P.J.O’Rourke on the Election: “We Blew It”

It’s nice to see *someone* on the right put the blame where it belongs, and not try to schluff it off on the “moderates” or some other scapegoat:

Let us bend over and kiss our ass goodbye. Our 28-year conservative opportunity to fix the moral and practical boundaries of government is gone–gone with the bear market and the Bear Stearns and the bear that’s headed off to do you-know-what in the woods on our philosophy.

An entire generation has been born, grown up, and had families of its own since Ronald Reagan was elected. And where is the world we promised these children of the Conservative Age? Where is this land of freedom and responsibility, knowledge, opportunity, accomplishment, honor, truth, trust, and one boring hour each week spent in itchy clothes at church, synagogue, or mosque? It lies in ruins at our feet, as well it might, since we ourselves kicked the shining city upon a hill into dust and rubble. The progeny of the Reagan Revolution will live instead in the universe that revolves around Hyde Park.

Besides, the guy is funny, even when you’re not quite sure how much of it he believes and how much of it is for effect:

The South Side of Chicago is what everyplace in America will be once the Democratic administration and filibuster-resistant Democratic Congress have tackled global warming, sustainability, green alternatives to coal and oil, subprime mortgage foreclosures, consumer protection, business oversight, financial regulation, health care reform, taxes on the “rich,” and urban sprawl. The Democrats will have plenty of time to do all this because conservatism, if it is ever reborn, will not come again in the lifetime of anyone old enough to be rounded up by ACORN and shipped to the polling booths.

None of this is the fault of the left. After the events of the 20th century–national socialism, international socialism, inter-species socialism from Earth First–anyone who is still on the left is obviously insane and not responsible for his or her actions. No, we on the right did it. The financial crisis that is hoisting us on our own petard is only the latest (if the last) of the petard hoistings that have issued from the hindquarters of our movement. We’ve had nearly three decades to educate the electorate about freedom, responsibility, and the evils of collectivism, and we responded by creating a big-city-public-school-system of a learning environment.

Liberalism had been running wild in the nation since the Great Depression. At the end of the Carter administration we had it cornered in one of its dreadful low-income housing projects or smelly public parks or some such place, and we held the Taser gun in our hand, pointed it at the beast’s swollen gut, and didn’t pull the trigger. Liberalism wasn’t zapped and rolled away on a gurney and confined somewhere until it expired from natural causes such as natural law or natural rights.

On the Southern Strategy:

The “Southern Strategy” was bequeathed to the Republican party by Richard Nixon–not a bad friend of conservatism but no friend at all. The Southern Strategy wasn’t needed. Southern whites were on–begging the pardon of the Scopes trial jury–an evolutionary course toward becoming Republican. … There was no need to piss off the entire black population of America to get Dixie’s electoral votes. And despising cracker trash who have a laundry hamper full of bedsheets with eye-holes cut in them does not make a man a liberal.

On abortion:

In how many ways did we fail conservatism? And who can count that high? Take just one example of our unconserved tendency to poke our noses into other people’s business: abortion. Democracy–be it howsoever conservative–is a manifestation of the will of the people. We may argue with the people as a man may argue with his wife, but in the end we must submit to the fact of being married. Get a pro-life friend drunk to the truth-telling stage and ask him what happens if his 14-year-old gets knocked up. What if it’s rape? Some people truly have the courage of their convictions. I don’t know if I’m one of them. I might kill the baby. I will kill the boy.

On impeaching Clinton:

Our impeachment of President Clinton was another example of placing the wrong political emphasis on personal matters. We impeached Clinton for lying to the government. To our surprise the electorate gave us cold comfort. Lying to the government: It’s called April 15th. And we accused Clinton of lying about sex, which all men spend their lives doing, starting at 15 bragging about things we haven’t done yet, then on to fibbing about things we are doing, and winding up with prevarications about things we no longer can do.

On banning gay marriage:

But are we men and women of principle? And I don’t mean in the matter of tricky and private concerns like gay marriage. Civil marriage is an issue of contract law. A constitutional amendment against gay marriage? I don’t get it. How about a constitutional amendment against first marriages? Now we’re talking. No, I speak, once again, of the geological foundations of conservatism.

On immigration:

Our attitude toward immigration has been repulsive. Are we not pro-life? Are not immigrants alive? Unfortunately, no, a lot of them aren’t after attempting to cross our borders. Conservative immigration policies are as stupid as conservative attitudes are gross. Fence the border and give a huge boost to the Mexican ladder industry. Put the National Guard on the Rio Grande and know that U.S. troops are standing between you and yard care. George W. Bush, at his most beneficent, said if illegal immigrants wanted citizenship they would have to do three things: Pay taxes, learn English, and work in a meaningful job. Bush doesn’t meet two out of three of those qualifications. And where would you rather eat? At a Vietnamese restaurant? Or in the Ayn Rand Café? Hey, waiter, are the burgers any good? Atlas shrugged. (We would, however, be able to have a smoke at the latter establishment.)

On Iraq:

The aftermath of the Gulf war still makes me sick. Fine to save the fat, greedy Kuwaitis and the arrogant, grasping house of Saud, but to hell with the Shiites and Kurds of Iraq until they get some oil.

Then, half a generation later, when we returned with our armies, we expected to be greeted as liberators. And, damn it, we were. I was in Baghdad in April 2003. People were glad to see us, until they noticed that we’d forgotten to bring along any personnel or provisions to feed or doctor the survivors of shock and awe or to get their electricity and water running again. After that they got huffy and began stuffing dynamite down their pants before consulting with the occupying forces.

Is there a moral dimension to foreign policy in our political philosophy? Or do we just exist to help the world’s rich people make and keep their money? (And a fine job we’ve been doing of that lately.)

It’s a long, good read.

4 Responses to “P.J.O’Rourke on the Election: “We Blew It””

  1. Ace Armstrong says:

    I suppose once an individual reaches a significant level of public recognition as an accomplished writer they can blather on about various and sundry subjects and still be paid.
    The core value of responsible behavior Mr. O’Rourke seems to refer to as missing from conservative values over the past 28 years also seems to be a value only conservatives can possess. For some unfathomable reason all things irresponsible are liberal and vice versa for P.J.
    As a contemporary of Mr. O’Rourke’s who has followed his literary career and appreciate his writing abilities, it concerns me that his thought process has not evolve with his literary skills.
    I can only attribute it to an unequivocal embrace of the country club.
    The flurry of flustration on the right is endemic of a political theory gone awry. I’m surprised that more liberal pundits are not dragging out the famous philosophical admonition of ignoring the lessons of history.
    When right wing pundits state if not for the economic down turn, Obama would not have won don’t understand that it was an inevitable as rain. Maybe they all thought that the Third Great Awakening would take care of everything.

  2. tas says:

    I haven’t read his full analysis yet, and while it reads as criticism of the movement it also tries disavowing Conservatism itself. This tactic isn’t original, and I hate it. Basically, O’Rourke is saying “Blame those guys but not conservatives! They weren’t conservatives!” Sorry, but they were — this is how conservatives run government. And, time and again, people like O’Rourke supported the Bush administration. It’s a little late — not to mention wholly disingenuous — for him to have buyer’s remorse now.

    This is Conservatism. If O’Rourke doesn’t like it, he needs to do a little soul-searching.

  3. Kathy says:

    Yeah, tas, but he writes really funny, and he makes me laugh. He gets 50 bonus points from me for that alone.

  4. Tobias says:

    During the 2004 election I heard Mr. O’Rourke on the radio talking about how he “used” to be a “hard-core Republican” but he realized in order to be a true journalist he needed to be neutral. After stepping away from the right he realized that what Republicans have done successfully was wrapped their agenda in patriotism. In reality blue collar workers would benefit more from the Democrats but feeling patriotic they vote Republican. O’Rourke also said as a civilized county we should take care of one another and we should all be paying for Grandma’s medication.
    By the sounds of this article, he didn’t stay neutral very long.

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