Sunday May 25, 2008
It's Sunday and I love George Packer
If you don't get The New Yorker — and you should: it's the best general interest magazine in a world where general interest magazines are dying — you should at least check out George Packer's article on the death of modern conservatism. Or possible death. To me, conservatives are like Jason in the "Friday the 13th" movies: I never truly believe they're dead; they always seem to come back in the next reel. Both also seem to feed off of fright. A highlight:
Buchanan gave me a copy of a seven-page confidential memorandum—“A little raw for today,” he warned—that he had written for Nixon in 1971, under the heading “Dividing the Democrats.” Drawn up with an acute understanding of the fragilities and fault lines in “the Old Roosevelt Coalition,” it recommended that the White House “exacerbate the ideological division” between the Old and New Left by praising Democrats who supported any of Nixon’s policies; highlight “the elitism and quasi-anti-Americanism of the National Democratic Party”; nominate for the Supreme Court a Southern strict constructionist who would divide Democrats regionally; use abortion and parochial-school aid to deepen the split between Catholics and social liberals; elicit white working-class support with tax relief and denunciations of welfare. Finally, the memo recommended exploiting racial tensions among Democrats. “Bumper stickers calling for black Presidential and especially Vice-Presidential candidates should be spread out in the ghettoes of the country,” Buchanan wrote. “We should do what is within our power to have a black nominated for Number Two, at least at the Democratic National Convention.” Such gambits, he added, could “cut the Democratic Party and country in half; my view is that we would have far the larger half.”
The Nixon White House didn’t enact all of these recommendations, but it would be hard to find a more succinct and unapologetic blueprint for Republican success in the conservative era.
I also like this synopsis:
The fact that the least conservative, least divisive Republican in the 2008 race is the last one standing—despite being despised by significant voices on the right—shows how little life is left in the movement that Goldwater began, Nixon brought into power, Ronald Reagan gave mass appeal, Newt Gingrich radicalized, Tom DeLay criminalized, and Bush allowed to break into pieces.
But for all the talk, back and forth, about the death of this and that, I still believe the success of modern conservatism is the direct result of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That's it. "We just lost the south for a generation," LBJ supposedly said upon signing the former, and he may have been optimistic. With the state of the economy, the state of the world, this should be the Democrats' year for the White House, but they are offering the unprecedented. Hell, not just the unprecedented. They are offering in direct form what the Republicans have been using for a generation, via code ("law and order") or symbol (Willie Horton), to beat the Democrats. What delicious irony if Barack Obama is what the Democrats need to finally beat the Republicans.