In P.G. Wodehouse’s 1938 novel The Code of the Woosters, there’s a great character called Roderick Spode. A parody of Sir Oswald Mosley, Spode is the dictatorial leader of a fascistic group called “The Black Shorts”. Bertie Wooster, the protagonist, describes his appearance “as if Nature had intended to make a gorilla, and had changed its mind at the last moment.”

Ultimately, Spode is thwarted when Bertie’s valet Jeeves reveals that he knows about “Eulalie”–which Bertie learns later is a ladies’ lingerie shop called Eulalie Soeurs that Spode operates. Spode fears that he will lose face if this becomes known to the other members of the Black Shorts.

Wodehouse was one of the greatest humorous writers of all-time, but Spode was a rare instance when he satirized a particular public figure. And a clever satire it was too; suggesting that a would-be dictator moonlights as an underwear designer instantly reduces them to figures of fun.

Of course, even in Wodehouse’s comic world, he still assumed that such people could be cowed by such basic things as shame. It was a more genteel universe that Wodehouse imagined, in which even the villains played by the rules.

Here we observe one of the dangers of academic tenure…

The short version, if you don’t have time to watch the video, is like this: evidently having nothing better to do, Roberto Unger, a former professor of President Obama’s, has concluded that same President Obama must be defeated. This defeat will, so he says, “allow the voice of democratic prophecy to speak once again in American life.”

Obviously, the good professor knows this will not happen under President Romney.  But the defeat of Obama is necessary to allow for true progressivism to return, he believes.

Let us look at history, shall we?  From 1968 until 1992, the Republicans won every Presidential election but one.  The Democrats finally got Clinton in ’92, but this was largely through the “New Democrat” strategy of adopting many laissez-faire Republican economic policies.  In other words, the Democrats accomplished their victory only by becoming much more like the Republicans on economic issues.  Not exactly what Prof. Unger is looking for.

Cast back a bit further, and we find the shoe on the other foot: From 1932 until 1952, the Republicans did not win a Presidential election. When they finally did win, it was with Dwight Eisenhower, a war hero and a man so friendly to the New Deal that Republican extremists suspected him of communism.  Clearly, the Republicans had to capitulate a good deal to the Democrats on economic policy.

In recent times, there are two instances where a party lost an election and four years later returned with a more extreme candidate: 1964 and 1980.  Goldwater was more extreme than Nixon, and he was crushed.  Reagan was more extreme than Ford, and he won handily.  So, it’s kind of a mixed bag.  (Not, of course, if you factor in charisma; then it is all quite explicable.)

The record is pretty clear: parties rarely favor their more radical economic policies in the wake of sound defeats.  They do just the opposite, trying to emulate and subsume elements of the winning party’s policies.  This is especially true for Democrats.  I therefore judge Prof. Unger’s plan a bad one.

(Video via Huffington Post.  Also check out this post about Prof. Unger at The Reaction.)

I’m reading the book The Conscience of a Conservative, ostensibly by Senator Barry Goldwater, but actually by L. Brent Bozell Jr. Though Goldwater didn’t write it, I assume that, since it was under his name, it reflected what he wanted people to think he believed. If we grant this, it is so far reaffirming everything I suspected about Goldwater; to wit, that he was a Libertarian, not a “Conservative” in the sense we mean it today.
People often think of Goldwater as shaping the modern Republican party. Many credit–or blame–him for clearing the way for Ronald Reagan’s election. This is, from what I can see, a falsehood except in the sense that Reagan learned from Goldwater’s failure. Goldwater was the last gasp of the old Republican party, and the last attempt is naturally the most wild and desperate. Thus, Goldwater’s rhetoric was more extreme than any previous member of the old Republicans had been. After all, he really was serious about this small government idea. 
It’s true that the rhetoric used in Conscience of a Conservative is very Tea Party-like, but it is only one side of the alliance. The cultural aspects of modern Republican party are missing from the book that represents Goldwater, and from his rhetoric generally.
I’m not saying, as Liberals sometimes do, that he would be displeased by the Republican party of today. I have no idea what he would think of modern Republican policy. Whether he would have liked it or not is irrelevant, however. What matters is that he wasn’t talking about their modern issues, and thus can’t be held responsible for inventing their platform.
Barry Goldwater was the greatest, most successful, and probably most popular libertarian Presidential candidate this country has ever seen, and he lost badly. Perhaps that means something. Perhaps not.