It was in 1955 that William F. Buckley brought forth National Review, the raison d'être for which was printed in its very first issue: "It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it." This phrase has stuck with us, because no one other than Buckley would bother to use the word "athwart" at all, but also because it's at the very heart of the Republican Party's current reputation — aided and abetted by Democrats, of course — as the Party of No.

Still, it's not like the Democrats called this one wrong or anything. For several decades, this is exactly where the GOP has been:

Unlike the Democrats, who have always been about getting and keeping power (and more nakedly so since the New Left took over the party in the 70s), the Republicans have always been a party defined by what it's against. During FDR's New Deal, the main thing we were against was the socialism of the New Deal. When the Cold War started, this receded into the background and was replaced by a fairly solid anti-communist stance that left us somewhat rudderless when the Soviet Union collapsed, until the War on Terror came along.

And the War on Terror didn't gain any particular traction: Democrats, for the most part, ridiculed the very idea of the existence of such a thing, and the GOP found itself with a battle they didn't particularly want joined in the first place. One must, after all, take arms against a sea of troubles, and Republican leadership, used to the idea that railing against it was enough, and unwilling to upset the Saudi paymasters of the Wahhabi, basically pissed away the entire issue: they did manage to depose Saddam Hussein, which is a Good Thing, but this play clearly had no second act.

This year's model of the Party of No comes straight out of Monty Python's Argument Clinic: the Republicans have adopted the policy of automatically gainsaying anything the other party says. There's intellectual value in such a stance, given the Democrats' embrace of seemingly every bad leftist idea from the last half-century, but there's no political value in it: Joe and Susan Sixpack want to know what you're doing to create jobs, and the Democrats, ever since FDR, have managed to imprint the notion that there's something government actually can do on a consistent basis to create jobs, so the GOP response, which consists largely of cutting taxes and standing back, just doesn't sound like doing anything.

Which tells me that the most effective positioning for the Republicans in 2011 and thereafter will not be the Party of No but the Party of Huh? (If situations permit, it may be necessary to become the Party of Are You Fucking Kidding Me?) Democratic initiatives which make no sense, which likely will be a substantial number of them, should be met with withering scorn and loudly-expressed derision. Samples:

  • The top 20 percent of the population has more money than the bottom 20 percent? "In which society in the history of the world was this not the case? Not counting cemeteries, of course."

  • The population is 52 percent female, but only 10 percent of its hard scientists are women? "Obviously we need to draft girls into physics classes. If they don't want to do that, well, too bad: we've got quotas to meet."

And so forth. For every half-assed notion proposed by the Democrats, there should be a fully-assed response by the GOP, pointing out how dumb it really is.

This will not persuade everyone, of course. Approximately 30 percent of the electorate is either hard-core socialist or has been bribed via tax schemes to support hard-core socialism: they'd vote for Beelzebub if the old reprobate would promise to pay for their health care. And probably 30 percent of the electorate is somewhere to the right of me and wondering why I've failed to embrace some of their wackier schemes. (I'm looking at you, Anthony Sykes.) But that leaves lots of folks who might be reached by a serious discussion of why [fill in name of bill] well and truly sucks. If the Republicans can wise up, they can put this premise to good use. Then again, their experience in withering scorn and loudly-expressed derision is purely intramural, and there seems to be little evidence that they can be taught to take it outside their carefully-constructed walls.

The Vent

#713
  15 February 2011

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