alien & sedition.
Friday, June 01, 2007
  "We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are"

It's hard not to giggle at Peggy Noonan's latest lament at the Wall Street Journal. Noonan has been doing the "Dubya's not a real conservative" routine for a couple years now (Glenn Greenwald, for instance, called her out on it last October), and she's really getting it down to an art. Now it seems that, with the immigration bill, Peggy has discovered another Shocking! aspect of the Bush administration: its political ruthlessness:
The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic--they "don't want to do what's right for America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would prefer illegal immigrants be killed; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said those who oppose the bill want "mass deportation." Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said those who oppose the bill are "anti-immigrant" and suggested they suffer from "rage" and "national chauvinism."

Why would they speak so insultingly, with such hostility, of opponents who are concerned citizens? And often, though not exclusively, concerned conservatives? It is odd, but it is of a piece with, or a variation on, the "Too bad" governing style. And it is one that has, day by day for at least the past three years, been tearing apart the conservative movement.
"Too bad" refers to the administration's total unwillingness to account for the views of those who disagree with it on matters of policy and/or principle -- again, Noonan and her fellow disillusioned conservatives suddenly find themselves on the wrong end of something that's been infuriating everyone else for years now.

Noonan, the ex-Reagan speechwriter and dutiful conservative noisemaker of long standing, should not of course be surprised by the arrogance and viciousness and small-mindedness of the administration she and her compatriots helped to build. The conservative movement modeled the very same behavior on its way up; it's perversely Gandhian, really, the way the movement has been the change -- the ugly, degrading change -- it wanted to see in the world.

Nor should we be surprised by how Noonan and her ilk suddenly seem to be so interested in disagreeing with the president on matters of principle, now that his approval ratings seem tethered to the conservative project in a way that looks much less like a buoy and much more like a lead weight. There's an inverse relation, it seems, between the political fortunes of the Bush administration and American conservatives' devotion to principle.

I positively squealed with delight at Noonan's last paragraph, wherein she descends into a kind of political self-help affirmation:
Now conservatives and Republicans are going to have to win back their party. They are going to have to break from those who have already broken from them. This will require courage, serious thinking and an ability to do what psychologists used to call letting go. This will be painful, but it's time. It's more than time.
It's time to heal, Peggy! Without getting into yet another rehash of the saga of compassionate conservatism (though it's the only narrative that can make any sense of Noonan's argument here), one boggles at the notion of conservatives having to "take back" the Republican party. From whom? Nelson Rockefeller's magic elves?

They would have to "take it back" from themselves, of course. It's almost as though Noonan is caught up in her own psycho-thriller, a Memento for the conservative movement. You want to reach out to her and tell her: it was you all along, Peggy! You committed the crime. But she isn't programmed that way, anymore. None of them are. The entire conservative movement is lurching along from moment to moment in a fog of memory loss, consulting the notes they've scrawled incohately on their arms: George W. Bush did it. Don't trust him!

We can safely guess that it's not going to end well.

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That's a fantastic analogy. And one of my favorite movies, too.
Yeah, great movie. I need to watch it again, really.
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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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