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Ross Douthat on the GOP's autopsy of the 2012 election, which recommends what Douthat calls "the 'donorist view' of how the Republican Party needs to change": embrace gay marriage and immigration reform while sticking to its economic agenda. Douthat has his doubts:

In a democracy, it isnt enough to move toward the public on issues of your own choosing; you have to show the voters that youre interested in what theymost care about as well. And on health care, education, jobs, you name it, the current G.O.P. is simply not equipped to meet that challenge.

Tim Parks considers the mixed blessings of the blogosphere, with its freedom from space constraints:

[N]o sooner does the Internet give us oceans of space than we realize that length was never just a problem of column inches. As with the editing process, which I discussed in a previous post, there is the question of an understanding between writer and reader about what kind of reading experience is being offered. Readers like to suppose that their favorite writersjournalists, novelists, or poetsare absolutely independent, free from all interference, but the truth is that if an author indulges his own private idiolect or goes on for too long, he can at best expect to divide readers into those who admire him slavishly, whatever he throws at them, and those who set him aside in desperation. At worst he will be left with no readers at all.

Paul Berman on Les Misrables; Victor Hugo; and the hero of youth, Franois-Ren de Chateaubriand:

The devotion to sadness that drives Hugos book contains one other twist that, absent a glance at Chateaubriand, you might end up overlooking, if only because Hugo himself, in his preface, declaims oratorically about poverty and ignorance and their consequences, and not about anything else. The extra twist is central to the plot, though. Chateaubriand in The Genius of Christianity paid the kind of attention to the problems and the prospects of the very poor that you might expect of someone who regarded Louis XVI as Christ, which is to say, none. He did sympathize with the sufferings of whole populations: the American Indians, the Africans who were sold into slavery, the Russians who were invaded by Napoleon, the Levantine Shia slaughtered by the French. He was not without compassion.But mostly he took an interest in the sufferings of people who are thwarted in lovethe people who are victims of forbidden desires. These are the unhappy lovers who cannot marry because they have pledged their hearts to someone from the wrong religion, or because their desires are incestuous, or because of both circumstances at the same time, which is hard to imagine, but Chateaubriand imagined it. What are these people to do, the thwarted lovers? Chateaubriand devoted thousands of pages to the conundrum.

About the Author

Matthew Boudway is an associate editor of Commonweal.



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Parks observation strikes me as well taken. Chauteaubriand? I've barely heard of him, and Berman's remark doesn't prompt me me to worry much about thos part of my ignorance. As for Douthat, all I can say is that I do feel sorry for an y serious person trying to make sense of the chaos in the GOP. Admittedly, as a yellow dog Democrat I'm not emotionally invested in their problems. As a citizen, I have to hope that they can come up with some constructive ideas. That would be a refreshing change.Matthew, thanks for the chance for me to show off a few of my not inconsiderable stock of prejudices.

I found the Berman article interesting. (Note: When Andre Gide was asked who was the greatest French poet he replied, "Victor Hugo. Alas". Sigh. Sad.)Good for Douthat for facing the facts. Would that CPAC did the same. Poor responsible Republicans, they have nowhere to go.

Neither party is going much of anywhere, Ann. Democrats are all for being modern and Republicans are all for holding out against a modernity that promises dissolution and chaos. Both are mere loose collections of half-baked ideologues with conflicting vague ideas about not very much. Where are the grown-up, experienced, honest, and articulate leaders with a deep understanding of history? This country is riding its ascendance into a future it's not prepared to think much about. Talk about sad.

David Smith, I have to object to the "both are" formulation when talking about our two formerly great political parties. The Democrats have been brain dead since, approximately, 1996. The Republicans, on the other hand, are stark, raving mad. There is a difference in causes, if not in results. The "both are" formula discourages voters and gets in the way of individual diagnosis.Douthat has actually found a truffle; the Washington games have little or nothing to do with what Americans want. (And our formerly great press has settled for scoring the games instead of being tribunes for the people.) I suspect, alas, we are in for four years of legacy-building.

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