If the Bourbon Restoration in France brought back into power people who had “learned nothing and forgotten nothing,” what will the Republicans restored bring back into power? People who’ve learned nothing and who forget everything? If one can chide the left for historical revisionism, equally one can chide conservatives for their infamous “memory hole” where previous statements, actions, and or votes are either completely forgotten or pretended as if they never took place at all.
Or better yet, the Republicans restored are fellows whose explanations for previous failings are so simplistic and childish it renders one speechless at their lack ingenuity. If it is true Republicans lost the confidence of the people because of “big spending” or because “We went to Washington and Washington changed us” as John McCain explained (to which Ron Paul replied, “Speak for yourself buddy”) then what is their argument this Election Day to make the voting public believe they can trust them again? After all, Republicans were given power in 1994 to reduce the size of government and government 10 years later was bigger than ever before. And the would-be Speaker of the House John Boehner was right in the middle of this expansion. He did nothing to stop it. Why then, presumably, would he and his colleagues be different if the Republicans had a majority in Congress again? If they were that concerned about government spending, Ron Paul would be in line to be speaker and not Mr. Boehner.
It isn’t just GOP lawmakers who suffer from this same (and I think deliberate) historical amnesia. So-called conservative journalists do too, as Daniel Larison pointed out in a critique about a recent screed in the National Review which included this paragraph:
“Yet neither the Democratic ascendancy nor the Republican humiliation meant the country had made a fundamental shift to the left. People had fired Tom DeLay’s congressional majority and quit on President Bush, but they had not become latter-day McGovernites. In fact, the opposite. A July 2009 Gallup report noted that by a 2–1 margin, people said their views had become more conservative in recent years.”
Maybe so, but then why did these people vote for the apostate Bush II (and his father too!) and the big-spending GOP Congresses throughout the last decade? And why did the leaders of such conservative opinion journals and talk-radio hosts offer their hosannas to all these “big spenders” while going after those who were wiling to point what was being offered by the president and the GOP leadership in Congress was hardly conservative at all in the real meaning of the word? These very very people who, by their position in place within the “movement,” get to decide what is deemed conservative and what isn’t (as Bramwell would say) what topics are addressed and what are not (as Brimelow would say) and who is declared unpatriotic and who isn’t (as Fleming, Gottfried, Francis, Rockwell, Novak, Buchanan, Taki and a whole host of others would say).
The answer of course is far more complex than simpletons would lead you to believe. (Bush wasn’t conservative enough!). If this true why was he even nominated way back in 2000? Sure I know, he had the famous name, all the money in the world, the institutional support of the party (especially at the state level). Pat Buchanan left the party and the remaining “conservative” candidates did their usual splitting of the conservative vote to atom-sized proportions. But Mitt Romney had much of these same advantages as well in 2008 and it availed him nothing. The Bush campaign team of 2000 smartly did not act like Stuarts trying to reclaim the throne for the family. They were trying to come up with a governing doctrine to recast the party after the debacles of the 1995 government shutdown and the 1998 impeachment. They were also trying deal with a contradictory realty about the party: Much of its voting base was middle to lower middle class and much of its voting base was dependent on government. And if they wanted to grow the party with new members from new immigrant groups the party’s relationship with the business community helped to bring about, they would also be including persons dependent in some way on government as well. This is where “compassion conservatism” comes in. But its a doctrine which requires a certain level of government involvement (and silence about immigration) and it goes against the grain of what today’s Tea Party is all about. Yet over the last 10 years all we heard from the conservative establishment (not just the GOP establishment) was Bush worship and “we’re all Big Government conservatives now”. 9-11 and the war, I’m sure, had a lot to do with this but one can also argue “why tamper with success?” By 2005 the GOP was in complete control in Washington for the first time since 1954. To become a dissenter back then (at least in public) one would have been willing to be an outcast and as one can deduce about Rich Lowry, he wishes not to be an outcast no matter who is in charge of the GOP or the ideological right.
We are being led to believe today’s Republicans can simply simply switch themselves the way one turns on a light without much time for reflection or recrimination. Big Spenders one day, Constitutionalists the next. Of course no one buys this. If one reads the “Pledge to America”, one can see a party determined to vague its way to victory. Very few, like Rep. Paul Ryan, have offered anything close to detail of what government they plan to cut, lest they offend much of the base of their party. Again, the contradiction still exists and is still unresolved which will once more affect governing as it di the House GOP majority of the 1990s and the Bush II presidency. But what gives the party credibility, ironically, is the Tea Partiers themselves. What could have been a broad-based movement encompassing all those with grievences against the centralized state of all persuasions became the latest version of the “movement” trying to reinvent itself (and refill their coffers) off the frustrations and fears of those who they claim to be their champions (as happened in the early, the late 1970s, the early 1990s, etc.) while spending their money on fundraising and other dubious activism (Conservative INC.). However this version actually dumped establishment Republicans officeholders in primaries and beat their candidates elsewhere and have set up political apparatuses separate from the main party, so they must be serious this time the voter says to him or herself (or at least the party hopes they do). Yet it will be this populist reform wave the Boehners and the McConells will be riding to a possible majority and subsequently power. Not a bad little trick but, as with the Bourbons, the GOP restored hasn’t forgotten.