Conservatives: Don’t Get Mad; Get Thinking

Please note: this post has been edited a bit since first published.

Bit more than a month ago I wrote a longish article about Kevin Williamson’s opinion regarding the people who are backing Trump – I do regret the title of the article, but I was a bit hot under the collar. At any rate, Williamson got a lot of flack over that article and wrote an article defending himself against his detractors and in it Williamson had this to say of those who, perhaps, aren’t doing as well for themselves as they ideally should:

F*** ’em.

Perhaps that is taking a comment out of context? Well, let’s take a look at a larger quote to put it into some context:

What to do about dysfunctional families in dysfunctional communities? I have a great deal of experience with that question — a great deal more experience than ever I wanted to have in this life. And my answer to what to do about a community or a family that offers you little or nothing and that may be actively working against your real long-term interest is for me the same today as it was 25 years ago, when I first was forced to consider it and answered in the argot of my own downscale tornado-bait community:

“F*** ’em.”

Michael worries about dying old mill towns in upstate New York and similar places and wonders why the party of free enterprise doesn’t have more to offer people dwelling in them. He imagines a disability fraudster dwelling in Garbutt, N.Y., and asks what we (we conservatives) are going to do for him and his sad little town. (Among the many dishonest responses to my piece were those treating the addled fraud artist in Garbutt as my hostile literary invention rather than Michael’s sympathetic one; no doubt Michael will have a lot to answer for the next time he visits the Greater Garbutt Chamber of Commerce.) My answer is that if there’s nothing for you in Garbutt but penury, dysfunction, and addiction, then get the hell out. If that means that communities in upstate New York or eastern Kentucky or west Texas die, so what? If that’s all they have to offer, then they have it coming.

In contrast to the attitude expressed there, I offer this quote from The Lord of the Rings – Aragorn is explaining himself to Boromir in the the Council of Elrond:

And yet less thanks have we than you. Travellers scowl at us, and countrymen give us scornful names. “Strider” I am to one fat man who lives within a day’s march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly. Yet we would not have it otherwise. If simple folk are free from care and fear, simple they will be, and we must be secret to keep them so…

It is the duty of those who have the mental and physical strength to stand guard – ceaselessly – over those who don’t. We all know it, instinctively. The police officer and the soldier put themselves between regular folks and those who would do harm. They aren’t better people than everyone else; they are just people who have been gifted in a certain way. Other people, those who don’t stand on the wall, have different gifts – and gifts which if not utilized, would prevent the soldier and the police officer from doing their duty. Not everyone can do every possible task. But a task is not less honorable because it is a common task – meaning, a task that most people do. Everyone has their part to play in life. For some, it is to simply go to work and pay the bills. For others, to take care of family and home. For yet others to be doctors and other agents of mercy. The doctor is not superior to the work-a-day guy who makes shipping boxes at the local factory – but the doctor, by reason of his position, is to help the work-a-day guy. If he gets sick or injured, the doctor rushes to his aid…just so he can get back to making boxes; not so that, once cured, he can go off and conquer the world. And the political leader – which includes not just those who seek office but also those who seek to form public opinion – has a duty to help the less instructed in political matters to understand why things are as they are, and how they might be made better.

I don’t know Kevin Williamson’s whole story, but from what is quoted here it seems clear he came from a rather distressed background. By dint of hard work, he overcame that and has risen high in the world – to a place of respect and influence. Now in that position, what is Mr. Williamson supposed to do? Perhaps, if he sees that gross immorality is playing a baleful role in the lives of the simple people he grew up among, his duty is to try and drive those things out of the community? If he sees that economic decay is taking away the wherewithal of those people to even try to build a better life, then his duty is to try and repair the economy? I can’t see that his duty would be to condemn out of hand those who haven’t made the better choices.

These days, because no one has been standing guard over our communities, the simple people are no longer simple – they are harassed out of their wits by things which they don’t understand and can’t effectively deal with. They are unequipped by nature to deal with drug addiction, family break up, public immorality and economic collapse. Those who are equipped to help correct these ills must help. At least, that is how I see it. After all, what worth is there in obtaining knowledge except to use it in the service of others? One person cannot cure the ills of the world. Indeed, were all of us wise, we still couldn’t cure all the ills of the world. That is not our office. But I do think we are bound to try, within the limits of our gifts, to do what we can to make things better.

Conservatism, as I’ve said, is about conserving Judeo-Christian morality. But, let’s step down a little bit from there and get to the practical, nitty-gritty of it all. Conservatism is about making sure that Mom and Dad can raise their kids in peace as they see fit. In order to do this, there first must be immense respect accorded to anyone who voluntarily promises their life to another in matrimony. Second, there must be laws and customs in place which put such men and women at a distinct advantage over people who don’t choose that life – because if people don’t volunteer to do this task, there isn’t merely a collapse of civilization, but an end of humanity. Third, there must be maintained a healthy level of economic activity to ensure that Mom and Dad have the resources – if they work hard and live frugally – to raise their children and leave them a legacy.

It is true that some times a town dies. Goldfield, NV was once a booming mining town – now it is a dusty dot on the map with a population of less than 300. The gold which made the town in the early 20th century is long played out. But telling everyone to get up and move if things aren’t in the sweet spot is a formula for the break down of family and community. All else being equal, it is far better if a person lives where born – using talents and energy to contribute a life time of benefit to the people he or she lives among. The extra strong and vigorous will always be able to make a place for themselves – but not everyone is capable of that. In fact, most people aren’t. Americans are a bit different in that in the days of our expansion we got a continual supply of people who were the strong and vigorous (if they hadn’t been, they wouldn’t have left the home country). This ancestral energy still moves through America – but it becomes attenuated as time goes on. People don’t automatically inherit the abilities or the desires of their parents. And being rooted in a place and loving it warts and all is also a great strength…and in some cases a greater strength than wandering off and seeking some new El Dorado.

There is much to be said against Trump and those who are following him so heartily. There is also much to be said against Hillary and those who are following her. While Hillary, herself, is not a clownish vulgarian like Trump, her followers are just as blind to the reality of Hillary as Trump’s followers are to him (and, often, just as vulgar as any Trumpster). We have discovered in 2016 that plenty of our fellow citizens have only a dim idea of how things are supposed to work in a democratic republic. We have also found – though I think we all knew it for years – that the vials of wrath are very full. But those who know better have a duty to try and stand against the storm – to instruct, rather than condemn. But one can only instruct when there is a bit of mutual respect between teacher and pupil. Calling people you disagree with fools for disagreeing is not likely to generate mutual trust.

I know this makes two articles I’ve written about Kevin Williamson, but please understand that I’m not actually condemning him. He’s a great writer and has a lot of very smart things to say about the world. I just think that in this case – and probably under a great deal of provocation – Williamson and plenty of people like him have lost sight of something rather important. The people we have in the United States today are the people we’ve got to work with. If they’ve gone off the rails a bit, then the task is to get them back on the rails. Perhaps we in the Conservative movement have been missing some rather important points? Perhaps we have been talking to each other too much? Liberals do that all the time, folks – and it is a common human failing. It is called Confirmation Bias – or, to paraphrase Chesterton: It is not bigotry to be sure you’re right, but it is bigotry to not see how you might have gone wrong. Maybe we’ve gone a bit wrong? Maybe a bit of humility and a bit of listening to those who are so angry will give us some insight in how to turn them away from mountebanks like Trump (and Hillary) and back to things which will actually satisfy their real needs?

In all the Trump phenomena, I have refused to be drawn into insult matches with Trump supporters. I’ve had plenty of opportunities, to be sure – but I’ve always held back. Partially this was because I just didn’t want to fight – but now I realize that it was some small strain of wisdom which has rather astonishingly grown in me: it doesn’t serve any purpose.

Think of it like this. Trump is a terrible person – those who vote for him are stupid! Well, Hillary is also a terrible person – those who vote for her are stupid, too! What does that work out to? Well, if it’s Trump vs Hillary in November, then it means that 100% of the voting population is stupid…doesn’t matter if its divvied up 60% for Hillary and 40% for Trump. Everyone’s stupid! But, no – everyone isn’t stupid. Misinformed? Sure. Haven’t thought everything through? Definitely. But not stupid – and the task is to reach these people and explain to them in a way they’ll accept where their true interests are. But here’s the kicker: if we go up to them and say, “hey, you moron, this is what you have to believe”, I’m guessing that the message won’t sink in quite the way we’d like.

2016 will go along and what will be, will be. Perhaps Cruz will stop Trump and then figure out how to beat Hillary. That would be great. Perhaps the Convention will deadlock and a Jindal/Martinez ticket will emerge as a compromise. That would be proof that Bismarck was right – there is a special providence for fools, drunkards and the United States of America. But however it comes out, the task ahead is to work out ways and means to reach the American people and convince them of the rock, solid truth that their real desires will be met (as far as that is possible given human frailty) by a genuinely Conservative government. That takes treating people with respect – even when you think them wrong. That takes offering them hope – even when their own actions have put them in a pretty hopeless situation.

I’ve been saying for a while that Conservatism has to think anew and act anew in order to win in modern America. I’m actually hopeful that out of the morass of this election year, this will start to sink in.

21 thoughts on “Conservatives: Don’t Get Mad; Get Thinking

  1. Retired Spook April 25, 2016 / 9:02 am

    You couldn’t have written this at a better time. A couple years ago I abandoned an old girl friend (my first true love) with whom I had been having a largely long distance, platonic relationship for nearly a decade. He mom still lived in their old family home about 15 minutes from me, so I’d see her a couple times a year when she came to visit, but mostly our communication was by email and occasionally phone.

    As I mentioned here on several occasions, I went through a period following my retirement in late 2013 of ridding myself of friends and acquaintances who had a different vision of the future than I do. Mostly I just stopped talking to them, and I soon discovered that, without me initiating the conversation, I ceased to hear from most of them. This old girl friend, however, was different. She wrote and called and wondered why I stopped communicating. I finally wrote her a short email in which I basically said that her vision for the future (she and her husband voted for Obama – TWICE) was one that I would lay down my life to avoid having my children and grandchildren live under, and that was just not a basis for continuing the relationship. I never heard from her again until this past week.

    Her mother, who is in her late 80’s and was like a second mother to me when we were young, is gravely ill in the hospital, and she thought I would want to know. We talked a bit about the email I sent her two years ago, and I could sense from her voice just how hurt she was. She and her husband live in New Mexico, and her mother, who is not likely to even be around much longer, is in a retirement home about 3 hours from me, so it’s not likely that I’ll ever see her again after her mom is gone.

    We did have a lot of non-political, non-ideological things in common, and I have to say, I miss our conversations, so I’m faced with the dilemma of whether I should apologize and try to smooth things out or see her one last time at her mother’s funeral and let her be a chapter of my life that finally came to an end. I may send her your post and say this is kind of where I’m coming from and why I said what I said and see if she responds.

    I’m curious whether anyone else here has had a similar experience, and, if you did, how did you handle it? As Amazona has so eloquently stated here on many occasions, and Mark also alluded to in this post, just because someone voteed for Obama twice, doesn’t mean he or she shares his vision for the future. My error was in presuming that she did, but she could have just agreed with him on some key issues or simply been voting against the evil, imagined other. She never wanted to discuss politics, and, as the years went by, the reason became obvious.

    • Amazona April 25, 2016 / 9:44 am

      I suppose you could ask her if she voted for Obama because she supports his politics and policies, or if she had other reasons. It might be a chance to get at least one person to realize the silliness of thinking that she is “voting for gay marriage” or for “a black president who will let the world know we are not a racist country” or for “fairness”. Or AGAINST that evil invented Other of the Right.

      The thing is, you did that at least to some extent when you told her “….that her vision for the future ……….. was one that I would lay down my life to avoid having my children and grandchildren live under…” and she did not reply. So maybe your presumption was accurate.

      This seems to be bothering you, so you might consider just writing her a note that is mostly about her mother and your fond memories of her, and your desire to say good bye to her. This could include a short paragraph saying that you are very surprised to learn that your comments HURT her, instead of prompting a conversation about the differences between her vision for the nation and the vision represented by her actions—that you participate in a politically-oriented blog and have a lot of discussions with a lot of people about the reality of the political system represented by Obama and the Democrat Party, and did not realize she would take your comments as a personal attack on her as a person. There might even be a question of whether or not SHE was the one to decide that she was only interested in friendships with people who agree with her.

      I haven’t challenged people on their political views, except for a few frustrating conversations with a cousin, but I have found myself just avoiding some because I just can’t respect them due to the actions they have taken which I think are harmful to the country.

    • Jesse Sackman April 25, 2016 / 10:05 am


      Perhaps you should follow Cluster’s lead and ask her why she doesn’t just go full blown commie…

      • Retired Spook April 25, 2016 / 7:07 pm

        Jesse, she’s what can best be described as a knee-jerk or unexamined Liberal. I suspect, if the Democrat candidate were a self-described Communist, she’d vote for him/her without question. And yet, as Amazona notes, she’d have no idea what kind of government she was voting for, and would be totally surprised when the self-described Communist began implementing Communist policies via executive orders. And yet I’ve loved this woman all of my adult life, which makes the dilemma all that more difficult.

    • Cluster April 25, 2016 / 10:49 am

      I have never come across an intelligent liberal thus any political conversation with one is pointless. In the few conversations I have had with one, there are so many holes in their arguments and thought process that when pointed out, they tie themselves into knots. Remember “hands up don’t shoot”? Another good example is the liberal colleague who came into my office that day and who is a true believer in social and economic justice, but when I stated factually that communism is the only way to bring about real economic and social justice amongst the masses, he didn’t have an answer. Why? Because liberals are not truly principled in “justice”, rather they use those concepts as clubs to beat their political opponents over the head with. One real example of that is my office held a fund raiser last year to help out a family in need and I asked all of those who wanted to participate for one weekend of effort – collecting funds and actually going out to the families home and doing some clean up work. Many of my colleagues pitched him, but not the liberal. He was no where to be found that weekend. Liberals are insincere, they lie, and they possibly do want poor people to do better, but only at the expense of others. Here we are 8 years after “The One They Have All Been Waiting For”, and yet they still want more “fundamental change” – intelligent people typically look at a failed system and think that there must be a different approach. Liberals prefer to step on the accelerator. Not very bright people.

      • Jesse Sackman April 25, 2016 / 12:09 pm

        There you go, Spook. Do not let this lifelong friend back in your life lest she talk politics. Wisdom, yours for free.

      • Amazona April 25, 2016 / 3:13 pm

        Jessah…..You forgot to put big quote marks around “wisdom” but you did get its value right.

        My goodness, what a snarky little thing you are! Do you think you are adding to the discourse here?

        One of the things I notice about Progressives is the lack of awareness of how hard it is to spend a lot of time with people who are either utterly clueless or who are dedicated to being nasty. And of course there is the belief that no one should ever bear any responsibility for any mistake. I personally find it harder and harder to be around people who make serious, important, decisions based on blind emotion, and if someone’s feelings are hurt by finding out that I feel this way, tough. Electing our president is probably the most significant thing any of us will ever do as citizens of the United States, and if we can’t explain, support and justify our decision on who to vote for, and get the vapors when challenged, we have no business even voting.

        If you don’t understand the political system represented by your choice, and if you can’t explain it and explain why you think it is the best blueprint for governing this nation, do us all a favor and stay home. But don’t get a quivery lip if someone points out that you have supported someone whose entire political philosophy is antithetical to everything upon which this nation was founded. If you are going to spout absolute nonsense such as “It’s time we have a woman president” then you need to be prepared for being noted as a moron. Your choice. If you are going to help saddle this nation with a president as destructive to this country as Obama has been, and showed himself to be in his first term, you really need to understand how this is going to come across to people who find it inexplicable and indefensible,

    • M. Noonan April 25, 2016 / 6:47 pm

      It is difficult, at times, to talk to liberals – all too often what was just a discussion turns into a liberal making direct threats. I do still have two ultra liberal friends – and I do still engage in them. But, then again, they are people highly unlikely to get nasty. On the other hand, another long-time liberal friend did eventually turn nasty…part of the problem, of course, is that too many people start to personally identify with political leaders. A bit of age on my part and I realize that none of them will ever be as good as I want…so I don’t get personally invested in them any longer.

      But the fight does get nasty on both sides these days – on Twitter, especially, I see conservatives getting in long, drawn out battles where eventually people are reporting people to Twitter and trying to do extra nasty things to people involved. I just don’t see the point in that – I don’t get drawn into a fight. In the end, I’ll always tell someone that they should do what they think best, even if it is voting for someone I consider downright terrible. My only hope is that by being kind and putting out information I think demonstrates the mistake in non-Conservative views that they’ll eventually come around.

  2. Cluster April 25, 2016 / 1:39 pm

    Part of “getting conservatives thinking” is calling out progressives for who they are: authoritarians. Case in point:

    Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued an executive order to establish a California greenhouse gas reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 – the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any government in North America to reduce dangerous carbon emissions over the next decade and a half.

    Bypassing the legislature just like his comrade in the White House and enacting punitive measures for a hyped up, bullshit cause.

    • M. Noonan April 25, 2016 / 6:42 pm

      Indeed – and the CA GOP should be all over this…making up fliers and sending them to poor and middle class Californians explaining just how much Brown’s actions will cost them.

      It’s like back in 2012 when gas prices in California skyrocketed, largely because of Obama’s policies…why didn’t Romney go do a press availability in front of a gas station, with the price prominently displayed right behind him, to explain just how costly liberalism is? Where is the fight – we’ve all wondered where that is…but where, also, is the fight which will explain to people just how destructive liberalism is?

  3. bardolf2 April 25, 2016 / 4:59 pm

    Matthew 21Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

    • Cluster April 25, 2016 / 5:10 pm

      I had no idea you were so religious. Do you follow all the teachings? Or just cherry pick?

      • bardolf2 April 26, 2016 / 2:56 pm

        I’m very religious. I follow all the teachings. Pro-life and everything.

    • Amazona April 25, 2016 / 7:37 pm

      I think we should all be grateful to bardolf for yet another example of his insightful contributions to discourse here on the blog. It’s not as if he just does a cut-and-paste, or that his commentary is inane. What is really important here is to impress us with the depth and scope of his religious education and devotion, just as his nom de blog is to impress us with his passion for even the more obscure works by Shakespeare.

      And, as usual, he has hit it out of the park. I know I for one am constantly amazed by the content and quality of his musings. Thanks so much for sharing, dolf.

      • bardolf2 April 26, 2016 / 3:01 pm

        Hopefully Spook will think about the scriptures and understand the point of Grace. I could have added a reference to the prodigal son but that would have been overdoing it.

        Amy, you need to pray a little bit too. You’re bitterness is unbecoming a woman who has been so blessed.

      • Amazona April 27, 2016 / 9:12 am

        “Amy, you need to pray a little bit too. You’re (sic) bitterness is unbecoming a woman who has been so blessed.”

        dolf, it appears you are studying for the priesthood whilst working in Italy, or perhaps you have merely decided that your amazing piety and overall superiority as a human being qualify you to offer unsolicited counseling in spiritual matters. Clearly your self-identification as “very religious” has led you to the belief that you are called to lecture others on spiritual health as well as to offer psychological analysis. No doubt others who have been less than impressed, shall I say, with the overall wonderfulness of dolf have also been dismissed as merely being “bitter” and possibly even with the admonition that they, too, should pray more. I have to wonder if you believe that prayer on their/my part might lead to a divine revelation of your specialness. It would not surprise me.

        Yet the words that pop into my mind when I read your recent posts are not related to any sense of admiration for you and your wisdom, but include words like smug, preening, speck/beam and Pharisee—–not the same words I associate with your political analysis, which are more in the line of shallow, vapid and inane. No doubt you will choose to see these perceptions as mere manifestations of my “bitterness”, just as so many Trumpbots see rational analysis of his defects as a presidential candidate as mere “hating”. Hey, whatever it takes to get you through the night.

        I do admit to a little giggle when you are bested by the Rogue Apostrophe. I may have to deal with that in confession.

  4. Cluster April 26, 2016 / 10:36 am

    Another good article on a yuuuge problem – public unions:

    Thanks to lavish medical and retirement benefits that kick in at a young age (often permitting a second career, resulting in two paychecks), a vast economic gulf is opening up between average taxpayers and average government employees. America is slipping into a nation with a governing class enjoying a far better life than those they govern.

    A friend of mine was telling me about his cousin who is a firefighter and set to retire next year at the age of 55. Aside from his incredible generous pension and healthcare benefits that he will have for the rest of his life – he is going back to work in the private sector and has a nice job already lined up. He worked as a firefighter for 30 years and considering life expectancy, taxpayers will pay him for another 30 years, along with paying another person to continue to fight fires. Needless to say, I am told his cousin is a true blue Democrat. Much like my liberal colleague who couldn’t find the time to personally help out a family in need, here is a Democrat firefighter who expects others to generously support him in his retirement while he takes a private sector job away from someone who could probably use it. THAT’S WHO DEMOCRATS ARE!! THEY ARE SCUM.

    • M. Noonan April 26, 2016 / 12:11 pm

      Scott Walker showed the way out of that particular mess – but the reason we’re now arguing between Trump and Cruz rather than having Walker roll out Susana Martinez as his VP pick with all polls pointing to a crushing GOP landslide this November is because the overall GOP didn’t pick up on what Walker was doing. The overall GOP has not, that is, determined to make genuine reform part of the program. We’re still busy trying to figure out if we can get some suburban swing district in Ohio to come our way…the Establishment wanted someone like Jeb or Kasich because that would be the kind of campaign they like: all about vacuous phrasing and attempts to win tiny, marginal groups of voters. But because the Establishment went that way, Trump was able to bull his way into the field and picked up a majority of those sick to death of that kind of politics (no, not a majority of GOP voters, but a majority of those who were ticked off…Cruz picked up the rest of such voters…and together the Trump/Cruz bloc is about 65% of the GOP). Had the Establishment opted immediately for the proven reformers in the race (Walker and Jindal), things would have been different.

      I pointed out a while back that the ultimate failure of the GOP – as an institution – stems from 2005 when the overall GOP ran for cover after President Bush announced his plan for Social Security reform. The thing could have been done – sure, it would have cost us at the polls, but as 2006 and 2008 turned out, it wouldn’t have cost us any more than not reforming ultimately did…and I think (in fact, I’m convinced) that if the GOP had shown itself a reforming party in 2005, then 2006 and 2008 would have gone better for us. The financial crash probably still would have happened, so we might have still wound up with Obama, but there probably wouldn’t have been a Democrat Congressional majority so large in 2009 and 2010 that Obama could get away with whatever he wanted (and, in fact, we might have held on to the House in spite of everything).

      Taking on the public sector unions is Reform 101 for the GOP – if we don’t do it, we fail, completely. The unions are the drivers of Big Government and a massive funding source for Progressive politics all up and down the line. Sure, fighting that battle would be fierce and we’d suffer setbacks along the way…but explaining to the American people the unfairness of a government employee retiring on a fixed pension at 50 while private sector people struggle on to 67 with a 401k will resonate…and when we show the massive amount of union dues which flow to the Democrats, it would become immensely popular to shut the scam down.

    • M. Noonan April 26, 2016 / 3:59 pm

      Personally, I’ve started to self-identify as a billionaire and if Uncle Sam doesn’t get some money in my account, pronto, I’m going to be very, very disappointed…

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