Saturday, November 13, 2010

When The Cox Crows Three Times

Embattled New York GOP chairman Ed Cox, who helped elect a Democrat governor by undermining the presumptive Republican nominee, may be able to keep his job if he axes his top aide, Tom Basile. A report says Cox is tempted -- and yet:
[U]p to now, he has refused to dump Basile - insisting the better you do your job, "the more criticism you're going to get."
I know!


MK said...

As do I know, too! LOL. It’s interesting for me to see that for all its values-based, business and religious rhetoric, some on the right struggle with the need to differentiate between legitimate criticism and baseless attacks. Sometimes it feels to me as if some conservatives think cheerleading and circling the wagons is the only acceptable reaction to criticism. I don’t honestly understand how they ended up in that type of corner, boxed in. That’s not what works in faith based soul searching or the 360 reviews that businesses and public sector organizations sometimes rely on. I’ve learned the hard way not to assume that because someone claims belief in “old fashioned American values” that they can engage in candid analysis (including in history exhibits, LOL, of which more below).

Sarah Palin recently wrote, “Remember that some in the media will love you when you stray from the time-tested truths that built America into the most exceptional nation on earth. When the Left in the media pat you on the back, quickly reassess where you are and readjust, for the liberals' praise is a warning bell you must heed. Trust me on that.” Some will find that strong, others weak. I used to think the business wing of the GOP would push for realistic assessments of problems and case by case analysis. Palin’s approach – which I wouldn’t urge Cox to follow I don’t have a dog in the NY fight – comes across as a classic cheerleader’s approach.

What is missing in Palin’s approach to issue is a sense that many issues in a small d democratic nation legitimately are contested. And that you sometimes can learn from what the other side says about you, good and bad. In his book, Presidential Temples, Professor Benjamin Hufbauer praises the acknowledgement of contested territory in recently renovated exhibits at the Truamn presidential library. He contrasts them with the less credible exhibits in some of the other libraries.

Ben writes that the Truman exhibit includes text that notes that "significant and controversial" events occurred during Truman's presidency. And that "no single, universally accepted account of this period exists. Historians and non-experts alike bring a variety of perspectives to the study of these momentous times. Sifting through the same evidence, they often reach conflicting conclusions. This exhibition presents one interpretation of the Truman presidency. There are other ways of looking at the subjects presented here. As you visit the galleries you will encounter flipbooks that highlight some of these alternative views."

I don’t know what it will take the give the GOP an infusion of the type of confidence that leads one to say that sort of thing about one’s side in public. That said, while difficult analysis leads to success in business and the creation of stronger, more resilient people, whether through religious or secular “working the steps,” it doesn’t always work that way in politics. That this is so seems insulting to voters – “you’re too fragile to look inward, so avoid doing so” but again, there it is.

MK said...

What is your take on the situation with the NY GOP? I don't live there and I don't know what to make of primary voters choosing Paladino. Are Cox and his aide under fire for being too moderate or not moderate enough? If the former, pushback and explanation of tactical differences might be a problem. If the latter, dialogue and compromise might work.

We all have differing experiences with people who lean GOP. I know a number of immigrants to the U.S. who once lived under Soviet oppression. They aren’t monolithic. Many of these seniors display a Cold War mindset, voting very much with the old home country in mind. But how they react to having once lived under a totalitarian regime varies greatly.

Some of them buy in to the whole Fox Limbaugh “win through demonization” thing, which Daily Kos also sometimes lapses into on the other side. Others decry and are embarrassed by demonization of Democrats and misuse by demagogues of terms such as socialist and communist and fascist. I can reach the latter by arguing that it inherently is un-small-d-democratic to use the tools of authoritarianism (“Big Lies” and demonization) in the marketplace of ideas. I’ve had less success in reaching the former, even when I suggest that extreme rhetoric suggests a lack of confidence in what one is selling. Although both these types of anti-Communist voters pull the lever for the GOP, they don’t march in lockstep.

Politics is local, as they say. I just don't know enough about the people in NY to know what the best course is for Cox. I do know that my preference is to try to appeal to peoples' better natures and not to give in to extreme polarization and hatred of one's fellow Americans for viewing issues differently. How that would play against appeals for ideological purity would vary from community to community, of course.

Fr. John said...

Thanks, MK. I'm knowledgeable about the way Ed Cox treats people and interested in the dynamics of the GOP nomination process in hyper-blue states like California and New York. The latter was well positioned with a candidate with good conservative bona fides, Rick Lazio, but Cox's instincts appeared to tell him that the Zeitgeist was calling for a more moderate candidate. I'm not an expert on NY, either, but it was pretty clear this was not going be the year for nominating moderate or liberal Republicans. Like you, probably, I would prefer them, for ideological reasons and also (strictly as far as I'm concerned) because they'd be more likely to win general elections.

As for Fox News, how much of an impact do you really think it has? Does it change minds and mold opinion? Is it generating far-right energy or just reflecting it (the way talk radio so famously did (and to equal consternation from the left) in the '90s?

MK said...

I don't know if Fox is generating or reflecting far right energy. There could be any number of reasons for the collapse of conservatism in its public guise into a whiney-seeming, blame dodging, everything is someone else's fault, "if you're not like me, you're not patriotic" corrosive brew. I say public guise, because I do lean towards thinking that one shouldn't attribute GOP voters the perspectives that Fox amplifies and sells. Or couldn't attribute until recently.

I haven't studied polling in depth so I don't know how many moderates, in terms of temperament if not ideology, remain among GOP voters. I live in a blue portion of a purple state.

It could be that the people with the microphones (the Hannity types of Fox, Limbaugh outside it) just are uncommonly weak representatives of conservatism. As I noted in my comment above, the GOP voters with whom I discuss issues show a lot more fortitude and ability to take a nuanced view of things than do the Fox folks. Or Limbaugh.

Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that Ailes doesn't seem to think conservatives will reward discernment, when there actually are some who would. To me, Fox just comes across as assuming its viewers are weak and need to hear cheerleading and validation. I didn't feel the need for that myself when I called myself a conservative in Reagan's day.

Of course, I live in the DC area, where a lot of people follow government closely and understand how the components fit together, regardless of how they vote. So bumper sticker solutions don't tend to have much of an impact among the people I know, across the political spectrum.

Fr. John said...

Thanks, MK. I sometimes wonder what William F. Buckley, Jr. would've thought of Fox (perhaps he said so in one of his later columns). I don't pay enough attention to the post-WFB "National Review" to know whether it's been Foxified -- or, again, whether conservative media in general are reflecting the same essentially reactionary temperament to which Buckley's NR offered a erudite, thoughtful alternative. If there's literally no safe place for a conservative or Republican to go on the air and say, "I think Obama's right about that, and I'm going to support him" (or for liberals to say the same about a conservative policy), the frustration of Americans who expect government to function rather than bicker and posture has to go somewhere -- perhaps into a centrist third-party movement of some kind.

I do think Obama has some accountability, for overestimating the dimensions of his mandate and thinking a bit too highly of his singular vision. Could he have better cultivated GOP moderates in '09? My impression is that he locked them out. The conventional wisdom is that a president has to be a steamroller the first two years for the sake of his or her vision. But what if a president decided her vision was eight years of collegial government?