Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Conservatism isn’t innately bad

I do poke fun at Republicans and the conservative movement that spawned them a lot on this blog so many of you might get the impression that I think such ideology innately foolish. Far from it: there is nothing wrong with being “on the right” and under the right circumstances (say, if I lived in communist Russia) I would be myself. Hell, if I was alive during the mid 70’s even I would try to distance myself from the soldier hating hippies that seemed to have been ubiquitous.

Now, a lot of the commentors on this site seem to make a big distinction between conservatism and Republicanism. Though they certainly aren’t the same thing, that paradigm usually serves to let conservatism off the hook for Republicanism’s faults. The fact is, Republicans didn’t appear out of nowhere. George Bush and Tom Delay weren’t voted into office by a mysterious band of independents and flying monkies: conservatives voted for them. And trying to say that what they do should not reflect poorly on conservatism is like saying that Ford is a good car maker, even though every individual car that they make is a lemon.

And that’s the real issue: I think American conservatism, because of the odd histories of the parties – specifically how they only recently split into ideologically homogenous units with the demise of the Rockefeller Republican and the Dixiecrats –have been put in a bad position. This article which got me thinking about the issue explains better than I can. It’s difficult for them to get elected unless they 1) pander to the far religious right and 2) contribute big time to corporate cronyism and corporate irresponsibility. Both of these things are contrary to what American conservatives constantly claim their goals are: small government that gets out of people’s lives and the preservation of the free market.

So as I see it, American Conservatives (unlike their Christian Democratic cousins in Europe) find themselves in the awkward position of saying: Yes we want to be in power (of course) but no we don’t want to do it like the Republicans. This is like saying “Yes we want to drive off a cliff. No, we don’t want to hit the ground.”

Liberalism may have lots of faults (it does) but I agree with the policy prescriptions and observe that when they have been in power they have tried to follow through.


In all honesty, I don't think any political ideology is completely correct. Each political party has its own merits, and downfalls. There's no pleasing everyone. i think that the biggest problem in American politics is the bickering between groups identifying themselves as "conservatives" and "liberals".

To an Englishman such as myself, it seems very strange to observe American politics and see people vehemently defend their political stance. Our tradition is generally to mock politics and politicians on both sides of the political spectrum at every opportunity that presents itself.

I think you have nailed it with your "Yes we want to drive off a cliff, but no we don't want to hit the ground." In a representative democracy, when you vote for what you like, you'll get quite a bit of what you don't like as well. And no matter how desirable any politician is, you can guarantee that the time will come when you'll want to give them a severe arse-kicking.
It's true. American politics isn't always like this. I didn't follow politics until I graduated from Berkeley. For some of us, it's what we do instead of following sports.
Was it different before? I didn't follow until I got bored in college, but that was under this Bush and everyone already hated his guts or hated his gut-haters. It's hard to compare to politics before I followed, because while it seems to me like it was less assholish, that may have been just because I wasn't paying attention.
American campaigning has been viscious and ugly going back to the founding of the Republic. Study the cartoons and rhetoric around the elections of 1800, 1860 and 1888 if you don't believe me. You'll probably find that they make today's political conflicts seem rather tame. Feelings ran pretty strong about Franklin Roosevelt too.

Then there were the anti-catholic and nativist hysteria in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the anti-labor and anti-populist movements of the late nineteenth century, and the anti-communist hysteria of the early 1920s and the 1950s. All very ugly and viscious.

And, of course, the biggest, ugliest and bloodiest of all, the battle over slavery that ended in the Civil War, Reconstruction and the 100 years of American apartheid that followed.

By those measures, recent political scrapping, including the skirmishes on CalJunket are tame.

By the way Tommaso, I served in the army in Vietnam, and returned to civilian life in the 1970s. I never saw those anti-soldier hippies you referred to, except on TV and in the movies. American liberalism as I witnessed it in the 60s and 70s was not as depicted by today's conservatives and libertarians. It has gotten a very bad rap, much worse than it deserves.

American politics and government has been dominated by Republicans for most of the last 30+ years. For most of that time they have been attempting to gut liberal programs enacted under FDR, Truman and LBJ. The result has been like what we've seem happen to FEMA recently. They point to the results of their own handiwork and blame it on their opponents, then say that the real problem is that the programs were passed originally, and that we'd be better off without them.
I guess that shows that I shouldn't base my political history on what I see on TV.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
It's like he was abandoned by his parents and raised by 1337speak chatbots in teh InTaRWEbzT.
When you have anything substantial to add smashT, you're welcome back. If you're just going to insult people there are other places where that's more welcome.
facist censorship for da loss

kinda s@d wen free speech gets trampled like dis. ;(

It's clear that you still don't understand the difference between a public forum and a privatley owned board like this. If you come into my living room and insult me and my guests I have no obligation to allow you to stay. If you don't understand that, you're even stupider than I thought.
Do you mean to tell me that you didn't already think he was that stupid?

Also, smashT, Protip: fascist, with an s. I figure the rest of the misspelling are on purpose.
lolz i was juss pointing out ur obsession wit da republican party and u censored me for daT. guess u dun want ppl to know how obsessed u are?

let ppl say w/e dey want. censoring me is a admission of weakness on ur part.

to zack: correcting ppl's use of da english language on a message board= admitting u lost da argument.
u have been smashT


You seem to be obsessed with winning and losing. This blog seems more about enlightenment and exploration.

When people disagree here, it is not always (probably not usually) because they are trying to one-up the other. Maybe you should try taking a different approach to posting here.
Hey Tomasso, one problem with your statement "Liberalism may have lots of faults (it does) but I agree with the policy prescriptions and observe that when they have been in power they have tried to follow through."

Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton, was arguably one of the most moderate/conservative presidents in the later part of this century. If I need to list the "sins" (I think Clinton was a decent president as a conservative), there are many. Foreign intervention for nationalist reasons (yes, Kosovo was a war that we needed to intervene in not for the "lives" but because it was strategic to the Middle East), DOMA, spending cuts, balancing the budget, a hard stance on crime and morals, Iraq in 1998, economic sanctions against Iraq and Cuba, support from the Christian Coalition.

The bottom line, Bill Clinton, the demagogue of the left, was a moderate/moderate conservative.
IMO Bill Clinton was not a demagogue.

I agree that for most of his presidency he governed as a conservative, but he had no choice. Early on he proposed more liberal policies - his health care proposal, environmental policies, tax plans and civil rights proposals spring readily to mind - but they were savagely opposed by the right, and many conservative democrats as well.

You may remember the health care proposals, and the propaganda that defeated them. The result is that more Americans today lack health care than did then, and those that do have it, in addition to paying much more for what they get, live in constant fear of losing what they have.

Then there was his economic policy. It passed Congress by a single vote - Al Gore's tie breaker in the Senate. The Republicans at the time claimed that it would destroy our economy. Of course, the fact that it was competently administered led to one of the greatest economic booms in American history. When the Rs returned to power in 2001, they immediately began to disassemble the Clinton plan and reimplement the policies of the first Bush administration. The result has been the same debt and economic malaise that we saw throughtout the 80s and early 90s.

I think Bill Clinton did an admirable job given the forces arrayed against him. Rather than being a problem for Tommaso's argument, he is an admirable illustration in support of it.
You know, ussually conservatives wait till great liberal presidents are dead before pulling a 180 on them.

If Clinton strikes conservatives as not very liberal it's only becuase they don't really understand what liberalism is.

DOMA: 1 point for you. Though I chalk this up to crass political manouvering

spending cuts: There's nothing liberal about wasting money. Clinton did reform some programs he thought weren't working (like welfare) but the goal was of course to make government _work_ better.

balancing the budget: Again, there is nothing Liberal about long term deficits. We have no problem with Keyensian stimulous but that really didn't apply during the Clinton boom.

A hard stance on crime and morals: Wait, are loose morals a liberal stance now? What else? Babyeating?

Iraq in 1998: Saddam wouldn't let inspectors do their jobs. We attacked like Clinton said we would until Saddam gave in. Compare this to Bush who made a big todo about getting the inspectors in and then decided that they weren't neccessary and ordered them out even though Saddam seemed to be letting them do what they wanted. The difference is clear, Clinton was interested in preserving the saftey of America, Bush was interested enacting neocon pipe dreams.

Economic sanctions against Iraq and Cuba: How is that liberal or conservative? Is it now conservative to pander to Cuban-Americans?

Support from the Christian Coalition: Huh?
thinker... life is about winning and losing, get a clue nub.

it might sound nice to u carebear fools to partake in an exchange of ideas to further ur intellectual bla bla (kinda ironic daT in dis free exchange of ideas i get censored)

but i kno notin is gonna get decided on dis blog. dis is all horseshiT but very amusing horseshiT. i smashT u and u all get pissT and censor me lolz.

so to recap: da only ting daT happens on dis blog is me smashTing u and ur extreme left friends back to back day to day.

"thinker wannabe smashT"

Winning and losing is certainly a part of life, but so is building and cooperation. It takes a lot longer to build something than to destroy it. Over the long haul, the builders thrive.

This is Tom's blog, and he has every right to delete your comments. If I draw a mustache on your face, and you wipe it off, am I justified in complaining about censorship? "Let ppl draw mustashes w/e dey want lolz"

If you actually understood what it means to win and lose, you would understand that people can learn from their mistakes, and that someone who makes the same asinine arguments over and over, not understanding why they are wrong, will never understand anything worthwhile.

There's no cosmic leaderboard to jockey for position on, you nitwit. If Tommaso advances an argument, and is proved wrong, he can gain new insights from that, gain new ideas, be a better person.

If all you do is troll message boards and waste your time playing, I don't know, let's say World of Warcraft, you are going to end up human trash. If at the end of a day all you have to show for yourself is another notch on your Internet arguments belt, you are going to stay human trash. You deserve better. Your parents deserve better. And Tommaso and the rest of us deserve better, so shape the fuck up or ship the fuck out.
"shape the fuck up or ship out"

haha. who da fuk are u? juss another punkT pissT kid twying to sound hard on da forumz. u gonna come beat me up e-thug if i dunt post what u want? u gonna come attk me irl? lol your a sad d00d. smashT

dis shiT craks me up. i smashT u and all u do is rant and get even more pissT.


Tommaso, it's very widely known that Clinton was a contrist, a supporter of the centrist DLC and has been criticized by liberals as much as Bush has been criticized by conservatives.

"spending cuts: There's nothing liberal about wasting money. Clinton did reform some programs he thought weren't working (like welfare) but the goal was of course to make government _work_ better."

HA! So now you're calling spending cuts "making government work better." When Republicans like Reagan were trying to cut welfare programs, you people were complainign about how he was bankrupting the poor. When Clinton does it, it's being "efficient".

Republicans (who I actually don't agree much with) in office now are an example of big spenders, so I'm not actually attacking Clinton. I'm praising him for being fiscally conservative. I do disagree with both Clinton and Bush's foreign policy stances, and see them both as neocon world domination. For your information, Saddam never gave in. Clinton stopped bombing the shit out of Iraq when NATO condemned the bombing. There, a former US president who atatcked Iraq without NATO or UN approval.

"The result has been the same debt and economic malaise that we saw throughtout the 80s and early 90s."

You're right because the Bush administration took on a far more fiscally liberal approach with massive spending increases both socially and militarily.

"Economic sanctions against Iraq and Cuba: How is that liberal or conservative? Is it now conservative to pander to Cuban-Americans?"

That is liberal interventionist policies by deciding to impose our morals on another country with intervention. Real conservatives are isolationist.

Once again, for the most part I'm praising Clinton for being a conservative President and insulting bush for his liberal spending policies. Liberals should stop calling Clinton a liberal and refer to him as a more fiscally conservative President and vice versa with Bush, as the facts prove.
I'm not calling spending cuts "making government work". It all depends on what kinds of spending cuts. If you were to cut farm subsidies the government would become far more efficient overnight. Clinton wasn't against making government work better through cutting waste nor was he afraid to make it work better by starting new programslike Universal health Care. As it happened, the Republcians would only allow spending cuts.

Can we please retire the word "fiscally conservative"? unless used as a pejorative or an oxymoron it doesn't seem to mean anything anymore. What next? Are you going to describe not punching people in the face as being a conservative position since it's being "punchularly conservative"? Clinton was fiscally responsible and that is something that is not a left or right issue.

There's isolationists and interventionists on both sides. Again, George Bush was not elected (and reelected) by liberals: conservatives voted for him. You may not agree with his policies, but it is clear that conservatives in general do.

As I said: It's standard for conservatives to wait till well after a great Liberal is dead before they move in and try to grave-rob his legacy. You guys haven't even fully accepted FDR and MLK yet. I think you should give it a couple decades before you try to claim the man who would have passed Universal Healthcare into the conservative pantheon. It doesn't pass the giggle test today.
I've read columns by conservatives in recent months who claim JFK as one of them. That would surely have shocked him; and I imagine his last surviving brother (Ted) gets a good chuckle from such stuff as well. Certainly his speech writer and close advisor Ted Sorenson will have none of it. Neither will historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., another close JFK White House advisor.

Maybe the rush to embrace Bill Clinton comes from a look at the most recent polling numbers. I just checked and see that Bush is currently pulling in only a 40% approval rating, the lowest of his presidency, and the lowest of all two-term 20th century presidents at this point in their presidencies, except for Richard Nixon.

On the other hand, Bill Clinton is looking really good in hindsight. The last poll they have on him (June 2004) shows 62% of those polled approve of the way he handled the office while he had it. The polls taken from his second term showed him with an approval rating of 60% or better through much of it. The last NBC and Gallup polls taken during his presidency (Jan 10-14, 2001) give him a 66% approval rating.

With numbers like those, no wonder conservatives are abandoning Bush and claiming Clinton
We actually like Bill Clinton because he was a good politician. He was able to embrace conservative ideals and claim them as his own. You guys should be seriously worried about maintaining a Democratic Party. The state of the Democratic party is so pathetic that I miht even be willing to vote Democrat just to preserve the 2 party system.

You guys LOST to a poorly rated president with an approval of 49% going intot he election. This means 3% of the people who voted for Bush DIDN'T LIKE HIM! There's only one explanation for that...

War in Iraq? More than 50% of the people disapproved of it. That issue was handed to you.

"Wedge issues" like gay marriage? Come on, who brought that up in the first place? Gavin Newsom!

Terrorism? Polls have been showing that Americans were less and less afraid of terrorism up towards the election.

The ONLY reason why you people lost was because you abandoned a real moderate, Howard Dean (fiscally conservative (or "repsonsible")), isolationist on foreign policy, modertae liberal on social issues. I would have crossed the line and voted for him. He actually believed in what he was saying.

But instead you choose the two worst people possible to run, Kerry and Edwards. Kerry will go down in failure like Bob Dole, and you were 100% sure the Northeast would go to teh Democrats anyways. So you nominate a southerner. Usually a good tactics EXCEPT he was 1) rich and 2) very liberal, someone typical southern democrats (poor "hicks") cannot relate to.

I'm surprised Bush won based on his performance, yet I'm not so surprised. The Democrats lost an election when it was given to them on a silver platter. The only way you're ever going to win another presidential election is if you put Evan Bayh or Dianne Feinstein on the ticket. No more John billionaire Kerry candidates.
Well I suppose if you define conservative as "doing good things" then yes, Clinton was very conservative. Sheesh!

As for Kerry. Don't fool yourself, Baron. If Dean had been the Dem candidate (an outcome I would have liked) he would have been trashed by the right wing noise machine just as much as Kerry was. This isn't an excuse: Liberals should have their own vehicles for getting their side of the story heard and it's our own fault if we lose becuase of it. As it is, in many parts of the country, the only place you hear political opinion is conservatiev talk radio.

It's easy for Democrats to blame Kerry: it absolves them of any responsibility to fix the system as it stands. I don't think Kerry was any worse than Bush, but the liberal infrastructure was not there to support him.
where did rebecca go?
I agree Tommaso, the Democrats lose because the Republicans now know how to do propaganda right (no pun intended).

There was a time when Democrats did it better. FDR was a master, and modern political propaganda in the US was born in George Creel's Committee on Public Information (World War I).

Unfortunately, I don't think it speaks well of us as citizens that the best manipulators at any given moment in history control politics.
Conservative Baron wrote, "We actually like Bill Clinton because he was a good politician."

By we, do you mean all of those conservatives who slandered and libeled him for the eight years of his Presidency? Or maybe the conservative members of Congress who voted for his impeachment?

Forgive me for doubting that you would have written anything like this in 1998.
In 1998 I was in high school and I was a communist. Literally. The thing about American liberals AND conservatives is that they're extremely party-driven and hipocritical. When Clinton went to war , you heard the "right wing noise machine" making the same arguments against the war as you hear the liebrals today. It's expensive, he's only doing it for personal reasons, we're going to go into debt, don't kill the troops, blah blah blah. But when Bush goes to war you hear the same exact responses.

Democrats aren't anti war, they're anti Republican war. Republicans aren't anti war either, they're anti Democrat war. Partisanship is destroyign this country.

Clinton was impeached for political reasons, just liek if Bush was somehow impeached it would also be for political reasons. And the Republicans got their asses kicked deservedly when they bitched and moaned about Clinton when Dole ran. Back then the right-wing support base was weak and ineffective.

My, the tables ahve turned.
Dean would have been trashed by your right wing noise machine, but at least he would have been able to appeal to both liberals and moderates, unlike Kerry. There was really nothing about Kerry's message to be proud about. Sure, a lot of people, including conservatives (including myself) didn't like Bush, but that was no reason to vote for John Kerry. I ended up being so mad at Kerry and the Democrats for running such a lousy race that I threw in my hate for Bush. Howard Dean would have brought out the liberals like George Bush brought out the conservatives. In this election, voter turnout was the key to winning, and the Democrats just couldn't match Bush.

So what can the Democrats do about it? Try harder next time, only using different tactics. TV ads and campaign rallies won't cut it against a master like Karl Rove. Democrats need to abandon talking about nonpertinent issues that no one cares about until the election is over. They need to take a VERY STRONG stance on issues that the American people overwhelmingly agree with, like opposition to the war, and nominate a candidate who agrees with those values. You can't run on a platform taht includes being against the war when yoru own candidates voted for the war, and several Iraq wars before. You can't have John Kerry making an issue about his service in Vietnam when most of the people who were pro-military already lined up with Bush.

It's time to be realistic. Either you can change tactics or pray that the conservatives split themselves into two camps: real conservatives and neoconservatives. But in the end is the victory worth it when someone else fights your battles?
You need door-to-door volunteers. ANd not rich college students bussing out to Nevada to get rural peopel to vote. you need volunteers from the community to come out and help the Democrats win. It disgusts me when a bunch of Berkeley students fly to Ohio and try and get the word out wearing Kerry buttons and "Go Bears" shirts. People don't respond to peopel not int he community volunteering. In fact it looks pretty condescending.
Operation Clark County? Technically not Democrats, but still...
Well, you sound like Independent conservatives, rather than Republican conservatives. Maybe Bill Clinton was able to appeal to your intellectual soulmates in the 90s, and that is what helped him win two elections.

Had Dean been the candidate last year I can imagine the campaign Rove would have run against him. In fact, we don't have to imagine it, because they leaked it when it appeared that he might win the nomination. It was pretty much the same campaign they ran against Kerry, without the Swift Boat stuff. I don't see any way Dean would have survived it.

The Republicans are great at taking religious, family loving, patriotic Democrats and turning them into demonic, anti-family heathens in the eyes of a majority of voters. They did it with George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry.

The only Democrats who've escaped this fate (at least on the national stage) were Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter (in his first campaign). That was so, I think, because the dominant issues in 1976 and 1992 had to do with the personal experiences of most voters - Watergate in 1976 and health care and jobs in 1992. Voters were scared in 1992 and disgusted in 1976 - the outsiders won. If Katrina had hit the Gulf Coast in 2004 instead of 2005, and the Bush administration had performed as we've been witnessing, nothing Karl Rove could have done would have re-elected Bush. John Kerry would be President today.
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