links for 2009-12-03

  • The conservative blogger has become the latest to defect from the right, for the obvious reasons. As anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-fact, teabagging types take the "conservative" banner and run with it, they're losing thinking conservatives. That's not to say that these folks are becoming liberal, or becoming Democrats, just that they're no longer interested in conservatism as it's currently practiced. No political movement can survive long without an intellectual underpinning.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

22 replies on “links for 2009-12-03”

  1. That’s sort of a premise of political science—one of those things drilled into us in the 101 classes. :) The very premise of politics is ideas, the promotion of concepts to compete in the marketplace of ideas. In the absence of well-thought-out ideas, you’re left with teabaggers—people who have passion, but no intellect or proposals. And there’s also the essential strategic element of politics, necessary to win. That requires the ability to slice up the electorate to craft policy that a majority of voters will support.

    The Republican Party spent a long time in the cold until an intellectual movement took hold. As of the late 70s, Democrats outnumbered Republicans in this country by a 2:1 margin. Now, there are a lot of things that led to the now-sunk Republican ascendancy in this country (making abortion an issue—something nobody gave a damn about before Republicans discovered it’d be a good wedge—and gaining the support of southern conservatives post-Johnson had a lot to do with it), but part of that was the rise of conservative intellectuals. (David Brooks had a column about this shortly after the last presidential election, arguing that Republicans’ anti-urbane, anti-intellectual strategy is bound to backfire as cities grow and rural areas empty out.) Slate wrote a couple of months ago about how “Irving Kristol saved the right from intellectual bankruptcy,” and I think that’s about right. he came along in the 1960s, his power and influence rose to a peak in the 1980s, and he brought a generation of young, intellectual conservatives along with him. They thrived under Reagan, whose sort of absentee presidency (in the sense that, like Bush the younger, he was happy to function largely as a figurehead, and let his staff sort out the details of governing) allowed the White House to serve as an incubator for young talent. Obviously, that served Republicans well, especially when those young Republicans came of age in 2001 to serve in top posts, to which they were appointed by President George W. Bush.

    Anyhow, yes, there’s got to be some brains behind the operation. :)

  2. Pffftt….. it’s all for show and money. Republican™ and Democrat™ are brand names nowadays. Politics on the national level is run like an ad company more so than based on any “intellectual” standing. How many federal legislators are not in the top 5% income earning bracket? It’s really about money. Sell the idea, not the product, because then you never have to deliver a product. Republicans had control of the Executive and Legislative branches for how long and what did they do in the name of conservatism? Nothing but get rich off the backs of the poor.

    These right wing bloggers and pundits that are coming out against the right at the moment need to differentiate themselves some how from the Limbaugh and Beck type ideologues who have the right wing market cornered. These people like Sullivan and the LGF guy aren’t big money makers, but they carried water for the contemptible during the Bush years. And now? Gotta stay fresh! They’ll find some other politician to pump and pimp and make money off of. Whatever.

    They’re not leaving the right. They don’t suddenly have moderate or liberal views/ They just don’t want to be associated with the drunk captain when the boat starts to capsize. Which amazes me because so many of these people have been wrong for so many years, why does anyone pay attention to them anymore?

  3. Folks, keep in mind that Sullivan has never been a Republican. He has only been conservative in the European sense, which in many ways is a bit to the Left of most American Democrats. He was a Tory for sure when he was in the UK, but has probably drifted left of being a Tory as his relationship has firmed up and maturity coupled with world news has graphically pointed out to him the violence of war.

    Lumping him in with any member of the Little Green Footballs crowd is a gross insult to Sullivan and to literate writers (if any complete sentences ever showed up on LGF it was probably an accident). The Daily Dish is pretty good writing, and Sullivan has been pretty consistently critical of American Republicans (and especially their NOT being true conservatives) for a long, long time; at least back before Bush the lessor took office as President.

  4. You’re quite right about Sullivan vs. LGF et al. Sullivan is a bright, capable, engaged guy. Even when I disagree with him, I see where we disagree, and it’s just about always a fundamentally different view of the world, in an area in which intelligent minds may disagree. That sort of writing makes it tough for people to get angry with him, and I think is a lot more influential.

  5. Sullivan may have allied himself with the Republican Party at one time, but if he’s got disagreements with the party, so too do Conservatives. How is it then fair to blame conservatives for the actions of a President and Republican Congress that didn’t strongly promote conservative ideals, especially in domestic policy?

    If he is really conservative then he is joining a long line of unaffiliated conservatives that strategically oppose the party from the right and he would find no home in the modern Democratic Party. Not all indpendents are in the middle. If he is not conservative, I don’t see how this really hurts the conservative political cause.

    As far as LGF, if all he does in the future for conservatives is to continue to break stories about the malfeasence of the regular media towards them (Dan Rather, rocket photos) then he will continue to do a great deal.

  6. CitizenKnow, you ask how it is fair to blame conservatives for the actions of a President and Republican Congress that didn’t strongly promote conservative ideals…and I might ask in return did those conservatives vote for that president and Congressional members? I often hear the critique of Bush-et-al that they weren’t “true” conservatives, they betrayed the conservative cause, but I suspect a lot of conservatives voted Republican. Did they not see the warning signs that W was not going to pan out as a true conservative? Did they not do due diligence? Did they go the partisan route and decide it was better to keep the Democrats out of office?

    It seems too convenient to have ideals one can point to for absolution while simultaneously disavowing the many real live humans elected under the banner of those ideals as soon as it gets messy. Have we had governance on a large scale that adheres successfully to conservative ideals? (Reagan strikes me as a faux-conservative.) Is there something wrong with the ideals in the sense that they might make good lip-service but then those elected under that banner set about betraying them right away?

  7. Cecil,

    Perhaps you are right. Maybe I should have voted for Al Gore and John Kerry or sat out the elections in 00 and 04. Hilarious!

    I think the Republican nomination process is less then ideal but that doesn’t cause me to go out and then vote for the opposing candidate that is even less desirable.

  8. Waldo and Cecil, your comments have been enlightening and thought-provoking. Thank you.

    My main interest here is in figuring out where these flaws in the system (e.g. partisanship) come from. Are they inherent/unavoidable in our system of government, or do they arise as a response to world events? If the former, is it a normal or strange (e.g. pendulum) attractor? Heck, how many of these flaws are due to being Homo sapiens?

  9. Michael, thanks for the link to that Globe article. I’ve only just started on it, but I can tell I’ll enjoy it.

    Tim, over the course of getting my political science degree, I came to the (hardly original) conclusion that the two-party system is inherent in our system of government. There are a few reasons for that, but they all boil down to a) that we don’t have a parliamentary form of government and b) that we have a plurality-winner-take-all system of elections. (See Duverger’s law for more on the latter.) Parliamentary elections use proportional representation—people vote for the party that they want to represent them—and the legislature ends up reflecting that. If the Libertarian Party gets 10% of the vote nationwide, then 10% of the legislature will consist of Libertarians. (Here, if the Libertarian Party gets 10% of the vote nationwide, then unless one of those candidates got a plurality of the votes, then 0% of the legislature will consist of Libertarians.) The effect of that is that “third” parties (as we call them here) flourish, and the major parties frequently don’t have more than 50% of the seats. That requires coalition building. In 2004 in the U.S., to imagine how things would have been different, it’s entirely possible that the Libertarian candidates would have formed a coalition with Democrats to take control of Congress.

    I hope that answers your question, at least in part.

  10. Those aren’t flaws Tim, they’re Satan’s plan. The Dark Lord was more than willing to trade victory for Conservative souls in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Act. And when Ronald Reagan showed up in Neshoba County Mississippi 30 years ago to begin his national ascent, the Devil was pleased to renew the contract with this new agent of hate.

    There is no shortage of dark hearts, boiled brains, and surrendered souls in America. The battle is on and the fallen angel knows he is losing. That’s why we have blunt tools like Limbaugh and Murdock at work. It is a time of great despair for men of reason like Sullivan and Phillips. Their salvation will not be won with half measures.

    Two sides hold the field, and while it is often clever and profitable to bet on hate, fear, and ignorance we have been told that it is not His plan and our faith will be tested. So faith itself is under attack, and ironically the “faithful” are co-opted with evil genius. We are all being asked, “who will you serve?”

  11. The Democratic position on Afghanistan has been shown to be nothing more then a tactical hammer with which to bludgeon George Bush over Iraq. Good war indeed. Its really quite despicable. Our foreign policy would have been much worse with either Kerry or Gore.

  12. Bigger picture guys. Just because Sullivan uses bigger words and better grammar than LGF, they’re still one in the same in that they gave cover for the GWB years. The GWB years laid the groundwork for the current “ignorance is bliss and you’re all wrong” Republican mess.

    Now that the Evangelicals have been tossed aside as the primary voting block of the right for the knuckle-draggers, it’s somehow becoming un-vogue to be a “Conservative”. The ilk of the right-wing have been becoming more mainstream right wing for years. What’s the difference now? That the base has seen that they’ve been pawns for corporate Republicans during the Bush years? (No overturning of Roe V. Wade, no fed gay marriage ban, etc.) So now the unruly masses are backing other cretins to push a “real” cretin agenda. I’m waiting to see something similar with the Democrats as people spout about how they want real progressive candidates in office.

    But back to my point, I think we’ll see more pundits from the right make these proclamations as they try to dodge some culpability as more right wing nutjobs become more mainstream or if more right wing nutjobs start committing acts of violence. Whether the pundit is intellectual or not, I see it as CYA.

  13. Just because Sullivan uses bigger words and better grammar than LGF, they’re still one in the same in that they gave cover for the GWB years.

    Not Sullivan. He endorsed Kerry in 2004. He endorsed a Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006. And then he endorsed Obama in 2008. He’s basically a conservative without conservative options to choose from, left picking Democrats as the lesser of two evils. He’s one of the folks who got Bush in office in the first place, absolutely, but he sure figured out that Bush was a mistake a lot earlier than most Republicans.

  14. Not Sullivan. He endorsed Kerry in 2004. He endorsed a Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006. And then he endorsed Obama in 2008. He’s basically a conservative without conservative options to choose from, left picking Democrats as the lesser of two evils.

    I can’t say I’ve seen him backing the Dennis Kucinich’s of the Republican party. As far as major elections, I think picking the lesser of two evils is how all people vote. I don’t necessarily see that as intellectualism. Maybe realism. I don’t see his hindsight or an endorsement of “at least it’s not that guy” as enlightenment.

    Let me try it like this; if Sullivan was never in the same camp as the rest of the right (as I believe you’re suggesting?) then why the need now to make this “bold” proclamation that he’s no longer a conservative? If he was so different before hand, what’s changed now? It’s just hard for me not to see it as schtick.

  15. I don’t think Waldo is suggesting that Sullivan was never in the same camp as the rest of the right. I think he’s saying (could be wrong) that “the right” has been comprised of a mixed coalition of people who generally vote for Republican candidates — some of these people consider themselves “conservatives,” and they have one set of intellectual underpinnings (small, nonintrusive government, even to the extent of a libertarian-esque attitude towards issues of so-called personal morality; in favor of free-market capitalism, even to the extent of not propping up struggling industries). Then there are others, who might call themselves “conservative,” but their commitments are not conservative in the classical sense: they’re more interested in political power as a way of forwarding a social agenda (legislating one set of views about personal morality, a la the religious Right). Or they’re what I would call Angry Mammoths — people who see their “way of life” changing, feel unable or unwilling to adapt, and who identify with the party that pays lip-service to a vision of the world that resembles their lost paradise. Sullivan was never in the same camp as these latter groups (he’s a gay man, for crying out loud), but these latter groups did not used to comprise such a large chunk of the Republican party. He wasn’t different before; the GOP was.

  16. I agree with you 100% Cecil. I guess I always saw people under the banner of “conservative” embracing the Angry Mammoths as part of their own. That was the Southern Strategy. Only difference I see now is that the angry mobs are getting more traction and power instead of just being used as pawns for votes. Well, what did the “intellectual” conservatives think was going to happen? Now that the beast is unleashed, you can’t take your ball, run home, and cry game over.

    I guess I can only wait to see what happens with Sullivan and the rest who jump ship. I’m likening it to people in 2004 who said that if Bush got re-elected, they’d move to Canada. That didn’t go anywhere.

    Over the years I’ve started to view “Conservatives” like Communists. It’s great in theory, but it’s rife with corruption and greed that screws the lowly. All the things that Sullivan says he cannot support have just about always gone part and parcel with the contemporary right wing i.e Conservatism. He’s just now realizing this? Now is his awakening? Seriously, read his list. The things he cannot support are the very tactics Republicans have been using the past 30+ years. None of those things are new. Yet he chose to identify with them out of political principal.

    I crave fiscal responsibility and limited government, yet I’ve never identified with conservatism. I’m liberal, yet I’m more conservative than GWB ever wishes he were. Maybe Sullivan finally realized what he thought he was identifying with turned out to be something different. Sullivan’s quote here is revealing:

    …[I]cannot bring myself to call myself a liberal (because I’m not). My reasons were not dissimilar to Charles Johnson, who, like me, was horrified by 9/11, loathes Jihadism, and wants to defeat it as effectively as possible.

    Who the hell doesn’t want to accomplish those goals? Liberals weren’t horrified by 9/11? Liberals love Jihadism?

    Screw it. Intellectual my ass. The guy is a moron and I can’t believe I’ve wasted this much time discussing his BS.

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