republicans properly funded health research, Jack Kemp would be alive today.

This might mean that Arlen killed Jack by not becoming a Democrat earlier, it might mean Arlen admits he's never had any power in his party, or it might mean Arlen's bribing the docs.

bjkeefe said...

@JA: If we can build on your first hypothesis and spread the rumor that OMG ARLEN SPECTER KILLED JACK KEMP, would you say that would hurt or help Specter's chances of getting reelected?

@DR: Glad to hear I'm not the only one who finds Evan Bayh useless.

Also, re: Lugar, I think once a man gets to a certain age, his groping a beauty queen is more likely to be applauded than tsk-tsked, so no hope there.