The rise of the Peter Keating conservatives

David G. writes:

I just read the cover article in the November 19 issue of National Review by Ramesh Ponnuru and Richard Lowry entitled, “The Grim Truth, Republicans face a calamitous political situation; but they can avoid it.” The cover warns of “The Coming Cataclysm, Why the GOP Faces One and How to Avoid It.”

Here is their only mention of immigration in the entire article: “We don’t have to open the borders. But we should make clear that our immigration policy isn’t based on anger.”

Okay, then the GOP wins, right? This is shallow nonsense.

These guys are not concerned about their candidates adhering to conservative principles. Nor are they concerned about the GOP enlightening or reminding the American people of what’s at stake in the immigration issue. They are not concerned with the preservation of national identity. And most importantly, they are not concerned with establishing a reservoir of integrity from which to fight future political battles. This indicates an ongoing, ever-leftward drift for the GOP.

These guys are worried about winning elections, now, period.

LA replies:

“We don’t have to open the borders. But we should make clear that our immigration policy isn’t based on anger.”

This is of course the language of the open borders ideologues such as President Bush and Linda Chavez, who say that any opposition to open immigration is motivated by anger and bigotry. And the boys of NR accept that description. Instead of leading on the issue, they give the other side the authority over the issue and put themselves and all other putative immigration control advocates in the role of suppliants who must prove that they’re not angry and bigoted people.

To be fair, NRO made a great contribution to the immigration debate last spring and helped turn the tide against the Comprehensive Black Death Act. I give them credit for that and I thank them. But once that battle was over, they reverted to their usual, light-weight, David Cameron-style “conservatism.”—the conservatism which can be characterized as, “Please don’t hate us, we’re not mean and cruel, really we’re not. Look, we don’t even have beards yet.”

To use a different but not unrelated comparison, it strikes me that Lowry himself resembles Peter Keating in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, the “Second-Hander,” the man who has no resources or principles in himself but merely reflects and adapts to his environment. Thus Lowry rarely writes about what he thinks is true in itself or good for America. Rather, almost all his writings are about what other people feel, what other people like and dislike, how the political horse race is going. Instead of setting a direction for conservatism and America, Lowry merely notes what’s emergent, gives it an acceptable veneer, and goes along with it.

Thus Lowry had a column about Giuliani in the New York Post and at NRO this past week in which, while he did not himself endorse Giuliani for president, he described in such glowing terms why other people like Giuliani that it amounted to an endorsement. Here are excepts from this love letter:

Rather than a break with Bush, Giuliani represents stylistic continuity. The cross-dressing, nonchurch-going, pro-choice New Yorker has more in common with the brush-clearing, evangelical, pro-life West Texan than any of the other Republican candidates. He’s an urban cowboy, who tamed New York City with his no-nonsense commitment to law and order.

As a top GOP operative says: “Reagan has provided the stylistic model for Republican leaders ever since he first ran: tough-talking, moral clarity, inspirational rather than tactical in rhetoric, someone who will stand up to dangerous foreign enemies. Bush fits in that model, and so does Rudy. This style and these attributes are as important, if not more important, than particular issue stands to many voters.”

At this basic level, Giuliani tugs on Republican heartstrings. There is no substitute in politics for being liked, and Republicans simply like Rudy. Rather than the abrasive personality they were told to expect, voters have seen a candidate with the readiest toothy grin this side of Jimmy Carter or Teddy Roosevelt, and he’s the only Republican who has consistently demonstrated a spontaneous sense of humor.

In the breadbasket of modern Republicanism, the south, Giuliani has been surprisingly strong. The south is as much a state of mind as a geographic location, and Giuliani, despite being an ethnic Northeasterner, exemplifies it. He taps into the south’s anti-elitist, patriotic, pro-military attitudes more naturally than any candidate besides John McCain.

Giuliani is winning the leadership primary in the Republican race. An October Fox News poll asked whether Giuliani is a “strong and decisive leader”; 65 percent said “yes,” 20 percent “no”—the highest rating of any of the tested national figures. By refusing to check the box on every conservative issue, Giuliani has reinforced the idea that he has exactly the attributes of strength and leadership that conservatives crave….

Giuliani’s best selling point in the primaries is that—whatever his media coverage says—he’s not something new under the sun. He’s an archetype that Republican voters know and love—the gun-slinging sheriff, just with a different ZIP code.

- end of Lowry excerpt -

Laurium writes:

You wrote:

“Instead of setting a direction for conservatism and America, Lowry merely notes what’s emergent, gives it an acceptable veneer, and goes along with it.”

That has to be one of the most brutal assessments of an editor I have heard in quite a while. Brutal, but scathingly accurate. Like an icepick or stiletto, it slides in easily, gently, with hardly any effort, and meets no resistance whatsoever. Like the deafening NRO silence you noted upon JPod’s departure, it speaks volumes.

Laurium continues:

Lowry and Ponnuru wrote: “We don’t have to open the borders. But we should make clear that our immigration policy isn’t based on anger.”

But we ARE angry! The vast majority of us are very, very angry. Our borders are being ignored. They are smuggling drugs throughout our land. Their own countries will not sell us land, let us immigrate, or give us free medical care, yet they expect us to give it to them?

Utter and unmitigated gall and effrontery. Chutzpah of the first water, Yet rather than get angry at this, our friends at NR want us to apologize, tug our forelocks, whimper, keen, wring our little hands, and use the soothing, calming words of a certified professional doormat.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 11, 2007 03:39 PM | Send

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