Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Stupid Party

If Republicans want to make a comeback, they're going to have to get smarter. I've many times begun a post on the long intellectual decline of the right (and why that's both a blessing and a curse for the left), but it begins to take on book-length proportions and I stow it for later. The short version goes something like this: Due in large part to the Republican party's history with the "Southern Strategy," its fight against the "liberal" media, the marketing tactics of Newt Gingrich and the creation of the Limbaugh-led conservative media, the nearly 50 years of "Movement Conservatism" have led to a Republican party whose thinking is done in the nepotistic sinecures of think tanks and whose members are informed by putting their ears to an echo chamber.

Or, as I wrote just before the 2006 election:
The conservative intellectual still exists, but anything which might have once been called Republican intellectualism has been etiolated by years of anti-intellectual, anti-elite rhetoric. The true believers are zombified, idiotic followers of whatever they're told to follow and the true thinkers have whored themselves out to the point they wink and nudge each other over the latest bullshit they convinced the believers to carry.
If you doubt this is true, go back and take a gander at the screeching of The Corner or The Weekly Standard during this election and you'll see the supposed intellectual lights of the right wallowing in the basest of smears--Obama's not an American, he "pals around with terrorists," he's a "socialist..."

Look at that current crop of youngish Republican "thought leaders" and tell me who among them could get the American people to follow them--Jonah Goldberg? Rich Lowry? Michael Goldfarb? Kathryn Lopez? I think not. The reason conservatives are out of favor is that they have raised an entire generation of conservative thinkers inside the dark dens of Republican Sinecureland. It doesn't take Gregor Mendel to tell you that this inbreeding has led to the sorriest lot of hothouse flowers you'll ever see.

This point was driven home by the death of William F. Buckley. Buckley made mistakes, certainly, but he was a man who founded a magazine, fought in a war and was, no doubt, a true intellectual. He made his own way on the strength of his intelligence and spirit and not the think tank connections of his parents. Can you imagine John Podhoretz or Bill Kristol living a Buckleyesque life? Hell, no. If it weren't for their famous daddies Kristol would be working in a law firm writing contracts and Podhoretz would probably be selling insurance. Or cars. Or subscriptions door-to-door.

Buckley's National Review was praised a few years ago by George Will for efforts to "repel" the crazies of the right--"driving them into the dark cave where today they ferociously guard the secret of their size from a nation no longer curious about it"--this year the National Review seemed to holler into that cave, focusing on charges Will called "surreal."

It is, frankly, good for our country that some on the right are starting to get it. Jon Henke, of The Next Right, writes:
The problem is a movement that plays small-ball and cedes responsibility for infrastructure to business interests, leadership that rewards those who make friends rather than waves, an entrenched Party and Movement support system that mostly supports itself, an echo chamber that has rotted our intellect, a grassroots that is ill-equipped to shape the Republican Party, and a Republican Party that has replaced strategy with tactics, substance with marketing. [Emphasis Nitpicker's]
This has not only led to a party that loses elections, but a party whose only reason for existing is, paradoxically, to win elections. It is politics as street fight, as holy war. I do hope for a better right someday, because, frankly, they're not going to go away and our country needs to be able to get things done. I doubt that I will ever come to agree with those on the right, but it is much easier to compromise with the smart and honest than with the dumb and opinionated.


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