Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 16, 2010

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, A NATION TURNS ITS LONELY EYES TO YOU.... There's an ongoing and worthwhile effort underway to understand exactly how and why the conservative movement appears to have gone berserk. Some have argued there's a racial/demographic shift underway, while others point, more persuasively, to the cyclical nature of far-right hysteria.

But Adam Serwer wrote an item this week that resonated with me, pointing to a Sean Wilentz piece about "an unprecedented mainstreaming of once fringe far-right ideas," which Wilentz blames on a lack of "forthright leadership."

Fifty years ago, President Kennedy deplored the far right's "counsels of fear and suspicion." Today, Obama's White House is still struggling to make sense of its enemies. In the absence of forthright leadership, on both the right and the left, the job of standing up to extremists appears to have been left to the electorate.

Candidates like O'Donnell may prove too eccentric to prevail, or voters may simply become disillusioned by politicians who campaign on their hatred of government. After the election, mainstream conservatives may well engage in what Richard Viguerie has forecast as "a massive, almost historic battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party." (Already, Rove and some leading Bush political operatives, including the former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, have been quietly supplanting the battered G.O.P. establishment in the effort to raise funds for this year's candidates.) But, according to a recent poll, more than seventy percent of Republicans support the Tea Party, and it seems almost certain that a Republican Party that has unstintingly appeased the far right will enjoy a strong and perhaps smashing victory in the coming midterm elections.

It didn't used to be this way. William F. Buckley* once famously took on the John Birch Society and made them unwelcome in the Republican Party of the era. In 2010, Buckley has passed, and it's no longer unusual for GOP officials and their party platforms to echo the same fringe ideas Birchers and their ilk have been pushing for years.

As Adam explained, "the right currently lacks a Buckley-like figure who could beat back the fringe while maintaining his conservative credibility.... Countering the conspiracy-minded right was a job for the kind of ideological ombudsman the modern right just doesn't have. "

Agreed. He was writing about a very different point, but Ezra Klein noted the other day, "This isn't a very popular statement, but there is a role for elites in public life. Just like I want knowledgeable CEOs running companies and knowledgeable doctors performing surgeries, I want knowledgeable legislators crafting public policy. That's why we have a representative democracy, rather than some form of government-by-referendum. But of late, the elites in the Republican Party are abdicating their roles, preferring to pander."

To be crude about it, there's just no one left on the right to tell their brethren, "Um, guys? You've gone stark raving mad." To varying degrees, David Frum, Bruce Bartlett, Brink Lindsey, and Will Wilkinson have all tried -- and were all quickly punished for their efforts.

The media won't do it; Democrats don't seem able to do it; and the electorate seems unwilling to do it. Indeed, voters appear to poised to do the exact opposite, rewarding extremism instead of punishing it. In the wake of Bush/Cheney, there was a leadership vacuum, but the country is yet to come to terms with the fact that it was filled by radicals.

The result, as Wilentz explained with painful precision, is that "the extreme right wing is on the verge of securing a degree of power over Congress and the Republican Party that is unprecedented in modern American history."

* Postscript: This is not to characterize Buckley as some kind of moderate. He was, after all, a staunch critic of the civil rights movement, an apologist for Jim Crow, and a supporter of segregation. My point here, though, is that when it came to fringe hysterics and wild-eyed conspiracy theories, Buckley played the role of a voice of reason. As the conservative movement descends further into madness, there is no comparable voice now.

Steve Benen 11:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (62)

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Steve, I think you are overly personalizing the situation. This is pretty typical for pundits but tends to lead to shallow analysis steeped in the "cult of the personality."

If the overall political economy of the right would benefit from a more moderate branding then we would be seeing a shift to the center. However, the money -- and thus power -- is flowing in the opposite direction. You can argue this is happening for a variety of reasons ranging from globalization to the economic clout of the fundamentalists. But whatever the structural and cultural reasons, One Great Man would not be able to hold back such a powerful political current.

You need a counter-movement to stem the tide. The question I have is where might that movement take root and grow within the Republican party? Don't focus on individual leaders so much as where they can generate institutional support (jobs, campaign donations, positive media visibility, etc.).

Posted by: Dr Lemming on October 16, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Right. But the public will eventually do it, I think that no matter what happens this Nov, within 4 or 5 more cycles their lack of answers to people's wants (other than cut government!) will exhaust itself and they'll be deep in the minority everywhere except in the South.

Their lack of policies and beliefs that really resonate with people is damaging their prospects: look at their positions on health reform and medicare. They've put themselves into a box they can't get out of.

Posted by: Frank C. on October 16, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

The SHEER JOY EXPRESSED HERE makes it unlikely that it really will matter what wm bckly had to say.

Posted by: evan on October 16, 2010 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the Dems ought to consider using something like this to frame the election:

After the election, there will still be a US government. Who do you want running it? People who are borderline crazy, who hate government and who think that it ought to be abolished or people who want to make the government better and who want to see it make people's lives better?

Posted by: papa on October 16, 2010 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

The media won't do it; Democrats don't seem able to do it; and the electorate seems unwilling to do it.

The media has now deteriorated to the point where it is utterly incapable of informing the electorate--is can only mal-inform the electorate.

Back in 2001, Krugman wrote his now-famous "Shape of Earth: Views Differ" statement on how the media handles right-wing talking points. Remember back to last summer's "Death Panels" from Palin. The media now does not even offer the "views differ" part of the coverage--in the case of the Death Panels, we had two full weeks of front-page coverage of Death Panels without a single major media outlet ever even mentioning that the healthcare reform bill contained no such thing. It wasn't until the first week of August that the New York Times even bothered to note that the bill had no provisions for review panels of any sort.

Is it any wonder that lunatic-fringe ideas and candidates are now mainstreamed? The media's utter failure at informing the electorate has produced a nation of voters who are not simply il-informed, they are mal-informed.

Posted by: Domage on October 16, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

"a variety of reasons ranging from globalization to the economic clout of the fundamentalists. "- Dr. Lemming

Exactly. When Buckley wrote "God and Man at Yale", we were busy building Levittown and the Interstate Highway System. And, when he hosted "Firing Line", America had a strong manufacturing base, and vibrant small towns, where we knew our kids would climb yet another rung on the ladder.

Today I am reminded of Billy Joel's "Allentown"; an outsourced America, with monumental personal and national debt, and Wall Street's Masters of the Universe investing in emerging markets abroad for a better return, while the rest off us geezers flip burgers and empty bedpans.

Posted by: DAY on October 16, 2010 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Ronald Reagan opened the door for this by proving that repubs could win an election by running on stupid and false policy claims. (He claimed he could increase defense spending, cut taxes, and still balance the budget. He failed.) Tom DeLay locked it in by selling the GOP to their corporate masters. How are they ever going to buy themselves back? Who kept the receipt? There's no force that has an interest in bring them back toward the center, or toward sanity. Limpballs is the current leader and he says crazy is OK as long as it's extreme right-wing crazy. Even Rove had to bow to him.

It might take the moderate repubs and the Blue Dogs fusing into a third party to change this. Political parties can die. Ask Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Ask H H Asquith.

Posted by: Tim H on October 16, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

The media has much blame here, FOX Noise as well as the conservative MSM. Also blame to Rove, Koch Bros, Wall Street, US Chamber, etc. BUT let's not forget moderate Republican Congressmen & Senators who aren't saying "Boo" or even voting against the DeMints of the party (even if they support the legislation), in fact are becoming more conservative just to placate the crazies and oppose Obama and the Dems.

A friend of mine, a liberal Dem, was defending our moderate R congressman. And he is moderate and reasonable. But sorry, when you vote with Bachmann, Gohmert and the rest of the 'baggers 100% of the time, especially on issues you support and at the expense of your constituents, YOU'RE NOT HELPING.

In the meantime the Dems have got to get out the vote to 1) keep the 'baggers out of office and 2)kill their momentum.

Posted by: Hannah on October 16, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

"Buckley played the role of a voice of reason."

I think "played the role of" is the key phrase here.

Posted by: somethingblue on October 16, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

*added to my post above: yes, I realize that were my Congressman to vote with the Dems he would get a crazy primary opponent. But heck, sane people need to wake up and realize that the crazies aren't just located in places where they are running right now, they're everywhere.

One more thing: moderate Rs need to STOP LYING. Their leadership needs to STOP LYING.

Posted by: Hannah on October 16, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

"He was, after all, a staunch critic of the civil rights movement, an apologist for Jim Crow, and a supporter of segregation"

Correct! That would make him a moderate Republican by today's standards. They go downhill from there.

Posted by: Mark-NC on October 16, 2010 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

This may start to self-correct. It may be that the Republicans who win this fall are the more moderate ones and the ones who lose are the more radical. If the party loses NV,KY and DE -- all of which should have been easy -- the moderates may be strengthened.

But overall, moderate GOP people should start looking for their exit strategy from their party -- whether to a third party in coalition with conservative Dems -- or in the Democratic Party. They will just have to remember to the say the last syllable of the party.

Posted by: tom in ma on October 16, 2010 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Buckley was born a racist but he completely changed his views and said that is past views were wrong.

Something quite similar happened to Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

Be fair. The Republicans are stupid enough today that it is easier to be fair and still show how insane the main stream Republican party has become.

Posted by: neil wilson on October 16, 2010 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

This isn't rocket science. By the end of Bushco, American Conservatism was intellectual bankrupt. The party of Buckley and Reagan had been discredited. What do they have left? The freaks leading the fringe and 20% of the populace who are terrified of real change and the rest who really don't have a clue and eat whatever their fed.

Posted by: Jeff In Ohio on October 16, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Ezra Klein noted the other day, "This isn't a very popular statement, but there is a role for elites in public life. Just like I want knowledgeable CEOs running companies and knowledgeable doctors performing surgeries, I want knowledgeable legislators crafting public policy.

Agreed...to a point. CEO's and politicians and other elevated members of our society don't always gain their position because of knowledge, skill or experience but because they were born rich and expect to remain so. There is a sense of desperation born from the insecurity of the more average inheritors and they are desperate to stay a member of the elite despite their shortcomings.
George Bush was an example of the type of elitism by birth (or oligarch or plutocracy, whatever you want to call it) that people should resent. Barak Obama is an elite politician because he spent a lifetime of serious learning and thinking about law and politics. There is a difference, although I have not heard that difference discussed much.
Inherited elitism is dangerous to the country. It is why kingdoms fail -- the brilliant king followed two generations later by his imbecile grandson -- often it seems named George.
Anyhow, the type of static elitism defined and controlled by inherited name and wealth is anathema for the well being of this country. Elitism should be earned not passed on.

Posted by: patrick II on October 16, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

I knew, as soon as I saw Wilentz' name, that it was Obama's fault. In his head, he's still being the Arthur Schlesinger Jr to Mrs. Clinton's JFK.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina@gmail.com on October 16, 2010 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Being a minority party, the Republicans have to stand out. As the Democrats continue their decades long move to the right economically(what REALLY counts), the Republicans have no where else to go.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on October 16, 2010 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Also playing a part in this are voters who see electing governmental representation as a form of popularity. They see who gets voted out of Dancing with the Stars, Biggest Looser etc which have no direct effect on their lives whatsoever and then start to equate government elections in the same manner. Part of that is the "my one vote doesn't matter" but somehow these people need to understand that it does.

Posted by: Just Guessinh on October 16, 2010 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

What is an extremist? An extremist is someone who has no methods to point to with regards to how he arrived at his beliefs. Since facts can be cherry picked, methodology matters more than facts. How many different points views did he listen to before he decided on his own? One does not have to integrate all points of views, but one either has to integrate them or refute them.

Truly, the right has its extremists. Some extremist views on the right:

1. It is impossible for the ending of an overseas commitment to increase the security of the U.S.
2. It is impossible for a soldier to fight in a war without supporting the foreign policy behind it.
3. It is impossible for the state of Israel's and the U.S.'s interests to be anything other than identical.

Yet so does the left. Consider the dogmas of the left:

1. It is impossible for an unborn child to be a human being.
2. It is impossible for most government employees or union members to be capable of greed.
3. If a government program is administered by those with pure intentions, it is impossible for its outcomes to differ from its intentions.

Posted by: Realpolitick on October 16, 2010 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

I've been thinking this very thing for months. But as the post notes, real attempts by conservative intellectuals to distinguish the current fringe have failed. A large part of that is the rise of conservative media (TV, Radio, Blogs) that portray fringe positions as what "real" Americans believe, and attacks moderate and centrist positions as socialist, marxism, and the end of democracy. And then there's the actual embracing of the fringe -- even the Birchers -- by groups like CPAC, which are a core constituency for anyone hoping to run for a Republican Presidential nomination.

What I haven't seen much of is how this current trend compares to previous surges by fringe elements. I saw a piece the other day that did suggest the current wave is much like the Know-Nothing party in the mid-1800's, and some general pieces noting the rise of right-wing fringe with each Democratic administration. How about the run-up to the Goldwater nomination, when the extremes really captured control of the party?

I suspect that whatever parallels history provides, there are still unique factors that make this fringe different. Cable TV and the Internet unite and give voice to what would have previously been isolated extremists. And the political parties have become more and more concentrated on electoral victory, at the price of responsibly of governing (the prime example is the Senate).

I'm not convinced that a Republican victory this fall, even if massive, represents an acceptance by the moderate and Independent voters of extreme philosophy, however. Economic circumstances may be pushing them to vote for a change in power, but the polls don't support that they overwhelmingly agree with conservative principles. It's that kind of schizophrenic polling that gives me hope that some sanity still exists, and that a future Buckley could still arise and marginalize the Becks, Palins, and Limbaughs. But we're definitely not there yet.

Posted by: Jan on October 16, 2010 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

From Realpolitick on October 16, 2010 above:

1. It is impossible for an unborn child to be a human being.

Not sure I've ever heard this one.

2. It is impossible for most government employees or union members to be capable of greed.

This is pure BS. They simply believe that those with a profit motive are greedier.

3. If a government program is administered by those with pure intentions, it is impossible for its outcomes to differ from its intentions.

More pure BS. I doubt even a total Communist would buy that stupidity.

Posted by: Mark-NC on October 16, 2010 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

I just ran across this article about a German museum exhibit looking at how the German public embraced Hitler, and thought this quote from the curator was strikingly similar to the thoughts in this post about Buckley:

"“The only hope for stopping extremists is to isolate them from society so that they are separated, so they do not have a relationship with the bourgeoisie and the other classes,” Mr. Thamer said. “The Nazis were members of high society. This was the dangerous moment.

“This we have to avoid from happening.”"


I'm not calling the Tea Party leaders Hitler or Nazis, by the way. But one thing the article points out is that Germany and other parts of Europe are also struggling with the mainstreaming of formerly fringe thought. And elderly Germans are reminded of a point in their own history when extremism took hold and was destructive, not just to their own country, but to the world. That is perhaps the kind of thoughtful consideration that we are not getting in our own country about extremists, perhaps because it never got that extreme in the US, and we have no experienced voices or exhibits encouraging us to reconsider our past.

Worth some thought, however, especially as fringe thought is embraced by the conservative elite.

Posted by: Jan on October 16, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Buckley was an urbane front man for all the worst impulses in American society.

Posted by: hornblower on October 16, 2010 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

I am sure that if the American public puts the Tea-party purified Republicans in power, then by almost every measure, life in the United States will get much worse. Infrastructure will crumble, public education will become a joke (except for private schools, which will probably do fine), health of the average American will decline, the environment will get more polluted, our resources will be squandered, the divide between rich and poor will become more pronounced. Either deficits will skyrocket, or services by the government will be drastically cut (or both). We are heading for a slow-moving train wreck.

Now, the American people will NOT be happy with these changes, because the changes will be bad for almost everyone except the very wealthiest. Normally, that would be good Democrats. I'm not positive that it will be, though. It seems possible that the public could become completely demoralized, and convinced that decline and misery is the best we can expect anymore, and there is nothing any political party can do about it.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on October 16, 2010 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

1. It is impossible for an unborn child to be a human being.

It is impossible for a fetus's interests to have the same weight as those of the full-blown human supporting it, for reasons that should be obvious, and curtailing the rights of the actual person is an ugly and dangerous thing.

2. It is impossible for most government employees or union members to be capable of greed.

Of course some can be greedy, although they would have to have pretty small-bore greed impulses given the pathetic profit opportunities in those sectors. Grasping impulses are damned near universal-- ask anyone who's administered even a small inheritance-- but the damage done by the most avaricious is proportional to their wealth. Interesting that institutions that either bypass profit entirely (government) or exist to represent the interests of the relatively weak (unions) are so maligned while the real greedheads are held up as shining examples of... something. Go figure.

3. If a government program is administered by those with pure intentions, it is impossible for its outcomes to differ from its intentions.

Means can always fail, and people with pure intentions by definition want their causes to succeed. However, should their preferred means be less than perfectly successful, their entire missions are attacked and derided; it's impossible to not be defensive when one's opposition is not only unhelpful, but reliably hostile to any efforts to actually solve the problems.

Posted by: latts on October 16, 2010 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Why is the GOP tilting toward the far right?

Because that's where the money is!

Seriously ... these candidates are nothing without their funding. And the current radicalization of the GOP will continue until corporate America (and large donors) decide to stop funding this bonkers right-wing stuff. But that hasn't happened yet.

Quite to the contrary, massive amounts of corporate cash seems to be pouring into the GOP generally, including the Tea Party organizations.

And frankly? It is really scary to see the economic establishment throwing in with the cause of regulatory paralysis, deficit spending, and government dysfunction. It is as if they learned nothing at all from the W. years - except for wanting to do it over (but harder, and no compromises this time). This goes beyond rational economic self interest. They have gone wingnut on us.

Posted by: Bokonon on October 16, 2010 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Realpolitick, you must be exhausted from fighting all those scary straw men you conjured up.

Posted by: Gummo on October 16, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

>i> ...the job of standing up to extremists appears to have been left to the electorate.

So tell me---how did that standing-up thingie work out for Wiemar Germany, eh?

Posted by: S. Waybright on October 16, 2010 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

I think if Buckley were still alive, he would be have been:

a. Dismissed as old school
b. Ignored
c. Run over by Fox News.
d. All of the above

Posted by: Andrew on October 16, 2010 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

It is impossible for a fetus's interests to have the same weight as those of the full-blown human supporting it...

latts: It's obviously not the case that it is "impossible" for a fetus to have equal rights or weight of interest as other people. Moreover, your assertion that a fetus is not a "full-blown human being" is simply that: an assertion.

...for reasons that should be obvious, and curtailing the rights of the actual person is an ugly and dangerous thing.

The only thing obvious about the distinctions our society and legal system formulate about personhood is the political power and influence of the groups receiving the benefit of said distinctions, and the lack thereof of the groups not receiving the benefit.

...and curtailing the rights of the actual person is an ugly and dangerous thing.

On this we agree: curtailing the rights of actual persons is ugly and dangerous. But again, defining when a person is "actual" is inevitably an exercise in drawing arbitrary boundaries. Do we go with fertilization? Implantation? Quickening? Heartbeat? Brain activity? Ability to feel pain? Sentience? Viability? Birth?

For what it's worth, like Andrew Sullivan I consider myself a "reluctant pro-choicer." Not because I kid myself into believing I or anybody else has some unique moral insight into personhood: I'm honest enough to admit the decision about which lives deserve the protection of the law and which ones don't is largely an exercise in arbitrariness. I'm pro-choice (though anti-Roe) mainly because using the criminal justice system to prohibit abortion simply isn't feasible in a 21st century democratic polity. Outlawing abortion would require either A) Deliberate non-enforcement of the law; or, B) Law-enforcement tactics incompatible with an open, freedom and privacy-valuing society like the America of 2010.

Posted by: Melatonin on October 16, 2010 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Buckley also said he would rather be governed by the first 500 names in the Cambridge telephone directory than by the Harvard faculty. What you are seeing is a nation that has come to the same conclusion. Certainly, they couldn't do any worse.

Posted by: Mike K on October 16, 2010 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that the leaders of the Republican party are not elected officials, they're rabble-rousers who benefit from the madness-- Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes.

Posted by: Anthony Damiani on October 16, 2010 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Welcome to the devolution.

Posted by: becca on October 16, 2010 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

hornblower + Bokonon. To add to their views, the power of the moneymen is scarier now more than ever. Saying the prez, make a progressive argument against conservatism hasn't seemed to work, so we GOTV and do what we can, but there's no question big money has thoroughly intimidated our leaders.

Posted by: angler on October 16, 2010 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's primarily a racial/tribal reaction to the changing demographics in America since the 1965 immigration law changes. This is the last gasp of the angry white "real American."

The demographic trend lines are against them, and they know it. That's why they sound so hysterical and desperate (same situation going on in Israel and other countries).

Posted by: Speed on October 16, 2010 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

There is an abortion discussion here, yet not real discussion on "when life begins". Yes, a bit off topic.

One study, and not the only one, in 1991, (Congenital Anomalies, volume 31, issue 2, 67-80, June 1991)showed that ~30% of fetuses are abnormal at the early postimplantation stage, about 10% at 5 weeks and only 1% at term. They also state "The cumulative intrauterine mortality rate of malformed conceptuses was estimated to be 93%, while the corresponding rate for normal conceptuses was 18%."

Basically there is a pretty high rate of natural spontaneous abortions, many times that happens before the potential mother realizes she is pregnant.

This is NOT meant to be used as an excuse to have an abortion, but shows that trying to legislate "when life begins" is not realistic. And yes, there are other studies looking at pollutants, drugs, and alcohol on spontaneous abortion rates in non-human primates as experiments.

Posted by: golack on October 16, 2010 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Is there anyone who could assume the role of elder statesman and voice of reason in today's Republican Party? On the theory that "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king," the only candidate I can think of is George H.W. Bush. (Yes, I know. Read my qualifier.) When he wasn't being weaselly and advancing his career based on his father's connections and his fealty to the Nixon crowd, he was at least nominally a "Rockefeller Republican," that is until he sold what was left of his soul to the Reaganites in 1980. However, as president he did draw the line at supporting David Duke. Would he take on this role now? Nah, because he's still weaselly and because doing so would require him to be critical of, at least implicitly, his own son's pathetic excuse for a presidency.

Posted by: navamske on October 16, 2010 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Considering the damage that the right wing fringe has been doing to Democrats, arguably since Reagan in 1980, but certainly since Clinton, it is curious that no Democrats of consequence are willing to take them on directly.

The lefty blogs and several authors have laid out the case against them, but the corporate press/media almost never runs with the stories, not in the way that every hysterical right-wing hissy fit makes it to the top of the news.

Does this thirty year surrender to the right-wing make the Naderite argument more persuasive? Will it really take all out right-wing rule, sustained over years, to convince Americans to reject it permanently? Damn, I hope not. I don't know if I can live through that.

But, given that we do not have any influence over Democratic "leaders," what are we supposed to do?

Posted by: James E. Powell on October 16, 2010 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

The reason that many of the Republicans are mad is the failure of the conservatives to be conservative while in office. Bush expanded spending, added new cabinet departments, added a ton of new regulations, and wanted a national take over of education that every conservative pundit told him would be a failure. Thus, conservative no longer trust the establishment Republicans because they have lied too much in the past.

The there is also problem of the Bush clan running the Republicans for over 20 years while having zero desire to develop any talent outside of the Bush clan.

There is also the problem that the Republicans are seen as a homogeneous groups while the Democrats can take opposite sides of an issue as long as each group gets their piece of the government pork such as blacks not believing in evolution but no one cares because blacks always vote for Democrats.

Posted by: superdestroyer on October 16, 2010 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Politics 101....a motivated minority will always defeat a passive majority. That's what happened to the Dems in the past when they became too liberal for the country as a whole, and that is what is happening to the GOP now, which will eventually (by 2012, I predict), become too loony for the country as a whole.

Posted by: mfw13 on October 16, 2010 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Don't be fooled.

The money men are still in charge, and using the tea baggers to carry their water this year. Where do think Dick Armey got the money to whip up the racist fear among the stupidocracy?

They saw that they had NO argument on the facts of recent history and saw that the only way back to power was IRrationality. How better to whip it up than to use racism?

The Greedy Old Plutocrats will use the racist tea baggers just like they used the brainwashed "christians."

To cut their taxes. To get rid of regulation over them. And to steal more money, money, money out of the pockets of teh stoopid that voted them in.

Posted by: Mouse Brain on October 16, 2010 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Domage: word.

Posted by: Mouse Brain on October 16, 2010 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Apathy, that's what will put these lunatics in the seats of power. After the election when it turns out to be a tea party massacre, the media gush endlessly over the tea baggers' power and influence, when in fact, they will have won their elections only because so few people turned out to vote. A handful of extreme people will point the government in their direction, and the blame will lay squarely on the multitude who stayed home on election day.

Posted by: SaintZak on October 16, 2010 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Tim H named the Blue Dogs and the moderate Repes as maybe getting together.

Hey, Tim, they HAVE been together. They got the health bill they wanted, and the money made drove teh shtupe-id crazy against it.

Go figure.

Posted by: Mouse Brain on October 16, 2010 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

Patrick II said "Inherited elitism is dangerous to the country."

And THAT'S why all Democrats need to get serious about keeping the estate tax.

When the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy expire, the exemption will go back to $1 million.

Not as much as it used to be, but still a good amount of money. And it was the ReThugs who, with their petty "Just Say NO NO NO NO NO" tantrum who stopped the raising of that to 3 or 5 million, which would have taken care of most truly "small" businesses in this country.

I heard a philanthropist say, "I want my kids to have everything they need, but not everything they want." And that's the dividing line between the idle rich, and people who need to engage other people and work in the world and make compromises to keep on keeping on.

The idle rich are the bain of civilization.

Posted by: Mouse Brain on October 16, 2010 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

I doubt that Fox Cartoon News will ever have a William F. Buckley moment.

I can imagine what "brain-storm" meetings over at Fox Cartoon News must be like each morning, as far-right-wing show hosts, far-right-wing show producers and arch-Republican conservative Roger Ailes "strategerize" over how they are going to "present" the "news" throughout the day on the Fox Cartoon News channel.

First, they start with the facts, throwing these into the Fox stew pot. Then they dump in a whole lot of partisan right-wing talking points, some nuttiness for spicing, minced stupidity, some of Glenn Beck's white chalk, along with a cup or two of outright right-wing lies. Place Fox cooking pot over a fire, bring to a boil, ladle out into crackpot bowls.

Voila. What shows up on the Fox Cartoon News menu for the day.

And crazed right-wingers, especially of the zombie Teabagger kind, eat it all up.

With Aussie-born Rupert Murdoch smirking and giggling in the background.

Posted by: The Oracle on October 16, 2010 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

FIRST: Buckley was offspring of the very rich who made it his mission to stand in the road of progress and shout "STOP," this is not unsurprising for someone who adopted the views of his parents and grandparents who undoubtedly hated and feared the Progressive movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They would have been Taft and McKinley men as opposed to Teddy who betrayed his class.

SECOND: "Is it any wonder that lunatic-fringe ideas and candidates are now mainstreamed? ( sic ) The media's utter failure at informing the electorate has produced a nation of voters who are not simply il-informed, they are mal-informed." Domage on October 16, 2010

THIRD: This whole situation is the fault of the Democrats who for the last 30 years have rolled over and played submissive when the Republicans turned "liberal" into a dirty word and countenanced the massive transfer of wealth from everyone else to the idle rich class. To the point where the proportion of taxes paid by wealthy is at the same level as it was in 1926 or 1927 about the same time Buckley was born. (note my Dad was born in 1926, the son of a master sergeant, and is still alive.. He played handball every day for 40 years and now merely lifts weights and runs every day.)

FOURTH: unless the Democrats arise and stop this movement - it may be too late for this election, we will need an army of Dentists to stop these proto-Huey Longs. Because, if you like what's happening in Arizona moving to an education and poverty level and quality of health care akin to Mississippi's mixed with a determination to destroy all other cultures in America except theirs... you will LOVE what their friends will do to America.

Sarah Palin is only a better dressed version of Jan Brewer and the intellectual heir of The Maricopa Sheriff.

And the dentists may be with Rand Paul.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on October 16, 2010 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

"... somehow these people need to understand that it does (matter who they vote for)."

If they didn't learn after 8 disastrous years under Bush the Lesser, then it ain't gonna happen.

Americans love denial. It's not MY fault.

Posted by: Mouse Brain on October 16, 2010 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Realpolitik, but I'm on the left and NO ONE on the left thinks it is "impossible" for an unborn child to be a human being.

It IS possible, however, for an unborn fetus NOT to be a human being. In case you didn't know, there are fetuses who lack a brain.

Now I may have a MOUSE brain, but at least I've got one, and a mass of human cells at nine months in the womb WITHOUT a brain? NOT a human being.

Questionable if it is a 'being' at all. A bacterium can move and eat on it's own and replicate. But a human "body" without a brain? I don't think so.

Posted by: Mouse Brain on October 16, 2010 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

Well worn story: He was who he was, but did possess a genuine sense of humor. When a subscriber to his magazine ended an angry letter with the demand, "Cancel my subscription!", Buckley replied, "Cancel your own damn subscription".

Posted by: JW on October 16, 2010 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

Latts no 2: right on.

Funny how the truly greedy (oligarchic ReTHUGlicans) project greed onto those trying to even the playing field.

Posted by: Mouse Brain on October 16, 2010 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

The media not only won't do it, they can't do it. Back when I was in J-school, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, we were taught NOT to make ourselves part of the story. Now, the media--individually and collectively--think they ARE the story. They want to be the kingmakers as well as the arbiters of taste and fashion, and they're doing a lousy job of it.

And the Democrats don't seem able to do it, you say? Why the hell should they do it at all? Democrats have always been disorganized and chaotic. It's what we live for. It's not our job to FIX Republicans--like anyone could.

The electorate is getting dumber by the decade, and in this particular decade, more stupid by the minute. (See above, Media, assholiness of.) I have to hope, though, that they (we) will come through in the end.

So, who is left? The right! (Sorry.) Let them fix themselves. Let them cancel their own damn subscriptions, as Buckley said (thanks JW). Let them fuck their canoes. Or let them die an unholy political death. I am sick of them.

Posted by: Thisby on October 17, 2010 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

Buckley played the role of a voice of reason

Relatively speaking.

Sad day when Buckley comes to be considered a "voice of reason." One step forward, ten steps back. Then again, I've heard voices on the left say Obama is the same as Bush, so who knows what the f* anymore. Crazy to the left, crazy to the right, onward into the valley of death.

Posted by: Jon on October 17, 2010 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

I am violating Goodwin's law here, but there are obvious historical examples of when a nation comes under stress, the people react by supporting simple minded know nothing nationalistic morons. And the industrial magnates supported it all the way - to their eventual determent. Why won't the MSM stand up and say what we all know - at this point in time the Republican party is bat-shit crazy.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on October 17, 2010 at 3:05 AM | PERMALINK

Glad you added that postscript.

I guess that only leaves one thing to say: as any properly indignant "true progressive" knows, it's obviously all Obama's fault.

Posted by: sherifffruitfly on October 17, 2010 at 4:22 AM | PERMALINK

The MSM won't say it because the MSM is owned by huge corporations, mostly right wing. It is all about the money.

The 4th Estate is no longer doing its job, pure and simple. There is very little journalism.
If you want news, better go to PBS or the BBC (tho Diane Sawyer actually is raising intelligent questions these days.)

Posted by: clem on October 17, 2010 at 4:51 AM | PERMALINK

Buckley was a media figure, who used that position to argue against the extremists. Unfortunately for us all, the right, and far right media figures of today are engaged in an endless battle to be more extreme, and therefore more conservatively pure, than the next guy. Common sense has no place, and leadership is concerned with ratings, not saying and doing the right thing. The question is how much damage will it do before it burns out, like Ebola?

Posted by: Foreigner on October 17, 2010 at 5:17 AM | PERMALINK

All these self-styled "moderates" now have the Republican Party they deserve. The "Southern Strategy" chickens have finally come home to roost in a big way. The whole country is now going to pay the price for decades of cynical appeasement of the radical right by both major parties and a pusillanimous media. We're screwed.

Posted by: DKF on October 17, 2010 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Buckley is no longer the controller of the discourse on the right--Murdoch is. The results in the UK are as follows:


We've got something to look forward to.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on October 17, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Serwer's assertion that "White People Haven't Gone Crazy" mis-states the situation. White people *have* gone crazy, *and they have nobody to hold them back, as in years past.*

Posted by: Daniel Kim on October 17, 2010 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK
My point here, though, is that when it came to fringe hysterics and wild-eyed conspiracy theories, Buckley played the role of a voice of reason.

If I'm not mistaken, Buckley is also the last republican in existence, who was able to consistently create full sentences.

Posted by: cwolf on October 17, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

You should continue to dream your sweet dreams Mr. Benen! The fact is Buckley was far too tolerant of the educated "elite" leftests. He was willing to hear them out! The John Birch types won't spend a second on them for many good reasons.This nation has always been fairly conservative. I know you hate to hear that, but it's true.The vast flyover is populated with America loving, high school educated (or less),pickup truck driving, gun brandishing Billy Bobs! I would trust ANY of them with the future of this country more than I trust people like you.You can write all the claptrap you please about the drift to the right of the GOP. The Billy Bobs are NOT the GOP! They are the people who are going to be hanging politicians and paper shufflers from lamp posts and bridge overpasses in about two years if the GOVERNMENT fails to get the house in order.Both parties are going into the fire if this mess isnt fixed. Go ahead and tell yourself that the military and police won't let the wolves in your door! Do you really believe it? Everyone who is in the public domain will be a target.From the state houses on up. The media as well. You guys in the press have sold your asses to the devil! well, The Billy Bobs are going to be the collection agents! You all might want to be checking out real estate in the E.U. You might , maybe be safe there.

Posted by: Scott Brown on October 19, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK



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