In reply to John Myste's GOP Unscathed By Your Wishful Thinking
Burr Deming’s resentment will never win an election or exterminate a party.
- John Myste, February 25, 2012
At age 74, Woody Allen comments on the aging process:
I’m against it. I think it has nothing to recommend it. You don’t gain any wisdom as the years go by. You fall apart, is what happens. People try and put a nice varnish on it, and say, well, you mellow. You come to understand life and accept things. But you’d trade all of that for being 35 again.
Boy, he's on the mark there. One of the worst things is the decreasing reliance I can place on my aging memory. If I vary my routine even slightly, lost car keys, missing television remotes, and misplaced cell phones come to dominate my time.
I'm not alone, and even the vibrant and beautiful fall victim to mental lapses. My love once left her cell phone behind as she went off on some mission. I tried to call her and, to my surprise, I answered. But mostly the lose-my-mind episodes fall in my own domain.
I take a host of medications that my physician claims are keeping me alive. If I don't keep them in daily pill boxes with days of the week clearly marked, I retire to a Goldilocks world. I have no way of knowing for sure whether I am doubling a dose, missing a dose, or getting it just right.
So you can imagine my chagrin at a superbly written recent piece by my friend John Myste. John writes with a wit and erudition that never fails to entertain me, even when I am the target of his well honed points.
A while back, I began predicting the demise of the Republican Party as a national influence. I believe it will happen before this decade is over. It is a prediction others have made, without the time frame, and usually with some caveat. The GOP will die unless they change direction. The GOP will face extinction unless they move to less extremist issues. Soul searching will be needed to avoid a very bad end. That sort of thing. Voices from the thoughtful right talk of dangerous moves toward the frayed, nutty edges of the American political fabric. Some point with alarm to the increasing isolation of conservatives, as they vigorously reinforce the views of each other.
Those cautionary voices all have a part of the picture, as I see it. But only a part. I think the party is a captive of a sociological phenomenon that is inescapable, fueled as it is by technology. They will not change direction because they cannot. Here is the reasoning I have proposed.
If GOP candidates get few enough votes in enough elections, the party will disappear.
If the GOP grows extreme enough, it will attract fewer voters, thus fulfilling Number 1.
If less conservative members continue to leave the party, the party will become increasingly extreme. Thus fulfilling number 2, which makes number 1 a certainty.
If more conservative members of the party continue to believe ideological purity is the key to victory, they will continue to make the GOP a less and less hospitable home for mainstream conservatives. Thus fulfilling number 3, thus making numbers 2 and 1 a certainty.
If extreme conservatives listen to what they are being told by conservative media, they will become increasingly certain that any setbacks are caused by a lack of ideological purity. Thus fulfilling number 4, making number 3, 2, and 1 a certainty.
- If conservative media stop telling extremists they are right, extreme conservatives now have the easy ability to find other more conservative media alternatives. Thus making it all come together in a very happy, yellow-brick-road ending.
John Myste's rejoinder is brilliantly scornful. As always, his scorn is enlightening and incisive. His objection is to my wishful thinking. His references to my naive visionary hopes are scattered through his argument like pollen on a spring day.
Prayers. "I have heard your prayers," he says.
Faith. "As you know, my faith is not as strong as yours"
Resentment. "Burr Deming’s resentment will never win an election or exterminate a party."
Fantasy. "In your fantasy world the conservatives are gasping for air"
OH. Fantasies. "In your fantasy world, the GOP is dying."
Lofty notion. "your lofty notion of their demise"
It is humiliating. Not the scorn or the skewering. That part is entertaining, as John's intellect shines through as always. The point of personal embarrassment goes back to the aging process.
With wit and skill that would be unmatched by any poor efforts on my part, John skewers, slices, dices, dissects, and vivisects an argument that I simply do not recall making.
I consult my memory but in vain. I do not remember saying that the GOP will disappear because I want that group to disappear. I do not recall making reference to any arc of the moral universe as a focal point of this prediction. Even my search engine betrays me, revealing nothing in my past writings to jog loose a flashback. I keep drawing a blank.
My lapses, sadly, do not end there. John presents his reasoning, but I fail to detect his logic. With effort, I see a glimmer or two on the periphery, but my poor mind does not follow more than primordial flashes. They shine ever briefly in the distance like a lightning storm on the horizon.
I did once say of the GOP demise: "Considering the smashing success of conservatives in the last election, it is a bold prediction." John does capture some of that in pointing out how "they rule the Supreme Court and take the nation in the direction it is going." Could he be projecting recent success onto the future? It could be a point worth examining if he made it explicitly.
He does produce this: "I consider recent historical evidence that the big business of Republicanism with its deep pockets will not fail, to be evidence enough..." Could this be the extent of his reasoning? Does he believe the wealth of conservative benefactors will prevent point 1 from happening despite point 2, as the American electorate is pushed way to the right by well-financed advertising? Or does he think the logic will be interrupted at point 5, as the party base is force-fed a moderating view they do not wish to hear in massive media campaigns?
This last may be what he considers the point of departure, reinforced by his belief in money as the powering force. "A party peopled with fanatics will thrive so long as the fanatics have funding, and it will switch gears when the funding slows, and then thrive on."
Hard to say. In fact, I still cannot determine if his view is a premise or a conclusion. If it is a premise, his extensive writing ability will serve only to reinforce what is already impervious to logic or evidence. A premise is not to be trifled with.
If it is a conclusion, he may have revealed the reasoning that leads to it, but I do not grasp it. Like many Biblical scholars, I await the Revelation of John.
One lesson is learned. I will never again predict that the GOP will vanish solely because I closed my eyes and wished hard enough for it to be so. Or, if I do, I will remember it this time and await a punishing reply.
Unless, of course, my poor memory fails me and I slip again.
Let's get back to the fundamental reason behind the existence of political parties to begin with. They exist to pass legislation. You cannot pass legislation without majorities. You cannot have majorities without voters. So, the people who write the checks that fund the parties are very keen to have those voters.
Somewhere between #5 and #6, those check-writers will see that their plan isn't working, and they'll turn off the noise machine. Remember that "cheap" isn't the same as "free", and that the noise machine can't be sustained indefinitely by hobbyist effort. Sure, some people will prefer to pull the wool over their own eyes. But more, I think, will prefer to have real power over events. They'll eventually get tired of losing.
Also, institutions have value. They have history. The names "Lincoln", "Roosevelt", and "Eisenhower" resonate with the American psyche. The current incarnation of the GOP will crash and burn, but someone will salvage the wreckage, and turn it into a decent place for center-right voters to go. Right now, they don't have that home. But once the crash bottoms out, they will take the opportunity to seize control back from the crazies.
Your whole essay was thoroughly entertaining.
Your affirmative prayers to the contrary, I see no evidence that the GOP is dying. Though I am loath to offend your crystal, I also see no reason to believe the GOP will die in the near future.
Do not consult your failing memory, but instead review the post. I listed some of the things that would keep it alive, even as fanatics take control. Admittedly, I failed to mention the most important thing that sustains us all: not dying. While I relax with a cocktail and a grin, the burden of proof clearly weighs heavily upon your shoulders. Additionally, I have heard your affirmations, and I believe I answered your prayers, just not in the way you would have liked. I work in mysterious ways.
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