Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why the right fights - Ross Douthat - NY Times

Ross Douthat explains the Tea Party, and "movement conservatives" with admirable clarity.
Why The Right Fights -
by Ross Douthat

To understand how we ended up in this strange political moment, with the federal government shuttered in pursuit of a political goal that most elected Republicans concede is well-nigh-impossible to achieve, it’s worth talking not only about polarization and redistricting and the conservative media landscape and anti-Obama sentiment and the weakening of institutional party power, but also about a more basic, often-underappreciated element in how many movement conservatives regard the history of the last forty years. To explain this point, I’ll start with a quote from David Frum’s great book “Dead Right,” which was written in the early 1990s, in what seemed like a period of exhaustion and defeat for limited-government conservatism, just before the 1994 congressional sweep gave that movement new political life. Here’s how the Frum of that era — who was much more of a small-government rigorist than he is today — depicted the Reagan years and their implications for the right:
However heady the 1980s may have looked to everyone else, they were for conservatives a testing and disillusioning time. Conservatives owned the executive branch for eight years and had great influence over it for four more; they dominated the Senate for six years; and by the end of the decade they exercised near complete control over the federal judiciary. And yet, every time they reached to undo the work of Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon — the work they had damned for nearly half a century — they felt the public’s wary eyes upon them. They didn’t dare, and they realized that they didn’t dare. Their moment came and flickered. And as the power of the conservative movement slowly ebbed after 1986, and then roared away in 1992, the conservatives who had lived through that attack of faintheartedness shamefacedly felt that they had better hurry up and find something else to talk about …

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