the party of corruption…

Posted on Monday 29 March 2010

Remembering the Goldwater Campaign

by Matthew Yglesias
March 27, 2010

Edmund Andrews writes:
    I am tempted to think that the revulsion expressed Crittenden is part of a bigger ferment among Republicans. I’d like to think that there is a group of young Turks or moderates who agree with Frum that the GOP health-care rejectionism will turn out to be the party’s Waterloo>. I’d like to think that there is a new generation GOP that is ready to take a chance on constructive engagement.

    But my good friend Bruce Bartlett is skeptical. Republican leaders think their strategy since the 2008 election has been a great success. If they win back House and Senate seats this fall — as they almost certainly will — they’ll argue that their strategy has been vindicated. And the truth is, the Young Turks are among the most fervent of the hard-liners — the Jeb Hensarlings, Paul Ryans. The moderates are disappearing faster than ever, and the ones who stay are disdained.
I think that to understand what’s wrong with the conservative movement today, you need to think about Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Presidential campaign. In ‘64, the GOP establishment felt that Goldwater was too radical. They said that nominating a hard-rightist like Goldwater would be counterproductive. But conservative activists worked hard, and they did it. Goldwater got the nod. And, just as the establishment predicted, Goldwater got crushed. And just as the established predicted, it proved to be counterproductive. The 1964 landslide led directly to Medicare, Medicaid, Title I education spending, and the “war on poverty.”
Having been actually alive then, I saw that election a bit differently. Johnson was unbeatable in 1964. The choice of Goldwater was a gimmick in the face of overwhelming odds. Kennedy’s assassination may have been an attempt to stop something, but it did the opposite – it insured something. Goldwater’s nomination was a disrupted party in search of something, anything, to try to give it momentum. But I think Yglesias’ points below are dead on target.
In the 45 years since that fateful campaign, the conservative movement managed to gain total control over the Republican Party and to sporadically govern the country. But it’s only very partially rolled back one aspect of the Johnson administration’s domestic policy. Which is just to say that the conservative movement from 1964-2009 was a giant failure. By nominating Goldwater, it invited a massive progressive win that all the subsequent conservative wins were unable to undue. But the orthodox conservative tradition of ‘64 is that it was a great success that laid the groundwork for the triumphs to come.
While the Republicans may have enjoyed that myth, Goldwater didn’t think so much of it:
    In 1988 during that year’s presidential campaign, he pointedly told vice-presidential nominee Dan Quayle at a campaign event in Arizona "I want you to go back and tell George Bush to start talking about the issues."Some of Goldwater’s statements in the 1990s aggravated many social conservatives. He endorsed Democrat Karan English in an Arizona congressional race, urged Republicans to lay off Bill Clinton over the Whitewater scandal, and criticized the military’s ban on homosexuals: "Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar." He also said, "You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight." A few years before his death he went so far as to address the right wing, "Do not associate my name with anything you do. You are extremists, and you’ve hurt the Republican party much more than the Democrats have." In 1996, he told Bob Dole, whose own presidential campaign received lukewarm support from conservative Republicans: "We’re the new liberals of the Republican party. Can you imagine that?"
Back to Yglesias:
Which is to say that it’s not just a movement incapable of thinking seriously about the interests of the country, it can’t think rigorously about its own goals. 2009-2010 has already seen the greatest flowering of progressive policy since 1965-66. No matter how well Republicans do in the 2010 midterms, the right will never fully roll back what the 111th Congress has done. And yet, as Andrews suggests, if they win seats in 2010, conservatives will consider their behavior during 2009-10 to have been very successful.
David Frum’s recent article, Waterloo, consolidated my own thoughts about the modern Republicans – ideas that have grown since the days of Ronald Reagan. I don’t think Republicans are either Conservatives or conservative. That may sound like a trivial conclusion – just another political slur from some old liberal. But I’m deadly serious. This is from another post by David Frum a day or so after Waterloo:
Welcome FF Party Crashers!

by David Frum
March 26th, 2010

I moved to Washington, D.C., in 1996. And there I began to notice something disturbing. While the congressional victory of 1994 had ceased to produce much in the way of important conservative legislation, it sure was producing a lot of wealth for individual conservatives. They were moving from the staff offices of Congress to lobbying firms and professional associations. Washington [to quote something I’d write later] began to feel like a giant Tupperware party, where people you had thought of as friends suddenly seemed always to be trying to sell you something. Acquaintances of mine began accepting all-expense-paid trips to the South Pacific from Jack Abramoff.

Whenever things get tough for the Republican party, conservatives will draw a separation between [good, pure] philosophical conservatism and [compromised, tainted] Republican politics. But the people who began making a lot of money out of politics in the 1990s did so precisely as conservatives. “Here’s why conservatives should support Microsoft, not Netscape,” they would explain. “AT&T is right from a conservative point of view, and Verizon is wrong,” another would chime. “Conservatives cherish federalism — and that’s why we must insist that electrical utilities continue to be regulated by the state power commissions!” George Bush narrowly won the presidency in 2000, and I was recruited to join the administration as a speech-writer. My initial brief was domestic policy and economics, and it soon become impossible to avoid noticing that the administration’s economic policies were not working very well…

So much of our energy was being absorbed instead by cultural battles left behind from the unfinished business of the 1960s and 1970s. Here, too often, we were on the wrong side of history: Back in the 1960s and 1970s, we’d been fighting to protect the common-sense instincts of ordinary people from elite interference. Now, in the Terri Schiavo euthanasia case, with stem cell research, on gay rights issues, it was we who had become the interfering elite, against a society that was reaching its own new equilibrium…

No wonder the American Enterprise Institute fired Frum. He’s a real truth-sayer. So if the Republican Party is not conservative, what is it?  The answer immediately comes to mind – CORRUPT. The Republican Party has become the Party of Corruption.

Again, it seems trivial to even say it, but it summarizes what all of us write about all the time. Yglesias comes at it from the Left – noting that when the Republicans are in power, they don’t enact conservative legislation or reverse progressive gains. Frum says it from the inside – they sell out to lobbyists and there’s nothing about what they do that seems "conservative." Paul Rosenberg of OpenLeft has a similar piece [Newt speaks out: the Ashley Todd Party won’t take it anymore!] as does Brad DeLong [No, the Republican Party Is Not Returning to Sanity Any Time Soon…].

The Republicans have sold out to the Religious Right, sold out to Wall Street, sold out to Military Contractors, sold out to the "neo-Klan-like" types. They get elected by pandering to the fringes, cutting taxes, keeping a running stream of propaganda flowing from their media mouthpieces, ignoring our laws, and ignoring the financial consequences of over-spending our resources. I’m not sure, but I think even calling them "the Right" or "Conservatives" may be falling for a trick – giving them the legitimacy of an ideology when what they really stand for is personal gain. How did this happen?

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