Liberals disagree on when Republicans changed from a mere opposition party into a truly malign force. For obvious reasons, the early 1980s are a popular choice. Martin Longman thinks it happened later, during Bill Clinton’s second term, but also speculates that the GOP’s “crackpot” period may be almost over.
Donald Trump’s presidential bid, contended Longman in a Friday post, may even spell the end of conservatism as we’ve known it: “If Trump loses, and loses badly, I’m not sure that future Republican presidential candidates will want to emulate him. There might still be a window where a candidate can hope to win by racially polarizing the electorate and getting enough of just the white voters to win. But that window is closing if it is not already closed…If [Trump’s candidacy] is the logical endpoint of the Conservative Movement, well, it seems like we’re reaching the end…That’s my hope, anyway.”
Conservatives have objected in droves to a remark President Obama made this past week during his visit to Argentina. Addressing a gathering of young adults, Obama said, “In the past there’s been a sharp division…between capitalist and communist or socialist…but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works.”
The right’s hostile response, contended The Washington Monthly's David Atkins in a Saturday post, is indicative of its longstanding “failure to acknowledge policy realities…The leadership and media organs of the conservative movement remain obsessed with promoting ideology over practicality so much that [Obama’s comment] somehow becomes a fundamental betrayal.” Long ago, wrote Atkins, “capitalism won the war of ideas and appropriately so—but that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect system. Modern Republicans have totally lost sight of that fact.”
Many left-wingers still insist that supporters of Donald Trump are conservatives, but Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins finds Trump backers “far less terrifying” than staunch right-wingers. In a Sunday post, Atkins opined that even though Trump’s base voters tend to be mean and “ignorant,” movement conservatives are “more morally objectionable” because they believe in “economic royalism.”
The “unregulated capitalism” that conservatives favor, argued Atkins, “is a totalizing ideology as impractical as state communism but lacking the silver lining of [communism’s] species-being idealism; as impervious to reason as any cult religion, but lacking the promise of community, salvation or utopia; as brutal as any dictatorship, but without the advantage of order and security.”
These days, one of the biggest meta-debates in politics concerns apportioning blame for the staying power of the Donald Trump circus. How much of Trump’s popularity is attributable to, say, the mainstream media? To conservative talk radio? In a Sunday post, The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman pointed the finger at Republicans and absolved President Obama.
Apropos of Trump’s economically dislocated blue-collar backers, Longman maintained that Obama has “done what he could for them, and it’s been considerable,” whereas Republicans “have ignored them…[A] population that makes up the core of the Republican base has been committing suicide, overdosing on opioids, and drinking itself to death at a rate comparable to the AIDS epidemic. And the Republicans not only spent zero time trying to help them during the Bush and Obama years, they didn’t even seem to know that this was happening to them.”
A famous T-shirt of the early 1990s featured Bart Simpson’s message that he was an underachiever “and proud of it, man!” Such shirts would be fitting garb for the many Republicans who squander their intellects for ideological reasons, implied NYU public-policy professor Mark Kleiman in a Wednesday Washington Monthly blog post.
“I doubt that Republican office-holders or voters have, on average, lower IQs than their Democratic counterparts,” wrote Kleiman. “But there’s a deeper kind of stupidity that involves not only willful blindness to inconvenient facts…but active celebration of that blindness…When that sort of rejoicing in folly becomes an accepted social practice within a group, it is fair to say that the group has a culture of stupidity.”
Some analysts have pointed out that it’d be risky for Republicans to preemptively block anyone President Obama nominates to succeed Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, but that approach wouldn’t necessarily end when Obama leaves office. Washington Monthly blogger Martin Longman believes that if in 2017 a Democrat becomes president but GOPers retain sufficient power in the Senate, they’ll just keep quashing SCOTUS nominations for the duration.
“The approximate time when they’ll be reconciled to replacing their Lord & Savior with an Obama or Clinton or Sanders nominee is never,” wrote Longman in a Monday post. “This is particularly true for the anti-choice crusaders, because their mission to overturn Roe has come so close to fruition that they could anticipate the taste of victory in their mouths.” For the next eleven months, Longman sneered, Republicans simply “don’t want the president’s Kenyan paws on Scalia’s high seat.”
Over the past few days, a great many left-wing commentators have weighed in on Antonin Scalia-related issues, especially Scalia’s judicial legacy and Republicans’ refusal to consider anyone President Obama might nominate to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Highlights have included Slate's Dahlia Lithwick remarking that "sometimes it seemed [Scalia] worked overtime to earn your hate. He gloried in it. He wrote cruel, demeaning things about whole groups of Americans”; Salon's Amanda Marcotte alleging that Republicans won't consider any Obama nominees for the SCOTUS vacancy because "the conservative base has never accepted that a black Democrat could be a legitimately elected President”; and Esquire's Charles Pierce suggesting that Scalia be succeeded on the Court by Anita Hill.
Democrats have long envied Republicans’ message discipline, which presumably means Dems are relishing what Martin Longman calls the “disarray” in the GOP and in its main “official organ,” Fox News. “I don’t think right-wing media is set up to deal with an unorthodox candidate [Donald Trump] who doesn’t consistently hew to the conservative line,” remarked Longman. “I also don’t know how they’d promote [Ted] Cruz without willing and eager surrogates to fill the chairs.”
Longman also sniped, "I’m not a Foxologist. I can’t watch the network without feeling ill. And I know that this gives me a bit of a blind spot in my political analysis, but I’m just not willing to pay that kind of price to know everything I ought to know."
If the eventual Republican presidential nominee takes the advice of The Washington Monthly’s D.R. Tucker, he’ll choose Michigan governor Rick Snyder as his running mate, not in spite of what happened to Flint’s water supply, but because of it.
“Snyder never gave a damn about the residents of Flint, and still doesn’t,” claimed Tucker in a Saturday post. “The Snyder vision—the Republican vision—is that if you don’t have money, you’re not really a citizen…Think about what animates the right today: Contempt for the mainstream media. Contempt for racial minorities. Contempt for government. Contempt for those outside of the right-wing tribe. Snyder would appeal to all of the right’s darkest impulses.”
Once upon a time, Martin Longman didn’t think Republicans were so bad, but that was before the Tea Party, before the Iraq war, before Fox News became a major force. The Washington Monthly blogger detailed his decades of disillusionment in a Tuesday post.
According to Longman, events which eroded his belief that Republicans were “decent people” included the “excesses of the Gingrich Revolution”; the “giant looting exercise” that GOPers allegedly executed during George W. Bush’s administration; and John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin. He also argued that “Donald Trump actually is an ideological match for the modern conservative movement” given that movement conservatives are motivated less by philosophical principle than by “1) fear 2) hatred 3) greed and 4) a need to be led…Trump encapsulates those almost perfectly.”
Five years ago this month, a great many Tea Party Republicans took office in Congress. For some on the left, however, that may not have been the worst political development of January, 2011. This coming Thursday, notes The Washington Monthly's D.R. Tucker, “marks the fifth anniversary of the bitter night…when progressive Americans, and indeed Americans of all political persuasions who value honor, truth, respect, intelligence and decency, were shocked to learn that MSNBC had decided to end Countdown with Keith Olbermann.”
“What Keith Olbermann did for this country was profound,” declared Tucker in a post last Sunday. “He told the truth…He did more than just live up to the highest standards of American journalism. He did more than just stand up when so many around him stood down. Keith Olbermann kept our democracy safe.”
In the present, liberals vehemently oppose what conservatives stand for (and vice versa, of course). But do liberals believe there was a time when conservatism was somewhat reasonable, or at least not appalling? Martin Longman offered an answer in a Friday post: It was “the reaction to FDR’s New Deal” that crystallized the suspicious, radical conservatism of today.
“Conservatism is supposed to revere institutions,” commented Longman. “But what institutions has Movement Conservatism respected?...Not Congress or the federal government. Not the Supreme Court. The Office of the Presidency is respected only when it is in the hands of a conservative…What characterizes the conservative attitude to our institutions isn’t respect but paranoia.”