Sunday, November 9, 2008

Righties Harden For War

L. Brent Bozell III, the founder of the Media Research Center, is one of the biggest phonies in a contemporary conservative movement primarily noteworthy for generating phonies and he's just held a post-mortem on the rather bad-for-Republicans election results. As reported by the New York Times on Friday, about twenty of America's conservative elite gathered on Thursday at his Virginia home to assess the election and plot the future. Their conclusion?
"The moderate wing of the Republican party is dead."

From the Times story:
"...they said that if future candidates for public office want to tap into the vast fund-raising and grassroots resources of the conservative movement, they would have to fit a 'job description' holding them to a set of core principles, like fiscal restraint, opposition to abortion, tough border security and a strong national defense."
This is to be expected and, oddly enough, it's probably the right move, from their perspective. Hardening their positions always runs the risk of causing damage at the polls when elections roll around but that isn't a sure thing and from a policy standpoint, it will help them get their way for at least the next two years, because Barack Obama seems inexplicably intent on a course of "can't we all just get along"-ism.

Contrary to the hysterical ranting we've heard from the right, Obama never had a full-bore liberal agenda as any sort of goal. Obama could follow in Clinton's footsteps, as his early picks seem to be suggesting, but his record of public service--hundreds of bills he either authored or co-authored on every conceivable subject (in only a partial Senate term), for example--suggested he was a great deal more ambitious than this "can't we all just get along"-ism that seems to have infected him.

His election was historic. If he goes down that path, it will be the only thing history remembers of him. "Can't we all just get along"-ism is a dead-end--embracing it up front is like publicly committing seppuku.

When Democrats are in power, the corporate press worships consensus. Moderation. Bipartisanship. In other words, a complete lack of real debate and of real choice.

In politics, moderation is supposed to be achieved via the process itself, by starting with a strong position then making whatever compromises with the other side are necessary to get done whatever it is you really want, with the majority, by virtue of their superior numbers, getting a little more of what they want. That's how it's supposed to work.

When, instead of a strong position, you start, right out of the gate, with a mushy moderate rock-as-few-boats-as-possible one that gives in to the other side right up front, the other side always wins. Always. When you play that game, the opposition then has no motivation to do anything other than adopt a solid position of strength, with a consequence being that the eventual "compromise" much more closely reflects the party that took that more solid position.

The last two years of rule by a "can't we all just get along"-ist Democratic majority in congress are a painful lesson in this regard. The majority gives in before it has even started, while the other faction takes the most reactionary possible position and everything congress does is either stalemated (when it tries to make any progressive moves) or so closely resembles outright conservative Republican legislation that its pointless to note any differences.

Sure, Obama could follow in Clinton's footsteps--be, from a policy standpoint, indistinguishable from a conservative Republican and engage in vile triangulation as a means of maintaining his position. What does that get, though? Nothing accomplished--nothing good, anyway--and you spend four years filling space, being progressively destroyed by the other side and, ultimately, history has no memory of you. Clinton's only place in history is the impeachment fiasco; nothing else will be remembered. Does Obama really want to be remembered only as the first president who wasn't completely white or does he actually want to do something with his time in office? He has to decide, and it isn't looking very promising from these early names being floated for positions in his administration.

Meanwhile, the rightists are hardening their position. John McCain--a lifelong, hardcore conservative--is, from their perspective, a "moderate." So while Obama is talking about keeping Robert Gates as Defense Secretary (one of Daddy Bush's pet war-criminals who should be in prison, rather than running a government agency), the conservatives are digging in and preparing for war


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