Is The Fever Breaking?

Posted: July 6, 2014 by watsonthethird in Current Events, Politics
Tags: , , ,

Since November 4, 2008, the Republican party and the conservative movement have been dominated by exactly one thought: Opposition to anything President Obama proposes or does. But Jonathan Chait writes at the New Yorker about the glimmers of hope that conservatives are finally shedding their apocalyptic stance that America is being destroyed by President Obama, and instead have begun thinking about actually governing again. He describes the apocalyptic view that has dominated conservative politics thusly:

Glenn Beck’s moment of maximum influence already passed several years ago. But Beck was merely the most comic incarnation of a pervasive Republican alarm. The unhinged versions of this sensibility held that Obama had launched a sinister ideological assault on the Constitution and American freedom, perhaps in the name of Islamism, or socialism, or, somehow, both. The hinged version tended to fasten onto touchstones like Greece, hyperinflation, and looming fiscal catastrophe. The whole Republican worldview has been a series of furious scrawlings on mental chalkboards.

Chait writes hopefully about a recent speech by Marco Rubio, and cites a lengthy article in the New York Times Magazine by Sam Tanenhaus, entitled “Can the G.O.P. Be a Party of Ideas?” The article, which is worth a read, describes the efforts of Yuval Levin and others–dubbed reformicons–“who believe the health of the G.O.P. hinges on jettisoning its age-old doctrine — orgiastic tax-cutting, the slashing of government programs, the championing of Wall Street — and using an altogether different vocabulary, backed by specific proposals, that will reconnect the party to middle-class and low-income voters.”

Reconnect the Republican party with middle-class and low-income voters? Imagine that. That’s been heretical thinking among the right for quite a while now, if for no other reason than President Obama is seen as a supporter of such voters.

Tanenhaus describes two others in the reformicon movement, the married couple Ramish and April Ponnuru. Regarding April, Tanenhaus writes:

She, too, talked at length about how the party was out of touch. “The biggest problem is that the politicians don’t represent the people. We’re identified with the rich and big business,” she said, ticking off a list of constituencies that Republicans have alienated: “Single women, Hispanics, young people.” Also as a wife and mother, she had serious doubts about any movement “that can offer nothing to a married woman with three children at the bottom half” of the economic heap.

Wow. Offering something to Hispanics, young people, and–lowest of the low from the way most conservatives talk–women in the bottom half of the economic heap? That’s some radical thinking there. After all, most loud mouth conservatives consider women with three children nothing more than sluts.

To be sure, these guys are conservatives. And it’s hard for me to view Rubio is anything more than an opportunistic politician who will grasp at anything he thinks might help him politically. But it’s freaking about time that conservatives got off their asses and became serious about governance. Let’s hope that something spurs them away from the dogma of unyielding opposition of President Obama and toward actual, honest to God ideas. Please. What a breath of fresh air it would be. We don’t even have to agree with the ideas. Just put some effort into it and show us you’re serious about governing.

It’s about time.

  1. Marner says:

    Rather than these people being true reformists, I suspect the politicians (Rubio, Lee, etc.) are doing nothing more than pandering for votes. Pure opposition to Obama will only get you so far. In order to increase their following they need to be seen as being for something, not just against everything. They have the benefit of knowing their proposals (which are just prettied-up Tea Party rhetoric) will never be passed by Congress. They are too extreme for the liberals and not extreme enough for the Teabaggers.

  2. Marner says:

    Lowry and Ponnuru followed up on this reformicon theme in an article today. To me, their case rests on redefining the Tea Party into something it never was and never will be.

    • The National Review article strikes me as wishful thinking on the part of Lowry and Ponnuru. It may well be that they are onto the future of the Republican party, but if so, I suspect they are in for more disappointment in the coming years. Not necessarily in 2014, and maybe not in 2016, but the demographics are against them, what with women still being born and all.

      The candidate who best encapsulates the possible synthesis of the two wings is Ben Sasse, the college president who stormed out of nowhere to win the Republican nomination for the Senate in Nebraska. Sasse had the support of tea-party groups and campaigned on a full-throated anti-Obamacare and anti-Washington message. Yet he was a former Bush official who didn’t scare anyone, and he also talked about a governing agenda. He won a resounding victory over candidates who had either more establishment backing or more moderate records.

      Real reformicons realize that “full-throated anti-Obamacare” is a non-starter. But then, maybe Yuval Levin is the only real reformicon and the rest are nothing more than wing nuts attempting to dress themselves up in dignified clothing. And not that Yuval Levin is someone I would champion. He’s very conservative in his social values, but at least he seems to be serious about ideas. But then, he’s not running for office, either.

      As for Rubio, “smarmy” is the word that comes to mind.

    • meursault1942 says:

      “To me, their case rests on redefining the Tea Party into something it never was and never will be.”

      Which is funny, because the Tea Party itself was just a rebranding effort after the Bush Administration* made the GOP only slightly more popular than genital warts.

      Now, it would be nice if the GOP became a party of ideas again, but that won’t be happening anytime soon. They’ve almost completely withdrawn from the real world–their divorce from reality has been remarkably acrimonious–and they’ve set up this closed feedback loop that tells them they are good and smart and right for withdrawing from the real world. And besides, they haven’t had any ideas in decades, they just keep pushing tax cuts (which have been horrendous failures every time), privatization (ditto), etc. like a dog returning to lick up its own vomit. And at this point, the GOP runs on a full-blown patronage model. The wingnut sugar daddies–the Kochs, Adelson, Friess, Pope, and on and on and on–each own their candidates, and then they all but stick their arms up their candidates’ asses to make their mouths move. There are no ideas to be had there anyway, just servitude to their masters.

      *All True Conservatives know that there was no Bush administration; 2001-2005 was Clinton’s third term, and 2005-2009 was Obama’s preliminary term. The largest terrorist attack in American history, quite possibly the worst foreign policy blunder in American history, the utter devastation of the economy–it’s all the Democrats’ fault.

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