Remember this David Brooks piece I called to your attention yesterday? I continue to be fascinated by the way "conservatives" are pulling their party apart, to the point that pundits not of their persuasion have trouble describing the viscera thus exposed.
Mr. Brooks wrote of how a nouveau kind of guy like Mike Huckabee can take on the various aspects of the GOP coalition embodied by "Rush Limbaugh, the Club for Growth and even President Bush" and prevail. In today’s paper we have David Broder and George Will trying to describe the same GOP elephant from different angles.
David Broder, a man whom I greatly respect even though he has an unshaken faith in the importance of the political parties that I believe are the ruination of America, is clinging to the definitions and alliances with which he is familiar. For instance, he uses the term, "mainstream Republicans," as though it is a term that is still easily understood, and therefor meaningful to the reader. He uses it here:
…But McCain and Huckabee have yet to build broad constituencies among
mainstream Republicans. Huckabee’s following is centered among
evangelical Christians, who dominated the low-turnout Iowa caucuses.
McCain’s greatest appeal is to Republican-leaning independents who
powered his 2000 victory and who remain loyal to him….
And again here:
…That opens at least something of an opportunity for Rudy Giuliani and
Fred Thompson to demonstrate their ability in Florida, South Carolina
and other states that were part of George W. Bush’s political base. The
mainstream Republicans in those states are still looking for a
What do you suppose he means, in the Year of Our Lord 2008? Is a "mainstream American," in his usage, a mainstream American who happens to be a Republican, or a Republican partisan who happens to be at some ideological midpoint in his own party — which is not the same thing at all? I suppose he means the latter. In any case, he seems to be speaking of some theoretical type who remains loyal to "Rush Limbaugh, the Club for Growth and even President Bush," and is untroubled by any of the associations — if such still exists.
Or maybe he’s thinking of the folks, to be found commenting on this post, who see Fred Thompson as the last Paladin of a "conservatism" which I have asked them to define, because the word by itself means little nowadays.
Or maybe he’s talking about George Will, as being among the Old Guard of pundits. Here’s part of what he wrote for Sunday:
Like Job after losing his camels and acquiring boils, the conservative
movement is in distress. Mike Huckabee shreds the compact that has held
the movement’s two tendencies in sometimes uneasy equipoise.
conservatives, many of whom share Huckabee’s desire to “take back this
nation for Christ,” have collaborated with limited-government,
market-oriented, capitalism-defending conservatives who want to take
back the nation for James Madison. Under the doctrine that
conservatives call “fusion,” each faction has respected the other’s
agenda. Huckabee aggressively repudiates the Madisonians.
John Edwards, flaunting their histrionic humility in order to promote
their curdled populism, hawked strikingly similar messages in Iowa,
encouraging self-pity and economic hypochondria. Edwards and Huckabee
lament a shrinking middle class. Well…
Mr. Will (whenever I type "Mr. Will," I hear Sally Field addressing John Malkovich in "Places in the Heart") misunderstands the difference between Huckabee’s and Edwards’ brands of populism, between hope and anger. He just knows he doesn’t like populism. Neither do I, generally speaking, but I can tell that there’s a chasm the happy kind espoused by Mr. Huckabee and angry kind pushed by Mr. Edwards.
In any case, conservatism, like liberalism, ain’t what it used to be. And considering the way those ideologies have been defined for the last three decades or so, that’s a good thing.