January 20th, 2012

from _Rule and Ruin_

I've been reading this on and off for a while now, but smack in the middle of the book, Kabaservice describes _The Real Majority_, a book by "neoconservative Democrats" Richard Scammon and Ben Wattenberg. According to Kabaservice, the authors advised Democrats to "win over the moderate majority of Americans by emphasizing economic issues, minimizing the impact of the social issue" and aiming for the typical voter, "a forty-seven year-old machinist's wife from Dayton, Ohio." Remember, this is in 1970, during Nixon's first time. Nixon took it to heart enough to include the forty-seven year-old Dayton housewife line in his memoirs, apparently.

Kabaservice then goes on to _describe_ the representative for the Dayton housewife. "For most of the 1960s and 1970s, it was Congressman Charles W. Whalen Jr., who was considered to be one of the most progessive Republicans in the House." He had huge margins, and ran once _unopposed_, despite his district having "a two-to-one Democratic registration edge."

Kabaservice describes many of of Whalen's positions, and it's safe to say that I would not have had any trouble voting for Whalen in 1970 (if I hadn't been a 1 year old in a family of JWs living in Seattle, but let's ignore that for now) and probably would not have trouble voting for Whalen now. He self-described as an "orthodox realist" (I like that phrase!). He didn't just criticize the War on Poverty -- he backed the negative income tax proposal then circulating in progressive Republican circles and supported by many moderate Republicans. "Whalen came to oppose the [Vietnam] war primarily on economic rather than moral grounds." And he was fully prepared to take on the military-industrial complex as a whole on the same basis.

Whalen retired from Congress in 1979 and died last year, according to the wikipedia article on him. He protested in advance of the Iraq War in 2003.

I'm reading Kabaservice, because I find the current Republican party really incomprehensible and I'd sort of like to understand how it got to be that way. It's working, at least to the extent that when I listen to David Frum talk I mostly understand the main points he's hitting, whereas before, I just thought it was a bunch of nonsense. The secret decoder ring works at least partly. But I have to say, finding out about people like Whalen is sort of awesome in its own right. I would love to live in a world of "orthodox realists", if Whalen is a typical sample of the people in that world.

ETA: I don't know what Whalen might have meant by orthodox realist, and it is possible that orthodox realist has a technical meaning that I am unaware of. Googling suggests there's at least a geopolitical definition of some sort out there and I would not want to be misunderstood as endorsing that version of it. I'm only intending to say, hey, Whalen, super cool guy, very reality based and I like reality based.

ETAYA: Unfortunately, Whalen was anti-choice. *sigh* I wouldn't have voted for him after all.