During Ronald Reagan's 1966 campaign for governor of California, Republicans established the so-called Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."
It was proposed by State Republican Chairman Gaylord Parkinson to help prevent a repeat of the liberal Republican assault on Barry Goldwater that laid the foundation for Goldwater's trouncing in the 1964 presidential election. Just as Nelson Rockefeller and his East Coast cronies had branded Goldwater as an "extremist" who was unfit to hold office, so candidate George Christopher and California's liberal Republicans were leveling similar personal attacks on Reagan. Party liberals eventually followed Parkinson's advice, and the rest is history.
Sound familiar? Reagan, like his ideological brother Goldwater, was not a "mainstream" Republican of his day. He thought his parties' leaders were too wishy-washy; too much like Democrats. Ike, although a Republican, ruled more like a New Deal Democrat (although with a little more conservative edge to him at times). LBJ, an unpopular war-time president running an unpopular war, was able to win reelection in part by manipulating the more "moderates" in the "opposition" party to speak out against Goldwater as too "extreme." Sound familiar? Sure it does. Substitute Ike for Clinton, LBJ for Bush and, to some degree, Dean for Goldwater.
Reagan's genius was recognizing that in-party sniping gets you nowhere. And after a long-battle, he would unite the Republican party years later. Today, Republicans have learned from Reagan --- and not just the politicians, but the whole Republican machine, including its presence in the media. The New Republic, although supportive of our politics perhaps (they even pretty much agree with us and the clear majority of the American people on the war now), is part of a larger problem among Democrats. They get off on portraying themselves as "mainstream" and "moderate." But their energies are focused on other Democrats, not on Republicans.
Could you imagine the National Review or The Weekly Standard acting like TNR and going after others in the movement? On their own? And so personally? I mean, sure, if they are confronted with evidence that a Republican blogger is a plagiarist, they will denounce him.** BUT do you think they would have went out and independently created such a story? Of course not. They spend their time going after the Democrats . . . AND going after Republicans who do not abide by Reagan's Eleventh Commandment (such as Arlen Specter, their Joe Lieberman***). Could you imagine the National Review wasting its time going after other Republicans when the other party is in such a vulnerable position? No, they would be kicking us when we were down, and rightfully so. (The fact that Zengerle, Peretz, and co. are wasting their ammunition on others in the party is disgusting.)
This is all TNR has left to distinguish itself from the rest of the progressive movement. It proved itself wrong when it supported the war -- and its editor just endorsed a man who vehemently opposed the war for President in '08. All they have left to show "credibility is to attack the hordes in the blogosphere who were way ahead of them. From now on, we must just ignore them. In other words, screw them. And in retrospect, Kos should not have even responded to those clowns (I understand why he responded and I would have been even less measured, but perhaps that's why I am not running this community).
The fact is this: we must have our own Reagan Rule. No speaking ill of other Democrats, except those who violate the Reagan Rule and, unless they are politicians such as Lieberman, we should ignore them. We must stop giving the Republicans, in this time where we have a huge advantage against them, ammunition.
*I know that progressives in the generation above mine (I'm 30) have an intense dislike for Reagan that most progressives of my age do not; perhaps it is because Reagan was the President of our childhood that despite the many bad things he did, we still can't help but have some fondness.
**Whether this is intentional I do not know, but the links to the Corner's discussion of the Ben Domenech scandal all do not seem to work. Learn from that if you want.
***Lieberman's sin, of course, is not ideology. We endorse those who are more "conservative" than he (Schweitzer, Webb, etc.). His sin is violation of our own Eleventh Commandment.