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11/8/2012
Can the GOP Win Without the Crazies?

Birthers, truthers, paranoids, conspiracists — the whole angry, resentful, frightened mob of right wingers who make up a good portion of the Republican base scares the wholly living hell out of most of the rest of us. They exist on a different plane of reality — uncomfortable with deep thinking, irrational when their delusions are challenged, and unable to climb out of the echo chamber in which they find comfort and support with other like minded crazies.

Worse than who and what they are, the establishment Republicans and even other rational conservatives tolerate them, dismiss them as inconsequential, or actively encourage them in hopes of using their energy, activism, and money to win office.

I categorize the crazies, recognizing there is overlap in and redundancy in my taxonomy:

1. The Birthers. Still alive and kicking and insisting that either a) Obama wasn’t born here; or b) he is an illegitimate president because he’s not a “natural born citizen.” They’ve only got 4 more years to prove their case.

2. Conspiracists. Runs the gamut from the birther issue mentioned above to the idea that hundreds of reputable scientists are colluding to cook the books on global warming. Several prominent congressmen - Michele Bachmann among them — have joined this group by wondering if Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s close aide, isn’t a Muslim Brotherhood plant.

3. Anti-Science crackpots. Enter the evangelical right who dismisses evolution, the Big Bang Theory, as well as other right wingers who worry about vaccinations and are convinced a woman can’t get pregnant from rape because her body automatically shuts down to prevent it.

4. Anti-intellectual. Dismissing out of hand any criticism from anyone who they believe isn’t a conservative. They are suspicious of anyone who went to an Ivy League school or who thinks for a living, and they reflexively reject nuance and logic because if you don’t feel it in your gut, you’re probably a squishy moderate.

5. Paranoids. Pure Hofstadter. Read.

6. Cry “Communist!” and let slip the dogs of war! Is there anything loopier about the crazies than their belief that the US is turning into a Marxist dictatorship? Sheesh.

It is an open question how large this segment of “conservatives” might be. Being in a better position than most to hazard an intelligent guess, I would put the percentage at more than 25% but less than 35%. I don’t believe any polls on the matter for the simple reason that the way questions about birtherism or socialism are formulated sweeps up many on the right who have questions about such things, but don’t give them much credence.

So, how much did fear and loathing of the GOP crazies by ordinary voters contribute to the party’s debacle on Tuesday?

On Wednesday, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray said the decisive Senate victories for her party had “proved to Republicans that extremists are dooming their party to disaster.”

“If Republicans want to follow the Tea Party off a political cliff, that’s their prerogative,” Murray said on a conference call with reporters. “But we will not let them take America off a cliff.”

Sorry, but it’s far more complicated than that. The self identified “Tea Party” has many faces, many factions — some of whom are rational libertarians, thoughtful federalists, or plain old Main Street Republicans.

But there is no doubt that the energy, the dynamism, and the soul of the Tea Party movement can be found in the angry, contorted faces of its members screaming about “Communism” and “Socialism” at rallies across the land. They are a fraternity of, for the most part, middle aged, Middle Class angry white males who believe they see the country they grew up in slipping away. Their vision of what America was like — a vision that obscures or ignores the more unseemly aspects of American society in decades past — lives on in Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” (a phrase The Gipper stole from Puritan leader John Winthrop). It’s a precious, if completely fanciful vision of an America that never was, but is embraced because it validates the sincere patriotic feelings felt by most ordinary Americans. They fear change because it is unsettling to have America’s perfection challenged in such a stark and obvious way.

America is changing — has always changed — and this has always unnerved some of us. It’s too easy to explain it away by saying that racism is the motivating factor in their hate. By limiting one’s explanation to the loss of white privilege, you lose sight of the traditionalist nature of their opposition to President Obama and his leftist allies.

Ed Kilgore:

As we have seen throughout history, cultural despair can lead to quiescence—to the withdrawal from politics and the building of counter-cultural institutions—or to hyper-activism—to the building of self-consiously counter-revolutionary political movements that exhibit contempt for democracy and treat opponents as enemies on an almost existential level. Maybe the kind of stuff I quoted above just reflects an emotional hangover from an election conservatives convinced themselves they were going to win. But it’s hardly new; much of the Tea Party Movement and its “constitutional conservative” ideology has involved a strange sort of anti-Americanism cloaked in super-patriotism. It wouldn’t be surprising if the same people reacted to the re-election of Barack Obama by taking their hostility to America as it is to another level.

For better or worse, the Tea Party has become the Tao of the GOP. Trying to remove them would sap most of the energy and activism from the party, which is why you don’t see too many establishment or mainstream Republicans trying to marginalize them.

But despite Kilgore’s use of scare quotes for “constitutional conservative” — as if this isn’t a valid philosophical construct or something to be feared or belittled — there is actually a purpose to the Tea Party’s obsession with the Constitution. The Kilgore’s of the world definitely don’t want to debate this, but the notion of “limited” government is at the heart of the Tea Party critique of the American government. Many of them have almost a biblical belief in the sanctity of the Constitution, that it must be taken literally, word for word like the Bible, and if something like national health care doesn’t appear in it, it is by definition “unconstitutional.” Others have a childlike understanding of the meaning of federalism, or the commerce clause, that makes them suspicious of anything that augments those concepts.

But despite all this, they are the only Americans willing to debate the limits of power granted to the federal government by our founding document. In this respect, the left, who prefer to keep their options open when it comes to defining limits on federal power, finds it convenient to tar tea partiers as racists, or authoritarians, or, as Kilgore does, anti-American. Some may be all of those, but to dismiss the argument they are making with scare quotes and name calling fails to recognize the value in what, in their own misguided way, they are trying to accomplish. I would venture to say that not since the ratification debates of 1787-88 has the Constitution been so seriously studied and debated. It’s a debate that needs to happen if there is any hope of maintaining a healthy balance between individual freedom and the needs of society to progress.

But the Tea Party does not represent the totality of the GOP crazies problem. Radical Christians who want to deny basic rights to gays, and even to women, are a far larger quandary. They vote. And no candidate for the presidency who runs on the Republican ticket can avoid toeing the line on their issues. If Mitt Romney had stood up to them by maintaining his position on gay marriage, abortion and other social issues, it is very likely he would not have been nominated. It’s at least partly the reason that governors like Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie refused to enter the GOP field in 2012. Catering to the concerns of people who believe the earth was created 6,000 years ago proves to be too much for some.

It would be a dream solution for the evangelicals, the tea party, and the other crazies to form their own party, as Herman Cain suggested:

Herman Cain, the former presidential candidate who still has a robust following via his popular talk radio program and speaking tours, today suggested the most clear step to open civil war: secession. Appearing on Bryan Fischer’s radio program this afternoon, Cain called for a large faction of Republican Party leaders to desert the party and form a third, more conservative party.

“I never thought that I would say this, and this is the first time publicly that I’ve said it: We need a third party to save this country. Not Ron Paul and the Ron Paulites. No. We need a legitimate third party to challenge the current system that we have, because I don’t believe that the Republican Party … has the ability to rebrand itself,” Cain said.

Rush Limbaugh agrees:

Rush Limabugh, two months ago, echoed the sentiment. ”If Obama wins, let me tell you what it’s the end of: the Republican Party. There’s gonna be a third party that’s gonna be oriented toward conservatism,” he said.

Well, some people’s idea of “conservatism” anyway.

Of course, a third party of anti-abortion and anti-gay activists, evangelical Christians, radical anti-government Objectivists, and paranoid loons would never win a national election. But then, neither would the GOP. This wouldn’t exactly be a split between ideologues and pragmatists, but it would clearly define the divisions in the conservative movement and Republican party in such a way that one or both parties might attract enough Democrats who may be tiring of the relentless liberalism currently in vogue on the left and would seek a different brand of populism or moderate politics.

But for the present, the crazies and the GOP establishment need each other. And unless the pragmatists realize just how much of a drag the crazies are on their political fortunes, the GOP is likely to continue losing mainstream voters who look in askance on a party that tolerates such nuttiness.

By: Rick Moran at 1:59 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

10/5/2012
Right Wing Paranoia on Jobs Numbers

It must be a sad life living as a right wing nutcase. The entire world is against you — the media, the government, liberals, the New York Yankees (I have it on good authority that the Yankees manipulate coverage of ESPN so that they are always the lead story.)

Now, we can add to that enemies list the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS vomited forth the latest jobs numbers today and despite the fact that the number of unemployed and underemployed Americans remained the same from August, the “official” unemployment rate dropped from 8.1% to 7.8%.

Let us be absolutely clear. There is very little encouraging about these numbers. About the best you can say is that 114,000 jobs created in August and a revision upward of 86,000 jobs from the previous two months saves this report from being a total downer.

Meanwhile, net monthly job growth is still below the number needed to employ those entering the job market for the first time. An astonishing 183,000 Americans took a second job last month because there aren’t any full time jobs available. Labor participation rate is near the all time low since records have been kept — it dropped one tenth of one percent from last month’s record. The growth in jobs was due in large part to an incredible increase of 600,000 part time jobs created over one month — bringing the total of part time workers to 8.6 million Americans. These are people who want to work full time, but because of the stinky economy, can’t find a job.

In short, the right has nothing to be concerned about. This jobs report stinks - a political disaster if Republicans can articulate the underlying weakness. If the Obama campaign was going to manipulate the numbers, don’t you think they’d forget to include all of these indicators of a pathetically weak, stagnant job market? Or maybe they were counting on nobody noticing?

The confusing and arcane way in which the BLS figures the “unemployment rate,” or U-3, is beyond the understanding of most of us. But that hasn’t stopped a slew of right wingers from giving us a knowing wink and opining that the large drop in the widely quoted official rate is “convenient” and that the number has “obviously” been cooked.

Here are a few of the more prominent “jobs truthers”:

The leader of the “job truther” movement: former GE CEO Jack Welch.

“Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers,” he said on Twitter.

He had some friends in Congress too. Rep. Allen West (R-FL) tweeted “I agree with former GE CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here.” He added on Facebook that the jobs report was “Orwellian to say the least and representative of Saul Alinsky tactics from the book ‘Rules for Radicals.’”

FOX News’ Stuart Varney apparently sensed where his audience was going. Within minutes of their release he told viewers that “there is widespread mistrust of this report and these numbers.”

“How convenient the rate drops below 8% [for the] first time in 43 months, five weeks before the election,” he added later.

CNBC host Jim Carmer said he was pilloried by viewers for defending the BLS report’s integrity.

“This is very hot. You believe the number, you must be a card-carrying Communist,” he joked on the air.

All of these paranoids have made a classic error in logic; they have put the cart before the horse by adopting an assumption — cooked books — without any evidence that would buttress and undergird that assumption. Instead, they have substituted an outcome — large decrease in unemployment rate — to “prove” the assumption is correct.

Yes, but they “know in their gut” that the numbers are cooked. “I wouldn’t put it past Obama” is another bit of fancy that passes for “evidence.” I am perfectly willing to believe that the numbers are cooked — just as soon as someone shows me how it was done. Or even how it could be done. The BLS publishes reams and reams of data along with the numbers. Show me where the data is falsified. Show me where their computations are goofy. Show me where there is the slightest whiff of collusion between the BLS and the Obama White House. Show me one tiny piece of evidence that your paranoia is justified.

In short, show me or shut up.

Is there no Diogenes out there who will carry the lantern through the streets, seeking the truth to save us from this folly? Well, Ezra Klein is definitely not Diogenes but he’ll do in a pinch:

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The data was not, as Jack Welch suggested in a now-infamous tweet, manipulated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is set up to ensure the White House has no ability to influence it. As labor economist Betsey Stevenson wrote, “anyone who thinks that political folks can manipulate the unemployment data are completely ignorant of how the BLS works and how the data are compiled.” Plus, if the White House somehow was manipulating the data, don’t you think they would have made the payroll number look a bit better than 114,000? No one would have batted an eye at 160,000.

The fact is that there’s not much that needs to be explained here. We’ve seen drops like this — and even drops bigger than this — before. Between July and August the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent — two-tenths of one percent. November-December of 2011 also saw a .2 percent drop. November-December of 2010 saw a .4 percent drop. This isn’t some incredible aberration. The fact that the unemployment rate broke under the psychologically important 8 percent line is making this number feel bigger to people than it really is.

The number could, of course, be wrong. The household survey is, well, a survey, which means it’s open to error. But the internals back it up. The number saying they had jobs increased by about 800,000. That seems high, but it’s counting 582,000 who say they got part-time jobs.

There’s precedent for this. As Daniel Indiviglio notes, part-time jobs increased by 579,000 in September 2010 and by 483,000 in September 2011. It might simply be seasonal hiring. You don’t need to resort to ridiculous theories like Democrats across the country suddenly deciding to lie to surveytakers in order to help Obama.

The idea that supposedly intelligent conservatives have eaten fruit from the tree of conspiracy isn’t surprising at all. When reason and logic are rejected and objective reality eschewed in favor of emotionalism and paranoia, the end result is always ugly and misshapen thinking.

UPDATE

My old friend John Cole at Balloon Juice has rediscovered my blog. Thanks for the link to this post, John — I need the hits.

As for his commentary…

Rick Moran, blogging at the most poorly named website on the planet, the American Thinker, letting the “paranoids” update his post:

I posted my AT blog about 15 minutes after the BLS numbers were released. As is usual with big stories like this, I added this to the post:

As usual with this number, the real unemployment data is hidden away inside the BLS report. We’ll update this blog as deeper analysis becomes available.

And indeed, as I mention above, those numbers “hidden away” in the BLS report are a disaster for Cole and his partisans.

But if John had bothered to read the masthead at American Thinker, he would know that the concept of me “letting” Tom Lifson update the blog is absurd. Tom is editor in chief and one of the founders of American Thinker. He also signs my paychecks. In what wacky world that Cole inhabits would you not “let” your boss do what he darn well pleases with your post?

(As an aside, when I disagree with Tom, he encourages me to add an update to that particular blog post registering my objections. I may do so this morning with the BLS story — time spent at my other job having been a factor yesterday in me not responding.)

Cole is as nutty as the right wing crazies. But I do appreciate the link, and welcome back, John.

By: Rick Moran at 1:00 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

9/25/2012
David Brooks on Conservative Dichotomy

Excellent column by David Brooks who gives a trenchant analysis of what has happened to conservatism in the last 30 years.

He explains that 30 years ago, “the conservative movement itself, was a fusion of two different mentalities.”

On the one side, there were the economic conservatives. These were people that anybody following contemporary Republican politics would be familiar with. They spent a lot of time worrying about the way government intrudes upon economic liberty. They upheld freedom as their highest political value. They admired risk-takers. They worried that excessive government would create a sclerotic nation with a dependent populace.

But there was another sort of conservative, who would be less familiar now. This was the traditional conservative, intellectual heir to Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, Clinton Rossiter and Catholic social teaching. This sort of conservative didn’t see society as a battleground between government and the private sector. Instead, the traditionalist wanted to preserve a society that functioned as a harmonious ecosystem, in which the different layers were nestled upon each other: individual, family, company, neighborhood, religion, city government and national government.

He correctly deduces that Reagan straddled both sides of conservatism and points out that today’s right wingers have no clue about traditional conservatism:

In the polarized political conflict with liberalism, shrinking government has become the organizing conservative principle. Economic conservatives have the money and the institutions. They have taken control. Traditional conservatism has gone into eclipse. These days, speakers at Republican gatherings almost always use the language of market conservatism — getting government off our backs, enhancing economic freedom. Even Mitt Romney, who subscribes to a faith that knows a lot about social capital, relies exclusively on the language of market conservatism.

It’s not so much that today’s Republican politicians reject traditional, one-nation conservatism. They don’t even know it exists. There are few people on the conservative side who’d be willing to raise taxes on the affluent to fund mobility programs for the working class. There are very few willing to use government to actively intervene in chaotic neighborhoods, even when 40 percent of American kids are born out of wedlock. There are very few Republicans who protest against a House Republican budget proposal that cuts domestic discretionary spending to absurdly low levels.

Does the right want to know why Romney is losing? Listen carefully:

Republicans repeat formulas — government support equals dependency — that make sense according to free-market ideology, but oversimplify the real world. Republicans like Romney often rely on an economic language that seems corporate and alien to people who do not define themselves in economic terms. No wonder Romney has trouble relating.

Some people blame bad campaign managers for Romney’s underperforming campaign, but the problem is deeper. Conservatism has lost the balance between economic and traditional conservatism. The Republican Party has abandoned half of its intellectual ammunition. It appeals to people as potential business owners, but not as parents, neighbors and citizens.

It’s not just the religious crazies, the economic dunderheads, the small government fanatics, or the neo-cons who have brought traditional conservatism to the state where much of the right views those who believe that government has an important role to play in society as “liberal-lites.” It is a studious avoidance of objective reality — a suspicion of intellectuals, a denial that criticism (even coming from within its ranks) is valid, a summary rejection of points of view from the other side, and a determination not to allow democratic government to work unless it is 100% on their terms.

To refer to them as corporate conservatives is unfair. Brooks may find it useful shorthand, but it hardly covers the range of right wing paranoia and dis-associative thinking that leads to many on the right taking people like Palin, Cain, and Bachmann seriously as presidential candidates.

In short, today, what passes for conservatism, lacks logic, coherence, compassion, respect, and basic analytical skills.

Other than that, the right is doing great.

By: Rick Moran at 12:58 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

9/4/2012
Rebooting the Nuthouse: A Declaration of RINOhood

After nearly two years of spasmodic posting on this blog, I have decided to reboot and relaunch the site and write daily, original postings as often as I can manage.

That’s the plan, anyway. With the campaign for the presidency beginning to heat up, I felt compelled to add a voice to the proceedings that perhaps isn’t heard as much as it should be.

The voice of reason.

I’m just cynical enough to realize that no one much cares about reason, logic, rationality, or philosophical conservatism for that matter. Fewer care what I think. Fewer still have any use for my brand of conservatism.

And I’m just arrogant enough to think that love me or hate me, agree or disagree, I am a good enough writer to engage your interest and entertain most of you.

And that brings me to the reboot of Right Wing Nuthouse. I have been branded with the epithet “RINO” by most of the internet right — at least, those who view themselves as true blue, or “real” conservatives. But “RINO” may be a misnomer. I have never been a “party man” in the almost 8 years this site has been on the net, although I have had my partisan moments to be sure. The ideologues who have tarred me with what they believe to be their most withering criticism actually mean that I am a “Conservative In Name Only” — a CINO. But since the GOP is now almost exclusively a party of conservatives — something to be greatly lamented — we’ll stick with RINO as a catch-all for both.

It hardly matters. I wear both acronyms with pride, considering the source. Besides, I have no desire whatsoever to have my name associated with a political party that:

1. Embraces the likes of Ted Akin, Christine O’Donnell, Michelle Bachmann, Alan West, Tony Perkins, Joe Arpaio, Herman Cain, Tom Tancredo, and 2 dozen more bomb throwers, anti-science mountebanks, bigots, half-crazed religious fanatics, closed minded nincompoops, and intellectual lightweights. For those who are tempted to say, “Oh Yeah? Well those Democrats have their own Hall of Idiots too,” I would only respond that I have no earthly reason to be associated with the Democrats either. Besides, defending your own by pointing out that the other side is worse, or similarly handicapped is idiotic. It’s not an argument. It’s a cry for help.

2. Fails to deal rationally with the problem of 11 million illegal immigrants. You can’t deport them all, or round them up and hold them in pens until they get their due process. They are here. There are 11 million of them. Deal with it. If you want them off the public dole, make it possible for them to work. The potential human capital and entrepreneurial energy being wasted because of bigotry or some over-heated notion of “law and order” is irrational (crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor). A more rational legal immigration policy would help. So would beefing up border security. But for the 11 million already here, a solution must be found.

Either solve the problem or take the words “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” off the Statue of Liberty

3. Believes that we are living in the end times of the republic if Barack Obama is re-elected. If the US can survive a James Buchanan, US Grant, and Jimmy Carter, we can survive Obama. This hysterical overreaction to every thing the president does is astonishing. The claim we are “losing” our freedoms is pathetic. Please list those freedoms Barack Obama has taken away, not talking points from the echo chamber. Czars do not represent a loss of freedom. Executive orders do not take away freedom. Creating a gigantic bureaucracy to oversee health care in America does not represent a loss of freedom. Overregulation is not a loss of freedom. Just because government becomes a nuisance does not mean that our basic freedoms are being lost. If they were, you would probably be in jail for saying so.

Those besotted with partisan ideology and who see Obama through the darkest prism imaginable, are the real danger to the republic — not some incompetent, far left liberal with delusions of grandeur and dreams of redistributive justice.

4. That believes all Democrats are traitorous, evil wretches who hate America.

5. That believes Obama is a “socialist” or even a “Communist.” To disregard the definition of a word and substitute your own meaning is damaging to the language and to rational discourse.

6. That believes the Constitution is holy writ and is to be interpreted literally.

7. That thinks that Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other right wing radio talk show hosts should be taken seriously.

8. That believes in so many conspiracies that paranoids locked up in mental institutions look sane by comparison.

9. That never met an environmental regulation they didn’t hate and defines “free market” as nearly unfettered, predatory capitalism.

10. That believes the solution to most of our challenges overseas is either to bomb the hell out of them or overthrow the offending government. Sometimes both.

11. That believes waterboarding and other forms of internationally recognized torture are only what the terrorists deserve.

12. That equates compromise with surrender and civility with weakness.

13. That believes there is nothing to learn from opposing points of view and that criticizing your own side for something they’ve said or done is tantamount to apostasy.

There’s a lot more, but I’ve got to save something for future postings.

All of the above is the result of massively excessive ideological fervor that celebrates ignorance and cheers the irrational. I don’t know who or what is to blame — talk radio, the internet, perhaps more than anything, the perilous times we live in. I only know that I proudly reject a political party whose rank and file hold to this kind of deranged thinking — a derangement that extends even to the leadership of the party at times.

So what is it that RINO’s believe? I can only say what I believe and let others who might be tempted to join the ranks of conservative heretics make up their own mind.

1. I believe in a practical, reasonable interpretation of constitutional principles. These include defined limits on the scope and power of government, even if those limits interfere with some people’s concept of “social justice.” There is no justice without order, no order without limits on power. This was one of the core beliefs of the founders and I see no reason to abandon it for any reason.

I also believe in a rational interpretation of constitutional intent. This includes recognizing that the founders could never have envisioned the overwhelming role of commerce in America, but trusted their decedents to balance liberty with the need to restrain the powerful to keep them from preying on the weak. (A no brainer, this one.)

2. I believe in prudence as a civic virtue above all others.

3. I believe in science as a “candle in the dark” and that rejecting established science for religious or ideological reasons is anti-intellectual.

4. I believe we should render unto God what is God’s. All else — including government, public education, and the town square — belongs to man.

5. I believe that the current crisis needs serious men and women willing and able to work with their political opponents to begin to address the monumental problems we are facing. Recognizing that politics is a dirty, nasty business and that it will never be all sweetness and light between Republicans and Democrats, this is not an excuse to indulge in the most juvenile name calling and spitballing that substitutes for governance today. If politicians can’t find a way to overcome their own worst instincts, we are doomed to a collapse that will bring about unthinkable social and economic upheaval.

6. I believe there is merit to carefully examining criticism from the other side when it is logical and reasonably given. I also believe it imperative to expose oneself to other points of view outside one’s ideological comfort zone. If “Reading maketh a whole man” one must never stop searching for knowledge no matter what its origin.

7. I believe in “the examined life” — constantly testing the underlying assumptions of one’s philosophy to ensure that it is grounded in reality. While principles are immutable (to a large degree), one’s definition of belief regarding a particular issue might change as more information is inputted. If one finds that it is necessary to stretch, or spin one’s beliefs on an issue to force it to fit into a predetermined slot in your philosophy, the chances are very good that you’ve moved beyond that particular formulation and need to define a new one.

8. I believe it necessary for conservatism to inoculate itself against the toxicity being spread by the right wing ideologues whose hysteria, conspiracy mongering, irrational religious fervor, and lunatic ideas of government threaten to undermine the true nature of conservatism as a personal philosophy and force a retrenchment that would take us back to a time when the right was irrelevant.

Conservatism is not a political ideology. As Oakeshott points out, the application of conservative principles to liberal democracy is more to the point. What he calls, “rational government” incorporates principles expounded on by theorists from Burke to Kirk.

To govern, then, as the conservative understands it, is to provide a vinculum juris for those manners of conduct which, in the circumstances, are least likely to result in a frustrating collision of interests; to provide redress and means of compensation for those who suffer from others behaving in a contrary manner; sometimes to provide punishment for those who pursue their own interests regardless of the rules; and, of course, to provide a sufficient force to maintain the authority of an arbiter of this kind. Thus, governing is recognized as a specific and limited activity; not the management of an enterprise, but the rule of those engaged in a great diversity of self-chosen enterprises.

I suppose since Oakeshott was in favor of regulating business, he would be called a RINO today.

There’s much more I believe, of course. But to find out, you’re just going to have to add me to your RSS feed and come back for more.

By: Rick Moran at 11:43 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

2/19/2011
IN WHICH I EXPLAIN MYSELF TO MY CRITICS WHO BELIEVE IN PARANOID FANTASIES ABOUT OBAMA

My PJ Media piece yesterday wasn’t linked by a single blog (except this one) and yet, it garnered more than 150 comments. My guesstimate would be that 95% were extremely negative — abusive, belittling, and dismissive. I fully expected this, have come to expect it, whenever I write anything for PJM or other conservative websites.

No one likes to be called a paranoid, but frankly, I can’t think of another word that describes the divorce from reality that has been finalized by so many on the internet right. Theirs is a unique world where logic and reason have gone on permanent vacation, and the fantastical has been substituted for rationality.

The question can be rightly asked; why do you do it if it breeds such contempt from readers to point out the error in their thinking? It certainly isn’t advancing my writing career which, despite claims that I am doing it because it garners praise from liberals, or will get me a job with a Beltway conservative publication, has tanked in the last year. I’d like to say I have bravely gone henceforth into the breach carrying the standard of reason on high, but the opposite is true. No one likes to be unpopular, but beyond that, no one takes my writing seriously anymore. This has made me a little gunshy in writing about anything, much less the mortal danger posed to conservatism by the paranoids.

I have also discovered that I am not a very persuasive writer, probably doing more harm than good to my cause by chastising the right for their blinkered view of reality. It is a fact that few like to be told they are wrong, much less crazy wrong. I should probably have recognized this early on and tried another tack, but would that really have mattered? Besides, crazy is as crazy does, to paraphrase Mr. Gump, and any attempt to minimize the distance between what many conservatives believe about Obama and liberals in general and the real world would probably have been met with similar resistance.

When I began to question cotton candy conservatives like Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin, I actually believed that applying a little logic to the irrational things they were saying might convince some on the right to abandon this shallow, unserious flirtation with pop conservatism. The ease with which these charlatans “explain” what Obama and the liberals are up to by ascribing the worst possible motives to them should be a tip off for any rational observer who values reason. Gleaning motives, or intent, from results is backasswards. It beggars belief that any thinking person would fall into this logic trap.

Allow me to explain: The entire basis for “Obama wants to destroy the country,” Cloward-Piven, and even Rules for Radicals as a gameplan for Obama rests on the results of policies enacted by the administration — unemployment, massive debt, government “takeovers,” etc. From there, the paranoids walk their assumptions backwards to a supposition, i.e. Obama wants to destroy the country. “What else could it be but that Obama is evil and deliberately wants to bring America down?” is the question they ask.

Well, you have offered as much evidence that aliens are telling Obama what to do as you have proven that Obama is evil and wants to destroy the country. In short - zero, nada, nil, nothing. Not one shred of evidence that Obama initiated these admittedly idiotic policies except that the results of those policies were bad. No evidence of meetings where Obama and his advisors mapped out the destruction of America. No paper trail that shows that this was the administration’s intent. No tape recordings of Obama or his advisors plotting America’s downfall. No insider tell all book detailing how the president and his men sought to destroy the United States.

How then, can anyone with an ounce of reason or logic draw the ridiculous, paranoid conclusion that because Obama’s policies have resulted in near economic ruin (a dubious supposition given the previous administration’s profligacy and nearly 30 years of continuous deficit spending with an expanding state), that the only possible explanation is that he is evil and trying to destroy us?

The problem for the paranoids is that they start, not with a supposition, but an assumption. By assuming evil intent, the only possible supposition is that Obama is trying to destroy us. But what is easier to believe? Occam’s razor would teach us that beginning with the supposition that Obama is incompetent would lead to the exact same results that the paranoids believe proves Obama is evil! Is it easier, more rational, more reasonable to believe that Obama is a horrible chief executive or a Machiavellian president who has been able to hide the proof of his intent to destroy us - except from the eyes of those chosen few who claim special knowledge not in evidence of the president’s intent?

When looking at Obama through this kind of paranoid prism, all manner of evils can be attributed to him. He doesn’t “love” America. He wants to weaken us so that the Mooooslims can establish Sharia law in America. He is conniving to turn our capitalist economy (such as it is) into a socialist, or even a Marxist one.

Obama’s words are twisted beyond any reasonable definition of intent in order to “convict” him out of his own mouth. The president’s redistributive rhetoric, naive liberal idiocies about America’s role in the world, his juvenile, Keyenesian view of economics, his dangerously expansive view of constitutional principles all point to Obama being a far left liberal, out of his depth, who is seeking to “remake” America into his vision of of what a “socially just” nation should be.

He is not the first American who has had these ideas. He’s just the first president who has been elected to try it. How’s it working out? Not very well and it’s getting worse.

Wrong not evil. A poor leader, not Satan. A misreading of the country, not an extra-constitutional authoritarian. Isn’t it more reasonable to believe the former and not the latter of all of those assumptions?

I am not a psychologist so getting to the bottom of many on the right’s paranoia about Obama and the liberals will have to be explained by someone else. In the meantime, I will continue, as best as I am able, to try and inject logic and reason into the debates of our time, while leaving the witless paranoids to stew in their own conspiratorial muck.

By: Rick Moran at 11:46 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

2/10/2011
CPAC Boycott by Social Cons Reveals the Right’s ‘Gay Problem’

Here I go again - delving into an issue where my position is diametrically opposed to the social cons, as well as many traditionalists in the conservative movement.

My latest blockbuster is up at Pajamas Media where I take the social cons and others to task for trying to eject the conservative gay advocacy group GOProud from CPAC and the conservative movement for their stance on gay marriage.

A sample:

It can be extremely unnerving to discover that the grounded, safe, familiar, secure cocoon in which we exist is being invaded by what appears to be radical ideas and radical people that throw our notions of what is “normal” out the window. We try to shelter our children by drawing them into the cocoon, just as our parents, and their parents before them tried to keep the outside world from intruding on our peaceful existence. It never works. Sooner or later, we discover that America has other plans. A nation that prides itself on being a revolutionary society where there is the chance for change every four years does not sit still for long. For better or worse, America is constantly in motion, and like a steamroller, flattens the past and readies the ground ahead for whatever transformation is to occur.

Beyond the front gate, there are all sorts of people we wish would just go away and not disturb us with their problems. Fifty years ago, it was African Americans being asked to be “patient” while society continued its glacial pace of progress toward granting dignity and freedom from oppression. Then it was women who were told to go back to the kitchen and shut up. The disabled were asked to keep a low profile so as not to upset our delicate sensibilities. The homeless became invisible. The mentally ill, exorcised from our consciousnesses.

And now, the turn of the gays. Do we learn nothing from history? Are we condemned to constantly retreat into our cocoons and fight like hell to try and maintain an outmoded, antiquated notion of what is “normal?” You would think that knowledge is liberating and that having discovered that homosexuality is not a disease, that genetics more than environment determines your sexual orientation, we might cautiously reach out and try and understand the unnecessary burden carried by the gay community in that they have to constantly fight for what you and I take for granted; the simple, decent, American ideal of equal rights under the law.

There is nothing “unconservative” about this, despite what some on the right are saying about GOProud and CPAC. This is especially true as it relates to the fundamental truth about gays that many opponents of gay marriage refuse to concede; that people in love — even if they are of the same sex — should not be denied the legal and social advantages gained by being married.

What is fascinating to me is that most of those who strenuously object to my position do so on “moral” grounds. That is to say, they believe that homosexuality is intrinsically immoral. Barely a majority in this survey disagree but note the huge change in attitudes since 1973 when 80% thought gay love was immoral.

This buttresses the point I try to make in the article. Very little in America is static and unchanging. As more and more gays come out of the closet to their families, their friends, their co-workers, attitudes toward gay people change. When they are seen as people - real, live, flesh and blood humans - rather than objects of fear or derision, attitudes toward their behavior and lifestyle soften. It is a long process and will be decades more before wide-spread acceptance is gained. But the question confronting us today is why isolate a group of conservatives who agree with the right on almost every single issue save gay marriage and DADT repeal? You don’t even have to accept gays as full citizens to do that, although you have to do some fancy intellectual footwork to make it happen.

It strikes me as ludicrous that conservatives would deny membership in their little club to people who agree with 90% of their agenda. The same goes for the brawl over whether libertarians can be conservatives. What an extraordinary example of tribalism that there would be objections from the likes of Mike Huckabee and Erick Erickson to libertarians having a role in the conservative movement. And it’s not just libertarians or homosexuals who these jamokes want frozen out of CPAC and other gatherings on the right. They actually want to ban their supporters as well - those who don’t mind if gays or libertarians participate.

If these “conservatives,” who don’t act or think very conservatively, don’t watch out, their next CPAC will be held in a conference room in Cody, Wyoming.

By: Rick Moran at 9:35 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

12/11/2010
MUSLIMS AND MEXICANS AND GAYS, OH MY!

Call me a spoil sport but I’m afraid I have fallen hopelessly behind many other conservatives and Republicans in being sufficiently fearful of Muslims, gays, and Mexicans. For some reason, I just can’t summon the proper amount of outrage at Mexicans who are overrunning the country, Muslims who are trying to convert us, and gays who want to hug us… or something.

It’s not that I haven’t tried. It’s just that my personal experience with these enemies of decent, God-fearing, patriotic Americans hasn’t matched up with the knee shaking, palm sweating, rank stink of fear generated by many conservatives in response to the “threat” these groups represent.

Take Muslims, for instance. It’s hard for me to get too worked up over Sharia creep and Muslim proselytizing when every single Muslim I’ve ever met seemed as bored with their religion as most other Americans are bored with theirs. The Muslim cab drivers I’ve come in contact with have been just as rude, just as clueless about getting me to my destination while running up the meter as any other Sikh, Greek, Russian, Kenyan, or Guatemalan hack out there. I have yet to experience a cab ride where a Muslim driver treated me like a “dhimmi” or demanded I worship Allah.

Nor have I been threatened with beheading upon paying for gasoline purchases at the local Muslim-owned convenience store. In fact, the proprietor (who goes by the name of “Jack”), and I trade good natured insults about religion all the time. He calls me a “Christian dog” and I refer to him as “Osama.” His beautiful teenage daughter sits behind the counter wearing a headscarf and gabs all day on her cellphone, giggling and laughing while the line at the counter grows longer and longer — just like at any other convenience store. When one of his sons works the counter, he can be just as surly and unpleasant as any other clerk in America.

Typical American Muslims? It might be typical of the experiences average Americans have with Muslims. But it doesn’t matter to many conservatives whose fear of Muslims seems to have exploded on to the front pages of American newspapers, shocking many of us with the inexplicable, unreasoning notion that America is in grave danger of being Islamicized. Fighting against “dhimmitude” and making wild accusations of plots to bring Sharia law to America against the will of the Christian majority is now a respectable pastime for pundits and mainstream conservative politicians alike.

Incredibly, there seems to have been an explosion of Koran scholars among conservatives on the internet as well. I don’t know where they all came from or what graduate school would have been so hard up to accept them, but there sure are a lot of frustrated academics on the right who specialize in telling us everything we don’t know about Islam - and were afraid to ask.

Write a piece about Islam or any prominent Muslim and the comments will be filled with do-it-yourself experts on the Koran and Sura, citing chapter and verse where it says that it’s OK to lie for Allah, killing Christians is a blessed act, and the goal of all Muslims is to place their boot on the neck of  America. If it wasn’t so pathetically ignorant, it would be amusing. The thought that a couple of million Muslims could impose their will on 150 million Christians is infantile. But that doesn’t stop some on the right from having a cow whenever an American community tries to accommodate the rituals and practices of Islam, or tries to expose kids to the complicated history of Islam and the West.

Being fearful of radical Islam is a good thing. The forced nonchalance on the left in their approach to combating terrorism represents a far greater danger to the republic than the healthy, intelligent recognition of the threat posed by Islamic extremists. Fear, as Ben Franklin noted, focuses the mind wonderfully. It is in that spirit that we acknowledge the extremity of the threat of terrorism, and plan accordingly to counter the jihadists in order to defend ourselves.

But to fear all Muslims is irrational. That hasn’t stopped a growing cadre of conservatives from initiating a campaign to demonize all Muslims everywhere, regardless of whether they are peaceful adherents of Islam or not.

What began after 9/11 as a few internet bigots twisting Islamic teachings to fit a predetermined narrative of violence and misogyny has become a mass movement with recognized leaders and politicians who seek to adopt the rhetoric and tactics of the fear mongers to make political hay. This October profile of Pam Geller in the New York Times pretty much says it all. Along with her sidekick Robert Spencer, a rogue academic whose musings on Islam are rejected by many mainstream Muslim scholars, Geller and Spencer represent an organized effort to deny the religion of Islam parity in American life with Christianity and Judaism.

Any attempt to accommodate Muslims be it foot baths at college campuses or time off for a Muslim holiday is portrayed as caving in to terrorists. The fact that the Muslim population of America is so tiny, and the threat seen by these bigots is so large suggests either a mass delusion or fear mongering for political purposes.

If this fear were confined to the fringes of the right, you might roll your eyes and chalk it up to the polarization and excessive ideology on both sides of the political divide. And if this abject fear were confined to Muslims, it might be thought of as an ideological anomaly, a result of the national trauma of 9/11. But in statements made by some candidates during the mid term campaign, as well as ads run in some districts, it is clear that fear of gays and illegal immigrants — largely Mexicans — have also achieved a kind of nauseating legitimacy on the right that would be shameful if those who are deliberately ratcheting up the fear could feel any shame at all.

The animus directed against illegal immigrants is so over the top that it suggests that many are less concerned with protecting our borders and more concerned with keeping America safe for white folk. There is indeed a racial element to the immigration debate. Just ask most Hispanic Americans. The message being sent by many conservatives is you’re not welcome - even if you’re here legally. Does the right really think that Hispanics voted 2-1 in favor of Democrats this past election because they thought Obama was doing such a fine job?  It should tell conservatives something that in the midst of the worst economy in 80 years, with the Hispanic community hard hit by joblessness, that they would see “more of the same” as the lesser of two evils.

As any rational American, I want our laws enforced, the border made secure as much as can be reasonably expected in an open, democratic society, and that something be done about the 10-12 million illegal aliens already here. It’s one of the toughest, most contentious problems we face and we’re not going to solve it by demagoguing the issue in order to appeal to the worst nativist instincts found in the American psyche.

What of those illegals already here? Do we deny them medical care? Do we make their kids stay at home all day by preventing them from going to school? Let’s not forget that American business makes a home for illegals in America by hiring them to do the scut work that Americans refuse to do. We’re not going to pay anyone $14 an hour to pick lettuce so we better get used to the idea of a guest worker program. And while amnesty has been proved to be a terrible idea, some kind of path to citizenship for those who truly want to be Americans has to be found and an orderly means of facilitating legal immigration that doesn’t involve waiting periods of years must be developed.

No easy answers to be sure. But we’re not going to find any answers at all as long as many on the right view Mexicans as criminals, or worse, the cause of unemployment and a drain on government resources. Reasonable people can disagree about the nature of how to approach the illegal immigration problem. But it must be done without the baggage of mindless fear directed toward illegals.

If many on the right are anti-Muslim and fearful of illegal immigrants, the attitude toward gays shown by many conservatives strikes me as being the most irrational. The mixture of sexual politics and religious fervor is a brew that has made otherwise kind, generous, intelligent people on the religious right into crusading bigots, unhinged from reality and filled with an unreasonable fear of what could happen if out of the closet homosexuals were to be considered equal with the heterosexual majority.

The idea that two people in love who want to get married are a threat to anyone or anything - including the institution of marriage which has been under attack by co-habitating heterosexuals for 40 years - is beyond the ken of my understanding. More than 50% of the families in America are “blended” families - products of two or more marriages. Marriage as an institution doesn’t need gays to be under assault. Straight people are doing a fine job at that, thank you with divorce rates that make one question why getting married in the first place is worth the effort.

There is a conservative case for gay marriage. Is there a conservative case for repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?” DADT is a different issue since it involves our national security and the tiresome efforts of liberals to use the military as a social science lab. Still, if someone is willing to serve, it is hard to make a case that they should be denied the opportunity. I remember similar arguments regarding readiness and combat effectiveness used against allowing women on naval vessels, and African Americans being integrated with white army units. Today, it is impossible to imagine our military without either “experiment.”

Somehow, I don’t think the Joint Chiefs would have signed off on repeal of DADT if they really believed we would lose 250,000 enlistees over the issue, or that it would destroy the esprit d’corps and unit cohesiveness so vital in combat. I’m sure they have their doubts, but I can’t believe them to be such political creatures as to sacrifice the effectiveness of the armed forces.

Apparently, many on the right know better than the JCS. I can’t escape thinking that at least some of this opposition is rank homophobia, in which case it is the right that has the problem, not patriotic gays who wish to serve their country.With polls showing that 67% of Americans support repeal (even 47% of Republicans), it appears that once again, fear is driving many on the right, not logic or reason.

I wish I could say that the fear of Muslims, Mexicans, and gays was confined to a small, grumpy, fanatical fringe of the right. Indeed, I still have enough faith in conservatism to think that the majority is far less hateful, bigoted, and yes, racist than the crazies who fear for Christian America from Muslims, see Mexicans as criminals, and gays as a threat to the American family. But the voices of reaction and hate have bigger microphones, more ink, and occupy a larger space on the internet  than those of us who believe their anger and fear are destroying the social fabric of America.

They are wrong. And America suffers because of them.

By: Rick Moran at 12:30 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

9/1/2010
CONSERVATISM’S FALSE DAWN

You don’t have to be able to read tea leaves, examine entrails, or count the warts on a horny toad to know that conservatism is headed for a smashing victory in November.

Or is it? Will the coming electoral tidal wave hide deficiencies that have yet to be addressed following a long decade of decline and exhaustion?

What has changed in the intervening months? Certainly, the rising fortunes of the GOP has energized the conservative base and instilled confidence in conservative cadres. But have any of the systemic challenges that faced conservatism following the 2008 electoral debacle been addressed?

Alas, I don’t see it. Indeed, if one were to examine what is shaping up to be the Republican agenda that will be set before the American people in November, you would be excused if you felt like you had to pinch yourself in order to make sure you were not somehow magically transported back to 1980.

Tax cuts. Check. Get government “out of the way.” Check. Less regulation. Check. Cut spending. Check. Reduce the deficit. Check. Maintain a strong defense. Check.

It’s as if the smiling visage of the Gipper himself was standing along side Republican candidates as for the 15th election in a row, some variation of the above agenda is presented as conservatism’s answer to the welfare state coddling of the Democrats and liberals.

To those who might say that conservative principles are timeless and immutable, I would wholeheartedly agree. Except that tax cuts are not a “conservative principle.” Neither is reduced spending, less regulation, or any other issue that currently substitutes for substantive thought on the right.

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Peter Berkowitz crows about the right being back on top:

In late 2008 and early 2009, in the wake of Mr. Obama’s meteoric ascent, the idea that conservatism would enjoy any sort of revival in the summer of 2009 would have seemed to demoralized conservatives too much to hope for. To leading lights on the left, it would have appeared absolutely outlandish.

In late October 2008, New Yorker staff writer George Packer reported “the complete collapse of the four-decade project that brought conservatism to power in America.” Two weeks later, the day after Mr. Obama’s election, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne proclaimed “the end of a conservative era” that had begun with the rise of Ronald Reagan.

And in February 2009, New York Times Book Review and Week in Review editor Sam Tanenhaus, writing in The New Republic, declared that “movement conservatism is exhausted and quite possibly dead.” Mr. Tanenhaus even purported to discern in the new president “the emergence of a president who seems more thoroughly steeped in the principles of Burkean conservatism than any significant thinker or political figure on the right.”

Messrs. Packer, Dionne and Tanenhaus underestimated what the conservative tradition rightly emphasizes, which is the high degree of unpredictability in human affairs. They also conflated the flagging fortunes of George W. Bush’s Republican Party with conservatism’s popular appeal. Most importantly, they failed to grasp the imperatives that flow from conservative principles in America, and the full range of tasks connected to preserving freedom.

What Berkowitz doesn’t mention about those critiques - and many more like it on both the right and the left - is that it appeared at the time that conservatism was a hollowed out shell; that it had lost its vibrancy, it’s vim and vigor. The idea factories were still churning out papers, the intellectuals were still trying to connect history and philosophy to politics and policy, but there was a disconnect between conservative thinkers and doers.

The politicians were less interested in implementing new ideas than in trying to preserve their majorities. The activists - then as now - were more interested in giving litmus tests to candidates and politicians in order to purge those they found less than pure than in working to elect candidates who might have advanced legitimate policy alternatives to the left to deal with real world problems that had festered for decades because conservatism had failed to find a vocabulary to connect ordinary people’s concern’s with government action.

In short, conservatism had exhausted itself. The old verities were still true, and still resonated up to a point with voters. But the world had changed in the intervening 30 years between Reagan and Obama and the right was incapable of articulating how to deal with those changes both philosophically and politically.

“Small government” (and its sister battle cry “smaller government”) was no longer an adhesive that bound the movement conservatives to the libertarians because the hypocrisy of crying for cuts in the size of government when advocating massive government intervention in marriage and family matters drove many libertarians into the waiting arms of the Democrats. That, and the inability of any two conservatives to agree on how to shrink government to make it “smaller” - much less “small” - imparted an incoherence to political conservatism that people gave up trying to understand.

Libertarians are coming back to the GOP in waves because of liberal overreach in implementing Obama’s agenda, while a welcome de-emphasizing of the social issues that drove them away has taken place. Meanwhile, in the hinterlands, GOP governors have experimented with ways to apply a more pragmatic conservatism to make a difference in the lives of their citizens on issues like health care, social policy, and education - issues that heretofore were not considered “conservative” by many on the right, or at least in the way that governors like Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie were choosing to address them. And Representative Paul Ryan has stepped forward with his “Roadmap” to deal with entitlements - the first stirrings of what may be a rallying point for the “young turks” emerging as a force in the Republican party.

All of this is welcome news for the right. But the question I have for Berkowitz and other self congratulatory conservatives is what has changed in the intervening months to make anyone think there has been any kind of a “revival?” Conservative elites are not interested in governors and have been extremely cautious about Rep. Ryan’s admittedly radical ideas. The political class has resisted any kind of change, as evidenced by clinging to the Reagan agenda as if it were a talisman to be stroked and caressed so that whatever magic might be left in the mantra might rub off on them and bring them victory.

The Beck Rally as evidence of conservative revival? Spare me. It may have indicated some kind of effort at religious revival, but please don’t confuse coming back to God with politics.

Daniel Larison:

In other words, when Mormons and evangelicals are at their worst and are indulging their least admirable tendencies to idolize the country at the expense of their religious teachings, there is a chance for them to find common ground. If you think that a serious religious revival in America might have something to do with a spirit of repentance and humility rather than with an extravaganza of validation and national self-congratulation, that is really a very damning indictment of what Beck is doing. As Joe Carter correctly says, “As Moore notes, the problem isn’t really Beck. The problem is believers trading the true faith for the syncretism of Christian-flavored civic religion.”

Religion and politics is a mighty incendiary mixture, and Beck’s sermonizing at the rally evoked unflattering comparisons to Father Coughlin. If Christians want another “Great Awakening,” that’s fine, more power to them. Just don’t try and drag political conservatism along for the ride. While many conservative philosophers believe it necessary for a just moral order to include a belief in God, that does not mean that you set the old fellow alongside conservative candidates during campaigns and use him as bait to capture voters. I’m sure God has better things to do than help elect a GOP majority.

As long as conservative activists and the elites reject the idea that conservatism has an activist role to play in running government; that prudent, practical, reasonable efforts by government to regulate business, protect consumers, care for the poor, ensure access to health care, protect the environment, and carry out the other responsibilities that must be shouldered by a 21st century industrialized democratic government, there will be no “revival” of conservatism except in the overheated imaginations of its ideological adherents.

November 2010 will therefore be a “false dawn” for conservatism. For once a GOP majority takes its seats in Congress (if it does), they are going to have to address the monumental problems facing America today. Looking at what they say they will do to address many of those problems, one wonders if they fully realize how fully out of touch they seem when advocating an agenda that was new when Leonid Brezhnev was in power in the old Soviet Union.

By: Rick Moran at 9:43 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

8/20/2010
OBAMA’S MUSLIM OUTREACH BEARS INTERESTING FRUIT

When Barack Obama became president, he promised to try and change the relationship dynamic between Islam and the west. His goal was to build bridges, lessen hostility, create trust, and generally lower the decibel level of conversation between the two cultures.

There can be little argument regarding the president’s goals. The great struggle in which we are engaged against Islamism can only be won if we bring the hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims who only want to be left alone to practice their faith and live their lives by their own lights to our side. Muslim distrust of America - a distrust that predated by many years the administration of George Bush - is an impediment to making progress against those who think no more of beheading a Christian as they would stepping on an ant on an anthill.

So let us grant the president his good intentions. That doesn’t excuse his shocking myopia, his crippling naivete, or his ludicrous, almost childish trust in the intentions of characters like Ahmadinejad, Abbas, or even his old friend, the Arafat apologist Rashid Khalidi. At some level, the president either believes in the infallibility of his own judgment or in the power of his sincerity overcoming the fanaticism of our enemies.

It doesn’t really matter because his approach has been proved wrong by events. The Iranians are still building the bomb while laughing in the president’s face; Abbas is playing him for a fool, using the president to pressure the Israelis into concessions - only to renege and get the US to go back and pressure the Israelis some more; and if anything, all the president’s efforts to show tolerance and forbearance toward Muslims hasn’t budged the needle of hostility directed against the United States and our policies, although Obama himself is more popular personally among Muslims than his country.

Where the president’s outreach policy has met with success is here at home. One in five Americans now believe he is a Muslim, compared to about 12% two years ago. This is a fantastic achievement to nearly double the number of Americans who aren’t sure if the idiotic stories they hear about Obama being a closet Muslim are true or not. And to think Obama wasn’t even trying. Just imagine what he could do if he really put his mind to it.

In truth, there are two forces at work that have conspired to advance this fantastical notion that Obama is a Muslim. The first has to do with the tight negative feedback loop that passes for the dissemination of information among many conservatives.

Call it ‘epistemic closure’ or an echo chamber, the result is that when you get all your information filtered through the same sources - sources that are constrained from questioning the efficacy of the dominant narrative being pushed due to fear of being cast out of the circle - an alternate reality is created where Obama’s Muslim religion, his disloyalty to the United States, even the notion that he is a communist lovechild are accepted as fact or seen as being possible.

These ridiculous facts are fed indirectly by the demonization of the president via mainstream talk radio and the conservative press. “If he’s capable of ‘X’, then it is certainly possible he can be ‘y’” is what passes for reason and logic among the faithful. If Obama is deliberately trying to destroy the economy in order to enslave Americans and make them wholly dependent on the federal government for survival, as Rush Limbaugh has suggested, why is it impossible that he’s a Koran loving Muslim to boot?

The second force at work is related to the first but lies in the perception - even among independents - that the president does not share their values. This is wholly the president’s fault as his fine, moderate rhetoric has given way to radicalism in fomenting an agenda that, by his own admission, seeks to alter the American experiment. In short, there is a disconnect between Obama’s personae as a “moderate” and his actions as a far left liberal.

Despite the belief by the president and his left wing allies that the American people are stupid louts who need to be led to water by the snout, the people’s unease with the president has little to do with what religion he follows, or the color of his skin, and more to do with the idea that Obama’s basic beliefs are at odds with a majority of his fellow citizen’s.

He says he believes in self-reliance, but his actions belie that notion. He says he believes in the grand tradition of American liberty, and yet supports measures that reduce it. He says he believes that America is an exceptional country while letting the world know that we are no different than any other nation. Do we detect a pattern here? There is a titanic disconnect between the president’s rhetoric and his actions. This not only breeds a basic mistrust that is showing up in opinion polls, but also feeds the unreasonable paranoia of those with less charitable attitudes toward Obama.

When nearly a third of conservatives buy into this “Obama is a Moooslim” narrative, my fellow righties should stop wondering why I refer to these specimens as “knuckledraggers” and “loons.” About the same percentage also think that Obama has issues with being constitutionally eligible for office - another jaw dropping notion that proves the existence of a mindless echo chamber on the right that subsumes objective reality in favor of an over-the-rainbow worldview. Fear and loathing are powerful emotions, and as the Obama administration stumbles and bumbles its way forward, the liklihood is that at least among the rabid conservative base (as well as other wayward intellects who are incapable of thinking for themselves), horns and a tail will continue to grow on the president and the perception that he is alien in some way will continue to resonate.

By: Rick Moran at 11:19 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

8/18/2010
ANN COULTER NOT CONSERVATIVE ENOUGH FOR WORLD NET DAILY CONFERENCE

I suppose it was inevitable that the litmus test conservatives would begin purging those who don’t measure up to their very narrow, very limiting agenda. But it’s still something of a surprise to see World Net Daily - the rabid right wing online publication that has become famous for promoting the birther issue - canceling an appearance by the Queen of the Conservative Punditocracy Ann Coulter for what WND refers to as a “homoconflict.”

Conservative superstar Ann Coulter today was dropped as a keynote speaker for WND’s “Taking America Back National Conference” next month because of her plan to address an event titled “HOMOCON” sponsored by the homosexual Republican group GOProud that promotes same-sex marriage and military service for open homosexuals.

Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WND, said the decision was a gut-wrenching one for his team because of their fondness for Coulter as both a person and writer-speaker.

“Ultimately, as a matter of principle, it would not make sense for us to have Ann speak to a conference about ‘taking America back’ when she clearly does not recognize that the ideals to be espoused there simply do not include the radical and very ‘unconservative’ agenda represented by GOProud,” said Farah. “The drift of the conservative movement to a brand of materialistic libertarianism is one of the main reasons we planned this conference from the beginning.”

Can’t have any of that “materialistic libertarianism” - perhaps better described as “tolerance for other people and other points of view” - gumming up the works of the conservative media juggernaut. I happened to stop by the GOProud booth at CPAC a couple of years ago and discovered that these guys are - with the exceptions mentioned above by Farah - about as mainstream conservative as you can get.

From their website:

GOProud represents gay conservatives and their allies. GOProud is committed to a traditional conservative agenda that emphasizes limited government, individual liberty, free markets and a confident foreign policy. GOProud promotes our traditional conservative agenda by influencing politics and policy at the federal level.

In fact, if Farah knew anything of the history of conservatism, he would recognize that GOProud’s “traditional conservative agenda” used to define conservatism. It is only recently that bigots like Farah have added gay marriage and - omigod - “sodomy as an alternative lifestyle” to the ever growing number of no-nos the culturecons have foisted on the conservative movement.

Coulter seems a little bemused by the insult. She’s just interested in the cash:

Farah then asked: “Do you not understand you are legitimizing a group that is fighting for same-sex marriage and open homosexuality in the military – not to mention the idea that sodomy is just an alternate lifestyle?”

Coulter responded: “That’s silly, I speak to a lot of groups and do not endorse them. I speak at Harvard and I certainly don’t endorse their views. I’ve spoken to Democratic groups and liberal Republican groups that loooove abortion. The main thing I do is speak on college campuses, which is about the equivalent of speaking at an al-Qaida conference. I’m sure I agree with GOProud more than I do with at least half of my college audiences. But in any event, giving a speech is not an endorsement of every position held by the people I’m speaking to. I was going to speak for you guys, I think you’re nuts on the birther thing (though I like you otherwise!).”

Coulter’s own intolerance has been well documented. But at least she has a notion of what conservatism is all about.

I have stopped referring to people like Farah as conservatives for the simple reason their views are not reflective of any conservative philosophy of which I am familiar. Radicalism is the antithesis of conservatism as anyone who has ever read Edmund Burke’s wrenching critique of the French Revolution can attest. Their idea of “limited government” is radically limited. Their notion of “free markets” is an economic Darwinian nightmare. And their agitation to bomb just about anyone who threatens US interests reveals an imprudence that is most unconservative.

What has driven me and other conservatives to try and marginalize people like Farah is their radicalism may not be the mainstream of conservatism, but it influences the Republican party and the conservative movement much to their detriment. They are not “fringe” actors by any stretch of the imagination, but neither are they close to a majority. They are loud, and they vote, and that makes them important to politicians.

Rejecting those who agree with your agenda 90% of the time is stupid politics. Hence, despite GOProud’s embrace of traditional conservative issues, their sin of supporting gay marriage and the elimination of “Don’t ask don’t tell” in the military trumps their support for conservative economic and foreign policy issues.

Indeed, the Executive Director of GOProud Jimmy LaSalvia gave a very reasonable, conservative answer to why they support gay marriage:

As long as the government is in the marriage business it should treat gay couples as equal to their straight counter-parts. Accordingly, we are pleased with the outcome of the Prop 8 case.

A no brainer, really - which describes Mr. Farah to a “T.”

Radical right wingers like Farah are in the business of reducing the size of the Republican party until it is a distillation of pure right wing wackery. These folks are beyond “epistemic closure” and are in a full blown epistemological meltdown. The don’t create a reality as much as it oozes up from the muck and detritus of their broken and wildly inconsistent worldview - the result of unreasoning hatred for those who are in any way “different” and an illogical ideology that cannot brook any opposition lest it collapse in a disordered heap.

And Ann Coulter isn’t conservative enough for these guys? Something wrong with that picture.

By: Rick Moran at 9:20 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)