The New York Times.
GOP Techies and the GOP Establishment.
Plus Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, and Marco Rubio.
Did I mention that the GOP needs to be “saved from obsolescence?”
As Ronald Reagan might have said: Well, there they go again.
Consider this fairy tale from Robert Draper that was the cover story in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. A story in theory about the low-tech GOP and the angst this is causing young GOP techies.
It is a Times story, a story that mentions all of the above listed and cleverly illustrated with photos of supposed GOP instruments of 21st century communication: a smart phone (a black rotary phone from the 1960s), a laptop (a typewriter), a tablet (a paper-filled bound notebook), a hard drive (a metal file cabinet) and Twitter (a cheerleaders megaphone).
Mr. Draper, the liberal writer, believes he has a reputation as being one member of the liberal media who is fair to conservatives. Doubtless he must think so, even when writing a piece titled “Can the Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence?” and subtitle: “Can young, tech-savvy Republicans overthrow their party’s disconnected Old Guard?” Yet the article is filled to overflowing with baseline liberal assumptions not to mention a laughable liberal bias.
The story also features the always alluring invitation to the young and the restless of the GOP to vent in the liberal paper of record, and as one suspects, said venting is about more than just grumbles over hapless Republican encounters with Reddit and Twitter.
But hey, this is the New York Times. What else would one expect?
And the eye-catching illustrations? The typewriter as laptop, rotary phone as smart phone, etc.?
Get the joke?
Mr. Draper doesn’t — because the joke is on him.
Actually, one would hope all the young “tech-savvy Republicans” quoted and discussed in the story would get the joke that Draper has played on himself — and tried to play on them. If not, the much quoted young techies, sad to say, are already twittering dinosaurs themselves.
Let’s go through this in detail.
Beginning with the Draper theme that the GOP is teetering on the verge of obsolescence.
Why is this a joke on the apparently clueless Mr. Draper and all these young GOP techies (more of whom in a bit)?
Because what Mr. Draper has written here is just the latest version of an old fairy tale. An urban legend of politics. In fact, it’s ancient. Very. So ancient that it is more than fair to say that Mr. Draper’s mind, not to mention his story, looks as fresh and modern as the old typewriter and rotary phone pictured in his piece. Older, in fact. Over a half century older, to be precise.
So let’s begin by taking some of Draper’s story and listing here verbatim, the bold print my own for emphasis. Draper writes:
• But the problem for the G.O.P. extends well beyond its flawed candidate (Romney) and his flawed operation. The unnerving truth, which the Red Edge team and other younger conservatives worry that their leaders have yet to appreciate, is that the Republican Party’s technological deficiencies barely begin to explain why the G.O.P. has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. The party brand — which is to say, its message and its messengers — has become practically abhorrent to emerging demographic groups like Latinos and African-Americans, not to mention an entire generation of young voters. As one of the party’s most highly respected strategists told me: “It ought to concern people that the most Republican part of the electorate under Ronald Reagan were 18-to-29-year-olds. And today, people I know who are under 40 are embarrassed to say they’re Republicans. They’re embarrassed! They get harassed for it, the same way we used to give liberals a hard time.”
• (28-year old GOP pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson), for her part, is now a pollster and vice president of the Winston Group. Like the Red Edge partners and virtually every other young Republican with whom I spoke, she regards herself as a socially tolerant, limited-government fiscal conservative. (Today Republicans of all age groups strenuously avoid describing themselves as “moderate,” a term that the far right has made radioactive.) Camera-ready and compulsively perky — she has twice appeared on Bill Maher’s ”Real Time” panel as a token conservative — she nonetheless lapses into despondency when talking about her party’s current state of denial. During one of the postelection panels, Anderson heard a journalist talk about his interviews with Romney staff members who had hoped to build a winning coalition of white voters. “That just stunned me,” she told me one afternoon over coffee. “I thought: Did you not see the census? Because there was one! And it had some pretty big news — like that America’s biggest growing population is the Latino community!”
It gets better.
Draper sits in on two Anderson focus groups. The first all-female, the second all young men. Asked to free associate with the word “Republican” the women come up with words like “corporate greed,” “narrow minded,” “rigid,” “polarizing,” “stuck in their ways.” For the men: “racist,” “out of touch,” “hateful,” and, this one being particularly rich, “and put ‘1950’s’ on there too!”
When asked what the GOP could “say or do” to make them feel more positive about the GOP, one 22-year old respondent replies — no kidding — “embrace technology and change.”
Then Draper writes:
Later that evening at a hotel bar, Anderson pored over her notes. She seemed morbidly entranced, like a homicide detective gazing into a pool of freshly spilled blood. In the previous few days, the pollster interviewed Latino voters in San Diego and young entrepreneurs in Orlando. The findings were virtually unanimous. No one could understand the G.O.P.’s hot-blooded opposition to gay marriage or its perceived affinity for invading foreign countries. Every group believed that the first place to cut spending was the defense budget. During the whiteboard drill, every focus group described Democrats as “open-minded” and Republicans as “rigid.”
“There is a brand,” the 28-year-old pollster concluded of her party with clinical finality. “And it’s that we’re not in the 21st century.”
I’m sure Anderson is smart. This is certainly not meant to be personal. But she is, at least as depicted here, truly clueless. As is Draper.
Let’s climb in our time capsule and rocket back to December — of 1964. The Goldwater-Johnson race for president had ended the previous month, with an LBJ landslide. The Washington Bureau Chief of the Los Angeles Times, the liberal journalist Robert J. Donovan, had spent the year covering the campaign and interviewing all manner of voters, pollsters and party elites from both sides during the year.
By December he had a book out. Title: The Future of the Republican Party.
In which — yes indeed — with all the predictability of a sunny day in July he got the identical reactions to the GOP in 1964 as Ms. Anderson got in 2013. And came to precisely the same kind of conclusions 49 years ago that Anderson — not to mention Draper — arrived at. Did I mention that like Draper, Donovan was a liberal journalist of the day? Did I mention Donovan — like Draper and Anderson and the young GOPers as presented in Draper’s article — saw the GOP as precariously close to finished?
Here are some samples from Donovan, with my notes in bold:
• “The devastating defeat of Barry Goldwater at the hands of the voters in all sections of the country but the Deep South has damaged, weakened, and tarnished the party. For years to come the two-party system will be crippled….” (Note: Two years later in 1966 the GOP won 47 House seats, 3 Senate seats, 8 governorships and 557 state legislative seats. Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California in a million vote landslide. In 1968 the GOP won the White House.)
• “In the wake of the latest Republican defeat, in which Goldwater carried only six small states, a plausible projection could be made showing the Democrats retaining control of the White House at least until 1988…This projection presumes President Johnson’s winning a second full term in 1968, after which would come the election and re-election of Hubert H. Humphrey in 1972 and 1976, followed perhaps by Robert or Edward Kennedy in 1980 and 1984.”
(Note: the GOP would win all of those presidential elections save the 1976 loss to Jimmy Carter.)
• “The Republicans chased after a will-o’-the-wisp of conservative votes that were waiting for a genuine conservative in a never-never land first suspected by the late Senator Robert A. Taft but never yet discovered……The supposed untapped reservoir of conservative votes now proved to be a mirage… ”
(Note: The “untapped reservoir of conservative votes” was no mirage. It was an electoral gusher that began to flow a mere two years later in 1966 and has been flowing ever since — if one knows where and how to drill.)
• “In fact, the right-wing seemed not to have learned any lesson at all from the defeat. ‘One year’s landslide loss, in other words,’ wrote William F. Buckley, Jr. editor-in-chief of the National Review, ‘is not necessarily a permanent thing in a dynamic society, and there is no reason for American conservatives to believe either that their hearts deceived them in telling them he (Goldwater) was right, or that the time will never come again when the American people can correct our public policies.’”
(Note: Buckley was proved to be correct. Donovan’s predictions of future liberal political dominance were wildly wrong. It turned out to be liberals who in fact learned the wrong lesson about 1964.)
• “(Goldwater said) ‘The time has come to choose up two new teams and get going.’ In his (Goldwater’s) view the Democrats should become the party of the liberals and the Republicans the party of the conservatives. Instead of winning any support for this radical proposal, Goldwater merely strengthened the impression that he had not, even then, grasped the meaning of the election returns.”
(Note: History records that Goldwater — not to mention Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley, Jr. and a whole host of American conservatives grasped the meaning of the 1964 with dead-on accuracy. So too, to be fair, did the late liberal Senator George McGovern who, as the Goldwater of the Left, thoroughly re-cast the Democrats in 1972 as exactly what Donovan said it wouldn’t become — the party of the liberals. When Barack Obama came of age, he had no hesitation as to which party he should join — or lead.)
• “The party is in eclipse. There are no very bright spots….”
(Note: Forty-nine years and five GOP presidents later, after decades of Republican governors, state legislators and control of either or both branches of Congress, the eclipse has yet to be seen.)
• “The Republican Party lies in wreckage today because its moderates and liberals failed after the defeat of 1960 to retain their long control over the party’s Presidential sector.”
(Note: In fact, it is conservatives who saved the GOP — the infusion of political energy by Tea Party conservatives being but the latest example. When moderates have controlled the GOP — the party loses. See: the young techie’s complaints about the Romney campaign. )
• “What is wrong with the Republican Party?….The image of Republicans as the party of ‘the rich and privileged’ is one thing that is wrong…. ‘The Democrats,’ (liberal columnist) Walter Lippmann wrote in assessing the Republican Disaster of 1964, ‘have pre-empted almost all the attractive proposals because they have included so much of the intellectual community which is capable of devising attractive proposals.… The Republicans will have to end their alienation which expressed itself as ‘he never met a payroll,’ he has long hair, too high a brow, or he is sinister and subversive. This alienation is the root of the decline of the Republican Party.’”
(Note: This is more of the 1964 version of the supposed “very-conservative” 27-year-old Obama voter cited by Draper as saying “Don’t be so right-wing!”)
• “People in distinctive language-culture groups frequently are sensitive about what sometimes seems to them to be Republican lack of interest in them except during the last hours of campaign vote-solicitation,” said the Republican Committee on Big City Politics in a report to the Republican National Committee on January 2, 1962.” (Note: This is the 1964 version of how the GOP hates Latinos.)
• “‘I’ve always assumed I was a Republican, but they’ve made such a mess of their party I’m ashamed to say I’m a Republican,’ a young farm wife near Freeport, Illinois, told pollster Samuel Lubell during the Johnson-Goldwater campaign. ‘From now on I’ll register independent.’” (Note: This “young farm wife” of 1964 is echoed almost exactly in the Draper story of 2013 with this quote: “And today, people I know who are under 40 are embarrassed to say they’re Republicans. They’re embarrassed!”)
• “The Republicans are stand-patters, the party of the status quo. They have never really eliminated fear that they would turn back the clock, At heart they are really the party of the WASPS — the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. They do not really like foreign accents, and they were as cold to the immigration of Puerto Ricans in the 1950s, as they had been to the arrival of the Irish in the 1850’s.” (Note: This is the 1964 formulation of Anderson’s 2013 respondents saying the GOP was the party “stuck in their ways” filled with the “old,” the “rich,” “middle aged white men.” And yes, of Anderson herself saying she is “socially tolerant” — meaning the rest of the GOP is not — and that “I thought: Did you not see the census? Because there was one! And it had some pretty big news — like that America’s biggest growing population is the Latino community! Surprise, surprise! How have we not grasped that this is going to be really important?” From the Irish of the 1850s to the Puerto Ricans of the 1960s to Latinos today, painting the GOP as intolerant is as standard fare as it is routinely bogus.)
• “(Republicans) did not perceive that the new generation of Negroes and the Germans, Swedes, Irish, and Poles and other Eastern Europeans, taken together, were contending with the old stock for political supremacy. White, rural, small-town, Protestant Americans no longer represented the majority, even though the Republican leaders shut their eyes to the change.” (Note: Before the GOP was clueless about Latinos in 2012 it was clueless about Negroes, Germans, Swedes, Irish, Poles and Eastern Europeans in 1964. Notice Donovan’s formulation: Other than “Negroes” all the rest are white. In 1964 liberals had conservatives hating whites — by specific nationality. In 2013, all those same nationalities — having repeatedly voted Republican — are now lumped together and scorned as bigoted “middle-aged white men.”)
• “If the Republicans are to be, or merely seem to be, the voice of right-wing radicalism or extremism, advocating reactionary changes at home and adventures abroad that might lead to war, they will remain a minority party indefinitely. Whom they nominate will not make any great difference.” (Note: This is the 1964 version of Draper writing in 2013 that: “No one could understand the G.O.P.’s hot-blooded opposition to gay marriage or its perceived affinity for invading foreign countries. Every group believed that the first place to cut spending was the defense budget. During the whiteboard drill, every focus group described Democrats as ‘open-minded’ and Republicans as ‘rigid.’”
So. Got it?
To borrow from Kristen Anderson, the GOP’s brand according to Donovan in December, 1964 was that the GOP wasn’t in the 20th century.
In December of 1964, based on liberal journalist Donovan’s campaign travels during the year, the Republican Party of 1964 was diagnosed as — to use the terms from the focus groups of Kristen Anderson’s in 2013 — “racist,” “out of touch,” “rich,” “narrow-minded,” “conservative,” and “polarizing” — among other things.
Which is to say the question for liberal journalist Donovan of the Los Angeles Times in 1964 was about the future of the Republican Party if it didn’t dispose of those “radical right-wing conservatives.” It is exactly the same question being posed by liberal journalist Draper in the New York Times in 2013 when he asks breathlessly “can the Republicans be saved from obsolescence?”
In other words?
In other words, liberal journalist Draper with his laptop merely channeled liberal journalist Donovan’s typewriter — from 49 years ago.
The joke is on Draper.
And, of course, it appears to be Draper had a willing audience of all these young Republican techies who, at least as presented in Draper’s story, bought into one of the oldest of liberal fairy tales. A falsehood that in fact already long pre-dated Donovan’s 1964 book, going back at least to twice-losing GOP moderate presidential nominee Thomas E. Dewey’s Princeton lectures in 1950.
The Princeton lectures in which two-time loser Dewey (1944 and, infamously, 1948) warned that conservatism was a loser for the GOP because “The Republicans would lose every election, and the Democrats would win every election. It may be a perfect theory but it would result in a one-party system….”
The Princeton Lectures were delivered by Dewey a full fourteen years before Donovan said the same thing in book form in 1964. The techies, it seems, bought this latest 2013 re-telling of the fairy tale — the Dewey myth become moderate legend become Donovan fable become Draper fiction — hook line and sinker.
Let’s talk, shall we?
Because as grossly misleading as this Times article is, the GOP techies do have one very, very good point.
Which we will discuss.
Along with the business about Rush, Rove, Rubio, and the Republican Establishment.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons