I was thinking again about the death of conservatism. I’ve written about it twice before.
The reason I was thinking about it is because I was watching the PBS interview Moyer did with Tanenhaus which I wrote about in the first post above. There is a lot of insight in that interview. Tanenhaus has helped me understand conservatism better than any other person.
In the second post I linked above, I discussed William F. Buckley Jr. as an example of the intellectuals who used to be central to the Republican party… before the GOP gave into anti-intellectual tendencies. I noticed something that Tanenhaus said about Buckley in the PBS interview. He talked about how in the 1950s Buckley preached about the supremacy of white culture, but later on regretted this and wished he had focused more on civil rights. As I understand it, he came to realize the divisiveness in his party was a political deadend.
I want to point out that Moyer interviews two others in the second part of the same show. He talks with Michael Zweig and Bill Fletcher about labor unions. Combined with Tanenhaus’ commentary, this show of Moyer’s offers perspective on understanding how politics has come to this point. The labor unions as real forces of change were broken 60 yrs ago, and so now the working class projects their anger and bitterness at scapegoats because there isn’t anyone to represent them.
Sadly, as Thomas Frank explains (Thomas Frank on Glenn Beck, Conservatism and Kansas) the working class end up attacking those who could best represent them and align themselves with those who don’t have their best interests in mind. We today enjoy the benefits of the labor movement (8 hrs working days, weekends off, overtime pay, living wages, social security, etc.), but we’ve come to take these benefits for granted and have forgotten that people in the past fought hard for them. The working class is now manipulated in this country by the fear-mongering and conspiracy theorizing of the likes of Glenn Beck. Either Zweig or Fletcher talked about how Palin used the term “working class” more than Obama, but her use of it is narrow and stereotypical. Palin is using it as a codeword for “white culture” rather than using it to refer to the poor of all races.
What is lost in the politics of today is the fact that the GOP used to be the party of civil rights, used to be the party of more than just “white culture”. And Democrats have failed as well in their own way (which is explained well by Thomas Frank and is also explained well from a different perspective by George Lakoff).