Jonathan Rauch on the Contemporary GOP: “Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller got into an argument and George Wallace won”

Jonathan Rauch today posted a seminal analysis of the GOP in the light of George Wallace. A taste:

Goldwater served for 30 years as a respected insider in Washington’s most exclusive club, the U.S. Senate; he was never interested in cultural and social issues; resentment and rage were alien to him. Palin’s style and appeal are closer to Wallace’s. . . .

I am not saying that today’s Republicans are a bunch of Wallace clones. Or that everything Wallace did or said was wrong, or that Republicans should shun all of his themes just because he used them. I am saying three things.

First, with the important exception of race, not one of Wallace’s central themes, from his bristling nationalism and his court-bashing to his anti-intellectualism and his aggressive provincialism, would seem out of place at any major Republican gathering today.

Second, and again leaving race aside, any Republican politician who publicly renounced the Wallace playbook would be finished as a national leader.

Third, by becoming George Wallace’s party, the GOP is abandoning rather than embracing conservatism, and it is thereby mortgaging both its integrity and its political future. Wallaceism was not sufficiently mainstream or coherent to sustain a national party in 1968, and the same is true today.

Conservatism is wary of extremism and rage and anti-intellectualism, of demagoguery and incoherent revolutionary rhetoric. Wallace was a right-wing populist, not a conservative. The rise of his brand of pseudo-conservatism in Republican circles should alarm anyone who cares about the genuine article.

Read the whole article here.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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