Know-Nothings, but Patriotic Know-Nothings

The celebration of much of the Republican blogosphere about the defeat of the immigration bill is saddening. The party that did so much to pass NAFTA is degenerating, at least in its public face, into conservativism-as-a-reflex. It’s easy to say that the Republican netroots are intellectually empty, and it’s hard to disagree.

There are real reasons to oppose the immigration bill, but these rarely come up. Instead, mindless mantras of “Enforcement First!” come from bloggers who somehow don’t apply the same policy to other areas of the law. (Should all gun sales stop until all illegal guns are off the street? Should all stock trading stop until all corporate crooks are behind bars?)

Oh well. Remember when I said this:

At this point, I do not care if decapitated boyscouts are found in the offices of the Republican Congressional Leadership. The GOP must win back the House and the Senate in ’08.

It’s still true.

I’ll vote Republican even if my party stays the party of the know-nothings, because the Democratic Party is even worse. Stupid is better than defeatist any day.

10 thoughts on “Know-Nothings, but Patriotic Know-Nothings”

  1. I think the anger at the immigration bill wasn't about the immigrants, but about the GOP leadership's contempt for its supporters.

  2. “conservativism-as-a-reflex”

    Well that's what conservatism is. “Conservatism” is a reactionary stance. “Standing athwart history yelling stop” and all that. And that is exactly why “conservative” is so incongruous with the American context. After all, the American Experiment is an open-ended, freewheeling improvisation; an ongoing exploration of human potential. America is the antithesis of “conservative.”

    “It's easy to say that the Republican netroots are intellectually empty, and it's hard to disagree.”

    The Republican elected-officials too.

  3. Phil,

    American conservatism is closer to classical liberalism than the conservativism than Europe knows. Except during the post-war consensus (Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford), the Republican party has been generally idenitified with the movement.

    “the American Experiment is an open-ended, freewheeling improvisation”

    Thank God this is just rhetoric.


    “I think the anger at the immigration bill wasn't about the immigrants, but about the GOP leadership's contempt for its supporters.”

    How do you differentiate these causes?

  4. If the election comes down to Clinton vs. Giuliani, I will probably be forced to do something I thought I'd probably never do in the immediate future: Vote for a Republican.

    If the election comes down to Obama vs [any Republican], I'll probably vote for Obama.

    If Gore gets into the race and makes it through the primaries, I'll probably vote for him — although, choosing between him and Giuliani would be very tough, and the chance exists I would vote for G.

    I look forward to the day when neither the Republican party nor the Democratic party continues to exist or exists as merely a fringe group. I suspect that will happen in my lifetime.

    While the hard-core Left in America seems peculiarly absurd and nearly as insane as the hard-core Right, I'm pretty sure I can find agreement with them on some issues, just as I'm sure I can find some agreement with the hardcore Right. In general, however, this either-or dichotomous paradigm you propose is very anti-Curtis. 😉

    Immigration is going to happen regardless of the laws made about it: that's my take on that particular issue. All in all, I'd rather go with some of your earlier ideas and annex portions of Mexico. Get it done now, and stop fussing about the minutia involved in these immigration-bill bickerings.

  5. As a Democratic candidate for office in any Southern or Western state district with a sizable Latino population, I would do everything I could to tie my Republican opponent to the hateful rhetoric and pathetic pandering that the right wing blogosphere and politicians have let loose in the past weeks over this immigration fiasco.

    We shouldn't have to choose between stupid and defeatist. There is still a center in this country, filled with intelligent and brave leaders who could lead this nation. It just so happens that most of them tend to stay local or at least stateside or do something like join the military or run a business. One day they'll be forced to jump into the cesspool to save the country. Most of us are just too busy enjoying a free ride right now to notice that glaring need is getting worse.

    And patriotic ? Give me a break. The Klan and the 9/11 Truth wackos claim to be patriotic too.

  6. Curtis,

    Why do you support Obama over Clinton? I don't want either of them to become Presdident, but my person view is that Clinton's experience, her ties to Bill, her toughness, would make her a better President.

    I'll bet you that both the Democratic and Republican Parties are the premier office-seeking organizations by the time we're both in our 80s — so let's wait and see who is right. 🙂

    Here here for annexing Mexico [1], and the Manifest Destiny of the American Nation [2]


    I fear that in one mindless blow, the Republican netroots managed to blow away 7 years of successful outreach to Latinos.

    Americans cluster around the political center, but the politically active cluster around the left and the right. We shouldn't have to choose between stupid and defeatist. But for now there isn't another choice.

    I'll stand by the patriotic comment. The Left is generally anti-American, and I fear many liberals love America merely as a nation-among-nations. That's like saying, “I love my father. He's an older gentleman, and I tend to get along with older gentlemen I interact with.”

  7. Dan,

    Well, considering that Romney is still the most likely nominee, once he gets into office he can build bridges with the Latino community in a way that Rudy and Fred Thompson can't. He's a political chameleon and would be willing and able to dump the social conservatives and paleocons going ape-shit over this after winning office. His record in Mass augers well for that.

    I don't see what's wrong with Obama. I appreciate his thoughtfulness, willingness to build consensus, offer “real talk” to his supporters and constituents and would find him an excellent president to get things done. We don't need another 4 years of a Clinton or a Bush, considering that neither family has advanced America's interests very well over the past 20 years.

    Let's not even talk about Rudy “Mr. 9/11 all the time, everytime”, the failed mayor who did his job on 9/11 and people think he's some kind of saint or hero for it. If our expectations have become that low, its rather a pathetic symbol of how low our country has fallen. “He's presidential material because he did his job on 9/11, oh my God”.

  8. Eddie,

    What's your read of Romney? To me McCain has the advantage that its his turn, Giuliani has popularity, and Thompson is the logical anyone-but-Giuliani candidate. Romney seems like the Republican version of Edwards.

    Obama is considerably to the left of Hillary — he was against welfare reform when it was enacted, against the Iraq War when it started, and has little to offer except the ability to speak on at length about nothing in particular (his “real talk”).

    I disagree on your assessment of Clinton and Bush — 1993- has been a period of propserity and growth for both America and the Core. Much of the groundwork was laid by previous presidents, of course, but the relatively consisent foreign and economic policies have led to many successes and few outright failures.

    Rudy is a fiscially conservative “law and order” social liberal. This hurts him in the Republican primary among social conservatives, but his turn around of New York City is justly admired. His outstanding performance on 9/11 was not a one-time act of heroism, but rather fully consistent with how he led the city during his two terms.

  9. Romney is running the best campaign at this point, stumbles over and over again, yet still remains popular. The fact that he is a Mormon will cost him social conservative votes, but his appeal runs deeper than that among moderates and others.

    McCain will not get the nomination. He's going down fighting though, on immigration reform and staying the course in Iraq, two highly unpopular positions in Republican circles at this point. The “base” largely loathes him, and his “straight talk” isn't generating the buzz or admiration it used to on the campaign trail among independents and Republicans.

    Rudy…. :-). He was an overrated mayor of NYC who couldn't stand the successes of others under him (like police chief Bratton, who has performed literally the same miracle in LA as he did in NYC) and focused on small issues that did little for the city in the long run but were aesthetically pleasing. Again, all he did on 9/11 was his job. Nothing more, nothing less. He should not be lionized for that. His campaign strategy is asinine ; I'm the 9/11 guy, listen to me, I'm the expert… fear the world, fear the Mexicans, fear the Muslims, fear the Democrats and my opponents. To me he is a shameless opportunist who has a shady respect for the law and a very shoddy roster of friends and associates we've only begun to understand (like Kerik). There is enough dirt on them alone to kill off his campaign as we go through the year and early next year, let alone the revelations that will unfold in a general campaign.

    Thompson is too lazy, too uninformed and merely a placeholder for conservative desires that will not be sated in this campaign. He will enjoy some early success but over time he just doesn't have the goods to get it done. C'mon, he's the most unqualified guy in the room, a nice voice & folksy humor does not a president make. Even GW Bush had more success and more to his name than Thompson. Let's not even get started on the Reagan comparisons, which are a grave insult to all that Reagan accomplished and underwent before he even got to the presidency in 1980. The conservatives swooning over Thompson remind me of how deluded my fellow compatriots have become.

    None of these folks remotely do it for me, though I could tolerate voting for McCain, Romney, Obama or (please let this not happen) Clinton.

    Clinton was a poor president who mismanaged America's historic opportunity in the 1990's, only managing not to botch the economic aspects that drove globalization further. On his watch, we abandoned long-term friends in Thailand and Pakistan, failed to take the Al-Qaeda threat seriously, abdicated US leadership and vision on Africa, Latin America and elsewhere, gave the North Koreans everything they ever desired in 1994, politicized the US military more than ever before, etc. etc. Consistent foreign policies? Umm, what? where? how? I would go along with the economic policies, because the US leadership was rather gifted in that regard in the 1990's.

  10. Ha, you are right about Edwards & Romney being quite alike. Though I figure Romney is a bit smarter and more skilled because of his business and governor experience. Edward's economic ideas (as profiled in the latest NY Times Magazine) are certainly not liberal when he's pressed on the details and specifics, decidedly quite Clintonian/centrist. Especially the bits about ending federal control of housing projects, personal responsibility campaigns to boost parental involvement in children's education and healthcare, etc.

  11. I will keep an eye on Romney.

    McCain's spiteful alienation of the base during the first years of the Bush presidency are definitely hurting him now.

    Giuliani offers a lot more than fear [1,2,3,4]. Plus his implementation of broken windows in the cultural home of the Left was a terrific feat.

    Thompson's lack of ambition helps him with the party machine, as it helped Bush. Ambitious people tend to want to get things done, and that means they're promising are broken before they're made. Compare-and-contrast the domestic agenda of the Presidents Bush, for example, compared to their initial campaign pledges.

    Clinton's economic policies were wise and progressive (welfare reform, NAFTA, the WTO, etc), though he flourished best with a Republican congress. Economic performance under him – and since — has been a combination of benign neglect and wise structural decisions. Africa is currently too far in the gap to matter, which is why no one cares about it. NAFTA and the peso bailout integrated Mexico into the American economy, and laid the groundwork for CAFTA. North Korea was bought off for time, which is suboptimal but is precisely what Bush has done. (Ultimately Pyongyang is Beijing's problem, and both Clinton and Bush seem unwillign to help her out with it.) Both Clinton and Bush provided models of friendship and cooperation to foreign powers, while reminding the world of our vengence (maintaining the Cuban blockade, yearly dismemberment of Belgade, regular bombings & such in Iraq). Pakistan is a goonish thug-state, and Clinton's treating of them as a peer to India was the groundwork to America's embrace of India as a strong democracy. Both Clinton and Bush maintained a policy of proportional response to al Qaeda — they knick us somewhere, we knick them somewhere. They try to knock us down, we try to knock them down.


  12. “Plus his implementation of broken windows in the cultural home of the Left was a terrific feat.”

    See Eddie's comments on Bratton, which gets to the core of this issue.

    The jury is still out, btw, on what caused the decline in crime (and I think “broken glass” is a good idea, fwiw).

    I lived in New York at the time, and despite loathing the Democratic machine there, found G. a miserable mayor with very strong authoritarian tendencies. Blumberg, on the other hand, has acquitted himself much better than G. Wonder if he'll make that independent run in the end…

    My only strong disagreement with Eddie is that Clinton administration “ignored” the Al-Q threat. They thought it was extremely serious, but didn't have the political stomach to do what they believed to be necessary, which isn't exactly an endorsement :-).

    Clinton and Bush I also deserve the “credit” for the current state of Russia, which is turning out to be a serious problem for the US.

  13. Dr. Nexon,

    Could you explain re: Russia's current state? I looked at Duck of Minerva, and the Russia posts there focus more on Russia's geopolitical position than its regime type.


  14. I find Giuliani revolting after his schoolyard-bully act vs. Ron Paul (and it takes alot for me to dislike someone for cutting down Ron Paul). Essentially he was trying to put the idea of “blowback” on the same level as the 9/11 For Truth wackos, in order to portray himself as a crusader against evil, rather than someone who did his job on an terrible but inevitable day. Incidentally, I think his image as a crusader-type against evil-Islamo-fascist-jihadis-from-hell-who-will-follow-us-home is pretty much the main reason people on the Right support him.
    I see Giuliani as a “you don't need to worry about it, just give all your authority to me and I'll take care of everything” -type power-hungry egomaniac. NOT the type I want in the White House.

    I'd be happy with Richardson or Gore if he runs, and I'd be very happy with Wes Clark if he runs. On the Republican side there isn't really anyone I'd be happy with. Romney would be the least bad because, while spineless, condescending and pandering, at least he's not actually nuts (McCain, Tancredo, Hunter, Paul), stupid (either Thompson) or authoritarian (Giuliani).

  15. Ron Paul's comment was straight out of the anti-Roosevelt, isolationist playbook: “the whole reason Japan attacked us is that we embargoed them!” I'm not sure that Giuliani's answer was the best one. I don't know what the best response would be.

    Agreed on Giuliani's authoritarian tendencies. I see Hillary the same way.

    Also agreed on Romney's weakness.

    Why is Thompson stupid?

  16. Which Thompson are you asking about? Fred Thompson refused to give any positions on any issues whatsoever in an interview, basically because he hadn't thought much about them. Tommy Thompson recently told a bunch of Jewish retirees “I really respect how you people are so good at making money.”

    If you'd like I can look up the exact quotes later tonight when I'm at home and not commenting on the sly at work. 😉

  17. Fred Thompson's strategy is to avoid making mistakes, delay making enemies, and deal with the party as late in the campaign as possible. This is reasonable, and it seems to be working.

    Tommy Thompson was by accounts a pretty good governor. But that doesn't mean he has the temperament or skillset to be an effective cabinet officer or President.

  18. One last thing about Rudy G brought up by a New Yorker colleague of mine. The man has made an obscene amount of money off of 9/11. His speaking events where he addressed packed rooms of gleeful idiots thinking they were catching sight of a real American hero banked him tens of millions of dollars. No matter that he donates some back to charities and what-not, but he made a clear and explicit choice to profit from a tragedy. Again, he did his damn job. He was not some firefighter risking his life to save people, a tower survivor who did the same for a perfect stranger or colleague. He's just another politician, albeit not a very good one who was highly disliked by much of the city at the time of the attacks, as well as one who piggybacked off the successes of others and then fired them for getting in the way of his undeserved limelight.

    I saw little wrong with what Ron Paul said. US policy does play a serious role in the type of threats we've brewed in the Middle East and elsewhere. Considering the role our CIA and its colleagues in the most dangerous organization in the world (the Pakistani ISI) played in the 80's with the jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we are to blame for a lot of our troubles. And yes, we did paint Japan into a corner with our oil embargo. Doesn't make what they did to us @ Pearl Harbor or elsewhere in any way right, but we should not be simpleton idiots and think “they hate us for our freedom”.

  19. Eddie,

    On reading your comment I had exactly the same thought as 60 seconds earlier, when I read a similar criticism of Bill Clinton: criticism a public speaker for doing his job is not substantive.

    I assume you equally condemn Winston Churchill for profiting off the River War in the Sudan?

    The question on why politicians generally favor defensive-ideological explanations for our wars is an interesting one, but praising Ron Paul for breaking the taboo would be like praising Al Sharpton's campaign for shedding light on the fact that Korean grocers profit off African-Americans: strange at best.

    Ron Paul, given a national forum, decided to mimic more than anyone else the isolationist Right from the 1930s. Great: he's a free-internal-market version of Pat Buchanan. That's worth keeping in mind.

  20. Remember the Maine!

    Who would have ever believed that fiasco would be bettered?

    (Apology to my wife's ancestor, Admiral Dewey)

    I would disagree with Eddie on Japan. If they had not been obscenely militaristic, they would have easily seen they were in no corner. It's another country that had fully silenced its liberal voices, so there were nothing but idiots left running the show.

  21. The Japanese Army, in its pursuit of total war in China, wrecked catastrophic damage on Japan. They assassinated or otherwise silenced civilian leaders, maneuvers the Navy into the disasterous Pacific War, and treated their own serving forces to concentration-camp conditions.

    PS: Fiasco?

  22. It was a coal-dust ignited explosion, and that type of ship had had several in its history.

    We went and murdered a bunch of innocent Spaniards. I rate that a fiasco.

  23. sonofsamphm1c,

    You're more sure of the cause of the explosion than I am.

    What is a fact is that the Maine exploded and America swept aside most of the Spanish Empire, replacing with direct or indirect rule for Washington.

    That's a strategic coup, not a fiasco.

  24. “In 1911 the Navy Department ordered a second board of inquiry after Congress voted funds for the removal of the wreck of Maine from Havana Harbor. U.S. Army engineers built a cofferdam around the sunken battleship, thus exposing it, and giving naval investigators an opportunity to examine and photograph the wreckage in detail. Finding the bottom hull plates in the area of the reserve six-inch magazine bent inward and back, the 1911 board concluded that a mine had detonated under the magazine, causing the explosion that destroyed the ship.

    Technical experts at the time of both investigations disagreed with the findings, believing that spontaneous combustion of coal in the bunker adjacent to the reserve six-inch magazine was the most likely cause of the explosion on board the ship. In 1976, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover published his book, How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed. The admiral became interested in the disaster and wondered if the application of modern scientific knowledge could determine the cause. He called on two experts on explosions and their effects on ship hulls. Using documentation gathered from the two official inquiries, as well as information on the construction and ammunition of Maine, the experts concluded that the damage caused to the ship was inconsistent with the external explosion of a mine. The most likely cause, they speculated, was spontaneous combustion of coal in the bunker next to the magazine. …”

    Ships of that design had had spontaneous coal-dust fires prior to the explosion in the Maine. It also happened more than once to Navy ships during the Spanish American War.

    I believe the Navy actually had several of them modified to prevent the problem.

    The odds of a mine igniting the magazine are not very high.

    Just an aside, my father, standing at a battle station approximately 100 feet away, survived a magazine explosion. Around 200 sailors were not so lucky.

  25. Re: Ron Paul.
    Someone has to say it. The sheer lack of foreign policy debate or anger within the GOP presidential candidates is worrying. It was good to see someone who opposed the war from the beginning give a voice to the majority of the GOP who opposes the war now, has lost faith in the military and in the leadership to achieve anything resembling a victory and wants its leaders to actually discuss a post-Bush presidency while using few of his mostly failed policies and ideas.

    I agree about Clinton and see Churchill in a different light (he was reporting on the campaign as a participant and actually provides some medium of talent and lessons in the foray… Rudy G & Bubba mouth empty slogans and faux candid lessons). The entire idea of my investment dollars (I invest in a number of companies, including some of those who wasted millions on both Guillani and Clinton) being spent on such idiotic drivel as they offer is a testament to how out of touch our companies are these days. Again, neither of them are or were good leaders.

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