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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NYT Tries to Shape Debate over GOP Future

David Brooks of the New York (Obama) Times wrote an op-ed piece Monday in which he suggested there are two main factions in the GOP: Traditionalists and Reformers. One doesn’t have to strain to see what Mr. Brooks is up to here.

His underlying intention is to shape the terms of the debate regarding the future of the GOP. His hope (no pun intended) is that the readers of his article walk away thinking the GOP consists of just two types of politicians: “backward-thinking,” “out-of-touch,” conservatives and “forward-thinking” “reformers.” His synopsis being: conservativism = bad and liberalism = good.

His article is nothing more than a transparent attempt to kick the GOP while it’s down and convince people that it was conservativism, the core ideology of republicans, which failed in this most recent election and not the individual republicans who ran. If the GOP were to agree with Mr. Brooks’ conclusions, it would reduce itself to nothing more than a slightly watered-down version of the Democratic Party.

Sarah Palin was not and is not considered a reformer because she “reformed” her stances to the model of liberalism. She was a reformer because America, in recent years, has observed a steady growth of federal oversight, influence, and power and she, as a state official, has taken efforts to return some of the decision making to the hands of the people whom she represents. To re-form means to change, it doesn’t mean to move it to the left, Mr. Brooks.

That aside, I don't think the two factions in the party are “reformers” and “conservatives.” I think the two factions are the conservatives and the "democrat lights" (as Sean Hannity calls them). The “Democrat Lights” are the people who have tried so hard to be “bipartisan” that they betray their own party’s ideals. What’s the point in having a Republican Party if the best it can offer is a watered down version of what the Democrats are offering? There isn’t one, and Mr. Brooks knows this; hence why he suggests that the GOP continue to move to the left, because doing so would render the Republican Party obsolete and leave the Democratic Party to rule unfettered. I’m sure such a chain reaction would be good for NYT profit margins (which have declined steadily since their decision to completely divert from objective journalism). But I digress…

The last Republican congress was not fiscally conservative. Bush was not fiscally conservative. Both expanded the role, power, and influence of the federal government. Obama's election was not the result of failed conservativism. It was the result of failed attempts at bipartisanship by the Bush administration and “modern-thinking” republicans.

For those who are old enough to remember, Bush didn’t run in 2000 under a banner of staunch conservativism. He ran under a “reforming bipartisan” initiative. And for his own part, his cabinet and administration has consisted of much diversity (of thought and kind). And while the Bush administration might have pushed back on issues like gay marriage, drilling, and stem cell research we saw a government expansion under his watch that would have given Reagan a heart attack. I will even go so far as to suggest that if Bush had done in the 1970s what he did in the 2000s, there wouldn’t have been a single Republican (including his own father) who would have supported him the way our Republican congress did from 2000-2006.

No, I dare say the New York (Obama) Times wants conservatives to think there is a difference between conservatives and reformers. Mr. Brooks wants us to think that we have two options: progression or regression. Instead, we should realize that it is the conservatives we need to reform the GOP - to bring back the policy ideas for Reaganomics and downsizing the federal government. What Mr. Brooks is trying to blind us from, is that conservativism is reform at this stage in American politics. It’s the exact type of reform the GOP needs to get back on top, and he’s doing everything in his power to steer us away from this truism.

Mr. Brooks, conservativism is not limited to the idea that we need to run government in the ways that it was run in the past. Nor does it entail that modernization or forward thinking cannot take place. Obviously, the government will gradually expand and change to meet new and evolving needs of the American people. No reasonable conservative would argue otherwise. What a conservative would argue is that our problem is not that people are taxed too little, but that our government spends too much; that when you start excessively punishing success you remove the will to succeed; that when you make it too expensive for a business to function in America, it won’t; that when you hand someone cash instead of leading them to a job, they have absolutely no incentive to work; that the government of an individual community or state can better adapt to (and account for) the needs and desires of its specific populous than can the federal government which oversees the most diverse collection of 300 million people on the planet.

To be fair, I’m sure that Mr. Brooks has merely caught a spell of Obama-fever. I’m sure he got a “tingle up his leg,” when he realized that democrats had the White House and large majorities in both the House and Senate. I’m sure he feels, as Chris Mathews does, that he needs to do "everything in his power to make Obama’s presidency a success." But that’s no reason for level-headed people to read his propaganda and believe it. See it for what it is: an attempt to establish a dialogue by which conservativism is denounced as backward-thinking. Conservativism as a political theory is nothing of the sort, Mr. Brooks just wants you to think that it is because as soon as conservatives acquiesce to the suggestion that liberals are forward-thinking and conservatives need to modernize – every conservative argument that might follow would be automatically discredited. Don’t let him do it. Don’t let him, and others like him, form the debate on these terms.

This is the same thing liberals have done with “Gay Rights.” They coined the term and so now everyone’s knee-jerk response is to the issue is: “Well, all American citizens should have equal rights.” Gee-wiz and golly-gee-willackers, you think? Too bad that’s not what’s at risk with the gay marriage debate. There’s no “right” being denied to gays that is currently guaranteed to American citizens in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. No, the debate of gay marriage is one of definition and benefits, not rights. Benefits, unlike rights, are NOT guaranteed to all citizens. If the population of a state doesn’t want to give tax cuts to a certain project, a certain government initiative, or to a certain group of people, they don’t have too. It's their money, they can vote to do with it as they please. But, in an attempt to brow beat Americans with this liberal ideology that everyone has a "right" to equal possession of goods and wealth, liberals have molded the terms of the debate by labeling it as being about “gay rights.”

The same thing is happening here. Look at the language Mr. Brooks used here. Liberals are “modernists” and conservatives are “traditionalists.” Hint being: democrats know what’s best for the future, and we should all just try to accept that and move more towards the left because that’s what Europe has done. Brooks fails to mention of course that it was the more liberal of Bush’s economic policies that failed and that liberalism is falling on its face in Europe. The other suggestion of his is that “reform” = moving to the left, when in actuality reform = changing the status quo. But what do you expect from the New York (Obama) Times?

He even tries to threaten conservatives by saying that until the GOP moves to the left, it will “suffer more defeats.” The propaganda and spin in Brooks' article is so transparent it’s disgusting.

Though, there is something to the idea that there is an old school nature to much of the Conservative culture, which seems resistant to change in campaign tactics. What I mean by this is that the GOP was slow off the ball when hopping on the new media train, and I think we all saw the effect that had in this past election. For example, the GOP candidates for president consistently drug their feet and resisted CNN's youtube primary debates. They thought it was "silly" to have to answer questions submitted by average people through an online video format. Another example would be the youtube Obama warriors. I'm talking about the people who spent hours online downgrading pro-McCain videos and upgrading pro-Obama videos so that when you searched "Obama" or "McCain" on youtube, you got the overwhelming sense that there weren't many positive videos out there for McCain. This is, of course, false, but the McCain campaign lost the youtube war and if the GOP doesn't come to terms with the importance of online media like youtube, blogs, podcasts, facebook, myspace, etc. they're dead in the water in future campaigns. Nothing is more viral, more effective, than internet fodder. Effective videos, articles, and images are e-mailed by the millions in a matter of minutes. And it's FREE publicity!

In this sense, yeah, "conservativism" needs a tactics reform. But politically speaking, the conservatives are the reformers the GOP needs.
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