by N. A. Halkides 7/11/14
One of the reasons so many of us have given up on National Review except for a small fraction of their authors (getting ever smaller with the losses of John Derbyshire and most especially Mark Steyn) is that it was becoming ever more Establishment by abandoning rigorous Conservatism for mushy, middle-of-the-road “moderate” Republicanism, a/k/a moderate statism, along with the abandonment of social issues such as same-sex “marriage.” We were treated to a number of articles explaining how there really were no divisions within the Republican Party, which was just one big happy Conservative-leaning family, even as back in the real world the Republican Establishment was openly declaring war upon its own base (Conservatives). (See The Case Against the Establishment GOP for a partial account of this struggle). Some of us were beginning to wonder if and when NR was going to go soft on abortion; at any rate, I certainly felt they were dangerously close to becoming irrelevant in the struggle against the Left.[pullquote]No, gentlemen, the two sides are not coming together in some sort of synthesis, which is inconceivable once you understand the nature of the GOP Establishment. What happened is a series of battles in the form of elections.[/pullquote]
But there may be a faint glimmer of hope: on July 7, 2014, NR editor Rich Lowry along with long-time NR contributor Ramesh Ponnuru penned an article entitled Establishment Tea – the GOP is coming together, not apart. Not that they have exactly seen the light – their thesis, that there is some sort of reconciliation or merging of the opposing factions (“the party as a whole is fumbling toward the right combination”) is ludicrously mistaken – but this thesis implicitly admits the existence of two ideologically-opposed factions within the GOP – Tea Party vs. Establishment – which is what writers like Jonah Goldberg and even Charles Cooke had been denying for months.
To save time here (not to make myself sound like a crowd) allow me to dispose of Lowry & Ponnuru’s argument by quoting my own response:
“We must also nominate,” they urged, “candidates who have substantial credibility as candidates, can articulate a vision of what they believe, can propose real solutions to problems, and don’t make significant mistakes on the campaign trail. We need conservative candidates, but they must also be skilled candidates in order to win.”
That’s obvious, and was never denied by tea partiers, a/k/a true Conservatives. In no way, shape, or form does that negate the existence of the mortal combat now taking place between Conservatives and Establishment-men (by the way, I’m gratified to see my use of the term, which I may have invented, taken up by no less than Ponnuru and Lowry, although I usually hyphenate it).
The Establishment is still fundamentally un-intellectual and uninterested in attacking the Democratic Left, with whom they agree in principle but disagree with on precise spending amounts (dime-store Democrats, we might call them). They are motivated primarily by a desire to play the big shot, and also to secure favorable treatment for the large business interests from whence they generally come. In this, they are slightly different than the Democrats, whose sole interest is to rule by brute force, but they are also different from Conservatives, who wish to restore some semblance of liberty in this country. They are the chief obstacle standing between Conservatives and the Democratic Left, and as long as they’re in control of the GOP they will prevent us from really taking the fight to the enemy.
Lowry and Ponnuru apparently don’t understand this, and so they don’t understand the Cantor and Cochran cases. In the first, immigration wasn’t the “blasting cap,” it was the box of dynamite that blew the hopes of one of the most powerful Establishment-man incumbents straight to Kingdom come; and a mighty blow against that Establishment. Cochran was so much more interested in power than principle that he enlisted the aid of Democrats to (illegally in many cases) vote for him – an act of betrayal we Conservatives will neither forget nor forgive.[pullquote]In other words, Lowry & Ponnuru somehow managed to interpret the open warfare of primary battles – an overt struggle for power within the Republican Party – as if it were some sort of polite summit conference to discuss the best way to advance Conservative policy goals![/pullquote]
No, gentlemen, the two sides are not coming together in some sort of synthesis, which is inconceivable once you understand the nature of the GOP Establishment. What happened is a series of battles in the form of elections. Some were won by Conservatives; others by the Establishment, but the war goes on, and on its outcome may well hang the fate of the United States, for only Conservatism can save the country and the Establishment wants no part of it.
In other words, Lowry & Ponnuru somehow managed to interpret the open warfare of primary battles – an overt struggle for power within the Republican Party – as if it were some sort of polite summit conference to discuss the best way to advance Conservative policy goals! But they finally admitted the existence of a Republican Establishment, even using the term “Establishment man” which I believe is my own invention. And as the saying goes, the first step toward getting cured is admitting you have a problem. Reading the comments on their articles may be the first step for NRO’s management in restoring its place in the struggle of Conservatism against the Left. Now all they need to do is replace Managing Editor Jason Lee Steorts with our own Brad Nelson, and the next thing you know, we’ll have Mark Steyn back again!
Nik is a freelance writer, former professor, and has written for FrontPage Magazine.
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