By David Beilstein
THE latest episode of Uncommon Knowledge, hosted by Peter Robinson featured National Review Online founder Jonah Goldberg and Editor-At-Large of National Review, John O’Sullivan. Think of Uncommon Knowledge as the conservative version with almost identical set aesthetics, as the Charlie Rose Show. As much as I enjoy Charlie Rose, Peter Robinson is a better interviewer, with better guests.
Goldberg has been a welcome relief to the overall cheerleading for the Republican Party by many National Review contributors and writers. Here, we come to a difficult situation. Like myself, many National Review writers and contributors think the GOP has intractable branding problems (they do), and worse, have no real interest in reigning government back into an orbit of modest parameters (all true).
Still, the cheering for Romney makes sense from National Review’s bench. Here was a candidate who was articulate, visibly intelligent, etc. NR cheerleaders would not need to explain Romney actually knew how to read or was even good at it. And Romney would not butcher the English language, ala President George W Bush, and going back, President Dwight D Eisenhower.
Those Bush years were tough, after all, and Eisenhower was a stones throw too far back into history to matter. Moreover, the branding problems – ones that came into stark focus with some of the cowboys and aliens on stage at the GOP primaries. So, to the chagrin of paleo-conservatives, fiscal hawks, libertarians, National Review pumped fist and banner for Romney. Goldberg always had his doubts, writing a clear counter to the editorial National Review threw out before the GOP primary was a cadaver.
However, I’m speaking as a libertarian – not a Republican. What choice do conservatives in electoral politics have?
Hillsdale College visiting professor, Dr Darryl G Hart wrote a column for the American Conservative a couple months back criticising some historian (his name slips me) about conservative/progressive mainstream politics. One of the things Dr Hart pointed out was this historian pinned (incorrectly) Republican/mainline conservative groups as representative of a true conservatism in American politics. Dr Hart rightly argued this was absurd, and one would give the good provocative doctor some respect for his animus. Nov. 6, after all, seemed to prove Dr Hart’s point – all those conservative voters Romney failed to get?
Even Mormons went for McCain more than Romney. You figure that out – Goldberg and O’Sullivan wouldn’t try.
So, Dr Hart saw political presentiment in full Technicolor. Crede, ut Intelligas has tried to point this out, however limited; and while I agree with Dr Hart – what is the alternative? History looks upon third party options more than skeptically; thus far, they do not work – not even with a popular and animated ex-President leading the charge (Theodore Roosevelt). That turn of history did not work out so good for classical liberals, as Woodrow Wilson was elected – the same man who coined the notion as progressivism being the goal of individuals’ interest being married to the State.
Given that unfortunate victory, still relevant 100 years later, conservatives have only one viable option to try to capture high office at the national level. It is, for now, however depressing, the GOP. This could change, if and only if, the GOP continues to plunder into irreverence. This is a forecast of many political commentators, especially on the hard left. I see that hot wind as premature. When Democrats were out-of-sight and out-of-mind for 12 years, and three presidential elections – from 1980 until 1992 – nobody seriously considered Democrats finished. This was after a plethora of goofball candidates and ideological nonsense.
Dukakis in a tank – Carter’s petulant mannerisms? Anyone remember Walter Mondale, standing before a sea of faces at a campaign stop in 1984; turning to an aid, and saying,
“I know crowds, these aren’t loser crowds.”
Mondale won one state, his own. And the District of Columbia, if memory serves, in November 1984. Still better trivia, was Mondale turning to another aid of history, looking out over throngs of cheering moonbats and whispering,
“See them all? We’re gonna tax their asses off.”
That Democratic Party, same one, just won a presidential election with an incompetent, failed record. Barry Obama was, or is, a wrecking ball to American productivity and jobs… and was reelected for it. And, the mighty DNC also had another two-term presidency with William Jefferson Clinton, less than 12 years ago.
Political parties then, are like Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees. A host of other boogiemen come to mind, too. Gone for a little bit; uncool at some point, but unearthed for more scares, more popcorn sales; more box office bucks. They are cheap to make, and turn a profit each generation.
Goldberg and O’Sullivan got into that a little bit on Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson. More to the point, Goldberg talked about the demographic issues, and the 407,000 votes that would have sent Obama packing into the ivory tower he pimp-rolled and raptor-armed out of, if they had changed hands in the battleground states.
It didn’t happen – fours years, then, being a long time to fantasise about such an occurrence. But Goldberg declared an unattractive reality: progressivism won, Nov. 6, 2012.
Seems obvious, but still of large distress. But the more important point Goldberg made was how progressives have won the victory that began 100 years ago with racist Woodrow Wilson. It was the Wilsonian mission to dismantle Burkean platoons (mediating associations of American life between government and family). In Wilson’s mind, these mediating “factions” needed to be done away with – the interests of the individual becoming one with the state. It was Wilson, long ago, who said the role of academia was to make children as much unlike their parents as possible. Yeah, that was the line from the former Princeton University President.
President Wilson’s trek, then, has been the great progressive cause, one in which Republicans have failed to dismantle. Up until about 1992, the GOP could rightly argue national issues, like the Cold War, took precedence. But since 1992 and the collapse of the Soviet Empire, Republicans have been hobbled by a nasty bit of progressivism of their own devising – one, unable, to dismantle the Administrative State.
The social conservative clarion call, more Wilsonian then Burkean mind you, about family values, was undermined by not winnowing away the administrative state directly; one immeasurably destructive to the platoons of family and mediating associations. These “platoons” – as Edmund Burke called them – were large in importance in keeping the scope of government limited and the individual supreme; a sovereign individual, with the state as servant.
O’Sullivan seemed to feint possibly, brighter future days ahead. Goldberg did not want to comment on which one seemed more likely. He did joke the negative and positive outlook from O’Sullivan was conservative. And, it was ever joyous to hear Goldberg again deny progressives the word liberal.
They are not, Goldberg smiled. Leave the term “liberal” to the classical liberals. Amen.