So, Jonah Goldberg advised the other day that one can be pro-abortion and be Conservative…in fact, he later went on to say, in effect, that just about anyone can be Conservative. I, naturally, took exception to this attitude and in some Twitter responses, gave my ideas:
Not really. Conservatism, if it is anything, is a defense of faith, family and property. Being atheist and/or in favor of abortion means you cannot defend two of the three main elements Conservatives seek to conserve. I don’t know of this is part of Goldberg’s possible “evolution” on certain issues to make himself acceptable to the left, but it is complete nonsense as a Conservative opinion.
To be sure, an atheist or pro-abortion person could *selectively* support certain elements of a Conservative philosophy, but doing such doesn’t make one Conservative. It just makes one not a complete fool. There is truth and there is falsehood. There is right and there is wrong. It is false, for instance, to think there is any moral justification of abortion. And no Conservative would ever place himself in the position of defending falsehood.
I think Goldberg illustrates what happens when someone is wise enough to reject the most obvious bad aspects of liberal ideology but fails to see that the entire liberal idea is inherently wrong. Such “Conservatism” is a mere matter of style. No one with above room temp IQ, after all, wants to entirely embrace an ideology which is laughably wrong about so much. But there’s a gulf between that and being actually Conservative
Later, I went on to note that Goldberg’s version of Conservative giggled while the social fabric of our society was ripped to shreds. That version of Conservatism is, officially at least, strong on such things as defending free speech and the Second Amendment, but it never even tried to defend average folks against the assault launched by the left not just on the concept of morality, but on the very concept of Truth. To people like Goldberg, it was ok that people were out there saying there’s no such thing as Truth – they defended people saying that. The proper response is that while people are allowed to say it, they should be hated for saying it and, as far as practical, not given a public platform to shout such a vile absurdity. Like this: there was an attitude of anger that Conservatism was driven from college campuses, but no anger that Conservatism didn’t drive away those arguing that Truth is a social construct.
Think about it: would you or anyone be in favor of allowing in a medical school professorship someone who asserted that all disease is a mere matter of mind? There are people who believe that – that we get sick only because our minds are sick and if we’ll just get our minds right, our illnesses would vanish. Of course we wouldn’t want such idiots teaching in a medical school…but its no different when we allow someone to teach in a philosophy class that Truth doesn’t exist. The very assertion negates itself: if Truth doesn’t exist, then it is untrue to say that Truth doesn’t exist. Yet we allow such people to poison the minds of college kids all the time and no one in the so-called Conservative movement ever so much as hinted that such people should be driven out. And the reason we never had a Conservatism that would do that is because our Conservatism hasn’t been about conserving the things which need conserving: Faith, Family, Property. If those things aren’t your concern, then you’re going to be functionally ok with Progressives doing their thing. You’ll end up only caring that taxes be kept low so you can make money and live well, insulted from the effects of social disintegration.
You see, I don’t think the Conservative movement was really interested in defending things like the Second Amendment – that rose up from below: the people did that. Conservative leaders only got on board when, de-facto, that issue gave them a Congressional majority in 1994. Prior to then, there was no Conservative-led effort to protect or expand Second Amendment rights…and I feel confident that if it ever became a political liability to support the Second Amendment, the movement Conservatives would drop it like a bad habit. Same with abortion – the pro-life movement is entirely grass-roots, and it gets no real help from the Conservative leadership. Just a bit of lip service…and now that plenty of Conservative leaders are locked into Never Trump, they are starting to “evolve” on the abortion issue.
When your desire is to defend Faith, Family and Property, you start getting a different view of what is important. This is why, I think, Conservatives like me are ok with Trump’s background, which is clearly hedonistic (he might not be, now, but he certainly was once upon a time). It isn’t important – what is important is Trump doing things which people like me perceive as a defense of Faith, Family and Property. Trump’s adherence to the Rule of Law (his endlessly repeated demands that Congress take action, eg) is crucial to the defense of all three Conservative ideals. He’s done more for the pro-life movement than any other Conservative President, ever. You guys all know I was a vigorous supporter of the younger Bush…but let’s face the fact, for all his clear moral qualities, he never moved the ball in the pro-life direction. Am I supposed to be more happy with W on this, or Trump? Sorry, but I have to be more happy with Trump. He’s doing the things I think need doing.
You also start prioritizing things based on your ideals. For instance: while understanding that free markets are always better than regulated markets and that trade between nations is a good thing, you start to look around and realize that, still, the market and trade have to be at the service of Conservative ideals, not the other way around. What good is it to have a completely free market and completely free trade if my fellow Americans are thrown out of work and their small and mid-sized communities destroyed because the textile mill was moved to China? Understanding that sometimes a business has to die, you still start looking around…and once you do, you start to realize some things. First and foremost, that the United States rose from agricultural backwater to global economic dominance under Protection. That while we were under Protection, we still did massive trade with the world. That a free trade agreement many hundreds of pages long and regulated by faceless bureaucrats is likely not really a free trade agreement but is, instead, a mechanism whereby those juiced in get special rake-offs. Finally, and most important, that whatever else we do, we still need to make, mine and grow most of our own stuff because that is both economically healthy and necessary for national security.
The leaders of the so-called Conservative movement never got ’round to thinking about any of that. Give the TruCons their way, and we’ll have low taxes and all our things will be made overseas and, in the by and by, every last bit of Progressive drivel about social relationships will be enshrined not in law, but in a series of Supreme Court dictates. I’d rather not, thanks very much. I happen to think that not only I, but my most vigorous opponents would do better under a genuinely Conservative governance. They might officially hate some aspects of it, but they’ll very much like the stability, rule of law and peace and prosperity that it affords. To me, to allow anything liberal or Progressive to happen is a degrading failure: that we might, in a pluralist society, have such things happen is a given…but any real Conservatism is going to fight to prevent any of it from happening. A lost political battle is a lost political battle: but what our Conservative leaders have done is merely surrender, again and again, each time the Progressives really pressed an issue (except on taxes, of course: but, here, you must note, our Conservative leaders had Progressive allies…even among the left, there are those wise enough to know that if you overtax everything, you destroy everything).
I guess, by now, I’m Deplorable. Perhaps so. But, if so, I’m in some fine company. I defy any TruCon out there to say that Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, was anything but the most rigid Conservative. And here’s what he had to say:
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
It is ok, then, to be Deplorable. Such provides the insipid common sense. I’m not an expert. Neither is Trump. Neither are all those people with MAGA hats and American flags on their social media pages. Most of them not only can’t quote Locke, they have no idea the man ever existed. They don’t know the exchange rate between Chinese and American currency. Heck, some of them would probably have trouble pointing to China on a map. But they are the people who make this country work – they grow up, get married, have kids and go to work. They work their whole lives and build up a small savings and then propose to have a quiet retirement until they die and are replaced by people who are almost indistinguishable from them. They want peace and quiet in their neighborhoods and around the world. They might gossip a bit about what the neighbors are doing, but they far more often just mind their own business. They don’t care what religion another person has, nor about what political creed they adhere to. In the day to day, they only care that a person is honest and pulls his or her weight. They have no objection to providing even generous assistance to anyone down on their luck, but they can’t stand to see someone laying about on purpose. They love their country and, if called upon, will fight and die for it. They are the True Conservatives…they are Conservative, even if they can’t articulate it. I’m with them: the Real Conservatives…and all I do will be to defend them doing what they do.
I agree with Goldberg and have been saying this for years. Of course, he and I are talking about actual POLITICS—the blueprint for governing the country. From a purely POLITICAL point of view, if you believe the federal government must be severely restricted as to size, scope and power, with most authority left to the states or to the people, you are a conservative. It’s a political calculation on how best to govern the nation, and it is based on the conviction that this is all laid out in the Constitution. Therefore, in its purest form, conservatism is constitutionalism.
What I keep running into is people who often have little if any more coherent concept of actual government but who have invented a club they call “Conservatives” which has rules on what they should believe about all sorts of things.
Conservatism, if it is anything, is a defense of faith, family and property. Well, those are tenets of the club, which is when you boil it down to its basics just Identity Politics with a smidgen of acknowledgment of the Constitution as a garnish. But if you back off and start at the other end of that thought process, most of these values are part and parcel of the Constitution. Defense of the right to worship and the right to property are key factors of the Constitution. “Defense of the family” is the flip side of the collectivist statist view of the Left, but it has to be a personal decision. Imposing a monolithic definition of “family” isn’t really any different than imposing any other determination of how people must think.
“Family” is a fiercely powerful concept inherent in all of us, and I believe without interference from influential sources, without overt efforts from powerful entities to undermine the concept and redefine it as little more than a vague idea, “family” will re-establish itself. I think it is the human condition. So I don’t see “defense of family” as much as “fight those who want to undermine the family” and then let the family redevelop. And I keep coming back to the belief that the ability to undermine the family unit is motivated by the Left’s fear of any challenge to its authority and its control over our educational system. The first will always be with us, but the second was made possible by drifting/lurching away from Constitutional governance.
It comes back to personal responsibility, which is encouraged by the POLITICAL concept of conservatism. First you keep the federal government out of decisions about “the family” which means making no decision one way or the other. Check out the 10th Amendment on that. Then you have the responsibility to elect state and local governments that do not enact laws that contribute to the weakening of the family, such as the laws saying a teacher or counselor can take a young adolescent girl for an abortion without her parents’ knowledge.
But I think “defense of the family” is a personal goal, like not using profanity or not exposing children to pornography.
I agree, most conservatives share the same spiritual and social and moral values, at least up to a point. But I think we need to stop telling people who don’t share our sometimes rigid definitions of what is spiritually, socially or morally right that they can’t consider themselves Conservatives, no matter how much they believe that these are matters never in the arena of federal authority and must be addressed by the states, or by the people. I think that position is foolish and shortsighted and drives away a lot of people who would happily support Constitutional governance if they didn’t have to kowtow to other peoples’ ideas of values, morality, etc.
You say: “…… I went on to note that Goldberg’s version of Conservative giggled while the social fabric of our society was ripped to shreds. That version of Conservatism is, officially at least, strong on such things as defending free speech and the Second Amendment, but it never even tried to defend average folks against the assault launched by the left not just on the concept of morality, but on the very concept of Truth. To people like Goldberg, it was ok that people were out there saying there’s no such thing as Truth – they defended people saying that. The proper response is that while people are allowed to say it, they should be hated for saying it and, as far as practical, not given a public platform to shout such a vile absurdity.”
I don’t think “Goldberg’s vision of Conservatism giggled…” at anything. Balderdash. Goldberg’s vision of Conservatism, and mine, shuddered in horror as the invasion of the Left grew in scope and power. But it also would have shuddered in horror at the idea of imposing YOUR values on anyone. The fact is, these erosions of morality and decency happened because the Left was allowed to take over education, leading to its ascendancy to more political power, and the strategy of the Left is to undermine all the structures of the Right. In a perfect world, the Left would not have had the federal support it needed to hijack our educational system and impose ideas and dogma antithetical to the moral, spiritual and intellectual structure of the United States. It was an incremental creep, till it gained enough ground to stop creeping and start galloping, but it was only made possible by federal intervention in education.
You argue for a proactive assault on the enemies you identify, I argue for removal of their support system—-a powerful and expansive federal authority——and the answer is probably a combination of the two. But if we could have only one, I think the former would be doomed to failure, while the latter, though taking a lot of time to develop, would be more effective.
Americans have always had the freedom to be crude, ignorant, unreligious, licentious, profane, obnoxious and stupid. But it took the Left and its death grip on the educational system of the country to celebrate those characteristics, to make them not just acceptable but admired. More people dedicated to keeping education in the authority of the states or the people would have made this a much harder task, even if some of those fighting federal incursions into local matters happened to be crude, ignorant, unreligious, licentious, profane, obnoxious or stupid. Their POLITICAL positions would have removed not just funding and control from the feds, but the ability of Leftist enclaves like the coastal cities from controlling education in the heartland.
And I am quite frankly appalled at the idea of limiting the ability of people to say stupid things, as well as promoting actual HATRED of people who do. Educated people not brainwashed from kindergarten to believe all is relative, that we should not love our country, that there is no right or wrong, will reject the nonsense of those who preach silliness. But we should not limit the ability to speak their silliness, even when we think it harmful or toxic. There lies censorship, around the corner from tyranny.
We tend to glamorize the past and forget that it always contained really obnoxious, really stupid, really toxic people. But we did OK—-until we stopped keeping authority close at hand and moved vast amounts of power and authority to the federal government, where it could be, and was, taken over by the Left. We had anarchists and atheists and all sorts of crackpot theories about just about everything—-but students were taught to think, to sort things out, to study the classics so they could see that these were not radical new and exciting ideas but worn out complaints over the centuries that had never worked.
I strenuously object to the idea that Conservatism is a select private club, demanding not just a political concept of how to govern the nation but a list of required values and a dogma of the “right” way to think about all sorts of things. I have no problem with having a subset of Conservatives who share the ideas you outlined, above, but I think it foolhardy to tell people who wouldn’t fit into that subset that they have to take their political beliefs and votes somewhere else because they failed a litmus test.
What she said, especially this part:
I argue for removal of their support system—-a powerful and expansive federal authority
I figured it would be you who would rip me a new one over this! You weren’t the only one:
But, hear me out for a bit.
I think that I’ve put the cart and the horse in their proper relation – that we can’t have a Constitutional Republic except by grace of people of faith with strong families and who widely own property. I’ll take a bit from Burke, the ancient father of Conservatism, as such:
Our Little Platoons are our families; our churches (or other places of worship, depending on your theological views); our clubs (I’m a Knight of Columbus, eg) – these, not the individual, are the building blocks of our society. Keeping in mind that this is the exact opposite of Collectivism, which requires that each individual go naked, as it were, into the public square to be fitted into the position the dictators of Collectivism command. I prefer to go out dressed – dressed in my family, my church and my club. I am not alone out there – an attack on me implies an attack on all I am part of, and all I am part of will rise up in defense of me, if I am unjustly attacked. Not for nothing do totalitarian systems go after the Church and the Family with the most ferocity…they know that if they can’t destroy these things, they can’t control the people.
Most people don’t know the practice of Constitutional law – even fewer know the theory. I’d love it if 90% of the people could swiftly identify the three branches of government and give me a brief description of the powers of each and how their separate powers check each other. But, most people can’t do that. Most people never will be able to do that. However, most people can tell when something is fair or unfair. Most people also just want to live their lives as best they can without let or hindrance from others. Our Founders brilliantly set up a system which was best designed to secure these outcomes, regardless of how the people felt at any given moment. Unfortunately, the Founders did not provide a remedy for people who would baldly assert that falsehood is truth – and then get themselves set up with government sinecures of various types in order to force their views upon the people. I don’t think there is a way to systemically prevent such a thing from happening – but, there can be an opposing movement which jumps on the first sign of it and fights it tooth and nail. That is what we’ve been lacking…our Conservative leaders let the matter slide. The people who do know the theory and practice of Constitutional government failed to make the case that it is unfair to allow people who hate truth to have power.
So, now we’re going to get one, I think – led by the most unlikely Conservative champion of all, Donald Trump. As I’ve said before, I don’t know if he knows the theory (though as time goes on, I begin to think he does), but he knows what is fair and what isn’t…and is determined to fight for what is fair. This is more crucial for the long term health of society – and the success of Constitutional governance – than 40 years of Conservative think tanks rolling out quotes from the Founders.
It seems to me that what we have in early 21st century America are varying degrees and categories of Conservatism. I took one of those on-line quizzes a couple years ago that was supposed to reveal your political philosophy. Mine said “Conservative Libertarian,” which pretty well describes me as someone who believes our Constitution was the best compact between citizens and their government ever devised by man, while at the same time insisting that that government be as minimal a presence in our lives as possible.
On the other hand, many of self-identified “Conservatives” I know are specific issue Conservatives and know next to nothing about how limited the Federal Government was designed to be or how far it has drifted from its original charter. Maybe “drifted” is not the proper word, since the movement toward a more and more powerful central government has been deliberate.
Then, of course, you have people who identify as social Conservatives but fiscal Liberals and vice versa. When it comes right down to it, arguing as to whether or not someone is a Conservative is really an exercise in futility. One thing that does seem to be about as close to a universal truth as is possible in the social environment in which we live is that people who identify as mainstream Conservatives tend overwhelmingly to be people of faith, or at least people who believe in something greater than themselves. I’ve only ever know one self-identified Atheist who was conservative.
Spook, the problem is that some words, when used in politics, shift meaning dramatically. Take “liberal” as an example. When the Left needed a new word less scary that “socialism” or “communism” or “fascism” they hijacked “liberal” It sounds so fair, so even-minded, so noble—-and if you were not a Leftist that meant you were not “liberal”. It was a brilliant tactic that still fools millions. but it totally distorted the actual meaning of the word, coming to represent a political system so antithetical to anything truly liberal the contrast is blatant—–for those who bother to think it through.
“Conservative” is much the same kind of chameleon word, as it can mean anything from not wearing stripes with plaid to putting savings into treasury bonds instead of the market to avoiding fads. Sometimes it means sticking to the tried and true, to traditions, sometimes it means frugality.
It is hard to step away from the social and linguistic definitions of words to look at them through a purely political prism, but I think we need to develop that skill. Like you, I know a lot of people who define “conservative” as liking “small government” but if you ask them what that means they look like deer in the headlights. Not only do THEY not understand what they are saying, the very term scares a lot of people off because they see it as fewer programs they like, fewer protections for the vulnerable, and so on.
As long as “conservatives” can only repeat, like parrots, a couple of phrases like “smaller government” we will keep shooting ourselves in the foot. We need to be clear we are talking about smaller FEDERAL government, while the states have the freedom to be as big and complicated as they want. And we need to be able to understand why that is a good thing. We don’t need to study the Federalist papers, or quote Jefferson, but we do need to be able to make a few cogent points.
We need to have at least a basic understanding of the benefits of keeping government closer to home. One thing everyone understands is that corruption follows power, so concentrating all the power in one place makes corruption easier to accomplish. That is a “duh” moment. So spread the power around, Take it away from the feds and have the states control their own programs, so the power brokers can’t just congregate in DC but have to decide where to focus their energies—–Albany, Sacramento, …? One thing everyone understands is that One Size Does Not Fit All, so a big sweeping national decision is likely to leave some populations over-represented, some under-represented, and few with just the right amount of whatever it that they need. One thing everyone understands is that every agency involved in a program takes its cut, so when a budget for education, for example, first has to pass through the federal Department of Education, with its staff of civil service employees who can’t be fired even though they might be totally incompetent or lazy, a pretty good chunk of that budget never leaves the department. Eliminate the federal level of most agencies and there is more money to be actually used for the intended purpose, distributed by people more familiar with the needs, and with more oversight.
But no….Conservatives toss out fragments of ideas, like “smaller government” and then wonder why this doesn’t appeal to everyone. We set up social or spiritual litmus tests that disqualify people who would happily vote for Constitutional governance if they were not constantly told that they lack the morality or integrity to vote Republican because of some of their personal issues.
I do agree that for the most part people who feel strongly about the superiority of Constitutional governance also do tend to have stronger religious or spiritual belief system, and more focus on the family. I don’t discount that or denigrate it. I am happy to be in such good company. But I think perhaps this is a case of the dog wagging the tail—that is, a belief in a Higher Power and in the freedom to believe, commitment to the right of the individual over the collective, the choice of family loyalty over that of loyalty to the State, lead to a belief in Constitutional governance, not the other way around.
In “Conflict Of Visions” Thomas Sowell talks about one view of life that acknowledges the frailty of human virtue, the fact that we are all subject to weakness, and the understanding that the best way to govern is to spread authority among many and to have processes for change, instead of concentrating authority in one place and allowing change to happen quickly and at the instigation of only a few. The other world view is that there are some people so special that they should be given great power, and that the innate superiority of some means that processes just impede their ability to do great things.
If you think about it, the first kind of person is also far more likely to believe in God, or at least a Higher Power, while the second puts its faith in humanity and a belief that it can be perfected and trusted with great authority. The first looks outside itself for authority, the second sees itself as the final authority. So the first is more likely to believe in God, and the second more likely to believe in man.
Oversimplification, I know, but a general outline.
As usual, you and I are on, not just the same page, but the same line on the page.
OT, but….am I the only one upset by the tunnel vision of most of the political pundits? They, including most of Congress, are driving me nuts. They have such a teeny tiny little focus that anything about Russian “meddling” in the election is automatically sorted into one of two columns—–colluding with Hillary or colluding with Trump. The word “meddling” is not nearly as specific as that, but it morphs into collusion with one side or the other, leading to each side hiding behind its shields throwing spears at the other, and calling them lying poopy-heads.
Yes, the Russians meddled. Why? Because this is what they do. They foment unrest, suspicion, discord, in any nation where this might benefit Russia. So what the hell is new?
Russia has a big old Trouble Stick, well-worn and used for decades all around the world. They used it in the 2016 elections, to great effect. Merely stirring things up has had benefits no one could have predicted. Without doing anything specific, without taking sides, without aiding either candidate, Russia has expended very little energy and reaped massive rewards.
They could not do this without the cooperation of stupid, nearsighted, emotional knee-jerk reactors on both sides of the aisle and throughout the media. All Russia had to do was drop a few hints here and there, let some people think they were helping Hillary, let some people think they were helping Trump, make sure lots of “information” was leaked to a willing and complicit media, and then sit back and watch us turn on each other and destabilize the nation faster and better than Russia could have done acting openly against us.
This would not work as well if one side were not so frantically, insanely, dedicated to getting rid of Trump that they will happily tear down our entire system of government to get to him. At least on the Right, even though I haven’t heard anyone point out that the word “meddling” does not automatically mean rigging votes or colluding with a candidate but just stirring up distrust and discord, there is a desire to maintain and protect the system and the government and to get things done even while the vandals are at the gates.
At no time has the Left ever utilized its control over its Useful Idiots as completely or as successfully as it is doing now, and all the Right is doing is constantly backing up saying “No, Trump did not collude with Russia” in the face of the constant reports supporting the idea that Russia MEDDLED, without defining “meddling”.
Think about it—-why do these reports all depend on the same vague and nonspecific word “meddling”? Why don’t they go on to explain that there is evidence that Russia did involve itself in the election but there is no proof they did so to support one candidate over the other? I think I read one report that said this, but the only ones we hear about now are the ones about “meddling”.
And Trump is flailing away at accusations of collusion without focusing on the difference between general trouble-making “Let’s You And Him Fight” stirring things up in general and actually helping one candidate win. And no one, including these supposedly brilliant communicators like Cruz, is helping him out.
Also OT, but something we’ve discussed numerous times — what a modern civil war between Left and Right might look like. Oath Keepers Founder Stewart Rhodes and Navy SEAL Veteran Matt Bracken will both be interviewed together tonight, July 16, at 7:30PM Eastern, on The Hagmann Report. Interview will run 90 minutes, until 9pm Eastern.
Stewart Rhodes prefaced the interview with this:
The show is being recorded so it can be watched at a later time.
I have a hard time seeing Marxists rallying enough people to be much of a threat, as Marxists. Starting a race war, possibly. Many of us thought Obama was pushing us in that direction, and though things have calmed down a little without the White House throwing gasoline on racial issues there are still some smoldering embers that could be brought back to life under certain circumstances.
I think most of the self-described Marxists or socialists or whatever Leftist flavor they choose are pretty unscary. They yell and poop on police cars and throw bottles and rocks, but I don’t see them organizing and training and becoming a fighting force. Their temper tantrums can be violent, and kill a lot of people, but I just don’t see them picking up support outside of urban Liberal enclaves, and once little Lib children are being killed or threatened because they are white or in the wrong place at the wrong time the tide will quickly turn as Libs start to change their minds about violence.
I just look at the younger Left and don’t see people I can envision as becoming focused, disciplined warriors. I would expect those forces to disintegrate from within pretty quickly, with squabbles about gender pronouns and who gets to be the boss. They like the melodrama of flash mobs but showing up every day for training, showing up after seeing friends get shot in the head, it just doesn’t fit the image of the younger American Lefty I see.
It doesn’t even fit the image of the older, established radicals. Can you imagine Chuckie Schumer on the front lines, or Bernie? Soros will be able to fund some mercenaries, and there are some violent groups like the NBP, and they could recruit gangs like MS-13, but I really see violent civil unrest being more racial than political. But I haven’t studied these possibilities, and I am curious to hear what your show has to say.