August 17, 2007
An op Ed piece in the Washington Post (August 14, 2007) prepared by Grover G. Norquist about why we should admire Karl Rove irritated the hell out of me. A tribute to the retiring presidential advisor by someone who is supposed to speak for the American Right, the text praises a man of deeds who “worked to create a conservative Republican majority in Congress.” In Texas, we are told, Rove helped to put the statehouse under the control of “Reagan Republicans,” and then he moved on to bring his “vision” up to the federal level, building up the “modern Republican Party as the dominant governing party.”
A question that I asked myself as I read this verbiage is whether those in charge of the Post’s editorial page know that perhaps millions of Americans on the right despise Rove. They consider him with considerable justification the wheeler-dealer who got Republicans to equivocate on racial and gender quotas. Among his accomplishments, he advised Republicans in Michigan not to support a referendum against affirmative action (which in spite of Rove passed); and as an advocate of outreach to Hispanic voters, he encouraged W to avoid taking a hard stand on illegal immigration. I”ve no idea why traditional Americans would have anything but contempt for Rove, who is a slimy party hack and certainly not a man of the Right. And I would guess that those who commissioned Norquist’s oily panegyric know damned well that Rove has few friends on the real Right. But he and Norquist, who is an immigration-expansionist, deregulating policy wonk, are exactly the kinds of “conservatives” who please the Post and most of the rest of the media apparatus. They typify a non-threatening opposition to the Left’s long-range plans for public administration, expanded immigration, and set-asides for minorities. This kind of pseudo-Right was what Sam Francis had in mind when he spoke about the “harmless persuasion.”
The “right center,” which Norquist and Rove represent, has moved leftward through most of my life. It is hard to see how W’s longtime advisor tried to buck that trend. It is likewise hard to comprehend why anyone favoring a reduced government bureaucracy, the imposition of order on our Southern border, and the removal of Wilsonian values and rhetoric from America’s foreign policy would have the slightest regard for Rove. Whether or not he was directly involved in the much publicized outing of Valerie Plame is something that history will have to clarify. That Rove illustrates the opportunistic “moderate” politics of his national party, one that is an albatross around the neck of the American Right, is for me beyond doubt. If the Post would ask my opinion, which I could not imagine happening, I would have to report that I feel no fondness for Grover Norquist’s bud. He stands for everything that irks me about our two-party democracy, which, together with the courts and the media, has stifled local government and buried real issues under the need to generate patronage. Rove’s official withdrawal from W’s staff, if he is in fact going, gladdens my heart, but I suspect that his look-alikes are still there, lurking around our current presidential frontrunners. With this one difference: Rove’s Democratic counterparts may actually believe in something more than manipulating their share of the electorate.