alien & sedition.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
  You Can't Keep a Bad Movement Down

This weekend the leading lights of the right will gather in DC for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual right-wing hootenanny sponsored by the American Conservative Union. I would love love love to be there, but as much as I enjoyed the National Review's Conservative Summit last month, I can't make it to DC for this one.

Which is a shame, because the year before the presidential election would be a good time to go. The contenders will be pandering at a fast clip, while the activists talk strategy for the upcoming fight. Rudy Giuliani - fresh from yesterday's talk at the Hoover Institution - will be making one of his first major campaign appearances at CPAC, and Mitt Romney will be hoping to make up for his damp squib at the Summit.

Another speaker will be Newt Gingrich, still fully engaged in his campaign to bring an intellectual renaissance - by force, if necessary - to the conservative movement. Newt recently sent around some thoughts on the 2008 election to those of us lucky enough to be on his email list. Some excerpts:
There are two big facts about the 2008 election.

FACT #1: Running as a bland, business-as-usual Republican will be a dead loser. In 2006, the American people repudiated the GOP, because the idea of Republicans' trying to manage the liberal welfare state they inherited from the Democrats was a dead loser. I am not sure many Republican consultants have come to understand this. Certainly the elite news media want Republicans to run as non-ideological "centrists" who will then have no persuasive appeal to the vast majority of Americans that elected Ronald Reagan in 1980 and '84 and the Contract with America House Republicans in 1994.

FACT #2: Focusing on an anti-Hillary campaign will also be a dead loser. The Clintons are the most determined and intense politicians of our lifetime. I just read Ambassador Bill Middendorf's A Glorious Disaster: Barry Goldwater's campaign and the Origins of the Conservative Movement (read my review here), and he reminded me of the ferocity of the 1964 Lyndon Johnson campaign. It reminded me of the Clinton campaign style.

If a campaign is going to degenerate into a mud slinging contest, the Clintons will always win because they are vastly more ready to jump into the pit. The recent attacks over David Geffen and Barack Obama are just a sample of how quickly and fiercely the Clintons will attack if the campaign is simply about who can "out negative" whom.
Emphasis mine. Newt seems unable to escape the Great Conservative Fallacy of 2006, which holds that, somehow, Americans voted for Democrats because the Republicans weren't conservative enough. But then again, having invested all that energy in 'revitalizing' conservatism, Newt's probably not going to up and admit that the GOP should move to the center. So: be more conservative, get rejected again, purify yourself even more, etc. etc. This could be a most entertaining vicious circle.

Oh, and the Hillary thing never fails to crack me up. You spent eight years calling her a lesbian Nazi who murdered Vince Foster and you're saying she's a mud-slinger? If conservatives like Newt were projecting any more obviously, they'd be Imax theaters.

But our mission is to observe, not to editorialize. Here's what Newt thinks the '08 election should be about:
THE KEY to victory in 2008 is for conservatives to communicate three big messages:
  1. America is faced with historic challenges that require historic responses. That is a much different style and approach than we get out of traditional politicians and their traditional consultants.

  2. If we do the right things and implement the right changes, we can build a better, safer, freer and more prosperous America. We should have the nerve to go into every neighborhood and every community and explain why our better future will work. The liberal welfare state has failed, and its bureaucracies cannot be defended if we focus on the human costs of their failures. It is our challenge to focus on the big choices, the big truths and the big contrasts, not on the petty politics of personal viciousness that characterize so much of the current system.

  3. This choice between a failed liberal, welfare-state future and an exciting, successful, conservative, opportunity- society future requires transformation at all levels of American elected office (511,000+ elected officials) and not merely the oval office [this refers to Newt's new 527, American Solutions for Winning the Future, about which more later- ed.].

These are the themes and the call to action I will outline Saturday at CPAC. I hope to see you there.
Again, emphasis mine. So, the lesson of six years of disastrous conservative government is that... liberals have failed? You have to admire his chutzpah.

Still, don't underestimate Newt. Note how he mentions the so-called "human cost" of the welfare state. That's a big flashing sign that he and his minions plan to be out there telling stories about how ordinary people - they'll have names, hometowns, biographies, adorable children, everything - have suffered at the merciless hands of big government. Again, do not underestimate this. It doesn't matter if it's garbage - if the right is out there telling personal stories, and the left is up its own behind with laundry lists and vague rhetoric, we're going to find ourselves caught off guard and mystified, once again, by how such patent conservative nonsense suddenly seems so politically potent. We need to be telling the stories. And the thing is, our stories will make more sense, because they're real and they represent the opinions and experiences of most Americans. But we need to be out there telling them. Because if we don't, Newt and his crowd will.

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Critical analysis of the American conservative movement from a progressive perspective. Also some stuff about the Mets.

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