Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: CPAC Conference, Decision 2010, Palin, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 10:47 am

I don’t know who’s advising her at this point, but Sarah Palin is making some shrewd political moves lately that are likely to vault her into a very favorable position as leader of the only real “reform” faction in the Republican party.

Since the publication of Going Rogue, Palin has demonstrated an understanding not only her core constituency, but has slightly redefined her public image to allow a broader cross section of conservatives to embrace her. This has caused her poll numbers to rise and increase her standing with what passes for the reformist element in the Republican party.

But the question will be for Palin is who is driving who? The way the Tea Party folks want to “reform” the Republican party is to toss out those members of congress who fail to live up to their impossible standards of conservate ideology. Political professionals realize that this would mean a smaller party, not a larger one.

And herein lies Palin’s dilemma; must she embrace the reformers concept of “true conservatism” and thus emerge as a bona fide leader of a movement that may shrink the party? Or should she promote a more mainstream conservatism and eschews litmus tests while seeking support from some of the party insiders?

Apparently, she has made a choice; Palin will forgo speaking at CPAC this year and instead, address the even more conservative Southern Republican Leadership Conference. By dumping on CPAC - what passes for a “mainstream” conservative gathering today even with the John Birch Society co-sponsoring - Palin is sending the message that the conservative elites who run the conference and dominate its programs will have to go through her to get the support of the conservative base. She is setting herself up to be the pivot by which the current party leadership in Washington will be able to utilize the enthusiasm and commitment of the tea partiers to help the GOP.

For more traditional conservatives like Pawlenty and Romney, the road to the White House will go through Sarah Palin.

The significance of her appearance at the SRLC as opposed to CPAC is plain; the party’s strength now resides in the south while the southern brand of conservative ideology dominates among the base nationwide. As I have described it, Palin’s natural constituency lies with the anti-elite, anti-intellectual ideologues who believe they are putting “principle” ahead of politics but end up sacrificing both for a stultifying “purity” that bears no relation to political realities outside of the southern base. Palin made that plain in her dismissal of the CPAC invite:

A source close to the Palin camp says that request led to a decision to stay away from the upcoming CPAC conference, calling it a forum that will place “special interests over core beliefs” and “pocketbook over policy.”

“That’s not what CPAC should be about and people are tiring,” the source said. “Palin is taking a stance against this just as she did in Alaska.”

When asked about the move, Palin spokeswoman Meg Stapleton said: “We support those who advance our core beliefs and lead by principle.”

To say this is monumentally naive and stupid would be to repeat what ACU president David Keene has said of Palin in the past:

Keene has criticized Palin in the conservative press, telling Newsmax in July that she was “whining” about her press coverage and was not yet ready for primetime.

“Conservatives like her, but you’ve got to have more than that,” Keene told the outlet. “You’ve got to be more than a rock star. If in fact she’s interested in the presidency, she has got to establish herself as someone you can envision in the Oval Office. And it’s become more difficult to envision than it was at the time of the election.”

The base can envision her in the Oval Office because they believe that Palin’s very ordinariness - her demonstrable unfitness for the presidency - is just what the country and conservatism needs. Who cares if she knows less about foreign policy than my bartender? What need have we of a president who can articulate an agenda, speak beyond simple-minded talking points on issues, and grasp the nuance of governance when it is obvious that her gut instincts are so swell?

There are good arguments to be made that the GOP elite is out of touch with ordinary Americans and that some Republican members of congress need to be retired. But when logic, reason, and even a modicum of pragmatism are tossed out the window at the same time as the dead wood and drift wood, there is no meaningful “reform” to be had. Instead, flying squads of political executioners will move into suspect party regulars’ districts (as well as the growing number of open races), and put their stamp of approval on candidates likely to be slaughtered in the general election.

If Palin sides completely with these “reformers,” she doesn’t lose anything, judging by this informal poll of party insiders:

A poll of GOP insiders suggests that ex-AK Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has little support among the party’s professional class — and maybe that’s just how she wants it.

In a survey of 109 party leaders, political professionals and pundits, Palin finished 5th on the list of candidates most likely to win the party’s ‘12 WH nomination. Ex-MA Gov. Mitt Romney (R) was the overwhelming choice of the

Voters were asked to rank 5 candidates in the order of likeliness to capture the GOP nod.

Does it matter that the professional class doesn’t take Palin seriously as a candidate in 2012? Not much. But it is indicative of the chasm that has opened up between the 1/3 or so of the party that identifies with her whose opposition to the party leadership has metastasized into a hate only slightly less intense than that felt for Obama and the liberals.

It may very well be that Michael Steele and the inside the beltway conservatives will have to go hat in hand to Palin and ask for her intercession with her supporters in order to get them fully engaged in the effort to flip the Congress in 2010. Will she end up being a team player and agree to work toward that end or will she maintain her distance and independence, looking to cash in on her standing with the base by running for president in 2012?

My guess is the latter. In the end, the tea partiers will run Palin more than she will be able to run them. That’s the price you pay when you mount the tiger and attempt to ride the whirlwind.



If you haven’t seen it yet, you should go over to Little Green Footballs and read this J’accuse post by Charles Johnson where he briefly lists some of the reasons why he has now, officially “parted ways” with the right.

Irony abounds for me in this situation. The fact is, Johnson and I are in lockstep agreement when it comes to many of our criticisms of the right. We both despise the cotton candy conservatism of Beck, Limbaugh, and Coulter et. al. that is occasionally tinged with sniffs of bigotry. We both bemoan the paranoid conspiracies - birthers, and other theories about Obama - that have risen up to inject some of their sickness into mainstream conservatism.

We both see an anti-science, anti-intellectual undercurrent in some of the critiques of liberalism employed by the base, including an inexplicable denial of Darwinism, and a “the science is settled” argument toward global climate change (the science is wrong and the whole thing is a conspiracy). And we both agree that the anarcho-conservatism expressed by many on the right is unrealistic and dangerously wrong.

Therefore, having established my bona fides, I can say flat out that Charles Johnson, in his wildly exaggerated, hyperbolic, injudicious, ad hominem, unreasonable, and illogical attacks on the right, has abandoned any claim to prudent analysis and temperate understanding, and has instead, joined the ranks of those on the right and left who don’t deserve to be taken seriously by anyone with half a brain.

To wit: (”Why I Parted Ways with the Right:)

1. Support for fascists, both in America (see: Pat Buchanan, Robert Stacy McCain, etc.) and in Europe (see: Vlaams Belang, BNP, SIOE, Pat Buchanan, etc.)

Johnson’s use of the epithet “fascist” shows that he is ignorant of the history, the philosophy (such as it was), and the tenets of that odious ideology. He is as ignorant as the brain dead lefties who employed the smear against Bush and the moronic righties who use it to describe Obama.

Using the term immediately identifies one as an excessively ideological partisan. He condemns the entire right for the wayward beliefs of a few. There is hardly a mainstream conservative blog that has not skewered Buchanan at one time or another for his stupidity and bigotry. And the tenuous connections Johnson has sought to draw to the genuine article in Europe - neo-Fascists - is laughable. Six degrees of separation does not “connect” American conservatives to those putrid personalities and parties in Europe except in the overactive, fevered, and unbalanced imagination of Johnson.

2. Support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism (see: Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Robert Stacy McCain, Lew Rockwell, etc.)

If you are going to accuse someone of “hatred” or “white supremacism,” I suggest you take proving those charges very seriously. Johnson doesn’t and never has. In the case of McCain, he has quoted extensively from some of McCain’s postings around the internet through the years. The problem is that many of those entries that he so proudly features were not left by McCain, and many of the quotes he uses to crucify RSM are not even his.

McCain is quirky. He can be insufferable. His constant self promotion can be wearing. But I have met and come to know this man and I can state categorically that there isn’t a racist bone in his body and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Not recognizing that McCain was targeted by professional smear merchants only shows Johnson’s unreasoning hatred of McCain to be the product of rank emotionalism and not rational analysis.

(McCain can, and has, defended himself. I don’t agree with some of his published writings, but I have an idea of how his mind works. It is an expansive, sometimes brilliant instrument that plays with concepts and ideas as a child plays with blocks. Seizing upon out of context ramblings by McCain is a cottage industry for some of his detractors and unfortunately, RSM is also afflicted with a naivete about how some of what he writes is perceived. He actually believes his honesty and perspicacity should be rewarded. Pity it isn’t.)

3. Support for throwing women back into the Dark Ages, and general religious fanaticism (see: Operation Rescue, anti-abortion groups, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, the entire religious right, etc.)

The numbers of conservatives who Johnson is talking about could hold a convention in a Marriott conference room. The mainstream right may be devout, but I hardly think the exaggerated term “fanaticism” applies to all but a very small percentage. And the charge that the religious right supports “throwing women back into the Dark Ages” does not deserve acknowledgment except that it reveals Johnson’s overweening, ideological partisanship. No rational critic would make such a charge. An irrational mountebank would.

4. Support for anti-science bad craziness (see: creationism, climate change denialism, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, James Inhofe, etc.)

Ooooh - “anti-science bad craziness?” Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the very deep thoughts of Charles Johnson.

5. Support for homophobic bigotry (see: Sarah Palin, Dobson, the entire religious right, etc.)

Is there really “support” for “homophobic bigotry” among mainstream conservatives? There is support for DOMA. There is support for an anti-gay marriage amendment. There is opposition to including gays as victims in current hate crime legislation. As I have laid out, while there is a conservative case to be made for gay marriage, there is a secular conservative case to be made against it. There are also perfectly legitimate legal arguments to be made against any hate crime statute.

At issue is whether a pressure lobby can dictate the parameters of what constitutes “bigotry.” The GLBT lobby constantly injects politics into this question, screaming “Bigot!” at anyone who fails to support their agenda. I happen to support equal rights for gays but denounce their politicization of gay marriage and their attempts to circumvent the will of the people by calling on the courts to adjudicate what is, at bottom, a political question.

Are there homophobes and bigots on the right? Yes there are. But Johnson, as he does constantly throughout his Zola-esque rant, inflates their numbers to justify his own, narrow, rigid, ideological reasons for abandoning his former allies.

6. Support for anti-government lunacy (see: tea parties, militias, Fox News, Glenn Beck, etc.)

Here, I have to agree with Johnson that there is a very large plurality of conservatives who not only distrust government, but despise it as well, and would like nothing better than to roll back both the New Deal and the Great Society to achieve “limited” national government.

(I do not include committed Federalists in this group who are much more serious minded in their approach to government and recognize many of its modern responsibilities.)

This anarcho-conservatism, where some kind of 19th century government is envisioned as the optimal solution to our problems, is a throwback to pre-Buckley days. It is unthinking, illogical, and oblivious to how the world has changed since the heyday of Robert Taft. Ultimately, it is a fearful kind of conservatism that can’t recognize or deal with change and seeks the safety of an idealized past.

But Johnson falls off the rails by lumping the “tea partyers” in with the anti-government zealots. Certainly, some in the Tea Party movement fit the description. But having observed several of their events, I was surprised at the restraint showed by most marchers, their very ordinariness giving weight to their protests. As an echo of the anti-war movement, I would say there are many telling parallels as far as the average American who felt strongly enough to commit to a cause.

7. Support for conspiracy theories and hate speech (see: Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Birthers, creationists, climate deniers, etc.)

Yes, in addition to the Birthers, there’s the “Obama is a Moooslim” crap, and “Obama wants to impoverish us all so that we become dependent on government” stupidity. But again, prove to me that this kind of thinking represents a majority of conservatives who are spouting this nonsense and I will gladly join in the cussing.

8. A right-wing blogosphere that is almost universally dominated by raging hate speech (see: Hot Air, Free Republic, Ace of Spades, etc.)

“Almost universally?” Heh - that’s something a freshman in high school might use in an essay. It’s either “universal” or not. Sorry Charles, back to English composition 101 for you.

As for the rest - not even worth commenting on. Simple sophistry.

9. Anti-Islamic bigotry that goes far beyond simply criticizing radical Islam, into support for fascism, violence, and genocide (see: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.)

This is something of which Johnson knows a lot about. I stopped visiting his site 4 years ago because of the nauseating, anti-Muslim bigotry spewing forth in his comments - cataloged many times by those on the left who are currently making him out to be some kind of honest conservative. And Johnson was their greatest enabler, if not inventing, then popularizing the denigrating mongram R.O.P. (Religion of Peace) to describe Islam.

How many pictures of Palestinian kids dressed in fatigues and armed with toy guns did Johnson publish, usually with the caption “ROP Child Abuse?” How many 7th century practices of Islam did Johnson mock on his website? How many times did he make fun of women dressed in the chador?

All of this enabled his legions of “Lizardoids,” many of whom felt no compunction in airing their out and out bigotry of Muslims. For Johnson to use this as a reason for “parting ways” with the right is the height of hypocrisy.

10. Hatred for President Obama that goes far beyond simply criticizing his policies, into racism, hate speech, and bizarre conspiracy theories (see: witch doctor pictures, tea parties, Birthers, Michelle Malkin, Fox News, World Net Daily, Newsmax, and every other right wing source)

How can you take anyone seriously who uses the phrase “every other right wing source” to describe “hatred” of President Obama among all conservatives? Kind of a broad brush you’re using there Charles. Would the Volohk Conspiracy be a hate site? The Belmont Club? Outside the Beltway? Betsy’s Page? Q & O? I could keep going down my favorites page and add a couple of dozen of the larger blogs who offer reasoned analysis, and, if not always respectful, certainly rational critiques of the Obama administration.

And I certainly hope you don’t cast you lot with liberals. The fact that the leftysphere mirrors the right in the number of blogs who express virulent, unreasoning hatred of their political opponents would put you in the awkward position of going from the frying pan into the fire.

As a final thought, I would ask how adult is it to throw a tantrum in public in order to bask in the approbation of your former opponents? I have no reason to question Johnson’s sincerity, just his emotional maturity. Why make an announcement at all except to garner attention like some two year old who throws himself on the floor when he doesn’t get ice cream for dessert? Why not allow your opinions to shine through during the normal course of your writing rather than playing the drama queen and inflicting your exaggerated, insipid ill-reasoned diatribe on the rest of us?

Only Johnson can answer that. And since it is evident that he has neither the temperament, or intellect to engage in any kind of introspective analysis that would reveal his reasons to his own conscience, we’ll probably never know.



Filed under: Blogging, Decision '08, Decision 2012, Ethics, Media, Palin, Politics — Rick Moran @ 10:35 am

I risk life and limb writing about the former Alaska governor. Like the supporters of failed presidential candidate and official GOP weirdo Ron Paul, any negative comments I would make about the real conservative’s favorite MILF is going to bring an army of supporters to her defense while trashing me in the most unseemly terms imaginable.

Fortunately, I am well hidden in this corner of the blogosphere, and few real conservatives would be caught dead reading anything I write. However, Google search is ubiquitous in its reach and chances are, there are a couple of dozen Palinbots who will receive an email in their inbox informing them of my post. At that point, their email lists will fairly crackle with activity as my offense against the Goddess will be spread far and wide, bringing wrack and ruin down upon me.

Thus, I wade into the morass that Palin has made of her career with a little trepidation, but with a clear eye and my usual muddled head. The latter might usually be seen as a deficiency but when writing about Palin, it may actually prove a boon since what other frame of mind can you employ to write about a woman so challenged by fact and in love with fancy?

Let’s get the facts out of the way first; there has never been a vice presidential candidate that was treated so unfairly by the media in the modern age. The number of rumors, falsehoods, and lies that were published as fact about her is truly astonishing and has no parallel in modern politics. (Such blackening the name of candidates with prevarications was routine in the 19th century but died out when newspapers became more independent of parties.)

I am surprised that I have not read that Sarah Palin bites the heads off chickens and drinks their blood. Charles Martin took the trouble of listing the media lies about Palin, stopping at 84 linked entries - that’s links to the lies as well as links that clearly debunk the lies.

This does not include the vicious attacks made in various magazines from Vanity Fair to Redbook that repeat some of the lies while making up a few more of their own. I challenge any fair minded liberal to refute these facts.

I normally hate to see any conservative treated so abysmally by those who claim to be, if not unbiased, then fair; if not balanced, then reasonable. Palin’s treatment has been neither fair nor reasonable. Many explanations have been given for this including the unprovable assumption that liberals hate strong conservative women. I think many liberals hate all conservatives whether they are men, women, transgendered, or eunuchs. Their mode of attack changes a little from sex to sex so perhaps it appears they single out women of the right for special treatment, but it’s really all part of the same mindset; conservatives are poopy heads and nothing is out of bounds in criticizing them.

The question before us is can the narrative regarding Palin be altered to make her a viable candidate for 2012? With 60% of the American people currently dead set against voting for her for president under any circumstances, it would seem to be a very tall mountain for her to climb in order for her to achieve the respect of the voters; something she never had to begin with among a majority and seems to have damaged herself further by abandoning her office. Her tabloid like-presence in American culture has also dragged her down, as has the fact that very few of the elites in the Republican party take her seriously as a party leader.

And well they shouldn’t. They may fear her influence with the 20% or so of the party who would support her aspirations in 2012, but beyond that, they and most of the rest of us find it difficult to take one so shallow and uninformed seriously. As far as I can tell, she has done little in the intervening year since the election to rectify her appalling ignorance of the world, and even domestic issues like health care. The author of the “death panels” remark may have succeeded in scaring old people to death but if I were her, I would hardly stand on that as an accomplishment.

Her fan base - and indeed many on the right - applauded her fear mongering because they believe it slowed down the legislative process and got conservatives back in the game. I believe they are overstating her influence as there were other factors, including senior citizens both Democrat and Republican who were already up in arms over the proposed Medicare cuts who showed up in droves at town hall meetings and voiced their concerns. In effect, Palin may have simply tossed some nitro on an already volatile situation.

And this is the kind of leader these jamokes want?

What Daniel Larison and others refer to as her “psuedo-populism” appears to highlight her very “ordinariness” and “just folks” personae. The trouble with this as I see it is that there is an undercurrent of anti-intellectualism that undergirds her anti-establishmentarian shtick. She has made her shallow, depthless understanding of the world into a badge of honor, and indeed, her supporters push the idea that this is a positive good, that having a president as unversed in nuance as they are of policy and programs would be kind of neat. Sure would be a switch from all those brainy establishment elitists who don’t want to roll back the New Deal and Great Society, making this country into a true conservative paradise.

This is not to say that Palin is stupid. She’s intellectually lazy. I wouldn’t necessarily call her incurious in a George Bush sort of way but neither would I refer to her as possessing the innate intelligence of a Ronald Reagan who actually did change the narrative about himself. Reagan had an active, curious mind and the good sense to reach out to experts who educated him, as well as filling in knowledge gaps by reading voraciously. Palin does not seem to have that spark, that drive, that hunger for knowledge that anyone as ill informed as she admits herself to be should possess. Therefore, I hold no hope that she can transform herself into a reasonably well informed politician.

You can see where this piece has been going. No, I don’t think Palin can alter the narrative about herself in time for 2012, and I think it improbable that she will ever be able to rise above the level in American politics as a curiosity, a side show -grist for the conservative base who, if they get their wish and nominate her in 2012, will find that the political baggage she carries along with her determined ignorance will lead to a Reaganesque landslide for Obama.

In order for her to flip her position with the electorate, she has to want to change the reasons they hold such a low opinion of her - alter their perceptions by addressing their concerns about her. Unless and until I see that happening, the chances are good that she won’t even be able to win the GOP nomination much less the general election.



Filed under: Decision '08, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 11:16 am

What is it that possesses certain conservatives to fool themselves so spectacularly into believing that they can create a majority out of a minority?

That kind of alchemy hasn’t been seen since Nostradamus tried to turn lead into gold. In the case of far right conservatives who think that they can turn their meager numbers into a ruling majority all by themselves, the disconnect from reality would normally call for an intervention - except they reject anything from anybody who doesn’t agree with them 100%. Nor can they seem to grasp complex political realities that would complicate their simplistic, ignorant view that their idea of what constitutes a “conservative” reigns supreme all across the land.

The recent Gallup poll showing that 40% of Americans see themselves as “conservative” was leapt upon by these morons as “proof” that their brand of anarcho-conservatism dominates the political landscape. Would that it were true. The fact that there are a dozen different definitions of “conservative” depending on where you live doesn’t seem to penetrate. And the pogrom they wish to carry out against “moderates” who agree with them on 90% of the issues they hold dear but fail their ever more spastic “litmus tests” guarantees Democratic dominance for the foreseeable future.

Why the name calling? Why the harsh, unyielding language? Because I too, believe this country is in enormous trouble. But the way the base is going about trying to overcome the political deficit that George Bush and his cronies placed the Republican party will only lead to permanent minority status for conservatives. In truth, the gloating being done on the far right over the ravaging of Scozzafava has led to a belief that the template used to stick it to the establishment in NY23 can be grafted on to other districts where “RINO’s” are running - GOP incumbents be damned.

The RNC, the NRCC, and other conservatives like Newt Gingrich erred in trying to foist a liberal Republican onto the people of the 23rd congressional district. On this, we can all agree. But when I read bullsh*t like this, a cold chill goes up my spine:

This showed just how bad things have become. The Republican Party has been hijacked. Conservatives have been driven underground by the RINOs and the DIABLOs (Democrats in all but label only). This leftish creep was insidious until we got clubbed over the head when the ultra liberal media picked our presidential candidate — the Gang of 14 tool John McCain.

We all sucked it up. We went along. We embraced the ticket in the spirit of AROO — (any Republican over Obama) — and we held our noses until Sarah Palin came along. Ah, just a spoonful of Sarah helped the medicine go down.

But now it’s time to clean house. Newt and his ilk will be relegated to the dustbin of history, and deservedly so. Enough with the old, in with the true!

A couple of hundred thousand conservatives fill up the mall on September 12 and Geller thinks conservatives have been “driven underground?” What kind of utter nonsense is that? Geller is a full throated member of the Anti-Reason Conservatives - those who reject reality in favor of persecution complexes, wildly exaggerated hyperbole, and a frightening need for vengeance against their imagined “enemies” - despite the fact that those imagined foes agree with them on virtually everything they think they stand for.

The idea that Newt Gingrich should be “relegated to the dustbin of history” - a not uncommon sentiment I’ve read over the past week - demonstrates a determined refusal to objectively analyze the political realities of the unique situation in NY23 and deliberately remain ignorant of the consequences that would have accrued if the Republican party had failed to support the Republican candidate in the district.

A good case can be made that Gingrich especially could have kept his mouth shut about conservatives rightly gravitating to Hoffman. His petulance with national conservatives who sought to replace the liberal Scozzafava with a more palatable choice was uncalled for and further demonstrates his unfitness for the presidency.

But kick him out of the party? Marginalize one of the only public intellectuals on the right who can speak to a broad cross section of America with authority and credibility? Perhaps that’s Newt’s real problem; the anti-intellectualism on the far right that sees any independent thinking deviating from their worldview as suspect. Or perhaps it’s just the idea that Gingrich, through his years of service to the conservative and Republican causes, has become a part of the establishment and hence, a target.

Who do these louts think the party establishment should have supported in NY23? There would have been no real difference if the DC Republicans had supported Hoffman or the Democrat Owens over Scozzafava. The result would have been exactly the same; the national party spitting in the face of local Republican organizations who chose Scozzafava - regardless of her admitted liberalism and regardless of whether her candidacy was rammed through by powerful New York state GOP bigwigs.

The pragmatism demonstrated by the national Republicans in giving Scozzafava the support they felt necessary for her to win is lost on the ideologues who can’t seem to wrap their heads around the idea that majorities are crafted by addition, not subtraction. Scozzafava would have been a beastly congresswoman, as unreliable a Republican vote on the issues as could be imagined. But Congress is governed as much by procedure as it is ideas, and when the whip is cracked by the leadership, she probably would have been with the party most of the time.

In effect, the base is criticizing the Republican establishment for acting like a political party and not a college debating society. The advantage of belonging to the latter is that you can pick and choose members based on whatever subjective criteria you wish. Don’t like the cut of a man’s suit or women with red hair? Fine. But don’t apply your ridiculous litmus tests to a political party trying to fashion a majority.

If you wish to deny membership into your ever shrinking club of “true” conservatives to those who you think don’t live up to your narrow, parochial, rigid definition, that is your problem. But if you care one whit about the United States of America, you would swallow your excessively ideological outlook on politics, take off the blinders, and realize that a party made up of lockstep righties who think like you is not only impossible, but the effort to realize that goal would be monumentally stupid.

The childish view that most of the base has of what it takes to turn politics into a governing majority would be amusing if they weren’t so obstructive in realizing that goal for the GOP. And even if Hoffman goes down to defeat, the wrong lessons - as usual - will be drawn from the effort to elect him. Sending the establishment a message to work harder to find and support good conservative candidates who can win in different regions of the country is one thing. That is an effort worth making, and I applaud activists who are seeking to send that message to the powers that be.

But sending the message to not only seek out conservatives for office but also replace those who fall short of being “true” conservatives in the estimation of the base is loony. It is this kind of gunslinging that guarantees a Democratic majority. It would be a huge waste of resources to attempt such madness. But that is the goal of many in the base who can’t stand the thought of “moderates” calling themselves “Republican.”

I believe in party reform. I believe the GOP should be a friendly place for conservatives - however they define that label. I believe that good conservatives should be running the Republican party and the conservative movement.

But above all of that, I believe in victory. And if that is not paramount in your mind, then you might as well switch parties and vote for the Democrat.


Bill Quick:

All you need to do to keep track of the thinking in the credentialist, careerist (yes, that describes Moran to a tee - he’s been trolling for some sort of DC establishment GOP job for, like, ever) nuthouse wing of the faux GOP, is read Rick Moran - or as much of him as you can stand to swallow without retching.

That he is shrieking like an inmate in the locked ward over the horror of conservatives finally asserting themselves in the party that ostensibly claims to represent them should tell you all you need to know about what these jamokes really think.

I wouldn’t drum anybody out of the party over abortion (though it isn’t my issue) or gay rights, (which I’ve supported for ages), but I would like to see these phony Republicans and fake conservatives remove themselves to the party that mirrors their views.

As to the charge that I want a job in DC - been there, done that and have absolutely no desire to go back. Obviously, Mr. Slowwitted believes DC is the destination of choice for people who wish to make a living writing about politics. For a fellow who never tires of telling us (it’s on his blog’s masthead) that he coined the term “blogosphere,” he seems not to have heard of the internet. This marvelous invention makes working from the comfortable confines of my office here in Streator, Illinois (”Smack dab in the middle of Middle America”) for companies located in California a pleasant reality.

No matter. Quick, like most of the excessively ideological, rabid right, didn’t bother to read what I wrote and simply spouted that I was horrified at the prospects of “conservatives finally asserting themselves in the party that ostensibly claims to represent them.” That must have been in the bits I edited out because I don’t see me writing that anywhere in this particular post, nor do I agree with that notion generally. In fact, lo and behold, there is this:

Sending the establishment a message to work harder to find and support good conservative candidates who can win in different regions of the country is one thing. That is an effort worth making, and I applaud activists who are seeking to send that message to the powers that be.

I dunno, Bill. Sounds like I approve of “conservatives asserting themselves,” but what the fu*k do I know? I’m only the writer.

Quick suggests I change the name of my site. Before I do that, perhaps he should change his to “Idiot Child Pundit” since he gibbers like a two year old without making any sense about anything.



Filed under: Blogging, Decision '08, Ethics, Government, Media, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 10:32 am

This is the 4th in a series of 5 articles on the state of intellectual conservatism. Here’s Part I. Part II. And Part III.

There is a terrific exchange of views on the health of conservatism over at Slate between conservative writer Reihan Salam and Sam Tannenhaus (author of Death of Conservatism). Salam is author (with Ross Douthat) of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream[ that was not very well received by movement conservatives. He is also the Schwartz Fellow at the decidedly unconservative New America Foundation.

I suppose for many on the right, this kind of background disqualifies Mr. Salam from having anything relevant to say about conservatism. No matter. I find Salam's writing to border on brilliant at times, and his insights into modern America fresh and thought provoking. I'm sure this exchange with Tannenhaus over the latter's new book will not change anyone's mind.

Salam offers a brief summary that will also familiarize readers here with the substance of Tannenhaus's book:

To summarize briefly, you offer a sharp distinction between rigidly ideological movement conservatism, which you describe as more Jacobin than Burkean in its tone and in its anti-democratic ambitions, and the more modest and restrained "Beaconsfield position" advocated by Whittaker Chambers, a man whose courage, intellect, and independence you plainly admire. These two strands, revanchist and realist, have been present throughout the history of the American right and, as you vividly demonstrate in the case of William F. Buckley Jr., often coexist in the work of leading conservative intellectuals. The book ends with the revanchists triumphant as even neoconservative intellectuals, once the arch-realists, find themselves overtaken by ideological zeal.

"Beaconsfield" refers to the peerage of Conservative Party Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (Earl of Beaconsfield) and his school of mid-19th century reform conservatism in England that embraced measures expanding the government's purview into areas where it was previously unknown. Tannenhaus admires Disraeli, holding him up as the kind of conservative to which the right should aspire. But today, he would probably be seen as a "Big Government" conservative by the base given the numerous reforms that brought government in to play a role in education, and worker safety, while committing the definite conservative no-no back then of expanding sufferage to include almost all male heads of households.

Disraeli is usually referred to as the "Father of Modern Conservatism" - and for good reason as this 2005 piece by David Gelernter makes clear:

THUS DISRAELI FOUND HIMSELF in a position to rebuild the Tory party. How did he go about it? Reverence for tradition was central to Toryism and to Disraeli's own personality. He wanted his new-style Tory party to embody respect for tradition--wanted it to be new and old, to be a modern setting for ancient gems, a new crown displaying old jewels. This was a popular idea in 19th-century Britain, where "the future" and "the past" were both discovered, simultaneously.

Disraeli's approach was like Barry and Pugin's in designing a new home for Parliament. The old one burned to the ground (except for a magnificent medieval hall and a few odds and ends) in 1834. The new structure, it was decided, should be built of modern materials and work like a modern building with all the conveniences--but should look medieval. The intention wasn't play-acting or aesthetic fraud; it was to use the best ideas of the past and present alongside each other.

The result was wildly successful, one of history's greatest public buildings. Disraeli aimed to accomplish something similar for the Tory party. His underlying thought, which defined Disraeli-type Toryism and reshaped conservatism for all time, was that the Conservative party was the national party. Sounds simple and is. But everything else followed. If you understood "national" properly, then (on the one hand) the Tories must be a democratic, "universal," progressive party that cared about the poor and working classes--since the party was national it must care for the whole nation, for all classes. But the Tories must also be a patriotic party that revered ancient traditions and institutions, again inasmuch as they were the national--and therefore honored profoundly the nation's heritage and distinctive character.

He put it like this:

"In a progressive country change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines."

I present intellectual conservatism at its most lucid and sublime.

Perhaps here is where the schism between movement conservatives and reformists is most pronounced; the very idea of "change." Not the revanchist view that the United States should return to some unrealistic, impossible to achieve, 19th century "small government" paradise - before there was a New Deal or Great Society. But rather the idea that conservatism at its best manages change so that ultimately, it is based on the traditions - "the manners, the customs, the laws" - that are the best of any society.

Even Russell Kirk embraced this view of change in his 10th Conservative Principle:

Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society. The conservative is not opposed to social improvement, although he doubts whether there is any such force as a mystical Progress, with a Roman P, at work in the world. When a society is progressing in some respects, usually it is declining in other respects. The conservative knows that any healthy society is influenced by two forces, which Samuel Taylor Coleridge called its Permanence and its Progression. The Permanence of a society is formed by those enduring interests and convictions that gives us stability and continuity; without that Permanence, the fountains of the great deep are broken up, society slipping into anarchy. The Progression in a society is that spirit and that body of talents which urge us on to prudent reform and improvement; without that Progression, a people stagnate.


Change is essential to the body social, the conservative reasons, just as it is essential to the human body. A body that has ceased to renew itself has begun to die. But if that body is to be vigorous, the change must occur in a regular manner, harmonizing with the form and nature of that body; otherwise change produces a monstrous growth, a cancer, which devours its host. The conservative takes care that nothing in a society should ever be wholly old, and that nothing should ever be wholly new. This is the means of the conservation of a nation, quite as it is the means of conservation of a living organism. Just how much change a society requires, and what sort of change, depend upon the circumstances of an age and a nation.

I would hope that our liberal friends read the preceding and understand why conservatives cannot and will not support the Obama version of national health care reform. It is decidedly not connected to our traditions, or our customs, and in no way can be supported since it posits “change” as some kind of mythical “progress.”

Neither, however, should many on the right believe that change should always be opposed simply out of opposition to the majority. This is mindless nihilism, and is also decidedly “unconservative” if you believe that society should be constantly trying to improve itself.

I took this detour into Disraeli and the notion of “change” because it is at the heart of Tannehaus’s critique; that movement conservatism has short circuited the connection between intellectuals and themselves by rejecting logic and reason, substituting paranoia and an incipient anti-intellectualism in its stead.

Salam responds this way:

I have a slightly different interpretation of conservatism’s excesses. For good reason, you place the conservative intelligentsia at the heart of your story. I tend to think intellectuals belong on the margins. The revanchism you lament is not the invention of conservative elites. My view is that it is rooted in the considered judgments of a small but intense and vocal minority of American voters, many of whom are white evangelical Christians living in the Southern United States. As labor economist Stephen Rose argued in 2006, these are voters who are very tax-sensitive; they tend to settle in regions with a low cost of living, where self-reliance seems more plausible than it does from my vantage point as a lifelong city dweller. Social conservatism arguably has a totemic significance; because rural red America suffers from scandalously high rates of divorce, the sanctity of marriage is a live issue. Far from resenting public moralism, the voters I have in mind consider it a vital part of a decent, well-governed society.

What you see as conservative decline strikes me as a structural consequence of our permeable democracy. In Britain, for example, large majorities of the public back the restoration of the death penalty—more, according to some polls, than in the United States, where we’ve experienced its many downsides—but an elite cross-party consensus keeps the issue off the table. For better or for worse, our system gives the most intensely committed voters a voice that can’t be ignored. We remember the movement to impeach President Clinton as the wild-eyed crusade of out-of-touch congressional leaders, yet it was also fueled by the outrage of rank-and-file conservatives. And in a similar vein, Karl Rove never imagined that opposition to same-sex marriage would cement a permanent Republican majority. It was a distraction that I’m sure he found distasteful. President Bush himself could barely stomach talking about the issue. Yet talk about it he did, in deference to the need to press every advantage.

Is it an accident that southern evangelicals (and those who sympathize with their social agenda nationwide) are the most reliable GOP voters and play such a prominent role in conservatism today? I hesitate to agree with Tannenhaus that these grass roots conservatives exhibit reactionary traits but it is hard to escape the fact that much of the right’s social agenda - anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage (and gay rights), school prayer (”God in the public square”) - is predicated on the belief that attitudes in society that have changed to varying degrees on these issues can be rolled back. I don’t know if this is “reactionary” although I don’t believe that social conservatives are desirous of the kind of “change” that would have been supported by Disraeli or perhaps even Kirk.

I hasten to add that this doesn’t make these issues illegitimate. But they don’t represent my kind of conservatism, nor that of many others.

response is interesting:

Actually, what you call a polemic means to be an interpretive history that makes the opposite case from the one described in your account. Revanchist conservatism did not originate as a form of populist protest. Rather, it was the brainchild of the very elites you say have no influence on our politics. It was conservative intellectuals who argued that the “managerial elite” (James Burnham), the “liberal establishment” (William Buckley), or the “new class” (Irving Kristol) had seized control of American politics and later our society. This argument, in its inverted Marxism, gave theoretical shape to the unarticulated anxieties and suspicions—anti-government, anti-institutional, antinomian—of the “small but intense and vocal minority,” many of them “white evangelical Christians,” who today populate the eroding island of movement conservatism. Even today the right insists it is driven by ideas, even if the leading thinkers are now Limbaugh and Beck, and the shock troops are tea-partiers and anti-tax demonstrators.

In other words, the movement has thrived not as a top-down operation, nor as a bottom-up one, but as a convergence of shared prejudices and cultural enmities. Thus, the right’s first great modern tribune was Joe McCarthy, whose theatrical “investigations” of “enemies within” were either endorsed or indulged by each of the intellectuals mentioned above.

The same antagonisms continued through the Bush years. Your reading of that dismal period seems rather wishful to me. Bush and Rove built their presidency on revanchism. This isn’t surprising since Rove’s number-crunching following the 2000 election—when Bush lost the popular vote by 500,000 or more—suggested that the GOP ticket had failed to exploit the evangelical base that might have yielded a majority. No wonder Bush devoted so much of his presidency to courting social conservatives—remember stem cells, intelligent design, the faith-based initiative? Nor was Rove taken aback by opposition to same-sex marriage. On the contrary, he made it a centerpiece in the 2004 election. It is the politics of the excluded middle, or center, and it defines the right today on every stratum.

Tannenhaus believes that the intellectuals who supplied much of the substance and heft to conservatism in the 1970’s ended up embracing ideology as a means to political power, igniting the passions of the base by focusing on “enemies” and “antagonisms.” He calls it a “convergence” of the elites (most of whom are not intellectuals I might add) with the base. Who was driving whom? I agree more with Salam on this one. The entrance into politics of evangelicals, motivated by TV preachers like Jerry Falwell, was definitely a grass roots phenomenon and one of the more significant political events since World War II. Reagan largely gave lip service to the Christian right (as Roosevelt gave lip service to the far left agenda during his administration), and George Bush 41 stupidly rejected them.

It was left to Bush 43 to pander shamelessly to the evangelicals, increasing their power and influence, while running a corporatist, big government administration. He was supported by conservatives largely because of his social conservatism and his hawkish foreign policy. Also, the alternative of John Kerry was unpalatable to almost all on the right.

But did this “convergence” lead us to the sorry state of intellectual conservatism today? Salam replies to Tannenhaus by positing a different explanation:

And as I suggested in my first entry, I really do think that something structural is going on: In the past, the democratic marketplace was less “efficient,” and that was in a sense a very good thing for writers and thinkers and public-spirited elected officials, who had the freedom to defy movement discipline. Our more fragmented media landscape has far lower barriers to entry, and it allows passionately engaged citizens, as well as cranks, to organize and even intimidate. When you consider that Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa fears a hard-right Internet-enabled primary challenge, his otherwise puzzling behavior in the health reform debate starts to make sense.

Throughout the book, you draw on political analyst Samuel Lubell to argue that America’s party system consists of a dominant sun, a majority party that sets the ideological agenda, and a minority moon. And like many observers, you suggest that after a long period of Republican dominance, during which Democrats came to embrace conservative insights as part of a new consensus, we have now entered a progressive era. And so conservatives face a choice: Either a new generation of Republican Disraelis will champion a Bismarckian welfare state, a view that Irving Kristol championed as late as 2003 (I disagree with your interpretation of the late Kristol, but I digress), or the movement will be doomed to snarling insignificance at the margins of our political life.

That’s a pretty stark choice but, I believe, an accurate one. Salam said in his first piece that he believed the anger of the base would “steadily work its way out in hundreds of thousands of roiling conversations in office parks, shopping malls, living rooms, and lecture halls.” And, I might add, the voting booth. It is there that movement conservatism will finally meet its own “Waterloo.”

I believe it inevitable that even if the GOP mounts some kind of comeback in 2010, it will be shortlived. The systemic contradictions inherent in the movement as well as a continued disconnect with the concerns of ordinary voters will spell defeat of what will almost certainly be a movement candidate for president in 2012. Then, the excuse that their candidate wasn’t “conservative enough” will ring hollow and they will be faced with the yawning chasm opening beneath their feet that their angry, paranoid, illogical worldview is not shared with many outside of the cocoon they have created for themselves.



This is the third in a series of 5 articles on the state of intellectual conservatism. Part I can be found here. Part II.

Few speechwriters of the modern era can match the record of Peggy Noonan when it comes to memorable presidential addresses. Teddy Sorenson was of a different era but managed several significant, and remembered speeches for JFK, including Kennedy’s inaugural address which is often considered one of the best. Ray Price and Pat Buchanan added a combative style to presidential addresses (Price was especially good at sticking the knife in). James Fallows penned some good speeches for Carter that were delivered atrociously.

But Noonan was lucky enough to work with a president who was not only a dynamite speaker, but a wordsmith in his own right. Her best efforts with Reagan were collaborative, as Noonan would shoot the Gipper a draft, who would return it with numerous notations and changes. She had a great sense of Reagan’s speaking cadence which was evident in one of the best speeches of the 20th century; Reagan’s D-Day address to the “Boys of Point du Hoc.” Rarely has the moment so gloriously reflected the words uttered by an American president.

But Noonan the political analyst? Most conservatives have dismissed her columns on conservatism as elitist, and not all that conservative to begin with. She has said nice things about Obama. She has said bad things about movement heroes like Rush Limbaugh. She has criticized the inchoate rage of the extreme right.

In short, she has been reasonable, pragmatic, desirous of engaging the opposition, and doesn’t see the president with horns and a tail.

Heresy, that.

Yes, Peggy Noonan is an elitist. Yes, she has misread the pull/push relationship between populists and reformers, ascribing opposition to her brand of conservatism as a nascent anti-intellectualism. She is befuddled about why the base hates her so, considering the fact that she was working for the conservative cause while most of her detractors were still in books, or not even born. This makes her somewhat pathetic in my opinion. She hasn’t much of a clue about the real conversation that is going on right now and this is reflected in her writings.

She is clueless about engaging on the internet. Her website is a simple repository for her numerous articles. She famously devoted an entire column following one of her more clueless articles, bemoaning the loss of civility in internet comments. Why anyone would be surprised in this day and age about the viciousness of anonymous posters is indicative of a kind of quaint, child like innocence about the world that is both attractive and gobsmackingly dense.

But she is still a great writer. And she usually has something to say that is somewhat relevant, although it is usually a hit or miss proposition.

Here’s a definite “miss”
as she comments about the loss of William Safire:

Anyway, everyone there knew we’d suddenly lost one of the great ones, the Elders, and there is lately a sense of a changing of the guard.

Who are the Elders? They set the standards. They hand down the lore. They’re the oldest and wisest. By proceeding through the world each day with dignity and humanity, they show the young what it is that should be emulated. They’re the tribal chieftains. This role has probably existed since caveman days, because people need guidance and encouragement, they need to be heartened by examples of endurance. They need to be inspired.

We are in a generational shift in the media, and new Elders are rising. They’re running the networks and newspapers, they own the Web sites, they anchor the shows. What is their job?

It’s to do what the Elders have always done, but now more than ever.

You know the current media environment. You think I’m about to say, “Boy, what’s said on cable, radio and the Internet now is really harmful and dangerous.” And you’re right, and it is. Some of the ranters don’t have the faintest idea where the line is. “They keep moving the little sucker,” said the William Hurt character, the clueless and unstoppable anchorman, in “Broadcast News.” They’ve been moving the little sucker for 20 years. But it’s getting worse, and those who warn of danger are right.

This is nonsense, obviously coming from someone who is not only clueless about the “generational shift” in the media but its true significance as well. New “elders” aren’t being created. There are no more elders, or youngers, or tweeners. Such designations are irrelevant in a media landscape with literally thousands of outlets, and many thousands of writers who are just as qualified, just as smart, just as talented as Noonan herself or any other “elder” who ever lived, scratching out their opinions, paid and unpaid.

The “elders of which she writes came of age when the Saturday Evening Post was still a viable publication; when Life, Look, and Time Magazine sold tens of millions of copies; when there were perhaps a half dozen newspapers where “elders” sat on high and pontificated to the rest of us; and where there were only three gigantic TV networks.

This is not to say that excellent writing and thinking doesn’t rise to the top of the ziggurat and is recognized, or that there aren’t any writers with influence. But compared to Noonan’s “elders” the effect of today’s media stars is extremely limited. The fact that no one publication can attract millions of Americans to read what they put out is a direct cause of why print media is dying. Even syndicated columnists like Noonan, Will, Krauthammer, Samuelson, or Dowd can only reach a fraction of the readers of those who came before them.

But does Noonan have a point?

A few days ago, I was sent a link to a screed by MSNBC’s left-wing anchorman Ed Schultz, in which he explained opposition to the president’s health-care reform. “The Republicans lie. They want to see you dead. They’d rather make money off your dead corpse. They kind of like it when that woman has cancer and they don’t have anything for us.” Next, a link to the syndicated show of right-wing radio talker Alex Jones, on the subject of the U.S. military, whose security efforts at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh show them to be agents and lackeys of the New World Order. “They are complete enemies of America. . . . Our military’s been taken over. . . . This is the end of our country.” Later, “They’d love to kill 10,000 Americans,” and, “The republic is falling right now.”

This, increasingly, is the sound of our political conversation.

It is not new to call this kind of thing destructive, though it is. It is a daily agitating barrage that coarsens and inflames. It tears the national fabric. But it could wind up doing worse than that.

Of course she’s right. It is a fact that in order to stand out in this fractured, media multi-verse, the louder and angrier you are, the more you resonate on an emotional level with the audience.

Noonan believes this to be “dangerous.” I’m not sure of that at all. It may be sad. It may be pathetic that Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck actually enjoy the respect and admiration of so many - those who think that because they “sound” like they are making sense or they “feel” that what they say is true is indicative of wisdom and logic. An entire subculture of conservatives have grown up believing that strawman arguments, hysterical exaggeration regarding one’s opponents, fear mongering, shallowness, and even hate is a substitute for reason, for thinking.

How can anyone possibly mistake this typical rant from Limbaugh for reasoned, rational, discourse?

The people that run our country now have a much closer proximity and they’re much closer to the world’s tyrants and dictators than they are closer to the people who founded the country. This is not accidental. They have chosen it. This is the ideology that they have chosen. This is what’s best for them. And you’re going to learn this if you stay focused and stay interested and keep learning as you grow older, you’re going to learn this. You’re gonna learn that they’re not innocent idiots. They are dangerous, devious central planners who have designs on everybody’s liberty and freedom. That’s what matters most to them because that’s where they derive their power.

I have to say it because Limbaugh either believes this, or knows his audience too well; he is saying all of this about our fellow Americans; that they are “closer to tyrants” than Thomas Jefferson; that they are “dangerous, devious central planners who have designs on everybody’s liberty and freedom” - as if their motives were to enslave us.

This kind of rant hits all the emotional buttons of Limbaugh’s listeners while eschewing logic and promoting fear. Nearly 20 million people listen to this crap every day and nod their heads in agreement, thinking how “true” this sounds” and how it feels like an intelligent analysis of liberalism.

Now, a visit to just about any liberal website will reveal similar things said about conservatives and conservatism. But the point made by many on the left - that Limbaugh is considered so mainstream and respected that even political leaders cower in fear of his influence with the base - is well taken. When some pissant lefty blog, or the equally invisible Olbermann/Maddow/Schultz trio at MSNBC (which is the nexus of lefty kookery) spout off about conservatives, you don’t find too many Democratic Congressman imitating them (although Alan Grayson sure tries hard, doesn’t he?).

But hey! Beck got Vann Jones fired and Rush arms his dittoheads with talking points that they can take into internet forums and chat rooms to do battle against evil. Surely there is some good that comes out of this, isn’t there?

There are those who have been telling me that conservatism needs these populizers to excite the troops and motivate them to achieve political victory. What kind of “victory” is it worth to lose your mind to gain a majority?

And that, dear readers is the bottom line. This is why it is imperative that intellectual conservatism - or at least a reasonable, hard headed, tough minded approach to political combat - is so far superior to the Limbaugh/Beck/Savage school of slash and burn, take no prisoners conservatism that dominates today.

Public intellectuals like Richard Posner, Yuval Levin, and other, younger thinkers like Conor Friedersdorf and Reihan Salam - whose critiques of liberalism are every bit as devastating as anything Limbaugh et al can conjure up - are whispering in a typhoon of irrationality and bombast. While it may be true as Richard Viguerie and Steven Allen point out in an Examiner op-ed today that conservative intellectuals (”elites” Viguerie calls them) in the past never really enjoyed much cache with movement conservatives, the fact is they were always there to add depth and legitimacy to the national political conversation.

Would that it were so today.



Filed under: Birthers, Blogging, GOP Reform, Government, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 10:54 am

I could have just as easily titled this piece “Ideologues vs. The Realists” or some other descriptive caption for what boils down to a debate now fully underway among conservatives about the best way back to power.

Are the ideologues in the movement correct? Is a lack of “passion” regarding opposition to the left, as well as a less than 100%, strict adherence to their idea of conservative “principles” responsible for the right’s slaughter at the polls in 2006 and 2008?

Or are the pragmatists correct that the demand for “purity” by the ideologues coupled with the prominence of a conspiracy mongering, angry, paranoid base has connected conservatism to an unsavory, and unelectable politics?

At stake, a battle for the soul of conservatism in America and perhaps even the preservation of republican virtues given the left’s ascendancy and their first real opportunity in 40 years to “remake” America in ways that are an anathema to the tenets of modern conservative thought.

In the midst of this fight, a book by Sam Tanenhaus called The Death of Conservatism has been published which has already added fuel to the fire. Tanenhaus’s thesis is that movement conservatism has undermined the Burkean roots of conservative philosophy and that rather than trying to preserve and “conserve” institutions, movement-cons, who he terms “revanchists,” seek to destroy that which has been carefully built up over centuries.

The book is based on a shorter essay Tanenhaus published in The New Republic (no longer available) that I wrote about in depth here. I found that the essay reflected some of my own beliefs about where conservatism had gone off the rails, but was seriously flawed in its analysis of what Tanenhaus believed were “excesses” of the movement.

In reviewing the book, Garry Wills pointed to the classic tension between Burkeans and the movement personified by one of the most intellectually productive relationships in American history; the friendship and mutual admiration society that existed between Whittaker Chambers and William Buckley:

Tanenhaus is a deep student of modern conservatives. He wrote a biography of Whittaker Chambers, a self-professed Beaconsfieldian (Disraeli was the Earl of Beaconsfield), and he has been working for some time on a biography of William F. Buckley Jr. This short book is a kind of bridge between his two great projects, and it fits his revanchist–Burkean paradigm. Chambers and Buckley, though friends, began at opposite ends of the “conservative” spectrum. Buckley, who admired Chambers’s witness against communism, tried with all his lures and charms to recruit him as an editor of National Review when it began in 1955. But Chambers thought Senator Joseph McCarthy, whom the magazine championed, would doom Republicans. Besides, he was loyal to his ally in the Hiss case, Richard Nixon, and to Nixon’s meal ticket Dwight Eisenhower, while the magazine opposed them both as impure compromisers. (In 1956, only one National Review editor, James Burnham, endorsed Eisenhower for reelection.)

But Buckley finally wore Chambers down—in 1957, with great misgivings, Chambers joined the magazine. Murray Kempton wrote that Chambers finally went to work for a boss he could respect—which was not saying too much, since “Chambers’s former employers happened to be Colonel Bykov of the Soviet Secret Police, the late Henry Luce, and John F.X. McGohey, ‘then United States Attorney’ for the Southern District of New York.”[2] Chambers soon had to withdraw from the magazine for health reasons, but he and Buckley stayed in constant communication, Chambers advising, Buckley deferential. Tanenhaus makes the case that Chambers finally converted Buckley from a revanchist to a Burkean. Kempton, who studied both men closely, doubts that Chambers’s advice ever really took: “Buckley worshiped and did not listen: the Chambers of his vision is a saint whose icon stands in a Church where his message is never read.”

So close, yet so far apart. What we should take away from that extraordinary exchange of ideas between two brilliant men is that it was done amicably, with great respect for each other, and the debate was carried out with the recognition that both were working toward a common goal.

I don’t see that being possible today. With the absolute refusal of the ideologues to abandon their purge of who they consider less than ideologically pure conservatives, and with the pragmatists fighting what amounts to a rear guard action to marginalize the crazies who are, if not embraced then certainly tolerated by the revanchists, there is no “common purpose” that could lead to any amicability or respect.

Indeed, the revanchists look with askance upon most attempts to criticize conservatism at all, believing that “intellectual elites” are simply playing into the hands of the enemy by taking fellow conservatives to task for their idiocy, or paranoia. Relatedly, any criticism of conservatism coming from the left is automatically dismissed - usually without even reading it - because that would be allowing your enemy to define you.

As for the former, the idea that honest criticism is rejected outright because we’re at war with the left reveals a sneering anti-intellectualism among the revanchists that flies in the face of conservatism’s most cherished and important virtue; a duty to the truth above and beyond loyalty to ideology.

And while I sympathize and agree to a certain extent about not allowing your political foe to totally define your philosophy, that shouldn’t preclude anyone from exposing themselves to ideas with which you may disagree or close one’s mind to looking at the world from a different angle.

Tanehaus is a man of the left (former editor of the Times Book Review section) but he has also immersed himself in the history and personalities of modern conservatism more than most. He is a sincere critic of the right, a thoughtful man who wants to engage in serious discussions about the issues he raises. And while there is precious little empiricism on which you can hang your hat in his writings, some of his analysis will ring true with students of history who have given some thought to what ails the right today.

When Tanenhaus points to the very un-Burkean beliefs of many movement-cons, he is questioning how these revanchists can square their conservatism with the more traditional school of thought represented by Buckley, Hayek, Kirk, Arnold, and others who believed that preserving society’s institutions was the right’s highest calling. A reverence for our past has morphed into a psuedo-reformist mantra that seeks to destroy rather than build upon, tear down instead of conserve. Hence, liberals should not be defeated, they must be annihilated, along with the Great Society, the New Deal, and other “socialist” ideas. Supporting anything less calls into question one’s “true conservative” credentials.

The recent efforts by Jon Henke and Patrick Ruffini to counter these destructive beliefs are instructive. Henke’s call for advertisers and the Republican party to boycott World Net Daily for their enthusiastic coverage and endorsement of the Birther nonsense (among other idiocies) and Ruffini’s defense of Jon, along with a general criticism of the revanchists that is both trenchant and on point:

As a fiscal and social conservative, I happen to think Jon is completely in the right here, both substantively and strategically. Don’t raise the canard that we ought to be attacking Democrats first. Conservatives are entirely within their rights to have public debates over who will publicly represent them, and who will be allowed to affiliate with the conservative movement.

The Birthers are the latest in a long line of paranoid conspiracy believers of the left and right who happen to attach themselves to notions that simply are not true. Descended from the 9/11 Truthers, the LaRouchies, the North American Union buffs, and way back when, the John Birch Society, the Birthers are hardly a new breed in American politics.

Each and every time they have appeared, mainstream conservatives from William F. Buckley to Ronald Reagan have risen to reject these influences — and I expect that will be the case once again here.

But there is another subtext that makes Jon’s appeal more urgent. As a pretty down-the-line conservative, I don’t believe I am alone in noting with disappointment the trivialization, excessive sloganeering, and pettiness that has overtaken the movement of late. In “The Joe the Plumberization of the GOP,” I argued that conservatives have grown too comfortable with wearing scorn as a badge of honor, content to play sarcastic second fiddle to the dominant culture of academia and Hollywood with second-rate knock-off institutions. A side effect of this has been a tendency to accept conspiracy nuts as a slightly cranky edge case within the broad continuum of conservatism, rather than as a threat to the movement itself.

In addition to “the trivialization, excessive sloganeering, and pettiness” exhibited by those in the movement, one might add the curious and debilitating attitude of equating thoughtfulness with “elitism.”

Stacy McCain, who can be brilliant when the mood strikes him, wrote this about Henke’s and Ruffini’s efforts at marginalizing the crazies:

Grassroots conservative activists are, by their very nature, not engaged in the political process as a career. They tend to be older, well-established in non-political occupations and less concerned about the Big Picture questions than in finding immediate, practical ways to oppose the menace of liberalism. The question one hears from the grassroots is not, “Whither conservatism?” but rather, “What can I do?”

The Tea Party movement — which will host a major rally in Washington next weekend — has given the grassroots something to do, so that joining en masse to voice their opposition to the Obama agenda, they are actively engaged in the political process.

However, grassroots activism has consequences. One of the consequences of a ressurgent conservative grassroots is that their concerns, beliefs and attitudes are sometimes not in sync with the concerns, beliefs and attitudes of smart young Republican activists like Patrick Ruffini.

Stacy, who later goes on to say that the Birthers “are diverting attention from more valid critiques of the Obama administration and its liberal policies. So they should be discouraged or ignored…” fails to see the Birthers as a symptom of a larger problem; movement-cons rejecting criticism - even of Birthers - as “elitist” and ascribing dissent from their closed, ideological worldview as the critic having insufficient attachment to conservative principles.

McCain doesn’t engage on quite that level but doesn’t mince words when it comes to taking down those he believes have “elitist” attitudes toward the movement (”rubes”). And while he makes some valid points about “careerism” and its deleterious impact on what passes for “acceptable discourse,” methinks he paints with too broad a brush at times. The Ruffini-Henke critique is hardly born out of a desire to advance or augment those two gentlemen’s standing with other conservatives or the Republican party but rather - and I think this fairly obvious - the practical, and pragmatic calculation that we can’t get there from here. Changes are in order so that the public face of conservatism has a smile, rather than a snarl, and promoting the idea that one can vigorously oppose Obama without descending into the fever swamps of conspiracy and hate.

The road back to political power and intellectual relevance for the right will not be found in the rantings of Birthers, the false accusations of apostasy directed against conservative critics, a dogmatic and ideological approach to defining principles, nor an unrealistic and unattainable political agenda.

Nor should we count on the self destruction of the opposition which, at this point, seems well underway. What we do when we achieve power is as important as how we get there. For that, Jon Henke, Patrick Ruffinini, and others like them should be heard out and their call for a return to reason heeded.



Filed under: GOP Reform, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 10:40 am

I suppose it could have been worse. Instead of passing a resolution officially branding the opposition the “Democrat (sic) Socialist Party,” the RNC might have voted the GOP out of existence.

In the end, the one will hasten the day that the other is realized.

This may be the silliest thing a political party has ever done in American history. I’m with Allah 100%:

More than anything, this reeks of impotence, operating almost as a concession that the right’s argument on the merits that the left is evolving towards socialism isn’t working to shift public opinion. So now they’re going to up the ante by trying the hard sell: Just repeat “socialism” as much as possible to try to drive it into people’s skulls, never minding the fact that that term’s already lost some of its taboo and might well lose more as it goes further mainstream. Or at least, I hope that’s the GOP strategy here. The alternative, that they’re simply sticking their fingers in their ears and repeating “socialist” over and over out of spite like a five-year-old, is too depressing to contemplate. What’s next, a formal resolution declaring french fries “freedom fries” in the Republican Party henceforth and forevermore?

Unfortunately, I believe their reasoning for passing this resolution is more attuned to the latter rather than the former. There is no sense, no rhyme, no reason to “officially” branding the opposition socialists. It is nothing more than a cry in the wilderness; a pathetic ploy (and a childish one at that) to inititate a round of name calling and finger pointing when what is needed are policy alternatives.

This is truly the party of Limbaugh now. The casual use of the word “socialism” on talk radio, the internet, and anywhere the “new conservatives” gather is an affront to common sense not to mention proof positive that the party is in the control of ill-educated, anti-intellectual brigands. Since around 99.9% of American businesses are NOT being taken over by the government and a similar percentage of workers are NOT having their salaries and bonuses manhandled by the feds, one wonders where the idea that the Democrats want “socialism” came from in the first place.

What Obama is doing should be opposed with every fiber of our beings. But Obama is corrupting the free market, not eliminating it. Here’s George Will today:

This is not gross, unambiguous lawlessness of the Nixonian sort — burglaries, abuse of the IRS and FBI, etc. — but it is uncomfortably close to an abuse of power that perhaps gave Nixon ideas: When in 1962 the steel industry raised prices, President John F. Kennedy had a tantrum and his administration leaked rumors that the IRS would conduct audits of steel executives, and sent FBI agents on predawn visits to the homes of journalists who covered the steel industry, ostensibly to further a legitimate investigation.

The Obama administration’s agenda of maximizing dependency involves political favoritism cloaked in the raiment of “economic planning” and “social justice” that somehow produce results superior to what markets produce when freedom allows merit to manifest itself, and incompetence to fail. The administration’s central activity — the political allocation of wealth and opportunity — is not merely susceptible to corruption, it is corruption.

Not a peep about socialism from a man who was fighting the expansion of the federal government when most new conservatives weren’t even a lacisvious gleam in their father’s eye. If you wish to call what Obama and the Democrats are doing “socialism,” then petition Webster’s to change the definition. And what is that definition?

1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.
2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

Considering that a minuscule part of the economy is, at the moment, being run by the Feds, the grossly exaggerated (and, I would add, hysterical) notion that the Democrats desire to close Wall Street, seize all private property, convene an industrial production board to set targets for economic activity, prevent the creation of new businesses, and control capital on a much grander scale than they do now - can only be explained by a shocking ignorance of politicl theory and the lack of even a beginner’s overview of the nature of the political economy shown by new conservatives from the RNC down.

Are Obama’s moves troubling? You betchya. Not because he is instituting socialism but because he and the Democrats are ignorantly corrupting the free market. The more they fiddle with it the more they screw it up. That much should be obvious even to the Keyenesians at Treasury and the White House. But the basic principles of the free market as it relates to the macro economy are still well in play. If you doubt me, pay a visit to the Chicago Board of Trade where capitalism - real devil take the hindmost capitalism - still rules the roost.

The laws of supply and demand still propel our economy despite the Fed’s best efforts to muck things up. And that’s what makes this move by the RNC to brand the Democrats as socialist so silly. Not only are they tarring tens of millions of Americans (and potential voters) with the slimey appellation, but they are lowering the bar on the definition of socialism to the point that about the only people in the US who wouldn’t be considered socialists are pie in the sky libertarians and corporate Republicans like Limbaugh and his ilk on talk radio.

And what of our illustrious leader, RNC Chairman Michael Steele? A cigar store indian has more influence with the RNC than he does:

A member of the Republican National Committee told me Tuesday that when the RNC meets in an extraordinary special session next week, it will approve a resolution rebranding Democrats as the “Democrat Socialist Party.”

When I asked if such a resolution would force RNC Chairman Michael Steele to use that label when talking about Democrats in all his speeches and press releases, the RNC member replied: “Who cares?”

Which pretty much sums up the attitude some members of the RNC have toward their chairman these days.

Steele wrote a memo last month opposing the resolution. Steele said that while he believes Democrats “are indeed marching America toward European-style socialism,” he also said in a (rare) flash of insight that officially referring to them as the Democrat Socialist Party “will accomplish little than to give the media and our opponents the opportunity to mischaracterize Republicans.”

I can hear my new conservative friends already: “We shouldn’t care what the media and the opposition will say about us. Anyone who does is a cowardly wretch who willingly plays into their hands by accepting their characterization of conservatives and Republicans.”

Okay, you win. I totally and completely reject the characterizations of conservatives by the media and the Democrats. I’ll even agree that even thinking about the subject should be cause for being kicked out of the Republican party. We don’t want pantywaists who wet themselves if the media and the Democrats successfully paint conservatives as a bunch of loony tunes nitwits who smear 60 million potential voters by calling them socialists. Be a man. Stand up. Look like an idiot, go ahead.

Lord deliver us.

Michael Gerson calls it “A Driving Desire to Lose:”

Witness the reaction to the National Council for a New America — an anodyne “listening tour” by Republican officials recently kicked off at a pizza parlor in Northern Virginia. Social conservatives attacked this forum on education and the economy for the offense of not being a forum on abortion and the traditional family. Neo-Reaganites searched the transcript for nonexistent slights: How dare former Florida governor Jeb Bush criticize “nostalgia” for the “good old days”? Why didn’t he just spit on Ronald Reagan’s grave? Other conservatives criticized the very idea of a listening tour, asking, “What’s to hear?”

During a recent conversation, Bush described himself as “dumbfounded by the reaction.” He added: “I don’t think listening is a weakness. People are yearning to be heard. Perhaps we should begin with a little humility.”


Each of these policies — carbon restrictions, universal health insurance and immigration reform — could eventually be important to the Republican recovery. But would a candidate carrying these ideas transform the Republican Party, or be destroyed by it? The hostile reaction to the pizza parlor putsch provides one answer.

But this is a snapshot, not a prophecy. As the years pass, the kingdom of irrelevance seems less and less pleasant, even to its rulers. Policy shifts that seem incredible become inevitable. This is how a party prepares to win.

Fighting over who should rule this “Kingdom of Irrelevance” is all we have left. There are issues of vital importance to almost all Americans that the GOP continues to ignore not because there aren’t conservative alternatives to what the Democrats are offering but because the ignoramuses currently in the ascendancy in the party have deemed them “Democratic issues” and anyone who advocates conservative solutions to those problems is automatically branded a “moderate” - a virtual death knell in today’s purest atmosphere. The notion that addressing vital issues is nothing more than acting like a Democrat is so absurd on its face that it is little wonder serious people do not take the party seriously.

Steele has got to go. He’s been emasculated already so putting him out of his misery would seem to be the charitable thing to do. And as for the RNC members who want to make an irrelevant statement by passing an irrelvant resolution, from an irrelevant group representing an irrelevant party with irrelevant ideas - they should all be forced to take their pants down and a great big “I” for “Irrelevant” branded on their rumps. That’s my idea for “rebranding” the party.

That way, when they pass a resolution requiring Republicans to moon Democrats whenever they see them, people will know where they’re coming from.



Filed under: Government, Politics — Rick Moran @ 9:47 am

How Glennallen Walken got roped into playing a conservative boob who takes questions from “sincere” left wing readers at Salon I’ll never understand.

The money must be really good to prostitute oneself in such a way, playing the fool for a bunch of liberal swells. And I’m jealous as hell they didn’t ask me to do it first.

Regardless, Walken has a weekly “Advice to the Intellectually Challenged Liberal” column that answers questions from lefties who appear to get all their information about conservatives from Democratic party talking points or sites like Think Progress and Raw Story. I don’t know what’s more pathetic; Liberals asking questions that prove how clueless they are about the world around them or Walken feeling he has to answer their idiocies seriously. Either way, the unintentional comedic result goes so far over the head of Salon’s daily readers that it doesn’t even muss their hair on the way by.

Here’s a question from an earnest fellow who wants to know if conservatives have become a bunch of Luddites or if they’re just crazy:

Why has the Republican Party (and, it seems, a large portion of the conservative movement in general) embraced such an anti-science, anti-intellectual position? Growing up in a Republican household in the 1970s and ’80s, I was exposed to the likes of William F. Buckley, Jack Kemp and others who promoted the GOP as a party that could tackle issues intelligently. Basic sciences were supported, at least if seen as leading to improvements in business or defense.

Thirty years on, whatever intellectual elements that are left in the GOP seem to be drowned out by the likes of Limbaugh and Palin, who appear to be openly contemptuous of educated people. Senators such as James Inhofe sneer at any science that may challenge their worldview.

Is this mind-set now integral to the GOP and the conservative movement? Is there any path back to a party the embraces intelligence and scientific curiosity?

The second question along the same lines is equally bizarre - as if the questioners were asking about some weird species of slug that emerged from underneath a rotten log:

Are conservatives really anti-science? This would seem to be an odd position to hold, especially as you seem otherwise so keen on industry, commerce, business and enterprise. But this is what we conclude from attempts to restrict the teaching of evolution in public schools, denial (and outright denigration) of climate change, and the ridicule poured on anyone with any thoughts on how to minimize the damage being done to the environment. Sometimes it seems like Luddism; sometimes it seems like you haven’t even noticed that you are attacking the basic laws of biology and physics in order to keep the tortuous logic for some ideological convictions going.

As Walken patiently explains, the party that committed this country to SDI, renewing a push for nuclear power, using new technologies to drill for offshore oil while we fund research into alternative energy, and vastly increasing funding for the bread and butter of science; basic research, can hardly be called anti-science unless you ignore the facts and substitute an alternate narrative.

The meme “conservatives oppose funding for stem cell research” is a case in point. During the Bush years, there was no limit on federal funding for adult stem cell research and there was, in fact, funding of embryonic stem cell research based on lines already culled prior to the Bush decision of 2001.

How this morphed into “conservatives oppose funding for all stem cell research” is a textbook case of how the media advances Democratic party talking points at the expense of the truth. In a society with an unbiased media, that talking point would have been shot down long ago instead of being accepted as conventional wisdom.

But Walken does miss the boat on two issues that show conservatives to be if not anti-science, then certainly anti-rationalist. On Climate Change, Walken rightly points out the abandonment of scientific objectivity by liberals:

To conclude, conservatives are not anti-science or anti-technology. If anyone is anti-science it is the global warming, excuse me, global climate change extremists who, ignoring the holes in their own theories and the inconsistencies in their own projections, are willing to cripple U.S. industrial manufacturing, energy production and the economy in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions.

What Walken doesn’t take on is the exact same attitude on the part of Climate Change deniers - most of whom are conservatives - who refuse to accept any data that contradicts their idea that man made global warming is a leftist conspiracy and a fraud. This attitude, personified by Senator James Inhofe, is as damaging to the scientific method as anything the Climate Change proponents have ever done.

I wish there could be a legitimate debate over evidence of man made climate change but that will never happen. Hence, we are all left describing what we “believe” about global warming, pro or con, rather than what the scientific evidence in its totality proves to us. Selective reading of media stories on climate change gives fodder to both sides and is worse than useless because it presents a false, misleading picture of the confusing nature of the scientific process.

It doesn’t help that global warming proponents in the scientific community have the backing of interests that care much less about future climate change than the fact that they relish the opportunity such a “crisis” engenders by allowing them to promulgate draconian measures that would give them virtual control of the west’s economies.

Being a climate change denier does not automatically make you anti-science - unless you have closed your mind to contradictory data that prevents you from examining the issue in a rational manner. And here is where I believe the excessively ideological conservative base gives conservatism as a whole a bad rep on science. Using global warming skepticism as a litmus test to determine who truly is a conservative, the base has abandoned rationalism in favor of seeing the issue of climate change through a political prism as skewed as their opponents.

And Climate Change isn’t the only issue on the right where litmus tests are administered instead of leaning on rationalism to examine scientific issues. There is a fairly small but very vocal minority of conservatives who go absolutely bonkers every time someone mentions “evolution” or “Darwin.” A smaller subset of this group wishes to turn our public schools into purveyors of myth masquerading as “science” by trying to get local school boards to teach creationism or, it’s poor relation “Intelligent Design” in the same curricula that teaches evolution.

“Letting the kids decide for themselves” whether evolution or creationism should be the accepted theory of how life arose on earth and how humans came into being is a little like asking the kids to decide whether the earth is round or flat. If you wish to believe in creationism, fine. Why the Christian belief in how the earth got started is any more viable than say, the Hindu belief or even Native American creation myths escapes me. Seems if we’re going to teach creationism, we have to include all the other religious creation myths as well if not to be fair then at least so that we can “let the kids decide for themselves” what they want to believe.

Mentioning evolution in a favorable way automatically brands one as a suspect conservative in some quarters of the conservative base. Not all, of course. But it is a sizable enough and vocal enough minority as to make it appear to the public at large (thanks to a media that blows these incidents out of proportion) that at the very least, conservatives have rejected rationalism and are promoting the naked advancement of the Christian religion in public schools.

Conservatives are not anti-science - not by a long shot. But by not recognizing that excessively ideological positions that reject scientific rationalism outright in favor of a narrow, rigid interpretation of data that feeds preconceived political notions, conservatives fall into the exact same trap that their equally ideological opponents have set for themselves.

Sticking to one’s principles is great. But doing so while abandoning rational thinking and substituting emotion for logic only shows that some in the conservative base are not only irrational, but anti-intellectual as well. For when you abandon critical thinking in favor of groupthink; when you toss away an open mind and substitute rigid ideology, you lose your most cherished possession - an independent, rational mind.



Filed under: Blogging, Politics, conservative reform — Rick Moran @ 6:16 am

Stacey McCain - The Other McCain - has a brilliant piece up on his site; a real tour de force that not only comments on my Glenn Beck piece yesterday, but also analyzes and dissects some of the systemic problems with conservatism and the GOP today.

I wish he’d write more about these issues. Stacey has a very sharp mind and clear writing style. And I want to be just like him when I grow up.

Don’t have time today to write a worthy response but I sent him this email this morning:

Your piece was a brilliant exposition of conservative philosophy and history of the Republican party. I have written quite a few similar tracts, making some of the same points you have about the GOP’s lack of a domestic policy and especially the crack up of the anti-Communist coalition that held the party together for so long. I have also commented in the past on your “Assistant Undersecretary” syndrome where appeals to authority appear more relevant to many in Washington than simply cracking good thinking and writing.

Given my long windedness, it would probably take me a couple of days to say everything you did in a few paragraphs. Well done.

Not exactly sure what you’re getting at with the elites vs.populists theme but some of it rings true. If you are trying to make the point that the conservative elite punditocracy places perception above principle, I would reluctantly agree to some extent but defend them by mentioning that even today with a myriad of news and information outlets, the big guns firing in the information wars are still liberal media and therefore, the perception shaped in the public’s mind does indeed matter. Accepting that as a fact of life, and recognizing that electoral success in the GOP depends at least partly on altering this perception of the party as a bunch of angry, southern white males who hate gays and blacks, love guns, and exhibit paranoia about government, it is understandable that some would seek to distance themselves from this perception.

I may be wrong in thinking this - and it certainly is winning me no friends - but there is an anti-intellectual strain in conservatism that bubbles to the surface every once in a while. Not talking about the fringe FEMA camp nonsense. I’m talking about a genuine resistance on the part of many conservatives today to the idea that there is more to the world than what the cotton candy conservatives say on the airwaves or write in their books. That nuance and subtlety are not always bad. That it’s OK to change your mind about an issue if the times change or you are exposed to new information. That allowing emotion to drive your thinking leads nowhere. And that there is a difference between ideology and philosophy.

I make no claims to being an intellectual or a deep thinker - never have. Don’t have the patience or the innate smarts for it. But like you, I have 5 decades of life experience and some common sense to apply to what our problems are. The fact that we fundamentally disagree about some things doesn’t mean we can’t agree on other issues.

Couple of things: I lived in the reddest county in Illinois for many years - rock ribbed Midwest Republicans in McHenry county.

I was thinking of Martin Anderson (Hoover Institution), not that blowhard John Anderson, who had a column in the 1980’s in WaPo and who wrote a couple of very interesting books including “Revolution” which some consider the most scholarly work on the Reagan years. He was a disciple of Rand, knew her personally, and attended many of her lectures.

And where I came up with “Fitzgerald” I will never know. I meant Jeanne Kirkpatrick (former IL sen. Patrick Fitzgerald?) who may not have been as conservative on domestic issues as many would like but no one can deny her brilliance or her passion.

I have read Road to Serfdom and have heard of Mises but have not read anything by him. I didn’t read Free to Choose until the 90’s (just never got around to it) but was a big fan of Friedman via the public TV series of the same name.

I am going to publish this email on my site as a response. Wish I had the time to do your piece justice. Perhaps on the weekend I will take a stab at a more in-depth critique.

Rick Moran

« Older PostsNewer Posts »

Powered by WordPress