Balloon Juice book club

I just finished reading “The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin” by Corey Robin. I bought it on Kindle, if you want a hardcopy you might check out this independent book store site. Let’s shoot to read the first chapter and start discussing it next week, for those who are interested.

If could summarize the book in a few lines, I would go with cleek’s classic:

today’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want today: updated daily.

Here’s John Quiggin’s take on the book:

Robin’s thesis is that claims like Oakeshott’s about conservatism (and also, those of Hayek about classical liberalism) are nothing more than a mask for attempts to resist, and where possible, roll back the claims of the working class against their rulers.

I think this is broadly correct. Although there are people with the conservative disposition described above (and also, people who are attracted by radicalism as such), there is no inherent correlation between conservatism as a disposition and support for the political views commonly associated with conservatism.

There is an accidental association reflecting the fact that, taking the last two or three centuries as a whole, the ruling class has mostly been losing ground. First, the aristocracy was forced to share power with the bourgeoisie, and, then for most of the 20th century, the working class gained ground against the power of capital. Under such circumstances, people of conservative disposition will generally be found in opposition to the progressive demands being put forward by workers and their supporters.

And here is something I read by Peter Beinart on Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, the subject of a controversy that we discussed last week:

Although ultra-Orthodox Jews claim to reject religious innovation, ultra-Orthodoxy is constantly innovating because it is based, above all, on the rejection of secular values. And since secular values change, ultra-Orthodoxy does too.

And so it is of course with fundamentalist Christianity: it has become obsessed with homosexuality in large part because the last 30 years have been a time of progress for gay rights.

The alacrity and ease with which Republicans went from supporting (and in Romney’s case implementing) health care systems along the lines of ACA to treating ACA as the most horrible soshulist thing evah makes perfect sense in this context: ACA is bad because liberals passed it. Full stop. If Democrats had passed Medicare Part D, it would be the worst thing evah too.

Update. Quasi-reformed Mark Lilla has an interesting (mostly negative) review of Robin’s book here (via). I don’t agree with it, because it devolves too far into predictable Sullivan-style “we conservatives didn’t used to be like this” stuff, but it’s interesting, but it’s probably the best predictable Sullivan-style “we conservatives didn’t used to be like this” defense that I’ve read.

79 replies
  1. 1
    WereBear says:

    Yay! I’ve been enjoying this book a great deal, and will be ready!

  2. 2
  3. 3
    superluminar says:

    Fucking hell Doug! Burke, Oakeshott and Hayek in one post? You really are trying to get Sully’s gig, aren’t you?

  4. 4
    jeffreyw says:

    @superluminar: Requires modesty, so no.

  5. 5
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Glad to hear this is going forward. I read the first few chapters when you first mentioned it, then got distracted by holidays’n’shit. I’ll dig it out again. Looking forward to the discussion.

  6. 6
    ellennelle says:

    most excellent choice, dude!

    just watched him on UP! with chris hayes (sure love that show), and he was excellent. made so much sense; made more sense than insisting the conservatives are all about the money, especially given all those out there poor as dirt who buy into it. i mean, it sure helps explain the seemingly endless fascination with the royalty, on both sides of the pond.

    it’s all about preserving the class structure, which itself serves those at the top, even regardless of the money. money becomes just a tool for power; but if you already have the power, who needs the money, really?

    wish i could join in, but too busy; it’s certainly on my list.

  7. 7
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    P.S. Do I recall correctly that you said you had talked to Corey Robin and he will participate in the discussions? I hope my memory’s accurate on this because having the author around adds enormous value.

  8. 8
    DougJ says:


    Yes, he will drop by, I think. Still ironing out the details.

  9. 9
    superluminar says:

    Good point! Alsotoo, Doug’s insufficiently Bold and Serious enough to really take the job. Maybe if he mentioned Neibhur (sp?)…

  10. 10
    srv says:

    Doug, at your next podcast, try a British accent. It really would not take much to beat Sully’s “intellectualism”

  11. 11
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The unholy marriage of Christian Fundamentalism with Rapacious Capitalism is inherently unstable (because they’re diametrically opposed in there intended effects), but the more serious problem is that modern “conservatism” is bound and determined not to conserve anything. Certainly not the environment, or finite resources, or the structure of society. It’s all about getting mine and fuck you…of creating chaos and then personally profiting from it in the short term with no regard to even the just beyond short term.

  12. 12
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Seconding DougJ’s take — the related discussion on Crooked Timber is worth following.

  13. 13
    superluminar says:

    More seriously, is it your contention that modern-day conservatism (as you quoted from cleek, above) is a continuance of older forms of that philosophy (basically Burke et al were the hippy-punchers of their day), or do you or Robin believe it to be a different, more radical, beast?

  14. 14
    DougJ says:


    A continuance. I’ve always thought that, at least since I’ve begun to think about what conservatism is.

  15. 15
    dance around in your bones says:

    Bought the book; haven’t read a single word yet…..
    life happens.

    Anyway….I’ll be here, for what it’s worth!

  16. 16
    lamh32 says:

    ok, I know I said on the previous, that I was tired of hearing about Iowa, but what the hell is this hard-on Rick Santorum has for telling black people first, how we should feel about abortion and now this

    “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money,” Santorum begins. “I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families.”

    as someone said, why single out Black people? oh right, we’re all on welfare…!!!

    Does that book explain why conservative/GOP seem to want to only control the lives of brown and black? Or is that just another stupid question with obvious answers?

  17. 17
    jonas says:

    Mark Lilla in the most recent NYRB argues that Cook misses the mark by conflating a number of right-wing impulses under a narrow and outdated definition of conservative: there’s nothing “conservative” — in the traditional sense — about modern American right-wing politics. He suggests that today’s FoxNews-talkradio-Tea Party movement represents a strain of religiously-tinged political apocalypticism that goes back to the more radical revolutionary impulses traditional conservatism originally opposed.

    Russell Kirk, Robert Taft and William F. Buckley (and, it should be noted, Mitt Romney) are the kind of conservatives Cook talks about. Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum, on the other hand, are cult leaders and prophets of doom whose campaigns are less about governing and more about preparing their followers for the coming showdown between the forces of good (them) and evil (modern society).

  18. 18
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    The point Beinart makes here is important: “Ultra-Orthodox coercion stems in large part from ultra-Orthodox control of key ministries in the Israeli government. Israeli prime ministers give the ultra-Orthodox control over these ministries in return for the Knesset votes that keep them in power.”

    So a political party co-opts and entire religious movement in order to guarantee votes for their agenda–only to have it backfire and the religious extremists start to believe they have the right to take over and run the entire country.

    Sound familiar?

  19. 19
    superluminar says:

    I’m not sure that’s correct though, as my view of the political disputes of the 18th & 19th centuries is that Burke etc were warning about the dangers of excessive radicalism rather than denying that any change was not worthwhile (not to say I agree with their perspective, FWIW). Conservatism at it’s best is the belief that we should be cautious about change, not that it should be rejected out of hand. And yes, precious few modern cons actually follow that…

  20. 20
    Waldo says:

    I’ll give it a shot. Maybe this will be the book that answers the question “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”, which Thomas Frank’s book never adequately resolved.

  21. 21
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Conservatism at it’s best is the belief that we should be cautious about change, not that it should be rejected out of hand.

    And yet modern “conservatives” embrace unencumbered “free market” capitalism, which is about as dynamic a process as you can get, where there is absolutely no time to ponder your actions, you must react NOW or miss an opportunity…to heck with the consequences.

    As Davis X. Machina points out, these guys call themselves “Republicans” but they’re actually monarchists. “Conservatives” are anything but conservative in that sense.

  22. 22
    El Cid says:

    To see (or watch again) a nice skewering of such modern rightists as Newt Gingrich, visit here, as C-SPAN finally put on Al Franken’s 1996 (and 1994) speech at the White House Correspondent’s Association dinner, where he ripped the shit out of the 1994 Republican Devolutionaries — including Newt’s wiving issues. Whitewater lies, hearings bullying, homophobia, Rush Limbaugh, it’s all there. More, because Al always has a million anecdotes and impressions.

    I see this as the predecessor to the Colbert disembowelment of the Bush Jr. / press regime — with the caveat that Colbert did Colbert in front of the Republican President himself, and it was when the mood among the establishmentarian media was the most cowardly and yielding.

    I don’t feel like rewinding & sorting again, I think Al takes the podium around 47 minutes in. I haven’t watched Clinton again, but he was funny if I recall.

  23. 23
    superluminar says:

    Strikeout the not in “not worthwhile”. FYWP for not letting me edit, you motherfucking Greenwald’s Smegma of a blogging program, you.

  24. 24
    boss bitch says:


    s someone said, why single out Black people? oh right, we’re all on welfare…

    on welfare and drugs. oh and we love to abort our babies.

  25. 25
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @boss bitch:

    oh and we love to abort our babies.

    “They don’t value human life the way we do.”

    “Hey, did you hear we just took out another Islamofascist wedding party in Waziristan? Woo Hoo!”

  26. 26
    WereBear says:

    I’m only on chapter three, but I haven’t run across anything that does not support my observation that these “conservatives” believe that if rights are expanded, they will have no one to look down upon.

  27. 27
    superluminar says:

    @Villago Dalendo Est
    Oh I completely agree about the modern version, I was just trying to make the case for the traditional variety (which I disagree with in any case). And certainly the modern neoliberal obsession on both sides of the Atlantic has made Conservatism look ridiculous (and sadly decimated the left too), as it promotes rapid change, or “creative destruction”, regardless of its cost to society.

  28. 28
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    you motherfucking Greenwald’s Smegma of a blogging program, you.

    This needs to be a rotating tag, STAT.

  29. 29
    Nicole says:

    I’m game! Got it on Kindle for Christmas. Looking forward to the club (and to not having to cling on to it like a bandit for an additional three weeks, before shamefully returning it to the library, along with $3.00 in fees, as I did with Nixonland).

  30. 30
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    I think you could make the case that cautious liberalism sees change as inevitable, but let’s try to minimize the disruption and attempt to mediate the impact of it.

    Buckley was essentially the guy at the beach yelling “stop!” at the tide. An idiot.


    That seems to motivate so much of it. The intense desire to be able to look down on someone. The old “at least those nears under the next overpass don’t have sparrows to eat” thing.

  31. 31
    MattW says:

    You’re wasting your time with this book. None of these people are conservative. Much like the International Prototype Kilogram, there exists the The True Definition of Conservatism, against which all other conservatism may be measured. It is kept in Andrew Sullivan’s basement, under a vacuum-sealed bell jar and guarded by the One True Scotsman.

  32. 32
    kdaug says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Pretty sure I ate some Hollandaise’n’shit sauce last weekend. Slathered over deviled eggs with too much paprika, IIRC.

  33. 33
    Citizen_X says:


    Much like the International Prototype Kilogram, there exists the The True Definition of Conservatism, against which all other conservatism may be measured. It is kept in Andrew Sullivan’s basement, under a vacuum-sealed bell jar and guarded by the One True Scotsman.

    That is brilliant. Kudos.

  34. 34
    middlewest says:

    Amazing, reading that Mark Lilla piece, you’d think race has little to nothing to do with the history of American conservatism.

  35. 35
    dance around in your bones says:

    @El Cid: off to watch. GAWD, Newt Gingrich. hoocodanooed? in 2012? it’s like a nightmare.

  36. 36
    Raven says:

    Today was always my favorite day of the year until the BCS spread the games out over the entire week. It’s still great but it ain’t what it was. GO DAWGS!

  37. 37
    Raven says:

    oops, sorry, I didn’t realize it was a book conversation

  38. 38
    Gust Avrakotos says:

    Wonder if all the Greenwald apologizers are going to hide in their cracks in the floor today after what that greasy sleaze ball said about the Prez on twitter.

  39. 39
    AA+ Bonds says:

    Conservatism fell apart with the ultimate demise of hereditary and clerical rule in the Western world in the 20th century and they have not really figured out what the hell to do since, so conservatism has instead become a shifting amoeba of proto-fascism

    Seriously, without estates to defend, there can’t really be conservatism – just man up and call them brownshirts, palingenetic ultranationalist radicals, that’s what the Republicans are now, Nazis-in-waiting

  40. 40
    handsmile says:


    I was in the midst of commenting on Mark Lilla’s review of The Reactionary Mind and providing a link to NYRB when I read your update.

    Curious what you mean by describing Lilla as “quasi-reformed.” I do have a great regard for him and was pleased that a scholar of his merit was selected to review Robin’s work. I admit to being somewhat surprised that it was, as you wrote, “mostly negative,” albeit replete with references both to historiographical and contemporary definitions of conservatism. Two of Lilla’s books, The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West and The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics are highly recommended, the first for its erudition, the second for its provocation.

    And thanks for this announcement; I’ve been looking forward to a reliably ardent BJ debate.

  41. 41
    El Cid says:

    @dance around in your bones: Another thing I should have been cynical enough to expect, but wasn’t.

  42. 42
    AA+ Bonds says:

    Liberals, as always, are in denial about fascism’s reality. (Seriously, they always get y’all like this. It’s depressing.)

    American fascism is on the rise in a way it hasn’t been since Buchanan’s candidacy in 1996.

    That is the reason Ron Paul is dangerous although he’ll never be President: he’s amassing a small army of unemployed young men, telling them to dress and appear in a uniform way, and finally, Ron Paul leads the Evangelical vote in Iowa, completely counter to mistermix’s claims.

    This is the neat thing that fascist movements have discovered about the sort of young men who are attracted to social Darwinism in a time of high unemployment: they can be told to do pretty much anything, and they’ll do it.

    I have no doubt a bunch of pot-smoking Ron Paul atheists are wheeling around Iowa this very second pretending to be born-again Christians.

    This, incidentally, is how Hitler managed to appear Christian.

  43. 43
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @Gust Avrakotos:

    Wonder if all the Greenwald apologizers are going to hide in their cracks in the floor today after what that greasy sleaze ball said about the Prez on twitter.

    At least some of the people who troll pro-Greenwald here go over to Greenwald’s column and troll anti-Paul, it’s not hard to tell if you look at phrasing and syntax

  44. 44
    AA+ Bonds says:

    In fact I’d say BJ’s trolls, counter-trolls, and former trolls are its most valuable asset by far

  45. 45
    DougJ says:


    Lilla writes, with no real justification:

    All this is new—and it has little to do with the principles of conservatism, or with the aristocratic prejudice that “some are fit, and thus ought, to rule others,” which Corey Robin sees at the root of everything on the right.

    I think the fitness to rule stuff is an important part of contemporary conservatism. They only want white christians to rule, for example.

    Also too, to reiterate, Lilla just doesn’t attempt to justify his claim at al.

  46. 46
    burnspbesq says:

    Lilla’s fundamental criticism of Robin is, in my view, well taken.

    We do need a new political taxonomy. The word “conservative” has been entirely drained of meaning through overuse, misuse, and abuse. Unfortunately, Robin doesn’t provide it. It is utterly unhelpful to lump together Burke and Norquist. Norquist’s real philosophical precursor isn’t Burke. It’s Hobbes. He believes that if we tear down all of the structures of modern society and revert (temporarily, in hisview) to the Hobbesian state of nature, his side will be on top in the new social order that emerges, because they are smarter and have more guns.

  47. 47
    DougJ says:


    I don’t think that is really what Norquist believes. And I just don’t care for the “we didn’t used to be like this” stuff. There’s never enough evidence behind it to make the argument convincing. Not to me.

  48. 48
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Norquist never served.

    He has no idea what those who have the guns actually believe.

    I recall back in the 80’s, when Pat Robertson was in the Santorum spot, I was discussing that with a fellow staff officer in 9ID HQ, and some off the staff enlisted were listening in.

    A couple of them volunteered to follow me into the hills as part of the resistance should Robertson ever come to power.

  49. 49
    Judas Escargot says:


    (From Lilla’s review, my boldface):

    “[…]some are fit, and thus ought, to rule others[…]”

    That “are/ought” got my attention, because I see it so much in conservative argument.

    We’ve known since at least Hume that you can’t derive an ought from an is, no matter how much we sometimes wish that we could.

    IMO the failure to accept this is a big part of the Right’s psychological/cognitive problem.

    And IMO Burns is right about Norquist: He’s essentially a nihilist (in the Nietzschean sense, not the Lebowski sense), so it’s all about money, power and tribe… and the current state of things throws too many obstacles in his way.

  50. 50
    jonas says:

    @DougJ: Lilla’s point is that there *is* an actual historical genealogy of the ideology known as “conservatism” that we can trace back to the early nineteenth century and it was primarily aimed at maintaining a traditional social order with its attendant hierarchies of wealth and privilege. What passes for “conservatism” today is in fact a rather unwieldy set of cultural ressentements, religious radicalism, and anti-elitist populism that turns the old conservatism on its head in many ways by making the elite, leftist “establishment” in D.C. and Hollywood (and now Wall Street) its principle bogeyman. As Lilla points out, that’s not traditional Anglo-American conservatism. It’s quasi-fascism.

  51. 51
    dance around in your bones says:

    @El Cid: Definitely worth watching again. Thanks.

    Al Franken, comedian, author and NOW SENATOR!

  52. 52
    Samara Morgan says:

    @DougJ: but they didnt.
    they have always been like that.
    and cleek is wrong.
    counter example. Bush’s overtures to immigration reform, Medicare D, and NCLB DID NOT piss liberals off.

  53. 53
    Samara Morgan says:


    traditional Anglo-American conservatism.

    traditional Anglo-American conservatism is preservation of the status-quo as risk management.
    traditional Anglo-American libertarianism is experimentation with the status quo because systems are too “complex” to be manageable. this results in localized mob-rule aka states rights federalism.
    this results in the same thing as conservatism, traditional government by white christians.

  54. 54
    Samara Morgan says:

    @jonas: and the demographic timer is changing all that. that is why republicans oppose voting rights.
    because they are going to be outvoted.

  55. 55
    Samara Morgan says:

    @DougJ: “both libertarians and conservatives want white christians to rule.”
    its entirely coherent.
    Does Robin’s book mention actual morphological and functional diffferences between conservative and liberal brains?
    because then it might be worth reading.

  56. 56
    AA+ Bonds says:


    However I think the Southern strain of reactionary radicalism owes a lot to Burkean conservatism, as posited by David Blight – they’ve just run out of institutions to preserve so they have to retreat into palingenesis, which in turn breeds fascism

    In other words, today’s “conservatives” do not have any imperfect traditional institutions left to defend, so they have to invent fictional institutions to promote through “restoration” – that is, through radically new innovations in the current context such as the privatization of education, health, etc. – things that would be wholly new and radically dangerous if realized under current conditions

  57. 57
    AA+ Bonds says:

    It is crucial to remember that the subjective experience of palingenetic thought by self-described conservatives is genuine, Burkean, not fantastic: they believe their radicalism actually constitutes a strong defense of lasting institutions that they have never observed

    They have never observed these institutions (e.g. a radically free market United States) because they have never existed, at least not in the way they imagine them, but they believe it is because these fantasies were real and were destroyed at some point in the fairly recent past and can be restored just as quickly

    The Republican party is far closer to fascism than conservatism, far far closer (they have no choice), and social welfare liberals in America have done exactly what social welfare liberals did in Europe: stopped their ears and covered their eyes and started humming really loudly

  58. 58
    Hob says:

    I realize not everyone here is doing the book club, but still I wish people who are saying basically “What I assume Robin is saying is wrong, because” would read the book first. For example, it’s not as if Robin isn’t aware that Burke and Hobbes are two different people with different reputations; he discusses both in some detail.

  59. 59
    Commenting at Ballon Juice since 1937 says:

    Is making up a controversy in order to sell a forty year old public nursing home a conservative approach (i.e. it was ‘losing’ money, when it was not)? The republicans who are trying to do this in my county claim to be conservatives. I claim that they are not, although they do piss off the liberals. I really don’t think republicans always behaved this way because other wise there never would have been a public nursing home in my county.

  60. 60
    Hob says:

    Also, Lilla’s review is ridiculous, especially the part about “history as WPA mural” where he says the left is portrayed as a single movement of pure white hats. The book has its flaws but there’s absolutely nothing like that in it; Robin really says very little about the left, just that there have been various movements toward a more egalitarian society and that the right has opposed them.

  61. 61
    DougJ says:


    Those are good points too.

  62. 62
    Chris says:


    Conservatism at it’s best is the belief that we should be cautious about change, not that it should be rejected out of hand. And yes, precious few modern cons actually follow that…

    Well, for the last hundred years at least, you know who those “conservatives” have been – the progressives/liberals. Not wide-eyed radicals trying to burn down the system and create a new one or let anarchy rein… but cautious, pragmatic reformists who changed the system from the inside one step at a time, gradually making the nation immensely better both on the economic and racial fronts.

  63. 63
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Commenting at Ballon Juice since 1937: sure there would have been ……just nursing homes for old white christians.


    And so it is of course with fundamentalist Christianity: it has become obsessed with homosexuality in large part because the last 30 years have been a time of progress for gay rights.

    just like white christianity has become obsessively steath racist.
    the problem is ….the GOP has become the white christian party.
    Does Robin deal with the elephant in the room? the FACT that reactionary minds are WHITE CHRISTIAN minds?
    How about RWA tendency and Social Dominance Order?

  64. 64
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Chris: bzzt! Wrong again , Chris.
    WFB lived within the bounds of the last century, right?
    Standing athwart history, hollering stop?
    The thing that has changed is the electoral make-up of the American Republic.

  65. 65
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Chris: cautious, pragmatic reformists who changed the system from the inside one step at a time, gradually making the nation immensely better both on the economic and racial fronts.

    lie, lie, lie.
    what happened in the last century is that free market resource abundance made Americans the overclass of the world. pretty swell for us.
    now resource starvation, beginning with peak oil, is going to level the global playing field.
    tant pis.

  66. 66
    mclaren says:

    Snarky encapsulations like Cleek’s don’t work because what we call ‘conservatism’ today encompasses a whole lot more than just crushing the poor and enriching the wealthy.

    If rolling back the progress made by the working class were all there is to conservatism, how do we explain the anti-abortion frenzy? How do we explain the mania for the Rapture? (Fox News actually featured a numerical RAPTURE INDEX for several years!) How do we explain dementia like the global warming denial and the “drill, baby, drill” self-delusions?

    What people call “conservatism” today is more about broad denial of logic and facts and rationality. It’s queerly akin to the Stalinist effort to discredit and destroy critical skeptical thinking entirely and create the “New Soviet Man.” Stalin and his apparatchiks tried to destroy critical thinking entirely by sending to the gulag anyone who stated documented facts — when the census shows that the USSR’s population had dropped because of Stalin’s artificially-created famines, anyone who cited these facts got sent to the gulag. Disloyalty!

    The goal was to teach Soviet citizens that facts were unimportant: only loyalty to the ideology matters. Facts and logic proved useful only insofar as they supported the regime. If the facts became inconvenient, Soviet citizens were expected to deny and ignore ’em. If logic led to inappropriate conclusions, the good Soviet citizen had to avoid using logic and instead bend himself into pretzel-shapes of illogic.

    This is the same kind of behaviour we observe among today’s so-called “conservatives.” This has little to do with crushing the working class, and everything to do with an effort to destroy rationality itself.

    “The Law of Gravity is nonsense. No such law exists. If I think I float, and you think I float, then it happens.” — O’Brien, 1984

  67. 67
    Samara Morgan says:

    @superluminar: slumming, super?
    did the League of Incredibly Boring Glibertarians get too Paulish for you?

  68. 68
    Samara Morgan says:

    @mclaren: both libertarianism and conservatism are anti-empirical.
    but you know what is gunna save our fat white amer-israel asses?
    the blacks and the browns.
    because they cant be spoofed about libertarians and conservatives like Cole and DougJ.

  69. 69
    Samara Morgan says:


    Snarky encapsulations like Cleek’s don’t work because what we call ‘conservatism’ today encompasses a whole lot more than just crushing the poor and enriching the wealthy.

    because conservatism HASNT CHANGED.
    its just marketing….the only thing that has changed is the advertising.

  70. 70
    Ecks says:

    I don’t think Lilla’s critique is all that incompatible with what most of us here believe, at least in the broad brush strokes.

    He says that conservatism for the past few hundred years meant defending the status quo against revolutionaries. Liberalism for the past few hundred years has said that the status quo rather conveniently and unfairly over-privileges one small set of bastards over everyone else, and so the trick is to take them down enough pegs for a level playing field. So really, protecting the status quo really IS akin to protecting privilege.

    Different schools of conservatives focus on different bits of the status quo that they want to protect (e.g., the rich dudes having money, everyone living behind happy white picket fences, reading their bibles, etc). They’re even pretty happy to protect a quasi-mythical idealized past in which everyone is happily married forever an’ evar, and the happy darkies come joyfully to work as nannies, singing soulful songs, and not doing anything too distasteful, like getting in the way of a lovely white wedding, etc.

    That the current breeds running the republican parties aren’t what anyone used to recognize as conservative isn’t a bizarre conceit of Lilla’s, it’s something we’ve been saying here for years – if you resurrected Eisenhower tomorrow, he’d be disgusted with the R party. It really has been taken over with anarchists who want to burn everything to the ground, confident that some kind of magical gleaming, and wholly unspecified, phoenix would emerge from the ashes. Conservatives right now don’t really have a home (well, really they have the Democratic party while liberals don’t have a true home, but that’s another story).

  71. 71
    Samara Morgan says:


    He says that conservatism for the past few hundred years meant defending the status quo against revolutionaries. Liberalism for the past few hundred years has said that the status quo rather conveniently and unfairly over-privileges one small set of bastards over everyone else, and so the trick is to take them down enough pegs for a level playing field.

    pretty good. i give you a B+.
    But you left out the whole racial thingy.
    the reason conservatism worked in the past…..was that Murrica was 90% white christian.
    the reason conservatism cannot work anymore is the demographic timer.

    Quellism 101

    Quell: ..A Quellist society is an aware populace….demodynamic nanotech in action.
    Kovacs: Right– so the big bad oligarchs have switched off the nanotech.
    Quell: Not quite. The oligarchs aren’t an outside factor; they are like a closed subroutine that has gotten out of hand. A cancer if you want to switch analogies. They are programmed to feed off the rest of the body no matter what the cost to the system in general, and to kill off anything that competes. That is why you have to take them down first.
    Kovacs: Smash the ruling class and everything will be fine?
    Quell: No, but its a necessary first step. Every previous revolutionary movement in human history has made the same basic mistake. They have all seen power as a static apparatus, as a structure. And its not. Its a dynamic, a flow system with two possible tendencies. Power either accumulates, or it diffuses throughout the system. In most societies, its in accumulative mode, and most revolutionary movements are really only interested in reconstituting the accumulation in a new location. A genuine revolution has to reverse the flow. And no one ever does that, because they are too fucking scared of losing their conning tower moment in the historical process. If you tear down one agglutinative power dynamic and put another one in its place, you’ve changed nothing. You have got to build the structures that allow for diffusion of power, not regrouping.
    –Woken Furies

  72. 72
    Samara Morgan says:

    Dontcha get it, cudlips?
    Conservatism is WHITE.

  73. 73
    jayackroyd says:

    When prepping for my talk with Corey, I found this email convo with Larison very helpful:

  74. 74
    Samara Morgan says:

    haha, forgot my codicil

    Like Quell, I also believe the oligarchs have to be smashed….and that means the conservative fusion of big business, boutique libertarianism and judeo-christian dogma that has held a stranglehold on the American Republic for the past 2 centuries.

    its so tedious to have to have to re-Venn this, but all whites are not conservatives yet all conservatives are white.
    alsotoo all christians are not conservatives but all conservatives are christians.

  75. 75
    Samara Morgan says:

    @jayackroyd: haha, Mr. Daniel “League of the South” Larison.
    bulshytt-talker par extrodinaire.

  76. 76
    Samara Morgan says:

    you stupid Teucrian cattle…..conservatism hasnt changed.
    The American electorate has changed.
    that is the beauty of democracy.

  77. 77
    Sergio says:

    [Howdy, DougJ. Get a load of this, saw it on the net!]


    Many are still unaware of the eccentric, 182-year-old British theory underlying the politics of American evangelicals and Christian Zionists.
    Journalist and historian Dave MacPherson has spent more than 40 years focusing on the origin and spread of what is known as the apocalyptic “pretribulation rapture” – the inspiration behind Hal Lindsey’s bestsellers of the 1970s and Tim LaHaye’s today.
    Although promoters of this endtime evacuation from earth constantly repeat their slogan that “it’s imminent and always has been” (which critics view more as a sales pitch than a scriptural statement), it was unknown in all official theology and organized religion before 1830.
    And MacPherson’s research also reveals how hostile the pretrib rapture view has been to other faiths:
    It is anti-Islam. TV preacher John Hagee has been advocating “a pre-emptive military strike against Iran.” (Google “Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism.”)
    It is anti-Jewish. MacPherson’s book “The Rapture Plot” (see Armageddon Books etc.) exposes hypocritical anti-Jewishness in even the theory’s foundation.
    It is anti-Catholic. Lindsey and C. I. Scofield are two of many leaders who claim that the final Antichrist will be a Roman Catholic. (Google “Pretrib Hypocrisy.”)
    It is anti-Protestant. For this reason no major Protestant denomination has ever adopted this escapist view.
    It even has some anti-evangelical aspects. The first publication promoting this novel endtime view spoke degradingly of “the name by which the mixed multitude of modern Moabites love to be distinguished, – the Evangelical World.” (MacPherson’s “Plot,” p. 85)
    Despite the above, MacPherson proves that the “glue” that holds constantly in-fighting evangelicals together long enough to be victorious voting blocs in elections is the same “fly away” view. He notes that Jerry Falwell, when giving political speeches just before an election, would unfailingly state: “We believe in the pretribulational rapture!”
    In addition to “The Rapture Plot” (available also at any library through inter-library loan), MacPherson’s many internet articles include “Famous Rapture Watchers,” “Pretrib Rapture Diehards,” “Edward Irving is Unnerving,” “America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” “Pretrib Rapture Secrecy” and “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” (massive plagiarism, phony doctorates, changing of early “rapture” documents in order to falsely credit John Darby with this view, etc.!).
    Because of his devastating discoveries, MacPherson is now No. 1 on the “hate” list of pretrib rapture leaders who love to ban or muddy up his uber-accurate findings in sources like Wikipedia – which they’ve almost turned into Wicked-pedia!
    There’s no question that the leading promoters of this bizarre 19th century end-of-the-world doctrine are solidly pro-Israel and necessarily anti-Palestinian. In light of recently uncovered facts about this fringe-British-invented belief which has always been riddled with dishonesty, many are wondering why it should ever have any influence on Middle East affairs.
    This Johnny-come-lately view raises millions of dollars for political agendas. Only when scholars of all faiths begin to look deeply at it and widely air its “dirty linen” will it cease to be a power. It is the one theological view no one needs!
    With apologies to Winston Churchill – never has so much deception been foisted on so many by so few!

  78. 78
    moot23 says:

    I know DougJ and many others here are convinced that “conservatives” are always against whatever “liberals” want today (It’s an Atrios/ idea with a huge following). And it’s not totally wrong. It explains a fair amount of conservative behavior, but it’s worth thinking about why the explanation works.

    Conservatives want yes and no, black and white answers. It’s an incredibly powerful and simple position. When in doubt, if their enemy says yes, they will say no. Conservatives ride a very simple intellectual road, a very certain road, a very morally clear road.

    But they don’t pick that road to piss you off (a classic Atrios idea). They pick it because you HAVE to be wrong, and they HAVE to be wright, or they don’t have a way to organize the world in their heads.

    They can’t handle uncertainty.

  79. 79
    Ecks says:

    all conservatives are white.

    Oh thank heavens. I thought that Conservatism was a world-wide phenomenon, with some particularly vile instances in Africa & Latin America (y’know, countries setting up the death penalty for being gay, and banning all abortion under all circumstances, even to save the mother’s life)… but no, apparently it’s only a White American thing.

    Conservatism is about keeping things the way they are. Particularly with respect to preserving the lovely life of the privileged. After all, who could possibly be so inhuman as to want to disrupt such a cozy existence. In America that means white rich dudes, and white protestant middle-classy aspirational stereotypes. Elsewhere it means protecting different elites.

    I give you a B- for understanding, if we’re into grading things.

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