Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Party Of Nowhere

Conservative writer and NYT columnist David Brooks has an interesting piece here about what the Republican party must do to revive itself. After a not especially original interpretation of John Ford films as being about community building and safeguarding, Brooks writes:
Today, if Republicans had learned the right lessons from the Westerns, or at least John Ford Westerns, they would not be the party of untrammeled freedom and maximum individual choice. They would once again be the party of community and civic order.

They would begin every day by reminding themselves of the concrete ways people build orderly neighborhoods, and how those neighborhoods bind a nation. They would ask: What threatens Americans’ efforts to build orderly places to raise their kids? The answers would produce an agenda: the disruption caused by a boom and bust economy; the fragility of the American family; the explosion of public and private debt; the wild swings in energy costs; the fraying of the health care system; the segmentation of society and the way the ladders of social mobility seem to be dissolving.
Now, I don't knock Brooks' sincerity in writing this; however, I do wish that he would remove his rose-colored glasses. Because the truth is that in the 1968 presidential campaign, Richard Nixon perverted phrases like "the party of community and civic order" into code words for his race-baiting Southern Strategy.

Ronald Reagan's simple-minded platitudes belied the underlying cynicism of his 1980 campaign kickoff in Philadelphia, Mississippi, locale of the 1964 murder of civil rights activists James Cheney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Reagan did not have reconciliation in mind when he averred that
I believe in states' rights ... I believe we have distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended to be given in the Constitution to that federal establishment.
Reagan communicated nothing subtle when he committed to states' rights, the euphemistic mask behind which southern politicians had created a system of apartheid below the Mason-Dixon line.

In 1984, Reagan campaigned for reelection on the claim that under his leadership, it was morning again in America:

Watch the commercial a second time. The only black and Latino faces are prepubescent (read: unthreatening) boys gazing up adoringly after the words "under the leadership of President Reagan" and just before a montage of flag raisings and displays. This ad makes it perfectly clear that "morning in America" is reserved for traditionally minded white people and minorities who know their place.

Now, reread Brooks' second paragraph. By asking "What threatens Americans’ efforts to build orderly places to raise their kids?" he strikes directly at conservative paranoia and fear of the other. This renders the remainder of the paragraph into so much noise until he closes with "the way the ladders of social mobility seem to be dissolving." This phrase could mean almost anything. Liberals might point to income disparity and rising college costs, but today's conservatives will be drawn immediately to affirmative action, and immigration -- that is, ongoing threats to tradition white social mobility.

Again, I'm not arguing that this is Brooks' intent. He seems like a decent and well-meaning man who believes in the best parts of his writings and public statements. But he doesn't push the Republican party to confront the way that social conservatism -- social fascism, really -- has polluted any ideals that the party might have. Most of the country has turned away from right wing values issues as divisive and disconnected from everyday reality. Until Republicans face up to this, the party will remain in the grip of the Deep South and the rural west, a sure path to national irrelevance...

The New Orleans Times-Picayune excoriates the Army Corps of Engineers for recommending an obviously inferior plan for NOLA's canals that would
leave deficient floodwalls in place -- something that a regional levee official described as "criminal." The fear is that the existing canals and floodwalls won't be able to hold water from a 100-year rainfall if one occurs during a storm, and that's a reasonable concern.
The Corps selected the cheaper of two options ($800,000,000 compared to $3.4 billion) while freely admitting that the second option was technically and operationally superior. Here's what Citizen K. doesn't understand: The impetus for this came from the destructive aftermath of a hurricane that did over a hundred billion dollars worth of damage. In light of this, the Corps is being penny wise and pound foolish, and the difference between $800,000,000 and $3.4 billion seems downright piddly. Anyway, what is the price of an orderly place to raise kids (as David Brooks might put it)?
"We can't ever again let the corps force us to live with inferior protection," Jefferson Parish Council member John Young said last week.

That's for sure, and the fact that the corps is putting its weight behind an inferior plan is a bitter disappointment...

Here's a real howler, courtesy Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
The president is free to nominate whomever he likes. But picking judges based on his or her perceived sympathy for certain groups or individuals undermines the faith Americans have in our judicial system.
More on the Republican plan to oppose President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court -- whoever he or she might be -- here. The choice of ultraconservative white Southerner Jeff Sessions to be the Republican public face during the nomination hearings must tempt Obama mightily to nominate an urban minority woman...

Cinco de Mayo: Lila Downs explains then sings "El Quinto Regimiento," a song of liberation from the Spanish Civil War:

What Cinco de Mayo would be complete without Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass:


Roy said...

And once again I point out that Abraham Lincoln is turning in his grave over what's become of his party. Given what Nixon started, what Reagan cranked into high gear, and what Dubya and his thugs did to this country for 8 years, they could probably use Lincoln as a turbine and generate enough power to run the whole state of Illinois for the next century!

On a lighter note... Where's the music? It's Cinco de Mayo, dude! I have a post up for it, a real Latin music party. Y'all come down to the Boom-Boom Room in Casa Roy and have a dance or three!

Renegade Eye said...

Brooks is usually wrong. He always saw a potential Bush rise.

The GOP is dead.

Roy said...

See? I knew you could come up with some music for today! Although Herb Alpert slipped my mind - I was into more raucous entertainment for my own party. Heh, heh!

Blogalot said...

Brooks has always been such a smarmy unmentionable. Since when are Repubs "the party of untrammeled freedom and maximum individual choice"??

Meanwhile, let's not lull ourselves into the dangerous misapprehension that the GOP is dead or that vast numbers of people don't swallow the right-wing hogwash. The price of Liberalism is eternal vigilance!

And Westerns, fer chrissakes? So Brooks is one of those "only good Indian is a dead Indian" guys: let's all get guns and create some "civic order" and get rid of those Have-nots whom the Haves have enslaved and disenfranchised.

Anonymous said...

I am always glad to see some mud tracked across the Saint Ronnie mosaic certain parties have tried to lay down at America's feet. The old son of a bitch declared war on minorities, poor folks and unions, wars that are still very much being waged by his party today. Wouldn't Reagan fit nicely into one of those violent redskinning westerns too ? After the remaining GOPeeps offer themselves up for public waterboarding I'll be a little more inclined to hear their message. For now it's all so much of what Ginsberg called drunken dumbshow.

mouse (aka kimy) said...


K. said...

Roy, you handled the raucous entertainment so thoroughly that I felt I had to go in a different direction!

Blog, John Ford was schizo when it came to Indians. He both feared and respected them, and lamented their passing at the same time that he deemed it an inevitable part of Manifest Destiny. In Fort Apache, Henry Fonda underestimated Indians and died for it; in The Searchers, Ethan Edwards' racism drove him to the attempted murder of Natalie Wood. Ford found himself on surer moral ground in Westerns without the Indian problem, like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Brooks' favorite, My Darling Clementine. One feels that Ford's secret wish was that the intrepid Indians and doughty cavalry could have fought each other continuously across the desert in an endless version of She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.Incidentally, I find it telling that Brooks' ideal was a Ford western without a racial subtext.

Ima Wizer said...

GOP= Good-for-nothing, Obtuse, Perverts

Kathy said...

I was willing to give Brooks the benefit of the doubt until I read his two theories of civic order.

There is the liberal theory, in which teams of experts draw up plans to engineer order wherever problems arise. And there is the more conservative vision in which government sets certain rules, but mostly empowers the complex web of institutions in which the market is embedded.Brooks is conveniently forgetting that Bush "engineered" the invasion of Iraq, which I guess makes him a liberal. As for his conservative vision, the "empowered" market ran our economy into the ground because of their greed and hubris. We need more rules because the market can't be trusted.

K. said...

Kathy: I've yet to read a conservative definition of liberalism that wasn't a straw man. Brooks' definition interprets liberalism as largely reactive, which couldn't be farther from the truth.

Both definitions conveniently omit any accountability for the guarantee of rights, which is the heart of differences between the two philosophies. Liberalism has a much more expansive view of rights that encompasses both the individual and the community and that does not trust the market to guarantee them.

The conservative view is more libertarian in nature and and pretty much denies the existence of community rights. As near as I can tell, it supports corporate rights at the expense of individual rights, a paradox that conservatives would never admit to.

My observation of the conservative reverence of the market is that it is literally a reverence of an entity greater than humans. Liberals see the market as a human construct and therefore by nature imperfect and in need of regulation.

K. said...

P. S. Believe it or not, there appears to be a tentative shift among some conservatives to paint Bush as a liberal, or at least to color his failings as a result of a misguided effort to move to the center. I'm not kidding.

Foxessa said...

Brooks is slime. He's also ignorant. Why are any of these ilks allowed to publish anything when they've never been anything but wrong, when they weren't just out-and-out lying, enabling the most lying regime this nation has ever suffered from.

Ford contradicted himself from era to era. For a long time he even convinced himself that he too was the descendent of confederate cavalry officers as so many of his Hollywood 'confederates' were -- or claimed to be. You can't pin Ford down on anything except that he was in favor of vistas.

Guess Brooks only ever saw "How Green Was My Valley."