The (Living) End of the Right

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While his Washington Post op-ed, "The End of the Right," is not ultimately any more coherent than he claims conservatism is, centrist-ish political pundit E.J. Dionne (author of a helpful book, Why Americans Hate Politics, in the early '90s) thinks that we are seeing a looming death of the Right, offering as evidence such things selling out on the minimum wage while holding fast to estate tax cuts–in addition to some intra-movement squabbling over the Iraq War, immigration, stem-cells, and spending.

Ultimately, his complaint seems to read more like "conservatives aren't the sort of centrists I'd prefer them to be." Far from it being the death of them, the Right has pretty much had its life defined by what Dionne is spelling out, this sort of weak-kneed semi-serious rhetorical devotion to small government combined with war mongering, sops to the religious right, and occasionally pissing off their more serious intellectuals while never causing them to bolt the coalition. Still, expect this meme of a right-wing collapse to have long legs (until the November election, when a GOP victory would probably kneecap it until the 2008 presidential race).

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  1. The right certainly seems to have died, and been reborn into a statist movement larger than that any Democrat has conjoured up in decades.

    However, the death of statism is quite premature.

  2. Hate to quibble, but when did being on the right necessarily mean being a conservative? For that matter, are you necessarily a “liberal” for being on the left? Dionne’s piece seems to infer that there are only two political philosophies extant in America today. Those of us who think for ourselves would beg to differ.

  3. …we are seeing a looming death of the Right, offering as evidence such things selling out on the minimum wage while holding fast to estate tax cuts–in addition to some intra-movement squabbling over the Iraq War, immigration, stem-cells, and spending.

    And here I was thinking it was because they were venal, sanctimonious, openly self-serving, hypocritical loonies.

  4. The right certainly seems to have died, and been reborn into a statist movement larger than that any Democrat has conjoured up in decades.

    However, the death of statism is quite premature.

    That seems to be the fate of most political movements. It’s hard to believe that both liberalism and conservatism began as anti-government movements.

    So what do you think will happen if libertarians ever come in to power?

  5. What I didn’t get from the Dionne piece is how any of this is new.

    –Fiscal conservatism went out with the Medicare drug benefit.

    –Federalist conservatism went out with No Child Left Behind.

    –Pandering to evangelical Christians has been around since the Reagan Administration.

    So why is anyone raising any eyebrows now?

  6. Thanks, jason, you took the words right out of my mouth. I can’t stand E.J. Dionne.

  7. Interesting quote regarding the republicans and democrats from the blog dailypundit.

    “Damn it, no matter how feckless, clueless, RINO-ravaged, and stupid the Republicans become, the drooling idiots of the Democratic party simply won’t permit them to be defeated.”

    This may be a reasonably accurate appraisal of the upcoming elections.

  8. The contempory right is held together by one thing: contempt for liberals, their beliefs, and their accomplishments. Neoconservatism seemed a way out, an actual affirmative vision, but now that’s pretty much collapsed due to the Iraq Debacle.

    This leaves very little for a governing party to do, leaving them to bribe constituencies and co-opt their opponents’ ideas (for a good example of both, see the drug benefit).

    However, as a strategy and organizing principle for campaigning (in terms of elections and the “permanent campaign”), this anti-liberalism is incredibly powerful. Their intellectuals aren’t out there figuring out the best way to govern; they’re figuring out the best ways to denouce liberal ideas. Their media figures aren’t working to sell a conservative vision, but to denounce liberals and liberalism. Any issue poll will tell you that the current Republican majority and presidency weren’t built on broad support for the Republicans’ ideas (in contrast to the New Deal coalition, for example).

    What you end up with is this zombie majority, that just keeps living even as everything inside has rotted. The Goldwaterites spent two decades wearing down the Democrats; their ascention really was a climb, one step at a time. The coming Democratic takeover isn’t going to look like that – the Republicans are going to collapse all at once, because they’re hollow.

  9. madpad-

    And here I was thinking it was because they were venal, sanctimonious, openly self-serving, hypocritical loonies.

    Nedredaline!

  10. “So what do you think will happen if libertarians ever come in to power?”

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha….

    What was this thread about again?

  11. joe-

    I think you have a point, about how the GOP doesn’t have a plan for governing so much as a determination to keep key constituencies happy while demonizing the Dems.

    The thing is, I’m not sure that the Dems have any ideas that they are confident about at the moment. Now, we can leave for another time the question of whether the Dems have good ideas, but they certainly don’t seem to have a lot of confidence. Maybe the zombie majority and the continuing success of its tactics have something to do with this.

  12. Postmodern Sleaze, don’t ever do that again!

  13. Maybe the zombie majority and the continuing success of its tactics have something to do with this.

    Would that be the zombie majority of Republican pols or the zombie majority of citizens?

  14. What you end up with is this zombie majority, that just keeps living even as everything inside has rotted….

    Comment by: joe at August 4, 2006 08:11 PM

    The GOP has discredited itself in every way as a ruling party, yet the Dems have no hope.

  15. Argh. I’d have liked to have read this thread, but I see someone wrecked it with a really unnecessarily long line. Thanks, dude.

  16. Intellectually, the right and left have both been at room temperature for about 20 years.

  17. I’m touched by the childlike innocence of those who still believe that there is the slightest difference between politicians of the Republican party and those of the Democratic party. I presume you also write faithfully to Santy Claus when That Time of Year rolls around.

  18. Wow, you’re just so much cooler and more arch than the rest of us. Can you teach me how to expel smoke and say “It’s all just bullshit, man!” at the same time.

    And as an added bonus, you don’t even have to waste all the time us mere mortals expend on evaluating different policy and values statements from the different parties, because you know what the answer will be before you even hear what they are.

    I believe the term is “too cool for school.”

  19. The book was Why Americans Hate Politics. And before you praise Dionne you should read this classic.

  20. Can some one please delete Postmodern Sleaze’s post so that it stops fucking up the page?

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