It's hard to see what William Kristol brings to the discussion on anything. Today he analogizes the Republican and Democratic parties to the ruling and opposition parties in Britain, via, get this, a George Orwell essay on Kipling. Kristol writes:
“In a gifted writer,” Orwell remarks, “this seems to us strange and even disgusting, but it did have the advantage of giving Kipling a certain grip on reality.” Kipling “at least tried to imagine what action and responsibility are like.” For, Orwell explains, “The ruling power is always faced with the question, ‘In such and such circumstances, what would you do?’, whereas the opposition is not obliged to take responsibility or make any real decisions.” Furthermore, “where it is a permanent and pensioned opposition, as in England, the quality of its thought deteriorates accordingly.”
If I may vulgarize the implications of Orwell’s argument a bit: substitute Republicans for Kipling and Democrats for the opposition, and you have a good synopsis of the current state of American politics.
The "vulgarization" overlooks the entirely unavoidable fact that the US government is designed with three branches. If a party controls one of them–say, Congress–then that party isn't an opposition party. Alright, so the premise of this piece is strained. But what about the main point, someone may wonder.
Having controlled the executive branch for 28 of the last 40 years, Republicans tend to think of themselves as the governing party — with some of the arrogance and narrowness that implies, but also with a sense of real-world responsibility. Many Democrats, on the other hand, no long even try to imagine what action and responsibility are like. They do, however, enjoy the support of many refined people who snigger at the sometimes inept and ungraceful ways of the Republicans. (And, if I may say so, the quality of thought of the Democrats’ academic and media supporters — a permanent and, as it were, pensioned opposition — seems to me to have deteriorated as Orwell would have predicted.)
So this stuff Orwell–I can't believe he actually used Orwell–said about the opposition party was merely a means of saying the "quality of thought" of the "opposition" and its "academic and media supporters" has "deteriorated." One would be curious to know how, in particular–or jeez even in general–the "quality of thought" of the academic and media supporters has "deteriorated." Could Kristol at least give an example of this particular claim?
The freakish, yes freakish, thing about this article is that Kristol goes on to use this Orwellian premise to complain about the Democrats' obstruction of legislation aimed at protecting private companies from the legal consequences of their participation in warrantless–and therefore illegal–surveillance:
But the Democratic House leadership balked — particularly at the notion of protecting from lawsuits companies that had cooperated with the government in surveillance efforts after Sept. 11. Director McConnell repeatedly explained that such private-sector cooperation is critical to antiterror efforts, in surveillance and other areas, and that it requires the assurance of immunity. “Your country is at risk if we can’t get the private sector to help us, and that is atrophying all the time,” he said. But for the House Democrats, sticking it to the phone companies — and to the Bush administration — seemed to outweigh erring on the side of safety in defending the country.
He should have worked Orwell into that paragraph.