The Wrecking Crew

Thomas Frank is back. Following up his masterful What's the Matter With Kansas?, which explained how conservatives came to power over the past decades, Frank is about to publish a new book, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule. He's excerpted some of it in a new essay by the same title in the August Harper's; it's not yet available on-line, so I strongly recommend picking up a copy. Here are a few highlights to get you started:
Fantastic misgovernment is not an accident; nor is it the work of a few bad individuals. It is the consequence of triumph by a particular philosophy of government, by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society. [...] Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing top-notch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. [...] The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job.

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Let us start with conservatives' sense of their own exclusion. [...] The government is never theirs, they believe , no matter how much of it they happen to control. [...] For most of the past three decades these insurgents have controlled at least one branch of the government; they were underwritten in their rule by the biggest of businesses; they were backed by a robust social movement with chapters across the radio dial. Still they remain the victims, the outsiders; they fight the power, the establishment, the snobs, the corrupt.

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In 1981 came the turn of the College Republicans, where the right-wing takeover was led by none other than the future supercorruptionist Jack Abramoff. [...] Back in the Vietnam days it had been leftists who fought the power, he explained to reporters. But "now we're the campus radicals." [...] What the rising conservative sensibility of those years treasured above all else was "confrontation" with the left. It called for a quasi-military victory over liberalism; it would have no truck with civility or fair play; and it made heroes out of outrage-courting lib-fighters. [...] To see college kids in the street, chanting the slogans of the hard right -- this was a spectacle for which older Republicans, angered by what they had seen in the Sixties, were willing to pay a great price.

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You don't have to dig very deep into the conservative literature of the Eighties before you hit apartheid South Africa. [...] South Africa was essentially like us, and yet the liberals, with their sanctions and divestment strategies, with their airy do-gooder moralism, were prepared to sell out this loyal friend, just as they have sold out so many others.

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There is so much money in conservatism these days that Karl Rove rightly boasts, "We can now go to students at Harvard and say, 'There is now a secure retirement plan for Republican operatives.'"

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Like Bush and Reagan before him, John McCain is a self-proclaimed outsider, but should he win in November he will merely bring us more of the same: an executive branch fed by, if not actually made up of, lobbyists and other angry, righteous profiteers.

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