Wednesday, January 19, 2005

My modest contribution to the political lexicon

Where politics is concerned, I believe in accomodation whenever and wherever possible. Not compromise or capitulation, but treating others as they prefer to be treated -- according them the dignity and respect due one's opponents. After all, if those opponents weren't worthwhile or important, I wouldn't be debating or attacking them, would I?

With this in mind, I've been wracking my brain for alternatives to the words "neoconservative" and "neoconservatism." The neocons have been bitching for lo on two years now that "neoconservative" and "neoconservatism" are just code words for "Jewish conservative" and "Jewish conservatism" -- with the strong implication that it's the Jewishness, rather than the conservatism, that the person using the terms objects to.

Never mind that all not all neoconservatives are Jews.

Never mind that any number of other political movements prominently feature Jews as intellectual models and leaders (including the broader libertarian movement to which I belong -- ever heard of Ayn Rand, nee Alissa Rosenbaum? Murray Rothbard? Barry Goldwater?).

Hell, never mind that neoconservatives invented the title themselves and wrote books expounding their ideas under that name.

The idea that use of the term "neoconservative" or "neoconservatism" is some kind of anti-Semitic code is so much hogwash. But if neoconservatives -- Jewish or non-Jewish -- don't want to be called neoconservatives any more, that's good enough for me. Say no more, and no need to get nasty about it.

What, then, to call them? After a good deal of cogitation on the matter, I believe I've hit upon an appropriate moniker.

The former neoconservatives have a rich and varied history, hailing from exotic political environments like the pre-WWII Trotskyite movement, the Max Schactman faction of the Socialist Party of America (now known as Social Democrats USA), and the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party. However, of late they've tended to make their home in the Party of Lincoln. There are exceptions, but that's the rule. I therefore think it fitting to dub them "Republicans."

That's not specific enough, of course. There are all kinds of Republicans. Conservatives. Social conservatives. Moderates. "Republicans in Name Only." A modifier is called for to differentiate them from the partisan background noise, and I can conceive of no better place to look for that modifier than in a contrast of the former neoconservatives with their most powerful opponents within the Republican Party.

Those opponents currently style themselves the "Republican Realists." I don't know if that handle is a reaction to the Bush administration's public notice that it doesn't belong to the "reality-based community," or if its origin lies in some other, earlier feud. Suffice it to say that the "Republican Realists" -- Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell et al -- are men with one foot still in the Cold War era. They're cautious. They think in terms of diplomacy and "signaling," with military force as a last option and usually then only to achieve or maintain something resembling the status quo ante with respect to whatever situation they address. A contrast, indeed, from the neoco ... uh, from their opponents' ... emphasis on "creative destruction," "worldwide democratic revolution" and so forth. Not to mention a contrast in terms of respect for fact and, well, reality.

real, adj. 10. coinciding with reality [WordNet (r) 2.0]

surreal, adj. 1. characterized by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtapositions ... [op. cit.]

Very well, then. "Republican Surrealists" it is! Happy now, Mr. Starr?

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