Conservatism as Urine

It isn’t just DougJ. I simply can not take any more of this narcissistic self-referential babble about the nature of conservatism:

Conservatism is “formless” like water: it takes the shape of its conditions, but always remains the same. This is why Russell Kirk calls conservatism the “negation of ideology” in The Politics of Prudence. It is precisely the formlessness of conservatism which gives it its vitality. Left alone, the spirit of conservatism is essentially what T.S. Eliot calls the “stillness between two waves of the sea” in “Little Gidding” of his Four Quartets. Conservatism is both like water and the stillness between the waves—the waves are not the water acting, but being acted upon; stillness is the default state of conservatism:

I am so sick and tired of these “esoteric” discussions about the flawless, formless, and timeless beauty of conservatism. It is utter nonsense. We got unchecked “conservatism” the past eight years, and instead of water, it felt more like urine, as they pissed all over us. Conservatism brought us an expanded surveillance state, intervention into a man’s marriage, unchecked budgets, war of aggression, torture, a rejection and mockery of both science and the rule of law, the unchecked executive branch, and on and on and on. The conservative standard bearers are now Sarah Palin and Eric Cantor and Rush Limbaugh and Joe the Plumber.

After getting hammered in two national elections, the rehabilitation of conservatism takes the form of these flowery paeans about the timeless wisdom of an ideology that is the “negation of ideology.” What a load of gibberish. At what point will these clowns realize that they sound like the Soviet apologists in the late 80’s and 90’s who wanted to tell us that communism didn’t fail, it just wasn’t properly implemented?

And for extra comedy, this bit of dribble comes by way of Sullivan, who found it from Rod Dreher. Rod Dreher. You remember him, right:

For all my excitement over Sarah Palin, there is a part of me that can’t commit to voting McCain-Palin yet. Last week at this time I was almost certainly not going to vote for McCain. Now I’m likely to do it. But what holds me back is what Clark Stooksbury speaks to in this post:

Dreher is free to vote for McCain to spite the Kos Kretins; but he will also be voting for war with Iran and pointless brinksmanship with Russia, funded by another mountain range of debt. A McCain vote also gives a ringing endorsement to the last eight years of unnecessary war, torture and incompetence. In other words, it is a vote to cut off his nose in order to spite his face.

That’s very succinctly and accurately put. If I vote McCain in the end, it will have to be in clear sight of these things, and with the faith that the risks that Clark rightly points out I’ll be taking are worth the rewards of a Palin ascendancy. In truth, as much as I like Palin, especially for the enemies she’s made, I don’t know that I can affirm the reward justifies the risk of a McCain presidency.

Anyone who gets excited by the idea of rule by Palin isn’t fit to drive a motor vehicle, let alone be at the forefront of a political movement. Don’t be fooled by the reformation efforts by Frum and Dreher and Douthat and the rest of the crowd of snake oil salesmen, because when the chips were down in November 2008, they still all saddled up and went to battle for a know-nothing ignoramus from Alaska and her geriatric side-kick. The country was in a tailspin, brought on by their party and their ideology (and formerly mine), both of which had been proven by that point to be bereft of ideas and solutions, and yet they still went to the voting booth and chose more of the same.

They chose to go down with the ship. Can’t they stay drowned?

*** Update ***

From the comments:

The “conservatism” that Sullivan is always going on about is a philosophical construct, not necessarily a political one. A philosophical construct that he has carefully crafted after many years of introspection and study*, and one that has little to offer in purely political terms; at least, not nowadays. If anything, Sullivan’s now more of a “libertarian” in his specific policy recommendations, after having disavowed his deranged love affair with militaristic big-government imperialism**.

The philosophical ideal of “Burkean conservatism” [Reliance on monotheism and other traditional institutions for social stability while very, very gradually modifying the existing system is preferable to any “radical” popular change based on ideology, due to a prudent fear of societal collapse and the blood of innocent people running in the streets] is not the same thing as the political ideal of American “conservatism” [which seems to me to be a bizarre amalgamation of anti-tax sentiment, frontier individualism, nationalism, corporate interest, anachronistic cultural sentiments (e.g., racism, sexism), and biblical fundamentalism].

Note well that there may be policies that one would support based on one’s philosophical conservatism that align with one’s political “conservatism” (e.g., voting against “redistributive” progressive income taxation, maybe), but the two are uneasy partners at best. In fact, the past eight years have shown the more honest philosophical conservatives that the Republican party under W. Bush was tremendously radical (in the philosophical sense) and sacrificed most notions of Burkean prudence for the sake of their political ideology.

That would be great if they (Sullivan excluded) didn’t keep trying to find excuses to marry philosophical conservatism with movement conservatism and modern brain-dead Republicanism.

*** Update ***

For the record, I’m not “mad” at Sullivan at all. I’m mad at the people who keep wanting to pretend that there is some sort of connection between the discussion above and the current Republican party and what is “conservative.” Sullivan has done an admirable job pointing out the distinctions. Others have not.

Most of all I’m mad at myself for all the stupid political decisions I supported and for supporting the GOP far longer than I should have. I’m mad at myself for denigrating the people who repeatedly said the war in Iraq was a bad idea and I dismissed them and mocked them.

I’m mad at the current messes we are in and my part in getting us there. I’m mad at my own stupidity. Hell, I open my archives from anywhere from the start of this blog until 2005-2006 and I am mad at what I read.

Also, Dreher apparently jumped off the Palin bandwagon late in the game:

The best case that can be made for John McCain is that he would serve as something of a brake on runaway liberalism. But the country would be at significantly greater risk of war with the intemperate and bellicose McCain in the White House. That was clear months ago, but his conduct during the fall campaign—especially contrasted with Obama’s steadiness—has made me even more uneasy. His selection of Sarah Palin, while initially heartening to populist-minded social conservatives, has proved disastrous. Though plainly a politician of real talent, the parochial Palin is stunningly ill-suited for high office, and that’s a terrible mark against McCain’s judgment.

As both a conservative and a Republican, I confess that we deserve to lose this year. We have governed badly and have earned the wrath of voters, who will learn in due course how inadequate the nostrums of liberal Democrats are to the crisis of our times. If I cannot in good faith cast a vote against the Bush years by voting for Obama, I can at least do so by withholding my vote from McCain.

While it is foolish to look forward to a decisive electoral defeat for one’s side, I can’t say that the coming rout will be a bad thing. The Right desperately needs to repent, rethink, and rebuild—and only the pain of a shattering loss will force conservatives to confront reality. Not only must there be a renewal of our political vision and message—and this time, dissenters from within the Right must be heard—but there must also be a realization at the grassroots that we have long given too much importance to politics and not enough to building cultural institutions at the local level.

Maybe I’m just being completely unfair and lashing out foolishly like I am prone to do, but at the same time I hardly think it is a profile in courage to oppose Palin after she has “proved disastrous.”

At the same time, maybe this is precisely the conversation conservatives need to have. I keep saying they should regroup and rethink, and then when they do it, I jump all over them, make all sorts of hot-headed proclamations and bad faith accusations and act like a total jerk. Most of all, though, I’m just depressed about the current state of the GOP. Even if there is merit to these conversations, the base isn’t listening.






163 replies
  1. 1

    Conservatism is, apparently, the sound of one hand jacking.

  2. 2
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Conservatism is fear.

  3. 3
    slaney black says:

    Dreher is the biggest douche in history. The guy’s Orthodox, but he’s for hostile relations with Russia and Syria. In other words, when it comes right down to it, he’s in favor of bombing other Orthodox.

    You don’t respect your own people, I think urine is a pretty good summation of your position.

    Dreher = pee.

  4. 4
    Ash says:

    C’mon Cole, these esoteric (see also: stupid as hell) discussion are all your former party has left. They certainly can’t actually govern worth a damn using that water schtick.

  5. 5
    Davis X. Machina says:

    They chose to go down with the ship. Can’t they stay drowned?

    No, not given the insatiable national appetite for scapegoats and easy answers.

  6. 6
    robertdsc says:

    Anyone who gets excited by the idea of rule by Palin isn’t fit to drive a motor vehicle, let alone be at the forefront of a political movement

    The starbursts, man! The starbursts!

  7. 7
    wasabi gasp says:

    Conservatism is a glistening mirage in the desert which enchants fellow travelers as you steal their canteen.

  8. 8
    John H. Farr says:

    What a joy to see your headline, John. I just hit Sully’s site and immediately recoiled when I scrolled down to see "Conservatism as Water"…

    I don’t even have to read your post to know how much I love it. But I will anyway.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    gbear says:

    They chose to go down with the ship. Can’t they stay drowned?

    Where do we find a Grover Nordquist of the left to hold them under?

    Can we refer to conservatives as pissillanimous?

  11. 11
    Comrade Stuck says:

    Conservatism is both like water and the stillness between the waves

    real life version

    Conservatism is both like water and the sharks between the waves

  12. 12
    TheOfficialHatOnMyCat says:

    Anyone who gets excited by the idea of rule by Palin isn’t fit to drive a motor vehicle,

    I agree with that.

    But what’s the difference between "rule by Palin" and rule by pitchfork?

    What’s the difference between the Palin mobs of last year, and the "he’s a terrorist!" shouts, and the pitchfork-waving nonsense of this year, whether it comes from the right or the left?

    If you want rational government under severe conditions, you have to work for it. Waving a pitchfork every time something is troubling or confusing is stupid no matter which side you are on.

  13. 13
    John H. Farr says:

    How very odd that the comment edit plugin says I don’t have permission to edit my own comment. I was going to amend the preceding to crank up the rhetoric.

    Now that I have read this post in its entirety, I love the headline even more. But you know, considering that our culture considers those people educated and responsible, I just keep coming back to the "we are so fucked" meme.

    Obama isn’t any better, either, totally in the tank with the Wall Street banksters who have taken over the government. I honestly don’t know why anyone bothers to vote any more. I know, I know… I HAD to, last time… but I’m ashamed of my own naiveté, considering the mileage on me. It’s not one party or the other, it’s us. All of us.

    I’ve had better Sunday mornings, too, I tell you what.

  14. 14
    PeakVT says:

    Conservatism is “formless” like water

    Conservatism is about keeping the people (or race, or gender, or religion, or social class) who are currently in charge, in charge. Everything else is just PR. And that is why the know-nothings are now running the Republican party – almost every single fact points to letting someone – anyone – else be in charge for a while. The only thing they can do is deny reality.

  15. 15
    John H. Farr says:

    All right, now I’m pissed. Damn comment edit plugin STILL won’t let me edit my own words.

    And this bullshit about "working for it" can go jump in the lake. If I have to read Kossian finger-wagging moral superiority crap this early in the day, when the GODDAMN HOUSE IS ON FIRE, I’ll just go offline and take a frigging walk, thankyouverymuch.

  16. 16
    sgwhiteinfla says:

    Just as a heads up Brad DeLong disagrees with Dr Krugman over the banking plan, primarily because DeLong believes the NYTimes article that Krugman bases his analysis on has its facts wrong.
    .
    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/.....n-faq.html

  17. 17
    Comrade Stuck says:

    I just keep coming back to the "we are so fucked" meme.

    Was watching Stephos round table this morning when George Will apparently couldn’t take the idea of government intervention anymore and declared an ode to the good ole days.

    Paraphrase from memory

    Will- Yust to be, the market handled things like this (meaning current economic disaster)

    Robert Reich — But George the markets have failed and caused the disaster.

    Will — Yea, but just wait till the government intervenes.

    Shorter Will — We’re all gonna die, but the govment will make us die more.

  18. 18
    SteveinSC says:

    Conservatism’s pristine purity: "I’ve got mine and you’re not getting any of it."
    Ergo: Strong military (law and order and to guard the banks), religion (endure your injuries now and you will be rewarded later, in heaven, just not by me.), racism ( we got to kill all those Yankees or my niggers will all run loose), and enemies, real or imagined (constant police state.)

    Stay drowned? Not likely. It’s a wooden stake first, then tie them to an anchor.

  19. 19
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    John, did you really watch "Twilight"? How was it?

  20. 20
    JL says:

    @sgwhiteinfla: Thanks for the link.

  21. 21
    gnomedad says:

    Dreher quotes Stewart Lundy:

    Ignorance is the source of knowledge

    We sure as hell had that for eight years. How’d it work out?

  22. 22
    TheOfficialHatOnMyCat says:

    @Comrade Stuck:

    Shorter Will—Would rather the ship sank from a wingnut iceberg than have the dread gobment succeed (or, "we’re so fucked " right wing populism)

    Please, a quick roundtable on what the difference is between righty "we’re so fucked" and lefty "we’re so fucked?"

    Economic crisis is haaaard (say it with that Geoerge Bush inflection, the way he did whenever he was talking about something that was over his head) ……..

  23. 23
    fledermaus says:

    Consevatism leads upwards, not downwards. Foreward not backward. And always twirling, twirling towards freedom

  24. 24
    John Cole says:

    @Notorious P.A.T.: I watched ten minutes before I couldn’t take anymore.

  25. 25
    KCinDC says:

    In truth, as much as I like Palin, especially for the enemies she’s made …

    I continue to be amazed at how willing these people are to come right out and admit that their political positions are mainly motivated by spite.

  26. 26
    Mike in NC says:

    They chose to go down with the ship. Can’t they stay drowned?

    Shit floats…

  27. 27
    TheOfficialHatOnMyCat says:

    @KCinDC:

    In the face of economic-political conditions that are incomprehensible to the average person, spite seems pretty rational.

    The question for me is, do we go with the knee-jerk, pitchfork waving response, or do we take the time to try to understand the issues and do the most rational thing?

    We elected a president who seems to prefer the latter approach. Are we going to support him, or not?

    If people think the pitchfork is preferable to the rigors of rationality, then rule by Palin is not going to be the worst thing that happens to them.

  28. 28
    gbear says:

    Consevatism leads upwards, not downwards. Foreward not backward. And always twirling, twirling towards freedom

    Michelle Malkin hasn’t exactly gotten a handle on the upward, forward, or twirling stuff yet.

  29. 29
    Comrade Stuck says:

    @sgwhiteinfla:

    I don’t know if Delong is correct in his Q and A support of Geithner, as it is well over my head.

    But he does have a pair, for going up against a Nobel Prize winner in Economics, and I for one hope he mops the floor with DR. Krugman.

  30. 30
    D. Mason says:

    Waving a pitchfork every time something is troubling or confusing is stupid no matter which side you are on.

    Stupid right up to the point where you become willing to use said pitchfork. Then it becomes less stupid and more … something else.

  31. 31
    Redhand says:

    I am so sick and tired of these “esoteric” discussions about the flawless, formless, and timeless beauty of conservatism. It is utter nonsense. We got unchecked “conservatism” the past eight years, and instead of water, it felt more like urine, as they pissed all over us.

    Man, John, you’re in fine form this morning. The biggest irony is that these assholes, who claim to be so in favor of "freedom," were the very ones who came all over themselves backing one of the most authoritarian, lawless and freedom-destroying presidencies we’ve ever had.

  32. 32
    demkat620 says:

    I had a conservative tell me just yesterday that he didn’t want to see us tackle anything to do with global warming because that would ruin the economy.

    Seriously!

  33. 33
    David says:

    Conservatism is about who belongs in the club and who doesn’t. A nebulous definition is just a convenient tool for membership requirements. You can say anybody isn’t Conservative for any reason and kick them out.

    They’re like junior high boys constantly looking for clues as to who is worthy and who isn’t. "Johnny wore green socks to the pep rally; he must be rooting for West High."

  34. 34
    gwangung says:

    I don’t know if Delong is correct in his Q and A support of Geithner, as it is well over my head.
    But he does have a pair, for going up against a Nobel Prize winner in Economics, and I for one hope he mops the floor with DR. Krugman.

    What’s interesting is that these are two people who’ve gotten a lot (but not all) right over the past few years.

    For one, that makes it inherently more interesting than a DeLong or Krugman going up against a clown like Will or Friedman.

    Two, it still shows how fucked we are when two people who are at least semi-competent are in such disagreement.

  35. 35
    Rick Taylor says:

    It’s funny, recently I’ve been mulling if the word "conservative" had any meaning, apart from what self-professed conservatives said and did. And it seems to me if it means anything, being conservative would mean being respectful of traditions of the past. It would mean a skepticism of radical new ideas, a consciousness of the law of unintended consequences, and a respect for institutions that have evolved over long periods of time to address the struggles we have had. I cannot imagine this sort of conservative pushing heavily for deregulation so that financial institutions could invest hundreds of billions of dollars into exotic financial instruments designed by mathematicians that we were assured to be safe. I can’t imagine this sort of conservative unilaterally launching a war against Iraq based on theories that this would somehow democratized the entire region, while insisting it would pay for itself. I can’t imagine this sort of conservative holding up our alliances developed over generations in contempt, and taking a you’re either with us or against us approach to foreign policy. Nor can I imagine them abandoning protections for prisoners of war in favor of an anything goes philosophy. In other words, this version of conservatism has very little to do with what people who call themselves conservatives actually believe and do.

  36. 36
    sgwhiteinfla says:

    Comrade Stuck

    DeLong isn’t actually going up against Dr Krugman. He is going up against the NYTimes report on the plan which Krugman and others used to make their analysis. Thats the big takeaway here. DeLong is saying the NYTimes didn’t correctly reflect what the plan is, in light of that Dr Krugman may be right about what they actually reported. But if he has the wrong information to go by then you can’t expect Dr Krugman to get the analysis right. I will say this though, I would have expected Krugman and others to wait to verify the actual plan before offering an opinion on it. And this is where I think liberals and progressives are going off the rails a bit. We are starting to be just as reactionary in trashing the administration as some of the wingnuts instead of taking a more measured approach realizing that the same media outlets that helped lead us to war in Iraq can’t be trusted whole cloth to report on this administration without at least a bit of skepticism on our part. Now in truth for all I know DeLong is totally off base and Dr Krugman is right. But I feel like they should both wait until the official annoucement is made and the official details of the plan are made public to do any kind of substantive analysis. Dr Krugman is starting to turn me off with what I percieve as his own personal "my way or the highway" approach to all things economic with respect to President Obama. Doesn’t mean I don’t think he makes valid points, but there ARE other ways to do things than just his way.

  37. 37
    TheOfficialHatOnMyCat says:

    @Comrade Stuck:

    With each passing week, Krugman seems to me to be more and more a guy who is just interested in his own image and how it fares during this time, than a guy who really wants to help. Why the Rachel Maddows of the world keep interviewing him, I can’t fathom any more. Is it just the cachet of the Prize lending a glow of superimportancy to the tv show, or what?

    Obama seemed like he meant it when he said the door was open, if people had ideas, bring them forth, and if they were good, he’d be open to them. Has Krugman called the White House and offered to come down and share a Krugman Plan with the administration?

    Sure he has, and I imagine that Eric Cantor and Phil Gramm will be right behind him. And then the bloggers will all come by with their swell rational plans for policy.

    By that point, air travel will have come to a halt, due to the danger of all those flying pigs.

  38. 38
    dan robinson says:

    Everything you would want to know about conservatism can be found at this link. http://polaris.gseis.ucla.edu/.....atism.html

    It is longish, about 11 pages if I remember correctly, it nails it. It reads like the outline for a book, all topic sentences.

    Here’s a taste:

    From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

  39. 39
    MattF says:

    Conservatism is the political equivalent of a Ponzi-Madoff scheme– leaders of the movement get to live off the delusions of the voters they’ve persuaded– by any means necessary– until the tide goes out.

  40. 40
    Shalimar says:

    Communism didn’t fail, it just wasn’t properly implemented. Though I guess I’m not a Soviet apologist because I don’t think it is possible to implement communism properly. Whoever is in charge is going to manipulate the system to accumulate power and wealth for themselves and their heirs. Humans are by and large selfish and short-sighted, we can pool talents together for well thought out and reasonably achievable goals but the long-term welfare of humanity as a whole doesn’t seem to be something leaders are capable of focusing on.

  41. 41
    El Cid says:

    We got near full strength conservatardism under Reagan, with a Democratic Congress largely tempering Reagan’s asshole approach. Then we got full strength conservatardism under Bush Jr. with a triumvirate of righties in charge of every single branch of government.

    So the crisis for modern ‘conservatism’ is that it was largely a utopian social movement ran and financed by a shaky coalition of warhawks & mil-ind complex whores, big finance scammers, and Talibangelicals which promised that if only we would give them absolute power they would bring us back to our final and true 1890’s / 1920’s / 1950’s paradise.

    A utopian movement was given absolute power, it did whatever it wanted, and everyone saw that it was sh*t.

    So now one goal for the less movementalists is to deny the essential counter-revolutionary utopian nature of 30 years of reactionary ‘conservatism’, because the movementarians still insist ‘but but but it’s never really been tried.’

    There are just very few takers among the general public for the argument that if we had substituted Sarah Palin for George W. Bush Jr. that the nation would have been hunky dory 2001-2008.

  42. 42
    gwangung says:

    With each passing week, Krugman seems to me to be more and more a guy who is just interested in his own image and how it fares during this time, than a guy who really wants to help. Why the Rachel Maddows of the world keep interviewing him, I can’t fathom any more. Is it just the cachet of the Prize lending a glow of superimportancy to the tv show, or what?

    Might be the result of being a TV pundit, you simplify your thinking, lose nuance in exchange for being more "entertaining" and "controversial."

  43. 43
    Stooleo says:

    Conservatism means never having to say your sorry, never admitting your wrong and never realizing your ideas don’t work in practice.

  44. 44
    passerby says:

    @gbear:

    pissillanimous?

    Ding! Ding! Ding!

    @KCinDC:

    I continue to be amazed at how willing these people are to come right out and admit that their political positions are mainly motivated by spite.

    Agree. It’s a petty, juvenile approach to living. Rush Limbaugh is king in their world and has managed to suck the the Republican leadership right into that vortex.

    The true conservatives, the grownups, are gnashing their teeth as they try to figure out a way to distance themselves from the Limbos and Palins without losing their spite-filled electoral base. I really doubt that it is possible. Tough time to be a true conservative in America.

  45. 45
    mr. whipple says:

    I will say this though, I would have expected Krugman and others to wait to verify the actual plan before offering an opinion on it. And this is where I think liberals and progressives are going off the rails a bit. We are starting to be just as reactionary in trashing the administration….

    Amen. But short of nationalization, nothing is going to make him happy. And I sincerely doubt that the Obama admin is gonna come out and announce that some time in the future various banks are gonna be nationalized. If they do it, it will be orderly, planned and secret.

    I’m really disappointed that so many people I had respect for just went crazy this week.

  46. 46
    Fulcanelli says:

    Conservatives hate government, ergo, they’re no good at it. Surprise! So why doesn’t stop them from wanting to run it? Enter motive. All our Democracy is and has been for a long, long time is a game to determine who gets stuck footing the bill for the American way of life and it’s many benefits, nothing more. The Cost Of Being An American ™.

    We’re grappling with the results of 8 years, maybe longer, of as close to no majority representation in government as we’ve ever been through in modern times. Government by and for the money and who controls it. How did that work out for us?

    As long as running a stable, capitalistic economic system depends on there being a finite amount of money in circulation to help stabilize and regulate it’s currency’s value, and human nature remains what it is we will have a problem with excessive greed fucking things up.

    Anybody, anywhere claiming the problem is anything else is just jerking off. It’s just a matter of whose hand they’re using.

  47. 47
    gwangung says:

    Amen. But short of nationalization, nothing is going to make him happy. And I sincerely doubt that the Obama admin is gonna come out and announce that some time in the future various banks are gonna be nationalized. If they do it, it will be orderly, planned and secret.

    By the way…I’m wondering…

    Just how much are we losing by waiting to nationalize eventually?

    Yes, there are billions that are being pumped out that may not have been…but on the other hand, if the Geithner team is waiting for a full team and is trying to make sure and certain of its steps, is that a decent explanation for not doing it now?

  48. 48
    eemom says:

    I recently saw an interview of Noam Chomsky that was done after Buckley died, and the utter dismissiveness of his comments about modern "conservatism" — in which he included Buckley — was something beautiful to behold. Basically he was saying that conservatism was a noble ideology that existed once, long ago — and that none of the current generation of clowns have anything the fuck to do with it.

    Of course, he said it much more eloquently than that.

    I need to show that interview to my kids the next time they ask me what "conservative" means, because I’ve never yet been able to come up with a coherent answer to that question. I mean I can describe to them what people currently known as "conservatives" believe — but I can never relate those beliefs to the meaning of the word itself, and being an old English major I’m kind of a stickler for words having meanings.

  49. 49
    Davis X. Machina says:

    "Johnny wore green socks to the pep rally; he must be rooting for West High."

    Regrettably, these days it’s more likely to be blue socks, the Crips, and end up with gunshots.

  50. 50
    jrg says:

    Conservatism is “formless” like water

    Confucius say: "Conservative who talk from ass is like water. Formless, meaningless words spew fourth like noise from babbling brook."

  51. 51
    SGEW says:

    [I feel I must now give a tl;dr sort-of-a-defense of Sullivan and “conservatism.” How very odd – I truly am living in bizzaro times.]

    The "conservatism" that Sullivan is always going on about is a philosophical construct, not necessarily a political one. A philosophical construct that he has carefully crafted after many years of introspection and study*, and one that has little to offer in purely political terms; at least, not nowadays. If anything, Sullivan’s now more of a "libertarian" in his specific policy recommendations, after having disavowed his deranged love affair with militaristic big-government imperialism**.

    The philosophical ideal of "Burkean conservatism" [Reliance on monotheism and other traditional institutions for social stability while very, very gradually modifying the existing system is preferable to any “radical” popular change based on ideology, due to a prudent fear of societal collapse and the blood of innocent people running in the streets] is not the same thing as the political ideal of American "conservatism" [which seems to me to be a bizarre amalgamation of anti-tax sentiment, frontier individualism, nationalism, corporate interest, anachronistic cultural sentiments (e.g., racism, sexism), and biblical fundamentalism].

    Note well that there may be policies that one would support based on one’s philosophical conservatism that align with one’s political "conservatism" (e.g., voting against "redistributive" progressive income taxation, maybe), but the two are uneasy partners at best. In fact, the past eight years have shown the more honest philosophical conservatives that the Republican party under W. Bush was tremendously radical (in the philosophical sense) and sacrificed most notions of Burkean prudence for the sake of their political ideology.

    It’s important to note that many philosophically conservative pundits have repudiated the Republican party and most of modern American political "conservatism," as they have discovered how vast this ideological gulf has become. Others, perhaps more notably, seem to have decided that their political beliefs (no new taxes! teh gayz iz double plus ungood! brown people scare me! yr gonna take muh gunz and jerbs!) outweigh any philosophical qualms they may have once had.

    Dreher, I imagine, holds his bible and his political ideology closer to his heart than his Burke and his philosophical prudence. Sullivan’s waffling.

    [Disclosure: I am a “liberal,” and chose Paine over Burke long ago. However, I must acknowledge that Burke was “correct” about the French Revolution in some ways, while Paine had to flee France after being condemned to the guillotine by Robespierre. There’s merit to prudence, after all.]

    * The words "introspection" and "study" can be defined in many different ways, naturally. "Sophistry" and "wool gathering" could be used instead, but "navel gazing" and "cherry picking" would work too.
    ** See, also, other noted "ex-conservative" bloggers. Ahem.

  52. 52
    SGEW says:

    Cannot edit! Format for first footnote fucked up in above comment. Curses!

  53. 53
    MikeJ says:

    The true conservatives, the grownups, are gnashing their teeth as they try to figure out a way to distance themselves from the Limbos and Palins without losing their spite-filled electoral base.

    What’s really sad is that they saw how much people hated Bush and just assumed it was just politics. They didn’t think anybody actually cared about his brain dead policies, because ultimately they didn’t either.

    If you believe 1)policy doesn’t matter and 2)everything boils down to us vs them politics, and then you look at the results of the last two elections, you might come to the conclusion just being against stuff works.

  54. 54
    Comrade Stuck says:

    to wait to verify the actual plan

    That’s so pre 9/11 thinking. The spirit of Judy Miller still walks the rarefied corridors of the NYT"s, and allows Mr Krugman and even Frank Rich ( Has a Katrina Moment Arrived??????????????, or, when did Obama lose his mofo mojo) to pierce the veil of tomorrow.

  55. 55
    cokane says:

    "I like Palin, especially for the enemies she’s made"

    This is really the heart of modern conservatism. It’s not about ideas, it’s just about pissing off liberals.

  56. 56
    mr. whipple says:

    Two, it still shows how fucked we are when two people who are at least semi-competent are in such disagreement.

    That’s a very important point. I’ve been watching Charlie Rose for the last several months. He’s had a steady stream of economists, financial writers, people from Wall Street, corporate types like Buffet, gvt people like Geithner and Baer, etc.

    The scariest thing to me is that there is no consensus on the proper course of action. You get a lot of hedged ‘opinions’, sometimes contradictory, but no one says ‘if you do exactly what i say this is gonna make things better’. You can see the fear in their eyes. They are flying by the seat of their pants, which is to be expected as this is unprecedented. The person I fear most is the demagogue that is pushing a line that they have all the answers, and that their answers are invariably right and everyone else is wrong, and that if you don’t do it their way it’s gonna lead to ruin.

    The other thing that bothers me is that in poll after poll the public has granted Obama a lot of leeway to get this mess fixed, or at least get the country moving in the right direction. In most they expect to see some improvement in 1 1/2 to 3 years. They know that the admin isn’t going to fix everything in 7 weeks. So it’s shocking to me that the public is being much more realistic and patient then some of these pundits who’ve gone apeshit this week, seven weeks into a new admin.

  57. 57
  58. 58
    John Cole says:

    @SGEW: That would be great, SGEW, if these wankers (and I exclude Sullivan) wouldn’t quit trying to use philosophical conservatism as an excuse for voting for movement conservatism and the GOP.

  59. 59
    mr. whipple says:

    Just how much are we losing by waiting to nationalize eventually?

    Dunno. I’ll let the economists battle that out :)

  60. 60
    SGEW says:

    @John Cole: That’s what’s so sad about it all – and I honestly wonder if they have any idea how wacked-out their philosophical disconnect is (not to mention their ethical dissonance!).

    As to Sullivan, I wouldn’t totally exclude him from the "wankers": after all, he’s still linking to some of them, still defending some of their positions, and still trying to find a political common ground with some of the most egregious of the theocratic aristocrats. He still holds some of the responsibility for giving the GOP this philosophical cover story. And he has yet to convince me (or himself, perhaps?) how his Burkean Bell of Prudence can help us get the hell out of the mess we’re in.

  61. 61
    Corner Stone says:

    @fledermaus @ 23
    This quote is always a thing of beauty, and almost always qualifies FTW.
    Personally, I like to go with the first quote listed from Team America at IMDB. NSFW:
    Sage wisdom

  62. 62
    Corner Stone says:

    @John Cole @ 58

    That would be great, SGEW, if these wankers (and I exclude Sullivan)

    Fuck Sullivan! Fuck him up his stupid ass!
    Why do you hold him in such regard? He’s an idiot who clearly knows nothing about anything.
    Could it be the same part of your psyche that forced you to rent Twilight?

  63. 63
    Corner Stone says:

    @TheOfficialHatOnMyCat in several places but especially @ 37
    I had something tee’d up to retort most of your comments on this thread but like smaller banks my comment got EATED.
    Carry on, that is all. Also.

  64. 64
    latts says:

    Delurking to say that SGEW is right IMO…

    The problem, though, is that people like Sullivan cannot seem to grasp that personal virtues are not the same as political ones. It’s a bizarre sort of projection and/or narcissism, I guess, that fosters this belief that there are practical political incentives to funnel millions upon millions of people into ‘conservative’ lifestyles (also without consideration of whether such conformity would even be desirable, but that’s another debate). I’m sure most of us know plenty of card-carrying liberals who are extremely conservative in their personal choices– acquiring lots of education, buying modest houses with substantial down payments (often preferring books & travel & private schools to white-flight McMansions), saving carefully, having exactly the number of children they think they can handle, etc. But those behaviors have nothing to do with politics, because political conservatism is not about how one lives one’s own life, but how one thinks others should live theirs. Trying to reconcile the two is where Sullivan and [maybe] Dreher spin their wheels; they are trying to make two essentially dissimilar things the same and apply them in all situations.

  65. 65
    El Cid says:

    I don’t mind people debating strongly about leaked releases of likely administration plans; they don’t release these things in order to not get public reaction.

    Anticipatory over-reaction to leaked White House plans may have kept Reagan from directly invading and occupying Nicaragua like he and his warhawk buddies preferred. A vehement reaction meant that he restrained himself to hiring terrorists and death squads to attack civilians throughout Central America in defense of right wing oligarchies.

  66. 66
    SGEW says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Why do you hold him in such regard? He’s an idiot who clearly knows nothing about anything.

    To be fair, despite what one may say about his "political" writing, Andrew Sullivan has been one of the finest anti-torture advocates out there. His information is authoritative, his outrage sincere, and his writing on the subject moving and important.

    That counts for an awful lot in my book, my preoccupation with indulgent philosophical navel-gazing aside.

  67. 67
    margaret says:

    I wouldn’t say that it’s a "load of gibberish". It’s a load of something or a "pantload", alright. Conservatism is the "negation of ideology"? Please! They are the biggest bunch of ideologues and demagogues that exist in the political spectrum these days.  I remember when Republicans were sane. As a lifelong independent, there were things that I agreed with Republicans about and things that I strongly opposed them on. I remember voting for Reagan twice because in both instances, he was the stronger supporter of science. I remember giving to George H.W. Bush, not because I was a fan but because Dukakis was weak.  These days, there is barely a glimmer of sanity among the party rank and file and it’s leaders are entirely batshit crazy. Since Buchanan announced a "culture war" at the 1992 Republican National Convention, the party has been hijacked by the ideologues and the extremists. Since Newt Gingrich perfected the tactic of obstructionism, they have been the party of opposition to everything not Republican, no matter the merits of the ideas or policies. Since Jesse Helms bailed and went to the party and people like George Allen and Trent Lott became party leaders, it has been the party of bigotry and intolerance. Since Rush Limbaugh became the voice of the Republican Party, it has become the party of bellicose and nonsensical screed.  Any Republicans or ex Republicans may take issue with this assessment or attempt the usual strategy of dismissing me as a far left liberal. You know what? I am, in a lot of ways, perhaps the most liberal person on this blog. There are other issues in which nobody here will out conservative me. I have been voting almost exclusively Democratic since 1994 because the Republican were going batshit crazy and I couldn’t seem to appeal to even intelligent, otherwise rational people like my Dad who bought into the culture war.  Now the Republicans are experiencing the worst meltdown in the party’s history because they are too batshit crazy for people to support. I mean, Sarah Palin? WTF was that? So their whole solution now is to make a comeback from being decimated at the polls for being too insane and extreme by….being even more insane and extreme.  Wake the fuck up Republicans! We NEED a viable opposition party before the Democrats become as corrupt as the Bushie Republicans. Stop obstructing everything just because it comes from the other side of the aisle. Here’s a clue: If the people vote for the opposition party, that should be taken as clear evidence that the country as a whole wants to move in that direction.  Stop playing to your insane base! People who think Joe the Plumber is insightful and articulate have I.Q.s that fall well below the average. Stop declaring "wars" on everything you don’t personally agree with or understand. There are other fucking people living here besides you. Case in point: Me. I’ve got bad news for you Reagan worshippers out there: I voted for him twice because he was the strongest supporter of science, and that says quite a bit actually as Carter is an atomic engineer. Stop acting like a bunch of children who abused the hall monitor position and are now misbehaving because they are pissed at being removed from a position of authority. And the fact is, not ALL regulation is bad. Regulations are for the bad people not the law abiding ones and having someone make sure that they are not thieving from the rest of us isn’t a personal insult. Personally, I would like to have an alternative to vote for but until the Republicans can grow up, push the bible thumpers and the anarchists back into the fringes where they belong, I’ll be voting Democratic.  Oh yeah, and stop using the word, "Democrat" as a pejorative. It’s the "Democratic Party", not "Democrat Party". That really makes you look really stupid IMO and you don’t need any help there at all. Trust me..

  68. 68
    Kyle says:

    Conservatism is both like water and the stillness between the waves—the waves are not the water acting, but being acted upon

    Was this written by the dipshit who penned the first Infiniti commercials back in the early 90s?

  69. 69
    Corner Stone says:

    @SGEW @ 66
    That’s all well and good but his downside is clearly outweighed on virtually every other major issue facing us. He still shouts from the rooftops that social security is the worst thing evah. On the torture thing I’ll go with you because I honestly haven’t read him much in a while – but from my perspective of his writing – if it didn’t personally affect his life, his status, Sully *himself*, then he had no problem bashing the F out of it.
    And he clearly can’t fathom economic issues for shit.

  70. 70
    Corner Stone says:

    On another topic – can anyone explain to me what in the absolute hell the new Burger King commercials are about? They have a guy sitting on a bench in a park, he opens a tiny, tiny, little BK "burger shot" and suddenly he is mobbed by big breasted women.
    Now, I get the sexuality and lord knows I may be buying a bunch of these damn things very soon just to prove or disprove their marketing – but I wonder what the hell they’re trying to say? Do woman feel an innate sense of attraction to small meat patties? If that’s the case then I guess Conservatively Liberal may actually have a chance with teh ladies.
    Otherwise, WTF?

  71. 71
    Corner Stone says:

    @latts @64

    I’m sure most of us know plenty of card-carrying liberals who are extremely conservative in their personal choices—acquiring lots of education, buying modest houses with substantial down payments (often preferring books & travel & private schools to white-flight McMansions), saving carefully, having exactly the number of children they think they can handle, etc.

    WTF? Loving education, living within your means and common sense somehow became a fucking "conservative" lifestyle?
    Where the F did you grow up and what exactly did your card carrying liberal friends do?
    Burn books and money in the backyard BBQ pit? Have promiscuous sex by the firelight with multiple partners?
    This is a bogus frame and I reject it completely.
    This is a slap in the face to all card carrying liberals!

  72. 72
    Skullduggery says:

    @passerby:

    The true conservatives, the grownups, are gnashing their teeth as they try to figure out a way to distance themselves from the Limbos and Palins without losing their spite-filled electoral base.

    Isn’t the point that there are no grownups who are conservatives? That conservatism is a vindictive child who doesn’t understand that he’s lonely because he sits in his own sandbox all day yelling at others to go away while building sand sculptures of Ayn Rand and John Galt doing it?

  73. 73
    El Cid says:

    @Corner Stone: It’s supposed to be like a guy in a park taking a cute widdle puppy or an adorable baby, women are supposed to fawn all over it, because the ladyfolk can’t tell the difference between cute puppies and bargain sandwiches.

  74. 74
    SGEW says:

    @Corner Stone:
    Well, even though I disagree with many of Sullivan’s policy recommendations (again, I find him to be more "libertarian" than "modern American conservative" in his policy ideas; social security is a good example where the two overlap), I find that on many of the "major issues" (foreign affairs, civil rights and liberties, accountability, and secularism) his writing isn’t totally objectionable. How’s that for a sterling commendation? As to "can’t fathom economic issues for shit," dude, who can nowadays? Not me, I reckon. Sometimes I flip a coin and either believe Krugman or DeLong, depending on the toss.

    Also: his rah-rah support for military imperialism was shockingly wrong, but he has since repudiated those stances in a way I personally find sincere (much like the editorial staff of The Economist). And he dumped Bush significantly earlier than many others one might point out by name.

  75. 75
    gex says:

    I find Sullivan’s "philosophical" conservatism to be just like American political conservatism. If something is good, obviously it is conservative. If it is bad, obviously it is liberal.

  76. 76
    Joe Max says:

    At what point will these clowns realize that they sound like the Soviet apologists in the late 80’s and 90’s who wanted to tell us that communism didn’t fail, it just wasn’t properly implemented?

    Word up.

    Riffing on a comment made on another blog:

    Humans are not rational economic actors, and do not have perfect information as is required for a pure market approach to function. That ideology is exactly like communism in the following: interesting theory, wrong species. Example: Wall Street, 1997 to 2008

    Humans are not compassionate social actors, and do not have perfect information as is required for a pure communist approach to function. That ideology is exactly like market capitalism in the following: interesting theory, wrong species. Example: Albania, 1945 to 1990

  77. 77
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    @fledermaus:

    Conservatism is like Jello Pudding Pops. No, actually conservatism is like Kodak Film. No, actually conservatism is like the new Coke — it’ll be around forever.

  78. 78
    Corner Stone says:

    @SGEW @ 74
    Sully wrote a book called "The Conservative Soul"!!9eleven!
    FUCK HIM.
    I acknowledge your tepid non-commendation and get where your coming from. But still.
    Fuck him and his fucking fifth column! He should be hounded from public discourse and reduced to work at a Baskin Robbins beside Gary Condit.
    Not that there’s anything wrong with BR. I likes my flavors.

  79. 79
    Corner Stone says:

    Damn the ability to not edit!
    ETA for the post above – damn the Red X. My post has a lot of exclamation points and a nine and an eleven and more exclamation points.

  80. 80
    John Cole says:

    Look- I like Sullivan. I think he is consistently interesting, he corrects himself when he realizes he has made a mistake, he loves what he does, and while yes, he has some blind spots and has said a number of things he wishes he could take back, I think he is at heart a good person. I hate the people blindly attacking him.

    You try balancing the the belief systems and lifestyle he has with a church and a political party that have both rejected him. Cut the man a break.

  81. 81
    Svensker says:

    Glenzilla approves of this post.

    You’re at your best when you’re crotchety, John (since this is pretty much all the time, that’s a good thing…:) ).

    Sullivan is fairly intelligent and has some good instincts. He’s also an hysteric and allows himself to get all het about something and head off down the wrong path, hell bent for leather. And he’s often a self-righteous little prick. But he’s OK on some stuff, and I like his sense of humor.

  82. 82
    Corner Stone says:

    @John Cole @ 80

    You try balancing the the belief systems and lifestyle he has with a church and a political party that have both rejected him. Cut the man a break.

    What? Then maybe that sad little man should move along to a belief system that actually allows his lifestyle choices.
    This is a ridiculous defense of a man who has literally no defensible espouted beliefs.
    "I believe with all my heart in a church that hates me and won’t tolerate my existence."
    "I believe in a party platform that wants to destroy me as a human and deny me existence and choice."
    Talk about wanker. You only admire him because he voted for GWB one less time than you.

  83. 83
    SGEW says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Sully wrote a book called "The Conservative Soul"

    I know. I read it. Did you?

  84. 84
    SGEW says:

    I cannot explain Mr. Sullivan’s relationship with his religion. It is inexplicable to me, personally, as are most people’s faith-based struggles. But I highly recommend his debate with Sam Harris. It leads nowhere (like most such "debates"), but it is a very interesting road.

  85. 85
    Corner Stone says:

    @SGEW
    No. Why would I?
    If you would donate 20 words to me on this – what could I learn from it?
    It’s my current understanding that it’s a bunch of high minded BS, very similar to the quotes JC has on top of this thread.
    On second thought, don’t waste your time. I’ve read plenty of AS over the years and have found him to be ridiculuos time and time again.
    This isn’t a case of someone railing against the "other". I’ve read a lot of Sully in an attempt to understand a different viewpoint. I’ve read what he has to say and damn him for that. Nothing else.

  86. 86
    malraux says:

    @TheOfficialHatOnMyCat:

    Obama seemed like he meant it when he said the door was open, if people had ideas, bring them forth, and if they were good, he’d be open to them. Has Krugman called the White House and offered to come down and share a Krugman Plan with the administration?

    Krugman has been pretty open about his vision of the plans he favors look like. IE, he was pretty open about the fact that he thought the stimulus plan was too small and should really be about twice as large (or some other specific number that I don’t recall offhand).1 He’s been pretty clear that he wants to deal with the banks by following the Swedish style nationalization. Sure, he hasn’t offered 300 page detailed plans, but is that really the right standard?

    Its also worth pointing out that this criticism from the left is good. First, it does help to have democrats have critics who are on the left, not just the right or representing big business. Second, this offers cover for Obama. If Krugman agreed with Obama’s plans, then that would be fuel for the claim that Obama’s plan was way too far to the left. If Krugman is unhappy with it, then obviously its not as "liberal/socia1ist" as it could be. Yeah, it would be great if this were a function of where the right answer is rather than the attempt to find "centrism"2 but you work with the system you have, not the one you want.

    It’s also been pretty clear (and even admitted by the administration) that Krugman was right on this. [back]
    A word about as meaningless as conservative. [back]

  87. 87
    TheHatOnMyCat says:

    @malraux:

    I agree that advice is good. Criticism, for its own sake, which is what I hear when I listen to Krugman … useless.

    His "stim too small" message is useless. Unless any plan is grounded in political reality, it has no usefulness. I think that the O-team drew up their playbook for this year and planned it carefully to be not just effective, but more importantly, doable. So far we have the stim, and the omnibus, almost without breaking a sweat. Next is the financial fire drill, and the budget. Then healthcare.

    I eagerly await Krugman’s next "The plan isn’t big enough" comment on Rachel’s show. Totally, pathetically useless.

    Let him go down to Washington and meet with the team and do some real work in a real world enviornment. Then let’s hear what he has to say. I don’t think he is getting the true picture there in the coffeehouses in Princeton.

  88. 88
    ChrisA says:

    Kind of reminds you of the esoteric arguments members of the left were having in the 60-70s in Europe.

    Very nicely satirized by Monty Python in this sketch of the Judean People’s Front..

  89. 89
    Corner Stone says:

    I don’t think he is getting the true picture there in the coffeehouses in Princeton.

    Oooooo – elite Ivy League liberal!

  90. 90
    b-psycho says:

    If this type of sentiment were the common interpretation of "conservatism" then there’d actually be something worth debating. Instead, it’s a ridiculous mash-up of bloodlust, aristocracy fetishism & outright bigotry.

    Language lost.

  91. 91
    rapier says:

    Conservatism is not formless or fluid so much as it is a thing which can take on myriad forms. Each identifiable as conservative while different, as each snowflake is different or every turd.

  92. 92
    Shell Goddamnit says:

    @Rick Taylor:

    Indeed, we’ve been had by the radical right, not people you could rationally call actual conservatives; but when self-described conservatives want to distance themselves from the radical right we’ve been had by, they call it: liberal.

    Through the Looking Glass…again

  93. 93
    malraux says:

    @TheHatOnMyCat: So plans should only be evaluated based on what will pass the legislative process, and not based on what will best fix the problem? That seems…. obtuse. If the political reality is wrong, its really really important to point that out.

  94. 94
    jcricket says:

    You try balancing the the belief systems and lifestyle he has with a church and a political party that have both rejected him. Cut the man a break.

    Sully’s not a bad person, per se, but he’s basically 100% wrong about everything, and will eventually get to "the right place" by the time he’s close to death/100 at the rate he’s going. So why do we listen to someone like Sully? Sure, he’s not a total asshat, but what exactly does his brand of philosophical navel-gazing and wrong-headed economic, political, social and other opinion making offer us?

    Sully will keep opposing Social Security until he sees how it helps the other old gays not fortunate enough to be rich columnists. He’ll oppose Medicare expansion and national healthcare, until his AIDS meds cost $50k/year and suddenly he needs to rely on government-funded medical insurance. He opposes federal laws that trump "state’s rights", until it will be necessary to end bans on gay marriage/adoption, and so on.

    But even when he admits he’s wrong, it’s always on some particular issue – never an honest re-examination of how his belief system is basically at fault for creating the situation he’s now apologizing for.

    In contrast to, for example, you (John Cole). You didn’t necessarily become a liberal, but you realized the problems with the GOP/conservatism ran deep, and an honest person could no longer rationalize away the issues by clinging to some idealistic view of a system that never really was.

  95. 95
    SGEW says:

    @jcricket:

    he’s basically 100% wrong about everything

    I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Sullivan’s stance on torture is important and admirable, and should not be ignored. Whether or not it’s more important than Social Security, federalism, or the pharmaceutical industry is a judgement call, I suppose, but it’s certainly more than 0% of "everything."

    And may I just pipe up here in defense of "high minded BS" and "philosophical navel-gazing" in general? Sure, it rarely directly influences actual policy decisions, or, if it does, it is sometimes counter-productive (See, e.g., Buckley Jr., or Foucault), but I put forth that it is still important in its own right, and is a valid component of political thought. For what that’s worth.

    IOW, leave us self-indulgent philosophical navel-gazers alloooooone!

  96. 96
    someguy says:

    Conservatism is that state between brain death, and shuffling everybody but your closest pals into the gas chambers. You don’t have to be brain dead or evil to be conservative, but it probably helps cut down on the guilt and confusion.

  97. 97
    passerby says:

    @margaret:

    Wow margaret. Tell it.

  98. 98
    Corner Stone says:

    @SGEW
    So you’re saying Sully’s a gay man and a conservative? That’s two thingsism!

    @someguy
    Will you consent to be my homosexual marriage partner? In the full tradition of Sully of course. We’ll be married but actually wedded to a belief system that considers us teh original sin.

  99. 99
    Corner Stone says:

    In the words of the immortal Lil John:
    Snap yo fingers! Do ya step. You can do it all by yo self!!
    Let me see you do it! Ay!

  100. 100
    WB Reeves says:

    What passes for conservatism in the USA today used to be more accurately described as "reaction". That is, the natural, instinctive, near primal reaction of pillars of the status quo to any innovations that threaten to weaken their economic, political and social position. Reaction can encompass any interest that perceives itself as being at odds with socio-political change. Being an impulse rather than an ideology, it can temporarily unite wildly divergent and conflicting constituencies around a common opposition to such change. Historically conservatism has found it expedient to ally itself with reaction, providing a patina of ideological justification and a degree of political organization for what would otherwise amount to nothing more than outbursts of parochial atavism.

    The history of US conservatism over the past 30 years could serve as a model illustration for the above. Well before their political collapse it was glaringly apparent that the GOP had lost all political coherence. High finance grifters, Corporatists, military industrial welfare queens and "libertarians" cohabited with joe the plumber, neo-Calvinist theocrats and refugees from the militia movement or worse. The only thing that actually united such disparate groups was, to cite Wm. F. Buckley Jr., a desire to "… stand athwart history shouting stop."

    Political incoherence is no bar to political success it seems. At least not in the short run. In the long run though, it had to come apart. Particularly so once "conservatism" became the undisputed ideology of governance. At that point the radically differing agendas of its constituencies could no longer be papered over by a joint opposition to "liberal" governance. Needless to say, the Global crisis engineered by the financial elites and their subsequent reliance on government to rescue them has accellerated the crack up.

    Sullivan is an idealist. For him the beauty of an idea trumps material reality, at least in his commentary. Hence his plaintive belief that all ills flow from an improper understanding of the conservative idea, the proper conception being synonymous with his own.

  101. 101
    shpilk says:

    What you are describing is not conservatism, it’s more like a bunch of power mad spoiled rotten brats.

    This is what Republicans stand for, greed. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Conservatives never would have deregulated the banks and commerce like Reaganomics and Gingrich with his Contract on America did. These are not conservative financial views, they are radical breaks from what worked in the past.

  102. 102
    WB Reeves says:

    Conservatives never would have deregulated the banks and commerce like Reaganomics and Gingrich with his Contract on America did. These are not conservative financial views, they are radical breaks from what worked in the past."

    Only if your reference point is 1932 rather than 1892.

  103. 103
    jcricket says:

    IOW, leave us self-indulgent philosophical navel-gazers alloooooone!

    OK fine, I’ll grant you the torture thing. He’s 100% right on that, and it’s an important issue, no doubt.

    Then again, his water-carrying for conservatism/the GOP and "war" in general for so many years laid the ground work for Bush, Yoo, Gonzalez and Cheney to enact their torture routine.

    And if Sully was an academic, or was discussing generally academic topics his navel gazing would be tolerable or even admirable. It’s the idea that his endless philosophizing is anything more than sophistry that gets to me.

    BTW, I was just reminded of his execrable promotion and continued defense of the Bell Curve.

    Basically, just because he’s right on torture, and the death penalty, and has a nostalgic sense of warmth for a Catholic church that has never wanted him or anyone like him to live, is no reason to listen to him generally.

  104. 104
  105. 105
    DougJ says:

    Left alone, the spirit of conservatism is essentially what T.S. Eliot calls the “stillness between two waves of the sea” in “Little Gidding” of his Four Quartets. Conservatism is both like water and the stillness between the waves—the waves are not the water acting, but being acted upon; stillness is the default state of conservatism:

    Somebody fucking shoot me.

  106. 106
    Corner Stone says:

    Sophistry! Yes! That was the fucking word I’ve been looking for.
    Thank you for summing up all my other semi-coherent posts on this.
    Anyone who contends Sullivan has a relevant motherfucking word to say about just about anything has obviously never read him. Or is incapable of basic comprehension.

  107. 107
    DougJ says:

    Sully’s not a bad person, per se, but he’s basically 100% wrong about everything, and will eventually get to “the right place” by the time he’s close to death/100 at the rate he’s going.

    That’s why I don’t take his opinions seriously, yet I do take him seriously as a commentator. Considering that he comes at everything from the wrong angle, he’s amazingly good at getting to the right place most of the time.

    Frankly, for someone like me or most of you who approaches things from a rational, more-or-less liberal perspective and cribs initial opinions from Nate Silver and Paul Krugman, it’s easy to be right. To start from Edmund Burke and Thatcherism and the Bell Curve and all that crap and still get to the right place is pretty fucking amazing to me.

  108. 108
    TheHatOnMyCat says:

    @malraux:

    What an asinine question. A measure that cannot be implemented via the political process, and must be implemented via that process, is of no use.

    The law is pretty clear. Spending measures can only be enacted via the legislative process.

    But you are missing the bigger point. If Krugman really thinks the future of the country hangs on his ideas, then is getting made up and showing up for Rachel Maddow really the best he can do? The guy has a Nobel Prize. He can call the White House and get an audience with the president. If he prefers to be a celebrity, that’s his business, but I don’t have to take his crap seriously. And neither do you.

    He’s a pundit and a media personality. I’m pretty sure the world’s fate doesn’t rest in his hands. If he thinks it does, then he can do better to bring it to fruition than what he is doing now. I have no respect for him at this point.

    I think Pat Buchanan gets more attention than Krugman. Maybe we should all sit as his feet and listen, too?

    Think whatever you want, but I voted for Obama, not Krugman. I’ll let him work it his way.

  109. 109
    El Cid says:

    Conservatism is “formless” like water: it takes the shape of its conditions, but always remains the same… Conservatism is both like water and the stillness between the waves—the waves are not the water acting, but being acted upon; stillness is the default state of conservatism…

    The Tao of Buckley.

  110. 110
    Doug says:

    You liberals are either ignorant or dishonest. To say that we have had 8 years of unchecked conservatism is a joke. To blame this economic mess on conservatism is ridiculous. Where is your logic? You can’t support this accusation without ignoring inconvenient facts like Sub prime, Fannie and Freddie, MBS, mark-to-market, Glass-Steigal, Chris Dodd, Barnie Frank, etc.

    Again, either you know that this is a failure of government (not conservatism) and are slamming your rhetoric out there to drive this country away from the things that have made us great, or you are ignorant.

    Either way, the only people you are fooling are the ignorant, and America is waking up to your game.

  111. 111
    Laura W says:

    The Tao of Buckley.

    The Tao of Poo.

  112. 112
    Comrade Michael "Oh Please" Brown says:

    It’s not suprising that modern conservatism now has idiots, know-nothings and subnormals as its flag bearers. From Burke forward, "conservatism" has never been anything but lipstick on a pig.

  113. 113
    TheHatOnMyCat says:

    You liberals are either ignorant or dishonest.

    Nuh-uh. Some of us are both.

  114. 114
    Comrade Stuck says:

    @Doug:

    I’m guessing this is spoof. But who knows these days. Right?

  115. 115
    gwangung says:

    @Comrade Stuck: Eh. Take off credit for using such a common name. Be proud of your wingnuttery. Choose a memorable name.

  116. 116
    El Cid says:

    During the 4 years that hard right wingers dominated every single branch of the federal government – the Presidency, the Supreme Court (which handed the President the Presidency), the Senate, and the House — secretly the nation was governed by Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Fannie and Freddie.

    Try as they might to stand up against the all-powerful Frank-Dodd-Fannie-Freddie mystical power core, the Republicans were helpless.

    They would have abolished the IRS like they had always promised their base, but Barney Frank looked at them funny and they gave up.

    They would have put the Bible back into the schools, like they always had promised their base, but Chris Dodd raised his eyebrow.

    They would have stopped all the funny business in the financial sector, but Fannie and Freddie said they’d call CRA and he’d bet them up after school.

    Even when right wing Republicans occupy every branch of government in the land, they’re helpful to the minor facial expressions and sideways words of the damn liberals. It’s totally unfair.

  117. 117
    MNPundit says:

    People are good at changing and adapting. But it takes time even for humans to do that. Progressives/Liberals are better at it than the rest of the population and so push to move faster. Sometimes the population is ready and sometimes it can’t keep up because it never thought about the concept before (taken by surprise) or is too stupid to see the value. It is at these times that conservatives are valuable to "slow-it-down" so people can acclimate. If you don’t, you get the worst of the 60s and the backlash that we suffered.

    Very simply: Conservatism exists ONLY to slow down lefties for a time because biologically most humans need more time to.

    They are needed purely as not-left because of human frailty.

  118. 118
    Dan Savage says:

    Conservatism brought us an expanded surveillance state, intervention into a man’s marriage, unchecked budgets, war of aggression,

    You supported that war Mr. Cole. And all the poor bastards who have died in it and the others who will live out there lives as orphans and amputees and brain damaged won’t get their old lives back just because you have now seen the error of your ways.

    I marched in an anti-war protest to day in Seattle. There was only a hundred or so participants. The polls tell us that we Americans are now unhappy with the war. Yet the fucking Iraq war continues. The death and suffering and destruction and pissing away of trillions of dollars continues.

    And here you are Cole, just like Sullivan still talking as if you know what you are doing. Have you no shame sir? Have you no shame?

  119. 119
    Ravi J says:

    Anyone who gets excited by the idea of rule by Palin isn’t fit to drive a motor vehicle, let alone be at the forefront of a political movement

    Let alone drive a motor vehicle, they ought to be in some sort of mental institution.

  120. 120
    John Cole says:

    @Dan Savage: Yep, Dan. And I was wrong. And have stated as much repeatedly.

  121. 121
    jcricket says:

    Frankly, for someone like me or most of you who approaches things from a rational, more-or-less liberal perspective and cribs initial opinions from Nate Silver and Paul Krugman, it’s easy to be right. To start from Edmund Burke and Thatcherism and the Bell Curve and all that crap and still get to the right place is pretty fucking amazing to me.

    Hey, no fair. I get all my ideas fully formed from the liberal Rebbe/Jesus (Al Gore or Obama, depending on whether you belong to the orthodox or reform movement). Latter day profits like Silver and Krugman I only go to after I’ve consulted with the gods.

    I guess I just don’t see Sully the same way. Someone with all that education, who’s seen himself wrong on so many issues and is at odds with his chosen "groups" (Catholics, conservatives) – yet still basically falls back on the same tired logic, again and again, is just not all that smart imho. Especially because he "does this for a living".

    That said, I still read Sully, because I find him orders of magnitude less idiotic and annoying than any other conservatives. And at least I get some "sampling" of how conservatives (sort of) think.

  122. 122
    jcricket says:

    @Dan Savage: Yep, Dan. And I was wrong. And stated as much repeatedly.

    You need a tattoo that says "Blame me, I voted for Bush. Sorry.

  123. 123
    John Cole says:

    @jcricket: Why I like Sullivan is because I think he is a decent person. I know a lot of people here still hate him for the fifth column stuff, as Dan noted just above (and I do on almost daily basis) I have said my fair share of stupid and offensive things.

    The other thing I like about Sullivan is he has a wide range of interests and wears his heart on his sleeve. Maybe it is just me, but I think he opens up as a writer a lot more than others do, and lets you know not only how he thinks, but how he feels.

    I think his is an essential blog.

  124. 124
    Hyperion says:

    @jrg:

    Confucius say: "Conservative who talk from ass is like water. Formless, meaningless words spew fourth like noise from babbling brook."

    i think you mean babbling Brooks.

  125. 125
    Comrade Stuck says:

    Conservative who talk from ass is like water.

    not your daddies Perrier

  126. 126
    misfit@hotmail.com says:

    hey "just some fuckhead":

    Conservatism is FEAR.

    That’s spot on man, kudos and have a pleasant day.

    Truly, and when it’s with a small "c", it’s just a euphemism for "ignorance".

  127. 127
    jcricket says:

    Maybe it is just me, but I think he opens up as a writer a lot more than others do, and lets you know not only how he thinks, but how he feels

    I can give you that – and I don’t think less of you (or anyone) because they read Sully. He’s no Erick Erickson, or Glenn Reynolds, that’s for sure.

    I just think he’s so wrong, so often that his ability to apologize doesn’t impress me anymore. I don’t find him a credible expert on anything (esp. considering some of the views he still holds about race) – except maybe what happens if you grow up gay, Catholic and British.

  128. 128
    jcricket says:

    BTW – I had totally forgotten about the "fifth column" thing – another ridiculous comment driven from his weird belief conservatives are serious and fundamentally more patriotic, and liberals basically un-serious, overly concerned with pacifism and unpatriotic.

  129. 129
    Svensker says:

    @Doug:

    America is waking up to your game.

    Oh, noes!

  130. 130

    My two biggest problems with Sullivan:

    1) He not only promoted The Bell Curve at the time, he still defends it. That’s inexcusable. Among other things, it indicates that you should never pay him any heed on a discussion that involves numbers. He doesn’t understand them at all.

    2) It isn’t just that he made the fifth column remarks. It’s also that, to my knowledge, he has never apologized for them. Until he acknowledges not only that he was factually wrong, but also that he was vicious and evil, I’m not entirely convinced by his change of heart. Yeah, he’s right on a lot of stuff now, but I’m less than convinced that he’s not still rpone to making exactly the same mistakes.

  131. 131

    Reactionaries typically operate from fear, whether a physical foe or fear of change, both are extremely strong drivers.

  132. 132
    Mike says:

    The people that go on about how REAL conservatism would be awesome, and that the US in the past 8 years (6 of which were majority Republicans in congress and a Republican President) didn’t have REAL conservatism as a guiding principle… sound just like all the lefties in Europe (and to a lesser degree here) who went on and on about how the Soviet Union and its satellite states were not REAL communism.

    Well yeah, that might be true, but you know what? That’s as close as we’re gonna get, because we’re humans and we’re greedy, self-serving and prone to excesses whenever it’s allowed. So, really, the Soviet Union and the US under Bush, that’s as close to REAL communism and conservatism as we’ll get, and it might suck if you support either, but the ideologies both stink.

    They are empirically proven to be unfit as guiding principles of practical governing for real humans in the real world, so let’s just stop pretending that there is a Utopian version of them that can be implemented in this world. There isn’t.

    EDIT: I guess I wasn’t the first one to make this point, but hey, that’s good! :)

  133. 133
    ltelf says:

    Forgive me if someone has beaten me to this, I only skimmed the preceding comments:

    Conservatism is a dweam wiffin a dweam…

  134. 134
    jcricket says:

    Yeah, he’s right on a lot of stuff now, but I’m less than convinced that he’s not still rpone to making exactly the same mistakes.

    What he said. That was as succinct a summation of my problem with Sully as I’ve ever read.

  135. 135
    Blogreeder says:

    We got unchecked “conservatism” the past eight years

    John, you know you can’t really call Bush a conservative. He wasn’t fiscally responsible enough. Early in your disillusionment with Bush phase, I remember it was the spending that got you. I think Bush called himself a "compassionate conservative" which is a conservative with dangerous liberal tendencies. Remember the road to hell is paved with good intentions and that pretty much describes most liberal positions. Conservatives are already compassionate. No need for another label.

  136. 136
    Blogreeder says:

    @ Shalimar

    Communism didn’t fail, it just wasn’t properly implemented

    I think you would agree with Edward O. Wilson when he said:
    What I like to say is that Karl Marx was right, socialism works, it is just that he had the wrong species.

  137. 137
    olga Polifroni says:

    There are times when it is almost a responsibility to be still to wait upon a new form of strength.

  138. 138
    Wolfman says:

    Conservatives vigorously opposed the founding of America. Wrong then. Wrong now. Conservatism is Wrong for America.

  139. 139
    Cyrus says:

    Conservatism is “formless” like water: it takes the shape of its conditions, but always remains the same. This is why Russell Kirk calls conservatism the “negation of ideology” in The Politics of Prudence. It is precisely the formlessness of conservatism which gives it its vitality.

    The funny thing is, this is correct!

    The problem – one problem, not the only one and probably not even the worst – with standing athwart history and yelling "Stop!" is that it’s inherently Quixotic. History will never actually stop.

    I mean, the present and recent past are moving targets. The status quo conservativism defends today is the change it resisted 50 or 100 years ago. In America, the disconnect between movement conservativism and "philosophical" conservativism makes the exceptions to this overwhelm the rule, but even philosophical conservativism is motivated more by gut reactions like fear of change than any ideology, and while the rhetoric might change, the policy preferences of conservativism from generation to generation will change as formlessly as water. If Dreher and Sullivan need to dress it up in fatuous babble, it’s still accurate. Why they see it as something admirable, though, I don’t understand.

  140. 140
    JL says:

    @Cyrus: The Repubs decided that being fiscally conservative was not to their benefit long ago. The issues that are important to them are tax cuts for the wealthy and marriage between man and a woman.

  141. 141
    harlana pepper says:

    instead of water, it felt more like urine, as they pissed all over us

    What is known as "trickle down economics"

  142. 142
    Chris says:

    Juan,

    I think you are pissing up the wrong tree by conflating Sullivan with the current neocon crowd. Andrew has been trying to point out for years what you have attempted to do with this post.

  143. 143
    Realist says:

    Have you no shame sir? Have you no shame?

    Isn’t flogging John – who’s already admitted he was wrong on multiple occasions – sort of like shooting fish in a barrel? How many times does he have to prostrate himself and offer mea culpas for this before you’ll be satisfied?

    As for the whole "conservatism is like water" thing, I must admit to never before considering the Tao of Conservatism. What would Lao Tzu think?

    The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits himself, The more he gives to others, the more he gets himself. The Way of Heaven does one good but never does one harm. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete.

    Yeah, that sounds pretty conservative. They’re all about generosity and helping others.

    The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.

    Hmm. Doesn’t exactly jive with all that "lawn’order" stuff conservatives like to preach about, does it?

    The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.

    Uh, yeah. I’d say this one’s pretty self-evident.

    Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.

    Iraq, anyone?

    When a nation is filled with strife, then do patriots flourish.

    Yeppers. And last but not least:

    Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.

    Does that sound like it really goes with the whole "Greed is good" philosophy?

    Conservatism is like water? Sorry, I’m not seeing it. Maybe I need to meditate more.

  144. 144
    SGEW says:

    My world is confusing. I just came here via a link from Mr. Sullivan himself. Where am I? Who am I? What am I doing here?

    And will this turn into a philosophical navel-gazing pissing match?

    (ahem)

  145. 145
    Tena says:

    Formless and still – so conservatism is The Void? Come on, Andrew.

    The problem with modern conservatism is that it claims as its first and most fundamental tenet that government is bad. If one doesn’t believe in government, can anyone explain to me how that one can govern? Until the political parties who don’t believe in government come to terms with that paradox at the heart of their philosophy, then all they can do is fail. And that’s all they’ve done. The Republicans have failed utterly twice now in the space of 80 years using the same "government is bad and should go away" model for allowing financial markets to run riot.

    The only difference between the crash of ’29 and the crash of ’09, is the name of the bad debt that was being speculated on. In ’29 it was margins. This time it was bad mortgages bundled and sold as securities. Neither of those things is fatal to a market unless there is no regulation that can contain the risk. If you don’t believe in regulation, this is the result every time.

    You cannot govern if you don’t believe in governing.

  146. 146

    […] by Greg on March 23, 2009 John Cole has a few words for defenders of the status quo in conservative philosophy. I am so sick and tired of these “esoteric” discussions about the flawless, formless, and […]

  147. 147
    Rod Dreher says:

    Clearly you don’t read my stuff. I jumped ship on McCain-Palin before the election, for the same reason many conservatives did: Palin proved to be a disaster, and McCain didn’t deserve to win. I wrote in somebody on election day. I don’t mind being criticized, of course, but criticize me for positions I actually took, not ones I once held but changed when the facts changed.

  148. 148
    Whispers says:

    I suspect many of us are suspicious of anybody who supported Sarah Palin at any time. If we go back to 2000 and look at the early coverage of George W. Bush, it was similar. People invented positive traits out of the ether and attributed them to a person who seemed to have done nothing in life to deserve the adoration.

  149. 149
    Tena says:

    I suspect many of us are suspicious of anybody who supported Sarah Palin at any time

    I certainly am. It was clear immediately that she had no business being HANDED that position for which she is woefully unprepared and under-educated and under-IQ’d, if you will.

    Anyone who thought that she was a realistic candidate for that level of governing, for 10 seconds, has some kind of reality problem. I don’t care if you ultimately changed your mind; entertaining the idea was beyond ridiculous.

  150. 150

    […] ideology, especially such a miltant, aggresive, and stubborn one, that has ever been published. John Cole at Balloon Juice agrees: After getting hammered in two national elections, the rehabilitation of conservatism takes […]

  151. 151
    Terry says:

    I have a bit of a problem with these terms (conservative, liberal) and their relationship to some imagined 19th century paradigm of a left-right continuum in the political spectrum. We are defined and confined by our terms, but there is always a gap between the consensual construct of the world (which is imaginary) and the physical and metaphysical (whatever it may be) reality of the world. When that gap grows too wide and tenuous, I start to have problems. I’m perfectly willing to accept Noam Chomsky’s definitions of the original meaning of the word and I’m perfectly willing to see the party of Abraham Lincoln as an important advancement of the ‘good’ in our society. While such understandings are important, on some practical level I’m not sure how relevant they are to the 20th century meanings of those words, particularly the latter half of that century.

    Personally, I believe or perceive a few things about these modern day creatures (conservatives and liberals) and they really have little or even nothing to do with the right/left paradigm. I think I see a couple of things.

    One is that a liberal is just a wiser conservative, more capable of taking the conservative where he wants to go than the conservative himself can do. Another is that the modern well off right winger would fare just as well in the Soviet system or the Chinese system (even during the cultural revolution) as they presently do. Thus their fears that the monster of so-called socialism would redistribute all their money and wipe out their wealth is baseless entirely.

    In short, the conservative is an authoritarian, pretty much as defined by Paul Rosenberg and the liberal is an authoritarian with a friendly face and more enlightened control. In short – bad cop and good cop.

    Not many of us have read the Federalist Papers. But it would be a good idea to read Federalist 10, the first by Madison and considered to be the most important for understanding the construction of the US system and the thinking of the founding fathers. It’s about factions. The problem with modern America is that one faction is represented with any seriousness.

    Basically, the good cop and bad cop run the show, swinging back and forth between their respective methods, and their bosses are the city. The essential influence in the running of the city is the chamber of commerce. And that’s where we are.

    @Rick Taylor:

    "And it seems to me if it means anything, being conservative would mean being respectful of traditions of the past. It would mean a skepticism of radical new ideas, a consciousness of the law of unintended consequences, and a respect for institutions that have evolved over long periods of time to address the struggles we have had."

    The problem is that those past traditions are filled with so much poison. We may believe that, for instance, the central authority of the church was an instrumental force in the stability of society, but we really have no alternate universe against which to compare things. Thus I have a hard time with this concept of respecting these long established institutions, not to mention that it just leads to more authoritarianism. As for the law of unintended consequences, well that’s pretty much the entirety of history and we are building all the time upon those consequences and further consolidating them.

  152. 152
    Realist says:

    I gotta go with Bill Maher. On his show a couple of weeks ago, he remarked:

    Ronald Reagan used to say the nine scariest words in the world were "I’m from the government, and I’m here to help." Of course, that was before "I’m Sarah Palin; now show me the launch codes."

  153. 153
    SGEW says:

    Dead threads are when we come out to play.

    At the same time, maybe this is precisely the conversation conservatives need to have.

    Fine, I’ll say it. What does "conservative" mean? There needs to be some delineation of terminology: everyone’s saying something different.

    There are so-called "conservative" policies (deregulation, states’ rights over federalism, "flat" or non-progressive income taxation, dismantling of social programs, etc.), theories (monotheism as social necessity, the free market as panacea, Constitutional "strict construction," sovereignty over multinationalism, etc.), philosophies (frontier individualism and self-reliance, prudent caution, etc.; see also Sullivan, Dreher, previous thread, et. al.), and . . . well . . . what I see as "tendencies" (militarism, authoritarianism, anachronistic cultural biases, and biblical fundamentalism, to name a few). [I’m specifically leaving reproduction and sexuality out of the mix here, as this is bloody complicated enough for now. Also ignored here: important historical context (e.g., the American Civil War, WWII, etc.), and most foreign policy (which is a whole other question in some ways).]

    Now, there is a great deal of overlap amongst and between these strands (e.g., self-reliance->free market->deregulation), and the Republican party was once able to hold (most) of them under one umbrella of political convenience. [Insert trenchant historical analysis of G.O.P. here: Reagan, Buckley, and Thatcher would be mentioned. Maybe Newt Gingrich, even, but let’s move on.] But now? After the presidency of George W. Bush and the egregious nonsense the Republican party has been up to in Congress? Two decades after Reagan? It sure feels like it’s anything but "conservative," but tell me: how many of the above mentioned policies and theories does the modern Republican party stand for? What about Rush Limbaugh? The answer may surprise you.

    Yes, George W. Bush was "non-conservative" in several of his policy choices (particularly on federalism issues; e.g., No Child Left Behind, Dept. of Homeland Security, etc.), and was certainly philosophically pretty darn radical (where, sir, was your prudence?!). But I contend that many of the policies that the public now see as failures were, in fact, "conservative" policies. Of course, most of the outright crimes (torturing and murdering detainees, politicizing the Justice Department, wiretapping Americans without warrants, etc. etc. etc. ad. nauseum) and miserable bungles (the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina, the I/P peace process, oh god this is depressing) had nothing to do with "conservativism" or anything else beyond the administration’s particular [insert descriptive pejorative here]. However, a good deal of the problems we now face were caused by actual, definitionally "conservative" ideas: complete deregulation, faith in the free market, unilateralism, tax cuts for the wealthy (excuse me: "fair taxation"), a distrust of government social programs, and an open disavowal of federal intervention into any domestic issue (heck of a job, Brownie).

    So what are we left with? In many ways, this is the conversation: how are you going to rethink these policies. Everyone’s running around trying to "revive" the Republican party, but to what end? So the same failed policies can be trotted out again?

    Being philosophically "conservative" is no reason to align with these so-called "conservative" policies. Barack Obama is philosophically "conservative" in many ways, but he sure is "liberal" when it comes to government social programs. "Liberal" policies have been around quite a while: maybe it can be "conservative" to support some of them by now. And anyway, philosophical sophistry feels like an insufficient balm for the wounds that are still gaping raw in the zeitgeist.

    Phew! I still don’t know what I’m trying to say. Lot to figure out, eh?

    Also:

    I’m mad at myself for denigrating the people who repeatedly said the war in Iraq was a bad idea and I dismissed them and mocked them.

    I have forgiven you. Don’t do it next time.

  154. 154
    Antonio Lorusso says:

    This is all you need to know about political conservatism. They are the first to complain about limitations on liberties they approve of, and the first in the queue to demand limits on liberties for those things they don’t approve of. There is a word for this: Hypocrisy.

  155. 155

    […] Commenter Wasabi Gasp in the comments to this post over at Balloon […]

  156. 156
    WB Reeves says:

    But it would be a good idea to read Federalist 10, the first by Madison and considered to be the most important for understanding the construction of the US system and the thinking of the founding fathers.

    cite="">

    I always marvel at the Conservative penchant for treating the Federalist Papers as definitive of a collective mindset on the part of the founders. The fact is that the papers are a propaganda series that was designed to sell the constitution to the New York electorate during the campaign for ratification. They had little impact on the national debate at that time since they were not distributed in an organized manner outside of New York state. Indeed it isn’t clear what influence they had, if any, on the debate in that state.

    The legend of the Federalist Papers as constitutional oracle grew up in the years subsequent to ratifcation. This despite their clear non-statutory, personal character. James Madison, the likely author of Federalist #10, decried any attempt to transform the papers into authoritative constitutional documents, denying that they were anything more than fodder for the public debate reflecting the views of their authors.

    Nevertheless "conservatives" love nothing more than citing the papers for their advocacy of republican virtue in contrast to the mobocracy of democracy. Ostensible advocates of bi-partisanship like to cull criticisms of factionalism and the spirit of party from the papers in order to give their own positions a reflected lustre.

    Such folks seldom reference the fact that the papers were initially composed in opposition to the Bill of Rights and that Madison only reversed himself on this point because it became apparent that the states wouldn’t ratify the constitution without one. Is the Bill of Rights any less constitutional for being forced on the framers?

    Likewise in the case of factionalism, Madison soon abandoned this position by making common cause with Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic Republicans against Hamilton’s Federalists. That the two main authors of the Federalist Papers should find themselves in such bitter political opposition over the meaning and character of constitutional Government hardly supports the near mystical unanimity of the framers intent of which the Federalist Papers are supposedly illustrative.

    The reality is that the Constitution is a political and legal document hamered out by a committee with more than its share of Lawyers and conflicting interests. As would be expected of such a document, it is an amalgam of compromise and ambiguity. No where more so than on the question of slavery, a legal term which doesn’t appear in the original document even as it outlines how those "bound to service" are to be counted for purposes of legislative representation. This bit of lawyerly hedging eventually led to a bitter, bloody civil war, suggesting that compromise isn’t always an unalloyed good.

    To end I’ll return to Madison’s own view that the papers emphatically did not supply "the key" to either the constitution or the collective thought of the framers. Madison believed that debate on constitutional questions ought to be based on the text alone. As a lawyer he likely believed that debating textual meaning would provide sufficient scope for any political dispute. If he proved wrong in this it simply affirms that the framers were mortal rather than divine beings and that the Constitution is a work in progress rather than holy writ.

  157. 157
    Draylon Hogg says:

    Bush and the GOP were so conservative they brought back the monarchy. They surely conserved the American tradition of kicking the shit out of smaller, weaker nations at the behest of big business. I’m sure all those people who were killed didn’t really give a toss if it was for oil, sugar, democracy or bananas

  158. 158
    Richard Bottoms says:

    I’m mad at myself for denigrating the people who repeatedly said the war in Iraq was a bad idea and I dismissed them and mocked them.

    Apology accepted.

  159. 159
    nickzi says:

    To be blunt, the Sullivan piece reads like half-digested Lao Tzu, or Ursula LeGuin in one of her more excruciatingly waffly moments. It doesn’t actually say much of anything, except "conservatism is like an unconvincing metaphor". Replace "water" with "icecream" and "waves" with "scooping" and you get much the same effect.

  160. 160
    Terry says:

    @WB Reeves:

    I always marvel at the Conservative penchant for treating the Federalist Papers as definitive of a collective mindset on the part of the founders. The fact is that the papers are a propaganda series that was designed to sell the constitution to the New York electorate during the campaign for ratification. They had little impact on the national debate at that time since they were not distributed in an organized manner outside of New York state. Indeed it isn’t clear what influence they had, if any, on the debate in that state…. The legend of the Federalist Papers as constitutional oracle grew up in the years subsequent to ratifcation. This despite their clear non-statutory, personal character. James Madison, the likely author of Federalist #10, decried any attempt to transform the papers into authoritative constitutional documents, denying that they were anything more than fodder for the public debate reflecting the views of their authors…. Nevertheless "conservatives" love nothing more than citing the papers for their advocacy of republican virtue in contrast to the mobocracy of democracy. Ostensible advocates of bi-partisanship like to cull criticisms of factionalism and the spirit of party from the papers in order to give their own positions a reflected lustre.

    Firstly, I’d like to say that your comment, WB, was highly informative. I very much appreciated that. And I’ll admit that I didn’t know that Madison was opposed to the Bill of Rights at any point, though apparently he changed – you apparently assume that this was for political reasons. Maybe so, maybe not. I’m no expert on Madison.

    Insofar as your comment was in reply to mine, without necessarily assuming that you were referring to assumptions about me in particular in any specific comment, I’d like to make a few things clear.

    You’re absolutely right about the founding fathers being a whole bunch of guys. I use that phrase as a kind of lazy shorthand because I don’t know much about the bulk of them (except that they were, as a group, a bunch of landowners who didn’t want to keep sharing the pie with English aristocrats). Usually I’m thinking of people like Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, and Madison. Even then, I don’t always remember who said what specifically, never mind actually quoting them. So I refer to "founding fathers" only, given the limits of space and my own "off the top of my head" thoughts.

    Still, you refer numerous times to "conservative" in your reply, which surprised me a little. I rarely run across references to Madison or Jefferson, for example, from conservatives. They are, to my mind, people who are far too inconvenient for most conservative ideas. Be that as it may, let me make it clear that I, at least, am very far from conservative, whatever references I make to Federalist 10.

    Were I to choose an existing system, of those I know of, I’d personally prefer that we were more like the Swedish. Or, at worst, the French. In regard to our own constitution, I see the bill of rights as virtually the only aspect of it that sets it apart – the old soviets had a constitution that otherwise had about three times as much grand sounding language than our own did. Outside of the bill of rights. So for us, I see it as vitally important.

    Hamilton wrote 51 of the 85 Federalist papers, so more than just taking your point about them, I obviously do not see them as a whole as being worth much more than insights into how Hamilton and Madison thought (and John Jay, of course, who wrote 5). If Madison stood in opposition to Jefferson in early stages, I’d wager that on the broadest issues he ended up far closer to Jefferson than to Hamilton. Would I lose my bet?

  161. 161
    matoko_chan says:

    There is no "reform" conservatism.
    Any conservative that tries to be reformist is uniformly keelhauled under the derelict hull of the SS Conservative Titanic and expelled from the party as a RINO. See Powell, Parker, Frum, Buckley, etc.
    Ross Douthat is just Bill Kristol with a bigger vocabulary and better hair. One cannot force a nano-wafer between Douthat’s actual positions and Glenn Beck’s positions on Palin, life-at-conception, IDT, abortion, SSM, stemcell research, nomatter how cleverly Douthat cloaks his pre-rational, superstitious core beliefs in faux-reasonble Harvard-educated stealth verbage .
    Douthat et al indulge in the same wishful thinking (the polls lie! we are a centerright nation!) and dogwhistle race-baiting and IQ-baiting and SES-baiting that has wholly informed the party since Nixon.

    /rightgeous ghettosnap @Douthat and the rest of the conservo faux-reformer poseurs.

  162. 162
    matoko_chan says:

    SES == socio-economic status

  163. 163

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