After Bruce Bartlett’s amazing performance on Up with Chris Hayes today, it is hard to complain much about him. Just the same, I found much to dislike in his The American Conservative article, Revenge of the Reality-Based Community.
The biggest problem is that Bartlett spends half the article justifying his conservative credentials. But then he discusses his awakening to new ideas and new insights. These place him firmly inside the big tent of the Democratic Party. And yet, he still considers himself a Republican and can’t understand why the whole of the Republican establishment has turned its back on him. He even writes in a particularly vulnerable moment, “Honest to God, I am not a liberal or a Democrat. But these days, they are the only people who will listen to me.”
This is kind of sweet, actually. But he follows up that statement with a bit of Old Testament level hubris, “When Republicans and conservatives once again start asking my opinion, I will know they are on the road to recovery.” Let me get this straight: Republicans are deluded because they don’t listen to him and all he is telling them is stuff that liberals are eager to hear? Well, I’m sure that he’ll get a call from the Heritage Foundation any day now.
If it talks like a liberal and thinks like a liberal it is a fucking liberal! But Bartlett doesn’t want to believe that because it would make a mockery of his past belief. And so he has become a kind of apologist for the past Republican Party, complimenting it for its successes and ignoring its many failures. I don’t doubt that his many blind spots are genuine. In particular, he seems blind regarding the racism of his party for Bartlett’s entire life. Here he is trying to steal the black vote for the Republicans in 2008:
This is offensive in a couple of ways. Why would African Americans give a shit about the racism of the Democratic Party during the Depression? This is just brain dead stuff. Like all people, African Americans vote their interests and those don’t have anything to do with long, long ago. And then his comment about historical racism? Yes, it has diminished radically since the 1960s. I wonder why that is? Something about a Voting Rights Act or something? And the Republican Party continues to push policies that promote endemic inequality.
I don’t understand Bartlett, even as I feel much like him. He is an iconoclast. He is independent minded. Why can’t he take the next step and admit he was wrong about much in the past and that he is no longer a conservative?