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Bud Norman, "Ruminations on the State of the Republican Party"

Bud Norman, "Ruminations on the State of the Republican Party"

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Published by Bob Weeks
Bud Norman addressed members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club on October 4, 2013. The title of his presentation is “Ruminations on the State of the Republican Party."
Bud Norman addressed members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club on October 4, 2013. The title of his presentation is “Ruminations on the State of the Republican Party."

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Published by: Bob Weeks on Oct 05, 2013
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10/10/2013

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Bud NormanWichita Pachyderm Club presentation onOctober 4, 2013“Ruminations on the State of the Republican Party”I’d like to begin to by telling you how very honored I am by the invitation toaddress this august assemblage of anarchists and terrorists.Before explaining why it is such a privilege to be speaking to a gathering of moreor less mainstream Republicans, however, I feel obliged to give thanks to Bob Weeks for that flattering introduction. Bob, your comments about my writing are more than kind,they are accurate. You wouldn’t know it from looking at us in our current middle-agedand semi-respectable state, but Bob and I first met and became friends while hangingaround the original punk rock scene that sprang up in Wichita back in that era Ilaughingly call the “late ‘70s.” I also appreciate that he’s also done much to answer thequestions that I’m sure are foremost on your mind, which are “Who the hell is guy andwhy should we care what he has to say?”I plead guilty to the charge that I spent more than 25 years working for theWichita Eagle, and was even the last person ever hired to work for the late andunlamented Wichita Beacon, and to compound my sins I have also contributed to publications such as Time, the late and unlamented Newsweek, and The New York Times, in addition to a brief stint as a “death writer” for the Kansas City Star. AlthoughI’m reticent about it at the Church of Christ where I attend weekly services I’m also theauthor of “The Things That Are Caesar’s,” a satire of the religious right in my belovedKansas, as well as a yet-unpublished novel about a rockabilly-guitarist-turned-junior-high-math-teacher named John Mack Bridge. I am also the author of the daily rants posted Monday through Friday at the Central Standard Times dot com web site, andcontinue to work as a freelance journalist, writer, and copy editor. Despite my career in journalism and literature I am a rock-ribbed Republican and an uncompassionate sort of conservative, which of course has not made my working life any easier, so I have decidedto speak today about the prospects for our party and the principles I assume we generallyshare.Those of you who are familiar with my writing come forewarned that I mostlydeal in doom and gloom, and I’m afraid that I’m especially doomy and gloomy about thestate of our nation and our party’s chances of setting it right. There’s no using pretendingthat we don’t face daunting challenges. You don’t need to have spent that past 35 yearsworking in the news business to know that most of the traditional news media areconsistently hostile to the Republican party, and although their influence has been muchdiminished in recent years by declining readership and viewership and a widespread public distrust they remain a formidable opinion-making force. A far greater challengecomes from the entertainment media, which are even more monolithically liberal andmaintain an even greater power to affect the thinking of that vast majority of the countrythat pays little serious attention to politics but nonetheless insists on exercising its right tovote. The temperamentally apolitical portion of the country, which Rush Limbaugh hasaptly described as “low-information voters,” will always glean from the snippets of radionews and the jokes on the late night comedy shows a general impression that Republicansare nasty folks of a prudish disposition who want to spoil everyone’s good time.
 
Worse yet, most of these troublesome people have also been predisposed to believe this nonsense by their years of schooling. Way back in the ‘60s -- and you canfeel free to boo and hiss that cataclysmic decade -- young people began to follow theadvice of the Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci to commence a “long march through theinstitutions” and gradually take control of the educational, cultural, and governmentalestablishments. Partly because the more conservative types were naturally inclined toenter business and the professions, the project has proved far more successful thanGramsci would have ever dared to dream, to the point where the entire school system,from kindergarten through the graduate schools, is now largely devoted to promulgating aliberal worldview. Throw in the insidious effects of youth soccer leagues where everyonegets a trophy just for showing up, boyhoods full of bicycle helmets and chaperoned play-dates, a hook-up culture that has almost entirely supplanted the old rituals of courtshipand procreation, and various other aspects of our touchy-feely age, and the cumulativeeffect is a culture that imperceptibly and quite effectively inculcates almost all of theassumptions of liberalism.I will occasionally have conversations with today’s young people -- I don’trecommend that you try this yourself, by the way, as it is a most vexing experience bestleft to professionals such as myself -- and I am constantly struck by their unthinking and by now almost instinctive acceptance of all sorts of culturally sanctioned stupidity. It isnow widely assumed that the federal government’s most important duty is to take moneyfrom people have earned it and give it to those who have not, especially when the moneyis heading toward the people who entertain this notion. Socialism is no longer the slur that conservatives intend it to be, and capitalism is widely regarded as a system of “everyman for himself,” as the President of the United States is fond of putting it. It has now become pointless to appeal to the wisdom of Founding Fathers, as all the younger generation seems to know about them is that they were unforgivably rich and ownedslaves. Traditional morality is now widely regarded as an unhealthy sexual repression, a point frequently reiterated by popular entertainment, and the social stigmas that onceenforced such crucial civilizational rules as the prohibition against out-of-wedlock birthsare considered archaic fuddy-duddiness. America’s military might is viewed withsuspicion by the past several generations that never learned from Howard Zinn and his“People’s History of the United States” about the role it played in freeing millions of  people from the totalitarian ideologies of fascism and communism, much less the role itwill have to play in resisting the totalitarian ideology of Islamism, and the soothing allureof so-called “soft power” remains despite its obvious failure over the past five years.The great Ronald Reagan -- and damn, I miss voting for that man -- famouslylikened conservatism to a “three-legged stool” supported by a coalition of free-marketcapitalists, the advocates of traditional moral and social values, and national defensehawks. Each of these important strains of conservatism are under relentless attack by theforces I have previously described, but they are all too often a war with one another.Some of the conflicts within the conservative coalition derive from the verynature of its factions, of course. Capitalism’s creative destruction is often destructive of traditional values, and the traditionalists are often accepting of a certain level of governmental coercion that are anathema to the libertarian free-marketeers. Many peoplewho consider themselves libertarian are also heirs to a longstanding Republican strain of isolationism, which went into hibernation during the Cold War but has lately begun to
 
awaken as the inevitable weariness with the war on Islamist terrorism, and the so-called“neo-cons” are so-called because many of them are reformed liberals who retain asuspect willingness to accept a massive governmental presence in everyday life.These conflicts can be reconciled, I believe, but they are often exacerbated by thevery different temperaments that are drawn to the various ideas. To give you an idea of how the libertarians differ from the more traditional sorts of Republicans, when I was a baby-faced lad of 16 I had a summer job collecting the signatures required to get theLibertarian Party on the ballot. At one point that summer I traveled with two other workers to Kansas City, where we descended on a concert by Paul McCartney and Wingsat the old Kemper Arena with the idea of approaching all the people waiting in line,figuring they would be in a easy-going mood and willing to sign almost anything, andagreed to meet later a pre-determined spot. By the time we met up I was proud to say thatI had collected 50 signatures, another fellow said he’d added 60, and the third guy bragged that he had topped us both because he’d gotten 10 signatures, three scalpedtickets, and a bag of marijuana. I happily accepted the ticket to the show, but at thattender age declined the offer of a hit of pot. I think I might have been sitting close enoughto get what the kids call a “contact high,” however, as I still distinctly remember beingmost impressed by Linda’s singing. At any rate, two summers later I was working as anintern for Sen. Bob Dole, who was the time considered the very epitome of mainstreamRepublicanism, and I was struck by what a very different experience it was. Among myfellow interns that summer were future Kansas governors Sam Brownback and Mark Parkinson, and neither offered the same sort of freewheeling companionship. Well, Mark,maybe, which might explain his Republican apostasy, but certainly not Sam. Sam’s agood guy, just not a party animal.In addition to these ongoing internecine with battles within conservatism, another and even more worrisome fissure has lately become apparent. This pits the grassrootsactivists of the party, widely derided as “tea baggers” and extremists, versus the professional politicians and the more intellectual think-tanks and ensconced conservativemedia, who are routinely cursed as squishy “RINOs” and accommodationists or, mostdamning of all, the “establishment.” For those of us old enough to recall a time when itwas long-haired hippies in tie-dyed t-shirts who railed the “establishment,” it is a tellingmeasure of how times have changed that this now a term of opprobrium among the lawn-mowing, credit-card-carrying, baby-having base of the Republican party. In the all-important fights over Obamacare and the disastrous levels of government that are piling,the intra-party sniping between these two groups has lately become especiallyvituperative. The most intemperate sort of language has been employed by both sides,and the underlying anger threatens to rend the party at a time when unity is of the utmostimportance. If you’ve tuned in lately to the Mark Levin radio program you’ve probablyheard him railing against the likes of Charles Krauthammer and George Will and evenGrover Norquist as being traitors to the conservative cause, and with the same shriekingvehemence that he unleashes on the liberals. Levin is a most intelligent man, and hasdone much to advance the conservative cause, but the mass excommunications that heseems to be insisting on will not be helpful. If Grover Norquist isn’t a true conservative,as Levin is screaming, one wonders how many true conservatives there are in thiscountry. A few thousand, maybe, but certainly not enough to win any elections

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