alien & sedition.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
  Back from the Dead?

Two items via Andrew Sullivan: In one, Ross Douthat mulls over the question of what might constitute the most promising shape for a future GOP coalition: an aliance of "Joe the Plumber and Joe the Office Park Employee," or one that would appeal to "upper-middle reformism" as formulated by David Frum? Douthat is somewhat skeptical as to whether a message aimed at "the Obama-voting, ex-Rockefeller Republicans making $150,000 a year" would harmonize well with one pitched at the Wall-Mart Republicans he and Reihan Salam have argued should be at the center of a conservative revival, arguing that
building a coalition of social conservatives and social moderates from the middle of the income and education distribution makes much more political sense than trying to hold together a coalition of social conservatives from the middle of the distribution and social liberals from the upper end.
At any rate, Douthat's entire analysis is premised on the revival of the GOP as, in his words, "a party that restores its reputation for competence and policy seriousness." Trouble is, as Mark Lilla explains in the Wall Street Journal, the Sarah Palin episode - and, one might add, the retrenchment of conservative movement elites in its aftermath - is dispositive evidence that the right has not only abandoned that reputation, it has comprehensively repudiated intellectual seriousness in favor of a debased appeal to talk-radio populism and "anti-elite" know-nothingism.

This is not news, I realize. But it does at any rate cause pretty serious complications to the efforts by genuine intellectuals like Douthat to plot a way forward for their party and their movement. He's forced to compete with compatriots who think it's a great idea roll the Republican clock back to 1994.

The thing of it is, in a two party system, the opposition doesn't necessarily need to be especially coherent or appealing. While it might spend a somewhat longer time in the wilderness, even an intellectually and ideologically stunted GOP is likely to find its way back into power eventually - the wheel turns, and all that. Count me with those who hope that reformers like Douthat are able to help their party evolve into a reasonably responsible institution before that day comes, but it's not entirely outside the realm of possibility that the neanderthals could simply wind up frozen in ideological ice, only to one day stumble back onto the scene as a result of some inevitable glacial shift.

(And no, I'm not necessarily saying I'm back. But I'm not not back, either.)

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