Russell Kirk Would Not Recognize These `Conservatives’

December 2nd, 2011 at 9:58 am | 242 Comments |

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The other day, I read a disturbing column by Bret Stephens, the Wall Street Journal’s deputy editorial page editor, entitled “The Great Global Warming Fizzle.” In the column, Stephens compares concern about global warming to religion and characterizes such concern as “…another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen.”

He goes on to say:

As with religion, it is presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate.

Mr. Stephens, in one fell swoop, is equally dismissive of religion and science. What kind of hubris causes one to have no use for either the knowledge gained from empirical evidence or the faith that has pushed mankind to rise above his base instincts?

This type of egotism seems to be running rampant among those—particularly in the right-wing media—who profess to be conservative. I believe this unfortunate phenomenon is the by-product of traditional conservatism being shoved aside by a radical, libertarian-inspired ideology that is deeply antithetical to traditional Burkean conservatism.

This ideology elevates personal freedom and financial gain far above all other values, and in doing so, empowers its followers to dismiss or even belittle anything that does not directly serve those parochial ends.

One of our nation’s most authoritative conservative voices was Russell Kirk, an author and political theorist credited with giving rise to conservatism’s intellectual respectability in post-World War II America. President Reagan called him “the prophet of American conservatism.”

In his seminal book “The Conservative Mind, From Burke to Eliot,” Kirk pointedly described how the nation deviated from true conservatism in the 1920s. He wrote:

The United States had come a long way from the piety of Adams and the simplicity of Jefferson. The principle of real leadership ignored, the immortal objects of society forgotten, practical conservatism degenerated into mere laudation of ‘private enterprise,’ economic policy almost wholly surrendered to special interests—such a nation was inviting the catastrophes which compel society to re-examine first principles.

These words are no less applicable to the situation we have today.

Just listen for 10 minutes to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or Mark Levin and you will hear private enterprise exalted with the level of reverence and passion typically afforded religious belief, and the accumulation of monetary wealth promoted as the ultimate measure of human success.

Ambition is good and necessary, but as Kirk put it “ambition without pious restraint must end in failure.”

Other influential conservative thinkers, such as Alexis de Tocqueville and Richard Weaver, also have emphasized the dangers of, as Weaver put it, having all other “virtues subordinated to successful gain-getting.”

When you listen to the policy focus coming from the right, such as a gluttony-driven energy policy that eschews conservation and renewable energy but favors aggressive fossil fuel production, it sounds a lot like 1960s liberalism’s credo: “if it feels good, do it.”

Any restraint on material appetites, even efficiency measures that make a dollar go further, is the enemy of a political ideology that places a premium on material gain and immediate gratification. This is not conservatism. There is nothing conservative about waste and gluttony.

Kirk underscored this when he wrote, “The American conservative will endeavor to exert some intelligent check upon material will and appetite.

The climate debate exemplifies how the right has veered dangerously away from traditional conservatism. Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, regarded prudence as “first in rank of the virtues political and moral.” It is no more prudent to ignore the extensive research and conclusions of climate scientists than it is to ignore the diagnosis of a doctor. You might get a second opinion, or even a third, but you would not dismiss the views of every doctor that rendered the same diagnosis. Nor would it be prudent to delay treatment and continue doctor shopping in search of a physician who might tell you what you want to hear.

Stephens’ views on climate are typical of those who subscribe to what I refer to as “pretend conservatism.” His views are driven by a dogma and an egotism that results in a closed mind. There is no piece of evidence likely to alter his preconceived notions.

Conservatism requires decisions to be made on the basis of a clear-eyed and unbiased analysis of fact, and an adherence to values that have stood the test of time, not emotions stemming from a rigid political dogma.

The hostility towards faith exhibited in Stephens’ op-ed is as disconcerting as his egotistical dismissal of fact. It should serve as a wakeup call to religious conservatives.

The libertarian-inspired ideology that is masquerading as conservatism today is just as dangerous to religion as the secular humanism we find on the left. Traditional conservative values are being cast aside, such as humility, reverence, responsibility, stewardship and other moral principles—most of which stem from Biblical teaching.

The most fervent adherents to this doctrine, while giving lip service to traditional values, family and religion, will only accommodate them until they become inconvenient to their more immediate goals of gain and personal gratification.

The pro-life issue is one case in point.

A pro-life position is embraced in the abstract in order to not offend religious conservatives, but these pretend conservatives are not inclined to advance the pro-life cause if it would mean a departure from the “mere laudation of private enterprise,” to quote Kirk again.

In fact, many on the right support policies that contradict a pro-life position and would result in harm to unborn children.

Mercury is a well-known toxic pollutant that bio-accumulates and works its way up the food chain. It is highly hazardous to human health and poses a particular threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life.

Industrial emissions, especially from coal-fired power plants, are the leading source of environmental mercury, but there are many so-called “conservatives” who are trying to block Clean Air Act standards that would significantly reduce the amount of mercury emitted from coal-fired power plants.

One supposedly conservative Congressman even went so far as to claim—against all medical evidence—that there is “no medical negative” to mercury emissions from power plants.

Why? Apparently because the coal industry is opposed to the standards—citing cost concerns and fear that it will lose market share to cleaner, natural gas-fired power plants.

Mr. Stephens’ op-ed is just one of many examples showing that what passes for conservatism today is a far cry from the real deal. Real conservatism may not be dead—most Americans still retain its core values—but the word “conservative” is being quickly redefined by the media on the left and right to describe a radicalism that betrays traditional conservatism.

Facing so many challenges that require taking the long view, including energy security and climate change, our nation cannot afford to have pretend conservatives in the driver’s seat. It needs real conservatives who are guided by traditional conservatism’s ethic of responsible stewardship, prudent forethought, and protecting the interests of future generations.

That will only happen if we start a whole new discussion about who and what is—or is not—conservative.

Recent Posts by David Jenkins



242 Comments so far ↓

  • roesch

    Thanks for this thoughtful comment that places conservatism in its historical content; I realized that present day conservatism as reflected in Rush or on blogs like Althouse do not reflect what I always thought conservatism was also about: sine sense about preserving the future for our families along with an encouragement of individual responsibility and reward.

  • ottovbvs

    Bret Stephens is one of the most mindless writers on the WSJ ed page where there is lots of competition for this title. I had an interesting correspondence with him about five years ago (during the Bush admin) when he claimed there was no chance whatever of the US economy being surpassed in size by that of China. When I completely demolished his assertions using numbers he was reduced to moving the goalposts and claiming that China’s per capita GDP would never overtake ours. Any pronouncements by Bret Stephens are to be largely disregarded. Mr Jenkins could usefully ask himself why he chooses to remain a conservative when the Stephens brand of conservatism is the one that prevails in today’s GOP.

    • MSheridan

      “Mr Jenkins could usefully ask himself why he chooses to remain a conservative when the Stephens brand of conservatism is the one that prevails in today’s GOP.”

      I believe you have committed a logical error there. Our beliefs should not be contingent on the fallacies in the thinking of others. Had you suggested that Mr. Jenkins question why he is a Republican (assuming he is), given the current state of that particular party, that would have made sense. But his conservatism is a completely separate matter. You, for example, would not disown your fairly liberal principles if the Democratic Party became utterly controlled by reanimated zombie Marxists or Clintonian DLC centrists, would you? It is unreasonable to expect a traditional conservative to abandon his guiding principles solely because other people believe many very silly things that he does not and happen to call this grabbag of nonsense “conservatism”.

      • Reflection Ephemeral

        He ought not change his principles; he should rather recognize that his formerly preferred label and party for those principles have changed.

        • MSheridan

          Well, yes. Or, as Epictetus says, “Do not tie a ship to a single anchor, nor life to a single hope.”

          BTW, I liked your comment below as well.

        • Reflection Ephemeral

          Yes! The Stoics!

          I guess I showing that enthusiasm isn’t all that Stoic. Well, I’m tryin.

          Perhaps the most underrated– or most egregiously maligned, or both– American of the past half century is Adm. James Stockdale. To call him a true Stoic is to greatly, greatly undersell his life’s work and philosophy. I wish that his writings were taught in every high school in the country.

          Thanks, I’m glad you liked that comment. I really wish it weren’t true. But I believe that it is.

      • ottovbvs

        “I believe you have committed a logical error there.”

        More an error of appearance than substance I think inasmuch as the Republican party is the principal political expression of conservatism in the USA. As a practical matter the two are more or less synonymous. And btw in many respects I’m actually quite conservative in the sense you mean it.

      • djenkins

        I don’t “choose to remain a conservative,” I am one. Mr. Stephens’ is not. There is nothing useful or courageous about allowing conservatism to be redefined. If traditional conservatives would grow a backbone and call out these pretenders publicly, I think things would change for the better. We are a center-right nation and most Americans consider themselves to be more conservative than not. It is unpatriotic and the worst kind of cowardice to stand idly by and let thoughtful conservatism be replaced in the political arena with radicalism. We don’t need more folks to deny being a conservative, we need them to defend real conservatism against those who seek to destroy it.

        • ottovbvs

          “Mr. Stephens’ is not…..and let thoughtful conservatism be replaced in the political arena with radicalism. ”

          This is semantics. I’m sure Mr Stephens would call himself a conservative and in popular perception that indeed is what he is. Conservatism has been constantly re-defined. Political labels aren’t immutable. Disraeli is regarded as a pillar of conservatism and yet he was a radical conservative as were Bismarck and TR.

          “We are a center-right nation”

          All nations are center right nations. The Soviet Union was a center right nation in its terms. What constitutes “the center” is no more fixed and immutable than party labels.

        • Ray_Harwick

          And you are registed with which party? I was able to resolve the problem of growing a backbone by punching my ballot for the party where conservative values now reside: The Democratic Party. That’s how you deal with pretenders and guess what: CHANGE rolled into the Whitehouse in 2008. You can call the mad dogs of the Republican Party “pretenders” all you want but if you want intelligent leadership, you have to ask for it. If it’s not obvious among the GOP front runners that no one on the right asked for honest conservative leadership born of wisdom, look around you. The simple solution was provided by Orwell in this statement: “To see was is under one’s nose requires a constant attention.” There is a conservation presiding over the affairs of this nation and he’s sitting in the Oval Office today – right under you nose, Sir. Grab that chain and give it a good, hard yank. It’s the only thing mad dogs respect.

        • Graychin

          Exactly, Mr. Jenkins. A better question would be why any real conservative would remain a Republican today.

          By the way – great essay! Thank you.

  • Reflection Ephemeral

    I’m sorry to say, but this battle is over, and you lost. This is what conservatism is now.

    The Bush administration gave us the profligate Medicare Part D program, the federal controls of No Child Left Behind, the executive’s asserted power to wiretap and to detain & torture US citizens without charges or a warrant, surpluses turned into deficits, the federal government’s right to imprison folks engaged in activities legal under state law in Raich v. Gonzales, and just for good measure the trillion-dollar invasion for bogus reasons & failed occupation of an arbitrarily selected Middle Eastern country.

    I am at a loss to determine exactly which strain of conservatism compelled these actions.

    What was the response of Americans to all this?

    Well, as Bush left office, he had a 28 percent approval rating from independents– and a 75% rating from Republicans, according to Gallup. According to an ABC/WaPo poll, Bush left office with 34% approval from independents, and 68% from Republicans– but 82% from self-professed “conservative Republicans”. Over the course of his presidency, Bush received an average of about 80% approval of “conservative Republicans”. (Substantiation for those numbers here: http://www.poisonyourmind.com/2011/12/conservatism-as-it-exists-today/ ).

    Those same conservative Republicans, now refashioned as the “Tea Party”, maintain today that they are very preoccupied with the deficit and with federal & executive power. But we know they don’t care about those things, because they were Pres. Bush’s most loyal supporters.

    Back when it mattered, in 2006, a man often described as the architect of the 1981 tax cuts, former Reagan & Jack Kemp adviser Bruce Bartlett, wrote a book arguing that maybe Republicans should, like, pay some attention to the deficit or something. He was, of course, excommunicated from conservatism, and folks he’d considered friends for decades simply stopped speaking to him.

    So, sure, you can pull up all kinds of relevant analysis from Kirk (or Adam Smith, or hell, Hayek) about the fundamental necessity of regulations on the financial industry or health care for capitalism’s effective functioning. But conservatism is as conservatism does. What do those old dead guys have to do with anything? Russell Kirk is about one hundred millionth as influential in today’s Republican Party as Mark Levin.

    You wrote, “I believe this unfortunate phenomenon is the by-product of traditional conservatism being shoved aside by a radical, libertarian-inspired ideology that is deeply antithetical to traditional Burkean conservatism. This ideology elevates personal freedom and financial gain far above all other values …”

    I think this slightly misses the mark. After all, if today’s conservatives really did privilege libertarian ideals, then the Republican Party would be pro-same-sex marriage and for decriminalization of marijuana (and perhaps decriminalization of cocaine, and trading kidneys).

    We don’t see that, of course.

    That’s because today’s conservatism, while it does have some libertarianesque talking points, is rooted in the Southern Strategy. The GOP is the Dixiecrat party now. It’s not like the Republicans are where you look for sober, carefully empirical, fiscally responsible policies. Republicans like Nixon and Reagan, and their advisers like Pat Buchanan and Lee Atwater, realized they could capture the votes of white southerners by playing to their resentment at the federal government for making them desegregate their schools. (Quotes from Buchanan and Atwater on their strategy can be found here: http://www.poisonyourmind.com/2011/05/avowedly-non-racist-southern-whites-through-the-years-on-voting-rights-and-black-political-leadership/#comment-224313462 ). It took a while, but those talking points have taken over the party, entirely displacing rational thought and policymaking.

    So when you see a southern Republican claiming that mercury is part of this nutritious breakfast, it’s a mistake to attribute it to libertarianism. It is due, in fact, to resentment, of the sort channeled and cultivated by the GOP’s Southern Strategy, that leads him to recklessly and militantly oppose anything the government does. (Unless, of course, the government is targeting out groups such as the stranger, the prisoner, and the hungry).

    • midwest guy

      Well-written and very much to the point. Every word is sadly true. The GOP today has no relationship whatsoever to genuine, thoughtful conservative philosophy or policy.

    • LauraNo

      +1000
      Every word is true. I need to add, libertarians, or anyone, really, who cares about liberty and personal freedom would not stand for this Patriot Act nonsense. They stand for nothing they claim to.

    • WEusebius

      Well reasoned and well written analysis of the evolution of the conservative movement (and the Republican party) from its traditional conservative roots into the modern inheritors of LBJ’s big-government dixiecrats. I believe that Kevin Phillips foresaw this risk when he identified the emotional and political opening arising from the Civil Rights Act. After all, it is essentially the same power structure with a new label. The only real difference is that there is a need to profess opposition to large government while simultaneously using the levers and monies of same large government to acquire and wield power. Where’s H. L. Mencken when you need him?

      As a side note, I’m surprised that no one has pointed to the influence of Ayn Rand as a source of this nihilistic libertarianism. Stephens’ column is in the spirit of her vitriolic condemnations of any government intervention and religion. It remains amazing to me that the Tea Party enthusiasts gloss over her outright hostility to religion period, let alone to religion in the public sphere.

    • mickster99

      RE: your concise and well argued post mirrors my own thoughts on this subject only too well.

    • Traveler

      Excellent article, and even better commentary. Made my morning. Great distillation of the evolution of the POG. The South rises again!

    • animal

      Beautiful. Well said.
      About 15 years ago some NYC street nut stopped me and claimed that The South was using the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) to take over America. I forget his details, but as Southern leaders (W, Cheney, Lott, Frist) dragged us through Teri Schiavo, Iraq, The Federal Marriage Amendment, torture and Katrina this lunatic’s foreboding always maintained a tie in my mind to the Southern Strategy and the W era with all of its misplaced Southern conservatism. I dismissed the WWF connection, but was held in a perpetual wince as the South took control of the Federal Government and radically altered my perceptions of what the Republican party truly was.

      Then, Linda McMahon looked like she might win the CT Senate race and this guy’s words kept haunting me. Now I believe some nut job street conspiracist really might have had his finger on the pulse of American power and politics all along. The republican party has turned into some Southern Strategy Wrestle Mania complete with Bad Guys: Socialists, RINOs, Gays, OWS ; and Good Guys who always beat the crap out of the Bad Guys: Rush, People in tri-pointed hats or whatever Tea Partiers wear, Arrogant Pizza Magnates, Birthers, etc. etc. ad nauseum. A new straw man (Bad Guy) and a new Freedom Hero (Good Guy, Non-Mitt) every news cycle.

      • djenkins

        Conservatism is, by definition and practice, the opposite of radicalism. Hence, a radical can never be a conservative…no matter what they choose to call themselves.

        • ottovbvs

          “Hence, a radical can never be a conservative…”

          This is purely your assertion. Here is a list of conservative radicals just off the top of my head. It’s truly amazing that anyone would claim that any of these people were not conservatives. Your so called conservative principles are not unique to conservatism but more or less universal to secular humanism. Neither do you seem to comprehend the difference between ends and means.

          Disraeli
          Scharnhorst
          Bismarck
          Chamberlain
          Schwartzenburg
          Churchill
          Peel
          Thatcher
          Theodore Roosevelt
          De Gaulle
          Gladstone
          Thiers
          Stolypin
          Hamilton
          Adenauer

          No doubt your intentions are good, but I fear Mr Jenkins you don’t know much about either political philosophy or political history.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Great piece, very well done.

  • LFC

    Excellent piece. I think FF is filled with people longing for a big, healthy dose of real conservatism. At the national level of politics, that is now (stunningly) only available from the Democratic Party.

    Reagan had his issues (pushing the southern strategy) as did HW (Willy Horton … ‘nuf said), but I view them as a relatively small part of the decline of conservatism. I think Gingrich is much more to blame than both of them for the 100% attack / pander with 0% policy version of Republican politics that exists today. Faux News also gets a nice big slice of the blame as well.

    • djenkins

      You are absolutely correct to lay this on Gingrich. Reagan was a traditional conservative, although not all of his advisers were. As Speaker, Gingrich gave western libertarians more influence in setting the GOP legislative agenda. Limbaugh was the other catalyst. His national exposure grew during that time frame and his brand of radicalism gained influence within the GOP and the Gingrich-led House. By branding their ideology “conservative” they started redefining the term.

      • ottovbvs

        Gingrich was the watershed. It was heading south but Gingrich’s arrival on the scene gave it the fatal push.

        “The GOP is the Dixiecrat party now.”

        This I think is basically true because what the southern strategy did was to put ALL the conservatives in the same party. Prior to desegregration both parties were coalitions of disparate interests. Democrats (Northern liberals/labor/catholics/Jews and southern populist segregationists who while anti black loved big government programs). Republicans (northern and southern capital, nationalists and social conservatives). Groups within these coalitions frequently made alliances. Northern capital and southern segregationists blocked pro labor and civil rights legislation. Now all the conservatives are concentrated in one party and it’s a party dominated by southern conservatives so if you want a career in Southern politics you have to sign on to a deeply reactionary (not to say unreal) policy agenda. As many have pointed out with our changing demographics it’s potentially fatal. I’m totally convinced of this but there is certainly a strong case to be made that this is so.

        • indy

          I think this pretty much hits the nail on the head. Dixiecrats weren’t nearly as financially conservative as they were socially conservative. So there is sort of a multiple personality disorder going on, where sometimes the southern heritage of the Dixiecrats emerges and is dominant, and sometimes the more northern country club personality has the upper hand. But since Gingrich’s time I think the south pretty much owns the party, which sort of explains the financial recklessness of the Bush years.

        • ottovbvs

          “I’m totally convinced of this but there is certainly a strong case to be made that this is so.”

          Oops missed a critical word out there. This should have been I’m NOT totally convinced…..

        • hopitab

          I think you’re really onto something here, but I think if add racism to the mixture, it will make even more sense. Some of your sentences would make just as much sense if you substituted racism for social conservatism.

        • ottovbvs

          Racism is often part but it’s not the entirety of social conservatism.

        • MSheridan

          Otto is correct in his statement immediately above–it is quite possible to be a non-racist social conservative, although finding racists in that demographic is not like finding a needle in a haystack. However, even granting that racial prejudice still plays a not insignificant part in politics today, I think that outright bigotry is greatly outweighed by privilege of various sorts: white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, etc. It is not necessarily racist to dismiss claims of inequity or discrimination, but it often is a sign of a willful obliviousness only possible to those who will never have any chance of experiencing the problems they dismiss as overblown or fictitious.

    • balconesfault

      +1

      Add Delay, and the K Street Project, where it was no longer enough to just defeat your political opponents … you needed to burn their crops and salt their lands.

    • NRA Liberal

      It has been clear for some time that the parties are inverting.

      The Democrats are now the prudent, green-eyeshade, Hamiltonian, national infrastructure investing, pro civil rights Eisenhower Republican Party.

      The Republicans now have many aspects of the “New Deal but only for White People” and angry radical populism of that part of the Democratic Party that voted for Wallace.

  • rbottoms

    Shorter: GOP, where stupidity is not a bug, it’s a feature.

  • LFC

    Yet another example of why Republicans are now the party of pure emotion and unfit to govern. Money quote:

    Today we see another headscratcher: The Republican National Committee puts out a press release slamming President Obama for not embracing the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission, the same commission that raises taxes by $1 trillion, and which House Republican leaders unanimously opposed just a year ago.

    http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/12/republicans-for-bowles-simpson.html

  • _will_

    great piece. however i will quibble with the tacit assertion that “secular humanism” is ‘dangerous’ to religion. it may seem threatening to religious hegemony (be it Judeo-Christian here, Islam elsewhere, etc), but i personally think that’s both healthy and in keeping with our Founders’ vision, many of whom did not subscribe to the divinity of Christ.

    maybe i’m talking to the wrong people, but from where i sit most “leftists” don’t need or want you to denounce your religion. they’d just prefer you not be a smug jackass about it.

    • Cindyflo

      Excellent point, Will. Agreed.

    • Traveler

      Good catch. Secular humanism doesn’t mandate immorality or denigration of religion. You don’t need “God” to do the right thing.

    • CarbonDate

      To further your point, secular humanism is the natural transition for a system of ethics which is not based on religion. On the whole, it should be no more threatening than Buddhism.

      A lot of religious folk who, shall we say, lack the intellectual vigor of the participants of this site have asked me, as a secular humanist, “If you don’t believe in God, what stops you from just going around murdering people?” To which I simply reply, “The value of life is inherent, and I no more need a divine validation for that than I need a divine validation for the legitimacy of our elected government.” Then they typically call me a hippie. But I digress. Secular humanism answers the concerns about a person’s ethics without religion.

  • icarusr

    Agree with the comments above and the general tenor of the article (with some quibbles, such as the secual humanist dig). One caveat, however, which may or may not be all that important.

    Burke has become known as the Father of Conservatism chiefly, I believe, because of his opposition to the French Revolution (and his “galant” defence of Marie Antoinette, among others). In addition, his defence of representative, as opposed to direct, democrary, has pitted him against Rousseau’s (generally leftist) progeny, marking Burke as some sort of an old reactionary fuddy-duddy.

    That this scourge of Georgian Toryism, defender of of the American Revolution, prosecutor of Warren Hastings (and, by implication, Britain’s Indian Imperialism) and potential emancipator of English Catholics should be known chiefly as a conservative, let alone the Father of Conservatism, is one of the saddest, and most bizarre, ironies of the history of political thought. That, in the process, he should share a label (“conservative”) with radical revolutionaries and ideologues such as Gingrich and Ryan, is a theoretical misdirection that can only lead to the kind of confusion – and hurt, and pain – that we see in Jenkins’ article.

    Burke was not a conservative; but even if he were, it is irrelevant what he was, because nothing he said at any point in his long life had anything to do with what US Republicanism is today. Let us be honest and once and for all either disconnect the label from the creed – Gingrich and Ryan are radical revolutionaries that seen to upend a seven-decade long consensus on economic and social accommodations, and so they are not “conservative” in any sense of that word – or, if the soi-disant conservatives insist on calling themselves by that name, true “conservatives” should just give up and move on. What is pointless, as others have also pointed out, is to simply say, “but this is not what conservatism is or was or might be”. Maybe not. And 25th of December was the birthday of Mithra, the Persian Sun God, appropriated by the Romans and then by Christians; you can holler until you are blue in the face that the most likely birthday for Jesus of Nazareth, based on a literal reading of the Gospels, is the first week of October, but I don’t see Mr. Jenkins giving up winter-time Christmas.

    • JohnMcC

      Excellent point about Edmund Burke, Mr Icarusr. Conservatism seems to me to be more an emotional preference than an ideology. Today’s so-called-conservatives are actually emotionally radicals. They’re just waiting for their Robespierre or possibly Lenin.

  • jamesj

    “This ideology elevates personal freedom and financial gain far above all other values, and in doing so, empowers its followers to dismiss or even belittle anything that does not directly serve those parochial ends.”

    YES.

    “…practical conservatism degenerated into mere laudation of ‘private enterprise,’ economic policy almost wholly surrendered to special interests—such a nation was inviting the catastrophes which compel society to re-examine first principles.”

    YES.

    “…you will hear private enterprise exalted with the level of reverence and passion typically afforded religious belief, and the accumulation of monetary wealth promoted as the ultimate measure of human success.”

    YES.

    More people are waking up to these realizations every day. The extreme left wing dogmatism of the 60′s and the extreme right wing dogmatism of the 00′s are two sides of the same coin. Prudence and pragmatism force us to recognize the ugly truth that the Conservative movement of a couple generations ago has become what it most opposed. Burkean Conservatism and modern extreme Libertarianism are opposites in their most important feature (one’s humility in the face of nature and in the face of humanity’s shortcomings). All else stems from that core.

  • jdd_stl1

    New slogan: “There is no IDEA in ideology”

    My take on this is that the current Republican party is driven by ideology.
    Conservatism is driven by thought.

    The ideology driving the Republican party may be based, loosely at times,
    on some conservative ideas, but it does not involve any more thinking.
    The answers are all well known to an ideologue, they don’t have to think
    or use reason to solve a problem.

    The mercury issue is a good example. A thinking conservative would
    look a the issue of mercury in our food and water supply and at the
    medical evidence of its harm to human beings and say, this is an area
    where government involvement through regulation would make sense.
    An ideological Republican would look at it as bigger government that is
    going to hurt the economy and say that it is bad and that the free market
    will take care of things.

    Being pro-life is another good example. To the conservative thinker,
    being pro-life would encompass all life. To a Republican ideologue
    it means anti-abortion and you don’t have to think about anything else.
    Capital punishment? Clean air and water? Poverty? Obesity? Healthcare?
    None of those are pro-life (i.e. abortion) issues so they don’t fit the ideology.

  • heap

    overall, great article – one thing kinda sticks out to me, tho

    >but the word “conservative” is being quickly redefined by the media on the left and right to describe a radicalism that betrays traditional conservatism.

    the word conservative is being/has been redefined by the GOP. the media, be it left or right, haven’t done near the damage that actual elected politicians and supposed ‘policy’ cesspools have.

    You don’t get to give the world GW Bush, AEI/Heritage, Rumsfeld to Norquist…and then cry foul at the media. Well, you can – it’s just not all that believable.

    • djenkins

      The media, both left and right, constantly refer to this radicalism on the right as “conservative.” The liberal media does so because it doesn’t understand traditional conservatism or care if the word is associated with radical notions, and the right-wing media wants to define conservatism to fit the radicalism it subscribes to.

      Pretend conservatives in elected office would not be thriving if the media was constantly challenging their ideas as not being conservative.

      • heap

        alright, name 10 nationally elected conservatives. actual conservatives russel kirk may recognize.

        it isn’t the media’s fault that’s a chore to do, if not an impossibility.

        for clarity, having a boogyman one can lay a situations ills upon at any whim instead of self reflection seems rather unconservative to me.

        if the media labels ‘radicals’ as conservatives, is it even a possibility to you that it may just be because the conservative party in this country has been populated with radicals for at least 30 years? or is this one of those situations were a dedication to facts and reality don’t count as much as dogma?

      • ottovbvs

        Mr Jenkins you are simply incorrect to claim that radical conservatism is an oxymoron and to blame the media (again) for mislabelling. Their description of the prevailing brand of conservatism is entirely accurate. Conservatism in the classical sense has as it’s goals both slowing change and if possible turning the clock back. And it has generally been quite happy to use radical means to achieve either or both goals. Thus Bismarck pioneered radical state socialism in an endeavor to protect a conservative monarchical hierarchy. Likewise Disraeli’s 1867 Reform bill was intended to use villa conservatism to dish the Liberals. Radical conservatism is not an oxymoron it’s a tautology.

        • djenkins

          You seem to think that conservatism is whatever those who profess it happen to believe. I believe conservatism is a rather fixed set of principles, beliefs, and approaches that are vital to a healthy society. I can suddenly decide to start calling blue “red” but that does not make it so. There is no risk of blue being redefined as red unless everyone else follows my lead. If the media did not parrot the labels used by the radicals on the right, it would have been harder for them to claim the conservative label.

        • heap

          >I can suddenly decide to start calling blue “red” but that does not make it so. There is no risk of blue being redefined as red unless everyone else follows my lead.

          but if you look up in the sky and see red, it doesn’t make any more sense to call it blue just because that’s what it is supposed to be.

          sums up the black hole of semantics conversations like this typically descend into, at least.

          ditching the semantics, i still have the same issue – there is a cause, and an effect you lay out

          cause: media labels radicals as conservatives.
          effect: conservative party is full of radicals.

          that you put that particular cart before the horse makes no sense to me, the opposite so clearly comporting to my experience, and all.

          swapping the cause/effect makes no sense to you? that’s essentially the crux of the biscuit as I saw it (and the part that caused the eyebrow arching)

        • ottovbvs

          “You seem to think that conservatism is whatever those who profess it happen to believe.”

          For all practical purposes it is. You’re clearly confused between ends and means. Are you seriously telling me that you do not believe Bismarck to have been a conservative or if you want a more recent example Thatcher?

        • Reflection Ephemeral

          “You seem to think that conservatism is whatever those who profess it happen to believe.”

          Yep, that’s the way doctrines work.

          I can say that I’m a traditionalist Catholic, and insist that Darwin ought to be banned, that we need an Inquisition in Spain, Crusades against Jerusalem’s non-Catholic occupiers, and that the New World should be divided between the Portuguese and the Spanish. And I’d have good authority for it, too– authority that precedes any you could cite against me. (This is what you are doing regarding “conservatism”).

          But I wouldn’t be a traditionalist Catholic, not by the standards of the Church as it exists today, not by the standards of other Catholics today, and not in the eyes of the rest of the world. (What this means for your relationship to “conservatism” I leave as an exercise for the reader).

        • ottovbvs

          Conservatism (Latin: conservare, “to preserve”) is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism and seek a return to the way things were.

          SYNONYM:

          reactionary

          1. opposed to progress: opposed to progressive social or political change

          Synonyms: backward-looking, conservative, illiberal, unreceptive, unreasonable, intolerant, bigoted, intransigent, diehard, medieval, prehistoric, outdated.

          Mr Jenkins these are the classical definitions of conservatism and as I illustrated Conservatives have frequently used radical means to achieve these ends. I’m quite prepared to accept you may be of conservative temperament (so am I) but that doesn’t mean the prevailing brand of conservatism doesn’t constitute “conservatism”. You are simply confused or more likely rationalising your own incomprehension by saying Brett Stephens isn’t me. He isn’t me either but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a political conservative as currently defined.

        • djenkins

          I am not saying that the media caused radicals to appropriate the conservative label, I am saying that it helped them succeed. No cart before the horse.

          Polling indicates that only 15 to 20 percent of Republicans really subscribe to the type of radicalism I am criticizing, still, that group (which includes Tea Party types) has disproportionate influence within the GOP. As Frum pointed out yesterday, the Tea Party association is a drag on the Republican brand. Why? Because most people who consider themselves conservative have not bought in to that ideology. So tell me then, why does that minority get to define conservatism?

          The logic behind the notion of ceding “conservatism” to those who claim it, no matter what they believe, escapes me. If atheists suddenly called themselves Christians, should Christians just cede the label and just call themselves something else? Words have meaning, and calling a “live for today” radicalism “conservative” does not make it true.

        • balconesfault

          I am not saying that the media caused radicals to appropriate the conservative label, I am saying that it helped them succeed.

          I agree completely. And I believe that is because the corporations who have bought up the media over the last few decades like having radical extremists being viewed as conservative … so that positions that are essentially conservative (eg – supply side economics) get viewed as acceptable centrist positions, instead of laughable fantasies.

        • ottovbvs

          “The logic behind the notion of ceding “conservatism” to those who claim it, no matter what they believe, escapes me.”

          You’re avoiding the issue Mr Jenkins either from ignorance or confusion. I and others have provided you with definitions of conservative philosophy; examples of bona fide conservatives who have used radical policies to achieve conservative goals; and examples of how conservatism as a political ideology is regularly altered by its practitioners to suit time and place. You have refuted none of it. Basically you want to have your cake and eat it. You want to say I’m conservative but these conservatives are nothing to do with me because they are acting radically when in fact there’s a long history of conservatives acting radically in pursuit of conservative goals. Sending conservative bully boys down to Florida to disrupt the Bush recounts was radical behavior but you were probably happy with the outcome.

        • ottovbvs

          Burke btw was quite happy to junk parts of his conservative philosophy when it came into conflict with the tory PM Pitt’s Terror whose goal was to sustain the aristocratic hierarchy in Britain.

        • indy

          Actually I think Mr. Jenkins is more right than he is wrong here.

          I think the left (not so much media though) has been very effective in lumping all the conservatives together spite of the fact that (as discussed above) the party contains two fairly different strains of conservatives. But who’s to blame really? The party let the nuts out of their cages to begin with, so you really can’t blame the left for taking advantage of it and pointing out that a lot of them howl at the moon and throw sh*t all over the walls.

        • ottovbvs

          “I think the left (not so much media though) has been very effective in lumping all the conservatives together spite of the fact that (as discussed above) the party contains two fairly different strains of conservatives.”

          But which is the dominant strain? The Kirkean strain or the Gingrichian strain? How many Kirkean would you say are present in the Republican house caucus? The extremism that is systemic in today’s GOP is not as you say a Democratic invention. Nor is it illegitimate to highlight it. I think you’re mixing up cause and effect here rather as Jenkins mixes up ends (conservative philosophy) and means (conservative practice).

        • indy

          But which is the dominant strain? The Kirkean strain or the Gingrichian strain?

          As I said above, I think that since Gingrich the South has pretty much dominated the party in all the important ways. The Gingrich sect dominates the top and bottom of the party, but is it the middle as well? Is there anything left to rebuild from? I kind of looked to this nominating season as at least a partial answer to that question.

          The extremism that is systemic in today’s GOP is not as you say a Democratic invention. Nor is it illegitimate to highlight it.

          This seems the opposite of what I was trying to say. I said that the left has taken good strategic advantage of what is occurring and I also said the right was only getting what it deserved. Or at least this is what I thought I said.

          To me, it appears to be a downward spiral. The left says the right is nuts. The right responds by digging in and becoming even more nuts. And so on. That is, the right seems to be acting in a completely reactionary way.

        • ottovbvs

          How is this the opposite of what you said?

          “The extremism that is systemic in today’s GOP is not as you say a Democratic invention.”

          It’s exactly what you said and I was agreeing with you. Where we differ perhaps is in the existence of a substantial moderate voice in the GOP. I would have thought it fairly obvious that the Republican party at all levels of its congressional caucus and party organisation is dominated by extremists. This doesn’t mean there are not some minor strains of moderation but they don’t matter indeed they are generally cowering in their trenches. The Democratic party is not without its extremists either but they don’t dominate the party in the same way that rightwing conservatives dominate the GOP. Jenkins can’t disown responsibility for his own party with a lot of temporizing about the unchanging nature of conservatism. It’s a bit like the Jesuits who only claimed they were spreading the christian gospels of love and peace and they were going to burn however many people it took to get the message across.

        • indy

          Ah, never mind then. I misinterpreted your response.

          Yes, obviously the fringe controls all the levers of the party and all the cowardly enablers of the situation shouldn’t be blaming it on the ‘left’ or the ‘media’ from their intellectual foxholes. The only question I have left as to whether or not there is anything worthwhile remaining.

        • ottovbvs

          “Ah, never mind then.”

          I never like disagreeing with you Indy because your too clever but they are not the fringe pulling the levers. They are the majority which is what makes the Republicans such a malign influence in our polity. If they were truly the fringe there might be some validity in Frum’s thesis that the moderates like Lugar, Collins et al are just waiting to come out of the closet and vanquish the evildoers. They’re not. Jenkins’ rationalisations are completely phoney. To paraphrase a well known presidential dictum “He’s either with them or he’s against them.” Just saying this is not my mother’s conservatism doesn’t let him off the hook.

        • indy

          I don’t think we really disagree. I simply still see a bit of disconnect between the Republicans I know—and who are are pretty decent people—and the leaders of the Republican party and where it has gone. I’m just waiting to see what their reaction is this year when they start paying attention.

        • ottovbvs

          “and who are are pretty decent people—”

          Almost all my friends are monied Republicans and I’d say the same about them although they are somewhat prone to belief in popular rightwing mythology. It doesn’t matter. If Gingrich is the nominee most of them would vote for him so in this sense there isn’t really a disconnect between the apparent decency of many Republican voters and the idiocies of the GOP. The entire point of representative democracy is to provide a counterbalance to the passions of the extremists among their supporters. The leadership of the GOP far from providing a counterweight is feeding them.

        • hopitab

          Let’s call them radical reactionaries instead of revolutionary or radical conservatives. Seems to me their ideal world is late 19th Century robber baron capitalism.

      • balconesfault

        The media, both left and right, constantly refer to this radicalism on the right as “conservative.” The liberal media does so because it doesn’t understand traditional conservatism or care if the word is associated with radical notions

        No – the liberal media refers to the radicalism as radicalism.

        Unfortunately, these days the liberal media consists of outlets like Pacifica Radio, various local weekly entertainment/politics publications in major markets, and various internet sites. Oh – and a couple of the pundits on MSNBC.

        There is no real liberal media in the corporate owned media world of today. Perhaps the NY Times, but certainly not consistently. The Washington Post is solidly neocon. Our major news networks would stage a public beheading of any of their anchors who used the term “radical” to discuss actions by major GOP figures.

        • ottovbvs

          You’re certainly correct about the networks but it’s fair to say that many major newspapers and magazines like the NYT or LAT provide a platform where commentators discuss radical conservatism. Even the WAPO has writers that do. The liberal media story is fantasy but there are voices out there recognising and critiquing radical conservatism.

        • balconesfault

          many major newspapers and magazines like the NYT or LAT provide a platform where commentators discuss radical conservatism. Even the WAPO has writers that do. The liberal media story is fantasy but there are voices out there recognising and critiquing radical conservatism.

          OK – I should be clearer. I think Jenkins was trying to say that liberal NEWS media do not call out the extreme right for its radicalism.

          In other words, while Krugman or Herbert on the NY Times or Robinson in the WaPo oped pages might use the term “radical”, you’re not going to see a news article talking about Eric Cantor’s willingness to default on the debt as radical. It will always be called “conservative”.

        • ottovbvs

          “I think Jenkins was trying to say that liberal NEWS media do not call out the extreme right for its radicalism.”

          Actually I think he was saying the reverse and accusing them of mislabelling today’s radical conservatism as “real” conservatism Viz.

          “The media, both left and right, constantly refer to this radicalism on the right as “conservative.” The liberal media does so because it doesn’t understand traditional conservatism or care if the word is associated with radical notions, and the right-wing media wants to define conservatism to fit the radicalism it subscribes to.”

          I agreed with you that Williams on NBC is not going to classify radical conservative actions as radical but there are plenty of commentators in the press who would.

        • balconesfault

          there are plenty of commentators in the press who would.

          Again – so there are commentators in the press calling some on the extreme right “radicals” … just as there are commentators calling Obama a “radical socialist”. Those are treated by the Brian Williams types as simply counterbalancing points of view.

          The key is that Fox News will has their lineup designed in such a fashion that you cannot tell the difference between the reporters and commentators – and thus their viewers pretty much are presented with the idea that Obama’s agenda is that of a radical socialist as part of the news coverage itself, and not simply punditry. THAT is what makes it conservative (or hell – radical right) media.

        • ottovbvs

          “Those are treated by the Brian Williams types as simply counterbalancing points of view.”

          Er…that’s what I said. You apparently didn’t even understand the point Jenkins was making about liberal media mislabelling of conservative radicalism as “real” conservatism as he defines it. And Fox news is not the “key” they’re just a conservative media outlet that according to Jenkins is mislabelling radical conservatism as “real” conservatism as he defines it. Of course his definition of conservatism (which is a bit hazy) bears no similarity to current conservative theory and practice which is extremely radical. Jenkins wants to have his cake and eat it.

        • Traveler

          Perhaps best thread of the year. Jenkins is a major improvement to the lineup, notwithstanding a little confusion between carts and horses. Frankly, I see this evolution of branding as more of a simultaneous process by the actors and the media, each descent into insanity followed by more Orwellian reporting. I have had a very low opinion of the fourth estate ever since shrub, and it gets worse all the time. Anderson Cooper? gimme a break.

  • Nanotek

    “Majority rule is no more a natural right than is equality. When we accept the principle of majorities in politics, we do so out of prudence and expediency, not because of an abstract moral injunction.” –Russell Kirk

    a smiling conservative is a thing to fear … Ultima Ratio Regum

    • ottovbvs

      Actually Kirk, like many conservative philosophers including Burke, was a rationaliser. He wanted conservative policies but didn’t want to dirty his hands with the realities of how they worked in practice. Jenkins seems disgusted by Stephen’s lies and distortions about global warming but it’s probably not going to cause him to start voting Democrat although they are more aligned with his outlook.

      • Nanotek

        what’s your take on Leo Strauss?

        • ottovbvs

          Gawd it’s a bit late in the day for Strauss. Basically I’m something of a moral relativist but don’t believe it’s an absolute in all situations as the major object of his criticism Heidegger rather did. You can’t divorce events from their environment and when the environment changes this remains equally true. Slavery may have been acceptable in 1760 but by 1860 it was way past its sell by date. Pogroms in medieavel Germany yes, mid 20th century Germany no. Burke was the occupant of a pocket borough in a society where an aristocratic oligarchy had a monopoly of the political process. He was being paid to defend a deeply hierarchical system and used all his Irish talent for blarney to construct attractive arguments for the status quo and to paint vivid pictures of the glorious past. As it happens I’m not totally out of sympathy with many of them but find his inflation into some sort of patron saint of conservatism totally overblown. The excesses of the French revolution played right into his hands. As I pointed out above he used to lard his philosophising with all kinds of high blown sentiments about freedom but promptly dropped that as soon Pitt started passing sedition and combination acts. He knew which side his bread was buttered.

        • ottovbvs

          Thnks, but actually it’s not a very complete answer because I need to think about it a bit because it’s a long time since I read anything by Strauss. All I really remember were his controversies with Heidegger over relativism.

  • NRA Liberal

    That “radical, libertarian inspired” ideology is what happened when baby boomers got middle aged and became conservatives.

    Same me-first drive, different valence.

    • balconesfault

      I’ve long argued that perhaps the majority of the Peace movement in the 60′s had to do more with just desperation to stay out of Vietnam than any real dedication to peace.

      Not to say that Vietnam wasn’t a clusterf*** – but once gone those boomers could safely throw their beads away and dedicate themselves to the politics of acquisition.

  • Secessionist

    Russell Kirk and Edmund Burke’s ideas rightly should be not called conservative at all in 2011. It’s borderline slanderous.

    Kirk and Burke’s conservatism is so different from today’s clown car, talk radio “conservatism” AND that toxic gruel that Red State, National Review, Jonah Goldberg, and David Frum are always serving up known as neo-“conservatism,” they should not be described using the same word.

    Some people use the labels “traditional conservatism”* and “paleo-conservatism”** to distinguish these older, intellectually rich, but now dead and irrelevant forms of American conservatism from today’s fetid conservatism and neoconservatism.

    It is a measure of how far American conservatism has fallen that the many people probably do not realize that there are, or were to be more precise, other forms.

    It should be noted also that Kirk would have as much contempt for today’s liberals and their agenda as for the clown car, although you would not know it from reading this article. The article suggests by way of implication that Kirk would align himself with contemporary Americans who reject the clown car’s vision for the country. It’s definitely not true.

    Kirk realized that using the received wisdom of history (aka tradition)*** was essential to creating and maintaining a social order that serves the public good. Therefore, Kirk would almost certainly see nothing to admire in today’s Democrat/Republican political mainstream or the wider culture.

    The American zeitgeist of 2011 is simultaneously egalitarian, materialistic, consumerist, globalist, militarist, authoritarian, anti-traditional, anti-Christian, anti-male and anti-White. Russell Kirk would be pretty appalled and rightfully so.

    *
    en.wikipedia [dot] org/wiki/Traditionalist_conservatism
    **
    en.wikipedia [dot] org/wiki/Paleoconservatism
    ***
    en.wikipedia [dot] org/wiki/Russell_Kirk#Principles

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      The American zeitgeist of 2011 is … anti-Christian, anti-male and anti-White.

      Man, why are you people always so touchy? How much more do we have to give you?

      • Secessionist

        RE,

        Speaking of touchy, of whom do you speak with your snarky query how much more do we have to give you?

        I am a White male but not Christian. No one has given me or other White Americans, Christian Americans of all backgrounds, or men all of backgrounds and religions anything. Like every other demographic group, those groups work for what they get, and they earn what they get. There are always exceptions. I think you can make a case Americans in those demographics in the top 1% who work in finance and on Wall Street are not earning what they get. They’re not typical.

        Now, having said that, I see data on household income and the composition of 535 people in Congress.

        What is it about that data that you believe disproves my claim that 2011 America is anti-Christian, anti-male and anti-White?

        • ottovbvs

          “I am a White male but not Christian.”

          I know you’re often confused but if you’re DSP under another name unless my memory is faulty you once claimed you were black.

        • Secessionist

          I am DSP, and I have never claimed to be Black. You have someone else in mind there.

        • ottovbvs

          Obviously Halfzeimers is setting in as my kids continually remind me.

        • balconesfault

          No one has given me or other White Americans, Christian Americans of all backgrounds, or men all of backgrounds and religions anything.

          Sure they have. You just are so filled with resentments you cannot understand everything you’ve received.

        • ottovbvs

          “No one has given me or other White Americans, Christian Americans of all backgrounds, or men all of backgrounds and religions anything.”

          bf: thinking about Leo Strauss, I must have missed this one which is a beaut even by DSP’s standards. It reminded me of this:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExWfh6sGyso

        • Secessionist

          bf: This comment is nothing but arbitrary subjective opinion combined with reflexive anti-White, anti-Christian and anti-male bias. If anyone is eaten up with resentment, given your simultaneous reflexive hostility to three demographics at the same time, it’s clearly you not me.

        • MSheridan

          Re: the vid Otto posted above, I clicked on it and it was good (as Monty Python always is) but I was expecting to see this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTwpBLzxe4U&feature=youtube_gdata_player

          It just seemed the obvious rejoinder.

        • Secessionist

          No substance from bf, Otto, and sheridan.

        • ottovbvs

          DSP’s idea of substance….

          “This comment is nothing but arbitrary subjective opinion combined with reflexive anti-White, anti-Christian and anti-male bias. If anyone is eaten up with resentment, given your simultaneous reflexive hostility to three demographics at the same time, it’s clearly you not me.”

        • Secessionist

          I said this:

          “No one has given me or other White Americans, Christian Americans of all backgrounds, or men all of backgrounds and religions anything.”

          It’s a straightforward factual claim.

          Hardly controversial.

          The overwhelmingly vast majority of Whites, Christians and men do indeed work for what they have. No one gives it to them.

          bf, however, responded with an unsupported assertion — “sure they have.”

          No facts, data, evidence, argument or explanation. Only an assertion.

          Otto and Sheridan then weighed in with videos and more unsupported assertions.

          No substance.

  • ConnerMcMaub

    I liked this piece very much. Thanks David Jenkins for getting down in the weeds with us in the comments. Liberalism and conservatism are both unable to produce the best answer in every single case because they are imperfect simplified models of the infinitely complex human and natural world we inhabit. As an example, liberalism said a few decades ago that simply giving more money to developing nations would do the trick. Now, social scientists who look at the results of charity say that selling a hand pump to an African farmer is many times more effective than giving him one. Climate change is a perfect example of conservative small government is always right ideology failing. People on both sides need to remember that there is no single approach for every problem. As an Obama supporter, I consider him to be a progressive realist, his foreign policy would support that view.

    I had only one minor nitpick with the piece which was “it sounds a lot like 1960s liberalism’s credo: ‘if it feels good, do it.’” This was the counterculture’s motto not liberalism. I never heard any of the Kennedy brothers, or any democratic leader from the 60′s say this. It’s a straw man argument, and David should reconsider it as a talking point because it is going to set off people’s BS detector. It set mine off.

    • djenkins

      Yes, it was the counter cultural “hippie” movement that embraced “if it feels good, do it.” I have always considered it a liberal notion because it rejected both tradition and the consideration of future consequences. I see nothing conservative about it…libertarian perhaps…but not conservative.

      If you listen to Limbaugh and compare his strong affection for wealth, opulence and instant gratification to the hippie philosophy, the biggest contrast is that the vices are different. The underlying philosophy is quite similar.

  • Reflection Ephemeral

    Dunno if you saw this line from Andrew Sullivan earlier today, ottovbvs: the GOP primary is “essentially a talk radio version of American Idol.” http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/12/can-newt-survive.html

    Otto & I had a bit of back & forth on an earlier thread, disagreeing as to whether reality TV is a metaphor or simile for the GOP primary, or whether the GOP primary is, simply, literally a form of reality TV, just like a Newport is a kind of cigarette.

    Regardless of that disagreement, on the larger matter, we are agreed on the larger issue: the Republican primary is a deeply embarrassing parade of clowns and half-wits, each competing to tell the most fear-and-loathing-inducing lies about America for the nation’s fear-and-loathing-loving party.

    It seems to me that the disagreement on this thread between Mr. Jenkins and the rest of the Internet is of the same kind.

    We can disagree as to whether today’s GOP has successfully claimed the mantle of “conservatism”, or whether they are better described as “Gingrichite”, or “Dixiecrat”, or “nihilist”, or “tribalist”, or “if-it-feels-good-do-it-ist” or “jingoist” or “pretend conservative” or whatever.

    But all reasonable people of good faith can agree on the larger issue: the fundamental problem with American politics is the tribalism, aversion to reason and data, and all-consuming partisanship of the Republican Party. Republicans (that is, the people who run the Party, make the decisions, and determine which policies to pursue, at the federal level) are completely uninterested in America’s well-being, instead focusing on the emotional high that comes from disliking and defeating facts and ideas that are deemed to come from outside the tribe. All political commentary recedes in insight and value as it retreats from that fundamental truth.

    I don’t think that should be particularly controversial.

    One thing that seems a shame to me: the lack of courage and, in the end, patriotism of respected longtime conservatives like Sen. Richard Lugar. If he liked America more than he liked being a senator, he’d be shouting these universal truths from the rooftops, rather than keeping his head down and being complicit in the GOP’s nihilistic obstructionism. Alas, it isn’t the case.

    • ottovbvs

      ‘Regardless of that disagreement,”

      That was just a bit of intellectual swordplay with a worthy opponent. But we are agreed about the carnival that is the Republican nominating process. And on Lugar I agree with you entirely. He’s totally destroyed himself in my eyes. Here was a senior statesman of the party, one of the foremost congressional voices on international affairs, someone I really respected, but he’s voted all along the line with the nutcases on issues where he has to know they are off the wall. Same applies to the Maine girls and a few others. He and they are in fullness of years but basically they are frightened to speak out. It’s shameful spectacle. And it’s one of the reasons I have little time for Jenkins’ rationalisations. You can’t compromise with or rationalise away what is at bottom deeply destructive behavior.

      • Reflection Ephemeral

        That was just a bit of intellectual swordplay

        Oh, for sure, I brought that line up because I thought it was relevant here, not ’cause I was holding a grudge. Quite the opposite, believe me.

        Here was a senior statesman of the party

        To me– perhaps irrationally– he was a great deal more than that.

        He was a true American statesman. A guy to be read about in sidebars of American History textbooks for generations. And he chose to throw it all away. Will anyone remember, or care?

        Same applies to the Maine girls and a few others. He and they are in fullness of years but basically they are frightened to speak out. It’s shameful spectacle.

        Well, I left them out on purpose. Lugar was thought to be a true thinker, solon, and statesman. Snowe and Collins… well… by my understanding, less so. They have been thought to be self-consciously “centrist”, which is to say “unprincipled”. And when one of the two parties goes off the rails– i.e. their party– centrism isn’t of much use, is it?

        Your larger point, I think, is the same as mine: even folks who had no reason to fear the current nihilism of the GOP– folks like Lugar, Snowe, and Collins– chose to embrace that irrationality.

        Until Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins are universally regarded as having sold out their principles and their country, our politics cannot be regarded as normal.

        And it’s folks like David Frum and djenkins who need to make that case.

        (I don’t mean to be too hard on Mr. Jenkins; his willingness to engage the commenters on this thread is rare and very much appreciated. Also his willingness to make the unorthodox comments in the original post. Sure, you can disagree with it, but in light of the experience of Frum, Bartlett, & others, Jenkins is consciously choosing a more difficult path).

  • ladyfractal

    Great piece. This is my first post here on FrumForum although I’ve been reading the site for a while now. HT to Andrew Sullivan over at Daily Dish for pointing me this way.

    I am here ‘coming out’, as it were, as a conservative. A strange kind of conservative, to be certain, particularly if one takes the clown car as the template for what American conservatism is today. My ex-liberal standard will have to show, if only for a moment, because part of what makes me a strange conservative is this:

    I am black. I am a feminist. I’m a lesbian who is married to the very love of my life and one day, I hope to be able to be *legally*, in all fifty states, her wife. I’m an atheist (yes, Virginia, black atheists do exist). Pro-choice and in favor of public schools and a social safety net. So how can I call myself a conservative? Isn’t conservatism supposed to be antithetical to all that I stand for and believe in? Not quite so fast.

    I started suspecting I was actually a crypto-conservative because of experiences I had on a couple of online discussion forums heavily populated by other lesbians. Until recently I had called myself a person of the Left and quite honestly, I wish I could still say I was a woman of the Left because I’m not comfortable saying I’m a woman of the Right. However, as my wife and I hung out on these forums we kept hearing a reflexive, unthinking, bias against the West and America in particular. It’s not that I think that either the West or America are anywhere near perfect. I am a child of the civil rights movement., born in Alabama in 1967. My sister was born just a few months before the bombing at the 16th street Baptist church in Birmingham which was our home church until we left the South. We had a cross burnt on our lawn when we integrated our neighborhood in California in 1968. No American with my background could ever think my country perfect. Yet and still, I saw how American changed in the space of my lifetime. My father served his country with distinction in WWII, serving in a segregated Army. His two daughters joined a very different army four decades later one of them, my sister, ended up retiring a major. My son currently serves and I am very proud of him.

    It is America’s willingness to change and expand the circle of ‘citizen’ that I most admire about my nation. In the words of all of the ‘dead white men’ that I current multicultural orthodoxy says I should be deaf to, I find the seeds of destruction of flaws in the system they created. No, they did not mean for their uplifting words to necessarily apply to me but once those words were out there and as time passed, it became increasingly difficult to make the argument that people like me were not covered by inalienable rights.

    I grew up child of college professors who started their educational careers in segregated schools and ended up teaching at schools in the Cal State and University of California systems. Within one generation my family went from rural poor to upper-middle class by my parent’s dedication to education, thrift and hard work. They infected my sister and I with those memes and we both had ‘kid jobs’ by 11. We both had paper routes and baby sitting jobs. I made poor decisions after being discharged from the army that led to me being a single mother in the Bay Area while trying to handle a full load in molecular genetics at Cal Berkeley and even though the end result was that I dropped out of college, I had the presence of mind to and the luck to get into computers at the right time (1994) and chose the right path (UNIX system administration) which has enabled me to build a career where I am able to support my wife while she goes to school full-time after having been laid off three times in the last two years. I am now being courted by one of the large search-engine companies for my efforts. My story is a truly American one.

    So this idea that somehow blacks are hindered in 2011 the way my parents were hindered 70 years ago does not fly with me. Yet, on what passes for the Left that is the dominant meme. I am an ‘exception’ the ‘one they let through’ or I must have ‘sold out’ in order to be here.

    I reject that. I am a conservative not because I’m hyper-religious but because I believe that, on the whole, Western civilization is one worth preserving. That there is nothing wrong with American society that some judicious reform and tinkering cannot remedy. I am a conservative because I believe in thrift, hard work, saving for what one wants, educating oneself both for vocational advancement and citizenship. I believe in the power of reason and while I am not religious, I recognize that religion is a crucial social glue. I am a conservative because evidence *counts* and because I believe that there are facts about the world and we have access to those facts and those facts should drive our policies, tempered with mercy and compassion.

    In the final analysis I’m a conservative because I can no longer call myself a liberal.

    Cheers
    LF

    • Secessionist

      +1, my hat’s off to you.

    • ottovbvs

      “I believe in the power of reason”

      So why would you be a conservative in today’s context given that America’s conservative party gave up on the powers of reason long ago?

    • Traveler

      Welcome aboard! You will find most of us operate from very similar perspective. Of course, we are called “dirty Libruhls” by the occasional twitcher but i would say nearly all of us are far from the reflexive knee jerk liberals you decry. You see them rant and rave on the NYT comments and Huffpost all the time. Self delusion is not the exclusive territory of the clown car occupants. The most liberal here are quite well reasoned.

      But I share Ottovon’s query about your self-labeling. Perhaps progressive is the best way to frame your perspectives? That doesn’t mean you don’t have conservative values, it just means you act in ways that care for the future.

    • Probabilistic

      Welcome and congratulations on your life’s successes.

      Just a minor quibble: please don’t claim rational existence -

      I believe in thrift, hard work, saving for what one wants, educating oneself both for vocational advancement and citizenship. I believe in the power of reason…. because evidence *counts* and because I believe that there are facts about the world and we have access to those facts and those facts should drive our policies, tempered with mercy and compassion -

      as a the sole preserve of any particular political ideology. It is independent of political ideology.

      I’m an atheist (yes, Virginia, black atheists do exist) – I hope you’re as interesting and informative as Neil deGrasse Tyson

    • Nanotek

      “I reject that. I am a conservative not because I’m hyper-religious but because I believe that, on the whole, Western civilization is one worth preserving. That there is nothing wrong with American society that some judicious reform and tinkering cannot remedy. I am a conservative because I believe in thrift, hard work, saving for what one wants, educating oneself both for vocational advancement and citizenship. I believe in the power of reason and while I am not religious, I recognize that religion is a crucial social glue. I am a conservative because evidence *counts* and because I believe that there are facts about the world and we have access to those facts and those facts should drive our policies, tempered with mercy and compassion.”

      how odd, I am liberal for similar reasons.

    • TerryF98

      Hi LF.

      Welcome,

      You said (very well i add)

      “I believe in the power of reason and while I am not religious, I recognize that religion is a crucial social glue. I am a conservative because evidence *counts* and because I believe that there are facts about the world and we have access to those facts and those facts should drive our policies, tempered with mercy and compassion.””

      In that case what are your views on the Republican stance on things like Global warming, the environment, epa, creationism, economics and many others where rational though has been thrown out of the window in favor of total ideology and tribalism?

      It strikes me that you are a reverse Frum. Not really having the soul of a Republican (Conservative) but wishing they were more to your liking.

    • jdd_stl1

      LF,

      Welcome and well said.
      Rational voices are always appreciated here.

  • ottovbvs

    Because I rather think this sums up the Jenkins position I’m going to repeat it.

    “Jenkins can’t disown responsibility for his own party with a lot of temporizing about the unchanging nature of conservatism. It’s a bit like the Jesuits who claimed they were only spreading the christian gospels of love and peace and they were going to burn however many people it took to get the message across.”

    • djenkins

      So, any Republican who tries to make the party better and fights for thoughtful conservatism is somehow implicated in the radicalism that he or she opposes? I guess we should all just bail out and cede the party to the radicals. If there are problems in your community, do you bail, or do you try to improve it? How about problems in your family, bail out or work to improve? How about your country?

      As long as this nation still has a two-party system, it is worth fighting for a more genuinely conservative and responsible GOP. The traditional conservatism of Burke, Kirk, Weaver and Eliot is what this nation needs…not a partisan struggle between the extremes of liberalism and libertarianism.

      Traditional conservatism’s mandate for responsible stewardship, prudent forethought, and protecting the interests of future generations has a broad appeal that can bridge the partisan divide that has made our nation incapable of solving problems. I think that is worth fighting for.

      • Reflection Ephemeral

        I guess we should all just bail out and cede the party to the radicals.

        Nah. You should recognize that conservatism has already been commandeered entirely by the folks you call radicals. And act accordingly.

        • Secessionist

          He attacks Republican radicals, defends liberal climate positions, and urges a return to the principles of Kirk/Burkean conservatism.

          What else do you want him to do? David Jenkins is acting accordingly. He is using his talents to work for change. He is just not acting the way you think he should act.

          All people are not going to react to the American political crisis in exactly the same way.

          A lot of here people left conservatism and the GOP and migrated to the Democrats. The Democrats are not a good fit for everyone.

        • MSheridan

          “The Democrats are not a good fit for everyone.”

          You never said a truer word. However, at this point in time and irrespective of its past glories, the GOP is not a good fit for anyone with an eye, a brain, and a conscience. Mr. Jenkins would appear to have all three. And the question isn’t really which party is a good fit, but which fits better. Even if he chose to eschew formal membership in either party, he still has to choose between candidates who have not so chosen.

      • ottovbvs

        “Traditional conservatism’s mandate for responsible stewardship, prudent forethought, and protecting the interests of future generations”

        Now Jenkins is hi-jacking a load of abstract concepts and claiming they are the exclusive property of conservatives. In fact history (just as it is littered with examples where conservatives have used radical means to achieve their goals) has numerous cases where conservatives have NOT demonstrated responsible stewardship, prudent forethought, and protected the interests of future generation.

        “not a partisan struggle between the extremes of liberalism and libertarianism.”

        And here he is completely mischaracterising what is going on in the US at present. The Democratic party does not by any remote stretch of the imagination represent the extremes of liberalism. Mr Jenkins needs to ask himself which of two (the Bush or Obama administrations) has adhered most closely to HIS OWN precepts of responsible stewardship, prudent forethought, and protecting the interests of future generations. Because it’s a no brainer.

      • heap

        >So, any Republican who tries to make the party better and fights for thoughtful conservatism is somehow implicated in the radicalism that he or she opposes?

        we still have the problem of finding the non radical conservatives to vote for.

        that isn’t even taking into account the group dynamic that exists – assume I actually find a sane, thoughtful, non-radical conservative to vote for in my house congressional district. If I send this guy to washington, the side effect is it’s one more person that will keep a gavel in John Boehner’s hands, Michelle Bachmann on the Intel sub committee, etc, etc, etc.

        I empathize with the ‘politically minded person without a party to represent you’ bit, but the GOP is going to require some time in the wilderness to lose the radical aspects. Winning elections makes your goal further and further away from you. It sucks to realize this, but…it sucks even worse to not acknowledge it – and keep playing along as if rational republicans were more than a statistical anomaly currently.

  • jorae

    Kirk’s 1953 book, The Conservative Mind, gave shape to the amorphous post–World War II conservative movement.
    1 Transcendent order, based in tradition, divine revelation, or natural law

    2 Society requires orders and classes that emphasize “natural” distinctions

    3 An affection for the “variety and mystery” of human existence;

    4.A belief that property and freedom are closely linked
    ;
    5.A faith in custom, convention, and prescription, and

    6.A recognition that innovation must be tied to existing traditions and customs, which entails a respect for the political value of prudence.

    Doesn’t different much from our current…

    John Birch Society …..founder Robert W. Welch Jr organized in 1958. The advocacy group supports anti-communism, limited government, a Constitutional Republic and personal freedom.

    This is who you have always been.

    • djenkins

      In the interest of brevity you left out a lot of good stuff in those 6 cannons of conservatism.

      For example in number 5 Kirk goes on to write: “Custom, convention and old prescription are checks upon man’s anarchic impulses” and in 6 he points out that “prudent change is the means of social preservation.

      Kirk also provides a quote from Robert Frost that is worth pondering:

      “Most of the change we think we see in life
      Is due to truths being in and out of favor”

  • mannie

    They call themselves “conservative”. I call them “reckless”.

  • drdredel

    This is a fairly good article, but the argument over the “conservative” brand is somewhat silly. It’s a label, and more specifically, an English word, and like all other English words it evolves with the times. To blame the media for this evolution is totally goofy. “The Media” isn’t some organized bloc that has an agenda, as it pertains to lumping people into groups. They simply parrot what they’re told. If they interview someone who says “I’m a conservative” they’re not going to put “self professed conservative” as the person’s sub-title; they take them at their word. So, when you have this club that self selects based on lock step ideology and then viciously, and mercilessly (just ask Frum) denounces anyone who doesn’t parrot every one of their lines as RINO, it’s not “the media” that get the blame.

    In any event, what difference does it make who gets the label? Isn’t it their actions that make them who they are? I noted in another thread (and I’m still wishing this got more notice) that we have a bill winding its way towards the president’s desk that would grant the military the right to detain people indefinitely without trial or even an accusation, without so much as an executive order. This insane idea is being championed by “conservatives”. Consider this for a second. All abortions, gay marriages, and school prayer picnics aside, what kind of “conservative” would think it a good idea to grant the military such power, effectively eviscerating our (arguably most important right) to due process? If this is what it means to be a conservative, then I would argue that it no longer means anything at all.

    • Nanotek

      “I noted in another thread (and I’m still wishing this got more notice) that we have a bill winding its way towards the president’s desk that would grant the military the right to detain people indefinitely without trial or even an accusation, without so much as an executive order.”

      Obama said he would veto the bill if it was included but the Senate voted for it … if passed and affirmed by the Supreme Court, that’s the end of Constitutional law … unfortunately, Dems & Repubs alike voted for it:

      “The final vote showed bizarre fractures among Democrats, erasing the usual barriers between conservatives and liberals. The 16 who voted for the harsh detainee rules were Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Joe Manchin (W. Va.), Clair McCaskill (Mo.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). National defense hawk and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) also voted in favor of the tougher language.” Huff Post

      • Probabilistic

        This post almost gave me a coronary. You wrote if passed and affirmed by the Supreme Court,, and I read, “IT passed and (was) affirmed by the Supreme Court”

        So, what rationale was offered for adopting the North Korean model? And, presumably this law would apply where it’s expedient to ignore the laws governing POWs?

        • drdredel

          Here’s the episode from this week’s Forum http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201112011000 (with Michael Krasny) where the rationale for this law is defended (quite politely, and without hyperbole) By Frank Gaffney. It seems to boil down to three ideas.

          1) Sharia Law is coming, and if we don’t have this tool we won’t be able to stop it.
          It is never explained how exactly Sharia Law is meant to gain a foothold in the US, nor how precisely giving the military the right to detain people without trial would undermine its arrival. Sadly no one put this question to him.

          2) Karl Levin (who is a lefty) likes this idea, therefore it must be ok for everyone else on the left to be ok with it.
          It is never explained why anyone should like the idea, or why opposing this idea would be a “leftist” position, or why the support of anyone for anything would definitively inform anything. Carl Levin might also like to eat puppies, so what? Seems somewhat ad hominem.

          3) The current justice system is presently unprepared to deal with the threat. Just last year someone almost didn’t get convicted for a terrorist act. Just think what would have happened if they were found innocent… what then?!

          This seems the most preposterous of the reasons. I’m not sure which trial he was referring to but the idea that someone who was found guilty is evidence of how in the future people won’t be found guilty is something I suspect John Cleese came up with for a Monty Python sketch that never got filmed. And the further notion that when the courts find someone innocent, we need some mechanism to detain them indefinitely so that we can prevent them from harming anyone with their evil innocence, was probably penned by Michael Palin.

          Ultimately, the fact is that there is no problem. Yes there are people who are criminals, and yes, sometimes they manage to kill people. This law will not change that. What it would change is how conversations are had in this nation, as people are less and less inclined to speak their minds for fear that they might be arbitrarily deemed “dangerous” and thrown away. We have the WHOLE of human history to look back on for evidence of how this works. That anyone at all (Democrat or Republican) is voting to basically gut our core rights is despicable and should make anyone who is even vaguely patriotic or fond of this nation REALLY angry.

          Lastly… here’s the part I don’t understand… I’m not a constitutional scholar, but here’s the 5th:
          “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger…”

          Yes, I see that part at the end that makes the exception for times of war or public danger, but it would seem obvious that if what is meant by public danger is “just the regular every day danger that arises from existing in a world where there are nations and people with contrary views that may even want to harm us, and maybe even fatally so” then the whole amendment is moot. The point is to say that in extreme cases, and in very rare circumstances (which the present obviously doesn’t rise to in ANY way) the government can make this exception. The people that defend this law claim that we’re in a Global War for World Freedom. If that’s how we frame war then we’re doomed to be at war for ever, and maybe we should just re-write the constitution to reflect this reality, rather than keep trying to squeeze it’s ideas of liberty and freedom into a social framework that wants neither and is hugely inconvenienced by both.

        • Probabilistic

          Thanks for the link and the synopsis. I am baffled by the deep seated psychosis.

          What it would change is how conversations are had in this nation, as people are less and less inclined to speak their minds for fear that they might be arbitrarily deemed “dangerous” and thrown away. We have the WHOLE of human history to look back on for evidence of how this works

          So much for the land of the free and the home of the brave!

          The Monty Python reference was golden :)

        • Nanotek

          if that passes and Obama signed it, I’d be right with you, Probabilistic… thankfully, Obama isn’t having any of it but just the Senate passed it tells me how thin is the thread on which our rights hang

    • Secessionist

      I noted in another thread (and I’m still wishing this got more notice) that we have a bill winding its way towards the president’s desk that would grant the military the right to detain people indefinitely without trial or even an accusation, without so much as an executive order.

      Rand Paul, Tea Party Republican, introduced an amendment that would have removed that monstrosity. He had help from Diane Feinstein. Unfortunately, 17 Democrats voted with the Republicans to defeat Paul’s amendment. The final Senate bill got 90+ votes. The final Senate bill passed with an avalanche of Democrat support.

      Now, Obama has threatened to veto the bill. I predict that he won’t. Watch.

  • Kurlis

    I think this is poorly thought-out crap. It is very well written, though.

    All science is provisional. And if it turns out climate change is not apocalyptic after all, then what? Nothing. Life will go on and the author of this article will still suck.

    • MSheridan

      I’m not sure what point you are trying to make. Yes, science is provisional–on observed fact. That’s what makes it science. That the overwhelming majority of climatologists who have studied the matter believe that climate change will have a very serious impact on human civilization is a fact. However, if we assumed for the sake of argument that they have somehow been led into error and are wrong, what in the world does that have to do with this author? You have introduced an attempted thread disruptor that is a complete non sequitur. Or are you attempting to assert that there is some virtue in far-right radicals opposing scientific consensus (and there is consensus) on the basis of “we don’t like it so it can’t be true” and that the author is shortsighted for failing to acknowledge this?

  • Nanotek

    “In fact, many on the right support policies that contradict a pro-life position and would result in harm to unborn children.”

    Respectfully, you have confused the word for the sound. Today’s conservatives can be summed up in two words: Frank Luntz

    “… our nation cannot afford to have pretend conservatives in the driver’s seat. It needs real conservatives who are guided by traditional conservatism’s ethic of responsible stewardship, prudent forethought, and protecting the interests of future generations. That will only happen if we start a whole new discussion about who and what is—or is not—conservative.”

    prudence counsels working with liberals first

    • ottovbvs

      You kept me awake last night Nanotek thinking about Leo Strauss. A few thoughts. Firstly all philosophers are a bit impenetrable to average Joes like me but he’s more opaque than most and he provided himself with plenty of escape hatches for serious critics of his work. For example he cloaks his criticisms of liberalism (and he was by general standards anti liberal) as a sort of duty of all thinking men including liberals to be self critical. Hence he applies a lot of criticism to liberal thinking but doesn’t apply the same rigor to the alternatives. Some of his claims were preposterous. For example that 19th century liberalism and its forerunner the enlightenment were the incubators of Nazism and Communism. You might as well blame Nazism on the invention of the steam engine or double entry book keeping. What was the alternative? The preservation of monarchical absolutism; clerical obscurantism; scientific and medical ignorance; pre-industrialism? I mentioned double entry book keeping because another of his targets of criticism was Max Weber who while not flawless produced at least to me a much more comprehensible account of the development of modern society. Strauss although Jewish and a Zionist also spent a lot of time talking rather vaguely as I recall about the christian God although he was probably an atheist. I’m also suspicious of all these guys like Strauss holed up in Chicago (Bloom, Friedman etc) cranking out theories of elitism (and I’m a bit of an elitist myself) to justify extreme wealth inequalities, the white man’s burden, the perfection of the market as an economic regulator, fixed social orders and so forth. The best I can do without digging out some books.

      • Nanotek

        “You kept me awake last night Nanotek thinking about Leo Strauss…”

        sorry about that ottovbvs!

        Let me try to absorb this. Much appreciated.

      • indy

        Strauss although Jewish and a Zionist also spent a lot of time talking rather vaguely as I recall about the christian God although he was probably an atheist.

        He was—as I recall as well—basically a proponent of the noble lie, i.e., the concept of political leaders lying in order to promote social cohesion. Of course no other tool provides the rich playground of possibilities in this regard as religion.

        • Nanotek

          “He was—as I recall as well—basically a proponent of the noble lie, i.e., the concept of political leaders lying in order to promote social cohesion.”

          he was, indeed … no wonder he seemed to like Plato, who I consider a snake in the grass

        • ottovbvs

          See my comment below about British antipathy to the Platonic approach to philosophising. Long on theory…short on practicality.

  • ottovbvs

    “basically a proponent of the noble lie, i.e., the concept of political leaders lying in order to promote social cohesion.”

    He was and in its pure conceptual form I actually rather agree with it. The problem arises of course (as it does with all the airy philosophising of people like Strauss and Kirk, and their promoters like Jenkins) when the lies aren’t noble. In fact I seem to remember one of Strauss critics said he himself was a propagator of noble lies. That is fancy theories divorced from the realities of human behavior. This in fact is where I think Jenkins is out to lunch when mixes up what he calls the practical application of conservative principles with conservative philosophy itself. His so called conservative principles (eg. prudent forethought) are not unique to conservative philosophy but a basic element in instinctive secular humanism. I can think of many cases where liberal and conservative statesmen’s promotion of economic and social change were instrumental in preserving traditional societal structures and norms of behavior whereas conservative ultra reaction was responsible for their destruction.

  • Secessionist

    Reflection Ephemeral:

    That’s because today’s conservatism, while it does have some libertarianesque talking points, is rooted in the Southern Strategy. The GOP is the Dixiecrat party now.

    The Democrats play race and ethnic politics too. Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election plan has an explicit racial and ethnic component. The plan involves abandoning the White working class because they are White. The plan makes no mention of abandoning the Black or Hispanic working class.

    Running a reverse Southern Strategy is the Democrats’ plan for the future.

    Instead of making coded race/ethnic appeals to Whites in one region of the country, they will make explicit race/ethnic appeals to Blacks and Hispanics in all regions.

    • ottovbvs

      “The plan involves abandoning the White working class because they are White. ”

      Outside of your fevered imagination would you like to provide a link to anything published by the Democrats that says they intend to “abandon” the white working class. Given that the white working class in the shape of the unions are going to be critical to their re-election effort your assertion sounds not only unlikely but borderline crazy. And if you think the Dems are the only ones making out reach efforts to minorities and that Republican aren’t interested you truly are out of touch with reality.

      • Secessionist

        Abandoned is Thomas Edsall’s word. He writes for the NY Times. I used his language.

        You can pull down his article on the Greenberg/Halpin strategy using Google.

        • ottovbvs

          “Abandoned is Thomas Edsall’s word.”

          So he’s pundit of some kind. Sorry this doesn’t exactly qualify as Democratic policy.

        • Secessionist

          Yes, abandoning the White working class and ONLY the White working class is part of the official Democrat strategy for 2012. Edsall is not a pundit. He is a news writer.

          http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/the-future-of-the-obama-coalition/

        • ottovbvs

          “Edsall is not a pundit. He is a news writer. ”

          DSP….why doooooo you have to tell such easily disprovable lies. This comment appeared on an “Opinion” page and carries this note

          “About Campaign Stops
          Weekly pieces by Op-Ed columnists Charles Blow and Ross Douthat, as well as regular posts from contributing writers like Thomas B. Edsall and Timothy Egan.”

          brief biog:

          Thomas Byrne Edsall (born August 22, 1941) is an American journalist and academic, best known for his 25 years covering national politics for the Washington Post. He holds the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professorship in Public Affairs Journalism at Columbia University, and is a correspondent for The New Republic and National Journal. He is political editor of the Huffington Post.

          HE IS NOT A NEWS WRITER!!!!!

        • Secessionist

          I stand corrected on Edsall. I’m pretty sure he used to be a full time news writer.

          Now why don’t you address the substance at issue, look at his sources, study his reasoning, and explain why his statement about the Dems abandoning the White working class wrong.

        • ottovbvs

          “Now why don’t you address the substance at issue, look at his sources, ”

          I asked you to provide a link to a source where it was stated Democratic policy to “abandon” the white working class. YOU HAVE NOT DONE SO! I’m not interested in your claims that third hand speculation constitutes fact.

    • valkayec

      I read about this theory, too. However, it’s was nothing more than political fantasy. In fact, some Democrats, not aligned with or participating in the Obama campaign, suggested the President consider abandoning or not working for the White working class vote since the 2010 election proved they tended to be more GOP aligned.

      Personally, I think that idea is nutty. The 2010 vote, arguably, was more about “throwing out all the bums for anyone else” and since more of the incumbents happened to be Democrats…well, the anyone else was Republicans.

      However, the Obama campaign states that they have no intention, nor did they ever have, of pursuing this strategy. The GOP grabbed hold of this erroneous talking point – and promoted it – for obvious political reasons.

      In other words, to set the record straight, it is not nor has it ever been an Obama campaign strategy.

      • ottovbvs

        “The GOP grabbed hold of this erroneous talking point – and promoted it – for obvious political reasons.”

        So Edsall was a useful idiot?

        • valkayec

          ‘Twould appear so.

          BTW, I’ve enjoyed reading your comments on political philosophy. I’ve not read much political philosophy so I’m gaining a whole new education from these discussions – and the research I’m forced to do to understand them. Thanks, everyone including Mr. Jenkins, for increasing my knowledge.

        • ottovbvs

          Thanks. I must be honest and say that I’ve always found philosophy (like the math in economic courses) a bit of a struggle. It’s probably because I’m too much of a pragmatist. It’s alway interesting to me that most of these grand overarching metaphysical philosophers are Germans, Jews, Frenchmen, Spaniards etc and not Brits who are alway very leery of grand theorizing. It not entirely coincidental in my view that Britain is the most stable western society in modern history. Even Keynesianism which is the overarching economic theory is a very British bit of philosophising in that it’s grounded in empirical observation and not a lot of speculation.

      • Secessionist

        Labeling something you don’t agree with a talking point is a talking point.

        If you don’t want to rely on Edsall, you can go straight to the horse’s mouth. The basis of Edsall’s article is a report written by two Democrat strategists (Texieria and Halpin) called economics versus demographics.

        Check it out.

        • ottovbvs

          “The basis of Edsall’s”

          I’ve already proved you a liar so what cred does this claim have?

        • Secessionist

          Quit exaggerating. You proved I made a mistake which I acknowledged.

        • ottovbvs

          “You proved I made a mistake which I acknowledged.”

          Yes you’re something of a recidivist in this respect. Just to humor you I’m going take one passage from Edsall’s piece which demonstrates how out of touch he is with today’s reality

          “As a practical matter, the Obama campaign and, for the present, the Democratic Party, have laid to rest all consideration of reviving the coalition nurtured and cultivated by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The New Deal Coalition — which included unions, city machines, blue-collar workers, farmers, blacks, people on relief, and generally non-affluent progressive intellectuals — had the advantage of economic coherence. It received support across the board from voters of all races and religions in the bottom half of the income distribution, the very coherence the current Democratic coalition lacks.”

          This is pure opinionating but the notion that the recreation of the FDR coalition is remotely conceivable in 2011 is bizarre. Do you know how many southern states FDR carried in 1936? All of em!

        • TerryF98

          The GOP gave up on the black vote in the 1960′s.
          They gave up on the Hispanic vote in the 1990′s
          They gave up on the gay vote in the 2000,s
          They gave up on the thinking woman’s vote in the 1970′s

          All they have left is old white people and fools who vote against their own best interests.

        • Nanotek

          like GOProud and the snake-handlers

      • Secessionist

        My source is a report prepared by a progressive think tank loaded with the Democrats’ A-team intellectuals, writers, and analysts.

        http://www.americanprogress.org/aboutus/staff

        Valkayec:

        However, the Obama campaign states that they have no intention, nor did they ever have, of pursuing this strategy.

        Source please?

      • TerryF98

        So an analysis by two un-elected media type strategists suddenly becomes official Democrat and white house policy .

        Dumb as rocks. Whatever name you are using today.

        • valkayec

          Speaking of using whatever name today, what is with the penchant – or reasoning – for changing screen names as some here have done? What’s the point?

      • ottovbvs

        As usual you’re turning a snapshot into a paranoid motion picture of your own invention. So what it’s a democratic think tank? The shape of the electorate is different than it was in 1936 when the south was overwhelmingly democratic. The Democrats have adjusted to a new reality. This does not mean they are “abandoning” the white working class who will be crucial to the re-election strategy in MI, PA and the rust belt states. Who the hell do you think over turned Kasich’s anti working class legislation in OH? The Democrats….not the Republicans. Since you suffer from severe ODS no doubt you’d love Obama to expend all his effort in the south (where much of the white working class wouldn’t vote for him if hell froze over for social and racial reasons) but he’s not quite as stupid as you appear to be… or think he is.

        • ottovbvs

          If Romney’s the Republican nominee Obama will be abandoning mormons I shouldn’t wonder!

        • Secessionist

          You initially focused on the source instead of the substance, caught me in irrelevant error that you exaggerated into a “lie” — you were right that Thomas Edsall is not a news writer but he is hardly a conservative pundit either — and now ignore both the source and the substance since they come from a top shelf left wing think tank. Now you’re just getting shrill. Sorry you lost this one.

        • ottovbvs

          “Sorry you lost this one.”

          In your dreams. Unfortunately you’re both illogical and confused (you prove it yourself all the time but seem totally unaware of how funny you are)…and with a tendency to create fictions which when disproved you dismiss as irrelevant or cover up with this sort of bluster. As my younger friends here would say…FAIL

        • Secessionist

          Quit shooting the messenger.

          Take it up with American Progress (top-shelf left-wing think tank) and Thomas Edsall (experience national politics journalist, Columbia professor and NOT a conservative pundit).

      • animal

        Can I just point out that even what this article says, wether it be fact or fiction, is just about marketing and not policy. It does not say that Democrats are abandoning the white working class voters, it says that they are abandoning marketing to them. As a small business man I have not abandoned the 20 to 25 year old market, I just don’t spend advertising dollars on them because they make up such a small percentage of my customers.

        To argue that Democrats are abandoning white working class voters is a tough sell. They are the not the ones who want to dismantle Medicare and Social Security. They want to preserve it! How can you possibly argue that want to abandon white working class voters.

        You can secede. There are still uninhabited islands in the pacific somewhere you can go to and start your own free market libertarian nation; call it Galt’s Gulch. Each man for himself. Have at it. Would be a great reality show.

      • indy

        It was Aristotle, I think, who said that it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

        Some strategists wrote a paper that entertained various strategies, exactly what they were paid to do. From there, DSP and a lot of right wing media are trying to elevate it to being the official democratic platform as if it came directly from Obama’s mouth. Well, it didn’t. Obama spent an insane amount of money catering to the white working class in the last election and he lost them by 11 points. In the 2010 midterms, the Democrats lost them by 30 points.

        It seems almost certain they won’t devote as many resources to courting that demographic as they did in 2008 but they will likely still spend plenty. If this fits your definition of ‘abandon’, then I suggest you have an agenda or possibly a future as a political hack.

    • Houndentenor

      Are you telling me that those white working class voters were going to vote for Obama no matter what he said or did? Please.

  • TerryF98

    You DSP said this.

    “Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election plan has an explicit racial and ethnic component. The plan involves abandoning the White working class because they are White. The plan makes no mention of abandoning the Black or Hispanic working class.”

    You said categorically that Obama’s own campaign has developed a plan, not some remote unelected think tank, the campaign itself. No mention of think tanks or pundits or operatives.

    It turns out that a think tank on the left has done a study, not even a real plan or strategy. And it has nothing to do with Obama.

    Does Romney own every study by every one of the myriad right wing think tanks. Are thier “plans” automatically his plan.

    See how stupid you look belching up this sort of nonsense.

    As Otto said.

    • valkayec

      Terry, how do you post pix here? HTML?

      • TerryF98

        I use dropbox. http://www.dropbox.com/

        Anything you put in the public folder you can just post as a link, pictures, files,music, anything. The file stays on your computer and is also available to any other of your devices that will accept dropbox. Ipads and iphones for example. It’s better than direct linking to other sites as those pages can change or the file (pic) can change.

        • ottovbvs

          What is this compulsion these people have to lie all the time? The thinker, Balsz, Jimbo, Willy (whatever became of them?), this bozo, what is wrong with them? They never stop. Then when the lies are blown away they’re off at some tangent. And all the time making speeches about morality, honor, christian principles, et al.

        • TerryF98

          Looks like “what’s his name, today” went AWOL. Pretty typical.

  • valkayec

    … it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

    If this is traditional conservatism, I’ll buy into it. I always thought of it, though, as being more a liberal – or left leaning – idea. Funny, how labels can mislead.

    • Nanotek

      “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

      I’d feel content if they just did what they campaigned for or explain why they can’t

  • Secessionist

    Indy wrote:

    Some strategists wrote a paper that entertained various strategies, exactly what they were paid to do. From there, DSP and a lot of right wing media…

    No, that is not what happened.

    From there, Thomas Edsall wrote the following (my emphasis):

    For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.

    Now, who is Thomas Edsall?

    Among other things, Thomas Edsall is:

    - An American journalist and academic

    - Known for his 25 years covering national politics for the Washington Post.

    - Holds the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professorship in Public Affairs Journalism at Columbia University

    - Is a correspondent for The New Republic and National Journal.

    - Is political editor of the Huffington Post.

    Does that look like a member of right wing media?

    Some strategists wrote a paper that entertained various strategies, exactly what they were paid to do. From there, DSP and a lot of right wing media…

    So no, not true.

    The interpretation of Obama’s 2012 strategy as one that will involve “abandoning” the White working class did not come from right wing media.

    • indy

      The Democrats play race and ethnic politics too. Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election plan has an explicit racial and ethnic component.

      Who said this? It was you wasn’t it? Did you say you were relaying information from someone else? No, you did not. Therefore, it is YOUR statement. In addition, you attribute it to ‘Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election plan’. Does the document you posted claim to be Barack Obama’s reelection plan? Does it claim to be any official part of Obama’s campaign. No, it’s doesn’t.

      Does even Edsal’s article from the OPINION section of the Washington Post claim it is part of Barack Obama’s reelection campaign? No, it does not. It simply refers to ‘Democrats’. Therefore, that is information you added on your own. You have accepted some random guy’s words from the OPINION section of a newspaper as an article of faith, have exaggerated it, and are repeating it every chance you have because it supports something you want to believe. You’re not all that different from anybody else in that regard but yes, you have an agenda and you will grasp at any straw, no matter how tenuous, to further it.

      As for the right-wing media, this article, along with the exact sort of exaggerated claims you are making, can be found on every right-wing media site around.

    • indy

      Does that look like a member of right wing media?

      Just to be clear here, I never said Edsall was a member of the right wing media. Here is what I actually said:

      Some strategists wrote a paper that entertained various strategies, exactly what they were paid to do. From there, DSP and a lot of right wing media are trying to elevate it to being the official democratic platform as if it came directly from Obama’s mouth.

      Edsall never elevated it to the status of Obama’s official reelection strategy. YOU and the right-wing media are abusing Edsall’s words in an attempt to do that.

  • Secessionist

    Houndentenor wrote:

    Are you telling me that those white working class voters were going to vote for Obama no matter what he said or did? Please.

    No, of course not. People keep bringing up the Southern Strategy. When they do, they always fail to mention that the Democrats play race and ethnic politics too. I brought up the Edsall interpretation of Obama’s 2012 strategy to back up this point.

    • TerryF98

      No you did not. You stated as FACT, this.

      “Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election plan has an explicit racial and ethnic component. The plan involves abandoning the White working class because they are White. The plan makes no mention of abandoning the Black or Hispanic working class.”

      YOU stated that this was Obama’s strategy, his plan. That was a lie. Edsall’s interpretation of some think tanks work is not the same as Obama and his team having that plan.

      Again, does Romney have to take on board and own every plan by the myriad of RW think tanks?

      You are digging a deeper hole with every post.

      • Secessionist

        Yes, it was an analysis, plan and reelection strategy for Barack Obama.

        Look at the name of the document.

        The Path to 270: Demographics Versus Economics in the 2012 Presidential Election

        Is there some other Democrat running for president?

        americanprogress [dot] org/issues/2011/11/path_to_270.html

        “YOU stated that this was Obama’s strategy, his plan. That was a lie.”

        No, I did not “lie.” It was a paraphrase of Edsall to make a point about the Democrats’ willingness to play race and ethnic politics. You and Otto are the worst offenders when it comes labeling mistakes or reasonable differences of interpretation as “lies.”

        • indy

          The Cato and Heritage foundations have documents out about how Republican’s can institute a flat tax and phase out social security. Can we then start making claims that Mitt Romney’s platform includes these items? No? Sounds rather ridiculous doesn’t it? If I pointed to these documents as proof of the fact that Mitt Romney’s campaign included plans to institute a flat tax, I’d be LYING, in addition to looking stupid.

          When random independent think tanks produce documents, whether they are Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t make them part of any campaign strategy unless officials of those campaigns endorse them.

        • TerryF98

          Thanks Indy.

          DSP is somewhat of a lying tool I am afraid.

        • Secessionist

          @Indy

          Yes, I get your point. It is a fair point. Still, it is surprising to me that you and Terry are arguing from this angle since AEI, Heritage, etc. do in fact exert incredible influence over the GOPs policy and strategy approaches. This is common knowledge, no? They probably do a lot more often than they don’t.

          Now, look at the roster of names working at that progressive think tank. It’s definitely the Democrat A-list. And while I am not omniscient and can’t say with the absolute certainty of 2 + 2 = 4 that Plouffe and the others will use their ideas, it is virtual certainty that Obama’s team is taking their analysis seriously. Come on.

          My evidence that they are likely taking it seriously, once again, is that Thomas Edsall, a veteran center-left analyst not little old me, made this inference as well when he wrote about the Democrats and the 2012 Obama campaign, and cited a paper about that campaign.

          Now, about this exchange:

          Me:

          The Democrats play race and ethnic politics too. Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election plan has an explicit racial and ethnic component.

          You:

          Who said this? It was you wasn’t it? Did you say you were relaying information from someone else? No, you did not.

          Yes, I said it, but your representation here is not entirely correct. In one of my next comments (to Otto), I immediately clarified my comment and indicated where I got the information — a non-right wing source

          In addition, you attribute it to ‘Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election plan’. Does the document you posted claim to be Barack Obama’s reelection plan? Does it claim to be any official part of Obama’s campaign. No, it’s doesn’t.

          Of course I attributed it to his campaign. Who was it written for if not his campaign? Look at the title of the document (above, the path to 270). It is about the presidential campaign. It is 61 pages of information on how demographics are likely to affect the 2012 campaign, for president, and how Obama should approach those demos if he wants to win.

          Does even Edsal’s article from the OPINION section of the Washington Post claim it is part of Barack Obama’s reelection campaign? No, it does not. It simply refers to ‘Democrats’. Therefore, that is information you added on your own.

          Except while Edsall makes generic references to Democrats, his underlying source is a document about presidential campaign strategy written by influential strategists who are almost certainly being listened to. You and others keep ignoring this point, unsurprisingly.

          You have accepted some random guy’s words from the OPINION section of a newspaper as an article of faith,

          Some random guy with an opinion on some newspaper? Just a random guy.

          Now who is exaggerating? Or diminishing and minimizing in this case.

          Your language “some random guy” implies he is not credible. In actuality, he is a 25 year veteran reporter with a damn impressive CV, a center-left orientation and years of experience in non-right wing media. That is the reason I regard his analysis as credible. He has no reason to misrepresent Obama, or damage Obama by writing a provocative summary about abandoning the White working class when that is substantively untrue.

          have exaggerated it, and are repeating it every chance you have because it supports something you want to believe. You’re not all that different from anybody else in that regard but yes, you have an agenda and you will grasp at any straw, no matter how tenuous, to further it.

          How have I exaggerated it? Certainly no more than you and others exaggerate the impact and relevance of the Southern Strategy.

          Was the Southern Strategy acknowledged in Nixon’s official campaign strategy?

          Where in Nixon’s official campaign documents was it ever said “our plan in 1972 is to appeal to “Southern White resentment.”

          If an acknowledgement from the official campaign is the standard for whether a campaign is using a particular strategy, fine. Show me some evidence from the official Nixon campaign they ever used a Southern Strategy. Don’t show me articles from Kevin Phillips or other analysts acting in capacities outside the official Nixon campaign, or internal, non-public correspondence within the campaign that came to light years later, or that apology to from that RNC chairman from a few years ago; I want evidence of public acknowledgement from the official Nixon campaign the Southern Strategy was used. That is the standard you and Terry are demanding.

          With the amount of ink spilled over the Southern Strategy over the last 40 years, I would imagine such evidence should be easy to find if it exists.

          Without it, you all should be regarded as LYING about the GOP ever using a SS, in addition to looking stupid.

          Or maybe not. Isn’t it a little ridiculous to make “official public campaign acknowledgement” the standard when controversial and polarizing electoral strategies are at issue? They official campaign is never going to publicly admit to pursuing a divisive strategy.

          As for the right-wing media, this article, along with the exact sort of exaggerated claims you are making, can be found on every right-wing media site around.

          True, but as I made abundantly clear from my second or third comment on this point, right wing media was not my source. Moreover, I don’t listen to right wing media, and therefore it’s not fair to write comments that imply I’m pushing a right wing media talking point when I’m not, especially when I have no idea what’s being said about this matter in right wing media. If the gist of what they’re saying, however, is related to “White working class abandonment,” then that idea was not right wing in origin, and that is the salient point.

          Portraying that particular point — the main point — as right wing is highly misleading when it’s unlikely an experienced center-left journalist and Colombia professor would say it if it’s not substantively true.

        • animal

          Really guys, this is not that big a deal. If you are a Republican you would never believe that Obama’s policies were pro white working class anyways unless he got down and kissed the shoes of Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan. All this article says is that Democratic strategists, not even related to the President’s staff, think campaign money would be better spent targeted towards a demographic other than white working class voters.

          So what. It does not mean Democrats want to change their policies to adversely affect the lives of these voters. This has nothing to do with POLICY, it has to do with ADVERTISING.

          So who gives a sh!t? It is all just a distraction from the honest point of this article that conservatives today are not very conservative in either the dictionary definition of the word or in relation to your father’s conservatism.

        • Secessionist

          [blockquote]This has nothing to do with POLICY, it has to do with ADVERTISING.

          So who gives a sh!t? [/blockquote]

          Yes, this side discussion has been about politics not policy. I never said otherwise.

          That fact, however, is totally irrelevant.

          The Southern Strategy too was a political strategy, not a policy strategy. It was a strategy that relied on a race/ethnic element designed to win votes not change policy.

          The political SS in fact lead to almost no policy changes in favor of the Southern Whites that strategy was geared to.

          Yet most critics of the GOP continually allege that the SS is relevant and cite the SS as evidence the GOP is a really bad party. Why? Because those same critics sanctimoniously claim that political strategies that incorporate race and ethnic considerations are divisive and smarmy.

          Yet the Dems do it too, and those same people don’t care. You will find such people up and down this comment stream, and all over this Web site, and the entire left blogosphere and media world.

          Depending on one’s politics, the Dems might be preferable to the moribund GOP for many reasons, but on this issue, the willingness of the party to engage in race/ethnic politics, the Dems are definitely no better.

          I don’t think some people really grasp the implications of this Edsall analysis, and quite a few don’t care about those implications. Animal’s own comment above was yeah, so what, who gives a shit about abandoning Whites.

          A lot of people share his attitude. But they surely wouldn’t say it if the reverse circumstances were true, such as if Heritage or influential strategists with Romney’s ear prepared an analysis for the Romney campaign that argued for “abandoning” the Hispanic working class.

          “Abandoning” the White working class and ONLY the White working class — not the working class, the White working class ONLY — announcing that the president of the United States is NOT going to work hard for the votes of a subset of the electorate based on the RACE of that subset amounts to race/ethnic politics.

          The exact same principle as the SS.

    • Secessionist

      FYI, I see part of the confusion here now. Way up top after I made my original point to RE, Otto said this:

      Outside of your fevered imagination would you like to provide a link to anything published by the Democrats.

      Otto requested a link from the Democrats. I was reading fast and I thought he asked for a link, and missed the part “published by the Democrats.” I wasn’t lying or dodging but simply saw the word link and missed the rest.

      I responded with the Edsall link, thinking I was giving Otto the credible source he requested. Edsall obviously does not work for the Democrats, but his conclusions were based on an analysis of information prepared by Democrats for Obama. Still, Otto’s request was for info from a Democrat source which I did not provide.

      Still, I stand by my main points. Yes, there has been no official acknowledgment from the Democrats that I know of that they are using the “abandon the White working class” strategy, or a strategy with that element. This does not matter, however. No campaign is going to publicly acknowledge using a divisive strategy. There was no official, public acknowledgment of the SS either that I know of — yet people know the GOP used it. The evidence the GOP used the SS consists of statements from people known to influence Republicans in the years leading up to ’72 and later (Phillips/Atwater), and other materials that only came to light much later, that were not made public by the official campaign (that I know of).

      I will offer a 100%, unqualified, public retraction of everything I have said in this comment stream if someone shows me evidence that Nixon and the Republicans officially acknowledged in public using the highly divisive “appeal to White resentment” race/ethnic SS. Until then, don’t hold me to a different standard when using indirect but very credible evidence that Obama, and his Democrat proxies, will play on race and ethnicity too in the same divisive way.

      • animal

        Who is this? Rick Perry?

      • indy

        If I made this statement: “Richard Nixon’s election plan had an explicit racial and ethnic component.”

        I’d be lying, even though Pat Buchanan wrote a memo to Nixon detailing how racial resentment could be exploited. (You can read about the
        memo here BTW: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/26/080526fa_fact_packer)

        If I made this statement: “Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election plan has an explicit racial and ethnic component.”

        I’d be lying.

        I’m not holding you to a different standard.

        • Reflection Ephemeral

          True, but I think it goes beyond that.

          Some people with some affiliation to the Democratic Party have urged the Democrats to focus on groups other than poorer whites for the 2012 election.

          Vs.:

          Nixon followed the advice of his advisers, allowing his campaign to heighten white resentment of nonwhites.

          Profiting from hostility toward out groups is a very different thing from allocation of campaign resources.

          Also: working-class whites will do better under the policies of Pres. Obama than Pres. Romney. Very different from what Republicans have implied to whites.

          Here’s a summary,with quotes, of Pat Buchanan’s memo to Pres. Nixon in 1971:

          it recommended that the White House “exacerbate the ideological division” between the Old and New Left by praising Democrats who supported any of Nixon’s policies; highlight “the elitism and quasi-anti-Americanism of the National Democratic Party”; nominate for the Supreme Court a Southern strict constructionist who would divide Democrats regionally; use abortion and parochial-school aid to deepen the split between Catholics and social liberals; elicit white working-class support with tax relief and denunciations of welfare. Finally, the memo recommended exploiting racial tensions among Democrats. “Bumper stickers calling for black Presidential and especially Vice-Presidential candidates should be spread out in the ghettoes of the country,” Buchanan wrote. “We should do what is within our power to have a black nominated for Number Two, at least at the Democratic National Convention.” Such gambits, he added, could “cut the Democratic Party and country in half; my view is that we would have far the larger half.”

          The Republican Party: working to cut the country in half for political gain since 1970.

          In conclusion, Republicans are nihilists who hate America.

        • indy

          You obviously have a better command of this info than I do. I was tracking down a reference to the memo [which I added to my response] as you posted this.

          In addition, surely you are right one can comprehend the moral distinction between choosing to not pursue a particular racial demographic and using racial fear and resentment of one group of Americans in order to get votes from another group of Americans. I do however understand this distinction might not be of much importance to someone who thinks in terms of succession.

        • connor25

          Not to mention I think Secessionist or DSP or whoever didn’t really see back in 2005, the head of the RNC, Ken Mehlman, admitted it was wrong to do the Southern Strategy to the NAACP, Rush Limbaugh didn’t like that. No surprise there.

          Most of the time people like Buchanan is against the GOP reaching out to non-whites because it wouldn’t be their party anymore and they’re in denial that the country is changing. It’s just said as somehow reaching out is something only Democrats do.

        • Secessionist

          @Indy: “’I’m not holding you to a different standard.”

          Debatable, but we can agree to disagree. You are definitely being unreasonable with these quick accusations of lying, however.

          I answered your comment in more detail than I usually do because you made a decent argument at Dec 3, 2011 at 10:16 pm.

          Agree or not, I attempted to justify my position.

          Now, maybe I made a lousy argument in this comment stream, or maybe there is not enough evidence to support my conclusions. While those things might or might not be true, making a bad argument is not the same as telling a lie.

      • TerryF98

        Keep digging, you will be in Australia soon!

        • ottovbvs

          The length of DSP’s comments are in inverse proportion to their truthfulness. It’s not an edifying spectacle although it does have its humorous side (which seems to elude him completely). After exchanges like this I’m always left wondering if this is how these folks function in real life or is this just a side of them that is reserved for the anonymity of places like this? There must have been studies done of this phenomenon. Is anyone aware of any?

        • Secessionist

          I’m not being truthful? OK, where, when, how?

          Is there anyone you routinely disagree with who doesn’t lie?

          And BTW, Chris Balz, nhthinker, WillyP and JimBob have outclassed you many times.

        • ottovbvs

          “Is there anyone you routinely disagree with who doesn’t lie?”

          DSP: It has nothing to do with whether I agree with you or not and everything to do with personal integrity. Above is a printed record where you’ve been caught out in at least two blatant falsehoods not just by me but by several others. I’m not going to waste my time re-litigating this but will just let the above record speak for itself and leave it at that.

        • Secessionist

          I knew you couldn’t point out any lies.

          Just about everything you label “lies” not just by me but by Chris B, nhthinker, JimBob, etc. are simply arguments and conclusions you don’t agree with.

  • connor25

    Conservatism has become a litmus test now. Basically, if you don’t pass the test, you’re not a conservative by their standards.

    Now, it’s pretty much people who like ideological purity. You have to be anti-abortion, anti-gay, hate whatever group they don’t like. The irony is that conservatives like Taft and Reagan just wouldn’t fit in today.

    • TJ Parker

      “Conservatism” nowadays means policies favoring the rich but argued by pretend Christian-theocrats. Herman Cain, philandering adulterer, was called by GOD — like MOSES! — to run for president and institute regressive tax policies!

      The only question now is where the tipping point is between the pandering liars and the pandered bigots.

  • ottovbvs

    In an effort to get this discussion back to Jenkins original claims I’m going to repeat something I said above in response to one of his assertions…

    David Jenkins
    “Hence, a radical can never be a conservative…”

    This is purely your assertion. Here is a list of conservative radicals just off the top of my head. It’s truly amazing that anyone would claim that any of these people were not conservatives. Your so called conservative principles are not unique to conservatism but more or less universal to secular humanism. Neither do you seem to comprehend the difference between ends and means.

    Disraeli
    Scharnhorst
    Bismarck
    Chamberlain
    Schwarzenburg
    Churchill
    Peel
    Thatcher
    Theodore Roosevelt
    De Gaulle
    Gladstone
    Thiers
    Stolypin
    Hamilton
    Adenauer

    Can Jenkins or anyone demonstrate that any of these statesmen were not both conservative and radical. The only one that’s a bit borderline perhaps is Hamilton.

    • Nanotek

      “Conservatism is the blind and fear-filled worship of dead radicals.” Mark Twain

      it may depend on which radical, I suppose

    • indy

      I think it likely the founding fathers would have considered themselves conservatives, and in fact are the role models that many conservatives point to. Yet, founding a nation on a line of philosophical thought regarding the roles and responsibilities of government that was largely in its infancy seems fairly radical to me.

      • Nanotek

        you may be right, but I have doubts … in this sense… they knew they were inventing a new government that, in theory, elevated the primacy of the individual … but my read is based on what a typical conservative seeks to conserve — an old order

        but then I regard Machiavelli as no conservative on that basis …

      • ottovbvs

        On the founding fathers it’s a matter of context. Some were conservative relative to their times others less so. They were certainly all members of the American colonial upper middle class or aristocracy. Charles Carroll of Carrollton was the richest man in America. And they started a revolution based on the principles of the enlightenment but all were intent on preserving property rights.

        “I regard Machiavelli as no conservative on that basis”

        In identifying conservatives in a sense that we can understand them I try to avoid going back before the emergence of the nation state in the 17th century because the labels liberal/conservative don’t really apply. My little list tried to identify individuals who were all clearly conservatives (some like Bismarck and Schwartzenberg exceptionally so) but who governed radically in pursuit of a conservative agenda. Gladstone who was a tory for half his career and a liberal for the other half was actually far more conservative than Disraeli imo. He supported Peel’s deeply radical repeal of the corn laws when a conservativee and later as a Liberal tried to pass home rule for Ireland in pursuit of preserving the unity of Britain. Had he succeeded Ireland would probably still be part of the UK. De Gaulle and Adenauer for godsake, Catholic conservatives both but often radical in their policy making.

        • Nanotek

          “In identifying conservatives in a sense that we can understand them I try to avoid going back before the emergence of the nation state in the 17th century because the labels liberal/conservative don’t really apply.”

          + 1

          I really enjoy trying to absorb your thoughts on these things …your understanding is far more sophisticated than mine and I come away with new insights … thanks

        • ottovbvs

          Well it was really only with the emergence of the nation state that you got the very slow emergence of proto democracy (political parties etc). It’s impossible to imagine the idea of democratic processes (although some had guild govts) in the context of Italian city states. You were either a member of the ruler’s gang or not. The whole concept of the social contract/democracy/representative govt is really a product of the enlightenment which proceeded at a different pace in different societies. Since you’re interested in philosophy you should read some Hobbes or Locke.

        • Nanotek

          will do … thanks

        • MSheridan

          In what way did Chamberlain govern radically? I’ve read a fair bit about him in the course of trying to understand the run-up to WWII, but although he was beyond a doubt a conservative politician (and a fairly decent one, for the most part) I don’t see how he could be called a radical.

        • ottovbvs

          “In what way did Chamberlain govern radically?”

          Wrong Chamberlain…Sorry perhaps I should have made it clear it was Joe Chamberlain…his father! Arch Imperialist. Wrecked the Liberal party over Irish home rule. Provoked the Boer War as Colonial Secretary because he wanted to seize the Orange Free State and Transvaal and add them to the British Empire. Wrecked the conservative party over protection and imperial preference. The most dynamic figure in British politics from 1880 to 1905. He’s a much more interesting man than Neville who as you say was a more typical conservative (or as Lloyd George called him a good mayor of Birmingham in a bad year).

        • MSheridan

          Thanks, Otto.

    • djenkins

      Theodore Roosevelt a radical? That sounds like something Glenn Beck would assert (actually Beck called him a progressive…which for him is the same as a socialist). I guess the face of Mount Rushmore is loaded with radicals then. Theodore Roosevelt was a traditional conservative who understood the principle of stewardship better than most. Anyone who thinks he is a radical is sadly ill-informed.

      I said it somewhere else in this thread and it is worth repeating: True conservatism is the opposite of radicalism. If someone is a radical they cannot be a true conservative, no matter what they call themselves.

      • ottovbvs

        “Theodore Roosevelt was a traditional conservative who understood the principle of stewardship better than most. Anyone who thinks he is a radical is sadly ill-informed.?”

        Are you serious Mr Jenkins? TR was domestically and overseas one of the most radical presidents of the 20th century. That’s one of the reasons he’s up on mount Rushmore. And of course he was a progressive. Ever heard the phrase “Malefactors of great wealth.” He’s only surpassed by FDR and maybe Johnson and Wilson. Have you actually read Morris’ biography of Roosevelt? Do you know anything about the schism of 1912? Even the Wiki snapshots give the picture.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidency_of_Theodore_Roosevelt

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt

  • djenkins

    TR saw the need to change the status quo to check greed and corruption, but that hardly makes him a radical. As Kirk points out: “prudent change is the means of social preservation, but a statesman must take Providence into his calculations, and a statesman’s chief virtue, according to Plato and Burke, is prudence.”

    Even your Wiki link points out that Roosevelt tried to address these problems cautiously at first and then more aggressively later on. TR’s concern about corruption and his pursuit of new regulations has to be viewed in the context of the times. Greed and corruption were essentially threatening the popularity and future of capitalism–and socialism was gaining favor.

    Roosevelt was also a law and order president. He believed man had a moral duty to rise above his base instincts and self-interest and act in the good of the nation and society as a whole. This is at the core of Burke’s philosophy. Burke wrote:

    “One of the first and most leading principles on which the commonwealth and its laws are consecrated, is lest the temporary possessors and life renters in it, unmindful of what they have received from their ancestors, or of what is due to their posterity, should act as if they were the entire masters; that they should not think it among their rights to cut off the entail, or commit waste on the inheritance, by destroying at their pleasure the whole original fabric of their society; hazarding to those who come after them a ruin instead of a habitation…No one generation could link with another. Men would become little better than flies of a summer.”

    TR express a similar outlook in 1907 when he said:

    “We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted…So any nation which in its youth lives only for the day, reaps without sowing, and consumes without husbanding, must expect the penalty of the prodigal whose labor could with difficulty find him the bare means of life.”

    How radical is that?

    Many of the changes in our government that TR championed, such as child labor laws, anti-trust laws, safety inspection and labeling of food and drugs, land and wildlife conservation have stood the test of time and served our country well. In fact, I would call them “prudent.”

    • ottovbvs

      “TR saw the need to change the status quo to check greed and corruption, but that hardly makes him a radical.”

      Unbelievable. Mr Jenkins I don’t want to be rude but in addition to having at best a somewhat sketchy aquaintance with political science and history your familiarity with the English language also seems somewhat shaky…..

      rad·i·cal
      adj \ˈra-di-kəl\

      a: very different from the usual or traditional : extreme

      b: favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions

      c: associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change

      d: advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs <the radical right

      Mr Jenkins, as those Wiki entries make abundantly clear, and as anyone with the slightest knowledge of Roosevelt's career knows, TR (along with all those other conservative statesmen I listed) ruled radically in pursuit of a conservative agenda. Indeed the longer he was in office and then out of office the more radical he became. Hence he was a radical conservative. And paradoxically (even though you clearly don't understand it) you've just demonstrated that prudence and foresight are not the exclusive preserve of conservatives but universal modes of human behavior that have nothing to do with political labels.

  • djenkins

    Perhaps it would help if you would specify what policies TR advanced that you believe were in radical pursuit of a conservative agenda. That would help me understand where you are coming from…and if it is a radical place or not.

    TR is universally liked by those on both the right and the left. I’m not sure how many would agree with your characterization. I would also suggest that you rely on sources other than Wiki. The best thing is to read TR’s own speeches.

    “Radicalism” has typically been use to describe liberals who rebel against societal norms and institutions. I believe it also fits libertarians who rebel against social responsibility in a rabid pursuit of self-interest.

    • ottovbvs

      “I would also suggest that you rely on sources other than Wiki.”

      Are you saying the Wiki source is wrong on substance? It enumerates the many radical policies TR pursued and provides a huge list of sources (111 in the biog entry alone) one of which of course is Edmund Morris’ Pulitzer prize winning three volume biography which I’ve read and you clearly haven’t. And here’s another pulled at random on the progressive platform of the Bull Moose party….

      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/tr-progressive/

      “Radicalism” has typically been use to describe liberals who rebel against societal norms and institutions.”

      Of course it has and that’s not an incorrect description but neither is its application to conservatism (read the def I provided). And you wanted a TR speech…

      The Square Deal

      Let the watchwords of all our people be the old familiar
      watchwords of honesty, decency, fair-dealing, and
      commonsense…. We must treat each man on his worth and
      merits as a man. We must see that each is given a square
      deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive
      no less…. The welfare of each of us is dependent
      fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.”

      – New York State Fair, Syracuse, September 7, 1903

      • ottovbvs

        TR on….

        “MALEFACTORS OF GREAT WEALTH.”

        “Too much cannot be said against the men of wealth who

        sacrifice everything to getting wealth. There is not in

        the world a more ignoble character than the mere

        money-getting American, insensible to every duty,

        regardless of every principle, bent only on amassing a

        fortune, and putting his fortune only to the basest

        uses —whether these uses be to speculate in stocks and

        wreck railroads himself, or to allow his son to lead a

        life of foolish and expensive idleness and gross

        debauchery, or to purchase some scoundrel of high

        social position, foreign or native, for his daughter. Such

        a man is only the more dangerous if he occasionally

        does some deed like founding a college or endowing a

        church, which makes those good people who are also

        foolish forget his real iniquity. These men are equally

        careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and

        of the State, whose existence they imperil. There are

        not very many of them, but there is a very great number

        of men who approach more or less closely to the type,

        and, just in so far as they do so approach, they are

        curses to the country.”

        Is TR a member of the OWS movement you might well ask!!!

        • Secessionist

          It’s amazing how up to date that still is. His rhetoric and command of language is too.

        • djenkins

          Before it seemed that you were criticizing TR for being radical on the right, now you try to say he is a radical on the left? Which is it?

          TR was a moralist. That does not make him a radical.

          Russell Kirk echoed Roosevelt’s concern of industrialists when he wrote:

          “How many industrialists and financiers take any interest in general ideas? How many, indeed, are really conservative? In the whole American nation, perhaps their are not a hundred important businessmen who take an intelligent interest in the problems of modern society…For a long while, the American man of business, generally speaking, has been intent upon getting and spending to the exclusion of almost every social and cultural interest…and remains densely ignorant of the nature of true conservatism…A conservative order is not the creation of the free entrepreneur.”

        • ottovbvs

          “Before it seemed that you were criticizing TR for being radical on the right, now you try to say he is a radical on the left? Which is it?”

          I’ve never criticised TR. Show me where I have! I merely said he along with a lot of people whom I listed were radical conservatives which you said was an impossible condition. And where have I said he was a radical on the left? You told me to look to his speeches and I’ve just given a couple of examples of radical speeches he made. Now I’ve proved conclusively with masses of references that TR was indeed a radical conservative and that you haven’t the faintest idea of what you’re talking about (and don’t even seem too familiar with the meaning of words in the English language), you retreat into bad faith strawmen arguments and try to change the subject into what Kirk said which is entirely irrelevant to whether TR was a radical conservative as he is almost universally recognized to have been. Go spend 66 bucks and educate yourself.

          http://www.amazon.com/Edmund-Morriss-Theodore-Roosevelt-Trilogy/dp/0812958632/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1323114426&sr=1-1

  • Stewardship

    The parallels between 1912 and 2012 are very interesting to political junkies. Back then, TR was concerned with the way in which government had become subservient to corporations, at the expense of the citizens. Today, Jon Huntsman is concerned about the risk ‘too big to fail’ banks impose on citizens. Every major conservative writer of the past century (assuming we can all agree that Rush Limbaugh is not a conservative philosopher) has cautioned that corporate interests need to be subservient to the people.

    It appears the party will turn its back on the most consistently conservative candidate next year, as it did in 1912. That has already spawned discussion of third party and independent campaigns by a number of people.

    Many libertarians label TR a progressive, but the Bull Moose Party platform contained many points later adopted by administrations of both major parties. Those policies strengthened the United States, domestically and abroad. It could be argued that TR was an arch conservative, because of his concern to preserve and protect the vast majority of Americans.

    With the way major industries play Congress like a marionette theater today, I shudder to think what life might be like had TR not pursued the policies he did, both during his presidency and post-presidency.

    To me, the single core building block of conservatism is strong families. Any policies to the detriment of families, weakens the foundation of the American cause. It’s too bad no politician living today will be remembered in 2112 the way TR is remembered today.

    I’m very thankful TR entered the arena a century ago. The social and economic changes he implemented paved the way for the average American to achieve entrepreneurial success. That means more upwardly mobile, higher educated families than previously. I’m also deeply indebted to him for his conservation efforts. How different the nation would be today without his foresight. The public lands he set aside insure cleaner air and water for a growing nation. Plus, how many other families have strengthened their relationships and, frankly, belief in a greater power, by making pilgrimages to one or more of our national parks?

    This nation owes TR a debt greater than we can ever repay.

    • ottovbvs

      “It could be argued that TR was an arch conservative, because of his concern to preserve and protect the vast majority of Americans.”

      Well if you didn’t know the dictionary definition of conservative it might. Look it up. You’ll see it’s largely about protecting existing hierarchies and institutions. I think this was TR’s goal along with a desire to protect our natural heritage and to pursue US interests internationally at a time when socially and economically things were exceptionally fluid. To achieve these essentially conservative aims he realised that radical accomodationist policies were required. If TR wasn’t a radical conservative you don’t know what a radical conservative is.

      • djenkins

        Okay, I’ll ignore your OWS reference and assume you either 1) think conservatives are radical because they want to protect “existing hierarchies and institutions,” or 2) believe that TR was a radical conservative because he advocated change of the status quo.

        Your pals over at Wiki define political radicalism as follows:

        “The term political radicalism (or simply, in political science, radicalism) denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in fundamental ways. ”

        It also describes the Radical Right as a “pejorative term used to describe various political movements on the right that are conspiracist, attuned to anti-American or anti-Christian agents of foreign powers,[1] and “politically radical.”

        Kirk asserted that radicals “believe in the perfectability of man” and “deny that humanity has a natural proclivity towards violence and sin.” He also wrote that radicals have “contempt for tradition” and “detest” Burke’s description of the state as “ordained by God and his concept of society as joined in perpetuity by a moral bond among the dead, the living and those yet to be born.”

        Do any of these descriptions of “radical” fit TR? I say no.

        By the way, if Morris is not paying you a commission, he should :-)

  • djenkins

    Here is something else to ponder. David Brooks wrote a column in 2008 that provides a good description of TR’s role in conservatism:

    “Yet, historically, periods of great governmental change have often been periods of conservative rule. It’s as if voters understand that they need big changes, but they want those changes planned and enacted by leaders who will restrain the pace of change and prevent radical excess.

    Two of the most prominent conservative reformers were Benjamin Disraeli and Theodore Roosevelt. Both reframed the political debate so that it was not change versus the status quo, it was unfamiliar change versus cautious, patriotic change designed to preserve the traditional virtues of the nation.

    Disraeli inherited a British Conservative Party that was a political club for the landowning class. He created One Nation Conservatism, a reminder that Britain was one community, with a sense of mutual responsibility across classes. Then, at the pinnacle of his career, he embraced reform, expanding the franchise to the socially conservative working class.

    Disraeli saw this change as a way to restore ancient glories. Or, as he put it: ‘In a progressive country, change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change, which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines.’

    Like Disraeli, Roosevelt was a romantic nationalist. While the more progressive reformers spoke the international language of modernization, Roosevelt spoke the language of highly charged Americanism.

    He believed private property was the basis of American greatness. He built his persona around the classic American icons: the cowboy, fighter and pioneer.

    He defended his initiatives as the way to maintain the economic and social order. People had enough change in their lives; they were looking for government that could preserve the way things already were. If the trusts threatened the traditional small businessman, he would take on the trusts. If industrialism threatened the natural landscape, he would become a preservationist.

    His formula was like Disraeli’s: political innovation to restore traditional national morality. He had an image of an American hero — thrifty, hard-working, vigorous and righteous — and sought to create a Square Deal for that sort of person. ‘The true function of the state as it interferes in social life,” Roosevelt wrote, “should be to make the chances of competition more even, not to abolish them.’ ”

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      I have nothing useful whatsoever to say about Disraeli.

      But I’d like to thank you for getting into the weeds here on the thread, and sticking with the conversation. Above and beyond!

  • ottovbvs

    “Disraeli inherited a British Conservative Party that was a political club for the landowning class…His formula was like Disraeli’s: political innovation to restore traditional national morality..”

    Once again you betray your lack of knowledge of political history and so does Brooks. Disraeli’s first great political success was as the spokesman of the landowning classes in the destruction of Robert Peel (another conservative radical) over the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 which the landowning classes desperately wanted to preserve and that Peel the leader of the conservative party with support from the Whigs overturned. Once Peel was out of the way Disraeli took over the conservative party more or less because of his skill as a parliamentary orator and spent the rest of his career as you describe pursuing radical conservative policies aimed at preserving the wealth and privileges of the British landowning classes. Morality had nothing to do with it. In fact Disraeli both personally and publically was singularly immoral. His passage of the 1867 Reform Act was simply an attempt to outflank Gladstone by expanding the appeal of the conservative party to the middle classes who he thought he could turn into conservative voters. No one was more shocked at this maneuver than the traditional British aristocracy. Disraeli was one of the most distrusted figures in British politics for most of his career. It’s not entirely an accident he was prime minister only once (a second time very briefly) whereas his great rival Gladstone was PM four times for extended periods.

    As for definitions the folks at Wiki aren’t my pals. I gave you a dictionary definition from Websters which most folks would take over Wiki’s I suspect although in fact it wasn’t very different.

    “1) think conservatives are radical because they want to protect “existing hierarchies and institutions,”

    Since I’ve said this about 40 times and all my examples demonstrated it… have you only just got it? You’re interesting study in the closed mind Jenkins. It doesn’t matter how much evidence is adduced to demonstrate a fact ( historical references, speeches, definitions. etc) you simply refuse to accept it. What most amazing is all this info you’re providing about TR and Disraeli demonstrates that these men exactly fit the definition of conservative radicals. Romantic nationalism is very often a symptom of radical conservatism. And pardon me if I don’t take Brooks too seriously as an objective commentator on the nature of conservatism since he’s a shill.

  • Primrose

    I was with you dear Author until this line:

    Traditional conservative values are being cast aside, such as humility, reverence, responsibility, stewardship and other moral principles—most of which stem from Biblical teaching.

    Really, really, really do christians need to stop thinking they invented morality. All those principles are in Buddism and Hindusim, which is before the bible. Also Shinto’ism, Confusicism (with a more hierarchal twist) and any number of other religions, including a great number or animist ones.

    Nor do atheists disagree with the above moral principles. The philosophy of atheism is about truth, that’s all. They are as likely to embrace these morals as any other religion.

    One should not fight these more is more; materialism is the only thing that matters because it harms religion, (and several Christian sects have embraced it so clearly it hasn’t) but because it harms society. It harms the soul.

    Religion should be not be reduced to a brand desperate for market share.

    • Stewardship

      I do not think the author was excluding other faith traditions, but referring to the faiths of the writers considered to be the “fathers of modern conservatism.’

      • djenkins

        Stewardship is correct. Burke, Kirk, Weaver and Eliot were all influenced by Biblical teaching. My reference was intended to convey the longevity of the traditions, ideas and authority that they drew upon, not to make a broader statement about one religion vs. another.

  • ottovbvs

    ….Jenkins, you really aught to learn something about what your talking about….

    “After engineering the defeat of a Liberal Reform Bill introduced by Gladstone in 1866, Disraeli and Derby introduced their own measure in 1867. This was primarily a political strategy designed to give the Conservative party control of the reform process and the subsequent long-term benefits in the Commons, similar to those derived by the Whigs after their 1832 Reform Act. It was thought that if the Conservatives were able to secure this piece of legislation, then the newly enfranchised electorate may return their gratitude to the Tories in the form of a Conservative vote at the next general election. …. This act was unpopular with the right wing of the Conservative Party, most notably Lord Cranborne (later the Marquess of Salisbury and subsequently a real conservative PM), who resigned from the government and spoke against the bill, accusing Disraeli of “a political betrayal which has no parallel in our Parliamentary annals.” Cranborne, however, was unable to lead a rebellion similar to that which Disraeli had led against Peel twenty years earlier.”

    ……As far as the moral Disraeli was concerned the Irish could starve just so long as the price of corn from English estates remained high!

    “The end of 1845 and the first months of 1846 were dominated by a battle in parliament between the free traders and the protectionists over the repeal of the Corn Laws, with the latter rallying around Disraeli and Lord George Bentinck. An alliance of pro free-trade Conservatives (the “Peelites”), Radicals, and Whigs carried repeal, and the Conservative Party split: the Peelites moved towards the Whigs, while a “new” Conservative Party formed around the protectionists, led by Disraeli, Bentinck, and Lord Stanley (later Lord Derby). The context of the fight over free trade was famine in Ireland, which Peel hoped might be remedied by importation of grain….(Repeal of the Corn Laws) and the resultant influx of cheaper wheat into Britain would remedy the suffering caused by the Great Famine in Ireland due to the successive failure of potato crops.

    The split in the Tory/Conservative party over the repeal of the Corn Laws had profound implications for Disraeli’s political career: almost every Conservative politician with official experience followed Peel, leaving the rump bereft of leadership. As one biographer wrote, “[Disraeli] found himself almost the only figure on his side capable of putting up the oratorical display essential for a parliamentary leader.” Looking on from the House of Lords, the Duke of Argyll wrote that Disraeli “was like a subaltern in a great battle where every superior officer was killed or wounded.”

    • djenkins

      Ottovbvs, why do you feel the need to personally disparage those who disagree with you? This tendency is one you share with Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Anne Coulter etc. What ever happened to civil discourse? You also ignore any definition of radical or radicalism that doesn’t jive with your own preconceived notions. If you want to see a closed mind, perhaps you should get an MRI (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

      Brooks discussed Disraeli, not me. I included his remarks mainly for what he said about TR, which I believe to be pretty accurate–and I suspect Morris would agree.

      If there is anyone on this thread that agrees with you that TR was a radical, I would love for them to chime in.

  • ottovbvs

    “You also ignore any definition of radical or radicalism that doesn’t jive with your own preconceived notions.”

    Err…every definition (not to mention the historical evidence) including this one by you confirms that yes indeed it’s possible for conservatives to be radical but you seem blissfully unaware of it. Viz.

    “The term political radicalism (or simply, in political science, radicalism) denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in fundamental ways. ”

    Revolutionary does not necessarily imply storming the Bastille, but then your unfamiliarity with the English language has already been remarked upon.

    • djenkins

      If conservatism is about preserving social structures, institutions and values, and radicalism is about fundamentally altering these, then they are polar opposites. While it is perfectly possible for someone to be radical/extreme and be liberal, libertarian, religious, etc., but you cannot be a political radical and be genuinely conservative.

      This has been an interesting discussion, but it seems you and I are the only ones involved at this point, so I am signing off.

      • ottovbvs

        “but you cannot be a political radical and be genuinely conservative.”

        From todays ABC news….

        “Today President Obama will travel to the same site where Theodore Roosevelt summoned the nation to a new progressive era ”

        http://news.yahoo.com/presidential-planner-obama-borrows-page-roosevelt-playbook-110211541.html

        I rest my case.

        • djenkins

          …and Rush Limbaugh likes to quote John F. Kennedy…so what?

        • ottovbvs

          No one is quoting anyone here. ABC News is just reporting what is a well known fact to anyone with the faintest knowledge of US history.

          “the same site where Theodore Roosevelt summoned the nation to a new progressive era ”

          Earlier you accused me of disparaging you for having a closed mind when in fact all I was doing was making an empirical observation the accuracy of which you’ve just proved again!

  • djenkins

    Sounds a bit like guilt by association to me. Reagan went to the Berlin wall just like Kennedy, Reagan, John McCain and even Newt Gingrich have all claimed to be Theodore Roosevelt Republicans, and a long list of Democrat presidents have embraced TR as well.

    Why? For the same reason they embrace Lincoln, he was a great president. You are reading far too much into this.

  • Rocketship7

    Kirk endorsed Pat Buchanan for president.