]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]         BACK AT THE CLUB         [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[ 
                          By Tom Bethell,                (11/11/1988)
    Author, Commentator, Wash. Corresp. of the AMERICAN SPECTATOR,
                  and long-time AtE subscriber
                   [NATIONAL REVIEW, 11/7/88]

     This spring I was the after-dinner speaker at a convention held 
by one of the two main GOP clubs in California.  Pat Robertson, still 
in the race, was the main luncheon speaker.  Perhaps a hundred 
Robertson supporters had shown up.  The word was they were trying to 
take control of the club.
     They failed--there weren't enough of them.  But it was 
interesting to note the discreet indignation of the party regulars; it 
was obvious that they regarded the Republican Party as their party--
outsiders not welcome. If the event was any guide, the GOP is still 
stuck with the problem that those who run it would rather lose the 
election than lose control of the party.
     At one point I quietly mentioned to one of the regulars that the 
GOP should make it its goal to get rid of affirmative action.  He gave 
me a worried look, as though he feared that a federal judge might come 
bursting through the door and throw us all in jail if I kept up that 
kind of careless talk; perhaps we weren't sufficiently representative 
of the community as a whole or something.  (I doubt if we were.)
     In my remarks I expressed sympathy for the Robertson people, 
suggesting that the GOP was still dominated not so much by people who 
didn't want to win the war as by people who didn't know they were in a 
war.  I added that the Democratic Party had been taken over by people 
who no longer believed in the rule of law; their agenda was one of 
unlimited government, and anti-American at its core.  (Cheers from the 
Robertson corner, uneasy looks elsewhere.)
     Later I was invited to meet with the Robertson people.  They were 
younger than the regulars.  It was clear by this time that their 
efforts to pressure the club had failed.  What should they do? They 
couldn't bear to go home quite yet.  I gathered their previous 
involvement in politics had been minimal, although some were 
disaffected Democrats.
     These were the people the Vice President's son, Neil Bush, 
referred to last fall as "cockroaches" who "issued from the baseboards 
of the Bible Belt."  They may have lacked sophistication, but their 
great merit was that they did know there was a war on, manifested, for 
example, in abortion and in the liberal hostility toward the idea that 
the U.S. should be defended.  Ready for combat, they were being kept 
off the team.
     If President Reagan's recent Cabinet appointees (cleared 
beforehand with Bush) are any guide, a Bush Administration will be 
business as usual for the GOP.  The country-clubers will arrive in 
Washington ready to take orders from the bureaucracy and 
(unconsciously) the New York Times.
     Most GOP appointees in recent decades have regarded Washington as 
a place where they can improve their resumes and enjoy a change of 
pace from Rotarianism and Wills & Estates.  They see themselves as 
managers--the Democrats being unaccountably short on management 
skills.  They accept a division of labor as though it flowed naturally 
from the two-party system itself: the Democrats decide on policy and 
the Republicans manage it.  Businessmen see this as inevitable.  
Unlike the Democrats, they "know how to meet a payroll."  A handful of 
Reagan appointees have shown that the agenda can be wrested from the 
democrats.  Bill Bennett and Jean Kirkpatrick come to mind.  But few 
Republicans who were not once themselves Democrats dare try anything 
so risky.
     In Washington (as your run-of-the-mill GOP apppointee has tended 
to see things), underlings will tell you what has to be done day to 
day.  Tread carefully, however.  Stray off the path of virtue and the 
Washington Post will fire a shot across your bows.  Always remember 
you're a guest in the Democrats' town.  Go to a Brookings seminar or 
two, maybe even risk a rendezvous at the Heritage Foundation.  (But do 
steer clear of the Far Right---Richard Viguerie, Jesse Helms & Co.)  
Maybe one day you may even receive a dinner invitation from Katharine 
Graham.
     The GOP has remained so immune to conservative influence for so 
long because there have been so few politically active conservatives; 
not enough to attain critical mass within the party.  In the Nixon 
years, when Howard Phillips was battling the Office of Economic 
Opportunity and Pat Buchanan shocked Washington with his back-talk to 
the Ervin Committee, conservative activists in the Washington area 
could easily fit into one room and sometimes did--usually in outer 
Arlington.  Today the conservatives, at full strength, could fill a 
house or two in McLean, Virginia.
     Assistant Attorney General Stephen J. Markman, hunting in recent 
years for candidates for the federal judiciary, concluded that there 
was a "missing generation" in American political life.  Within a 
certain age group (approximately 45 to 65) it has been hard to find 
qualified Republicans who understand the difference between limited 
constitutional government and goal-oriented judicial policy-making.  
Probably we are looking here at the long shadow of the Depression and 
World War II, which in succession delegitimized conservatism and 
encouraged the belief that good policy is by definition bi-partisan.
     The good news is that the younger generation moving into the 
party is much more conservative than the get-along businessmen they 
are supplanting.  This is true even of the baby-boomers.  Those who 
have abandoned the leftist causes of their youth have retained the 
enthusiasm of their youth, and many are now disposed to give battle to 
their former Sixties comrades.
     The next generation includes a large number of conservative 
activists.  I suspect therefore that it is only a matter of time 
before they take over the Republican Party and, at last, take on the 
Democratic Party.  But it hasn't happened yet. Dare one hope, 
nonetheless, that the end of the Reagan Era will also be the end of 
the Eisenhower Era?

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