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April 7, 2010 [LINK / comment]

"Polite company conservatives"

As if "RINO" (Republican In Name Only) wasn't bad enough, now there's a new epithet being used by grassroots right-wingers: "polite company conservatives" (PCC). It seems to refer to mainstream conservative pundits such as David Brooks and David Frum who use a more dignified tone of discourse and apply rational, critical thought to public policy issues, rather than echoing emotional sound bites. For example, see Tunku Varadarajan at; hat tip to Bruce Bartlett. (I came across that piece during the flap over David Frum being fired from AEI last month.) Those qualities are exactly the standard to which I aspire, and which I think will be essential for rebuilding support for the Republican Party as a governing (as opposed to campaigning) party. For the presently-dominant populist wing of the GOP, however, that kind of approach seems to be nothing more than sucking up to liberal elites, and even suggests a desire to curry favor with the "enemy."

Before proceeding, I need to emphasize one point very strongly: there is no necessary connection between moderate tone and moderate substance. One can be an extreme right-wing libertarian but express one's views in a very polished manner -- for example, the late William F. Buckley. Sadly, however, many folks on the Right these days equate rude or nasty behavior with being "tough," which they believe is what you need in order to win. How utterly mistaken.

So what do I think about the two leading exemplars of "PCC"? I cited Frum in January, with regard to RNC Chairman Michael Steele's performance (!), but not much otherwise. In contrast, I have often cited Brooks, who early on pointed out some of the glaring defects among right-wing Republicans. In March 2005 Brooks exposed some "masters of sleaze" such as Grover Norquist (Americans for Tax Reform) and Jack Abramoff (mega-swindler). In June 2006 he criticized Tom DeLay for often being "partisan at the expense of conservatism."

Sometimes Brooks got carried away in criticizing the "fear-mongering" of many politicians on the Right. In November 2007, I opined that he was being too complacent about the immigration issue, for example.

A defining moment came in January 2008 when Rush Limbaugh denounced Brooks for a New York Times column in which he lamented the "great tightening" that has afflicted the Republican Party since the Reagan administration. That September Brooks began to worry about the Sarah Palin phenomenon, and the contemporary drift of American conservatism toward populism. I share his concerns. Likewise, in October 2009 Brooks faulted GOP leaders for paying too much attention to talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity. He concludes, "The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer's niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician's coalition-building strategy." Indeed.

In short, "polite company conservatives" such as Brooks, Frum, and of course George Will, are the very people whom the GOP most desperately needs to provide a guiding light back to political success. Without them, there will be no brain power to stop the onslaught of Obama-style statism.

Karl Rove's memoirs

I simply cannot understand why Fox News has Karl Rove on so many times. Can't they figure out that Rove was the person most responsible for leading the Republican Party into the abyss of doom? In Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section, Craig Shirley and Donald Devine review Rove's past statements and policy prescriptions, concluding that he "is no conservative." Bruce Bartlett obviously concurred, and as I wrote on his Facebook page,

Nixonian or Gladstonian, the point is that BushRove (construed in the singular) transformed a party that had been pragmatically conservative in substance and frankly elitist in style (i.e., well suited for governing) into a party that is now dogmatically (though selectively) right wing in substance and populist in style (i.e., largely incapable of governing).

Will I bother to read Rove's memoirs? Maybe this summer -- but only after I have finished Atlas Shrugged.

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 08 Apr 2010, 1: 20 AM

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