23 October 2004

Mmmm, discourse

Yeah, I'm an obsessive blog surfer: smart people writing in bite-size chunks for the limited slices of time I have to exercise my burgeoning intellect is pretty much crack for me. But it's easy to have a slow blog day, where you can't seem to find anything stimulating, and you doubt that blogs really serve the public discourse in any meaningful way.

Today is not one of those days. I offer you three helpings of deep thinking about politics --- and ideas! --- in the long view.

First, Belle Waring said this

I bet you've been thinking, man, why won't someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust carefully analyze the 1971 Kerry/O'Neill debate on the Dick Cavett show, so I can know what was up? Wait no more, friend. Cuz Gary [Amygdala] Farber is that guy on the interweb.
and it is true, so true. What we knew then about Vietnam, what we know now, what we think we know now that just ain't so, what it has to do with Kerry today, and what it doesn't --- plus a taste of TV talk in days of yore, when there were people besides comedians who took our public discourse seriously. Wow.

Second, the Decembrist has an intriguing new article, American Conservatism, R.I.P., in which he argues that the ideology of American conservatism has disintegrated, and that this is a bad thing because there ain't much left to replace it. I'm not sure if I buy his argument, yet --- the Bush administration demonstrates that, unhappily, the lack of a coherent ideology is no barrier to vigorous governance. But he makes some interesting points, and he delivers this little gem of an observation:

It surprising to me that these conservatives seem to miss one of the most distinctive contributions of conservatism: not just "small government" but its urging to be modest about the degree to which human behavior can be modified by law or other collective decisions, and to be respectful of the role that tradition, custom, religion, greed, etc. play in all of human life. I've always liked Senator Moynihan's aphorism: "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself."
Tip o' the hat to the conservatives on that one, yeah.

Third, the Decembrist's article points us to a long essay by Benjamin Wallace-Wells at Washington Monthly, addressing the same crisis in contemporary conservatism, in which he recounts what really happened with the Democratic party in the '70s. You may already know this stuff, but for a young 'un like me, I feel the scales being lifted from my eyes.

By 1980, many liberals were in open revolt against Carter, abandoning him to support Ted Kennedy's ultimately-doomed primary challenge even as the public was sending unmistakable signals that it was sick of Kennedy-style big government. The number of Americans who agreed with the statement that "the best government is one which governs least" had risen from 32 percent in 1973 to 59 percent in 1981, and liberal positions on crime and welfare were similarly unpopular. Towards the end of his term, Carter did manage to push through his energy deregulation legislation and to install the monetarist Paul Volcker as Fed chairman. These acts eventually succeeded in bringing down oil prices and the inflation rate--to the political benefit of Carter's successor, Ronald Reagan.
Jimmy Carter fought against his party's worst instincts, lost, and in losing made himself look weak. His failure to win reelection convinced his party's liberal wing not that they should have been more open to Carter's reforms, but that they had been right all along. In 1984, Democrats rejected the progressive centrist presidential bid of Gary Hart in favor of liberal stalwart Walter Mondale ...
Wallace-Wells says this in order to set up an analogy of Bush to Carter. Really he does. And he has a good point!

Today is a good day to be a lefty intellectual.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I offer you this link to show why middle America may vote for GW