Over at the Claremont Review of Books “Upon Further Review” online department, I’m engaged with a disputation about Republican Party “extremism” with Geoffrey Kabaservice, author of Rule or Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party; and William Voegeli, whose recent CRB article “Extremism in Defense of Liberty” started this whole fracas. Rounding out the field is David Frum, who is taking Kabaservice’s side in eschewing tea-based beverages at GOP councils. Check it out; there will be more sequels coming, including a response to Frum frum me.
Here’s a sample of my contribution:
There is something more than a bit precious about the way so many critics of today’s Republicans hold up Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and especially Ronald Reagan as paragons of moderation, when it was impossible to find any contemporaneous appreciation for those presidents. I confidently predict—and would even be willing to entertain a wager—that at some point down the road we’ll hear liberals and media mavens nostalgic for the “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush, and wonder why Republicans can’t embrace Bush’s style of governance. Call it “No Old GOP President Left Behind.” . . .
Let us recall that the Republican Party began its life as an “extremist” party, dedicated to the purpose of abolishing the twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery. Barely within a year of its birth, the Supreme Court declared the Republican Party platform to be unconstitutional. The Republican Party the current critics of “extremism” wish we had would have said, “Oh well, I guess we should accommodate ourselves to the status quo.” It was precisely that kind of accommodating moderation that prompted the great Eugene McCarthy to quip that the principal use of moderate Republicans was to shoot the wounded after the battle is over. I begin to suspect that the critics’ ideal of good government would be…President David Gergen. . .