Tina K. Russell

November 13, 2008

The Republicans regroup

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:03 pm

David Brooks on the delusional fantasies of high-minded movement conservatives:

Op-Ed Columnist – Darkness at Dusk – NYTimes.com
Members of the conservative Old Guard see themselves as members of a small, heroic movement marching bravely from the Heartland into belly of the liberal elite. In this narrative, anybody who deviates toward the center, who departs from established doctrine, is a coward, and a sellout.

This narrative happens to be mostly bogus at this point. Most professional conservatives are lifelong Washingtonians who live comfortably as organization heads, lobbyists and publicists. Their supposed heroism consists of living inside the large conservative cocoon and telling each other things they already agree with. But this embattled-movement mythology provides a rationale for crushing dissent, purging deviationists and enforcing doctrinal purity. It has allowed the old leaders to define who is a true conservative and who is not. It has enabled them to maintain control of (an ever more rigid) movement.

That’s awesome. Yes, David Brooks is right. This enormous, battle-tested organizational structure has given Republicans an advantage for a long time for the way it has mentored both Republican politicians and conservative talking points. It’s an advantage that Democrats never had until now, with Daily Kos, MoveOn.org, and other liberal bastions rallying the party faithful to help build a liberal majority. And, as those conservative institutions, built in William Buckley’s day, lurch forward into a brand new era and collapse under the crushing weight of doublethink (universal healthcare is unacceptable because it’s “socialism”… but bailing out banks is okay… ouch!), our new liberal institutions are more dynamic, more populist, and more attuned to the kind of change and rigorous discussion that fuel a successful party.

The GOP’s rigidity, its insane ability to march in complete lockstep, has served it well… until today. The GOP can’t be a party of perpetual anger at the “elites,” it has to make itself relevant to the concerns of ordinary people and explain why it can do a better job than the Democrats.

David Brooks continues in his column by saying that the old guard will eventually crumble and reformers will be able to bring about a bold new conservative dawn. You should, obviously, never trust me in giving advice to the Republicans. But, I will say this.

Part of the difficulty of being a Democrat is that we don’t seem to stand for anything. The Republicans are, off the top of my head (on their best days): small government, hard work, family values. The Democrats are… something. We’ve genuinely been too afraid of alienating somebody that we haven’t put forward a real party image (like, I don’t know… against war, caring for children, good schools, etc.).

The Republicans could sieze on this and create a party with a more dynamic image. I always thought that, if I formed a party, it would be one of personal empowerment… Uncle Sam can’t do everything, but he’s a fine chap and he has your back. He’ll help you out if you want to start a business, or if you’re sick, or when you want to send your kids to college. Mostly, he stays out of your way, but he’s there when you need him. Now that social Darwinism and a fundamentalist approach to the free market has failed utterly, there’s a way the Republicans could make inroads… not so much small government but smart government, a government subservient to its people (as it should be), a government that not only figures that you know best, but gives you the tools to succeed (good roads, schools, healthcare, etc.).

That could take a while. And, of course, the Republicans had better hurry, because Obama’s busy soaking up all that ideological space when he talks about personal responsibility and the government meeting people halfway who are already trying hard. In fact, I think we may have painted the Republicans into a pretty nice corner; let’s hope the embattled GOP doesn’t simply filibuster every damned thing that passes through Congress. (How come we never seemed to use that power ever when we were the minority party?)


  1. Quoting David Brooks is s good as he, along with others like George Will, speak with temperment, sound judgment, and respect. They aren’t divisive and rely on the Republican about governance … not the social agenda of the religous right.

    They are the traditional Republicans – the minority in a party driven by the religous right and the staunch right who won’t comprise. Interesting … the uncomprising nature of the staunch right seems to use the name of Ronald Reagan; wasn’t he a compromiser?

    Well-written post.

    Comment by afrankangle — November 13, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

  2. Thank you very much! Yeah, I think of it as the grand conservative coalition falling apart due to friction among groups that never had much in common, while the Democrats are used to the same kind of friction.

    Democrats are a million different groups who never get along, we’ve always been a herd of cats, and the fact that we’re used to infighting is all of a sudden a great source of strength. Since we’ve never been totally in lockstep, we can deal with disagreement in a way the Republicans can’t right now.

    Comment by Tina Russell — November 13, 2008 @ 1:12 pm

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