Monday, February 13, 2023

The Despairing Posture of Their Fail

    Standing, from left: Andrew Kelly, Adam White, Scott Winship, James Pethokoukis, 
Yuval Levin, Kate O'Beirne, W. Bradford Wilcox, Peter Wehner. 
Seated, from left: Michael R. Strain, April Ponnuru and Ramesh Ponnuru. 
Photographed at Gunston Hall in Virginia.Credit...Eric Ogden for The New York Times

Less than one year before Trump oozed down his golden escalator and into the hearts of the GOP base, the Conservative Brain Caste were hard at work convincing themselves of their bright future --

-- that would never be.

This +6,000 word article from The New York Times is a darkly comic relic of that Before Time -- 

Can the G.O.P. Be a Party of Ideas?

-- when the Brain Caste of Conservatism tended their intellectual vineyards on the slopes of an active volcano, blissfully ignoring the rumbling Earth beneath their feet and the sulfurous fumes wafting up from the nether regions. 

Except as we know, it was not the case that the Brain Caste of Conservatism spent decades living large on the fertile slopes of that active volcano, only to get caught innocent and unawares when the volcano erupted.  

The Brain Caste of Conservatism built that fucking volcano.  

They built an entire, closed society on its slopes, and profited handsomely by stoked its fires a little hotter every year, and making a few more sacrifices to the fire gods every year.  And even as it rumbled louder and louder, and its fumes got more and more acrid, they still thought of the volcano as their property.  Something they owned and could keep in-harness, doing their bidding.  

Which may be part of the reason why, despite the bloated length of the article, it feels incredibly claustrophobic.   Like a stateroom on the Titanic packed cheek-by-jowl with wealthy captains of industry, eating the very best food, drinking the very best port and earnestly planning for a magnificent tomorrow that we now know will never exist.  

In every paragraph the name of another Very Serious Conservative Person or white-shoe Conservative institution is dutifully dropped.  The American Enterprise Institute.  "There was Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, fresh from his easy primary win in Kentucky..." The Wall Street Journal.  "Mike Allen’s Playbook column on Politico." The National Review.  "Yuval Levin, a former policy adviser to George W. Bush and founder of the earnest quarterly journal National Affairs..."  The YG [Young Guns]  Network.  "April Ponnuru, Ramesh’s wife, who was working as a senior policy adviser to Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican."

There are obligatory mentions of when so-can-so gloriously entered an elite Ivy university, what magazines or thinks tanks so-and-so founded and what kind of steak so-an-so was chowing down on "at the Palm, the Dupont Circle steakhouse" as they imparted their pearls of wisdom.  But at its core this comes hilariously close my description back in 2013 of what I was calling David Brooks' Great Project: ...a fairy tale of noble Whigs being led through treacherous hippie country by the humble David Brooks.

Except this bunch weren't calling themselves Whigs.  They're "reformicons".  

And the treacherous country through which they were begin led was not just  full of scary hippies but also:

...the presidential prospects of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann and absurdist moments, like the Republican presidential-primary debate in which all eight participants said they would reject a hypothetical deal with Democrats in which one dollar of increased taxation would be exchanged for 10 dollars of reduced spending.

And they weren't being led by the humble David Brooks, but by the humble Yuval Levin:

And Levin himself, soft-spoken and self-deprecating, with a quiet fervor for intellectual history and economic argument, has emerged, with no advance work or self-promotion, as “a one-man Republican brain trust,” in the words of David Frum, and “probably the pre-eminent conservative intellectual of the Obama era,” as Jonathan Chait, a political columnist for New York magazine, has written.

While David Brooks, who continues to sweep the desolate horizons with his atomic-powered rose-colored glasses and continues to swear that he and he alone can see --

[o]ff in the corners, though, there’s a lot of intellectual ferment on the right. 

-- is now an éminence grise of this intellectual opium den, and uses his New York Times catbird seat to repeatedly cheered Levin on. Even going so far as to plagiarize his own words from two years earlier to praise Levin.

There was a general understanding that something tectonic was happening in Conservative politics, but that seismic data was filtered through an out-of-touch aristocratic certainty that the paranoid rage and racism (which they studiously pretended did not exist) that animated the Fake Tea Party was just a new source of energy that could be made to serve the interests of reformicon elites:

“I think the Tea Party has been a very great good for the kind of change that needs to happen,” Levin said. “It’s a source of great energy. It’s a reaction to the right kinds of problems. It didn’t arise with a policy mentality. A real grass-roots movement doesn’t, generally.”

Because all the clever dogs understood the game.  Understood that, c'mon. just because you run as shoutycracker insurgent, doesn't mean you need to actually govern like one.

He, too, shrugged off Cantor’s defeat. “I don’t think Eric Cantor lost because he gave a few speeches advocating reforms,” said Rubio, who seems to understand that being elected as an insurgent — riding the crest of a movement — doesn’t mean he has to govern as one. 

I guess none of these intellectual giants ever heard of the legend of the Golem. 

Or saw or read The Sorcerer's Apprentice. 

Or read the novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley about discovering too late that you have created a monster that you cannot control.

Or saw the classic 1931 film, Frankenstein, by James Whale. 

Or saw any of the dozen movies or TV shows that have since been titled simply "Frankenstein".

Or saw The Bride of Frankenstein.
Or Son of Frankenstein.
Or The Ghost of Frankenstein.
Or Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.
Or House of Frankenstein.
Or Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
Or Young Frankenstein.
Or The Curse of Frankenstein.
Or The Revenge of Frankenstein.
Or The Evil of Frankenstein.
Or Frankenstein Created Woman.
Or Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed.
Or Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell.
Or Frankenhooker.
Or I, Frankenstein.
Or Frankenstein vs. Baragon.
Or Lady Frankenstein.
Or The Frankenstein Chronicles.
Or Frankenstein: The True Story.
Or Flesh for Frankenstein.
Or Frankenstein Reborn.
Or Frankenstein (II).
Or Friend Frankenstein.
Or Frankenstein JR.
Or Frankenstein, Jr. and the Impossibles.
Or Mister Magoo Meets Frankenstein.
Or Army of Frankensteins.
Or Frankenstein's Army.
Or Frankenstein vs. the Creature from Blood Cove.
Or The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Or Victor Frankenstein.
Or The Prometheus Project.
Or Frankenstein Meets Dracula.
Or Frankenstein vs. Dracula.
Or Dracula vs. Frankenstein.

Shall I continue?

Or Frankenstein Created Bikers.
Or Frankenstein '80.
Or Frankenstein 90.
Or Monster of Frankenstein.
Or Frankenstein 1970.
Or Frankenstein Drops In.
Or I Was a Teenage Frankenstein.
Or Rock 'n' Roll Frankenstein.
Or Frankenstein Unbound.
Or Frankenstein's Daughter.
Or Frankenstein Island.
Or The Monster Squad.
Or Mad Monster Party?
Or Gothic.
Or Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl.
Or Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein.
Or Frankenstein's Fatal Flying Guillotine.
Or Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein.
Or Frankenstein's Great Aunt Tillie.
Or Frankenstein: Day of the Beast.
Or Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter.
Or Transylvania 6-5000.
Or Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter.
Or Frankenstein: Italian Style.
Or The Frankenstein Theory.
Or Frankenstein and Me.
Or Tales of Frankenstein.
Or Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy.
Or Frankenstein's Hungry Dead.
Or Frankenstein vs. the Mummy.
Or Blackenstein.
Or Frankenweenie.
Or The Monster of Frankenstein.
Or Frankenstein Crybaby.
Or The Horror of Frankenstein.
Or Bikini Frankenstein.
Or Beach Blanket Frankenstein.
Or Frankenstein and the Werewolf Reborn!

Hell, they never even read the story of Little Red State Fundy by your own humble scrivener, which predicted all of what transpired with near-100% accuracy.

That the monster they had made -- and on which they had become entirely dependent for financial viability and political power -- would finally grow too strong for them to control.  And when the monster came to collect on all the crazy, racist IOUs with which the Republican party had been paying them off for decades, that's when the volcano would finally blow its stack.  

And that's why revisiting this +6,000 word piece of elite Conservative PR from 2014 doesn't read like the story of the masters of the universe. 

With all that has transpired since then, it reads like a snapshot of the last living moments of bitter political wraiths who are now doomed to haunt the ruins of their old home place.

Or like the stories told of the souls of damned men which have been cast into inanimate objects. Powerless witnesses to what is going on all around them.

Or perhaps a little like the story of Sergei Krikalev -- the Soviet cosmonaut who was stranded on board the Mir space station for 311 days longer that scheduled because the Soviet Union collapsed while he was in orbit, so the country that had sent him into space no longer existed.    Because these are men and women who got used to orbiting high above it all, speaking only to one and other in their own abstract language, believing they were directing human affairs far below.  And now they have no place to land, and no political or ideological precinct that cares what they have to say.

So let's finish this where I started.  The title of this post is a play on a line from The Masque of the Red Death, by Edgar Allan Poe.  Here is how that story ends.

...And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. 

He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. 

And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.


I Am The Liberal Media


SteveSteve said...

Intellectual opium den is perfect. Well done DG!

Just another boomer said...

You are on fire.

They should write in if they ever find honest work.

Robt said...

There are those that find their voice and express it to benefit others. To help educate, frasp the understanding that will provide the ability to self deductions and come to conclusions.

The late great Molly Ivins was one of those.

She is still there to read and is worthy of reading today as she was in her life.

From what I read, you too have found your voice.