It was day five of the National Review magazine’s Post Election Cruise 2012, and the GOP’s recent problems were, mercifully, about 760 nautical miles away. The cruise, featuring the star columnists of William Buckley’s 57-year-old conservative biweekly, had been planned long in advance, and everybody had believed it would be a victory party. An e-mail from the magazine’s publisher arrived a few days before we embarked: “Do not despair or fret. At least not next week.”Scooting past such conservative high points as Guantanamo and the Cayman Islands (who booked this thing?), the whole affair seems a perfect encapsulation of the modern conservative movement. A bunch of aging, decently well off white people get on a boat, play the slots for a while, and complain about what the country has come to:
Onboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, no one could follow his advice. “Who sent Obama here to destroy America?” a fiftysomething woman asked me one evening over dinner, as if it were a perfectly reasonable question. And here onboard the cruise ship, it was. If the Nieuw Amsterdam was a kind of ark of American alienation, at least it was an eminently comfortable one.
“Minorities came out like crazy,” said [Mitt economic adviser Kevin Hassett], sighing. “White people didn’t get to the polls. There are far more African-Americans voting than they expected.” […](His advice was to invest in Polish real estate, if you wanted to know.)
“I was in the middle of the fight against the propaganda, and I have stories like you wouldn’t believe. These people are so evil. They’re basically Fascists. It’s unbelievable.”
Rasmussen offered some friendly advice about approaching minorities. “You show them that you really care, you talk to them as grown-ups on a range of issues, you get them involved,” he suggested, “and you accept the fact that it’s a long-term investment. And you accept that you can learn as much from them as you can teach them.”It makes for a good read, at least. It is well known that one of the circles of hell is "cruise ship"; take the available escalator and you can go down to the next one, "cruise ship full of grumpy conservatives." (Perhaps the only thing keeping the whole escapade from ending in an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease was the attendees' own deep aversion to military service.)
This was harsh medicine to reluctant patients, and afterward some of them made their discomfort known. “That depressed me!” one woman said. To my right, a man snapped, “That’s bullshit!”
It also seems that the party strategists and other movers are no closer to edging their own base away from the current crop of conspiracy theories and crabby racism, much less towards anything more productive. Still, it makes you think. Maybe there will be cruise ship conservatism as a way of life, in the distant future? A new seafaring, rapidly aging population no longer comfortable with the scandalously 1990-ish tax rates and ever-so-slightly better health insurance provided in New America, but also unable to set down roots anywhere else. Because, after all:
“Jamaica is a dump!” complained Veronique Rodman, a spokeswoman for the American Enterprise Institute.Classic. Simply classic.