The conservative establishment’s mission: to be unserious and keep surrendering to the left

Stephen T. writes:

As Romney sags in the polls and Obama rises, John Fund at NRO trumpets the exciting and very relevant breaking news that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has just made a brilliant choice of campaign manager for his run … in the 2014 ELECTION!

I’m seeing some very promising data for the 2019 House races in several contested districts of the Rocky Mountain states, as well.

I know it’s a tactical error always to fight the last war, but it seems to be a peculiarly mainstream Republican thing to be always immersed in the micro-maneuverings of the NEXT war—or the one after that—in lieu of engaging in hand-to-hand combat to win the present one.

LA replies:

Stephen T.’s observation reminds me, in a roundabout way, of National Review’s response to John Roberts’s catastrophic decision on Obamacare. I had intended to write about it but hadn’t done so yet. The cover of their July 30 issue has an illustration of John Roberts, not as the vile individual who has committed perhaps the single most egregious, harmful act in modern American political history and whose name deserves to be erased from the book of life, but as a whimsical, smug weather vane—the message being that the decision, while perhaps regrettable in some ways, is not that bad:


The cover story, by Jonathan Adler and Nathaniel Stewart, is “The Line that Held.” A cut line from the article is at the top of the issue’s table of contents page, underscoring that the authors’ message is National Review’s message:

The Line That Held

The Supreme Court’s ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius was disheartening. But despair is unwarranted. The negative consequences of the ruling for constitutional interpretation are actually quite limited, and there is much in it upon which to build.

See? The ruling is not that bad, and there’s much in it upon which to build. When I saw that, I understood not only that the NR had (as I had expected) accepted Roberts’s horrible decision, perversely seeing it, as so many establishment conservatives had, as some kind of conservative victory, but that their acceptance of it was the model for their response to all possible future leftward moves by the U.S. government. There is no leftist act by our government which NR will not make peace with and find something “conservative” in it to celebrate. Whatever the government might do, whether it installs socialized medicine, or takes over other parts of the economy, or shuts down free speech, or imprisons conservatives dissidents, NR will say: “The negative consequences of this government act are not that bad, and there is much in it upon which to build.

In other words, no matter how leftist or tyrannical or evil the American regime actually becomes, NR will continue to support that regime. It will continue to imagine that the historic America of the Constitution still exists, and that the conservative movement whose job it is to defend that America has not been defeated, because, even in a fully leftist America, there will always be something for conservatives to work on or to fight for (even though that new battle will also be inevitably lost).

Or, to repeat Stephen’s insightful remark: “It seems to be a peculiarly mainstream Republican thing to be always immersed in the micro-maneuverings of the NEXT war—or the one after that—in lieu of engaging in hand-to-hand combat to win the present one.”

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Alan Roebuck writes:

The Republicans (and conventional conservatives in general) want to win by tweaking things. By the subtle application of just the right small force at just the right time and place. By occasional subterfuge and deception. By finding a small area where the opponent is vulnerable. By making themselves look more appealing, more reasonable and more compassionate than the other side. Etc.

In other words, by anything except clearly identifying the errors and evil of the enemy, and attacking him vigorously, with the goal of decisively defeating him.

This doesn’t just apply to politics. That’s basically the way we fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s what we did in Egypt and Libya and apparently what we’re doing in Syria. (Never mind that, in the last three cases, we support the wrong side. The point is, it’s how we fight.) It’s how conventional conservatives fight the culture war, like partisan fighters slowing the enemy’s rate of advance but with no thought of decisively defeating him.

Why do they fight like this? Presumably because they don’t believe in the cause for which they fight. They want to win spontaneously, as it were, without being seen as the cause of the victory. Because if the spectators saw them as the cause of their victory over the Left, the onlookers would hate those mean old conservatives for defeating the glorious Left.

That’s my theory. It’s a hunch, but it’s consistent with the facts.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 14, 2012 12:59 PM | Send

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