Disillusioned With Republicanism

Earlier today I wrote up a quick post about the fact that the GOP is in a state of disarray.  It may not necessarily be coming apart at the seams exactly, but wires are most definitely getting crossed, and it’s almost impossible to grasp what exactly is going on.

David Brooks’ piece in the NYT only pushes the point further:

And let us recognize above all the 228 who voted no — the authors of this revolt of the nihilists. They showed the world how much they detest their own leaders and the collected expertise of the Treasury and Fed. They did the momentarily popular thing, and if the country slides into a deep recession, they will have the time and leisure to watch public opinion shift against them.

House Republicans led the way and will get most of the blame. It has been interesting to watch them on their single-minded mission to destroy the Republican Party. Not long ago, they led an anti-immigration crusade that drove away Hispanic support. Then, too, they listened to the loudest and angriest voices in their party, oblivious to the complicated anxieties that lurk in most American minds.

Now they have once again confused talk radio with reality. If this economy slides, they will go down in history as the Smoot-Hawleys of the 21st century. With this vote, they’ve taken responsibility for this economy, and they will be held accountable. The short-term blows will fall on John McCain, the long-term stress on the existence of the G.O.P. as we know it.

He describes a party lost in the wilderness, a party enslaved by the most vehement and bloated portions of its own ideology.  Of far too many in today’s GOP, the good of movement conservativism, that special brand of conservative ideology that fits so well on bumper stickers, sells so well on the airwaves, and has that uncanny ability to win elections, is more important than that humble yet vital act of actually governing.

Matthew Yglesias, however, thinks Brooks is a little misguided in his disillusionment:

This is noteworthy, though I think a little naive of Brooks. The House conservatives who sank the bailout didn’t do so because they were listening to loud and angry voices. They sank the plan by accident. They were trying to double-cross the Democrats. First, they wrung lots of concessions out of Democrats at the negotiating table as the price for delivering 80 votes. Then, by not delivering 80 votes and forcing Pelosi to pass the bill as a partisan Democratic bill, they were going to wage a demagogic anti-bailout campaign. But Pelosi refused to be played for a sucker and so the conservative inadvertently sank a bill that, all evidence suggests, they actually wanted to pass. They just wanted to vote “no” on it for short-term political gain.

As expected a move as this might be, I am obliged to side with Matt on this issue, though I don’t think it’s unfair to give Brooks his credit.  Both are ultimately correct.

For Brooks’ point, one thing that may have been forgotten in the past twenty years since liberalism became the dirtiest of political dirty words is that conservatism is just as suspect and fallible in its most extreme forms.

Contemporary Republicanism has made demonizing liberalism a point of standard doctrine, while at the same time, through media outlets, particularly on conservative talk radio, extolling the virtues of conservatism.  The trick here, though, is, as the Anonymous Liberal drudged up in a post from the past, the rise of conservatism does not equate to the testing of true conservatism.  Not until Bush came into power with a Republican congress has modern Republicanism been allowed to govern largely unfettered by an opposing viewpoint.

And we have continued to see how that turned out.

I bring this up because of an observation I have made several times in the past during the prolonged presidential election season.  While Democrats continue to run away from the their liberal base, Republicans catered and pandered shamelessly toward their conservative base.  In the context of this day, it is a remarkable epiphany that such an observation brings.

In the past, I, like many others, believed this was a fault of the Democratic party, a fault of principles, and a lack of belief in the strength of their base.  I had gone so far as to have operated over a working theory for the past years regarding the relationship between the party and its more ideologically motivated factions.

But the reality, from a political standpoint, could be far more clear; conservatism never managed to build up the stigma that liberalism currently owns because up until this moment, conservatism had never been able to fall so fabulously on its face–not until these past eight years.

Which brings us, in a round about way to Matt’s point.

Contemporary conservatism/Republicanism, is an amorphous construct designed for mass retail.  It has many faces, each of which specifically sculpted to appeal to certain demographics to ensure prolonged political power.  This concept in turn was born from rebellion; rebellion from the young, from the culturally unfamiliar, from the backlash of dirty hippies and pesky political correctness.  It was woven together like a security blanket for any person who couldn’t fathom a difference between the scholarly study of communism, and the evil Red Scare, for anyone who saw “free love” and equated it to the destruction of America’s morality, for anyone who saw two men holding hands, and thought that God would therefore punish the nation.

I do not intend to demean, by the way.  I am by no means a moderate, but neither have I ever been an extremist, and my own personal belief is that no government of the people and by the people can ever prevail without the thoughts and sometimes even the obstructions from both.

But the underlying governing principles of movement conservatism, and perhaps on the broadest scale in this generation, America is becoming disillusioned with Republicanism the way it once did with liberalism.

And it is in that context that Republicans find themselves.  They must find a way to continue to sell a once popular brand that nobody seems to want to buy anymore.  The original plan was to pretend the sitting president doesn’t exist, and keep the elections as far away from the issues as possible.  But the thing about this economy, and perhaps this is the one good thing that has come from the despair on Wall Street, is that at this moment, America seems immune to the kinds of Rovian distractions that have won the day for Republicans in the past.

If Matt’s right, and I think he is, Republicans tried to come out of this bailout mess ditching the responsibility of governance on the Democrats whilst appearing to crusade for Joe and Jane Taxpayer, and they ended up failing fabulously at it.

One Response to “Disillusioned With Republicanism”

  1. yeas and mccain has to hold his VP hand to cross the street too lol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook