Thursday, January 26, 2006

“Going Hollywood,” “Standing Tall in Georgetown” and “Back to the Reservation” : Conservative Terms and What They Mean

Going Hollywood has been a term conservatives have used for many years but has not been understood by the general public which is unfamiliar with its history. Now that Sen. John McCain is riding high in the polls, it’s bound to be referred to in conservative lexicon and blogs—so here’s what it means.

“Hollywood” applies to warm media approbation for fashionably stylish and popular politically correct opinion. Usually it pertains to Republicans, but Democrats can Go Hollywood by adopting a stand or two on the right. Almost all Republicans have Gone Hollywood at one time or other (Nixon often, supporting liberal welfare reform and creating the EPA). Barry Goldwater, too. Goldwater was elected and reelected Senator and then in his later years decided to Go Hollywood to embrace abortion rights and gay rights, whereupon he received major media attention as an enlightened statesman. The greatest living example a Republican Going Hollywood overnight was Rep. John B. Anderson (R-IL). A Goldwater conservative when elected in 1960, he was given a seat on the House Rules committee because (a) he was regarded as trustworthy by the Republican minority and (b) because he was taking a Rules seat formerly held by Rep. Leo Allen of Illinois who was fore-square an ally of such conservative Dems as Chairman Howard Smith (D-Va.), an opponent of racial integration and his sidekick Rep. William Colmer (D-Miss.) who later succeeded to the chairmanship. The Rules committee was picked to hold the line against progressive legislation, sit on it and kill it, sparing the entire House from voting on issues that were popular.

As a key Rules member, Anderson issued a “statement of conscience” on the civil rights bill of 1964 and announced he would vote to send it to the floor, thus earning himself buckets of favorable press from major media sources. (I thought Anderson Going Hollywood over civil rights then was the right and proper thing to do). But his conversion on civil rights was only the beginning. After he was pictured by The New York Times in the approved statesmanlike fashion, with forefinger pressed to his cheek as he stared thoughtfully out the window with the sunlight burnishing his white hair like a halo, he got to like it. He quickly moved into a monthly road-to-Damascus convert, winning the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference when Jerry Ford decided that it would look good for the leadership to have at least one liberal in its ranks.

Most Republicans believe it is necessary to Go Hollywood at least once, sometimes several times. For one thing, political survival often depends on it. Henry Hyde’s movement from abject opposition pure 2nd amendment rooter to assault weapon ban endorser (which as a Hyde loyalist I also supported) signified not just reexamination of the issue but recognition of the changing values of the suburbs which he represented. But notice he how did it—gradually and over a span of several years so as not to unduly disturb the base. Anderson’s Going Hollywood was governed by favorable press solely and his movement leftward went z-i-p, embracing campaign finance “reform” seemingly overnight which raised him to liberal canonization nationally where most of his colleagues stood pat. Then he switched from pro-life to pro-choice and he was soon Standing Tall in Georgetown, home of the trendy elite and most of the editorial columnists at the major newspapers and magazines. Soon he was billed as the Republican Democrats most admired. He became emblematic for Standing Tall in Georgetown, a phrase which comes from Allen Drury’s best-selling novel “Advise and Consent.”

Had Andersen been appointed to the Senate by Dick Ogilvie after Ev Dirksen’s death in 1969 where he would have been a colleague of Chuck Percy, his leftward trek would have paid off. But staying in the House while continuing to Go Hollywood cost him plenty. He got conservative flak in his district and opposition for reelection as Republican Conference chairman. Still he moved leftward, becoming a foe of the Vietnam war, arch-defender of abortion rights and a true, very-very blue state liberal. By 1980 he either had to fish or cut bait. He ran for president, won the Illinois presidential primary, lost everywhere else, competed against Ronald Reagan and others for 1980 delegates and after losing, left the Republican party to run as an independent. Later he flipped the kimono and declared himself a liberal Democrat whereupon he became forgotten by the media because he was just like all of its other favorites. Now he’ s a stodgy old guy in Florida who let Going Hollywood ruin him.

The latest example of Going Hollywood is, of course, media hound John McCain who has become the Democrats’ favorite Republican, embracing a wide variety of their favorite issues: campaign “reform,” steadfast erosion of firmness on abortion, an enemy of “torture” and a critic of President Bush’s stand on wire-tapping. No one Stands Taller in Georgetown than John McCain. But going Hollywood and Standing Tall in Georgetown is not the way to the Republican nomination—because the conservative base becomes displeased. McCain figures he can keep the base because of his previous prisoner-of-war legendary story: and maybe he can. He makes another appeal to the base by trying to cut pork. In this he is vastly more astute and sophisticated than Anderson who was nothing less than a Democrat in Republican closing toward the end of his GOP career. In contrast, Condi Rice can Go Hollywood simply by showing up (an African American woman educator, secretary of state, super tough against terrorists). She doesn’t need to go left but can go right as far as she wishes: I believe she can stay pro-choice and keep the base by pledging to follow Bush’s precedent on appointment of judges. Rudy Giuliani can’t Go Hollywood by merely showing up—and he needs some adjustment to solidify the base.

Going Hollywood is not exactly always unacceptable by any means but it must be done carefully. Bill Frist didn’t do it carefully with embryonic stem cells (he didn’t notify the White House before he did it). On a personal note, I decided to Go Hollywood for a short time when as a Commerce Department head of minority enterprise who couldn’t get along with the Nixon crowd and facing abrupt firing (having a wife, three kids and another on the way). Ever since, he’s been trying to go Back to the Reservation. It’s interesting that Barack Obama hasn’t Gone Hollywood by risking a token move to the right, believing he doesn’t need it. I think he does.

The best example of adroitly Going Hollywood is Bill Brady’s vote for state tuition help for the children of illegal aliens, he maintaining that punitive measures shouldn’t be visited upon the children. Conservatives feel Jim Oberweis is right on that point, that illegals shouldn’t be rewarded. Oberweis is right to stick with that point and the base is with him—but I think Brady helps himself by Going Hollywood because it distinguishes him from Oberweis; if he were a clone there’d be no sense running. Another good example of how to Go Hollywood is Mark Kirk who embraces abortion rights but who the base knows couldn’t have been elected in his affluent district without it: and so it forgives him. Kirk votes pro-abort but doesn’t trumpet it. Among Democrats, I think the best one to Go Hollywood is State Senator Susan Garrett, who very much impresses me as a terrific campaigner and outstanding communicator beyond anyone else in the Democratic state senate: but for her to Go Hollywood, she has to tip her hat to the right on something (maybe on taxes or spending), which she’ll figure out how and when to do one day.

Sorry to run on. Take it as the tell-tale mark of old age. If you took the time to read this, I’d sure like your views on Going Hollywood, Standing Tall in Georgetown and Back to the Reservation. Hit the Comments and give me your views.


  1. Naïve or not, I can't accept your characterization as "going Hollywood" candidates' attempts to take stands on principles that seem to contradict or cross party lines. If the press is drawn to these candidates in a manner that is stronger than the usual prompting suggests, I suspect it's because the visceral reaction expressed by the candidates is stronger than indigestion and compels the candidates to say something of more than passing interest.

    It's not the same as pandering. Astute observers normally recognize pandering. (A recent example: Senator Clinton's "When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about." )

  2. Why did you go along with Rep. Hyde on the assault weapons ban? For that matter, why did our guy Hyde support such an anti-Second Amendement piece of legislation? I thought he was a conservative?