Matthew Yglesias was kind enough to link to my Necrotrends post. In comments over there I explained that, in all false modesty, I actually hadn’t worked out whether I thought it was a seance story or a zombie story. Is it Mark Penn as the kid in “Sixth Sense” – ‘I poll dead people’. Or is it William McKinley stashed in a shed like the former roommate at the end of “Shaun of the Dead”? Unclear, is all I can conclude. (One commenter suggested BOTH: si se puede! Fair enough.) But mostly I bring this up because Bruce Bartlett showed up in comements over there. As there was considerable speculation in comments to my original post as to whether the man could say such things with a straight face … I report, you decide:
You and all your commentators continue to miss the point of my book. I don’t expect any Democrat, black or white, to read what I’ve written and suddenly decide to vote Republican because of their party’s past racial sins. The point of the book is to get Republicans interested in the race issue so that they will pursue black votes. There are two reasons why this is important. First, African Americans will be better off if both parties compete for their votes. As virtual captives of one party the Democrats are free to take them for granted while Republicans ignore them completely. Second, I believe that blacks and Hispanics are natural competitors and political rivals. In the long run I don’t think they can both be in the same party. Since the Hispanic population is larger and growing faster, I think that the Democrats will gradually begin to favor Hispanics over blacks whenever there is conflict between them. I think this will eventually make blacks receptive to Republican outreach. And Republicans are going to need black votes because their immigration policy is driving all Hispanics out of their party.
Obviously, this scenario is not going to play out this year. When I wrote the book I never imagined that Obama would get the Democratic nomination or that the Republicans would nominate someone as soft on immigration as McCain. Nevertheless, what I wrote about are long-term trends. I even think the election of Obama may move them along by displacing the old generation of civil rights leaders like Jackson and Sharpton that were totally wedded to the Democrats. It may signal the beginning of a move by blacks into the political mainstream so that in the future they will vote on issues other than race, which may make the Republican message on taxes, national security etc. more attractive to middle and upper class blacks.
Finally, I would mention that liberals often use distant history to pursue current political goals. For example, Joe McCarthy and McCarthyism, the Hollywood 10, the Rosenberg and Hiss cases and so on are still very alive in certain quarters of the left, such as at The Nation. Liberals also like to dredge up long distant Republican missteps on race. Just a few months ago Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert were making a big to-do about Reagan’s Neshoba speech in 1980. More recently there was much discussion of Jesse Helms’ alleged racism. I don’t remember you or any other liberal saying at the time that this was irrelevant old news.
The whole ‘Democrats bring up relevant history all the time, so why shouldn’t Republicans bring up irrelevant history?’ argument seems open to objections on grounds of relevance. Also, the idea that telling the Republicans-on-race history as a tale of McKinleyite triumphalism – while scrupulously refraining from admitting that Helms’ ideas on the subject might have been a tetch problematic – hardly seems likely to get Republicans ‘interested in’ the race debate in ways likely to win over African-American voters. (Lord knows Republicans are interested enough in race, per se, if that were all it took.)
Somehow the whole business seems obscurely connected to that David Brooks column that has been linked around. How the Republicans need to get all Disraeli-ite. Duly noted: the Republicans can’t find 20th Century models for the 21st Century. Maybe that would be a good bumpersticker: McCain 2008 – the 19th Century or Bust!
Also duly noted: in response to Brooks, the consensus over at the Corner seemed to be that one particular response, by Peter Robinson, was best. He argues that Brooks is wrong because, self-evidently, pure anarchism is a superior alternative to any form of zombie Disraeli government. That is:
Milton Friedman argued that government spending will always prove pernicious for the simple but profound reason that “nobody spends somebody else’s money as well as he spends his own.” Has Brooks ever refuted Friedman? No.
But if Friedman proved that, and if no one has refuted him, then Milton Friedman proved that all forms of government should be abolished – including the American system of government, presumably. There can’t be non-pernicious government, if there can’t be any non-pernicious government spending. So it turns out that, after all these years, small government conservatism was in error. Because small is still pernicious. Am I right or am I right? (Or am I right or am I right or am I right?)
So Peter Robinson presumably thinks conservatives should, ideally, be at the head of … well, as Dr. Horrible sings in Act III of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”: “Anarchy that I run!”
Robinson, rounds off the case against zombie Disraeli on a serious note. The reason Brooks has not embraced the philosophy of total anarchism that “half a century of painstaking observation” has demonstrated to be sound is – well, it’s hard to understand why David Brooks isn’t an anarchist. “David has a fine mind, Lord knows, and he writes gorgeously. But he wants to dumb us down—to insist that we know less than we do. And there’s nothing conservative—or, for that matter, progressive—about that.”
Take that, zombie Disraeli!
But seriously. What Brooks is arguing for is for Rockefeller Republicanism. The idea that you are ok with the New Deal, but you want a mean and flinty old man from New England to guard the money to pay for the largesse. But the Republicans just spend the last 40 years hunting that lot to extinction, starting with Goldwater in ‘64. But there is really no way to advocate Rockefeller Republicanism without admitting that ‘mistakes have been made’ – just as there is no way the Republicans can be the party of civil rights without admitting that ‘mistakes have been made’. Admitting you have a problem is obviously not enough. But it is a necessary first step.
By the by, I thought the funniest line in “Dr Horrible” was, perhaps: “Justice has a name. And, besides ‘justice’, that name is … Captain Hammer!”