Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Two, three, many GOPs

David Brooks writes:
Bette Davis and William Dix in The Nanny, 1965. Via Unimonster's Crypt.
The Republicans have been getting down to cleaning up the place, with admirable dispatch. Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana announced to the National Republican Committee that you actually can go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people, and that it's time to say goodbye to being the stupid party. Representative Paul Ryan spoke to the National Review Institute on why prudence is preferable to spasmodic protest, and I'm sure Mr. Buckley was smiling down when I typed "spasmodic", a word that young idiot Lowry probably doesn't even know how to spell.

For some reason the Institute didn't ask me to speak, although I'm told Charles Krauthammer did give me a shout out.* Of course it's partly the price I pay for remaining serenely above the fray, as a public intellectual, and I don't really mind. I do have some advice for Republicans, though, to the effect that stupid is as stupid does, and if they want to get out of that hole Obama dug for them, they'd better get smart.
Jindal may have put on his little nanny uniform and spanked the party over its stubborn stupidity, but the only policy ideas he offered were as resolutely stupid as ever, repeating the same old saw about how government is evil but governors are good. There seemed to be a conviction that it was fine to be stupid, as long as you didn't look stupid, which is not the way the party is going to reinvent itself.

In the first place, once you've explained that the government is a vicious all-devouring beast, it becomes problematic to articulate a positive program for doing something with it. It confuses people. Frankly, that myth of Encroaching Government and its endless duel with Liberty is about ready to be retired. It has done a wonderful job of recruiting voters from the South and West since Barry Goldwater first took it on tour in 1964, but it will not going to be able to squeeze out much more, now that they're starting to realize that their disability checks and the little scooters they ride around the WalMart with actually come from Washington.

Those Republicans are probably not going to change. It's hard to dress for dinner if you didn't bring a tux, and it's hard to detach yourself from imprudent old ideas if you don't know where to purchase some new ones. Ideas exist in the brain, like a comfortable old line of rail track, and you can't get a new one simply by derailing; that wouldn't be prudent at all. You need an entrepreneur to buy up the the right of way and bribe all the authorities.

What's needed is an additional Republican party, a Smarty party if you will, suited to the more sophisticated conservatives of the coasts and the Rust Belt from Minneapolis to Cleveland. In place of the tedious old myth of the Encroaching Government, it could make use of some new myths, such as Mancur Olson's myth of the Bloated Government and Charles Murray's myth of the American Split into two nations, one high-IQ and one low-IQ. The new Republicans could develop a cocktail of policy ideas to confront both of these imaginary crises at once. Like spiffy new institutions to replace the bloated and sclerotic ones targeted at the needs of the low-IQs, such as day-trading accounts for seniors instead of social security, and no institutions at all for the high-IQs, how does that sound?
Hulk Hogan as Mr. Nanny, 1993, from Bleacher Report.
*When asked who his favorite liberal columnist was, he answered, “David Brooks”  prompting chuckles from the audience.


  1. I do have some advice for Republicans, though, to the effect that stupid is as stupid does, and if they want to get out of that hole Obama dug for them, they'd better get smart.

    Now Obama's the hole-digger-in-chief? My operating contention is that we exist in a Post-Reagan Opposite World. So it is "natural" that the self-designated intellectual of the party of personal responsibility can beeble his bullshit while (s)pouting his bona fides as the reasonable, humble one in this one-sided internecine fray.

    If they'd only listened to David Fucking Brooks, professor of humility... Oh the places we'd have gone!

    The problem for his intellectual bag of crazy is that the paper trail remains intact regardless of his spasmodic disambiguations, rewrites and disavowals.

  2. As far as the paper trail goes, I believe IOKIYAR still applies even if the public intellectual is kind of denying that he even is a Republican (from the style point of view that's the most interesting part of the column, because he has to go into grammatical contortions to do it--I couldn't figure out how to parody that, I may have to give it another try). But it's an amazing trail (Driftglass has compiled tons of incriminating evidence).

    On the hole-digging, a lot of Center for American Progress types are outraged when Republicans complain that Obama is viciously determined to destroy the Republican party--how shrill and uncivil! I've decided that's what I want him to do, so maybe it's true, or could be true if we imagine it well enough (observer's paradox).

  3. Huh. Two GOP's is not enough and one is too many. Brooks is basically looking back to Daddy Buckley regarding tossing the Birchers (Tea Party neo-birchers) out of the intellectual conservative orbit he wants to inhabit. Sadly, yesterday's whackadoos are today's bankrollers and conservative intellectualism is like the sound of one hand fapping to Ayn Rand After Dark. I don't know what he thinks his party would be made of, besides cynical good intentions and bipartisan thumbsucking. I think the "nanny" theme is spot on--ever so nice to have grown-ups to mind a party that's gone to tantrums, but I tend to believe Brooks agrees with the tantrumers in principle if not in tone. Two parties would just be one--the smiling face of Our Mr Brooks, the core convictions of a bitter rabble. And all the same ideology.

    (I'm for splitting the GOP everywhich way and ramming shims in so the bits can't meld back together. If Obama really means to destroy the GOP, I once used to think a healthy loyal opposition would come in handy some day but not anymore. They are more opposite than loyal. And that is simply useless.)

  4. They are more opposite than loyal.


    Lots to respond to, but I think I'll make it into a post.