Saturday, June 09, 2007

A post for C2H50H

A good while ago I remember commenting at the original incarnation of the now defunct I Just Don't Like This George Bush Prick blog that I don't think of Ann Coulter as conservative, remarking that I doubt Edmund Burke would enjoy the pleasure of her company. If you read this blog long enough, you'll also notice that I make a distinction between being conservative and being a movement conservative.

Well, anyways, in the comments of this post C2H50H remarked

Forgive me, Oh Conservatives, but from where I sit, what it looks like is a loose affiliation between the authoritarians, who will follow any sufficiently "manly" leader, plus several single-issue constituencies, such as those who are uncomfortable with the freedoms conferred on humanity by the march of modern medicine, those who suffer from excessive fear that their guns will be taken away, and so on, plus a bunch of people whose only impetus to be conservative appears to be that they could never be nominated by any remotely liberal party.
I think this is pretty spot on as far as the conservative movement is concerned, and being too lazy myself to find my previous comments on the subject, I'm happy to see that Digby has today written a post that does the work for me. Check it out to see why I made the Edmund Burke reference.

But to further answer C2H50H's question about the nature of modern conservatism, I'll defer to F.A. Hayek's seminal essay Why I Am Not a Conservative.

The position which can be rightly described as conservative at any time depends, therefore, on the direction of existing tendencies. Since the development during the last decades has been generally in a socialist direction, it may seem that both conservatives and liberals have been mainly intent on retarding that movement. But the main point about liberalism is that it wants to go elsewhere, not to stand still. Though today the contrary impression may sometimes be caused by the fact that there was a time when liberalism was more widely accepted and some of its objectives closer to being achieved, it has never been a backward-looking doctrine. There has never been a time when liberal ideals were fully realized and when liberalism did not look forward to further improvement of institutions. Liberalism is not averse to evolution and change; and where spontaneous change has been smothered by government control, it wants a great deal of change of policy. So far as much of current governmental action is concerned, there is in the present world very little reason for the liberal to wish to preserve things as they are. It would seem to the liberal, indeed, that what is most urgently needed in most parts of the world is a thorough sweeping away of the obstacles to free growth.

This difference between liberalism and conservatism must not be obscured by the fact that in the United States it is still possible to defend individual liberty by defending long-established institutions. To the liberal they are valuable not mainly because they are long established or because they are American but because they correspond to the ideals which he cherishes.
Go ahead and read the whole thing. I'm feeling too lazy to pick out anymore sections or do any commentary.

Finally, my review of Whose Freedom? by George Lakoff might be of some service.

Hope that helps.


C2H50H said...


Gosh, I'm honored. Honored and grateful.

There still seems to be a muatation taking place in the meaning of "conservative", however. Reading Hayek gave me significant cognitive dissonance.

Still, it seems true that the Conservatives, as a group (or at least those whose conservatism is not simple authority-worship or opportunism) have abandoned the GOP.

What all this underlines is that the GOP, at present, cannot govern. Anything they do is going to cause some of their remaining base to froth at the mouth, as was amply demonstrated by the immigration bill.

The GOP Congress members are in a huge bind. They cannot rely on the Conservatives for backing. They can only rely on the various single-issue voters for backing if those single-issue voters still see their single issue as the deciding one. Thanks to Bush/Rove/Cheney, they've largely been convinced that the big issue is Iraq, and Iraq is going to hell. That leaves them with only the authoritarians.

The GOP candidates have clearly seen this, which is why they're running on who can be more authoritarian -- the authoritarians are basically the only people still committed to the GOP.

I think they're gambling hugely on getting nominated by the authoritarians and then somehow moving back to the middle. That seems the only possible winning strategy, and it doesn't seem to me to have a high probability of success.

Thanks for the data.

Hume's Ghost said...

I think the GOP has built a base that is going to be increasingly dependent on extremist elements (most specifically, the R.R.) and that it is too invested in this path to divert from it. So what they do is shift right and use propaganda to shift the center right, and shift the conventional wisdom right.

It's been happening for 50 years.

I think its a given that a Democrat will win in '08, then the noise machine will go into overdrive about how the country is being ruined by communism and then the public will forget the lesson it should have learned from Nixon then Reagan then Bush and vote for another right-wing zealot.

Just look at the estate tax. In the last campain, both of the candidates where I live ran promising to end the "death tax" ... and I can guarantee you that none of their constituents would benefit from having the estate tax ended, but their constituents damn sure want it ended.

Then when they keep having to work harder and harder to stay afloat and the really really rich get really really richer they still don't put two and two together and instead just get more fired up and determined to vote away more of their freedom and liberty.

Thomas Franks explains this at length in What's the Matter with Kansas

C2H50H said...

When a house of cards falls, it doesn't throw cards out one by one. By cobbling together their base from what, ultimately, is a self-contradictory and incoherent philosophical basis, and relying on fear and anger on many wildly-varying issues, such as racism, sexism, corporate statism, Domininionism, and military nationalism, the GOP has sown the wind.

They're now in the unenviable position of being about to reap the whirlwind. While the authoritarians among us will tend to continue to support them, as more and more of their neighbors fall away from the GOP a cascade may set in, which is likely to result in a landslide of public loathing and rejection.

I'm not really concerned about the Presidency. It's important, but it's more important to see some of the long-time players and the blatant opportunists be sent home. (Any RW candidate who can be elected in the general election will be far left of the current left edge of the GOP, and probably only a little right of middle of the Democratic party, which, coincidentally, is exactly where the leading D's are bunching themselves up...)

I'd like to see some Senate and House Democrats lose in the primaries to put the fear of the electorate into them, but let's not get into wishful thinking -- that's more the province of the GOP.