My piece published in POLITICO yesterday considers the importance of the tea party’s choice of Utah Sen. Mike Lee to be their official respondent to the President’s State of the Union Address — while tonight’s speeches may or may not matter much to anyone outside the Beltway, and the same might be said for the various responses from his opponents,they are important symbols and indicators of how the political landscape is shifting. This year, I think the tea party choice was as much about style as substance (both matter) and particularly found it noteworthy that Ted Cruz was not chosen to give the response. Lee presents a rhetorical study in contrast.
Archive for the ‘Conservatism’ Category
Posted in Conservatism, Tea Party, tagged Buckley, Conservatives, National Review, POLITICO, Republicans, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, tea party, William Rusher on December 31, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
My latest article, published today in POLITICO Magazine, coauthored with historian David Frisk — biographer of the late William A. Rusher, Buckley’s longtime colleague and the publisher of National Review. We explore the parallels between not-so-long-ago troubles in the GOP, and Rusher’s effort to creat a conservative third party in the 1970s, in particular reacting to the policies of the Nixon administration. Those efforts failed, as did other past GOP efforts at ideological “purification.” We see some lessons for the Tea Party here, and lament the lack of sensible conservative guidance that benefited earlier generations. David and I were both fortunate to have know Rusher, and in my case he served as an amiable debating partner and correspondent — always eager to debate politics and what “conservatism” was really all about.
My recent column in The Hill, co-authored with conservative veteran Scot Faulkner, drew ire on the twitterverse from the Tea Party crowd, including a distant relative named Dan Riehl who is popular and followed among these folks. In reaction to my original column on Ronald Reagan I was called everything from a “half-breed” to someone who had been “dropped on his head” — a old Jersey saying….plug the terms into twitter and you will see what we are speaking about. In good favor I passed this on to my dad (a Reagan Democrat, who voted for RR twice); what I was originally writing about was the misconstruing of Reagan’s legacy. The twitter fury only serves as further evidence, with its lack of thoughtfulness. The Dan Riehl we write about below, in my dad’s comments, is my uncle Dan — not Dan Riehl of Tea Party fame.
Here is what my dad wrote:
“As Jonathan Riehl’s father, I can assure you that he was not dropped on his head as a child. He was raised on a diet of Walter Cronkite and Ronald Reagan. Indeed when in kindergarten, the kids were talking about Star Wars he thought they were talking about President Reagan’s space program!
Pope Francis has been making waves even after his first few months as leader of the Catholic Church — as much for what he is saying as what he is doing; while some critics point out that there’s nothing “technically” revolutionary about his statements, the cardinal rule of rhetoric has never applied with more force: It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Indeed, a large percentage of the reaction to Francis has had to do with the nonverbal aspects of his rhetoric.
Item 2: The popemobile. First he rode the bus to work. Then got rid of the bulletproof glass on the Benz. Then he started driving a Ford Focus. Deciding even that was too snazzy, he recently accepted (as a gift) a 1984 Renault with 186,000 miles on it.
Item 3: The chair. Compare Benedict’s throne to Francis’s seat of choice.
To be sure, it’s also about what he’s said, including his first appearance before the faithful, where he pretty much said “Hi folks, here I am!” And then all of the comments about how the Church needs to stop “obsessing” over homosexuality, abortion, and birth control. He even seemed to say that he’s OK with atheists. His wide-ranging interview with the Jesuit magazine America triggered raised eyebrows as well. (Needless to say, this caught Bill Maher’s attention…)
Some observers have suggested that Francis’s words (and actions) could even have implications for American politics — threatening to peel off typically conservative Catholics from the rest of the (increasingly extreme) religious right.
This email alert went out hours ago to fans of Ann Coulter. Note in the fine print, the publication refers to itself as a “conservative magazine” — with the scare quotes included. The punctuation is duly noted, and totally deserved. As opposed to the debates and exchange over political philosophy and government that were given a forum another conservative magazine (no scare quotes required), William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review, these pretenders are doing discredit to a long line of political thought — not just embarrassing sensible conservatives, but damaging the political process as a whole.
Shut down the government, cause financial political chaos, throw your party into civil war…and then write books about it, to your own financial reward.
Ann Coulter Wants to Disband the GOP!?
The Government Shutdown highlighted the rifts in our party. Now the secret is out and the whispers are starting – could the conservatives be at war with the GOP? Ann Coulter thinks so! In her latest book, Coulter promises there is nothing in the book liberals could disagree upon. Instead, she focuses on the war within the Republican party.
Tea Partiers are causing a lot of commotion and leading pundits including Rush Limbaugh have called the GOP “irrelevant.” Sarah Palin has threatened to leave the party. Now, Coulter is exposing the rifts surfacing in the party, detailing why conservatives can’t trust their own. Ann Coulter, author of Never Trust a Liberal Over 3: Especially a Republicanappeared on Sean Hannity and if you haven’t seen it yet, believe us, it was EPIC!
If you want to stay up-to-date on the changes coming in the Republican party, we’d highly recommend you watch this video. Then, order Townhall Magazine and we’ll throw in Ann Coulter’s book FOR FREE while getting the book of the demolisher FREE in addition to a year of the best conservative magazine in print!
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In my Communications courses I put a lot of emphasis with students on the power of analogy — comparing one thing to another as a way of making an argument. And how bountiful bad analogies are in political rhetoric. Recently in defending the onerous voter ID laws enacted by the GOP here in North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory repeated over (and over and over) that if people should have to show a state ID to buy Sudafed (for reasons obvious to anyone who watches Breaking Bad), they should have to do so in order to cast a ballot. He neglected to mention that voting is a fundamental Constitutional right with no involvement in the production of crystal meth; this point was also painfully missing from most of his interviewers’s lines of questioning. Watch McCrory’s announcement here, in which he saves Sudafed for the clincher in his string of bad analogies to the limitation of a fundamental Constitutional right.
Another to add to the bad-analogy list: The head of the far-right group “The Center for Military Readiness” has recently declared that allowing women into combat roles is “like saying let’s take those cheerleaders and put them into the frontlines of the NFL and football games.”
A column here on POLITICO from my friend and frequent coauthor Scot Faulkner, who managed the books on Capitol Hill for a number of years, and knows of what he speaks. The language and rhetoric surrounding things such as “default” and “government shutdown” are incredibly politicized. If you want to dig a little deeper, take a few minutes and read Scot’s piece.
After a summer hiatus we are back with our compendium of news items at GOPInsanity.com, including a roundup of the latest anti-science, anti-education, know-nothing nonsense that keeps on coming from the far right — in contrast to the true legacy of intellectual conservatism.
The latest tonight is drawn from the most unlikely of sources, Newt Gingrich. One of the clown-car primary crew from 2012, Newt has emerged as a critic of the anti-science wing of his party (despite his moon-base fantasies) and has also cautioned that the GOP should learn from his own disastrous experience with government shutdowns. As the piece I posted on GOPInsanity notes, it’s rather ironic that Gingrich should be advising his successors on the electoral consequences of these posturings.
Riehl: Ted Cruz is no Ronald Reagan
Posted: 7:00 p.m. Sunday, June 23, 2013
By Jonathan Riehl
Ted Cruz, the state’s junior senator, continues to attract comment. Recently, we offered differing Hispanic views on Cruz. Today, we offer differing Republican perspectives on him
Sen. Ted Cruz made news with his speech on May 29 declaring himself and other 40-something and 50-something senators to be “children of Reagan,” keepers of the Republican torch and inheritors of the Great Communicator’s leadership.
As someone who is more accurately a “child of Reagan” — he was a daily presence in my family’s living room while I grew up from age 4 to 12 — I take strong exception. It was Ronald Reagan’s fatherly and grandfatherly presence that led me to pursue the study of conservatism, a life engaged in public policy and teaching communications. Every day now I am saddened to see that the person who I as a child saw as the embodiment of leadership would no longer be welcome in his own party.
This child of Reagan agrees with former U.S. Sen. Robert Dole that the GOP should be closed for repairs. And, further, that Republican leaders Dole and I both admire and defend — Reagan, Nixon, Eisenhower, Lincoln — would stand little chance in the modern party. This meltdown is why I, and many others, have switched sides. We do not wish to be grouped with the know-nothing tactics of the new tea party GOP, uninterested in governance or compromise, taking short views rather than long ones, contemptuous of dissent and of intellectual exchange.
Reagan was interested in ideas — not just his own, but the ideas of others. He engaged in debate and compromise. He was strong in the face of opposition, on the national and international stages, but just as willing to sit down and work things out with opponents Tip O’Neill and Mikhail Gorbachev.
As a child of Reagan, I absorbed these lessons. I had parents who helped me soak it in and encouraged me to read about him in the newspapers and history books, to understand and get involved in politics because only a figure like Reagan could convince them — anti-war protesters from the ’60s generation — that the Republican Party represented the best of the country’s traditions.
Ted Cruz and his tea party cohort do not represent this noble legacy. They are bomb throwers, naysayers, anti-compromise, anti-reason, anti-science, and builders of division. Ronald Reagan taught me, as a child, that politics was a good and open profession, something we could reach out and touch, communicated through positive and uniting terms. And no, I would not have agreed with Reagan’s policies on all matters. But the question here is why our discourse has become so ugly.
I take a great deal of flak from my liberal friends in academia, and elsewhere, for my continued respect for the conservative movement that Reagan did so much to build. Guilt by association has infected both sides of our national debate. Only when the parties engage can we move forward. Earlier Republicans, including Reagan, understood this age-old principle. Today’s “conservatives” do not.
So, Ted Cruz, I say you are not a child of Reagan. You are a child of some other era, perhaps born too late. Perhaps you would have been more at home in the days of Aaron Burr and dueling pistols rather than reasoned debate; perhaps you would have welcomed a seat on the House Un-American Activities Committee along with Joe McCarthy. But “child of Reagan” you are not. Your formative years were spent listening to the feckless words of Jimmy Carter, and perhaps that colored your understanding of the true trajectory of conservatism as a long-term project — not just a reaction to Carter’s failure.
I am all the more struck by Cruz’s speech because I did get to know him, in a limited way, while researching my dissertation on the Federalist Society, the nation’s leading organization of conservative and libertarian lawyers, law students and professors. I have profound respect for the group, where Cruz was a presence as Texas attorney general. Unlike the echo chamber that the conservative movement, CPAC, and the right-wing media complex have become, the Federalists uphold the true legacy of conservatism — respectful debate and exchange.
As I’ve been able to look back, it has become clear I would not have supported all of Reagan’s policies. My Vietnam War protester mother waited hours in the rain to walk by Reagan’s coffin in respect while he lay in state in the U.S. Capitol. In my family I see these parallels, and draw them to attention here. The Republican Party might learn some lessons from that.
Reagan was part of a tradition I greatly respect. These new pretenders are not. Their push to the extreme right continues, led by firebrands like Cruz who are executing a takeover from within, and falsely re-creating the legacy of a great leader in their own image.
Riehl is a political communications consultant and professor of comunications at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, N.C. He is completing a book on the modern conservative movement.