Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wouldn’t It Be Nice

Where are the sane conservatives? Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up one morning and all the loonies were gone? No more Beck, no more Limbaugh, no more Palin, no more Levin, or Hannity, or Coulter. Instead of fear, hatred and bigotry we could have a genuine discussion on actual policy. Seems worth praying for, don't you think?

Of course I could say this prayer over and over ad infinitum and it would still be futile. The simple truth is that insanity and the Right have entered into a mutually exclusive contract with each other, and it doesn’t look like they are going to part ways any time soon. So it seems we – and by that I mean the nation – are stuck with them for the foreseeable future.

But, to get back to that famous Beach Boys’ song, wouldn’t it be nice if some sane voices could somehow seep into the cesspool of rhetoric that is the Right and disinfect it in some small way. Not much, but maybe just enough to offer up some hope that not everybody right of center is an escapee of a lunatic asylum.

There are a few voices out there that once in a while offer up some cogent and salient tidbits to what generally passes for discussion these days, and while I am not intimating an agreement with their points, I would be remiss if I did not at least grudgingly tip my hat to them and say, bring it on.

People like David Frum, for example. Frum, a former speechwriter for the Bush White House and editorial editor for The Wall Street Journal, was ceremoniously booted from the American Enterprise Institute for criticizing the GOP strategy of refusing to negotiate with President Obama and congressional Democrats on health care reform, saying that it had resulted in the Republicans’ “most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.”

Frum has been a thorn in the side of the lunatic fringe of the Right ever since it went on this crusade right around the night of the ’08 election. That was when the wheels came off the psychiatric ambulance and all the patients escaped. All, it seems, but Frum and a few other fair-minded conservatives – they are more aptly referred to as RINOs among the far Right (Republican in name only) – who knew damn well there was a problem. The GOP had just gotten their asses kicked, and not because they weren’t vocal enough, but because they were simply not delivering a message the American people wanted to hear.

It didn’t take long for Frum to realize there was a bull’s eye strapped to his back. In March of ’09 the assault began. First Mark Levin, who called Frum an “a-hole” on his program; followed in short order by virtually the entire glee club. Frum shot back in an op-ed piece for Newsweek titled, “Why Rush is Wrong.” His premise? That the party of Buckley and Reagan had now become “bereft and dominated by the politics of Limbaugh.” Forget for a moment any personal ideological differences that may exist between progressives and what Frum stands for, just having the chutzpah to come out and say something like that, especially in that environment, should’ve earned him, if nothing else, the Purple Heart for journalism. Instead what it earned him was scorn.

But it wasn’t just Frum. David Brooks was also ridiculed as being everything from “lukewarm” to a “Repube-lican” – that last one courtesy of Levin, who seems to call anybody with even a hint of a soul that name. Brooks’ crime? Besides not volunteering for service in the loony bin of hack journalists, Brooks has been that rarest of commodities: a moderate conservative. Let me repeat that for you in case you didn’t hear it. A moderate conservative. Look up dinosaurs in the aftermath of the great asteroid impact in the Gulf of Mexico and you might find the appropriate analogy.

Brooks has had the temerity to say the following:

“Moderates now find themselves betwixt and between. On the left, there is a president who appears to be, as Crook says, ‘a conviction politician, a bold progressive liberal.’ On the right, there are the Rush Limbaugh brigades. The only thing more scary than Obama’s experiment is the thought that it might fail and the political power will swing over to a Republican Party that is currently unfit to wield it.” – The New York Times, March 2, 2009.

“To come up at this moment in history with a stale ‘government is the problem,’ ‘we can't trust the federal government’ - it's just a disaster for the Republican Party. The country is in a panic right now. They may not like the way the Democrats have passed the stimulus bill, but that idea that we're just gonna - that government is going to have no role, the federal government has no role in this, that - in a moment when only the federal government is actually big enough to do stuff, to just ignore all that and just say ‘government is the problem, corruption, earmarks, wasteful spending,’ it's just a form of nihilism. It's just not where the country is, it's not where the future of the country is. There's an intra-Republican debate. Some people say the Republican Party lost its way because they got too moderate. Some people say they got too weird or too conservative. He (Bobby Jindal) thinks they got too moderate, and so he's making that case. I think it's insane, and I just think it's a disaster for the Party. I just think it's unfortunate right now.” – The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, February 24, 2009.

Small wonder he has been vilified by the far Right. There’s more of Brooks’ introspective logic, and you won’t have far to search. He’s been pretty consistent.  For instance, he recently wrote a piece in which he praised some of Obama's policies, such as the bank and auto bailouts.  When was the last time you saw anyone remotely conservative being complimentary towards a Democrat?

Now, of course, the far Right is basking in the sun of its defiance and now stands poised to reassume the mantle of dominance it once had in its possession. In deed it might even find something prophetic, if somewhat perverse, in Brooks’ warning above, though I’m sure it will likely fall on deaf ears. You know, the part about “the political power will swing over to a Republican Party that is currently unfit to wield it.”

And therein lies the real tragedy. Saying no repeatedly and engaging in race baiting and inflammatory rhetoric has apparently stirred the pot of discontent within the electorate to such a degree that the polls have swung around and now show an overwhelming disapproval of President Obama and Congressional Democrats.

But while standing in a corner and holding your breath until you count to a zillion and in the process turning blue may be acceptable for little children who do not know any better, for grown men and women, charged with the task of running a country – even if they be in the minority – it is a poor excuse in deed. The far Right may break their collective arms patting themselves on the back for capitalizing on the fear and anxiety of millions of Americans, but its lack of vision, and for that matter, lack of any semblance of a workable solution for what ails the country is reprehensible. Worse, the prospects for anything substantive coming out of any candidate with an R next to his or her name between now and November is remote at best.

The real fear is that Republicans will take back both Houses, but because they won’t have a super majority in the Senate – hence they won’t be able to override an Obama veto – ostensibly the government will come to a screeching halt. Nothing will get done until after the 2012 election. Talk about spoiled brats.

The nation’s history has always been marred by bitter partisanship, but never as much as it is now. On the one hand we have the current party in power. Whether you agree with their solutions or not, they have at least come to the table and made a good faith effort to reach across the aisle for consensus. They have been spurned by a party that wants no part of compromise, and seems perfectly willing to allow its constituents to suffer needlessly at the hands of the socialist hordes who have stolen their liberty, whilst they wait for their opportunity to cash in on the pain and misery.

With that in mind, we come back to David Frum, who I will now give the last word to.

“Here’s the thing that puzzles me: America is suffering in the throes of a terrible economic and financial crisis. Yet in Washington, political leaders barely discuss the economy. What we discuss is the federal budget: taxes, spending, deficits, debt.

“The Democrats’ plans to revive the economy have crashingly failed. The stimulus programs, the tax credit to encourage home buying (and thus maintain housing prices) … no result. As John Makin nicely phrased it, “We do not have lift off.”

“Meanwhile the big idea on the Republican side is Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to reduce spending, hold the line on taxes, and balance the budget. That’s like recommending diet and exercise to a patient bleeding to death.

“Fiscal policy isn’t economic policy. A plan to rescue the finances of the federal government is not a plan to rescue the finances of the American family. Reducing public debt will not help an economy crushed by the burden of excess private debt.”

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