May 23, 2005

Dear GOP: A Call to Arms by an Old Friend

This guest post is by first-time blogger DKS, a very dear friend.

Where have you gone, Old Conservatives? Are you sleeping through this dark time? This new GOP is not worthy of you, and it is certainly an unfit adversary for intelligent, liberal-minded people. It is reactionary, meddling, fiscally profligate and blatantly theocratic. And frankly, it bears no resemblance whatever to the party it used to be. I look back with nostalgia at those fiscally conservative, well-educated, Libertarian-ish and Federalist folks who used to make up the heart of the GOP. The Conservatives I knew were patrician and polite, and above all, firm in the belief that small, intelligent government was the way to avoid all possible ills.

Politics used to be more fun, and more civil. Like a good chess match, where you both realized that you had made some smart moves and went away from a game more enlightened and more engaged. Now, imagine if your worthy, long-time chess opponent suddenly began chucking the pawns at your head, randomly calling you a Satanist, and declaring that unless you agreed to his rule changes, he’d tell everyone that you cheat, and no one would ever play with you again.

That’s exactly how I feel: Like I’ve been betrayed by someone I thought I knew. And I do know them well. At least I used to.

I learned how Conservativism lives, thinks, and breathes at Hillsdale College in Michigan, which is nothing short of a beautifully manicured shrine to all things GOP. And as such, is frequented by the uber echelons of the Party. They come to bask in the reflective glow of the super-duper whiteness. Bleached, sanded and serene. Treed and flowered within an inch of its life. And, like the current GOP, it is getting worse all the time, and will soon be beyond the reach of amendment: More rabidly “Christian,” more likely to pander to the worst impulses of humanity, and more isolated from the rest of the world in its already-rampant superiority complex than at any time in recent memory. When I was at Hillsdale from 1990 to 1994, it was a tiny, Reagan-loving, Rand-reading champion of small government and old-fashioned 'heartland' America. They were just kicking off a fundraising campaign when I started. And so the dignitaries flowed in: William F. Buckley, Russell Kirk, Jeane Kirkpatrick, even an up-and-coming Newt Gingrich. I must say that I was utterly elated when I shook hands with Charlton Heston (this is before his heinous stint as NRA president). He is a huge man. Squared-off and towering, and his handshake was brief, but strong, and his eyes looked right into mine as I blanched and said stupidly, “. . .Hi.”


In retrospect, I recall thinking *nothing whatsoever* at first about the prominent people with whom I was socializing. I had never heard of any major Conservatives (C.H. notwithstanding, and even then I didn’t know his political leaning). Previous to college, I had spent the better part of my waking life painting sets, singing and dancing, and basically living completely immersed in musical theater with my very favorite people on earth. I came to Hillsdale unlearned in politics, but as I observed this world up-close, I grew very uneasy with its basic principles of denial and superiority. By the time of the ‘92 election, I had gotten the scent of the wind, and I knew where I was: Behind enemy lines.

But still for the most part it was an enemy I could respect. I talked openly with friends and dignitaries at dinners, watched them at lectures, and engaged in the usual drunken debates, which always ended good-naturedly with mutual sardonic eye-rollings and slaps on the back. I could eye them warily but affectionately over the gulf of politics. But, as disparaging as I became of their world view, it was never incomprehensible. It is the undeniable change in both the tenor and the substance of the current GOP message that I cannot bear.

The old ideas of Von Mises, Hayek and even Rand have been abandoned in favor of intrusive, theocratic crap. And I watch this creeping plague with one Hillsdale-trained eye on the Old Guard: Where are they? Why are they silent? If the GOP becomes merely the party of the backward and reactionary, where do the likes of Buckley, Kirkpatrick, and even poor George Will fit in? (I say “poor” because lately he has seemed quite ill-at-ease on TV in his given role as the answer-guy for the Bush Agenda.) If the New Right start berating anyone who has traveled —and read books and genuinely attempted to understand other cultures— as the enemy, then who are they really? I tell you this: They are not the heirs of Lincoln, TR, or even Reagan anymore. And they know it.

And so I implore the old GOP to come to its senses: Take back your Party! Remember who you are!! Even Hillsdale had its share of ridiculous, camo-wearing losers, but at least they were generally acknowledged as such. No politician would have embraced them as their “base,” and they certainly would not have continually brandished them like some kind of collective mascot!! The Old Guard would have gone out of its way to *clearly separate* its views from those of the party's least informed and most extreme. Now, the silent cowardice of these same men and women is sickening to me. Better to start your own Bull Moose Party than queasily adopt the new rabid Right manifesto. The nervous, subordinate stance of the old GOP is truly beneath most of them. And I can’t figure out why they don’t realize that it is ultimately they who will cease to exist if this commandeering of their party by the lunatic fringe is allowed to persist. The GOP is already becoming synonymous with Big Meddling Government. Russell Kirk is flipping in his grave.

I want my old adversary back! You can’t reason with people who refuse to read more than one Book, and when not quoting blindly from it, are quoting the likes of Fox News. And if you dare attempt to pull off their new-found mantle of Sanctimonious Deflection they squinch their eyes shut, put their hands over their ears, and bellow some hymn to “ole tyme religion” rather than hear your argument. You would discipline a child who acted like such a brat, but a growing movement of brats must be shaken from within. Give me back the grown-ups who can debate the issues! I know you are in there somewhere! And you need to get cracking!

The truth is that we are simply not armed to fight an enemy who adopts the actions of a stupid, petulant child. And we should not have to be. At least the old GOP could speak in complete sentences.

And in retrospect, I love them for that!

By dks in Guest Authors, Politics | Permalink  | 


Yes, DKS! Your post made me stand up and yell, "Where the fuck is Senator Alan Simpson?" Because I suspect that in his retirement, he's succumbed to the Dark Side. Otherwise we would have heard him hollering by now. He was a crazy hawk, but he was pro-choice and small government, and the Patriot Act should have made him gag so loud we could have heard it from Wyoming.

Where are the reasonable people of this party? Can't we do any better than John McCain? And who snowed all the farmers and the poor in the heartland? Why do they believe this party is working for them, as they fall into deeper despair? How did religious, angry rhetoric become so enticing that food in mouths was a secondary concern?

Thanks, DKS, for having the courage to miss the old, patrician guard. Maybe we should start volunteering in retirement communities and seeking out their ilk.

Posted by: Courtney | May 24, 2005 7:30:13 AM

Right on DKS. You've nailed it.Thanks. The Old GOP conservatives were people you could actually respect, because they respected you and often accepted the same facts as you. The New GOP is all about the politics of assassination, and grabbing power for power's sake.

Posted by: RTH | May 24, 2005 10:06:28 AM

Great post DKS.

Your points are very valid and well-taken; though we probably share differing opinions on Hillsdale, et al.

Each party has gone through periods of shambles,
disarray, infighting and rebuilding. It's not a matter
of 'if' it will's more "how will they
weather this (current) storm".

I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on some of the
other players in the 'Neocon' vs. 'Paleocon' wars that
I so enjoyed reading about in the late '80s / early

Remember Murray N. Rothbard and R. Emmett Tyrell ?

Agree with them or not...they were great (my $.02)
Oh...and to hear Wm F. Buckley's name again brings
back lots of memories (good and bad) - but my favorite
is when he moderated an Economic roundtable once and
when it came time for questions from the audience
(always a potentially deadly gimmick (imho)) the comment
was blurted out "I don't know much about Economics...but
I really believe the minumim wage should be increased..."

To which WFB Jr. quickly snapped in reply :

"Madame...the second part of your comment confirms the
first" as he moved on to the next 'question'.

Posted by: former Paleo-Libertarian...currently a frustrated "politcally homeless" wanderer | May 24, 2005 1:34:59 PM

I'd like to think that the current level of GOP insanity is simply unsustainable, though sadly - I will admit, I would never have thought it could actually get this bad. We are all used to seeing the occasional backwater congressman, bible-a-thumpin, brimstone-at-hand, and most likely - mistress-in-tow, but to listen to a leading GOP's "soapbox speech" today, you would think we have traveled not only back in time - but also to a parallel universe, a universe where you just know George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had thin, black, waxed goatees.

In the last 5 years, not only have we totally perforated the wall separating Church and State, we've actually built structures to bridge the two together and keep them linked. All the while, we are actually being told that this *is* the separation of Church and State... It's as if their argument is, "If they weren't 'separate', why would we have needed to create this department?? See? They're still 'separate'" It's mind numbingly baffling.

We are being fed horseshit and being billed for Foie Gras!

I hear things like "at least the President is addressing the Social Security crisis." ...And then not one minute later - the pundit concedes that "well, no, privatizing Social Security won't actually address any of the insolvency." But it doesn't stop there... a few sentences down the road - and we will be told a second time: "at least the President is addressing the Social Security crisis, what are the Democrats doing?" My head spins...

The hypocrisy in this GOP logic is savage.

Recently Bill Frist said, "Resolving the judicial obstruction debate, for me, isn't about politics. This is about constitutional principles." When confronted by Sen. Chuck Schumer, who simply asked, "Isn't it correct that on March 8, 2000, my colleague [Sen. Frist] voted to uphold the filibuster of Judge Richard Paez?" Frist's response was "The president, the um, in response, uh, the Paez nomination - we'll come back and discuss this further. Actually I'd like to, and it really brings to what I believe - a point - and it really brings to..." Hypocrisy so potent your mouth should have just puckered.

When the GOP speak about the 'sanctity of marriage', you have to wonder what Terry Schiavo's husband made of the GOP's attack on his attempts to attend to his wife's wishes.

Oh, the lies too!! Just what is it that makes a man like House Majority Leader Tom Delay say things like "Terry talks, laughs, and expresses likes and dislikes." Oh, did she? Or the priceless "Error on the side of life" comment by George W. Bush, the ex-governor of Texas - known to take maybe all of 15 minutes to review each death penalty case, the under-aged and retarded amongst them.

I agree - where *is* the old GOP? I can't stomach this much longer.

Posted by: Mr.101 | May 24, 2005 2:45:53 PM

Someday, the GOP voters will realize that their party has been hijacked by extremists, and hopefully they'll want to take it back. Until that day comes, a lot of damage will be done.

Posted by: SheaNC | May 24, 2005 7:11:33 PM

Whoah! Nothing could be worse than hearing the Old Guard called the "Paleo-Con!" Does this imply a self-imposed extinction? Why this prostrate stance??


Paleo-Libertarian: I freely admit that Buckley was/is a master of the witty cut-direct. I believe he studied at the excellent school of Thomas B. Reed, Republican Speaker of the House, circa 1900-ish. Just try and compare *him* to another leader: The humorless, smarmy, self-important Tom Delay. . . Nevermind. Don't try. Totally depressing.

Courtney: I once asked why the working poor, farmers, etc. allied themselves so fiercely with the rich, privileged, conservative right, no matter what. I was told (I won't say by whom), "I think it's the macho thing."


Posted by: dks | May 24, 2005 8:42:42 PM

Bravo DKS! I would also like to add that, in addition to Old Conservatives, I would like to see the reemergence of Old Christians. What happened the the Christian soldiers who would risk arrest to ensure the freedom of others? Who understood the Sermon on the Mount as a call to serve the poor? Who believed the commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill" applied to people in other countries as much as to Americans?

Old Conservatives may have lost their party, but Old Christians have lost their religion. Christians of conscience need to stand up to the crazies who are acting in the most un-Christian ways imaginable (and I'm not just referring to anti-abortion activist Neal Horsley having sex with farm animals or FDA Advisory Committee member David Hager anally raping his wife, although they are fabulously sick examples).

Posted by: Stephanie | May 28, 2005 10:21:39 AM

Steph, Exactly! I was told by my parents (the lone Dems in their group of friends) that everyone they knew who voted for Bush justified this by claiming that he was the "Moral Choice," compared to Kerry's outrageously immoral advocacy of Sodomy and Abortion. (Remember how they snuck gay marriage in at the last minute? )

Never mind the sins of Deception, Fraud, Greed, Pride, Avarice and oh yeah, the needless Murder of thousands (albeit mostly Infidels. kidding). What does all that matter when the subversive threat of Gay Marriage is afoot?

Deus Vollt!

Posted by: dks | May 31, 2005 11:56:59 AM

The brother of a good friend of mine, a life-long Republican, recently sent the Libertarian Party $40 and is now a card-carrying Libertarian instead. Why? Because his idea of conservatism does not now and never did mesh with American religiosity (he is an atheist) or with its rejection of science (he is a scientist). Even as a conservative, he fells that true American conservatism and American values in general are under threat from the theocratic right. Someone who has been such a long-committed Republican switching parties may well be a bellweather that the Emperor has no clothes. I hope so, at least.

Posted by: ubu | Jun 5, 2005 10:30:13 AM

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