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Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Cracks Widen

Nov 27th, 2011

If you haven't yet read David Frum's blistering critique of the modern GOP in NYMag yet, you really need to:

"This past summer, the GOP nearly forced America to the verge of default just to score a point in a budget debate. In the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, Republican politicians demand massive budget cuts and shrug off the concerns of the unemployed. In the face of evidence of dwindling upward mobility and long-stagnating middle-class wages, my party’s economic ideas sometimes seem to have shrunk to just one: more tax cuts for the very highest earners. When I entered Republican politics, during an earlier period of malaise, in the late seventies and early eighties, the movement got most of the big questions—crime, inflation, the Cold War—right. This time, the party is getting the big questions disastrously wrong."

Sure, Frum was booted from the club some time ago for failing to pass its tests in ideological purity. But, he is far from alone. In the last few years, David Stockman, Bruce Bartlett, Andrew Sullivan, Edward Luttwak, John Dean, Mark Zandi, Kenneth Duberstein and hundreds of other thinkers who once comprised the brain trust of American conservatism have been made to feel unwelcome for refusing to propagandize. While I certainly don't agree with Frum's declaration that conservatives got 'the big questions... right' decades ago, I will agree that they offered rational proposals and didn't try to collapse the deliberative power of the Senate.

In part, Frum's piece is a form of psychoanalysis:

"... conscious cynicism is much rarer than you might suppose. Few of us have the self-knowledge and emotional discipline to say one thing while meaning another. If we say something often enough, we come to believe it. We don’t usually delude others until after we have first deluded ourselves. Some of the smartest and most sophisticated people I know—canny investors, erudite authors—sincerely and passionately believe that President Barack Obama has gone far beyond conventional American liberalism and is willfully and relentlessly driving the United States down the road to socialism. No counterevidence will dissuade them from this belief: not record-high corporate profits, not almost 500,000 job losses in the public sector, not the lowest tax rates since the Truman administration. It is not easy to fit this belief alongside the equally strongly held belief that the president is a pitiful, bumbling amateur, dazed and overwhelmed by a job too big for him—and yet that is done too."

The cognitive dissonance Frum describes now extends to even the simplest of arguments; There are no jobs because of Obama can be followed, after a single breath, with declarations that the unemployed are lazy.

There are ways out using traditional conservative ideas, but, as Frum laments, the GOP is simply disinterested.

"Rather than workable solutions, my party is offering low taxes for the currently rich and high spending for the currently old, to be followed by who-knows-what and who-the-hell-cares. This isn’t conservatism; it’s a going-out-of-business sale for the baby-boom generation."

And that, as they say, is that.

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