Saturday Research

After two weeks of constant posts I let yesterday slip by without one. I hope my seven readers weren’t too disappointed. Seven readers is what I claim for my biweekly column in Duluth’s tabloid the Reader Weekly – “the best paper money can’t buy.”

For last week, the second of its existance, this blog has averaged 300 daily hits. Since it has a couple dozen pages that suggests 20 to 40 visiters a day. It goes without saying that my select readers are the creme de la creme.

Its not as though I didn’t have anything to say but yesterday was more of a day for catching up with my reading and reflection. Among the most interesting articles I read was a review of Kevin Phillips new book American Theocracy. Phillips was the prescient young conservative who predicted the conservative sweep of America back in the late 1960’s. He’s spent much of the last two decades slowly recoiling from the worst excesses of that revolution. He’s one of my intellectual heroes. Phillips sees very little “conservative” in today’s Republican Party.

Another article which caught my eye was a NY Times Magazine piece written by Zev Chafets. It begins with a short, mortifying description of Lynchburg, Virginia, but goes on to give a remarkably charitible story about Liberty University’s debate team. I’d read about their success a few weeks ago and had thought about writing a dismissive column about the team and the ambitions of its greatest champion the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Falwell’s been reported as saying that he’s training a new generation of  young lawyers who will sweep America with their verbal skills to promote good religious and conservative values. Its just the latest example of the Republican penchant for organization.

“Conservatives” have been methodical in the sweep the Phillips describes. Like the Avis car rental company having to work harder than number one Hertz Rental, conservatives had to work harder to best Democrats who ruled the roost until the Reagan Revolution.

First it was Richard Vigure who cultivated massive lists of conservative leaning folks for his direct mail fundraising. Then it was the establishment of dozens of conservative think tanks to promulgate and diseminate conservative dogma. Then it was a legion of politically street smart young political operatives raised from the ranks of College Republicans which were tended to with care by the National Republican Party. The Moral Majority brought in religiously orthodox but independent churches, knitting them together and weaning them from their traditional disdain for the temporal world of politics. Finally, when Republicans took control of Congress, it was the K Street Project which put a gun to the head of corporate America forcing it to hire eager young Republicans almost exclusively. Those lobbyists then saw to it that the lion’s share of Corporate PAC money went to Republicans.

I suspect that Falwell’s young debators will find it more and more difficult to win over Americans when, like seeds, they are finally broadcast onto the Earth. The incompetence of President Bush and whistle blowers like Phillips will inocculate America against the worst excesses of fundementalist self righteousness. 

This will resemble nothing so much as the conservative movement’s inocculation of America against the smug self righteousness of Liberals in the 1960’s and 70’s.