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The death of conservatism and the class of ’94

July 19, 2009

boxing squirrelIt’s not often there’s a solid one-two punch in reporting these days, but Sam Tanenhaus and Frank Rich score a knockout.

Sam Tanenhaus lays out the crime scene regarding the death of conservatism. Frank Rich points out the members of the class of ’94 and the role they have played in its demise. I guess that Contract With America was really a contract hit on America, eh Newt? Conservatism is Dead

[…] Today, the situation is much bleaker. After George W. Bush’s two terms, conservatives must reckon with the consequences of a presidency that failed, in large part, because of its fervent commitment to movement ideology: the aggressively unilateralist foreign policy; the blind faith in a deregulated, Wall Street-centric market; the harshly punitive “culture war” waged against liberal “elites.” That these precepts should have found their final, hapless defender in John McCain, who had resisted them for most of his long career, only confirms that movement doctrine retains an inflexible and suffocating grip on the GOP.[…]

What passes for conservatism today would have been incomprehensible to its originator, Edmund Burke, who, in the late eighteenth century, set forth the principles by which governments might nurture the “organic” unity that bound a people together even in times of revolutionary upheaval. Burke’s conservatism was based not on a particular set of ideological principles but rather on distrust of all ideologies. In his most celebrated writings, his denunciation of the French Revolution and its English champions, Burke did not seek to justify the ancien regime and its many inequities. Nor did he propose a counter-ideology. Instead he warned against the destabilizing perils of revolutionary politics, beginning with its totalizing nostrums. Robespierre and Danton, the movement ideologues of their day, were inflamed with the Enlightenment vision of the ideal civilization and sacrificed to its abstractions the established traditions and institutions of what Burke called “civil society.” They placed an idea of the perfect society over and above the need to improve society as it really existed. […]

They Got Some ‘Splainin’ to Do

Yet the Sotomayor show was still rich in historical significance. Someday we may regard it as we do those final, frozen tableaus of Pompeii. It offered a vivid snapshot of what Washington looked like when clueless ancien-régime conservatives were feebly clinging to their last levers of power, blissfully oblivious to the new America that was crashing down on their heads and reducing their antics to a sideshow as ridiculous as it was obsolescent. […]

…But when Tom Coburn of Oklahoma merrily joked to Sotomayor that “You’ll have lots of ’splainin’ to do,” it clearly didn’t occur to him that such mindless condescension helps explain why the fastest-growing demographic group in the nation is bolting his party.

Coburn was so unfamiliar with Jews he didn’t have a clear fix on what happened in the Holocaust until 1997, when he was 48. Party elders like Bill Bennett had to school him after he angrily berated NBC for subjecting children and “decent-minded individuals everywhere” to the violence, “full-frontal nudity and irresponsible sexual activity” of “Schindler’s List.” […]

The class of ’94 gave us J.D. Hayworth and Bob Ney of the Jack Abramoff casino-lobbying scandals. Ney, a House committee chairman, did 17 months in jail. It gave us the sexual adventurers Mark Sanford, John Ensign and Mark Foley. (All these distinguished gentlemen voted for articles of impeachment, as did Gingrich, their randy role model.) The class of ’94 also included a black Republican, J. C. Watts, who at least had the integrity to leave Congress in 2003 to become a bona fide lobbyist rather than go on a K Street lobbyist’s payroll while still in public office. He was a fleeting novelty; there’s been no black Republican elected to either chamber of Congress since. Today the G.O.P.’s token black is its party chairman, Michael Steele, who last week unveiled his latest strategy for recruiting minority voters. “My plan is to say, ‘Ya’ll come!’ ” he explained, adding “I got the fried chicken and potato salad!”

Wonder how long before Faux News offers Sessions, Graham, and / or Coburn their own show(s)? And by the way, will someone please tell Sanford to STFU! Enough already. We get it – he’s desperately hanging on to a loveless (on his part marriage) and hoping that God will see him through it. Yeah, because that would be on God’s Top 10 list. Too bad that there are no Benjamin Wades to save them from themselves.

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