Monday, October 24

It's Over.

Ross Douthat, "The Inevitable Nominee". October 22

OH, not the End of the World (again), and not the Death of the American Experiment, although every time I read Douthat's byline at the Times I wonder what's holding that up. No, what's over is the Republican presidential race.

And, in a shocker, the winner is the guy who most resembles Ross Douthat: a moderate Republican (a "moderate Republican" is one who won't scream in public that all Muslims should be in Gitmo, or all Medicare recipients on ice floes, unless there's profit to be made, or an election to be won) with a history of religious nutjobbery running in the family, willing to disown his own ideas if the mob thinks otherwise or the winds change direction, and undoubtedly nostalgic for the time when all those other religious nutjobs ("the base") filled the coffers, passed out campaign literature on Sunday, voted Republican, then went back to screaming about abortion for four years.

I have no idea whether Romney is inevitable. What I am pretty sure of is that if this is so it should be a clear indication even to Republicans that the brand has been selling tainted tinned meat by-product for so long the survivors can't tell the difference.

Let's just note again that in 2008, with the Bush/Republican party sure to suffer another crushing at the polls, this one involving the Constitutional Big Daddy figure such types love, Douthat co-authored a blueprint for a "conservative" resurgence. One which lasted all the way to Inauguration Day 2009 before falling victim to what his critics might call "the fucking reality of the Republican party anyone not willfully blind, congenitally mazed, and/or aware that the Bill Kristol seat at the Times was going to be vacant soon--I mean "vacant without Bill Kristol" as opposed to vacant with him--understood at a glance." Let's just say that the much-anticipated soul-searching for the future of "conservatism" did not survive the realization that Barack Obama is black. Like David Brooks, Douthat went from mild condescension about the Teabaggers to running around to the front of the parade and pretending to be its drum major, and pretending to mute the racist section with a withering stare. (Brooks got there first, if only because the much-ballyhooed and wholly-fictional shelving of culture war themes seemed to've hurt Ross' feelings, proving once again that the only people who believe the Right's PR crap are the same people who dish it out.)

Four years later there's one Presidential candidate who embodies Douthat's vision: Mitt Romney. Only problem is it's the Mitt Romney of 2004. The current Mitt Romney is the guy who's been furiously backpedaling for five years now in an effort to appease the base ("mouthbreathers"). Which, in Douthat's view, proves he was right all along.
Last week the big story was Herman Cain’s rise to the top of the polls, and then Rick Perry’s combativeness at the Las Vegas debate. Next week, perhaps, it will be Newt Gingrich’s surprising resilience or Ron Paul’s potential strength in the early caucuses or the appeal of Perry’s flat-tax plan. Then there will come a debate in which Mitt Romney looks shabby instead of smooth, a poll that shows one of his rivals surging, a moment when all his many weaknesses are on every pundit’s lips.

Please do not listen to any of them.

Except the Republican polls haven't been a random walk among announced candidates; it's been Romney, the roundly-disliked, roundly-distrusted "moderate" windsock with the well-financed campaign machine vs. Whichever Genuine Republican (i.e. completely unstable wilting) seemed to have a chance against him. If Newt Gingrich ever gets a second thought that will be news. If Ron Paul ever garners more than his dedicated and unbalanced 10% he might become as much of a danger to Republican politics as he is to himself, and wake me when it happens. What has actually occurred is that Sarah Palin gave way to Donald Trump gave way to Michelle Bachmann gave way to Rick Perry gave way to Herman Cain. You can look this sort of thing up. The probably have records of it someplace on the internets. The Republican party isn't searching for excitement. It might've been, at one time, but that's long past. Today it's searching for a nominee who represents the party. That's not Mitt Romney.
For now, though, none of his rivals look capable of even pushing the race that far. They don’t have the money or the organizational muscle, but more important they aren’t clearing the first hurdle that every presidential candidate faces. After months of campaigning, it is nearly impossible to imagine any of them as a major party’s nominee, much less in the White House.

It's a little late for Republicans to start talking about who is or isn't credible, doncha think?
People like to cite counterexamples: The Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater, after all, and the Democrats nominated George McGovern. But Goldwater and McGovern, for all their weaknesses, were far more credible nominees than a Perry, a Herman Cain, a Michele Bachmann, a Newt Gingrich.

This assumes, of course, that our standards haven't sunk as rapidly as the quality of our candidates. An assumption which is at best unwarranted.
They were too extreme to win the general election, but they were not political novices or washed-up self-promoters, and they had a mix of eloquence and experience that’s largely absent from the current Republican field. (Watch clips of Goldwater being interviewed by William F. Buckley Jr. on “Firing Line,” and then try to imagine how Perry would fare in the same format.)

And speaking of unwarranted assumptions, the idea that Bill Fuhbuckley would be turning his High Church monarchist, Latin cognate, and Tourette's syndrome routine on Rich Perry in 2012, the way he did forty-five years ago with Barry Goldwater, sorta raises the question of where one would even find Firing Line these days. Still on the hated PBS? As a lead-in for Chris Wallace? One of the few great moments in justified political payback to've occurred in my lifetime is the fact that Buckley lived long enough for the anti-fluoridationists to throw him out of the party. One of the saddest is that he didn't stay vital long enough to devote an hour to South Park. Or Jersey Shore. I do so hope he enjoyed reading the National Review Online in his dotage.

(And, look, how long is it going to be necessary to respond to the idea of George McGovern, Senator from South Motherfucking Dakota, as the Bolshie version of the racist, sun-mazed Goldwater? Not even close. The whole thing is founded on two repugnant ideas: that Ross Douthat knows anything about political history he didn't learn from Family Ties, assuming that snake-handling cult he grew up in had a teevee, and that the Birchward shift of the "conservative" movement that preceded his birth didn't sweep him up, making Barry Goldwater appear almost rational, something he clearly wasn't in his day. If you're looking for reasons the Republican party has nothing but religious pinheads and fourth-rate grifters left to nominate, maybe there's part of your answer.)
What’s more, Republicans have only themselves to blame for his inevitability. Romney owes his current position to two failures: the Bush era’s serial disasters, which left the Republican establishment without a strong bench of viable national politicians, and the Tea Party’s mix of zeal and naïveté, which has elevated cranks and frauds and future television personalities to the party’s presidential stage.

Political naïveté may be defined here as "demanding implementation of the crackpot shit St. Ronald Reagan said to get elected, and continuing to do so even after a Republican got the seat."
To date, neither the establishment nor the populists have come to terms with the failures of the last age of Republican dominance. And despite occasional flashes of creativity, neither has groped its way to a credible vision of what the next conservative era should look like.

Have your credit card and that ISBN number at the bottom of your screen handy. Make checks payable to "Grand New Party: This Time We Mean It, ℅ Ross Douthat, New York, New York. Operators are standing by.
What they have to offer instead is a largely opportunistic critique of a flailing liberal president. So it’s fitting that America’s most opportunistic politician is destined to be the standard-bearer for their cause.

What a shame that, once again, the "conservative" critique won't be responsible for its consequences, despite everyone's best efforts. Maybe someday they'll get that Purity thing straightened out.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I do so hope he enjoyed reading the National Review Online in his dotage.

Zombie Bill Buckley, meet Jonah Goldberg...the fruit of your labor.

Hamish Mack said...

Great stuff, Doghouse. I like the way that Don't Douthat is trying to say that "This fuckers are crazy" as though he has had nothing to do that.

Jim Heartney said...

Actually, this GOP nominating contest reminds me of nothing so much as the 2008 contest, i.e. a desperate shuffling through the no-hopers till they settle at last on the least embarrassing one. (And in McCain's case that still turned out to be only a relative term.)

The real question is whether or not the general electorate has enough working brain cells to not follow its impulse to vote in The Other Guy when times are tough. Studies of presidential election dynamics strongly suggest voters would elect a ham sandwich if they are pissed enough at the incumbent. I guess this election we'll see how far that goes - will Mitt be able to convince enough people to look past his underwear and hand him the keys?

Fiddlin Bill said...

This afternoon on Hannity (radio version), Romney said, in the gravest of tones, that he was in the race because he was extremely upset that "this President has driven the economy into the ground." Which is to say that Romney is as boldfaced a liar and dissembler as any of the other Republican candidates. Can it be that any significant percentage of the electorate cannot remember that Obama came into office with the economy absolutely cratered, or that since Jan 2009 we have been on an upward climb, with every Republican struggling to hold back the climb with every resource at their disposal, including the debt ceiling threat of just two months ago. They are all LIARS, every damn one.

cleter said...

Firing Line would be on C-Span 4 early Sunday morning, right after some old guy talking about a new book he had written about Lincoln.

Uncle Omar said...

I think you meant to say "witling" not "wilting," although the witlings seem to be wilting as we speak.

prairie curmudgeon said...

It ain't so much about "electing" a president where the fittest equates to him with the most dollars as it is dialing the default notch for the technocratic keeper of the merican junker resting on cinder blocks with everyone fighting for a hand at the wheel to nowhere. There ain't no west and there ain't no arks for Noah anymore. Just compounding interest on delusions and investments for least diminishing returns.

A-Tomic said...

"When you say "radical right" today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye" (WaPo 1994).

Even Goldwater saw that one coming.

Anonymous said...

Russ Douthat gets on my last nerves with his false comparisons. "Neither the left or right blah, blah, blah." And he pulls statistics out of the air. Remember when he said that more East Coasters had abortions? Not that more might occur there because the doctors tend to be shot at in our, drumroll please: flagpin wearing, teary eyed, liberal bashing... "heartland." He's way past tiresome.

Myles said...

(And, look, how long is it going to be necessary to respond to the idea of George McGovern, Senator from South Motherfucking Dakota, as the Bolshie version of the racist, sun-mazed Goldwater?

Considering Barry Goldwater single-handedly desegregated the Phoenix city government during his mayoralty, the accusation of his as some kind of vile racist is at best idiotic and at worse deliberately libellous.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Considering that Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (unlike most prominent GOP party members at the time) and that he was the first Republican to win the electoral votes of the Deep South states since Reconstruction, one could say that Goldwater laid the groundwork for the GOP Southern Strategy that continues to this day.

I'm sure that's what Doghouse is referring to, Myles.

Anonymous said...

Rossie boy should get props for his phrase "... have come to terms with the failures of the last age of Republican dominance."

None of the Teabaggers and other Republicans even acknowledge such failures ! Their proposals are "double or nothing" -- double for the 1% and nothing for America!

Deggjr said...

So Ross Douthat is now doing Steve Urkel's routine: "Did I do that?". Ah, the classics.

Myles said...

I'm sure that's what Doghouse is referring to, Myles.

Doghouse might well be, but it would be factually wrong. Laying the groundwork for the Southern Strategy does not make Goldwater anymore of a racist than helping the Nazis to power make Franz von Papen any more of an anti-Semite. Opposing the Civil Rights Act on constitutional grounds is separate from holding or not holding racist beliefs. Racism is the condition of holding racist beliefs or acting in a racially motivated manner. All evidence points toward Goldwater never having held any racist beliefs or acting in a racially motivated manner.

To say Goldwater was a racist is just factually wrong. This isn't some grey area.

Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

I am prepared to say I was wrong but I will probably say I told you so.

The Texan is telling you it is going to be Perry.

I know he is sucking in the polls but the only polls that matter are yet to be held. The primary elections are the ones that matter and these voters are crazy.

And we said that about Goldwater, Reagan and W. Bush. And I think they will pick Perry because he is right on God and right on taxes on a postcard.

Not that he is right about either one of those things but those are the things these crazy people want. He uses code like Reagan--who launched his campaign where kids were murdered for civil rights--not because he was for civil rights. Perry is like that too.

Romney is a Morman and Republicans are not going to nominate a Morman. They won't do it. Not with the First Baptist Church of Dallas, City of Hate, Texas saying Romney isn't a Christian. It isn't going to happen.

I hope I am wrong but I am not.

Kathy said...

Myles usually clogs up "The Hunting of The Snark" blog. I see he's branching out.