Conservatives Worth Reclaiming?

5 11 2008

Over the years and right up through yesterday, I’ve made concentrated good faith efforts to really engage conservatives. I often conclude that it’s hopeless, that they cannot be reclaimed for the good of real America — not for our mutual peace, freedom, education, progress, science, community, civil rights, not even for home education advocacy.

The main problem seems to be that they fight every overture of diversity and appeal to informed reason as if it were a deadly enemy attack, and swarm like antibodies to expel it (me.)

Then today I got my hair cut. On the way home in the car, I tuned into a very thoughtful and wise interview.

The Future Of The Conservative Movement
[Audio for this story available at approx. 3:00 p.m. ET]
FRESH AIR November 5, 2008 –
Former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards argues that the conservative movement has strayed from its founding principles. His book, Reclaiming Conservatism, offers a critique of the movement’s current incarnation — and a blueprint for its future success.

Edwards is a lecturer at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation.

This is really, really good, y’all. Calls ’em like he sees ’em. Real America and colorblind to red and blue. I’d love to discuss it.

Oh, and here’s an extra treat for our homeschooling Christian liberal friend Betty Malone — one of her personal favorites is interviewed in the same program, about the historical significance of changes in his own 72 years (same age as John McCain, right?) Yes, Betty, it’s [ta-da!] Bill Moyers!

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8 responses

5 11 2008
Colleen

Thanks for posting that link JJ. I’ve been wondering where I might be able hear the views of Republicans that don’t seem like complete whack jobs. I keep telling myself that we all really want the same things in the end but then I can’t find any people with Republican views that hold those views based on anything other than fear, distrust, and hatred (though they never seem to admit it–even to themselves). I’m going to be seeking out these people (the smart ones not the whackos) from now on because I really don’t like this division that I feel between the parties. Besides, I like to know why people believe what they do–it helps me to understand them better. It makes me think of Krista Tippet’s show on NPR, “Speaking of Faith. I’m an atheist, but I LOVE that show because it’s the only time I ever hear people talking intelligently about religion. I guess it restores my faith, so to speak, in religious people–some of them, anyway–and I’m looking for something that will restore my faith in Republicans. Maybe I’ll start by reading Mickey Edwards’s book.

P.S. I love Bill Moyers too!! Could he be any smarter? Any wiser? One of my favorite parts of the interview was when he said, “I do think that we’re not a finished country yet and that we may be recovering our compass. It won’t be because Barack Obama brought that change, it will be because he personified it . . . What happens now is that it’s going to require a lot from all of us, including speaking truth to Obama when he goes astray. And that’s an important part of what progressives, in particular, and journalists, in particular, need to do.” Let’s all remember that and do our best to rebuild our country into a place that puts people first. I really do feel “hope” today. 🙂

5 11 2008
JJ

Colleen, you don’t talk much but I love it when you do. 🙂

6 11 2008
JJ

Anything by Peggy Noonan is good for that, too. Can’t go far wrong with someone who’d write a book called “Patriotic Grace”. . .

6 11 2008
Colleen

Thanks JJ! That was really good too. Now I have two people on my list of Republicans to read. 🙂

7 11 2008
JJ

Colleen, maybe the trick is to stop thinking of Rs and conservatives as one group, because apparently they aren’t! Find the Thinking Cs (or should we call them the pro-cons, LOL) and focus on engaging them for the country’s good, let the rest tear each other apart — literally as they tried to do to Obama, and also in terms of togetherness as any party or influential group.

(Which reminds me of the C.S. Lewis description of hell, no fire and brimstone, it’s just an ordinary neighborhood with a lot of hellish other people who no one can get along with, so they either have to fight with each other or move further and further out from everyone they fight with, until they’re utterly alone.)

Not everyone within the GOP has shared the fight-them-at-every-corner mentality. Craig Shirley, a conservative consultant, argued that the party needed “to start getting about the task of what they are for,” and . . .”You got to pick your fights. It is almost like the RNC is in desperate need of adult supervision.”

. . . a group of young Republicans, have begun charting out a path to rebuild the party from within — an avenue that, noticeably, isn’t premised on constantly punching at the Obama administration.

And so, the Republican Party seems to be entering a crossroads: either dedicated to contesting every move made by Democrats over the next few years or working on some issues in bipartisan faith while selling itself on a new set of policy proposals. One political scientist described it as such: “they could be the ‘hell no’ party, or they can be the ‘yes and no’ party.”

. . .Conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru took a stab of his own in a column in Friday’s New York Times, arguing that the GOP had to make a pledge to the middle class instead of positioning itself as strict anti-Democrats.

“The way to court these moderates is not to abandon social conservatism, which would alienate many of the voters Republicans still have. The party needs to “move to the middle” less than it needs to move to the middle class: to go back to representing the interests of voters in the middle of the income spectrum.”

But the question is, how much of the party is willing to make the commitment that Ponnuru outlines? Part of the issue, another strategist told the Huffington Post, is that John McCain’s campaign only heightened the schisms within the GOP. Those who believe in ideological purity and political combativeness will see the Arizona Republican’s failed bid as a justification for their posture. Obama’s win, in turn, becomes a failure of tactics as much as philosophy (if he had only used Reverend Wright!).

This, Shirley argues, would be the wrong interpretation — one that could potentially damage the GOP for years to come.

“There is a third way, that is that neither the ‘hell no’ side or the ‘yes we will work with you’ side, would be to offer our own ideas and proposals and legislation and all within a framework of a conservative governing philosophy,” he said.

“And you see it now in the post campaign fight between the McCain staffers and Palin. It is all reductionism. It is all attack, attack, attack. The campaign is over. They can’t go after Obama so they go after Palin.

At some point, Republicanism has been defined in many ways as always being against things. We need to be for something.”

8 11 2008
JJ

And don’t miss THIS! The conservative campaign meme not only not worth reclaiming, but which must be studied and condemned, permanently relegated to the trash heap of history:

FRONTLINE
Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story
Tuesday, November 11, 2008 9 – 10:30 pm

In the wake of yet another hard-fought and bitter presidential
campaign, “Frontline” presents a spirited and revealing
biography of Lee Atwater, the charming, Machiavellian godfather
of modern take-no-prisoners Republican political campaigns (CC,
Stereo, HD)

This is exactly what the Obama campaign finally beat, why I am so hopeful after all these years of knowing more than the average bear about what was going on behind the scenes in American politics:

****************
In 1989, Lee Atwater was a political rock star. After masterminding George H.W. Bush’s presidential victory over Michael Dukakis, the colorful, blues guitar-playing Atwater was relishing his new role as chairman of the Republican National Committee as he redefined the role of the political operative.

Two years later, the political strategist would be dead from a brain tumor at the age of 41, cast aside by the Washington power players he’d helped create, and wracked with remorse for the tactics he’d employed in his political ascent.

In Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, airing Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008, from 9 to 10:30 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings), producer Stefan Forbes reveals new information about the meteoric rise and tragic demise of a man both admired and reviled for the controversial, sometimes racially-charged political tactics that helped elect George H.W. Bush president and inspired protégés such as Karl Rove. Through a wealth of compelling, never-before-seen footage and photos as well as interviews with boyhood friends, elite Republican strategists and political adversaries, the documentary examines Atwater’s impact on the way modern political campaigns are waged.

“[Lee Atwater] mattered in American politics,” Newsweek political writer Howard Fineman says, “because of the man he got elected, because of the party he shaped. He was very important not only to George H.W.’s victory, but to his son’s victory.”

Boogie Man traces Atwater’s political rise from his early days masterminding political victories in South Carolina. Among his triumphs was a fiercely contested battle for Chairman of the College Republicans between Karl Rove and Robert Edgeworth. Atwater lost, but mounted an appeal of Edgeworth’s victory which was ultimately decided by then Republican National Committee chairman George H.W. Bush, who gave the election to Rove.

“That was a pretty early lesson for Karl Rove from Lee,” says Joe Conason, a journalist for The Nation and Salon.com, “that you could play the hardest of hardball and get away with it.”

Boogie Man recounts how fellow South Carolinian Sen. Strom Thurmond took an interest in Atwater, tutoring him in the use of highly emotional wedge issues such as abortion and crime that would help Republicans win over disaffected working class voters to a largely pro-business agenda. Says Atwater intimate Tucker Eskew, “resentment became the future of the Republican party.”

In the documentary, viewers hear from numerous journalists and politicians who say Atwater’s use of scurrilous rumors, push polls and other dirty tricks propelled him onto the national scene, where he became assistant to Ed Rollins, campaign manager for Ronald Reagan’s 1984 election.

“A lot of people told me he wouldn’t be loyal to me, told me not to pick him,” Rollins says. “I admired his work ethic.”

Not long after, Rollins says, Atwater arranged what turned out to be an ambush media interview in which Rollins was accused of running a dirty-tricks campaign against the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro.

“Lee had put a spear in my back,” Rollins says. “… It was just a two-year effort to destroy me. He wanted to run Bush’s [presidential] campaign.”

Boogie Man takes viewers behind the scenes of the contentious 1988 campaign, remembered for its infamous “Willie Horton” ad, which portrayed Mass. Gov. Michael Dukakis as soft on crime and easy on rapists and murderers. Among the film’s revelations is Republican operative Roger Stone’s account that while he was running the Bush campaign, Atwater said he had secretly arranged financing for the Horton ad. “[Atwater] locked the office door,” says Stone, “and he popped the famous Willie Horton spot onto a television. He said, ’I got a couple boys who are going to put up a couple million dollars for this independent.’ And I said, ‘That’s a huge mistake.’”

After Atwater was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1990, some of his closest friends say that Atwater was terrified he was going to hell and embarked on a desperate search for redemption. “Lee really was confronting some very troubling facts,” says Eskew, “that in winning he had hurt people. Fear had been part of his toolkit. That fear came back on him.” But producer Stefan Forbes notes that his reporting reveals a more nuanced story than media accounts of Atwater’s remorseful apologies for his tactics. “Lee apologized directly to some of the people he’d hurt,” says Forbes, “but never criticized the GOP, or even disavowed negative campaigning. And his vision of politics as war would continue to affect a new generation of GOP politicians and operatives.”

Atwater aide Tucker Eskew, who went on to run George W. Bush’s war room in the 2000 campaign, says Atwater knew how to control media narratives. “Now it’s kind of rote in politics, but Lee was saying early: perception is reality. He was ahead of his time.”

“Atwater had a genius for the sticky issue—simple enough, scary enough that the media could latch onto it,” Conason says. “…[George] W. learned that the only thing that really matters is who wins.” . . .

8 11 2008
Betty Malone

Yuck!! Lee Snake Water…

13 12 2010
What’s in the Label “No Labels” for America? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] many scholarly calls to rise above partisan poisoning of the civic well have come to naught, and yes, JJ herself loved and lost with Sam Waterston’s post-partisan […]

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