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This, from @anneapplebaum's book (which I'm reading now) is important. It uses Laura Ingraham as an example of the split in conservatism in the 1990s. I want to make two comments on it aimed especially at "you Republicans were always like this" types. /1…
One is that we were not "always like this." Two is that the change on the right has a lot to do with a group of personalities who became central to the DC-based GOP. This is a really important thing to understand about what happened then, and what we're up against now. /2
Applebaum begins in 1995. I was 34, an avowed conservative. I'd already worked in DC and on the Hill. I was part of the optimistic, can-do, Reaganite wing. I thought, the left is terrible but mostly feckless, and I was confident in the GOP being the party with better ideas. /3
What I didn't count on was the party being taken over not by the rural rube wing, but by the dipshit College Republican types who thought their moment in the sun had arrived first with Reagan and then with Newt. It didn't, and I underestimated their general bitterness. /4
These were the kids you rolled your eyes at in your college seminar (just like the left-wing radical kid in the same class). The lefty kid was a future Dem problem, but I assumed the GOP was a party of boring grownups who could assimilate their bow-tied Tucker Carlson nimrods. /5
What Applebaum's account suggests is that the GOP itself probably *did* assimilate them, but left them nowhere to go once they learned after '94 that governing is boring and hard. Ingraham and others were stalled; cable, culture war, and the frisson of extremism saved them./6
In the classic case of becoming what you pretend to be, they're now convinced that the case they made for themselves - that Reagan didn't save you, Gingrich didn't save you, Bush, McCain, and Romney betrayed you - is true. They've committed to the bit so much it's real now. /7
My point is that we were not all proto-Ingrahams. Many of us believed that conservatism's greatest triumph was keeping markets free and democracies strong against the USSR. Once that was gone, many of us - me, anyway - saw opportunities to do things differently. /8
Those of us who believed in our ideas said squishy moderate stuff like "free markets, but with regulation," and "strong defense, but maybe fewer nukes and at far less cost," and "civil liberties no longer need to bear the burden of the Cold War." Stuff like that. /9
But people like Ingraham were not intelligent conservatives; they were maze-bright rats who'd followed the scent of cheese all the way to DC only to find that governing was not as fun as shitting on other kids in college and that that no one wanted to adopt aging lab rats. /10
The only way to preserve that kind of career is never to admit you're winning. You must always be a guerrilla movement of rage-addled losers, otherwise "You" become "Them." That was not the conservatism that brought me into the movement. /11
So if you wonder why I get snappish with the people who say "it was always like this," I say: You weren't there. You did not see the division between people who genuinely believed in an optimistic, center-right vision, and the racist twerps the rest of us always disdained. /12
I'm sorry that somehow the twerps, playing out a GOP version of St. Elmo's Fire, won. They stayed in DC, they were more amoral and committed; they wanted it more, perhaps, and with the Cold War over, it didn't seem like a fight worth having at the time./13
In sum, Libya is a land of contrasts, and it is just annoying and silly to assume that all us were on the same road to misery where Ingraham now runs the tollboth. We never were; that part was always a lie too. /14
But all of us in the then-sensible GOP and every conservative in the country, from small-town professors like me to U.S. senators, should have done more to challenge them.
So now there's only one answer: end the current GOP. /15x 🏴‍☠️
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