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April 10, 2007

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Red rot may be the biggest lasting problem left behind by this Administration. Ugh.

I gotta hand it to them, the conservatives really put their nose to the grindstone for the past 20-30 years. Delayed gratification. The institution building should have reached its zenith with the Bush II presidency. Honestly, I wonder how upset these groups (the evangelicals, anti-abortion, anti-tax, etc...) are at Bush for wasting his political, and much of their momentum, on inept policy. I'm probably overstating the case but I think some damage has been done to the right wing causes.

Well, let's not underestimate the importance of having piles of money to build these institutions.

"Honestly, I wonder how upset these groups (the evangelicals, anti-abortion, anti-tax, etc...) are at Bush for wasting his political, and much of their momentum, on inept policy."

Very.

"I gotta hand it to them, the conservatives really put their nose to the grindstone for the past 20-30 years. Delayed gratification."

It really goes back to Wendell Wilkie's capture of the nomination, though. And then to Robert Taft's loss of the nomination, and control of the Republican Party, to Eisenhower.

Without those events, there'd have been no Goldwater movement, because the Harding/Coolidge/Hoover old conservatives never would have lost power to be regained in the first place. Thus there'd have been no Reagan reconquest, fight with the Ford/Rockefellar wing, and so on.

That's assuming that somehow they'd have stayed a significant party that way, of course.

whoops, there was a missing "capital" in that last sentence I wrote.

Very.

Well, we'll see. Thing is, for many of them there isn't anywhere else to go besides the Republican party. I'm talking about the gung-ho single-issue types, of course.

If Wendell Willkie hadn't won the nomination, we might be speaking German at this point.

Well, all I know is what DID happen. The conservatives spent decades building institutions and cultivating voting blocs. Of course they sliced and diced those blocs using some pretty divisive rhetoric but hey, perfection isn't always perfect, ya know.

"If Wendell Willkie hadn't won the nomination, we might be speaking German at this point."

Why? Are you suggesting that Taft would have beaten Roosevelt in 1940, unlike Wilkie? Or what?

"Well, all I know is what DID happen. The conservatives spent decades building institutions and cultivating voting blocs."

Yes. I was simply noting that they've in fact been working a lot longer than "the past 20-30 years" to be able to get to where they were in 2004. This in no way disagrees with your point about the specific institutions they've built in the past twenty to thirty years.

I think even if the US had not entered WW2 in Europe the German defeat was inevitable*. It would have taken the Russians a good deal longer to reach Berlin and they would probably not have stopped there.

*I know that Hitler declared war on the US but in my view that was just a formality because both countries were effectively at war in the Atlantic already.

I can see publius' point, but, speaking from a European perspective, the left's march through the institutions has been a mixed blessing at best, and I'm not so sure if this should really be the model for building political influence in the future. Actually, I hope such strategies are a thing of the past, since they are inherently undemocratic and inflexible.

Thus there'd have been no Reagan reconquest, fight with the Ford/Rockefellar wing, and so on.

Rockefeller.

My view of the historical record is that England likely would have fallen if Roosevelt hadn't gotten them substantial aid in advance of the 1940 election. Had the Republican nominee been staunchly opposed to American involvement in the war - as opposed to Willkie who decided, out of the blue, to do the right thing - it's unlikely Roosevelt would have had the political cover to send that aid, in the heat of an election campaign.

I can recommend a really good book on the subject called Nineteen Weeks.

Mind you, I was guilty of a little hyperbole, in that I don't seriously think Hitler would have gone on to conquer the U.S. either way.

Godwinned in 10 posts. it might not be a record, but it's pretty damned fast.

The correct phrasing, I believe is not "What Robertson Did Right", but "What Robertson Did Well". Important distinction.

I can see publius' point, but, speaking from a European perspective, the left's march through the institutions has been a mixed blessing at best, and I'm not so sure if this should really be the model for building political influence in the future. Actually, I hope such strategies are a thing of the past, since they are inherently undemocratic and inflexible.

I'm no historian but I sometimes wonder if the meteoric rise of the left and subsequent shift towards progressive policy and law in America set up the conditions for a Reagan revolution. Consider our long tradition of evangelical re-awakenings and pro-business mindset. Those two forces want their pound of flesh.

"Honestly, I wonder how upset these groups (the evangelicals, anti-abortion, anti-tax.. etc) are at Bush for wasting his political capital, and much of their momentum, on inept policy?"

'Very'

Ack.

And Abbie Hoffman died a depressed, lonely man in a rundown apartment because the American people decided to keep wearing underwear. Sheesh.

"These groups" of dyspeptic ideologues are congentially "upset". They followed George Bush over the cliff. There is no tax cut large enough to satisfy the anti-taxers, no grown-up blastocyst unimportant enough to resist providing it with a Medicare drug benefit, and no amount of casualties in foreign catastrophe to satisfy the Wall Street Journal editorial page's need to show the world that America doesn't mind a little inept sacrifice in the cause of grandiose ineptness.

What, William Bennett is a little moody because public schools still exist? Grover Norquist has yet another burr under his saddle because the IRS hasn't been blown up? Pat Robertson is feeling a little under the weather because not enough liberal Supreme Court justices have reached the limits of their blastocyst* shelf life?

*hey, I'm pro-blastocyst. Even the ones who grow up to receive water subsidies. ;)

If you subtract oral sex, of the Monica variety and all of the rest of it, not that there is anything wrong with that, these "groups" would never have been given the chance to fund Duke Cunningham's yacht.

I'm with novakant: I'd like educational institutions to produce first rate lawyers (for example). I tend to be of the belief that most people are attracted to "progressive" policies because not only are they inherently appealing, 8 times out of 10 they actually work in a practical sense. Doctrinaire progressives churned out by doctrinaire progressive schools will only lead to dysfunction, as we have seen with the conservative movement now that they are actually running things.

"Robertson's strategy" is the strategy to employ if your ideology is unpopular and/or unworkable.

"I'm no historian but I sometimes wonder if the meteoric rise of the left and subsequent shift towards progressive policy and law in America set up the conditions for a Reagan revolution."

I'm no professional historian, either, but I'm wondering what you mean by "meteoric rise of the left": the U.S. started getting significant numbers of modern European immigrants in the 16th Century: just how "meteoric" was the "rise of the left" after that?

What, precisely, are you referring to? Do you have in mind the communitarian movements of the 19th century? Or the results of the Enlightment, and the growth of concepts of the Rights of Man after the French Revolution? Or what?

Steve: "My view of the historical record is that England likely would have fallen if Roosevelt hadn't gotten them substantial aid in advance of the 1940 election."

Thanks. Seems debatable; I'm inclined to completely agree that American aid was immensely important, but not convinced, not yet having read the book that you cite, that the lack of aid would have caused the fall of Britian quite so quickly, but I can certainly see the case for it, off the top of my head.

Hartmut:

I think even if the US had not entered WW2 in Europe the German defeat was inevitable*. It would have taken the Russians a good deal longer to reach Berlin and they would probably not have stopped there.
The thing is, once you start playing with alternative histories, there are endless possibilities. :-)

I certainly agree with your underlying point that the Soviet Union was overwhelmingly responsible for the defeat of Hitler and his allies, and that the Western allies less so.

But if we're changing history around, there are plenty of things Hitler could have done to have improved his position and chances, as well. Like not invading the Soviet Union. :-) (Or at least waiting a bunch more years.)

*I know that Hitler declared war on the US but in my view that was just a formality because both countries were effectively at war in the Atlantic already.
It really wasn't a formality. I'm not at all sure what Roosevelt would have done if Hitler hadn't made it so easy; certainly perhaps some way would have been found to start the formal war with Hitler fairly soon, but it certainly wouldn't have surely happened immediately, and it might have really scrambled history as we know it by significantly -- maybe even for some years -- delayed the entry of the U.S. into the European War beyond heightened naval activity in the Atlantic. Or not. We really don't know: which is my point -- it very much was not a formality. It was yet another unbelievably huge error by Hitler.

Certainly sentiment in the U.S. in the days and months after the Pearl Harbor attack was focused on Japan; Roosevelt hadn't been able to convince the Congress or country to enter the European war before that, despite his best efforts, and many provocations, and the isolationist resistance to involvement in yet another European War was still the dominant impulse of most Americans. And the rage at Japan's attack was gigantic. The American people, en mass, cared passionately about striking back at the "Japs." Hitler? Few like him, but the attitude of most was that it wasn't our problem, even if it was dreadful for those poor Europeans (and yet another reason for us to stay out, given how huge an undertaking it was to once again plunge into fighting on the Continent, and this time we'd be starting only from Britain, without even a toehold on the actual Continent -- resentment of what the results of WWI were added to the overwhelming context of "we don't want another fight in Europe"); moreover, there still wasn't much love for Britain in America, save among a thread of the elite; if anything the dominant feeling in at least many thread of American society (not least amongst the German-American population, which has always been substantial, but hardly limited to them, or to the Irish-Americans) was hostility, at least at a low level, towards Britain (though the picture was rather complex when looked at more closely).

Anyway, I could wax on about this for a while. Bottom line: Hitler eliminated this entire problem for Roosevelt and doomed himself. If he hadn't declared war on the U.S., we really don't know how much history might have diverged from our timeline, or not. It was an unbelievably huge mistake of Hitler's, and the furthest thing from being a "formality." At least on this side of the Atlantic.

Thanks for the correction, Phil: appreciated.

Though I'd rather not get into a protracted meta-argument with Gary I think he makes a good point. I was talking in general about the mid to late 20th century and specifically the strides made by the civil rights, environmental, and employee rights movements. Oh, and of course Roe v Wade and many rulings of the Warren court.

Some or all of those things stick in the craw of many conservatives who have passed their ire on to a new generation.

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