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Friday Fronts  

23 May 2008:

George Packer on Conservatives, in The New Yorker

Of the Turks who created the Ottoman Empire, it is said that they were far better at conquest than at governance. According to George Packer's survey of the history of the "conservative movement" and its unpromising future, "The Fall of Conservatism," the same may be said of Republican Party politicians since the Sixties.

Only a few years ago, on the night of Bush’s victory in 2004, the conservative movement seemed indomitable. In fact, it was rapidly falling apart. Conservatives knew how to win elections; however, they turned out not to be very interested in governing. Throughout the decades since Nixon, conservatism has retained the essentially negative character of an insurgent movement.

Military conquest is one thing (ie hard to beat), but electoral practices in a democracy ought to be rather more amenable to rules of order. The Republican Party's opportunistic exploitation of rules of order, over the past quarter century, has been breathtaking, not least because American voters seem determined to ignore anything so "boring" as procedural miscreance. This is very odd, in a country that can obsess so intensely about "process." (The well-known stages of grief, for example, and the trauma counselors.) Why is it that, even when I'm talking to informed countrymen, they seem to regard caring about the rightward ho of the judiciary as an onerous obligation? I never find it onerous to pay attention to people who want to hurt me.

At his blog, Interesting Times, Mr Packer dilates on a subject that he touches on in his article, which is the willingness of rural white voters — undoubtedly the same rural white voters whom Barack Obama "defamed" (ha!) with his remarks about fear and guns — to come right out and say that they won't vote for a black candidate. This news is both horrible and refreshing — refreshing because nothing is more horrible than denying the horrible.

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