Magazine | December 3, 2012, Issue

A Message of Compromisers

It’s only a matter of time before Chris Matthews announces that the amendment limiting presidents to two terms is, in fact, racist. There will be a great lusty national clamor for a bill that gives Obama the chance to have as many terms as the white guy who presided over a sustained economic crisis. Before this happens, the conservative movement has to figure out how to attract all the people who hate them.

Who are these people? Why, they’re a zesty coalition of economic illiterates, young people whose grasp of history is so feeble they think Bill Clinton freed the slaves by winning WWII, and a vast number who don’t like conservatives, don’t believe their ideas, and think “GOP” might as well stand for “Gouty Oligarchical Plutocrats.” That’s whom we need to win over. It brings to mind a scene in Independence Day, when a scientist asks a captured alien what they want humans to do.

“Die,” it croaks.

Okay, well, everything’s on the table, but let’s talk about some options. First step towards winning back the country: conspicuous empathy. Big sloshing wet buckets of the stuff. As Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal, the Democrats have the emotional advantage: People think that the liberals Care. No doubt they do, in the abstract. But the end result of Official State Caring was seen after Hurricane Sandy, when untold numbers of citizens stuffed into Vertical Poor-Person Storage Buildings were left without power, food, and sanitation. The stairwells stunk of offal; the streets were piled with rotting trash. News crews interviewed frightened tenants, and in each case there was evidence of the strange Rapture of the Males that removed all the menfolk from the family structure. The government was the father, of course — and just as absent as the ones who dropped off some DNA and melted into the wind.

If this is the result of Caring, you shudder to contemplate the results of indifference.

For now, accept the fact that the country changed while we were out making money and children. Archie Bunker is dead; Meathead got tenure. Forty years of cultural liberalism rewrote the concept of American exceptionalism to mean that we’re uniquely bad. The iconoclastic skepticism that once defined both boomers and their spawn has settled into the slack-spined posture of the supplicant. “Question Authority,” their self-satisfied college motto, has turned into a plaintive whine: What else can you give me today?

So it’s all lost? No! you say. Buck up! you say. We’re a can-do people. If we can put a man on the moon, perhaps we can put 60 million Democratic voters on the moon, and figure a way so their absentee ballots get “lost” somewhere between Tranquility Base and here.

But that’s not right. That’s their way. Besides, if you put 60 million Obama voters on the moon, they’d still find a way to call us out of touch.

No, we’re told that the party has to retune and refine, adjust its message, reach out, and find a way to turn all those upraised middle fingers into a game of horseshoes.

This requires compromise, which is called “caving” when the Democrats back off from nationalizing an industry and “evolution” when conservatives abandon their defining principles.

#page#But what’s the compromise on gay marriage? GOP offer: Okay, two men can be called a married couple, but it has to be a traditional marriage. Fifties-style. One has to wear pearls and a dress around the house while vacuuming. Liberal response: That just reinforces heteronormative gender concepts. And pearls are gauche. GOP accommodation: Okay, you can get married, but you have to promise not to demand that James Bond go gay in a future movie. Liberal counteroffer: We’ll promise not to complain if he just comes out as bi. GOP: Deal!

What’s the compromise on immigration?  Okay, okay, everyone’s a citizen. You can vote and hold office. You can replace the Constitution displayed in the National Archives with a version written in Spanish, but you have to make the original available for viewing if someone requests it 24 hours ahead of time. The border fence will be replaced by a one-way pedestrian conveyor, like they have at airports. Question from illegal-alien lobby: When it is shut down for repairs, will there be buses to bring in relatives? GOP: Well, okay, but you have to pay the fare. Illegals: Sorry, the Democrats provide free buses, and they show movies. GOP response: Okay, movies, but PG only. Illegals: Sorry, no deal. The kids love those Fast and Furious movies. The kids who weren’t killed by Fast and Furious, that is.

Perhaps the solution rests with untapped identity groups no one’s exploited yet. How about nudists? According to one study, almost 30 million people would consider vacationing at a clothing-optional resort. Peel off 10 percent, and you have Obama’s margin of victory. It needn’t be obvious; don’t have to pander. Just have the next presidential candidate proclaim, during his acceptance speech, that “sometimes I find pants . . . confining” and ask employers to cover sunscreen. No: Require sunscreen coverage under penalty of fines and license revocation.

’Cause that’s how we do freedom now, dawg.

On the other hand, you wonder why they should take any deals conservatives offer. When everything is paid for by someone else or conjured from Bernanke’s Magic Cornucopia of Dollars, you’d be an idiot to vote for the party of restraint.

James Lileks — James Lileks writes the Athwart column for National Review magazine and is a frequent contributor to the National Review website. He is a prominent voice on Ricochet podcasts.

In This Issue

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What Would Jindal Do?

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Flesh and Blood

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Sections

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Poetry

With My Parents at Twenty-One They face the hotel ceiling sky Like restful fresh sarcophagi. His snores are gulls that dart and skim Along her ear’s marina rim. I used to have the pluck and ...
Happy Warrior

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Letters

Two Historians Thank you for articles of great interest on Eugene Genovese (“Up from Leftism,” November 14, 2011) and Eric Hobsbawm (“The Tyrants’ Historian,” October 29, 2012). It would have been illuminating ...
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The Week

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Athwart

A Message of Compromisers

It’s only a matter of time before Chris Matthews announces that the amendment limiting presidents to two terms is, in fact, racist. There will be a great lusty national clamor ...

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