In the days when my awareness of the U.S. political scene was just budding there were politicians in the Republican Party who openly identified themselves as liberals. For this sort of fact Wikipedia is as reliable a witness as any other:
In the 1930s “Me-too-Republicans” described those who ran on a platform of agreeing with the Democratic Party, or proclaiming only minor or moderating differences. A prime example is presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey, who did not oppose New Deal programs altogether, but merely campaigned on the promise that Republicans would run them more efficiently and less corruptly. …
From 1936 to 1976 the more centrist of the Republican Party frequently won the national nomination with candidates such as Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, Thomas E. Dewey, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Indeed, other terms for liberal Republicans include Nixonian and Rockefeller Republican.
If this take on the GOP presidential candidates of the 20th century is accurate (and I think it is) it confirms the notion that, for all their posturing in opposition to the Democrats on particular issues, the controlling powers of the Republican Party have no quarrel in principle with the New Deal worldview. On grounds that are at once aesthetic, practical and self-interested, they decry the excessive Democratic tendency toward openly populist egalitarianism. Yet, impelled by a self-adulating sense of noblesse oblige, they tacitly concede that the Democrats’ “liberal” agenda represents the higher ground of moral sophistication. What the liberal GOP elites reject is their frequent lack of sophistication in carrying out that agenda.
In this respect, I suspect that the preferred candidate of the GOP elites in the 2008 election was … Barack Obama. He had all the outward appearances of cool sophistication, purposefully controlled moral passion and seeming respect for the ironically unselfish elite ambition benevolently to secure a position of unchallenged control over every aspect of human life. He seemed so moderate.
This semblance of moderation has become the sine qua non of political virtue for the elitists who still so obligingly fight to maintain their (of course) well-intentioned dominance of the U.S. political system. But in his two successful campaigns for the presidency, Richard Nixon convincingly demonstrated the strategic power of mobilizing conservative grass-roots voters in support of candidates backed by the liberal GOP elites. Nixon paid a little lip service to the economic, moral and social concerns of people naturally sensitive to the Godless and dehumanizing assumptions of the liberal worldview. In addition he got help from the ugly spectacles soul deadening collectivism, mass murder and violent expropriation associated with Communist regimes abroad. In his campaigns, the otherwise unelectable Republican rump of the liberal elite was able to leech off of the deep vein of conservative moral and social belief that too often remained indifferent to, and aloof from the gritty contests in the political arena.
There was always something false about this appeal to conservative sensibilities. In their different ways, people like Pat Buchanan and Ronald Reagan recognized, spoke out and worked against the deception. But it was Jimmy Carter who turned the tables against the dissembling political strategy of the liberal GOP elite. On account of his credible personal profession of Christian belief, the Democrats were able to tap into the vein of conservative moral feeling. The sincerity of Carter’s faith roused an enthusiasm that trumped the hollow lip service of the GOP elite, especially after Nixon’s troubled exit made Gerald Ford the unready focus of the Party’s effort to extract political gold from the available conservative ore.
This set the stage for Ronald Reagan’s surprising victory in the 1980 GOP presidential primary season. There was no questionable sincerity of Reagan’s opposition to Communism. Therefore, he could mobilize the underlying moral feeling that characterized the conservative base to a degree entirely beyond the comprehension of the GOP’s liberal oligarchs. Because his success was unexpected, they did not implement the primary strategy of fragmenting the conservative GOP majority that has since become characteristic of the GOP presidential races. In the context of a world still dominated by the perception of America’s conflict with a Communist superpower, Jimmy Carter’s failure as the steward of U.S. national security helped ripen Reagan’s primary victory into a general election triumph.
During the era of Reagan’s ascendancy, the survival instincts (and grand strategy) of the liberal GOP elite meant altogether withdrawing the “liberal” moniker from public view. Today, the adjective of choice is “moderate.” They were (and still remain) Republican “liberals” who professed to moderate the egalitarian and impractical excesses of the New Deal leftists. Today they pose as Republican “conservatives” who “moderate” the religious fanaticism and radical selfishness of the “extreme right wing.”
But in the Obama era, the dreadful consequences of leftist excesses are upon us. Years of phony elite GOP “conservatives” have produced an extremely bad result. Ironically, they did so not just because the elite GOP liberals are phony conservatives, but because they are phony moderates. With their embrace of the New Deal worldview they let go of the understanding that informed the framers of the U.S. Constitution. They let go of the key principle of true moderation, which requires the acknowledgement of a standard for justice that is not of human making. While pretending to reject leftist excesses, they accepted and indulged the greatest of those excesses, which is the exaltation of human power and freedom to a position of unlimited authority. While professing to oppose the physically ugly mass murders characteristic of consolidated socialist control, they connive at the morally ugly mass murder that has sacrificed untold millions of innocent infant lives, and now threatens (under the guise of health-care reform) to include in grisly hecatombs the elderly and infirm.
At what its organizers call the Tea Party Convention in Nashville recently, Sarah Palin said that pro-choice Massachusetts liberal Scott Brown “in many ways … represents what this beautiful movement is all about.” If she truly believes this, she marks herself as the stalking horse for the GOP’s phony moderates.
People are now rising in opposition to the all-too-conclusive evidence of the Obama faction’s repugnant extremism. But they urgently need to ponder the fact that the phony moderation of the GOP leadership elites did more than anything else to put Obama where he is. Unless we look beyond the false alternatives they offer, we will only enable equally false election victories that will not put an end to the destruction of American liberty Obama represents.