Bruce Bartlett Walks Like a Duck

Bruce BartlettAfter 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:

I thought knowing the Democratic Party’s pre-1964 history of racism, which is indisputable, would give Republicans a story to tell when they went before black groups to solicit votes. I thought it would also make Republicans more sympathetic to the problems of the black community, many of which are historical in their origins. Analyses by economists and sociologists show that historical racism still holds back African-Americans even though it has diminished radically since the 1960s.

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?

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Bruce Bartlett Walks Like a Duck

  1. One more, I can’t help myself. George Romney, Mitt’s dad, then-governor of Michigan, ran against Nixon in the 1968 primary. He insisted on making urban (read: Black) poverty an issue, even though his advisers told him not to. Romney wanted to alleviate poverty — with the standard dumb conservative mantras, he was a staunch anti-union guy and total tool of car companies. Yet he meant well, and got nuked by Nixon for even so much as suggesting that Black people existed.

    I won’t bother comparing George to his douchewipe son. What I will say is that conservatives are essentially boatless, now. Once upon a time they could be semi-principled and semi-rooted in reality. Having had their guidelines followed and failed (if transferring wealth from workers to owners is a failure by their lights), there’s no place for the nutjob who thinks further deregulation will solve everything. (Well, maybe Ron Paul.)

    When your ideology is out of power and has no hope of being enacted, it’s easy to pimp it as the cure to all ills. "Fiscal conservatives" have ruled the day for a long time, and their proscriptions have been disastrous at best. Why should anyone support a moderate Republican nowadays? Either what ultras say is batshit insane or so true that we’re screwed for not following it more fervently.

  2. @JMF – I don’t remember when Nixon started the "southern strategy." Was it as early as the 68 primary? It doesn’t really matter. He was a bigot. So was Reagan. At least: they were bigots enough to use racism for political gain.

    I think the only reason Ron Paul has any support whatsoever is his position on drug legalization. But as much as I value that, it is overwhelmed by his other beliefs. Even when I was a libertarian I rejected him because he was anti-choice. (What kind of a libertarian is anti-choice? A fake one!)

    If a major constituency of my party believed that the world was only 6 thousand years old, I would at least be embarrassed and most likely divorce myself from the party.

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