Friday, October 10, 2008

Palin "A Cancer On The Republican Party?" - David Brooks In La-La Land

One of the few voices to be found at The New York Times who identifies himself as “conservative” is David Brooks. I was dismayed to hear Brooks’ comments at a luncheon of The Atlantic magazine, discussing Sarah Palin. Brooks commended her challenge of the Republican establishment in Alaska and conceded that Palin had performed well at the Republican National Convention and in her debate with Joe Biden, and that she was a smart and able politician. But, he called her representative of “a cancer on the Republican Party,” referring to a growing “populist” element of conservatism that has a tendency to “not only scorn liberal ideas, but to scorn ideas entirely. I think Palin has those prejudices and I think George Bush has them also.” You can see a clip at YouTube. Wow. I think David Brooks is an alright guy. But, this seems to show that the enveloping provincialism of the coasts and popular media affects not only liberals, but conservatives as well.

In an article this week on the same general perception, Brooks makes reference to more thoughtful conservatives such as William F. Buckley and writers at his National Review, thirty-some years ago. But to me, he seems to have forgotten something. “A cancer on The Republican Party?” It is true that National Review was a significant element in the development of the conservative movement. I was a National Review subscriber as a teenager in the 1970’s. But, National Review was founded in the late 1950’s. Asked in the ‘70’s what politician he liked as a potential president, Buckley replied, “Oh (recent California governor), Ronald Reagan.” Reagan was elected president in 1980.

Until then, The Republican Party had largely been in the political wilderness for 48 years, and conservative ideas even longer. Now, you don’t get much more politically moribund than that. Eisenhower was not an ideological conservative (He was a WWII GENERAL, not that it would have mattered, with Congress solidly Democratic. And for that matter, neither was Reagan a conservative scholar. His was a common-sense, not an academic conservatism. Reagan voted 4 times for Franklin Roosevelt before much later coming to realize that unconstrained state intrusion was corroding the country he loved. Buckley knew that Reagan was not an egghead but an everyman. Though he was of a wealthy Northeastern legacy and an intellectual, perhaps Buckley was not so culturally cosseted as to deceive himself about a vastly different American majority. Let’s consider where the cancer lies. During the primaries, in the process of fretting the ascendancy of Huckabee, journalist Robert Novak noted that the rise of cultural conservatism had revived The Republican Party and implied the threat that one of them might one day actually seek the Republican nomination.

Reagan was an actor. In fact, we have never even run, much less elected a scholarly conservative. That includes neither Bush (both administrators, neither scholars nor statesmen). Bob Dole, and Gerald Ford. Richard Nixon was plenty bright and literate, but had some other obvious personal demons, which stymied any systematic consistency (this was clear to me as a boy: wage & price controls? Please!) long before it brought about his political demise. The only one other than Reagan who stirred me at all was Jack Kemp. Kemp became a financial player and a student of capital development (for people at all levels), but his background was as a football player.

Surely, David Books understands why Buckley or George F. Will have not been politicians. Will never has made an effort, but when Buckley was asked during his only one, what he would do if he was actually elected mayor of New York, he joked, “I’d immediately demand a recount.” Brooks seems to have his head and its ideas lodged in a dark and malodorous place. From there, perhaps he can amuse himself and some other esoterically-disposed conservatives. But, he will never have an impact on the culture, any more than he has overwhelmed the New York public through The Times.

Smart, courageous, common-sensical, plain-spoken, female, and evangelical, Sarah Palin may be the brightest hope the Republican Party will see in my lifetime. Conservatives need some egghead advisors. But philosopher rulers have existed only in a book, 2500 years ago. Brooks must have read Plato’s Republic. But in reality, he should stop dreaming and wake up and smell the coffee.

15 comments:

Borghesius said...

Larry:
First time commentor; found out about you from KTracy, where I was impressed by your analysis of McCain as a sentimental conservative (but am still supporting him given the alternatives). Less impressed by KTracy, and am looking for a coherent Huckabbe advocate.
It is possible to have a towering intellect and be conservative, but is not necessary: the basic ideas are relatively easy to grasp. What has been disturbing me for a while has been the propensity for clever people in intellectually pretentious circles to think that their cleverness makes them superior leaders or cultural gurus, when in fact the quality we need in a leader is wisdom and judgement, (the ability to know what is the right thing to do), and the willingness to look fully at the long and short term consequences of actions. This makes leadership more the realm of the will than the intellect. It would be nice to have both, but wisdom is rarer, and intellect can be hired. I tend to equate systematic conservatism with wisdom, because it requires an understanding of natural/divine law and from there the proper understanding of human nature and the correct ordering of society. I am finding David Brooks to be more clever than wise at this point.

Larry said...

I've been occupied. I have MS, fell on Friday and hurt my back. I got up and walk(ered) away, but it still hurts.

You are on, that much of the difference is understanding of human nature. As I wrote a little while back, anyone who has worked with an organization can understand human nature. People are people. They just play with different sized and colored marbles.

Sarah has dealt with and lead people as an executive. Brooks' academic stuff is relative pipe smoking.

In terms of systematic thinking, I have called McCain "philosophically incoherent." But, he's a noble man and a spending hawk, unlike Bush, which he should make more a point of. He has often befuddled this conservative. But as I have said, "Little should more arouse a conservative than the idea of John McCain with a veto pen. That's why Tom Coburn has supported jim enthusiastically from early on.

It is disheartening to me to watch ill-educated people believe that taxing and spending is a tonic for te economy.

What direction has Kevin Tracy gone in recent months?
Shortly after McCain clinched, he was talking crazy talk about supporting Obama.

Borghesius said...

Larry:
Thanks for responding. Read your profile and was sorry to hear about the MS: you can add me to the list of people who pray for your well being. Do what you can: I believe quality is more important than quantity
Kevin Tracy has more than persisted in that path, first by an end justifies the means strategy of "Obama may win this time, the country will do poorly, and then Huckabee will be positioned to come to the rescue" but more recently a real active support of Obana and Biden as preferable to McCain Palin. He believes McCain is entirely untrustworthy and Palin is intellectually inferior, and he seems to very much trust that Obama and Biden are being entirely honest. Some of this is tied to Obama's statements about increased veterans benefits which he is much interested in.
My list of things that conservatives believe do not include "a good end justifies
an evil means", as the means almost(?) always corrupts the end- the actor usually never gets there, or it comes crashing down in ruin.

Larry said...

Borghesius:

I found no profile and email address. You will see that today I posted on a couple of current questions. My back continued to bother me and restrain my movements, so I began taking Ibuprofen, today. So far, so good. I feel better. Thank you for your prayers.
You know, you may find this hard to believe, but I never voted for George W. Bush. Not for the silly reasons that liberals hawk, but because I'm in Texas and I knew Bush was no philosophical conservative. When he was elected I said, "Leviathan gets a night manager," and that's exactly what happened. And also, I was prepared to see Republicans lose and correct themselves in the wake of their loss.

However 1) McCain (though I also opposed him in 2000) is nothing at all of the sort ofspender that Bush was. And 2) I think the circumstances are very different, this year. Al Gore is a bellicose posturer. But in office, I don't think he would have been the kind of ideologue that Obama will be. In fact, I don't think a Republican Congress would have participated in the kind of spending that they did with Bush.

They probably wouldn't have been thrown out in 2006. And, I don't think Gore would have chosen the extreme judges that Obama would, which is all the more important with the 2-4 choices that the next president will make and the balance of the court. Frankly, if Obama selects 2-4 SC judges, the sanctity of life is dead for the forseeable future, certainly the rest of my now 51-year-old life. And now, Obama would have a Democrat Congress. They would go nuts!

As for Kevin, I guess he discounts the fact that Huckabee is strongly in the McCain-Palin camp. Mike will be fine. Frankly, McCain's success bodes strongly for spending restraint. And Palin's success bodes wel for the Republican Party and social conservatism. Mike and his FOX contract will be fine, even if McCain or Palin don't plug him into an administration, which they might.

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