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Question of the day

Friday, Nov 21, 2008

* The setup, from The Economist

John Stuart Mill once dismissed the British Conservative Party as the stupid party. Today the Conservative Party is run by Oxford-educated high-fliers who have been busy reinventing conservatism for a new era. As Lexington sees it, the title of the “stupid party” now belongs to the Tories’ transatlantic cousins, the Republicans.

There are any number of reasons for the Republican Party’s defeat on November 4th. But high on the list is the fact that the party lost the battle for brains. Barack Obama won college graduates by two points, a group that George Bush won by six points four years ago. He won voters with postgraduate degrees by 18 points. And he won voters with a household income of more than $200,000—many of whom will get thumped by his tax increases—by six points. John McCain did best among uneducated voters in Appalachia and the South.

The Republicans lost the battle of ideas even more comprehensively than they lost the battle for educated votes, marching into the election armed with nothing more than slogans. Energy? Just drill, baby, drill. Global warming? Crack a joke about Ozone Al. Immigration? Send the bums home. Torture and Guantánamo? Wear a T-shirt saying you would rather be water-boarding. Ha ha. During the primary debates, three out of ten Republican candidates admitted that they did not believe in evolution.

The Republican Party’s divorce from the intelligentsia has been a while in the making. The born-again Mr Bush preferred listening to his “heart” rather than his “head”. He also filled the government with incompetent toadies like Michael “heck-of-a-job” Brown, who bungled the response to Hurricane Katrina. Mr McCain, once the chattering classes’ favourite Republican, refused to grapple with the intricacies of the financial meltdown, preferring instead to look for cartoonish villains. And in a desperate attempt to serve boob bait to Bubba, he appointed Sarah Palin to his ticket, a woman who took five years to get a degree in journalism, and who was apparently unaware of some of the most rudimentary facts about international politics.

Republicanism’s anti-intellectual turn is devastating for its future. The party’s electoral success from 1980 onwards was driven by its ability to link brains with brawn. The conservative intelligentsia not only helped to craft a message that resonated with working-class Democrats, a message that emphasised entrepreneurialism, law and order, and American pride. It also provided the party with a sweeping policy agenda. The party’s loss of brains leaves it rudderless, without a compelling agenda.

* The Question: Agree or disagree? Explain fully, and relate your answers to Illinois politics.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Excessively rabid - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 5:52 am:

    Agree. The GOP is in terrible shape - no ideas, no appealing candidates, no real leaders, no integrity, no coherent base even. On the other hand, it hasn’t been that long since the dems were on the ropes, and anybody but Obama might have lost the election for them. So we’ll see if the republicans can find a prophet to lead them out of the wilderness in the next couple of years.

  2. - Excessively rabid - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 5:53 am:

    …and that goes double for Illinois republicans.

  3. - Quotient - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 6:08 am:

    The same thing could be said about Illinois Dems…with intellectual titans like Daley, Todd Stroger, and Blago at the helm, is Illinois really ready to weather a sharp economic downturn?

    And every time we elect a democratic president, the media awes at his intellectual prowess. Remember Rhodes Scholar Bill Clinton? The most intelligent president this country has ever seen? A few years later on the campaign stump for his wife against The One, they are calling him a blathering idiot. My my….

    The media must pass this off as partisan thing, because if it were a “ruling class” vs “proles” thing, this article would take a much, much darker tone.

  4. - bored now - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 6:33 am:

    well, you know that this was being applied to the national republicans in this election cycle.

    seems to me that here, in illinois, both state parties are the “stupid” parties. while there’s not a lack of ideas, per se (perhaps on either side), there seems to be a lack of understanding of the mechanics of governance to implement innovation. in the past year or so, i had this conversation where one of the speaker’s people was arguing that madigan did accommodate innovation. i noted that maybe it (what we were talking about) was innovative ~20 years ago and gave a couple of examples where other states did the same thing way back in the last century. so while it may have been new to illinois, it was not innovation by any definition.

    illinois seems to be stuck back in the days of abraham lincoln. i’d say horse and buggy days, but there seems to be some kind of emotional attachment to the long-dead president. in the days of blackberries, politics (and, quite frankly, the news’ ability to deal with politics) here are decades behind. it’s not just that things move a lot more slowly — they move at a snail’s pace.

    there’s a reason, rich, that the national media doesn’t understand illinois. they’d never believe that illinois politics are stuck back in the olden days.

    so illinois doesn’t *really* have stupid parties, they have lost political parties. when washington was reduced to bitter partisan feuds, illinois was run by the combine. while the president-elect works to reunify the country, illinois is paralyzed by a bitter, deeply personal, (family?) feud(s). it’s almost apropos that we are led by an unpredictable governor who appears to reveal in his unpredictability.

    having said all that, rich, it’s got to be good for business. make tons of money! enjoy it while it lasts. if there’s one thing that aaron schock’s election to the state house told us, it’s that the modern political techniques work against illinois’ pols. probably the best thing for the future of the illinois democratic party is that schock left the state to go to congress. it will be interesting to see if anyone else picks up his mantle of technological and tactical change…

  5. - Bill Baar - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 7:47 am:

    Highly educated people today have extremely narrow areas of expertise.

    Get them outside of their areas and they can cause real havoc.

    Both parties are rethinking themselves for the 21st century. Look at how enthusiastic Democrats you know talking about dusty notions from the 1930s and the New Deal and how ask yourselve how applicable that’s going to be for today.

  6. - bored now - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 7:59 am:

    bill, catch up. try and join us here in the 21st century! democrats aren’t dusting off ideas from the 30s, but trying to deal with an economy that is moving away from the old industrial model. that you believe that worrying about how the average worker gets hurt by that transition, or looking for a soft landing for that transition, demonstrates a lack of understanding of the challeneges we face. i’m sorry you’re so confused…

  7. - Bill Baar - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:09 am:

    Bored… the verdict is out on whether the Democrats can update.

    When I can sit in a room at Church filled with happy Obama supporters and they start talking about bringing back CCC camps, I get the feeling they’re in for a severe wake up call.

    I’ve been trying to think of examples where Education conveys a kind of Political Authority in Illinois and really can’t think of good examples.

    When someone from U of C uses their Credentials to wax on in Washington, they can get away with it… but when it comes to local and State Politics I think we can see the self interest too clearly.

    I just don’t think the model of the GOP as anti-intellectual rustics, and Dems as U of C MBAs really says much.

    I think of my neigbor in Oak Park who was from Scotland and a carpentar for years at Rush Hospital. His daughter married a Harvard MBA (she had one too). One day he helped hang a door at our house which is a real art, and he told me he judges a guy by can he hang a door.

    Same goes for Illinois Politics… great, you know all sorts of Fiscal Wizardry and econometrics, but can you craft a budget agreement in Springfield?

  8. - ILPundit - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:23 am:

    Not only do I strongly agree, but I think Illinois represents a state that actually led the trend. The collapse of the Illinois GOP in the post Edgar years is rooted in the fact that the party can no longer seem to develop a moderate face of thoughtfulness and reform. The post-Ryan blowout destoyed their bench, and many of the new leading candidates are too focused on cultural identity issues rather than issues of basic governance.

    Now, Blago certainly has major issues with the concept of basic governance — but the Democratic party brand survives in spite of his rank incompetence because of the relatively capable and non-ideological stewardship of the other leading Dems in state office — Durbin, Obama, Hynes, Madigan, White, and now Giannulias. They are keeping the ship afloat for the Dems

    The national GOP is in a trick bag — they need the “know nothing” wing to build a coalition, but they cannot rebuild their brand until they start taking the business of basic governance seriously again.

  9. - bored now - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:26 am:

    i’ve never heard anyone talk about ccc camps. i keep thinking i’m firmly in obama’s camp. perhaps you could tell us where the super-secret obama church is so that the rest of us can attend?

  10. - Pat collins - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:29 am:

    There is no doubt that a number of issues need conservative thinking applied to them.

    But the Economist goes way too far. And takes a lot of cheap and undeseved shots.

    GOP Governors like Pawlenty and Jindal are doing just that, as did J. Bush in Florida.

    There are a lot of ideas to be applied, but who in IL will dare to suggest that CPS do what Boston did, much less what DC is doing?

    I don’t think Cross or his female clone will do anything more than “me too”.

  11. - Ahem - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:33 am:

    The measure of an idea is its merit, not its vintage.

  12. - Skeeter - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:03 am:

    Nice to read Bill Baar’s comments.
    He’s the guy that predicted an Obama nomination would lead to a GOP landslide.

    But I digress from the question. However, Baar is a Republican, so maybe it was not a digression.

    Of course the GOP plays to the stupid. The fact that, to the GOP, “elite” is bad says it all.

    That is different from making the GOP “the stupid party.” It is a party that exploited a niche. It worked in 2000 and 2004 but it looks like after 8 years, people have conluded that “elite” is good.

  13. - Deep South - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:08 am:

    I think I’ve said it here before. I believe there is a fundamental shift taking place within the Republican party. A new party base is beginning to form and the far right-wing of the party is gonna be left in the cold. Those who find fault in the Democratic Party platform and want to push a different agenda don’t place gay marriage, abortion, immigration, guns and God at the top of the page. As Rush Limbaugh and others like him hammer on these issues, the far-right will continue to go along. But I believe their number is dwindling. This new base of Republicans will get their day in the sun, but it could be a long wait as this it may take awhile for this shift to take place. I think the shift has already taken place in Illinois, the GOP is just waiting for the right leadership to step forward. Its evolution, not revolution.

  14. - Secret Square - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:11 am:

    There is a long history of intellectual conservatives, the most famous being William F. Buckley, so conservative does NOT automatically equal “dumb” or simplistic.
    The problem is that blowhards like Rush, Hannity, et al. get all the attention in today’s media and make millions doing it. I suppose “biased liberal media” ignoring more thoughtful conservatives has something to do with it; but let’s face it, the blowhards wouldn’t survive very long if they didn’t have an audience for their antics.

    What we need is someone with good ideas and the ability to explain them in a manner that appeals to everyone, not just the already converted. The problem is finding someone with the patience and persistence to attract an audience (and voters) with ideas rather than mere verbal fireworks. While that is becoming harder to do in today’s sound-bite driven media world, I would like to think it’s not impossible.

  15. - Justice - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:16 am:

    Certainly is a lot of frustration and anguish in your post. I give people more credit than they sometimes deserve but most of the voters are simply ill informed about the issues and easily swayed. The problem is that it is easier today to feed the public the issues you want them to focus on then make your candidate look strong and theirs weak on those issues. It is a game of deception at a grand scale. Add to that the fact that, to me anyway, politics appears to attract a special class of participant. They have a penchant for power but not necessarily are the brightest or most honest people. They appear to me for the greatest part to be of weak moral character and rely on being told by lobbyists and party hierarchy what and who to support. Certainly there are exceptions but on the whole we have elected a weak lot on both sides of the fence; More so today than ever before. I still hold to the belief that the old politicians and those who direct them are clinging too tightly to the reigns and not allowing new, more energetic leaders to rise to the top. Those with lots of money and large egos try but those with brains, and a clue, simply don’t make it to the top. On rare occasion there is an exception. We need more free thinkers, people of great character, and someone who can join people rather than divide. Someone the exact opposite of Blagojevich. We spend far too much time trying to destroy candidates of opposing parties and views than we do espousing our views and solutions to problems. Until we learn to focus on the positive again, we’ll roll in the muck with each other. We need to accentuate the positive and select leaders who can deliver that message along with ideas to solve problems.

  16. - Bill Baar - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:16 am:

    …where the super-secret obama church…

    Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Univeralist Church, Geneva Illinois…I’m a member. CCC Camps camp up when I mentioned Rahm’s book. No one had read but they all thought a return to CCC camps was a very good idea.

    He’s the guy that predicted an Obama nomination would lead to a GOP landslide.

    I did? Only prediction I recall was a brokered convention resulting in a Gore-Obama ticket.

  17. - Wumpus - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:17 am:

    Yes, we all know the youth vote for Obama was catering to the brilliant. There are plenty of morons in both parties.
    There is something to be said about the PC ness of all this report. There is not much difference between appalachia and inner cities outside of the color of skin. There are smart people and idiots in both.

  18. - Bill Baar - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:19 am:

    Remember the GOP was supposed to have been locked up with Neo-Cons and they’re a pretty cerebral bunch. These were the guy driven by big ideas that didn’t work in real life.

  19. - Bill Baar - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:21 am:

    RE on Civilian Service…

    Regardless of what you think, it’s not a new idea… but a notion right out of the 1930s.

  20. - Secret Square - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:26 am:

    Also, I wouldn’t write off the social conservative, particularly the pro-life, movement as dead (either in Illinois or nationwide) just yet for the simple reason that the fastest growing ethnic group, Hispanics, are overwhelmingly either Catholic or evangelical Protestant, pro-life and family oriented.

    If the GOP can take a reasonable approach to immigration and find a way to explain to Hispanic voters how uncontrolled illegal immigration hurts THEM more than anyone else, they might have a brighter future.

  21. - Irish - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:29 am:

    I believe the Republican party has lost touch because the far right evangelical group has had too much control over the party’s platform. When you look at the successes of past Republican leaders in the State they tended to lean towards the moderate side. Although Edgar was a conservative he was not the radical far right wing conservative. WE do not need to be fighting a religious war in this country. We should not be focusing on trying to change peoples’ beliefs and basic tenets. Whether you are pro-life or pro- abortion; whether you are an evolutionist or a creationist; has no affect on issues such as the economy, the war, and other pertinent issues facing governmental leaders. I believe the reasons that Obama appealed to the higher educated, and McCain appealed to the less educated are simple; The higher educated know that religious ideals, while important, should not be the basis for electing a leader, and they also tend to look at the issues rather than race. The less educated are more likely to focus on religious tenets and be less accepting of a black leader.

  22. - Amuzing Myself - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:33 am:

    The biggest problem Republicans face is not philosophical - both parties are not that different aside from those on the fringe of either side. Sure there are differences, but to the middle that decides elections, the Democrats have just offered more reasonable candidates the last couple of cycles. Does anyone really believe that the IDEOLOGY of Emil Jones is why the the Democrats control the Senate?! Please!

    Democrats of late have been more successful at defining Republicans however they want, and they got a Magic Johnson assist from the economy. There was no huge ideological reason McCain didn’t win. He was leading. The economy tanked as big as has ever happened in the closing days of the campaign. The President in power’s party lost. Shocking.

    In Illinois, Republicans just suffer from lack of a ground game for three decades. They were fat and happy with the governor’s office and secretary of state for years and quit doing the down and dirty grunt work at the precinct level. That shoe-leather work is simply the way politics has been done for decades in the Democratic party - especially in Chicago. The reverse can be said of various local organizations like Sangamon County Republicans that have continued to dominate through all of these bad times for Republicans elsewhere.

    So when the curtain of Thompson/Edgar/George Ryan was pulled back, there was little underneath as far as organization. The reason Republicans can’t win elections is because they can’t put up good candidates. In retrospect, Jim Ryan was clearly the better candidate in 2002, but suffered a very unfortunate last name and the voters ire for scandal in his party. The best the party has had to offer since has been Oberweis, Keyes, Sauer-something and Topinka?!

    Money wins elections. If the Republicans can ever put up a decent candidate with adequate funding, they’ll be competitive again. As of yet, they’ve not been able to find a candidate that meets both of those criteria.

  23. - wordslinger - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:35 am:

    The father of post-war conservatism, William F. Buckley, voiced similar concerns before he died. More recently, so have David Brooks, Bob Novak and Pat Buchanan.

    There’s some truth to it. The GOP this election cycle seemed to revel in anti-intellectualism and intolerance, with Gov. Palin serving as the poster girl. And let’s face it, rhetoric aside, the GOP has not practiced conservative principles the past 10 years.

    In all honesty, though, I don’t see any great unifying principles or intellectual ferment driving the national Democratic Party. I think the Republican defeat was driven mostly by the unpopularity of Pres. Bush — not a true conservative by any means — and economic anxiety.

    “Every great cause, begins as a movement, degenerates into a business and ends up as a racket,” Eric Hoffer said. After their successes, both the Roosevelt and Reagan coalitions, as vividly illustrated in their Congressional wings, followed that inexorable path to collapse in corruption. Nothing has replaced either.

    So let’s start anew. Great debates are needed among thoughtful representatives among all points on the political spectrum . The best policies are compromises forged by the hammer of Liberalism on the anvil of Conservatism. There’s been precious little of either on the national scene for some time. Just incrementalism, sound bites and fundraising for self-preservation.

    As far as Illinois goes, I couldn’t tell you that either party has any kind of coherent philosophy. A lot of political war lords seeking to protect and expand their power, as far as I can tell.

  24. - Bill Baar - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:39 am:

    In a nutshell, and then I’ll drop out…

    Overlooking the financial meltdown, the National election was about exhaustion with ideas and ideology as the way to fight terrorism. More importantly it was a reaction to comptency in governing… that the war was mishandled and more importantly Katrina as a shocking symbol of incompetency. Obama’s change was not so much ideas but he was just going to run things better. It was a reaction against the perceived ideology of the GOP.

    I think you see evidence of that in Obama’s pics now for cabinent jobs. He’s a very cautious guy. I think it may be his undoing becuase the times are going to call for radicalism and boldness and despite the frames from the election: Obama is exactly NOT that.

    At the Illinois level none of these really applies. We’ve always been skeptical of ideas and intellectuals in both parties. We’re all about coalitions and deals. So the frame in RM’s initial post doesn’t apply to Illinois much at all, except that maybe we need a few bold ideas to break things apart when the art of deal making is lost… as it’s clearly been lost in Springfield.

  25. - wordslinger - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:45 am:

    I’m a big fan of renewal of the CCC. Taking at-risk youth off of the corner and giving them the opportunity for vigorous, useful work outdoors — for low pay and with educational requirements — seems to me something that everyone could get behind, old idea or not. I don’t see a downside.

  26. - GOPlanner - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:53 am:

    What new ideas are the Democrats sporting? That capitalism doesn’t work? We know it does. That raising Capital gains taxes and giving money to people who don’t pay taxes id the way to fix the economy? Intellectuals for years have said European Socialism was the civilizes way to go and for years have said Capitalism is wrong, they have been proven wrong time and time again!
    Who on this board does not think if Obama would come out and say “In this time of economic crisis I pledge that I will not raise capital gains taxes ,in fact I will cut them to stimulate investment.” that the market would not go back to where they were 5 weeks ago? The New Deal is the new idea the Democrats have? Huge Government investments in roads and National Health Care is the direction our country should go? Back to abortion on demand with the Freedom of choice act? (And it’s Republicans who like torture)
    Here on this board are all of you progressive people what NEW idea has Obama or any Democrat in Congress proposed?

  27. - City Voter - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:57 am:

    Money wins elections and I believe Obama had twice what McCain had. That money bought an aggressive ground crew in states previously won by Bush. College kids willing to sit out of school for at least a semester to relocate halfway across the country for a free computer and to sleep on a couch - I know several. Add a great candidate who gives good speeches and makes you feel good about voting for him. Does it seem ironic that W. won college graduates by 6 points over Kerry? I’m not sure there’s a real battle for brains here.

  28. - Bill Baar - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:04 am:

    Taking at-risk youth off of the corner and giving them the opportunity for vigorous, useful work outdoors…

    This by the way is an example of how Educated People think. Their expertise tells them they know better how people should spend their time….

    …it’s the return to this kind of thinking that will undo Obama unless he comes up with some new ideas other this stuff from the 30s. I quit.

  29. - Anon - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:13 am:

    Things must have really changed in the last 8 years. Am I the only one who remembers that it was never even questioned that the Floridians who were too stupid to deal with a butterfly ballot were overwhelmingly Democrats who meant to vote for Gore?

  30. - Rob_N - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:13 am:

    Agree: Explanation.

    And, further explanation in a nutshell.

    Pat Collins: Jindal, Pawlenty, J. Bush … even Schwarzenegger if he was eligible to run for prez … all will be vilified by the “base” for having “caved” to liberals in their states.

    Curiously, one of the things that Romney had to really run from was a lot of his experience as governor in “Taxachusetts” (another conservative-partisan slogan). His overreaction by running so hard and so far to the right played up his caricature as Multiple Choice Mitt.

    Bill Baar: how’s that brokered Dem convention and GOP landslide working out for ya?

  31. - wordslinger - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:17 am:

    Bill Baar, I’m not suggesting anything mandatory. It would be a choice for those kids. Perhaps the phrase “taking at-risk kids off the corner” was interpreted as something compulsory.

    Ideas are ideas, regardless of when or where they came from. They stand or fall, we can only hope, on their merit.

    Case in point, the Weight-Loss Industry. There are dozens of new diets, pills, programs, etc., every year. Yet a high school Health textbook from, dare I say it, the 1930s, could provide you with a sensible regimen of diet and exercise to do the trick better than any of them.

    I only wish my father was alive so I could show him that I was accused of being an educated person. Thank you.

  32. - Bill Baar - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:23 am:

    Bill Baar: how’s that brokered Dem convention and GOP landslide working out for ya?

    Came close than a lot of people thought it would…

    …and in a sense it’s still going on; HRC is still brokering a deal.

  33. - Skeeter - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:27 am:

    I have to give credit where credit is due.

    Baar was right that an Obama nomination would lead to a (near) landslide.

    He just got the party with the landslide wrong. Details.

  34. - Captain Flume - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:30 am:

    Both parties suffer from loss of brains, as does the electorate who tolerate it, indeed re-elect it. Illinois? C-student at the helm, entrenched Chicago politicians in every top leadership and constitutional position (even the newly-elected Senate president), and in the most recent election nearly all of them got to keep their jobs. Our president-elect is choosing insider politicians for his cabinet, and chose one of the most prominent for his running mate. The elected are merely reflections of the electorate. They are us, party affiliation notwithstanding.

  35. - curious george - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:39 am:

    “boob bait for bubba”?–the Economist or the Enquirer?

  36. - 47th Ward - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:53 am:

    I love the Economist, and think this story is spot-on. McCain played to the stupid, which isn’t a terrible strategy given that much of the national electorate falls into this category. P.T. Barnum said it best: nobody ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of the American public.

    I fully expect to see the schism between country club Republicans and theo-cons that has crippled the Illinois GOP expand to the national level. I look forward to it in fact, since it drives the moderates to my party.

    It is the fundamentalists that are the problem, the pro-life, home schooling, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-immigration, pro-gun, IL Review crowd that doomed the IL GOP to permanent minority party status. Look for this to go national and watch for the ensuing train wreck.

  37. - Rob_N - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:59 am:

    BB: Came close than a lot of people thought it would…

    …Only in the minds of those who had a stake in wishing for a brokered convention: the not-so-lib’rul media who would’ve seen ratings spike and the conservative-partisans who were already playing games by encouraging voters in open primaries to vote for Hil in order to prolong the Dem side.

    BB: …and in a sense it’s still going on; HRC is still brokering a deal.

    President-elect Obama chooses those citizens whom he would prefer to have in his Cabinet advising him and then he sets the rules for how they serve at his discretion.

    Either she and Pres. Clinton agree to Pres.-elect Obama’s rules or they don’t — nothing “brokered” about it.

  38. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:00 am:

    While the Economist explanation has some truth to it, it’s the kind of truth that’s comfortable for the people who set the editorial policies and positions for the Economist.

    “If the GOP listened to people like us they would do better….”

    The Republican Party was living beyond its means.

    The GOP had made itself unpopular in the ’90s, but the Dems were too screwed-up to take advantage.

    Bush would likely have lost the 2000 election had not a Republican SCOTUS weighed-in and negated Florida’s ability to conduct an election under Florida law.

    Then the 9/11 attacks happened and the GOP tapped into fear about foreigners and terrorism. This helped Republicans win elections directly and indirectly.

    The Iraq War created huge slush funds. When billions went missing in Iraq you can be pretty sure that a bunch of that money ended-up in the pockets of the Republican hacks team Bush sent to Iraq.

    Then there were the “in the open” giving of money to Republican contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater.

    So, Republicans were parlaying artificial, short-term advantages in the 2002 and 2004 elections. As fear of terrorism waned, the GOP had less power, but still had the executive branch. But now that advantage is gone.

    The big question is, can the GOP reverse the trend toward Dems in 2010. If not, the GOP will be in trouble in 2012. Incumbent presidents usually win (1936, 1940, 1944, 1948, 1956, 1964, 1972, 1984, 1996 and 2004 vs. 1976, 1980 and 1992) and, if the Dems do well in 2010, the Dems will have the advantage drawing the post-Census map.

    If the GOP loses ground four election cycles in a row, there’s no reason the for the business wing of the party to support the party. The GOP won’t have the ability to filibuster in the Senate. The party will be irrelevant in many ways.

    How much of this is the problem facing the Illinois GOP? How much does the Illinois GOP have a problem unique to Illinois?

    The Illinois GOP took for granted being able to access large amounts of patronage through the Governor and Secretary of State. For decades Congressional Democrats assumed they would always have the ability to use committee chairmanships to get campaign contributions. And for decades the Illinois GOP counted on having the advantages of controlling all those jobs and appointments.

    The Illinois GOP relied on doing things the easy way, through patronage. The Illinois GOP scorned the social conservatives.

    The Illinois GOP going this route was influenced by the dominant GOP media outlet, the Chicago Tribune, which is unsympathetic to social conservatives controlling the GOP. Social conservatives should be heard, but not listened to.

    The Right Wing Protestant churches are weak in Illinois. And while Cardinal George is a hard Right Winger, most of the Catholic establishment in Chicago is not this way. So, everybody in the GOP was mostly on the same page. Moderate, pro-business Republicanism was the dominant faction.

    But once this moderate Republican faction lost power and lost credibility, there wasn’t anything to keep the party from falling very far.

    And the Democrats through their personal foibles have deprived the Republicans of a strong argument to put some Republicans in power. If Blagojevich, Madigan, Jones and the Congressional Dems did work together, the GOP could get some traction as asking for political power based on the idea of checks-and-balances.

    But no one who is seriously paying attention thinks that the Dems are going to steamroll a Left agenda b/c they have all the top offices. There was more comity and cooperation when the GOP had the governorship. If you like gridlock electing more Dems seems to be the surest path to gridlock.

    The Dems are making inroads in the suburbs b/c the national GOP is so unpopular. The Illinois GOP doesn’t have much of a base. They don’t have a strong geographic base. They don’t have a strong ideological base. They don’t have a viable activist base. They don’t have enough churches to form a base.

    The most likely scenario for the Illinois GOP is recruiting “C” list candidates who can self-fund at some level and waiting until the Democrats screw-up badly. Isn’t this pretty much what the Alaska Democrats do? The Alaska Dems run candidates waiting for the corruption to get too egregious and then pick-up an office here or there.

  39. - Trent Green's Clipboard - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:02 am:

    What Rove understood that McCain didn’t was the importance of the suburbs. Suburban voters in the aggregate are very diverse in their educational backgrounds, and tend to be more moderate. Bush was able to hold the Republican base while still playing to suburbanites; McCain wasn’t.

    The Economist’s statement seems more about the campaign just concluded than about the party as a whole. There are plenty of Republican leaders with intellectual horsepower — Pawlenty, Jindal, and Romney come immediately to mind, and there are plenty of others — who have a chance to rebuild the party’s appeal.

    (To me the best example of the GOP’s fall from grace is to think about science; think about how much the cause of science was advanced during President Eisenhower’s tenure, and think about how much it was set back by President Bush. Suburban voters may not be scientists, but most of them believe in the concept of science, which the really hard right doesn’t.)

    The challenge for the Illinois GOP is the demographic trend — the suburbs are trending heavily away from them, despite moderate suburban leaders like Radogno and Cross. The party has had some good people like that, but nobody who’s presented a really galvanizing figure. Aaron Schock could yet turn out to be that guy — his Peoria roots give him downstate credibility, but he could play well in the suburbs.

  40. - 4th Generation Doctorate - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:09 am:

    Those posting should state whether or not they have actually studied John Stewart Mill before assuming that what he described as “anti-intellectualism” applies to conservatives and Republicans of the day. In fact, the challenged conduct more accurately applies to America’s leftists today.
    Mill attacked what he saw at that time as an unwillingness to consider any argument or information that did not come out of the elite institutions of the time. He attacked what he saw as a society that placed custom over progress. And, treated as settled, that which should be vigorously debated, simply because the elites of the day deemed the question settled in their own minds.
    A perfect example is global warming. If you apply a strict scientific methodology to the issue, the science simply does not support the alarmist claims of Al Gore, Waxmann et al. In fact, the scientific evidence is so wanting that the leftist zealots have changed the term from “global warming” to “climate change” as more and more scientific evidence emerges that the globe has not been warming the last few decades as the leftist zealots have been claiming. The only place you will find a vigorous debate about man’s impact on climate is within the Republican Party and in conservative circles. Moreover, it is the leftists in academia that seek to silence vigorous debate on a whole host of issues including climate. Watch Ben Stein’s new movie for a chilling look at the closed-mindedness of our present day elite instiutions of –learning? Conservatives in academia are punished, their advancement to tenure thwarted, and the ability to express ideas shouted down.

    Look and see who the elite colleges are allowing to speak, and express opinions and who they are silencing. It is almost always conservatives that are silenced while the farthest extremes on the left are given a forum, if not a tenured or prestigious teaching position. Consider the radical Islamist who was at one time a spokesman for Arafat’s PLO and had ties to Islamist terrorist groups. He was given a teaching position at Columbia and Obama spoke at a dinner honoring this guy. The left completely silenced any meaningful discussion of this and the ramifications of an American President embracing his philosophy.

    How does it apply to Illinois? Our Governor wants universal healthcare inspite of the overwhelming evidence that we cant pay for it. He continues to push for a program despite the overwhelming evidence that the healthcare system cannot be efficiently and effectively operated by government. He advocates turning the private system that gave us John Hopkins, the Mayo Clinic and the most innovative and advanced healthcare system in the world, into something that looks like our Veterans’ hospitals which are deplorable. The hight of anti-intellectualism is the refusal to consider evidence that disproves a theory. That is our Governor,that is Al Gore, that is the Democrat leaders in Congress, and, I fear, that will be the hallmark of the next Administration. Alas, the war is lost and the surge will never work. And we wonder if the GOP is the party of the anti-intellectual? LOL

  41. - GOP'er - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:12 am:

    This is just the latest example of over analysis by a writer who had to come up with a column post election.

    In Illinois the GOP has special problems, but nationally the GOP got hammered because of very unlucky timing. It’s the economy stupid. It’s really not more complicated than that.

    The D.C. Dems deserve a big share of the blame, but the great unwashed out there only sees the party in the White House. Most Obama voters probably don’t even know who Nancy Pelosi is.

    Plus, the GOP had the White House for 8 yrs. The Dems for 8 yrs before that. There is some cyclicality here, and in this age of technology and YouTube, it’s hard for any leader to stay popular for 8 yrs.

    People get bored and look for change, even if they have no idea what that means or what they might get.

    But McCain-Palin only got a few million fewer votes nationwide than Obama. It’s silly to talk like the national GOP is dead. In Illinois it’s a different story of course.

  42. - Anonymous - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:18 am:

    Republicans chose tactics over policy (ie Palin, joe the plumber, and gas tax holidays versus sensible policy). The American People saw these for what they were, empty political slogans that played toward the ignorant and mis-informed. The GOP needs to get back to the basics and re-invent themselves.

  43. - Plutocrat03 - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:21 am:

    i would disagree with the premise of the Economist’s article.

    While the Republicans have their problems, the results of the election were based on fatigue of the Iraqi conflict and the economy.

    I am tired for the red herring relating to the failures of the Feds regarding Katrina. At no time before of since the hurricane was there as massive a local failure as was in New Orleans. We have had numerous natural disasters such as Galveston, multiple strikes in Florida, Mississippi flooding and no one has been as helpless or hapless than the population of New Orleans. To blame the feds for not anticipating how inept you are is a bunch of hogwash.

    The campaign in this cycle was a triumph style over substance again. We can look back in history and look at Kennedy - Nixon, Carter - Ford, Clinton - Dole to see that the voters prefer youth or freshness over the status quo.

    Whenever the Republican leadership returns to its fiscal conservative roots, they will be able to start rebuilding. In the meantime it appears that we will be the first economy to try to tax itself out of a recession. Good luck with that.

  44. - Secret Square - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:22 am:

    Also, can’t a lot of the social conservative issues be presented in a more positive way, instead of just slamming everyone who disagrees? Instead of condemning all pro-choice people as “baby killers,” point out that most women don’t WANT to have abortions; they do so out of desperation, believing they have no other choice, and deserve every opportunity to choose a better alternative. Instead of just slamming gays and same-sex marriage, focus on the benefits to society of traditional marriage and two-parent families. Present gun rights as a way to empower RESPONSIBLE people (including women, suburbanites and minorities) to defend themselves in an emergency, instead of making it entirely a “macho” anti-government issue. Revive interest in economic and educational empowerment through school choice and tax credits. Get away from the “liberals are all godless, evil people who are ruining this country” approach to one that says, “here’s how our policies can make your life better.”

  45. - Rob_N - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:22 am:


    Giving nukes to Taiwan in advance of WW3 isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind for most suburbanites.

    He’s a good campaigner, but the higher up the ladder he goes the more likely he is to bump into a candidate with equal, or perhaps even better, campaigning skills.

  46. - Rob_N - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:25 am:


    States just to the east of New Orleans had similar problems with FEMA.

    And, yes, based on all the rules and regs everyone from the mayor of New Orleans to the governor of Louisiana to the White House agreed to it was FEMA, and no other agency, that was in charge of post-hurricane operations.

    Hence your complaints about blaming the Feds ring hollow. The Feds were in charge. They failed.

  47. - Heartless Libertarian - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:26 am:

    I would agree with The Economist… for this cycle. McCain did nothing for the intellectual or the fiscal conservative. He really didn’t do anything for anybody. Then we have to watch all these house and senate races, where neither candidate had a darn thing to talk about, but the democrat won because WE HATE GEORGE BOOOOSH. A real leader in the party has to emerge, take charge, and take on Obama at full throttle. That does not mean we call him an extremist, it means we actually fight him on the issues. That is one thing that never happened in the Republican Presidential primary, a leader was never found… so we just went with who was next in line. It could have been Romney, Huckabee, or even Fred Thompson… but they were all namby pamby, especially Thompson. So… is Newt coming back? Or will it be a governor… or a senator? Who will lead the fight in Washington against Obama? Huh, who will lead the fight in Illinois? Or is it lost because this is Obama’s home state?

  48. - 4th Generation Doctorate - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:32 am:

    Hey Rich, any deleted posts in this discussion of the application of John Stewart Mill and “anti-intellectualism” to present day?

  49. - Phil Collins - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:38 am:

    I agree with the premise. More IL republican candidates should have campaigned with intellectual facts which would prove that, since many voters complain about high tax rates, which are proposed by Democrats, those voters should vote for Republicans.

    I hope that Iraq didn’t cause Republicans to lose. I was in the navy for 21 years, and I was near Baghdad, Sept. 2004-Mar. ‘05. While I was there, I rarely heard my co-workers (mainly marines) complain about our presence, in Iraq, since we knew that we were protecting the U.S. from terrorists. After I returned to the U.S., I’ve heard many people, who haven’t served, in the military, complain about the war.

  50. - wordslinger - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:45 am:

    –While I was there, I rarely heard my co-workers (mainly marines) complain about our presence, in Iraq, since we knew that we were protecting the U.S. from terrorists. After I returned to the U.S., I’ve heard many people, who haven’t served, in the military, complain about the war.–

    Phil, I’m not sure what that statement’s supposed to mean. In addition, it’s not true. Plenty of those who served, from top brass down to grunts, have expressed thoughtful opposition to both the premise and execution of the war. It’s been in all the papers and many have written books.

    I admire and appreciate your service.

  51. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:49 am:

    Phil Collins, Iraq was not an imminent threat. Iraq was not even a threat, in a unique way that various states and non-state actors aren’t equal or greater threats.

    Bush chose to invade Iraq for reasons that have never been credibly explained. Was it as simple as being good domestic politics and war profiteering?

    Phil Collins, take a little time to read Sun-tzu. Wars that take too long overtax an economy and lose domestic support. Always have; always will.

    Bush’s people may have understood the Iraq War would become unpopular, but after the 2004 elections and making their money off the war they didn’t care. If the Republican Party suffered because they went along with the scam… well, I guess they shoulda all bought ranches in Paraguay.

  52. - Bruno Behrend - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 12:51 pm:

    Anti-intellectualism is an American phenomenon, and not a Dem or Rep phenomenon.

    Note that we Americans are not anti-intellect (most respect intelligence and competence).

    As a nation, we are (or at least were), anti-intellectual (”intellectuals” as a class). For the most part, this has served Americans well.

    Though intellectuals on both sides of the aisle have some good ideas, as a class, their hubris has lead to many more policy disasters than successes.

    Conservative/libertarian intellectuals give us lack of oversight (though Dems are mostly on the hook for keeping FNMA and FHLMC untouched), and their friends in the private sector give us CDOs, synthetic CDOs and Credit Default Swaps.

    Next, banks and insurance companies across the globe, (most of whom only hire the top 5% of the class from the top schools) keep buying this financial toxic waste until it all collapses.

    Liberal intellectuals give us forced busing, public housing and the Great Society, and end up with permanent underclass. Some of them even had the bright idea that we could lend them money to buy houses with no verified income or any money down.

    These big brains (left and right)just brought down entire industries and economies (any one want to buy Iceland?). Some track record, huh?

    It isn’t isn’t surprising that the article Rich posted comes from overseas. They have a long track record of putting trust in intellectuals and intellectualism.

    Here is my view. The more of an “intellectual” one is, the more likely they are to allow their intellect to cloud their judgment. Any person (or intellectual class) who believes that their intellect gives them carte blanche to manage the lives of others is suffering from a moral and intellectual blindness so deep that it becomes a form of stupidity, regardless of IQ.

  53. - Pomerium Ultra - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 12:56 pm:

    GOP’er at 11:12 has it exactly right. What’s going on here today is the typical postmortem over analysis.

  54. Pingback Extreme Wisdom » Blog Archive » American Anti-Intellectualism - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 1:08 pm:

    […] Rich’s question of the day is about Republican “Anti-Intellectualism.” Again, it is good post with many good comments. Mine is pasted below. ______ Anti-intellectualism is an American phenomenon, and not a Dem or Rep phenomenon. […]

  55. - 4th Generation Doctorate - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 1:25 pm:

    Bruno, interesting observations and well stated.

  56. - Captain America - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 1:55 pm:

    Anti-intellectualism in the United States is a pervasive cultural phenomona, not just a bipartisan political problem. I think the Bush adminstration represented the political apotheosis of this trend. Facts be “darned” and full speed ahead seemed to be the prevalent attitude.

    I think a rigid ideological worldview is a much bigger problem than anti-intellectualism. I much prefer flexible pragmatism in Democrats and Republicans. I think the Illinois GOP’s main problem is ideology rather than anti-intellectualism. Social conservatism is a loser in among suburban swing voters.

    Incompetence may have been the Republican’s biggest problem of all this election. I think Democratic incompetence and bipartisan corruption are the biggest issues in Illinois and Cook County Government.

  57. - Judgment Day Is On The Way - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 2:08 pm:

    The Republicans have to spend less time on the “culture war” issues, and more time on the technology related issues. And that’s not “anti-intellect”, as much as it is “anti-intellectual”.

    Neither party has done a very good job of representing the technology side of the issues - in fact, both parties have done an extremely poor job at it.

    The Republicans do ok on technology (and on a number of technology issues, better than the Democrats) except when it comes to the “culture war” issues being in conflict with technology, in which case the “culture war” issues tend to win out (stem cell research is an excellent example).

    The Democrats OTOH, are also ok on the technology issues except when it comes to “special interest group” issues being in conflict with technology, in which case the “special interest group” issues tend to win out (Intellectual property rights, the RIAA, and MPAA are excellent examples).

    Starting to think that the room for a really successful national third party won’t be the Greens, but could be the Technologists.

  58. - Brian - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 2:12 pm:

    Sorry folks, but I don’t buy any of the arguments of why the GOP got trounced in the national elections, short of the economic one.

    The war in Iraq ceased to be a deciding issue last year, after the change in strategy and the “surge” crushed the insurgency.

    Katrina was 5 years ago, a virtual eternity (these days) in modern American politics.

    Despite all of the missteps of the GOP on a national level, the election was statistically tied, until the financial panic started roaring in September. Even then, if McCain hadn’t bungled his response, who knows what would have happened, at least at the Presidential level.

  59. - GOP Kool Aid Drinker - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 2:12 pm:

    I dont see anything wrong with the Republican party in Illinois, or at the national level. We just need to run Sarah Palin in 2012 for president with Pat Buchanon as VP.

  60. - Brian - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 2:13 pm:

    Apologies for not doing the math right in my previous post, Katrina was –three– years ago, not five.

  61. - steve schnorf - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 2:21 pm:

    4th generation: some interesting ideas many of which I agree with. Still, I will use one of your thoughts to point out what I think is the dearth of Republican ideas.

    Blago’s ideas on universal health care leave much to be desired. Ergo, I prefer the Republican proposal for dealing with the health care issues of the uninsured. Wait, there is no Republican proposal.

  62. - Boscobud - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 2:30 pm:

    The Republican party has just lost a little direction. We had 8 great years with President Bush and we just got to comfortable. We need to fight fire with fire and we need a strong candidate to do that. The Republican party need to focus on what Ronald Reagan did, and we need to do that. We need Ronald Reagan.

  63. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 3:52 pm:

    If the GOP solution is to be more like Reagan then the party has a long way to go.

    Reagan was a reaction to the perception the Great Society taxed “White” people to benefit Black people.

    I don’t see how the Reagan formula can be applied successfully at this point. Wasn’t the George W. Bush coalition pretty much the Reagan coalition? W. got to do the things the Reagan coalition wanted done. Most of the Reagan coalition’s policies were failures or were taken too far by W., Cheney and Rove.

    But as long as the GOP tries to sell people a bridge to the 1980s the party will keep losing. And I’m OK with that.

  64. - Bubs - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 4:00 pm:

    The defeats (plural) of ‘06 and ‘08 are part of wider phenomenon - the disengagement of the GOP from the lives and worries of average Americans.

    The GOP will not come back until it starts listening better, and takes out its ideological ear plugs. Political parties do best when the first objective is to serve the people. In the current GOP, winning elections for the sake of power and advancing (or, more accurately today, protecting) a conservative social agenda has become paramount. The current needs of the people come second. Until that changes, the political balances will not.

    The defeats, as well as the end of the W Administration, also spell the end of the Era of Reagan, so the GOP is going to have to move on.

  65. - Ken - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 4:06 pm:

    KoolAide drinker, I really hope you guys run Palin in 2012, and with Buchanon on the ticket the dems odds look even better.

  66. - Bruno Behrend - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 4:18 pm:

    When the top recruiter of Dem candidates actively seeks out centrist (pro-life, pro 2nd Amend.) candidates to challenge GOP seats across the nation (2006 and 2008), that can hardly be called a failure of the “socially conservative” wing of the GOP.

    It is closer to say that it is a sign of their success.

    While most conservatives agree that leading with divisive social issues is not the best strategy moving forward, the advice from those telling Republicans to throw the social conservatives off the bus is nothing short of suicidal.

    The ILL GOP has been following that advice for 8-10 years now, and look where that got them.

    Follow the Jindals and Mitchells, ignore anything remotely resembling Hastertism or Delay, and things will eventually work themselves out.

  67. - Eileen Left - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 6:53 pm:

    National GOP problem =Bad candidates,bad message,bad economy.The American people have finally rejected the politics of fear,hate,gas bag Limbaugh et al,guns, gays and god.
    Ill GOP problem = Two words Alan Keyes

  68. - Anonymous - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 7:14 pm:

    We seriously need to stop this.

    Everyone who’s argued that Ds and Rs are “dumb” and getting “dumber” is right. The entire country is being “dumbed down” on a daily basis and we’re allowing it to happen–regardless of our Party or whether we even vote.

    We are getting exposed to (or conditioned to like) ideas like “third world toilets”, are laughing at the fact that the current POTUS isn’t shaking hands with other world leaders, are voting primarily based on image alone, and are losing our jobs and homes, while SPAM and frozen “pot pie” sales are going up.

    Anyone, D or R, who can’t see (or worse, LIKES) what the redistribution of our wealth and power is doing to us IS, in fact, dumb.

  69. - 4th Generation Doctorate - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 7:52 pm:

    Mr Schnorf, always respected your work during the Edgar Adm., we did cross paths on occasion. And, I do enjoy very much your thoughtful and thought-provoking comments on this site. Healthcare is a fact-intensive and complicated subject. Even the subparts have subparts. I would agree that the GOP has not come up with pithy phrases that capture the essence of what we want to do that competes with the emotional and simplistic appeals of so many of the GOP opponents. Wont try to explain it all here. Just a note, keep posting, many enjoy your contributions.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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