Going Down

May 2, 2007

To say that William F. Buckley Jr. did more than any one man to pave the way for the rise of American conservatism in the late 20th century is simply a statement of fact. He cleaned it up, chased away some of the more egregious troglodytes (e.g., the John Birch Society) and showed the world a conservative face that was witty, attractive and intellectually deft, a substitute for the giggling Neanderthal Joe McCarthy and the glowering pit viper Richard Nixon.

But even if you push the troglodytes away from the party, you can’t push the party away from the troglodytes. Buckley is far more intelligent than most of the people in the movement he helped create, and he can understand what’s going on. There is something undeniably poignant in reading Buckley’s most recent column, in which he acknowledges once again that Iraq is a disaster and goes on to wonder if the entire Republican ship is about to go down with George W. Bush.

The answer is yes, because Bush’s game plan is simply to hold back the inevitable until his term is up and the whole mess can be handed off to the next (presumably Democratic) president. After that, Bush and his sycophants can spin themselves comforting myths about how they all stood stalwart and brave against the terrorists until the Democrats came along and messed everything up. The problem with this pseudo-strategy is that it requires the destruction of even more human lives, American and Iraqi, and the majority of Americans don’t want to see that happen. So every week that Bush and his courtiers cling to the fantasy that they’re a bunch of Churchills holding back the forces of Fascism is another nail in the party’s coffin.

I’ve voted for Republicans in the past and I may be able to vote for them in the future, but right now the GOP (and conservatism) is overdue for a good long spell in the wilderness, where it can begin taking stock and asking itself how it went wrong. What form should be the GOP take? That’s for the GOP to decide. All I know is that our first priority is to get this pack of thieves, ideological hucksters and religious nutjobs evicted from power. The housecleaning that started in 2006 must continue with a House cleaning in 2008.

I don’t know how much Buckley will be able to contribute to the conservative reappraisal. His ideological spawn have reacted to his recent columns with uncomfortable silence. Buckley no longer speaks their language. Their intellectual capital is gone. The shelves of the conservative library are filled with Bush-worshipping tomes and the spiteful rantings of radio squawkers and Ann Coulter wannabes. Look at the names of the other pundits surrounding Buckley’s column at NRO: Malkin, Goldberg, Levin. Can you find one who is even qualified to shine Buckley’s shoes?

So as the U.S.S. Wingnut lists to port and the deck chairs start to slide, Buckley can take note of the fact that having helped launch this ship, he is now present to see it sink. As a cultivated man, Buckley can no doubt appreciate the symmetry. But I doubt he can take any comfort in it.


3 Responses to “Going Down”

  1. Vile Whig Says:

    It seems likely that Bush’s legacy to his party will be more like Hoover’s than Nixon’s: leaving it discredited and relegated to minority status for a generation or more.

  2. HumboldtBlue Says:

    “So as the U.S.S. Wingnut lists to port”

    Isn’t port the left side? And if so, that’s saying something. Vile Whig nailed it, as did the post. The lives of our soldiers are of no importance to the political machinations of the current crop of so-called conservatives.

    They’re not conserving anything, they’re wasting lives and treasure at an enormous rate, and the only ones who benefit are their monied supporters. That’s why they try and hammer home the patriotism points, why they try and color all who disagree with their gross mismanagement as anti-American dope-smoking hippies.

    Now I have never met a hippie I liked, I have served in two branches of the military, and yes, I live in Humboldt County so the other one answers itself, but it’s becoming more and more obvious that conservatives as a whole are incapable of governing. These are the same people who laud Regan, he of the “Government is the problem.”

    How can we entrust the serious business of governing to men and women who loathe the very idea?

  3. DBK Says:

    First, I’m not sure what “conservative” means anymore, and I think you have to define that before you even have a discussion. “Liberal” is likewise a meaningless term. I’ve always considered myself a “liberal” in the 18th century sense of the word, which means I accept change when there is a rational basis for change. I don’t get “conserving things” out of any of the definitions of “conservative” that I know.

    In any case, it’s funny that you, Steve, concluded that the GOP deserves a stretch in the wilderness. It was a few months back and I was watching something on television, something political, with Mrs DBK. Some Republican she thought well of and of whom I might have thought well at one time or another. She said, “You always voted for the candidate you thought was best. Would you still vote for a Republican?” She said this knowing I had a different view of them than I once held.

    I was practically screaming (though not at my dear wife, who is the tree upon which the fruit of my life doth hang): “I wouldn’t vote for a Republican again ever! Not ever! They had years in complete control of every aspect of this government and they did more to fuck it up than anyone ever has before! They are talented thieves and incompetent leaders and they can all go right to hell and never come back!”


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