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Thursday, March 24, 2005

"West Wing" Develops Science Fiction Sub-Plot

I was watching tonight's episode of The West Wing where Alan Alda plays the Republican Presidential nominee who is pro-choice, wants to cut spending by $2 for every $1 cut from the budget as a means of balancing it, makes a deal for a fair minimum wage because it's the right thing to do, and dresses down right wing fundamentalists for being political hypocrites, and I'm thinking to myself, what the hell world does John Wells live in that he thinks this is a Republican?

There is a considerable amount of nostalgia about these days for old-style Republicans, and perhaps the Alda character is an homage to this. But as Ben Regenspan over at Calyzer Journal notes, it may be a nostalgia for something that never was. He writes this time about a Seattle PI article entitled What Ever Happened to Real Republicans?:
When I was a boy, Republicans cherished personal liberty. Creating secret no-fly lists and spy-on-your-neighbor programs, turning medical records over to police, holding people without trial in hidden military compounds, saying it's legal to torture them -- that's how we thought only Communists would behave.
As convenient as the "they're not real conservatives" argument is for our side, I'm having trouble identifying any grounding in reality behind the "When I was a boy..." sentiment found in this and other 'Republican nostalgia' writings. The guy is holding up Barry "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice" Goldwater as an example of the pre-'spy-on-your-neighbor' conservative; Goldwater, who, while preaching the anti-interventionist line (sound familiar?), simultaneously argued for intervention against powerful labor unions, journalists who exposed secret arms shipments to mujahideen (NYT), "un-American" student journalists,etc., while defending McCarthy's witch-hunts. While it is clear that the basic principles of conservatism are being violated by the modern-day Republican party, I have trouble seeing Goldwater Republicans as an example of these elusive rightwing virtues either.
I guess the Alda character has passed through the filter of the "liberal media" and came out as a member of a party who would never, ever celebrate him. If the GOP gave a wild crap about who was popular with their membership, John McCain would've been the nominee in 2000. But they're in the business of dictating to their base, not listening to it, and I'd be better off watching that insufferable Kevin Sorbo show Andromeda or whatever it's called if I want something more grounded in reality.