Back in 2009, when liberals were fretting over the unexpected eruption of Tea Party movement and its supposed leader Sarah Palin, The New York Times’ Frank Rich was confident that, while the phenomenon might be a problem in the short term, in the long term demographics would doom it.
In column after column, Rich wrote that the Tea Party represented the “aging white base of the Republican Party”; how that Republicans were not “reckoning with the doomed demographics of the G.O.P.’s old white male base”; how Sarah Palin cannot win because “[t]he demographic that Palin attracts is in decline”; how Palin’s demographic is “a dwindling white nonurban America that is aflame with grievances and awash in self-pity as the country hurtles into the 21st century and leaves it behind.”
So now, with Mitt Romney (the anti-Tea Party candidate if there ever was one) as the GOP’s standard bearer, polls heavily against the Tea Party, and Sarah Palin struggling to keep a Fox News contract, one would think Rich would be gloating about his acumen.
However, he has done a near about-face. He now claims that “The Tea Party Will Win in the End” [New York Magazine, October 14, 2012]
Rich acknowledges the Tea Party’s recent eclipse. But he points out that predictions of conservative extinction have been made by gleeful liberals many times before, most notably after the defeats of Robert Taft in 1952 and Barry Goldwater in 1964. Nevertheless, according to Rich, Barry Goldwater’s “uninhibited anti-government zeal long ago ceased to be ‘extremism’ and became Republican boilerplate”—even to the East Coast Establishment Republican Romney.
Liberals simply underestimate conservatives. Rich argues
no matter how many times the conservative bogeyman came back from the dead along the way, liberals were shocked at every resurrection. Whether it was the rise of Reagan, the coming of Scalia-Thomas “originalism” to the Supreme Court, or the Gingrich revolution of 1994, we were always gobsmacked.
Thus, he argues that “by the metric of intractability, at least, conservatives are the cockroaches of the American body politic, poised to outlast us all.”
Comparing conservatives to “cockroaches” is a backhanded compliment, but it is still a compliment of sorts. People who call themselves “conservatives” and (at least nominally) support free enterprise, small government, and traditional values have indeed maintained a steady presence in American politics for the last 60 years.
But cockroaches just exist. That’s not the same as winning.
And what has “conservatism” won? When Robert Taft ran for president in 1952, the following Cabinet level agencies did not even exist:
- The Department of Health and Human Services (1953)
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development (1965)
- The Department of Transportation (1967)
- The Department of Energy (1977)
- The Department of Education (1979)
- The Department of Veterans Affairs (1989)
- The Department of Homeland Security (2002)
And that doesn’t include the literally hundreds of independent agencies, sub-agencies, and quasi agencies, such as the Legal Services Corporation, The Environmental Protection Agencies, and The Civil Rights Division, that did not exist at that time. None of these agencies has had their budget cut, much less been abolished.
Ronald Reagan campaigned on abolishing the Departments of Education and Energy. But he increased both of their budgets, and added another Cabinet level department (Veterans Affairs). And no Republican nominee for president since then has called for any such cuts.
When Texas Governor Rick Perry, in his disastrous November, 2011 debate performance, said “oops” after forgetting what agencies he would like cut, he could have been speaking for the whole conservative movement.
Note, also, that Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But in 2004, every single Republican (and Democrat for that matter), save Ron Paul, voted to celebrate its enactment. Paul’s son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul—without a doubt the most radical tea partier in the Senate—backed down on his moderate opposition to one small part of the bill after a barrage of attacks from both Democrats and Republicans. I have yet to see Mitt Romney even nominally oppose racial preferences.
Yet Rich pretends that even the Establishment GOP has taken the Goldwater line.
On social issues, the GOP retreat has been even more astounding. Gay marriage, or “marriage equality” would have been unthinkable even to the Communist party in the days of Barry Goldwater. In 2004, right after George Bush won re-election largely on the back of anti-gay marriage state initiatives, Michael Kinsley wrote that when he was editing the New Republic in 1989 and commissioned Andrew Sullivan to write the “Conservative Case for Gay Marriage,” no one really took the issue seriously. According to Kinsley,
“We were using it as a thought experiment. The object was in part simply to stick it to conservatives, and in part to use this arresting concept as a way to make people think about gay rights in general. Gay marriage itself seemed so far out and unlikely to happen that whether you were actually for it was beside the point.”
Today, it’s hard to imagine gay marriage not becoming a near universal-right, largely thanks to unelected judges, within 10 or 15 years. The Romney campaign has run away from the issue, while Barack Obama is raising millions of dollars over his support of this “thought experiment” turned civil right.
“Today`s near-universal and minimally respectable attitude—the rock-bottom, nonnegotiable price of admission to polite society and the political debate—is an acceptance of gay people and of open, unapologetic homosexuality as part of American life. This would have shocked, if not offended, the great liberals of a few decades ago—men like Hubert Humphrey.”
Kinsley was alarmed at this change—no, not because standards have decayed so rapidly, but because
“…there is no reason to think that gay rights are the end of the line. And it`s even scarier because these are all revolutions of perception as well as politics. That means that all of us who consider ourselves good-hearted, well-meaning, empathetic Americans—but don`t claim to be great visionaries—are probably staring right now at an injustice that will soon seem obvious, and we just don`t see it. “
[Civil Rights Lightning, Washington Post, December 12, 2004]
And, indeed, last year the New Republic found its next injustice: the lack of full acceptance of the “Transgendered.” In a very non-“thought experiment” cover piece on “The Next Great Civil Rights Struggle” they were described as “least protected, most persecuted people in the United States.” [“Welcome to America`s Next Great Civil Rights Struggle” June 23, 2011]
What the New Republic’s 20-year journey from considering gay marriage as an “arresting concept” to transgendered rights as a “Great Civil Rights Struggle” demonstrates: the Left will never be satisfied.
This is in part because some of the Left’s goals—such as racial egalitarianism and acceptance of homosexuality—are simply at odds with human nature. Even if they win in the political arena on these issues, they will always be stuck with the fact that a large number of Americans are simply not on board with their agenda.
But even were that not the case, the Left can always find a new victim group and create a new government program, and then scream persecution when conservatives are slow to accept the latest “human right.”
Where do Rich’s earlier predictions of the Tea Party’s demographic demise fit in? The year after Goldwater’s defeat, the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act set forth changes that have turned America from an 88% European-derived nation to only 67% white now, with whites projected to become a minority in 30-40 years.
So how will the GOP survive the New Demographics? According to Rich,
“Eventually, the GOP might even figure out that it’s not in either its ideological or political interests to insist in perpetuity that government intrude on women’s reproductive rights and thwart equal civil rights (marital and otherwise) for gays. (Barry Goldwater, for one, knew this.) Such a shift might entice young libertarian voters, who care little about the Democrats’ entitlement trump cards of Social Security and Medicare, to give the Republicans a second look.”
In other words, Rich suggests that the Right give up some of its core beliefs in order to survive.
Regardless of one’s views on these issues, or whether or not Rich is correct, this is not “winning.”
Rich’s other path for conservative victory is more significant for VDARE.com readers:
“Latinos, America’s fastest-growing minority, are the most obvious obstacle to the right’s political future. Romney’s embrace of the most extreme immigration arsenal, from vowing to veto the Dream Act to endorsing a Mexican border fence, has assured that Obama will win the Latino vote by a landslide—and possibly the election along with it. And yet the GOP could overcome this burden over the long term. It was as recently as 2004 that George W. Bush drew nearly 40 percent of the Latino vote while trying (without success) to prod his party toward a kinder immigration policy. A new generation of Republican presidential contenders who want to win—and not just Marco Rubio—will put the highest priority on trying to save the GOP from its rapidly approaching demographic apocalypse.”
Given Rich’s past writings, I wonder if he really believes his own propaganda. Maybe he is just hoping to convince conservatives to support policies that he has previously bragged would lead to their destruction.
In fairness, Rich acknowledges that this article does contradict some his earlier predictions “that any party as white, old, and male as the Republicans is doomed to near or complete extinction by the emerging demographics of 21st-century America.” Yet, given how extensively he has written on these issues, it’s hard to believe he just now came up with the endlessly repeated cliché that if the GOP will be fine with Hispanics if they just support amnesty.
Regardless of his motivations, Rich is incorrect on every point.
(It’s also worth pointing out that what Rich calls an “extreme immigration arsenal” consists of support for a border fence, which over 60% of Democrats voted to build in 2006, and opposing—before he supported—the DREAM Act, which Congress has never been able to pass, despite its being introduced nearly a dozen times.
Given the liberal proclivities of Latinos and other minorities, there is only way to save the GOP from its “rapidly approaching demographic apocalypse.”
It is to save America from its own rapidly approaching demographic apocalypse—by adding an immigration moratorium to that “extreme immigration arsenal.”
Charles Bloch (email him) considers himself an unhyphenated American.