The Conservative Movement Elites Pine For Thermidor

How odd to see the Movement Establishment fragment so. Some dig in for their Stand against the tea bagger sans culottes. Just a year ago *they* were Jacobins. Now they are bewildered, revealed wearing Versailles finery, muttering about the divine right of Original Direct Mailers. Others want to throw down their handkerchiefs and join the ‘rabble’ (at the front, naturally).

CPAC 2010 — to switch revolutionary references — also reminds one of Stalin’s victory against his internal opposition 1924-1937. Recall he maneuvered first against Trotsky from the right and then against Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin from the left. How? Stalin was an organization man. He knew he had to destroy the Old Bolshevik Guard who controlled the Party. They remembered Lenin and more importantly knew the truth about Stalin and his marginal achievements before, during and after 1917. One of Stalin’s weapons? Open Party membership flood gates to the vast masses. He overwhelmed and diluted the Old Bolsheviks until they were nothing. And the new Party owed Stalin personally everything.

We know the analogy is a caricature. The Movement Establishment’s not there yet. And more importantly, there is no single malevolent will orchestrating events. The sua sponte dilution still wreaks havoc. Some ‘Left’ [sic] and progressive blogs noticed the unusually large youth contingent. It’s true. It’s also more than twenty somethings on a ‘most excellent’ road trip. This wave of new cohorts destabilized CPAC’s club psychology and sensibilities. We’ve attended CPAC on and off since Reagan’s early years. The Movement Establishment is rocked on its heels. Values wedge entrepreneurs suffered unheard of irrelevance and the indignity of an openly gay presence. The Movement Establishment’s gagged silence provoked bitter recriminations among many CPAC old timers. Only one obscure figure really ranted, and then unwisely before a Ron Paul audience. (Talk about not knowing his demographic).

Paul’s ‘f u’ straw poll win underscores the Movement Establishment’s dismay. CPAC hijacked from within. They may not quite feel Zinoviev and Kamenev’s bewilderment at their expulsion from the CPSU. After all, it’s still their institutions the party crashers want to join. But the uncertainty is real. Even as some like Newt try to ride the tiger for all it’s worth others want to put the rabble in their place.

Some conservatives we know point to the pre-CPAC ‘Mount Vernon’ kumbaya manifesto, seeking to paper over differences in the anti-Obama factions. The scrap of paper/html code refers in part to a more sane, rational conservatism. This, we are told, shows conservatives can be content to participate in liberal democratic pluralism. It’s doomed.

Upon reflection we think our earlier seemingly flippant comparison of the tea partiers to punk rock does apply. A Movement dedicated to nihilism and social destruction find themselves as out of touch, self-indulgent, insufficiently radical or nihilist. They are now, to quote Dr. Evil, ‘the Diet Coke of nihilsm.’ Spitting indeed. Amid all his incoherence, that was Beck’s clarion call. If the tea partiers are to be more than punk’s flash in the pan they will need that single will (or collectively single) to put their dilution to practical political effect.

Some famous Movement figures say to us quietly they wait for their own Thermidor. Even as they hedge bets and praise the new era. A time for ‘reaction’ to tamp down, er . . . Reaction. It’s a 360 degree firefight. All still despise the James Bakers, the GHWB’s ‘we have mortgages, not ideologies’ RINOs (and one supposes Carly’s FCINOs). If history is any guide, their Thermidor is still a ways off. Radicalism must overreach its climax. CPAC 2010 suggests we’re not even close. And who in the Movement Establishment has the spine to act in any event?

The Democrats deservedly face a political nightmare of their own making. Their problems are so much more pervasive and systemic than the Movement schism (so far). Americans are being treated to the spectacle of two disintegrating political forces grasping for power. But there is one difference. One of them is totally energized, consciously craving power for an admittedly incoherent, eliminationist, zero-sum Manichean agenda. The other? They’re playing badminton waiting for a third party referee.

‘How’s that bi-partisanshipy thing working out for ya, Mr. President?’


  1. Comment says

    Cohen is very erudite – he can’t pull of a populist grace note without causing chuckles

    • Dr Leo Strauss says

      Vanity Fair’s retrospective profile of the Matt Taibbi co-run Moscow-based expat newspaper ‘The Exile’ is a commendable read – and conveys a watered down sense of debauched Moscow created by Chubais, Sachs et al.

      As some readers know, the Stiftung along with a world famous billionaire who has since passed on (God Bless) considered a request to invest significantly in Nezavisamaya Gazeta in its early days. To do so would have required a specific exemption from then Soviet law but for a variety reasons this seemed at least a real possibility given other relationships. As a side venture, the personal plan was to open a traditional bar in Moscow with a (at the time it seemed) clever, funny name. All this was in the years before the first expats arrived.

      Taibbi and company later just did it. And our earlier exploratory efforts seem quaint in comparison. He’s also right – nothing he did it was glamorous.

  2. Dr Leo Strauss says

    It’s perfect how Cohen asserts his book review deserves credibility because he immersed himself in the hoi polloi world, serving in Brooklyn with city employees and other notional, Avatar-Navi-esque creatures. Positively Sherman McCoy.

    This + Gore = Syria quite rightly. How perfect then for HBL to weigh in against Gore while citing that ‘little-known 20th century thinker Jean-Baptiste Botul’ and his ‘The Sex Life of Immanuel Kant’. There’s a screenplay in this somewhere.

  3. Dr Leo Strauss says


    re Politico, etc.

    You’re right. Pardon the sour grapes kvetching. For some reason, last night the media ambient noise hit a raw nerve.

    There is genuine envy that the individuals are able to absorb repetitious factoids and then project so successfully sustained opinion about it all. We have our Greatest Hits recycling moments here, too. Still, behind the affectation of world weariness ennui, we marvel at how they do it.

  4. Comment says

    re Politico and Greenwald – it can seem enervating and predictable. Tweety – we only watch him one a month or so because for some reason we have to actually type the channel number for his channel to come up – It does not, for some odd blessed reason, come up on the normal channel changing regime.

  5. Comment says

    Hitch’s feeling about Haig is funny in some respects – In his Kissinger war crime movie he snagged a great clip of Haig having a spittle reaction to the mention of Hitchens name. Haig was so much a Nixonian character that it is impossible to imagine him outside that context.

    It was also funny to see Hitchens seem to take Reagan’s side in the Haig Reagan dispute.

  6. Dr. Leo Strauss says

    One loses interest in all the tactical lunch room cafeteria gossip that fuels The Politico. Or serves as vitriolic breakfast get-up-and-go for the Greenwalds of the world. How do they keep recycling the same schtick day in and day out with nouns changed? We knew, for example, DoJ punted on Yoo, etc. It puzzles how it is news again and these people can still stoke up high indignation yet again – much like Chait and his sophomoric and dated ‘I hate Bush’ piffle.

    Do these people have a clever keyboad macro? A Mad Libs template? Or is their contract by the word? Of course Rockefeller and Feinstein will be feckless on the notional public option because of a) who they are; and b) Obama is, too. Even typing that sentence somehow takes more energy than it seems worth, news-wise.

    Actually, we are in sour grapes mode here. We just can’t seem to care. And marvel that they do and can.

    We felt the same today seeing the story that the so-called Senate Oversight Committee [sic] (SSCI) approved the destruction of the Agency torture videotapes. This is news because? We already know they were useless, broken, ineffectual, lazy and in the tank enablers. But here it is again, somehow news. And what precisely will change?

    Which brings us to Tweety. The only thing more noxious than his actual show are the grating promos MSNBC runs where he blurts out stream of consciousness puffery why he is an important interviewer, etc. We enjoy savoring his unconscious baring of so much psychological deformity as the next rational person. It’s a guilty pleasure.

    But we confess – we watch his show perhaps once every ten days. It’s about all we can take.

    Will have another post tomorrow. Perhaps it’ll compare Bode Miller, bong hits and those playing petulance over Rahm with the Polk Administration. If we could work in an angle about slighted women ala the TV show ‘The Good Wife’, who knows? Joan Walsh might be interested.

  7. Comment says

    Tweety’s adolescent regression is Freuded out in this exchange with Grayson:

    Matthews: You can’t create a program through reconciliation! Congressman just name me the program that’s ever been created through reconciliation!

    Grayson: Tax cuts for the rich!

    Matthews: That’s not a program. Under reconciliation you’re allowed to do two things. Change fiscal numbers, raise taxes or cut spending.

    Grayson: You’re saying that. You don’t know that. Nobody else thinks that.

    Matthews: I just spent three years in the Senate budget committee when I was a kid and you can’t do it. By the way, have you asked any Senator this question? This plan you have?

    Grayson: I’m in the other place, I’m in the House.

    Notice Tweet says he “*just* spent three years” in the Senate when it was decades ago – because Grayson had him flustered because he is not part of the insider clique.

  8. Comment says

    I see that Feinstein recently came out strong for a public option with the qualifier that she’ll support the President if he strongly fights for it – In other words – she’s doing the Rockefella shuffle. This is about as believable as her outrage on learning there was torture in the Bush casino the wmd intel was lame.

  9. Comment says

    Jay Rockefeller on the Public Option: “I Will Not Relent”

    Jay Rockefeller has waited a long time for this moment. . . . He’s [] a longtime advocate of health care for children and the poor — and, as Congress moves toward its moment of truth on health care, perhaps the most earnest, dogged Senate champion of a nationwide public health insurance plan to compete with private insurance companies.

    “I will not relent on that. That’s the only way to go,” Rockefeller told me in an interview.
    ~Politics Daily 10-09

  10. Comment says

    The Rockefeller Shuffle:

    “NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: The president’s proposals are far from perfect. We wish he had included a public plan”

    The Times obviously felt the need to pretend to think that – but they really do not care because they know if Obama did that it would fail or he would have to start over and explain again —

    This is a form of what Rockefeller did

  11. Comment says

    Desk Drawer Letter Anthology:
    Colin Powell – On how I did not tell the preferred neocon lies.
    Colin Wilkerson – Departmental Failure Allowed Nazi Landgrab.
    Jay Rockefeller – On Being Rustic – The Disadvantages of inherited wealth in a populist moment.
    Joe Lieberman – I Once Organized Blacks and I once protested War, but lack of gratitude among the angry left has left me no choice but to stand by Connecticut insurance companies.

  12. Comment says

    Politico is almost all immature and facile popularity tabulation – ie a mixture of polling about people they don’t know in flyover land – with some insider chat about people they regard as Serious.

  13. Comment says

    OT – Sulliven is having spat withe TNR’s Chait – so he posted this link below example of Chait’s histrionics – It’s sort of ancient history now – because all those ‘things seem small and indsistinguisable, like far off mountains turned into clouds.’ Even though the substantial mess Bush made is still stinking things up. So yes we wish to ‘move on’ – even still. Chait’s over the top hatred of Bush is funny at points – but it’s worthing noting that “Bush Hatred” started with someone like Chait who was a lover of the Iraq War – not some peacenik. As an aside – We do recall a woman we know back then who was so sensitive to Bush’s “twang” she developed skin rashes when she heard him speak.

    • Dr Leo Strauss says

      Noticed the Chait back and forth on AS’ blog yesterday. Didn’t stop to delve into it all. Unproductive water under the bridge. That someone is actually paid money to write a juvenile high school essay about ‘Why I Hate Bush’ is sad. Many funnier and more talented people do it better for free. We’d all be better off if people refuse to pay attention when people abuse a privileged position of paid blogger/pundit/ ‘journalism’.

      This kind of homeroom gossip is what makes the Politico almost unbearable. That, and it’s cheerful, promiscuous promulgation of Rightist memes.

      It’s painful to say, but if Chait feels the compulsion he could at least descontruct some of Hitch’s rants. Compare Hitch’s energetic take on Haig with Chait’s leaden effort.

  14. Comment says

    It’s also kind of funny that Rob Port thought Nathan Glazer’s book was just a socialist how-to guide. Too bad Jefferson’s Koran was not displayed – the cognitive dissonance would have been a good energy source.

    • Dr Leo Strauss says

      Rockefeller will probably write a strong letter about the public option and put it in his desk drawer.

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