Interesting euphemisms in this twitter thread from the very sharp but strangely blinkered Geoff Kabaservice... Kabaservice sees conservative political energy back in the age of Nixon-Ford-Carter-Reagan coming from "liberal overreach and failure" on "crime, foreign policy, and the economy" plus "outraged public opinion" because of liberals' policies on "busing, affirmative action, welfare, and feminism". Jonathan Chait parries that the energy for conservatives' 1980s victories was racial—that it was no accident that Reagan started his campaign in Philadelphia, MS, and there did not say what he did not say—that "conservatism was always and everywhere thoroughly racist, morally bankrupt, and populated with hypocrites and authoritarians". Kabaservice's response? That he rejects Chait's formulation and "prefer[s Charles Sykes's]... 'recessive gene' theory". But the conservative whom Sykes holds up as "marginaliz[ing] those uglier voices on the right" is... William F. Buckley. William Fracking "The White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically" Buckley. Buckley does not say that measures then used to maintain white supremacy like lynching Blacks who try to vote and shooting civil rights activists in the head are "necessary to prevail". But he does not say that they are not necessary either. There was a pre-Barry Goldwater pre-James Buchanan smaller-government more-entrepreneurship Republicanism that did not try to harness racial animosity to the task of curbing the New Deal, and did not think that the right to discriminate against Black people was an important right that needed to be safeguarded from an overreaching federal government. Kabaservice needs to reach back to a Teddy Roosevelt who was eager to invite a Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House—not to a Ronald Reagan who takes his lines and directions from Lee Atwater and company—if he wants to see clearly what needs to be done: Geoff Kabaservice: "How should the left think about the right? The past week brought 4 examples of different approaches. Start with George Packer's historical overview.... Packer's... correct that the actions of the GOP-controlled state legislatures in MI & WI are textbook political corruption and a disgrace to US democracy, as well as further confirmation that Scott Walker has always been toxic. He's also correct that the GOP acts this way because it's the product of an ideological movement rather than traditional coalition-based politics...
...even when in power, the conservative-dominated GOP usually behaves as a permanent insurgency rather than a governing party. The problem with Packer's take is that it ignores that conservatism gained traction in '70s & '80s because of liberal overreach & failure on crime, foreign policy, & the economy, & at least outraged public opinion on issues like busing, affirmative action, welfare, & feminism. Is the left to blame for the growth of the angry right? No, but I buy Monica Prasad's argument that the neoliberal turn was more intense in US & UK than FRG & France because the dominant left in the former pursued adversarial politics & invited backlash. Packer ignores the right's past prowess in swaying public opinion and developing positive programs in response to ideological intoxication on the left; if liberals think conservatives prosper only because of evil/racism/demagoguery they invite history to repeat itself.
WaPo's Carlos Lozada displays an even more severe case of liberal myopia in his review of recent books by GOP Trump critics @MaxBoot, @SykesCharlie, @TheRickWilson, and Sen. Jeff Flake. Lozada can hardly bother to take the "dwindling band" of Never-Trumpers seriously, failing to realize that the GOP lost the House because GOP-leaning college-educated suburbanites were turned off by Trump for all the reasons articulated by Boot et al. Lozada sees nothing worthwhile in conservatism, even as a corrective to liberal excess; and Republicans who take "reasonable" positions on issues such as the environment, immigration, trade, gun control, and fiscal balance are by his definition "extinct". Lozada holds the authors responsible for Trumpism; for him, their accounts are worthy only insofar as they repent. Yet Boot's complete repudiation of conservatism isn't enough for him; even repentant cons are still tainted. I find this the epitome of Democratic tribalism.
Much more interesting is @jonathanchait's dissection of the recent @NiskanenCenter conference on the center-right that I helped organize; his conclusion that we are "the one institution planning" for a decent post-Trump GOP is high praise indeed. No article has troubled me more over the years than Chait's 2012 TNR reflection on the demise of moderate Republicans; he acknowledged the intellectual vitality of the reformicons but predicted their efforts would come to nothing (& is right so far). Yet he understands the need for "a right-of-center program that is detached from the conservative movement"—and also the inherent disadvantages of trying to devise a public philosophy that doesn't depend upon ideology or modifications to existing GOP policy approaches.
We differ, of course, on the question of whether the GOP needs to "die in a fire"; I think it's possible to regenerate the party from the bottom up, as shown by surprising moderate victories over Tea Party conservatives in red states like KS and OK. Chait also shares the view that (in Charlie Sykes' paraphrase) "Trump is proof that conservatism was always and everywhere thoroughly racist, morally bankrupt, and populated with hypocrites and authoritarians"; I prefer the "recessive gene" theory. But Chait sees clearly that Niskanen is trying to envision "what a well-functioning right-of-center party ought to stand for"—and even if he thinks the odds are against us, we are fortunate to have such an intelligent and perceptive critic.
The final article of note is Mark Lilla's NYRB analysis of the French right, which—needless to say!—is not a movement with which Niskanen has the slightest sympathy. Nonetheless, Lilla does an admirable job of pointing out that a right-wing Popular Front is taking shape in Europe & is dangerous precisely because it has a coherent worldview that both the establishment left and right lack. He also sees the need for a center-right counter: "a moderate conservative movement [which] might serve as a bulwark against the alt-right furies by stressing tradition, solidarity, and care for the earth". The center-right may thus be better positioned than the left to successfully oppose the far right & thereby preserve the liberal-democratic values that undergird our political system; it's refreshing to see a liberal analyst acknowledge this reality.