Friday Highlights

Good morning. Continuing cool here in the Chicago area, 46 this morning.

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  1. Moving the conservative goal post.

    Reminds me of the communists and socialists who keep saying that neither philosophy has been given a real chance yet. Nothing Bush has done was qualitatively different from things Reagan did — he just has less teflon and no Democratic check in Congress for his first 6 years.

    In theory, conservatives want to shrink government. In practice, they never have and probably never will. They’ll just continue to cut taxes without cutting spending, which is far worse than the Democrats’ taxing and spending. In theory, conservatives are isolationists. In practice, they’ll get a hard-on for some war or existential struggle between Good and Bad every time, regardless of whether the situation calls for it or not. In theory, conservatives are against government regulation of our private lives. In practice, they’ll always want to tell you who you can sleep with or marry, how many dildoes you are allowed to buy at once, that marijuana is the most dangerous threat mankind has ever faced, etc.

    Conservativism has been tried over and over again in this country. It just doesn’t translate from theory to practice.

  2. Myths and focus on the family.

    Their defense is that being gay is like “lighting candles in a barn full of hay”?? I have no doubt that a significant fraction of the religious right manages to hate the sin rather than the sinner, but that’s really more of an ideal than common practice, right?

    Wouldn’t they say the same thing about child molester? “Oh, we don’t hate child molesters, we love them! We just hate the molestation.”

  3. Sorry for the third comment in a row, but I just came across Kevin Drum saying essentially the same thing via Andrew Sullivan:

    I hear this a lot, and I get the reasoning behind it. Obviously “conservatism” isn’t identical to “Republicanism,” and just as obviously it’s a good PR move to emphasize this in an era when the Republican brand is increasingly toxic. Still, conservatives protest too much.

    No political ideology lives in isolation. We judge communism by how Mao and Stalin implemented it, we judge 60s-era liberalism by how LBJ and the Democratic Party implemented it, and we judge social democracy by how Western Europe has implemented it. That’s how you judge movements: by how their real-life adherents put them into practice, not by reference to a utopian vision of how they should be implemented if only we lived in the best of all possible worlds.

    Nonetheless, now that the Republican Party has been brought low, an awful lot of conservatives are jumping ship, claiming that it really doesn’t represent them at all. But look: when the GOP made common cause with evangelical extremists, conservatives cheered. When the GOP accepted Grover Norquist’s tax jihad as sacred writ, conservatives cheered. When Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay all but declared the GOP the party of corporate welfare, conservatives cheered. When George Bush declared war on the Middle East, conservatives cheered. Somehow Burke never really entered the discussion. But now that it turns out these positions have been pretty much played out, Burke is back in and Karl Rove is out. That’s just a little too convenient.

    Of course, conservatives point elsewhere, to the rise of pork and the rise of corruption and the rise of government spending, as signs that the GOP is no longer a true conservative party. But pork has been part of politics since politics was invented, corruption has nothing to do with ideology, and discretionary domestic spending hasn’t gone up that much. The real problem is that people have gotten tired of war, they’ve gotten tired of the relentless and cynical defense of economic privilege, they’ve gotten tired of a refusal to even attempt solutions of real-life problems, and they’ve gotten tired of preachers banging on endlessly about abortion and teh gay. But these are all things that, in real life, the conservative movement and the Republican Party agree on.

    A Republican Party that was more competent, more honest, and more principled would obviously also be more popular. And certainly there’s room on the margin to complain about the modern GOP’s conservative bona fides (Medicare, spending, immigration, etc.). Still, on the big issues the Republican Party is pretty damn conservative, at least as actual existing modern conservatism is practiced — and after 30 years of putting it into practice it turns out that actual existing modern conservatism doesn’t have much appeal left. That’s the problem, not the fact that George Packer pays more attention to Nixon than Buckley.

  4. Mark says:

    Well, if the conservatives are jumping ship, it’s not entirely clear to which ship they will jump if it isn’t the GOP. Certainly not to the far-left Obama.

    On the focus on the family, I don’t necessarily espouse everything I link … I just point out that they are likely of interest. But I also don’t think that those evangelicals who both think homosexuality is a sin and say they don’t hate gays are lying. I think it possible consistently hold that position.