Cat Scratch Fever: The Ted Nugent Conservatives

It is futile today to try to understand what is happening through the traditional framework of Democrat vs. Republican. So much has changed since the beginning; class status and wages since Roosevelt have somewhat equalized in a vast middle class; integration has come to the South; moral and ethical issues have become regionalized; and new groups like Libertarians are gaining ground. East vs. West, Roosevelt vs. Barry Goldwater, heartland vs. big city are abstractions that better express where we might be heading.

It is, however, now possible to see instead a clear division of four distinct political families, one of which could well claim our destiny in the new century. The four are: Kennedy liberals, of which President Obama is the current champion; Clinton liberals, who send forth loyalists like Hillary and Terry McAuliffe; and, on the other side of the spectrum, the traditional George H.W. Bush conservatives and a new group which might be called Ted Nugent conservatives.

The Nugies are the most interesting group right now, as they are an awakening force in America. The state sovereignty movement, in which 31 states have presented initiatives, are Ted Nugent conservatives. The nationwide anti-tax Tea Party-goers of April 15, including those who stood with Ted and Rick Perry, governor of Texas, at the Alamo to oppose incursions by the federal government are Ted Nugent conservatives. The 30,000 who signed on for a massive national phone conversation on Thursday night with Perry and Mark Sanford, gornor of South Carolina, on the same topic are Ted Nugent conservatives.

As he expressed himself in Human Events recently, The Nuge’s perspective might be seen as simple and uplifting:

There are really only four things I have a strong aversion to: unloaded guns, dull knives, banjos, and Republicans in Name Only (RINOs) ... RINOs are Fedzilla punks who feign support for conservative principles only when it serves their political interest. RINOs are also known for their moderate positions such as supporting tax increases, federal "bailouts," "comprehensive immigration reform," advocating more counterproductive gun control that guarantee [sic] more innocent victims, opposing the death penalty, and growing and sustaining Fedzilla and all its toxic mongrels by going along with the liberals. ... My specialty is making Fedzilla punks squirm and turn into a puddle of sweat and drool. Therefore, in the spirit of famous butt kickers Generals Chesty Puller and George Patton, I say we launch an attack on all fronts. Uncle Ted hereby declares it is open season on RINOs. No bag limits or permits required. Conservative ideas, arguments and votes are the weapons we will use.

This week Perry, a personal friend of Uncle Ted, has taken leadership of this constituency. Hollywood-handsome and with that earthy Texas touch of LBJ that gets him photographed playing with dogs, his appeal will be strong outside of New York, New Jersey and most of New England. Revolution begins as a rumor, then a feeling or sensibility; a half-drunk crowd massacred by British soldiers in Boston, a ruckus at the Alamo. Hagiographers and propagandists will come later. What you really need to get things boiling is a wild man; a John Brown or a James Otis, an early champion of the American Revolution in Boston. Ted would fit the bill. There couldn’t be a better one to send the eloi at The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and up by the Dakotas into toxic apoplectic shock. He hunts with high-powered rifles. He probably hunts penguins. He probably eats them. He called Hillary a bitch.

It has been reported that in a poll commissioned by DailyKos, nearly half of Texas Republicans think their state would be better off leaving the United States and becoming an independent nation. Another poll in Georgia showed that 43 percent of Republicans believe their state would also be better off on its own.

Right now Ted Nugent Conservatives would include Perry, Sanford, Libertarian Ron Paul and Sarah Palin. And Richard Viguerie, architect of the vast, game-changing Christian Coalition’s influence in the Reagan period, will find a better house here than any he has shared. In a “Washington Journal” interview on C-SPAN last night promoting his book, Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause, he mentioned “Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal [governor of Louisiana] and Mark Sanford” as “good governors.” Palin has just received an $11 million advance on a book. She is not going anywhere.

Mitt Romney, said to have been first choice of the Bush camp in 2008, with Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Jeb Bush, are walking softly lately to gain influence in a party that is becoming increasingly Catholic. It is also a party that is rapidly losing influence. The RINOs — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arlen Specter and the few remaining New England Republican senators — are going over to Obama. They carry the torch of the modest Eastern Republican tradition. That is not a bad thing, but as yesterday’s events at Notre Dame pointed out, the Catholics at Notre Dame will increasingly turn to the rebels now over the soft-spoken and polite. And the Alaskan governor recently preceded Obama in Indiana and was greeted with overflow crowds. This was a bold step. She first took the initiative on an issue in direct opposition to Obama. This issue and the others will need a new start; a new agenda; new people. Need fire, not nice.

It is worth noting that a recent Gallup poll shows that more Americans describe themselves as “pro-life.” For the first time since 1995, 51 percent of American adults said they consider themselves “pro-life.” Forty-two percent consider themselves “pro-choice.” The Los Angeles Times reports that this represents a significant shift from years past. As recently as last year, 50 percent of respondents called themselves “pro-choice,” while 44 percent identified themselves as “pro-life.” Perhaps we are at a generational sea change on this most critical of moral issues.

To find perspective, it helps to look to the beginnings of things and follow the accomplishments and the desired goals over time. As C. Vann Woodward pointed out in his classic, The Burden of Southern History, the North considered three goals rising into the Civil War period: the prevention of Southern secession, freedom for the slaves and equality. Lincoln and Grant accomplished only the first and the second, but equality was hard wrought until integration in the 1950s and 1960s brought an unprecedented change. The Kennedy movement and the civil rights initiatives in that period and the election of Barack Obama as the first black president may have accommodated the third. These fairly recent goals hark back to the 1860s to their beginnings.

The conclusions of social movements will be glorified and their agents deified as George Washington is shown rising up to heaven in an apotheosis portrait in the Capitol today. The recent swell of hagiography about Lincoln likewise deifies the Great Emancipator. These are victory dances. “What Shall We Do with the Negro?”: Lincoln, White Racism and Civil War America by Paul D. Escott Reynolds, professor of History at Wake Forest University, offers correction and perspective.

But vastly different and unrelated historical periods move in and overlap. Shifts in economy, movements in population and other events, like wars abroad for entirely different purposes, change people and shift the paradigm. When economy and new populations went to the South after World War II a new moment arose with the election of Ronald Reagan. It brought an awakening in the countryside. As historian Dan Carter pointed out, new values and sensibilities awakened and new political perspectives on church and culture contrasted dramatically and intentionally with the dominant Northern tradition. The heartland — the vast panorama of Waylon Jennings, Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Tammy Wynette and Merle Haggard — a previously undiscovered hinterland in political imagination, was suddenly real and competitive.

They were birth pains. That moment has come again to the Alamo, and I think now it will not go away.


Visit Mr. Quigley's website at http://quigleyblog.blogspot.com.