Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Going Mental: Are Honest, Self-Reflecting Republicans Closet Liberal Democrats? - Is it just me or am I really witnessing a kind of ideological and intellectual meltdown among Republicans? Or are conservatives finally realizing that the liberalism of the Democratic Party and its platform is really the true American way? I mean what does one make of the fact that conservatives are explaining the Democratic Convention and its rising stars (all at one time or another branded too liberal for mainstream America) as more to their conservative liking than even Bush conservatives? Consider this ... Peter Bienart of The New Republic has argued convincingly [Subscription required to access the article] that the Democratic Convention line-up is reflective of the liberal wing of the Party (as opposed to the more moderate centrist wing). Bienart, a liberal himself (albeit a pragmatic one), claims that this should make Democrats "squirm" in discomfort because of the image it will project nationally of the unapologetic "progressive" left wing of the Democratic Party, potentially alienating more moderate/conservative independent and swing voters. When you look at the Convention Speaker line-up, you can see that he's got a point: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Howard Dean, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, even Al Sharpton. On the other hand, Bienart argues that the GOP Convention line-up features speakers not at all in line with what the Bush Administration and traditional right-wing conservatism represents: John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Pataki (and only gudgingly added true conservatives like Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback to the list after some internal nudging).

So, according to Bienart, what we have here is a Democratic Convention line-up of featured speakers that caters to the liberal base of the Democratic Party and a GOP line-up that markedly doesn't cater to the conservative base of the party.

But, to listen to conservatives who are analyzing the Democratic National Convention, you'd think Bienart had it bass-ackwards!! According to folks like Andrew Sullivan, the Democratic Convention is nothing short of a conservative Convention! But Sullivan is often dismissed by the conservative right, so what does his opinion matter. The critical question is what are the true conservatives saying about the convention? Well, essentially, the same thing! For example, the National Review Online has a series of commentaries on the Democratic Convention. Predictably, the NRO pundits, on pure principle, try not to say too many good things about the Democratic Lineup. But there is this somewhat laudatory piece by Henry Payne on Michigan's telegenic Democratic Governor, Jennifer Granholm. And there's also Jack Geraghty's tribute to Barack Obama, about whom even NRO's curmudgeonly Jay Nordlinger had this to say:

About Barack Obama: He has huge presence, and it would be no surprise if he appeared on a Democratic presidential ticket one day. He is a first-rate speaker, in part because he doesn't let himself be managed by applause, and he doesn't speak too slowly. That is the curse of public speaking — slowness. Idiots are forever telling speakers, "Slow down!" They are almost always wrong.

Anyway, Obama's was a quite patriotic speech; it also offered little in the way of policy substance — no abortion, no real economics, no real foreign policy, etc.

Interestingly, he said that we must not have a blue America and a red America, a white America and a black America — we should have one America.

Hallelujah! But he should tell it to the Democratic party! (Of course, that's what he did.) For years, Democrats have specialized in racialism, in "identity politics," in Balkanization. We Republicans are the party of E pluribus unum (a slogan Obama cited). Especially pleasing was Obama's rebuke of those who hold that "a black youth with a book is acting white." Again, I hope he didn't imagine he was speaking for Republicans' benefit.
Quite interesting, wouldn't you say? But there's more. There's Roger Clegg's comment on NRO's blog, "The Corner," in which he comments on Barack Obama's speech:
Barack Obama gave a fine speech, but it was not a speech that reflects the current Democratic Party. It celebrated America as "a magical place"; it did not bemoan our racism and imperialism. It professed that this black man "owe[d] a debt to those who came before" him; it did not call for reparations. It spoke of an "awesome God"; it did not banish Him from public discourse. It admitted that black parents, and black culture, need to change the way black children are raised; it did not blame or even mention racism. It quoted "E pluribus unum" and translated it correctly as "Out of many, one"; it did not misquote it, as Al Gore infamously did, as "Many out of one." Most of all, the speech celebrated one America, "one people," and rejected the notion of a black America, a white America, a Latino America, and an Asian America--a notion completely foreign to the multiculturalism that now dominates the Democratic Party.
Tellingly, the title of Clegg's posting on NRO's blog is "Right Speech, Wrong Convention." And even this was preceded by Rich Lowry's quip on Obama:
That seemed a textbook example of how to use resonant Biblical rhetoric to make a very effective American political speech.
And Kathryn Jean-Lopez's claim that "Dems scored a homerun with Obama as their keynoter. Forward looking, eloquent, red meat, Florida dig, spirited, personal history--he's got it all." [NOTE to KJL: Barack Obama is not an outside ringer for the Democratic Party, brought in just for the show. He IS the Democratic Party.] It's quite interesting to hear such wingnut conservatives talking so nicely and admiringly about a man who, as Jack Geraghty notes in his column linked above:
While those on the right might rejoice at an African-American leader whose rhetoric is cooler than Jesse Jackson's and whose politics are closer to the mainstream than Rev. Al Sharpton, his voting record is likely to be indistinguishable from that of the Congressional Black Caucus. In the Illinois state legislature, Obama voted against a partial-birth abortion ban, for gun control, and for tax hikes.
In fact, Obama's uncontested liberal political record seem to place him squarely in the camp of those progressive, hard-core liberals that Bienart references in his article cited above. As Noam Scheiber, Bienart's colleague at The New Republic wrote in May, 2004:
When Obama entered the Senate race in January 2003, he quickly dispelled any suspicion that he might attempt to replicate Wilder's strategy for appealing to moderate whites. He was unapologetically liberal, outspoken in his opposition to the Iraq war, and proud of the progressive legislation he'd passed in the state Senate. His campaign touted his role in passing a bill intended to reduce the rate of wrongful executions by requiring homicide confessions to be videotaped and another designed to crack down on racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of individuals they searched. Obama also claimed credit for extending the life of a state-sponsored health insurance program for children and emphasized his efforts at creating a job-training program for unskilled workers.
So, someone tell me, please, enlighten me, please: what is going on with conservative Republicans these days? Are they really so enamored of the strength of true, unabashed leftist liberalism that they want to appropriate it as conservatism? What Obama or Granholm or Dean or Carter or Gore or the Clintons represent is not an ideological "makeover" as the GOP is spinning it, but rather a reflection of the true meat and mettle of the Democratic Party - a party of true principles and true diversity/inclusion (and that also means room for ideals that "conservatives" think only they should hoard). They're not glossing over their liberal credentials. They're wearing them on their sleeves! This IS the Liberalism of the left!! Let it sink in. I ask again: Are Conservatives really closet liberal Democrats? Or are they just losing their marbles and preparing themselves for the inevitable letdown sure to come to the GOP on November 2.

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