Wednesday, December 03, 2008

GOP Genetics

Something thoughts I had while reading this opinion piece.

This is actually something we’ve spoken about on this blog for some time. In our running debates over what defines conservatives vs. Republicans vs. right wingers and what defines liberals vs. progressives vs. Democrats, we have come up with some rather clever monikers to describe the circus-like American political theatre. We have spoken of the Right-Wingers Against Really Real Reality! (RWARRR!!), the Band of Liberals Opposed to Winning Major Elections (BLOWME), and – of course- the organization I work for – Super Secret Liberal Takeover Headquarters*.

SAWB has mentioned many times that I need to rethink my Party affiliation based loosely on my general disdain for individuals named Pelosi, Reid, Waxman and Frank. I could be convinced to do so if the other side ever gave up their disdain for individuals named Eisenhower, Roosevelt & Lincoln. With that in mind, and with the Green and Libertarian Parties running washed-up Georgia congressmen and women for the Presidency, it seems I’m “home” to stay.

I have long lamented the lack of really real conservatives that actually make sense to the “Center-Right America” we claim to be. The conservatism that I recognize as beneficial and necessary to America seems dead, and the GOP abandoned it. Nowadays, and I’ve said this before, the right wing and the GOP machine seem more a party of marketing majors selling nothing more than a brand name made popular by Reagan. They sell efficiency and competence and have rarely delivered over the last 8 years.

But my biggest problem comes from the more sinister items they sell: the culture wars, the anti-intellectualism and the jingoism. I’d believe they were actually “pro-life” if they had a volunteer, education and cultural movement as strong as their high dollar-high division political machine. As someone who keeps the unwanted pregnancy numbers lower by not tomcatting through town, it leaves an awful bad taste in my mouth when “conservative” friends and family call me a “baby killer” in one breath and tell me I need to get laid in the next. I find it disgusting that so much political hay is made over marriage by the generation that laid waste to mine through the dysfunctional nuclear family and the 52% divorce rate – if they cared so much about family values they’d clean their own house first. The demonization of public education and college professors erodes the value of critical thinking so necessary to find real solutions to problems. And the “with us or with the terrorists” nonsense and “enemy combatants” legal maneuvering used to explain away such varied and disasterous tactics from not sending enough troops in the first place all the way to water-boarding.

Those things aren’t conservatism, but they bring in money, encourage the “base,” and help win elections. This is especially true when you can sell underdog mythology to a population. I know more upper-middle class, financially comfortable, Christian Caucasians who feel oppressed and victimized by boogeymen than I can count.
Those things aren’t conservatism: they don’t make government more cost effective and efficient; they don’t address even the few problems conservatives believe should exist in government purview; and they don’t inspire true courage to be a great nation. Those are the politics of short-sightedness and electioneering.

One of the reasons for the collective disappointment in the John McCain campaign (and something that probably contributed a great deal to the confused message) was that he was thought of as a true conservative (agree with his immigration policy or not) on many issues, and then let his campaign run like the Bush culture warrior ethos that people have started to associate with inefficient, costly and ineffective government.

So, why would McCain have switched from real conservatism to Bush-Palin divisive politics? The GOP’s McCarthy genetic, that’s why. It sums up so many things I have thought over the years, wondering why the Party representing “conservative” values ended up tacking so far away from real conservatism. And you can bet we’ll see these politics again. Last night in Georgia, we saw them win. We’ll see them in 2010 in the mid-term elections. And Sarah Palin will run for President in 2012, bringing all this marketing, electioneering and McCarthyism with her – just in time to defeat pragmatic conservative Bobby Jindal in the primaries.



DADvocate said...

The LAT article is an effort by a liberal to paint conservatism in as negative a tint as possible. Find a despicable person, tie conservatism to him as much as possible, add a few carefully chosen "facts," and, voila, conservatism=all evils. Perhaps, we need to re-read "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg, voila, liberalims=Nazis, Mussolini, and Stalin.

The political parties continually search about for issues which will enable them to win election. Neither really has much of a true philosophical foundation other than being in power. Al Gore used to be pro-life when running for Congress and Senate.

The "do whatever it takes" philosophy is why the country is in such a mess. Both parties have been catering to various special interests and throwing around money like it's going out of style in order to win election.

BTW - according to Wikipedia the conservative philosophy dates back to Edmund Burke who died in 1797, well before McCarthy's time. But then, of course, liberals will want to say "today's conservatism" started with (insert really bad name)."

I don't really consider myself anything. I just try to look at the issues and see what makes the best sense. People with whom I talk often say my philosophy is similar to Thoreau's which I find interesting because I never read Thoreau until after people began telling me this. And, I read just a little. It's a philosophy I reached on my own that happens to resemble someone else's.

Dante said...

From the article:
"The basic problem with the Goldwater tale is that it focuses on ideology and movement building, which few voters have ever really cared about, while the McCarthy tale focuses on electoral strategy, which is where Republicans have excelled."

Then what exactly the hell was 1994? It was too late for proper Communists and too early for any real interest in terrorists. Where were the boogeymen during the one of (if not the) largest political gain the Republicans ever achieved in one sitting? Where's the mention of the Contract with America? Or was that left out because it didn't fit the fantasy the author is trying to sell us?

The short version of the real story is that Republicans stopped selling conservatism because they were more successful selling the war on terror. And they paid for it.

Besides, who's the side selling boogeymen here? McCarthy... Nixon... Southerners... Oh my!

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

DADvocate: "The LAT article is an effort by a liberal to paint conservatism in as negative a tint as possible."

I have to disagree. I found it less an excoriation of the GOP and conservatism and more a treatise on a popular marketing mechanic used by certain GOP politicians. One thing I think detracted from McCain's campaign was that he began using a playbook that sounded more George Bush than John McCain - even though W. had run that playbook into the ground.

Every party and interest group has their policy makers and their message makers, and those people are rarely on the same page. Your example of Al Gore is dead on, as is the line of thought that conservatism is far older than McCarthy. This article, however, focuses not on conservatism per se, but how conservatism and the GOP have marketed themselves in the modern political era. At least, that's what I got out of it.

Dante: The article does make a nod towards Reaganism and its singular nature, and does tend to ignore 1994. I think this has a lot to do with how important most conservatives regard Reagan, and how much they gloss over 1994 despite the similarities of each.

As a Southern Democrat who constantly has to explain the genius and strategy behind both Reagan and the Contract With America to others on my side who just don't get it, I recognized instantly that this article was not speaking to either situation.

It would be something to read a follow up article outlining exactly why Reaganism and 1994 fall far outside the McCarthy gene and that the singular individuals responsible (Reagan & Gingrich) both were affected far more profoundly by Goldwater, policy and movement making. Notice also how dependent on individuals (again, Reagan & Gingrich) that both Reaganism and the Contract with America years were. No Republican since Reagan has been able to do more than talk about Reaganism, and once Gingrich left Congress, the Contract with America went into the dustbin and the GOP in the legislature went bonkers.

I mean, could you imagine what a Reagan would have been like in the White House between 2000 - 2008? Can you imagine how effective Congress would have been with Gingrich instead of DeLay?