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October 9, 2008

The Corner goes round the bend
Posted by Teresa at 02:40 PM * 184 comments

The Corner has gone round the bend,* with Powerline following right after.

For commentary on this, I recommend reading Hilzoy at Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, and Thers at Whiskey Fire. As Thers says:

…And so I quote from the 487,982nd hothouse paragraph at NRO this week alone, in which the author attempts, through the comical disgorgement of ridiculous detail, to prove that Barack Obama may be too much of a Nut for ordinary Americans to accept. It’s like getting fashion tips from a man wearing a clown nose & fruit hat, with a live salmon down his pants: “Your tie does not match your socks. Giggle! Calm down, Mr. Wriggles!” Frap frap slap. “Eeeek!” (Exit, pursued by a bear.)

It is a very edifying spectacle. Strangely admirable, though, like the band that kept on playing as the Titanic slowly slid ‘neath the frigid tide. Except in this case they’re all playing kazoos. Badly.

Forward into the background:

As you know, Bob, The Corner is the bloggy opinion-mongering operation of National Review Online. Their fame recently spiked, not in a good way, when Rich Lowry wrote an infatuated review of Sarah Palin’s performance in the VP debates that earned him Keith Olbermann’s Worst Person of the Day award. The Corner was embarrassed enough to remove Lowry’s piece from their site, but you can still hear Olbermann read the whole thing verbatim on YouTube.*

They’ve continued their slide into bizarre behavior with their focus on Obama’s supposed (i.e., nonexistent) radicalism. In this, they’re taking their cues from the McCain campaign—which, with the country embroiled in the worst financial crisis since the Great Crash of 1929, has chosen to concentrate on Obama’s connections with Bill Ayers, an elementary education theorist and a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, who happens to be an old Weatherman.

Obama’s ties with Ayers are pathetically slight, and boringly respectable. They met at a luncheon meeting about school reform. Ayers hosted a coffee for Obama’s first run for office. Between 2000 and 2002 they both were on the board of a community anti-poverty group, the Woods Fund of Chicago, which met a dozen times during that period. In April 2001, Ayers contributed $200 to Obama’s re-election campaign for the Illinois State Senate. Oh, and they live in the same neighborhood. That’s it. That’s the whole thing.

(It’s obvious, if you take a look at the list of their meetings, that Ayers and Obama weren’t plotting revolution there. Lenin and Trotsky themselves couldn’t have plotted revolution at those meetings. None of them were occasions for Ayers and Obama to talk to each other. They were all attended by lots of other people, all of whom had quite different agendas.)

The idea that this connection says anything about Obama’s politics is a giant heap of BS. Nevertheless, that’s the tune McCain and Palin have been playing on their fiddles while our financial system has burned.

Quoting from Wikipedia:

Since 2002, there has been little linking Obama and Ayers. The senator said in September 2008 that he hadn’t seen him in a year and a half.” In February 2008, Obama spokesman Bill Burton released a statement from the senator about the relationship between the two: “Senator Obama strongly condemns the violent actions of the Weathermen group, as he does all acts of violence. But he was an eight-year-old child when Ayers and the Weathermen were active, and any attempt to connect Obama with events of almost forty years ago is ridiculous.” CNN’s review of project records found nothing to suggest anything inappropriate in the non-profit projects in which the two men were involved. Internal reviews by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time magazine, The Chicago Sun-Times, The New Yorker and The New Republic “have said that their reporting doesn’t support the idea that Obama and Ayers had a close relationship”.
Translation: “Their reporting doesn’t support the idea” is the media’s mealymouthed way of saying that McCain and Palin pulled this one out of their collective ass. But McCain and Palin are so desperate for talking points that they’ve continued to misrepresent the trivial Ayers connection as proof that Obama is “palling around with terrorists.” (I suppose McCain thinks it’s preferable to admitting that he was wrong the last seventeen times he said “the fundamentals of the economy are sound,” and called for more deregulation of the financial industry.)

You’d think the crack political analysts at The Corner would have recognized this as the act of political desperation it is. Not so! They’ve flung off their tinfoil hats and embraced the theory that Obama is secretly a dangerous radical. Worse, they’ve endorsed the even loonier theory advanced by a blog called Politically Drunk on Power: Web Archives Confirm Barack Obama Was Member Of Socialist ‘New Party’.

Wayback doesn’t confirm any such thing, by the way. What it does confirm is that the NP endorsed Obama and claimed he was a member. It’s hardly an unknown thing for marginal political groups or individuals to claim others as fellow travelers.* For instance, look at all those members of the Alaskan Independence Party who claimed that Sarah Palin was a member. They may come by that impression honestly, seeing as how (1.) the secesh First Dude, Palin’s chief political crony, really was a member of the AIP from 1995 to 2002; (2.) she attended their 1994 and 2002 conventions; (3.) earlier this year, she made an encouraging video for the state AIP convention; and (4.) she has close ties with Wally Hickel, a former Alaskan governor elected on the AIP ticket, who served as the co-chairman of Palin’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign.

The only response the Republicans have to this still-pending question is that Palin is a registered Republican. If that’s good enough to prove her bona fides, it should be good enough to prove Obama’s. If it isn’t, the question of the Palin’s ties with the AIP is still open. That could get interesting, seeing as how her own ties to domestic terrorism are a hell of a lot broader, more recent, more persistent, and scarier than Obama’s.

Joe Vogler, the AIP’s founder and for many years its guiding spirit, preached armed insurrection. He’s repeatedly on record as hating the United States, with lines like “My government is my worst enemy. I’m going to fight them with any means at hand.” As David Talbot reported in Salon:

Vogler wasn’t just a blowhard either. He put his secessionist ideas into action, working to build AIP membership to 20,000—an impressive figure by Alaska standards—and to elect party member Walter Hickel as governor in 1990.

Vogler’s greatest moment of glory was to be his 1993 appearance before the United Nations to denounce United States “tyranny” before the entire world and to demand Alaska’s freedom. The Alaska secessionist had persuaded the government of Iran to sponsor his anti-American harangue.

That’s right … Iran. The Islamic dictatorship. The taker of American hostages. The rogue nation that McCain and Palin have excoriated Obama for suggesting we diplomatically engage. That Iran.

From Talking Points Memo, Founder Of Group Palin Courted Professed “Hatred For The American Government”; Cursed “Damn Flag”:
The founder of the Alaska Independence Party—a group that has been courted over the years by Sarah Palin, and one her husband was a member of for roughly seven years—once professed his “hatred for the American government” and cursed the American flag as a “damn flag.”

The AIP founder, Joe Vogler, made the comments in 1991, in an interview that’s now housed at the Oral History Program in the Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

“The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government,” Vogler said in the interview, in which he talked extensively about his desire for Alaskan secession, the key goal of the AIP.

“And I won’t be buried under their damn flag,” Vogler continued in the interview, which also touched on his disappointment with the American judicial system. “I’ll be buried in Dawson. And when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home.”

At another point, Volger advocated renouncing allegiance to the United States.

That’s the kind of political organization Todd and Sarah Palin were hanging out with when they didn’t think anybody in the Lower 48 was watching.

Meanwhile, as I say, The Corner and its cronies continue their descent into conspiracy theory, as they attempt to “prove” that Obama is really a socialist. Ironically, the last few weeks have seen socialism’s biggest advance in decades at the hands of the Bush administration, which has nationalized Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, and AIG. As of this morning, it appears likely that the feds will also be taking ownership stakes in many U.S banks. (Which is probably a good thing, given current conditions. It’s certainly better than McCain’s proposed solutions, which do more to justify the “more of the same old same old” criticisms leveled against him than almost anything else in his career.)

Are The Corner, Powerline, and Politically Drunk on Power screaming about that sort of socialism? They are not. It’s enough to make you think that the “issues” they normally go on about are just flags of convenience, and that the only issue to which they’re truly committed is that their side should always win.

Addenda:

Down in the comment thread, Chris explains:

#13 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:44 PM:

#10: For once, the Freepers are ahead of the curve. They already know McCain will fail; therefore he must not be conservative, because the defining axiom of conservatism is that conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed. Anyone who fails just wasn’t conservative enough.

All the other conservatives will come around to this after McCain fails, but the Freepers are starting the party early.

OMFG: Jonah has trumped everything thus far by pointing out:
#17 ::: Jonah ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:15 PM:

And in case you had any doubt that the folks at NRO are completely around the bend, John Derbyshire has a column up in which he attempts to make the case the Obama will cut funding for life sciences because he is afraid of research showing that the white folks are inherently superior to black folks.

Comments on The Corner goes round the bend:
#1 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:12 PM:

It's Rich Lowry, actually. :)

#2 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:14 PM:

Oh, come on. IOKIYAAR, don't ya know?

#3 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:16 PM:

Yet Rich Lowry occasionally shows up on The News Hour when David Brooks can't make it to the Friday night political confab with Mark Shields.

I wonder what William Buckley thinks of all this (or would, had he not died).

#4 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:17 PM:

Of course, the nationalization of capitalist debt bears about as much resemblance to actual socialism as stabbing someone in a dark alley and making off with their wallet bears to open-heart surgery.

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:18 PM:

I find the hysteria of the McCain campaign fascinating. The odour of desperation on the far right is, shall we say, most interesting. It's most fascinating when shills like Jonah Goldberg attack a Classical Tory like Andrew Sullivan for being on the left. (I checked: I was awake and reading NRO at the time. I was not under the influence of any mind-altering substance. I was not asleep and dreaming it. I am not Zhuangzi. I am not a butterfly.)

I don't know who is going to win the election. I do get a sense from the Republicans I read that they are flailing about trying to find any weapon they can use that will allow them to defeat the enemy. Unfortunately the enemy is vanishing jobs, epidemic foreclosures, vanished credit, collapsing banks, and a world-wide economic crisis on a scale that has not been seen since the Great Depression. These fuckers are playing games of palace politics while the barbarians are truly at the gates.

The Bush Administration, which these clowns have spend the last eight years fellating, is so distant from reality at the moment that a small strategically important ally -- Iceland -- that has managed to overextend itself like a drunk on a spree in Vegas, is currently negotiating with the Russians for its economic salvation. Since Iceland's traditional allies, as its finance minister told NPR, wouldn't come through. Given that the most important of Iceland's traditional allies is the US, this is rather significant. Somehow, the entire Republican punditocracy seems to have missed this. Instead, they're playing stupid games about how many Obamas will fit on the head of a pin.

#6 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:54 PM:

Fixed, Evan, and thank you. My proper name curse strikes again.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:02 PM:

Avram: granted; but electing Obama bears even less.

Fragano, I'm watching them with amazement. You'll have seen the link to McCain's proposed solutions for the financial meltdown; have you seen his health care plan? It seems impossible that he could think that either would win him votes -- or solve the designated problems.

We've been saying for a while now that these people are at odds with reality. It's strange to see the truth of it given such an emphatic demonstration.

#8 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:05 PM:

TNH @6:
My proper name curse strikes again.

As opposed to an improper name curse?

#9 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:08 PM:

Well, remember that these are the guys who are fans of the guys who said

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

From Wikipedia.

#10 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:13 PM:

"Are The Corner, Powerline, and Politically Drunk on Power screaming about that sort of socialism? They are not."
The Free Republicans are, though. (Link goes to Pam's post about it at Pandagon, since I can't bring myself to link directly to the Freepers.) Like Fragano says, it's fascinating to watch.

#11 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:28 PM:

I just posted this at Unqualified Offerings, and as this thread touches on the economic system, I'm putting it here (fuller, corrected version) as well. Ask me to play and sing this for you next time we meet. I've always wanted to see Shirley Temple sing this one:

Say, business is punk
And Wall Street is sunk.
We're all of us broke
And ready to croak.
We've nothing to dunk
Can't even get drunk
And all the while they tell us
To smile...

CHORUS
Cheer up, peaceful citizens
Though you have no shirts;
Happy times are here again --
Cheer up! Smile! Nerts!
All aboard, Prosperity;
Giggle 'til it hurts!
No more breadline charity --
Cheer up! Smile! Nerts!
Cheer up! Cheer up! Cheeeeer up!
Cheer up! Cheer
Up! Cheer up! Cheer up! Cheer
Better times are near!
Sunny smilers we must be,
The optimist asserts --
Let's hang the fathead to a tree!
Cheer up! Smile! NERTS!

The world's in the red.
We're better off dead.
Depression, they say
'S in session to stay
Our judges are queer.
Our banks disappear --
And all the while they tell us to smile.

CHORUS

Eddie Cantor with Phil Spitalny and his Music
http://www.archive.org/details/EddieCantor

#12 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:40 PM:

The only discomfort I get in reading about these creeps being driven to gibbering distraction is that some of them might feel like they have to take "justice" into their own hands.

I hope the Secret Service and the FBI is paying careful attention to them.

#13 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:44 PM:

#10: For once, the Freepers are ahead of the curve. They already know McCain will fail; therefore he must not be conservative, because the defining axiom of conservatism is that conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed. Anyone who fails just wasn't conservative enough.

All the other conservatives will come around to this after McCain fails, but the Freepers are starting the party early.

#14 ::: Leighton Fansler ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:54 PM:

I also really, really love the fact that Leonore Annenberg, who ostensibly chose William Ayers to serve on that same board, (or else would have had the power to veto the choice), is the second name on this list of 100 ambassadors endorsing Palin-McCain. Somehow, that doesn't concern them at all.

#15 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:00 PM:

#13: I've seen some "Bush isn't really a conservative!" wanking, on a gaming board.

It seems he's a "religious progressive."

Damn those religious progressives! Look at the mess they got us into!

#16 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:06 PM:

Except for being black and some other minor details, Obama would have made a fairly presentable 1950s Republican.

To the far right even the centrists are "radicals" now. Wonder what country they'll all move to when these centrist radicals take over America win the election. Alaska, maybe?

#17 ::: Jonah ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:15 PM:

And in case you had any doubt that the folks at NRO are completely around the bend, John Derbyshire has a column up in which he attempts to make the case the Obama will cut funding for life sciences because he is afraid of research showing that the white folks are inherently superior to black folks.

#18 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:22 PM:

Okay, I lost it at Powerline's "the pro-status quo, anti-change candidate, Barack Obama."

There comes a point where it becomes physically painful to look at, this wilful abnegation of manifest reality, this apparent belief that saying the opposite of the obvious truth will somehow make it true. These are the agents of darkness, of chaos and old night, and their leader is the Father of Lies.

#19 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:31 PM:

Well, there are also a lot of old-fashioned conservatives who are reasonably decent people and who have been saying for years that Bush and the neo-cons aren't conservatives, they're some kind of crazy rightist radicals. I know some who feel they were pretty much deserted by the Republican party - however wrong their old impressions of what it stood for might have been - and a bunch of them are now actively campaigning for Obama.

One of my hopes is that once they've taken that huge step of voting for a Democratic president, they'll be ready to look at politics with fresh eyes and start being more open to genuine progressive positions, and we'll see a permanent swing in support from Republicans to Democrats for a long time.

#20 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:39 PM:

#16: "Alaska, maybe?"

Oh, wouldn't that be lovely? They'll charge us plenty for oil, but we can charge them even more for damn near everything. And no more subsidies.

#21 ::: Max Kaehn ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:45 PM:

Some of those old-fashioned conservatives are voting for Obama, like a former publisher of National Review.

#22 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:56 PM:

If being tortured won't make McCain stop torture, being the victim of a slime campaign in 2000 won't stop McCain from being a slime campaigner.

I think this says something about Republicans. McCain was supposed to be the *honorable* one.

#23 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:58 PM:

Well, Bush isn't a conservative. Any more than he's a Christian. These words were useful for obtaining votes, but they're meaningless noise to him and to Cheney and to the rest of that wormy lot.

McCain, now, he's probably a conservative, more or less. Poor guy actually thought that's what got people elected. Moron. Then he sold his soul anyway, and he's reaping the results of that now (better now than a year from now post-election!)

#24 ::: Fiendish Writer ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:00 PM:

There came into my hands today a strange missive from McCain/Palin Victory 2008. A desperate letter, truly, complete with a pre-paid Federal Express Envelope and the plea for an Emergency Contribution of many thousands of dollars. They tell me I must send money Now, Right Now, else the country faces "the most radical and extreme shifts in direction of our nation." There follows other hysterical exclamations about rich liberals and that terrible Obama person.

I wonder, how many mischief-filled pages could I fit into said pre-paid envelope?

#25 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:00 PM:

Kathryn Cramer writes in #16:

To the far right even the centrists are "radicals" now. Wonder what country they'll all move to when these centrist radicals take over America win the election. Alaska, maybe?

Will SF then feel prescient for having given the Hugo to Michael Chabon this year?

#26 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:03 PM:

David just told me that he remembers in the early 1950s in Wilmington, MA having anti-Eisenhower hate propaganda stuffed in his family's mail box. The claim in it was that Dwight Eisenhower was secretly Jewish and was part of the Jewish monetary conspiracy.

#27 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:04 PM:

I have some hope that this election may be the event which finally precipitates the schism between the Avengelical Christianists and the Traditional Conservatives. They've been increasingly uncomfortable bedfellows for the last 8 years, and that uneasy partnership is a lot of what's currently tearing the Republicans apart -- because they want mutually-incompatible goals.

The question is, if such a schism were to happen, which way would it go? Who's going to leave -- the neocons in high dudgeon because they can't get enough God into the party, or the traditionals in disgust because they can't stomach the New Socialism? Would the moderates who've been pushed across the aisle by the neocon fanaticism return to a sane party of traditional conservatism? And would that then free up the Democrats to pursue a genuinely progressive platform?

I keep remembering a bit out of Heinlein's Double Star, where he's talking about the political history of the two parties in his story. Something to the effect of, "as the parties that didn't have their eyes on the stars became more and more marginal, it was inevitable that the one which was looking in the right direction would split into two factions." Substitute "the economy" for "the stars", and that looks like a pretty good analysis... but one which, taken to its logical conclusion, would indicate that the Democrats might split between the moderates and the leftist-progressives.

*throws up hands* Too many variables!

#28 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:29 PM:

Fragano Ledgister, #5: "I do get a sense from the Republicans I read that they are flailing about trying to find any weapon they can use that will allow them to defeat the enemy."

They've spent all these years whipping themselves into a frenzy of hate; now hate is all they have left. I think violence is unavoidable in the coming month, and I only hope it will be minor. It probably will be. But violence in politics is incalculable--you never know which way it will flow or who will be affected by it. Let us hope and, perhaps, keep our powder dry.

Kathryn Cramer, #16: "Except for being black and some other minor details, Obama would have made a fairly presentable 1950s Republican."

I think he's going to be pressed to the left by circumstances once elected; even the W. Bush administration has been.

Lee, #27: the factional fight in the Republican Party has for the moment been won; the victory was announced when Sarah Palin was chosen as VP. If--when--they lose the election, who knows? It's even possible that a Republican left will emerge. Politics: it may be terrifying, but at least it isn't dull. Sort of like Cthulu.

#29 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:53 PM:

Randolph #28

think violence is unavoidable in the coming month, and I only hope it will be minor. It probably will be. But violence in politics is incalculable--you never know which way it will flow or who will be affected by it. Let us hope and, perhaps, keep our powder dry.

Yeah. Ask Mrs. Lincoln about that sometime.

You can read about it too, in Grant's letters. He was also a target, but his people and he managed to circumvent it. It was a real conspiracy to take out several figures, but it was presented as a lone deranged individual in order to reassure the Public.

Love, C.

#30 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 09:05 PM:

Teresa #7: I have seen McCain's health care plan. I can't understand why anyone would take it seriously. I also heard him speak on the subject of social security and Medicare in the most recent debate, and it provoked me to swearing.

Perhaps because I spent so much of my time with normative thinkers, I tend to think I have a reasonable grasp of reality simply to make sure that I can explain what they say against the background of the world as it actually is. I really can't understand why a man capable of persuading people to vote him, repeatedly, into public office has such a tenuous hold on public reality. These are serious times, they demand serious action, and all he can do is come up with stale nostrums and the old game of creaming off resources to make his friends and contributors happy. It is not, said John Stuart Mill that all Conservatives are stupid, but stupid people are generally Conservative. I am struck by how right he was.

#31 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 09:11 PM:

It was a real conspiracy to take out several figures, but it was presented as a lone deranged individual in order to reassure the Public.

It may have been presented (or emphasized) as a conspiracy against Lincoln only, for the reason you state--but it's difficult to square the "lone deranged individual" part with the fact that several conspirators were variously hanged and imprisoned.

Not trying to change the subject, at all, just puzzled.

#32 ::: Pat Kight ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 09:12 PM:

Wait. Let me get this straight: Someone who shares an ideological position with those who call evolution "just a theory" and insist that there's some deistic intelligence behind biological design ... is trying to damn Obama by claiming he'll shut down research about natural selection?

I think my head just exploded.

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 09:13 PM:

Randolph #28: I think you may be right. Certainly hate and offshore drilling seem to be their sole platform items. (Unless Sarah Palin's repeated winks mean what they appear to mean, and Rich Lowry's, ahem, straightness is going to be rewarded.)

When batshit-insane rightwingers like Brigitte Bardot are denouncing your candidates, and your base is down to batshit-insane right wingers, you have a problem.

#34 ::: 'As You Know' Bob ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 09:37 PM:

This is classic Rove: accuse your opponent of doing something that you yourself have done.

ONE of the candidates for president really WAS actively involved in an ongoing criminal conspiracy that involved terror-bombing innocent civilian populations.

It wasn't Obama.


#35 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 09:43 PM:

A big part of the problem is the utter lack of accountability that has seeped into every level of government. For eight years no one in power has paid any serious price for their mistakes or misdeeds--a few firings, a trial for Lewis Libby, but these guys get over their rough patches fast, and tend to end up with comfortable right-wing welfare jobs. Their reputations are solid among the few people whose opinions they care about.

At this point, McCain and Palin probably figure nobody will bother to hold them accountable for anything--that, what the hell, maybe in a couple of months nobody will even remember what they do and say today.

#36 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 10:40 PM:

Wesley @35 - yeah, I really think you're right on the money there. McCain in particular has spent the last twenty years knowing that no matter what he does, the media will love him. Why in God's name his handlers thought it would be a Bright Idea to start dissing the media, I don't know, but that honeymoon's over. Weird.

And Palin really, truly thinks God is bringing her the Presidency.

A school friend of mine once ran for local office. I can't remember just what, but this was a guy who basically had had everything given to him -- the kind of guy whose parents complain to the school when he didn't get a particular academic prize. He acted like Palin.

We happened to meet and talk about his campaign shortly before election day. He simply assumed my support -- it literally was not in question in his mind.

There was also some local theater production, I don't remember what, but it was dinner theater of a sort, with tables set up in front of the stage. His opponent, the incumbent, had a table right in front of the stage (actually, I believe he'd contributed to the company, so that made sense.) My friend and his family, being a couple of tables back, made a stink -- actually managed to get their table traded so they'd be in front. !

Now, this was a town of about 2,200 people, and the outlying section of the county numbered, oh, a couple thousand more. Everybody knew everybody there. And here my friend was claiming status based on his running for ... what? School board or something? I don't remember, but it was not VP of the US, or even mayor of Wasilla. But that attitude was there -- "I've made it - DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?"

He lost abjectly, of course. It was all pretty embarrassing. And weird, because he was a tad odd, but his parents had always been quite normal.

Palin gives me this vibe. The status of the office is all that's real, to Palin. (And to many people.) The notion that with great power comes great responsibility simply doesn't register. And I think the key insight here (not hexapodia!) is that when you think this, how you got the status doesn't matter (especially if you think God handed it to you because of who you are). You won the prize, you get to do whatever you want with it. Certainly Bush and Cheney have treated the White House this way.

#37 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 10:56 PM:

You know, I just tried to read into that article that Jonah linked to, and it was just painfully stupid. No more interesting things happening in physics? Obviously he's never read much physics.

And he thinks a Democrat would shut down research into life sciences? Do they just never read anything over there at the National Review? Who do they think is threatening the life sciences? Whoever they don't like today?

Sigh. I suppose that's a rhetorical question. When you just decide to believe whatever the f*** you please then little things like reality don't even register.

#38 ::: tonyk ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 11:07 PM:

Pat Knight #32: Actually, John Derbyshire who is making the claims about Obama cutting biological sciences funding is quite a vocal anti-creationist. He also thinks that genetics will prove once and for all that black people really are mentally inferior to white people. Creationists don't hold a monopoly on the crazy...

See this article on Pharyngula

#39 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 11:25 PM:

Whatever else Derbyshire is, he's no creationist; indeed, he considers himself his magazine's point man against Creationists.

To me, he seems to have skated right on past evolutionary science into the pseudo-evolutionary eugenics movement that was popular for a time last century. It's hardly the first race-baiting column that Derbyshire's written for the National Review, but they keep running his stuff. So I can't say I'm too surprised by their latest turn.

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 11:50 PM:

No one has noted what became of Joe Vogler.

He got blown up in a plastic-explosives sale gone bad.

Who was saying what about "palin' around with terrorists"?

#41 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 01:25 AM:

Michael Roberts @ 23: "Well, Bush isn't a conservative. Any more than he's a Christian. These words were useful for obtaining votes, but they're meaningless noise to him and to Cheney and to the rest of that wormy lot."

I don't see any need to defend conservatism from Bush. His main goal these past eight years has been to return America to Gilded Society levels of stratification and wealth distribution, and that's really the bed-rock, fundamental purpose of conservatism: to perpetuate and increase inequality. He is a conservative of a purity that may be frightening to less extreme, "old-fashioned" conservatives, but all Bush and his ilk have done is pursue conservatism to its logical end.

Lee @ 27: "Substitute "the economy" for "the stars", and that looks like a pretty good analysis... but one which, taken to its logical conclusion, would indicate that the Democrats might split between the moderates and the leftist-progressives."

This has long been my secret dream. The successes of a center-left Democratic president draws all remaining moderate support from the Republican party (with others fleeing libertarian-wards), and a re-invigorated and expanded Progressive caucus grows increasingly restive. Eventually, the Democratic party splits in two: a centrist party composed of the more moderate Republicans and Democrats, and a genuine leftist Progressive Party. Republicans become a minor radical third-party, less effective than even the Libertarians or Greens.

Oh, if only.

#42 ::: George Smiley ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 02:11 AM:

Would it be irresponsible to point those of you haven't read it to Richard Hofstadter's essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics"? I, for one, think that it would would be irresponsible not to.

#43 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 05:33 AM:

FW #24,

I got that letter too. It said I was a "leading contributor" to the Republican Party and could be expected to help in this emergency. Except, I've never contributed to the Republican party, and while I'm registered in that party, haven't voted that way since 1996.

ISTM that it's a mass mailing trying to scare voters into sending McCain more money because Obama is killing him on TV ads in battleground states, and McCain needs financial help. Basically it's a McCain Bailout plea...

#44 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 05:36 AM:

@18: wow. Check them for tidy goatee beards, because that sentence can only be written without irony in the mirror universe.

#45 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 08:05 AM:

So, I decided to try an experiment.

I searched instapundit.com for "Ayers," and found over a hundred results (in fairness, the search engine used there also returns results for "ayers" as in "DVD players," but there are still over a hundred results for the guy the right's attempting to associate with Obama).

I then searched for "Volger."

Nothing. Not one mention.

#46 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 08:19 AM:

Wesley @ 35: Only eight years? I mark the beginning of the IOKIYAR mentality and US politics' final slide into the abyss at Nixon's pardon.

May Gerald Ford rot in hell.

#47 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 08:54 AM:

As for Palin's terrorist connections, aside from the general IOKIYAR thing, they aren't a problem for the Right because they apparently never had much of a problem with people who hated and wanted to violently fight the the US government because it wasn't right-wing enough for them.

Fragane Ledgister @ 5: It's most fascinating when shills like Jonah Goldberg attack a Classical Tory like Andrew Sullivan for being on the left.
I think they've done that all the time since he slowly broke with them in 04/05/06. I'm not sure wether you can really call a Thatcherite a classical Tory, though; my impression was that the former are a good deal more into laissez-faire economics, and a good deal less into the "romantic" (for lack of a better word) conservative stuff, than the latter.

Lee @ 27, not enough variables, in fact. It doesn't make much sense to describe the neocons as the same as the theocons- there's overlap, but many neocons (particularly at NRO, I think, though I don't know that much about that place) are very big on bombing other people but pretty lukewarm about social conservativism at home.

#48 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 09:04 AM:

Adam Lipkin @ 45: Did you search for "Volger" or "Vogler"?

#49 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 09:41 AM:

Raphael @48 -- both (it gets spelled both ways in the article quoted at the top). Same results either way.

#50 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 10:01 AM:

Ah, but you know, Wikipedia.

Where's the community's sarcasm at the use of Wikipedia to support sets of facts? I guess if the reports agree with the community's notions, Wikipedia is reliable.

On a different note, Adam Lipkin @ 45: if you spell it "Vogler", 10 of the first 50 Google hits are for the Alaska radical separatist and/or the Palin connection.

#51 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 10:18 AM:

Jon Baker @ 50, Adam was talking about mentions of Vogler on Instapundit, not on Google.

How reliable WP is depends on a lot of factors, but it generally tends to be a lot more reliable the easier it is to check a statement for accuracy. For instance, if WP describes a sports team as "succesful" or "unsuccesful", that's probably unreliable; if it claims that the team won this or that cup or championship this or that often, that's more likely to be reliable.

#52 ::: Lowell Gilbert ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 10:20 AM:

Let's not ignore the extent to which a "community anti-poverty group" is radical to the wingers...

#53 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 10:43 AM:

The recent Salon article on the AIP and Vogler did show up as the first link on Google News when I entered Vogler just now. But of course we don't have Obama/Biden constantly saying "Vogler, Vogler, Vogler" on television--much larger megaphone, there.

#54 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 10:53 AM:

heresiarch #41:

Of course, almost nobody who considers himself conservative has that as his goal. You might as well observe an increase in people living on public assistance during a liberal presidency, and say "see, that's the goal of liberals, to have everyone sucking off the teat of the state." It's got plenty of snark, but it's not true.

Every political movement is really a coalition of many different groups with different ideas and goals. ISTM that the Bush administration has been remarkably effective at choosing the bad ideas and abandoning the good ones. Thus, the part of conservatism that involves limited government, the rule of law, balanced budgets, or devolution of power to local authorities when possible all got ditched. The part that involves devotion to the free market was retained while convenient, but not when it got in the way of helping out politically important industries. The part that involved military strength and national greatness was supported, but with disastrous incompetence.

IMO, the Bush Administration is a massive, living commercial for Teresa's great quote that "just because you're on their side doesn't mean they're on your side." And for a variety of reasons (effective propoganda, authoritarian tendencies in the movement, intentional and inflamatory polarization of the voters, etc.), the Bush Administration has managed to keep conservatives supporting them, even while betraying most of their ideas, and nearly all their worthwhile ones.

But that's over now. McCain's desperate tactics reflect just how badly burned conservative voters are. Look at his tactics. Do you see moderates being drawn in by them? Swing voters? He's still trying to get his base to support him. We're less than a month from the election, and he's still trying to get his base excited, still trying to get lifelong conservatives willing to send some money, or at least to show up at the polls on election day.

In some fundamental sense, George W Bush has managed to screw John McCain out of a reasonable shot at the presidency twice, now. I'm sure McCain knows it. I hope he one day feels free to say something about that.

#55 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 10:57 AM:

Having read through as much of the Derbyshire op-ed as I could, I skipped to the bottom, there to discover that he got a shot in at women scientists. He approvingly quotes an anecdote from "Godless" about geneticists (women of "non-trivial attractiveness") versus genomicists (men). You can guess which set Godless and Derbyshire think are doing the real work.

#56 ::: Michael Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 11:03 AM:

Can we get a catchy name for this, please? Something that parallels "Bush Derangement Syndrome" would be ideal.

Obama Choleric Disorder?

#57 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 11:03 AM:

Teresa,
The Corner has gone round the bend...

I'm tempted to quote Leo McKern at you from Man For All Seasons: "Some time ago, have you only just noticed?"

:)

#58 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 11:23 AM:

#50: I guess if the reports agree with the community's notions, Wikipedia is reliable.

No, Wikipedia is still utterly unreliable. I do not personally use them to support anything, and if someone else quotes from Wikipedia, I discount the entire article where it was quoted by a certain percent.

#59 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 11:30 AM:

@ 54 Albatross, for many of us who grew up in the years since Reagan (I'm 41) I'm afraid to say that Bush and Gingrich and Delay are conservatism. I can look back in history and see there was once a movement there that meant something that, while I don't agree with it, I could see as being something other than an agglomeration of Corporatists, Christianists, and Kleptocrats. No more.

The ruin of the Bush years is exactly the end result of what it means to be a conservative or Republican in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. For more than twenty years self-identified conservatives have been voting in and raising up the leaders who did this. They are wholly owned by the movement that calls itself conservative, and look exactly like what my generation has been taught to expect a conservative leader to look like. There is no way on this Earth that I am willing to let the voters who chose this path pretend that these are not their people.

#60 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 11:35 AM:

Albatross, the thing is that Bush and Cheney are pretty much doing exactly what the conservative movement's been asking for since the 1960s. That they don't like the results is not anyone else's problem. Above all, they are building a society in which it's clear that the bottom 95% rise or fall on the favor of the top 5% - there are no entitlements, only largesse - and endless inconvenience and harassment demonstrates endless vigilence. The guys at Lawyers, Guns, and Money do a good job documenting how many New Deal and later provisions the courts have been able to curtail in practice without actually repealing, and how much the balance of individuals vs. business has tilted in favor of business. And we get to keep learning just how much all the powers of the surveillance state are being used to harass and oppress "fringe people" like pacifists, and how vigorously they're trying to strip the vote from more and more poor, minority, and otherwise undesirable voters.

This is right exactly where conservativism's been for half a century. Back in the day, William Buckley editorialized about the importance of protecting white civilization from its enemies and their rotten nasty civil-rights claims. It's turned out that sometimes the means are messy, but the ends are what they always were: roll back law and society to before the day we peasants thought we were just as good as our masters and envisioned ourselves as having due claims for equal treatment and for fundamental security from life's vicissitudes. This is what organized conservativism has been campaigning for longer than I've been alive.

It's true that there are other threads in conservative thought. But this is the one that's had both electoral and popular support for decades - what people have been voting for and talking up. Bush and Cheney are the consummation of actually existing American conservatism, not its negation.

#61 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 11:43 AM:

If I could pull off a Sheckley-esque tone, I'd do up this story myself, but I can't so, just in case anyone can use it...

The real secret of the conservative movement is that they've learned how, via environmental stimuli plus dietary manipulation, to reunify the bicameral mind. Per Julian Jaynes, this means that the stalwarts (both leaders and followers) are (as far as they're concerned) hearing the voice of God. Behind the scenes there are struggles to dictate the particular messages to be impressed upon the dormant brain hemisphere, but it all goes okay...until someone gets greedy and starts selling advertising space in the daily beamings.

#62 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 11:45 AM:

Mark, #46: Hear, hear! All that rot about "the nation needs to move on"... what the nation needed was closure (which we never got) and a clear-cut precedent that the law applies to EVERYONE. "Executive privilege", my ass. Not to mention that a number of the behind-the-scenes folks from the Watergate days have been among the prime movers in Reagan/Bush/GWB. And why not? They'd already had it demonstrated to them that they'd never be called to account for their actions.

albatross, #54: I fully expect McCain to be dead within 4 years, whether or not he wins the election. And given the mental deterioration he's already displaying, he doesn't have much "one day" left.

#63 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 11:54 AM:

This Is Happy, This Is Salsa, This Is For Dancing, This Is Obámonos

Amigo José Conde, who is quite a good singer, has made a video for his tune "Respóndele a Obama," a charming salsa number aimed at motivating latinos to vote. The best line:

"hasta mi madre republicana
está votando por obama"

Tell your friends in Florida.

You can see and hear it here.

If ever there's a day we need the relief that music and dance provides, this is it. Such a contrast with the mcpln videos.

Love, C.

#64 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 12:25 PM:

Raphael #47: Sullivan's doctoral dissertation was on Oakeshott. You can't get more classical than that.

#65 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 01:35 PM:

These are the Friends of the Palins, who got her in as Wasilla's mayor and as governor. If Michelle or Barack had friends like these, Obama would have been howled out of the campaign before he ever began. These are people to whom the palins are still very close. These people hate the United States. They say so.

And they also state that the Civil War wasn't about slavery.

Love, C.

#66 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 02:56 PM:

heresiarch at 41, I like your political dream -- I just wish it could be realized without the market slowly and, it appears, inexorably chewing up all the money I have saved to support my old age. Which looks closer day by day. I blame the Republicans, and come November I hope everyone else does as well.

As for the wingnuts; Teresa reads them so that I don't have to. Thank you, Teresa. I wonder how much their derangement has to do with politics and the sinking of McCain, and how much it has to do with the collapse of the economy and the failure of the free market ideology they all bought into with such vehemence.

#67 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 03:02 PM:

Also, what Michael Berube said, in Patrick's Sidelights. It made me LOL, and I haven't been laughing much lately.

Cheers!

#68 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 03:56 PM:

If it makes anyone feel better about their fellow Americans:

As far as their effect on the polls goes, the smear campaign

has

not

done

a

damn

thing.

#69 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 04:26 PM:

Constance, #65: It's possible to argue that the Civil War wasn't about slavery, but to do so requires logic-chopping on the same order as arguing that a refrigerator refutes Newton's laws of thermodynamics -- you have to draw your field of reference very narrowly indeed. The argument goes that it wasn't about slavery, it was about states' rights... but if you look at which states' rights they're talking about, it was the right for a state to have slavery.

Lizzy, #66: But the free market hasn't failed! The current meltdown is the direct result of government interference with the free market, and all we need to fix it is complete deregulation!

#70 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 05:02 PM:

Lee 69: I've certainly seen more than one person argue that the right to secede from the Union was the right in question. They try to argue that the Confederacy wasn't racist on that basis, ignoring the fact that the motivation behind the desire to secede was, as you point out, the "right" to keep slaves.

My general answer to such people is that no, whether states can secede isn't outlined in the Constitution, and when an issue comes up that the founding document doesn't address, you either work it out or fight a war. We fought a war. This establishes the law: states do NOT have the right to secede.

They hate that. Since most of them are racists, this is fine with me.

#71 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 05:32 PM:

#69 ::: Lee

Constance, #65: It's possible to argue that the Civil War wasn't about slavery, but to do so requires logic-chopping on the same order as arguing that a refrigerator refutes Newton's laws of thermodynamics -- you have to draw your field of reference very narrowly indeed. The argument goes that it wasn't about slavery, it was about states' rights... but if you look at which states' rights they're talking about, it was the right for a state to have slavery.>/blockquote>

Honey, you are so preaching to the choir -- I've devoted over a quarter of a century studying this and all things related!

The conflict was that the southern slaveholding oligarcy perceived the national obsession with entitled expansionism and manifest destiny entirely differently from the North.

The Southern oligarcy perceived expansionism and Manifest Destiny as the right to expand slavery everywhere -- and particularly the inter-state slave trade which was the basis of their economy.

The North perceived slavery as the boulder in the way of unified expanisionism and manifest destiny, which for the North meant ever expanding markets for their industrial and trade economy, as well as extracing raw goods and resources out of Mexico, the Caribbean and South America.

The slave model economy of the South was in the way of that, particularly since the South was determined to force the legalization of slavery in the North, and forbid abolition.

The Fugitive Slave Act the oligarcy forced through legislation, along with abolishing any discussion of Abolition or recognition of Abolition petitions, the determination to make Abolition societies, mailings, public discussion against the law -- and their armed agression against free soiler in Kansas and Nebraska, where slavery was illegal, was the last straw.

Otherwise the North would have allowed the southern oligarcy to toddle along as ever more twisted examples of nut jobbos as long as it was confined to what became the Confederacy. But no. These people like You Know Who were so arrogant that no compromise could ever be observed.

It took Lincoln's brilliant legal mind to tease out all these implications out of the Constitution and look at them through the filter of the law. Which is how, finally, Emancipation was passed. But that too, was gradual through the progress of the Civil War.

BTW, Mary Todd Lincoln, despite being the daughter of a slave plantation owner, was an ardent Abolitionist -- before her husband.

Love, C.

#72 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 06:27 PM:

Wesley @#35:

At this point, McCain and Palin probably figure nobody will bother to hold them accountable for anything--that, what the hell, maybe in a couple of months nobody will even remember what they do and say today.

Here's my suspicion: McCain figures that nobody will hold him accountable because he suspects he's going to die within the next four years. (i.e., this is his last chance at a presidential bid)

Only McCain and his doctor really know how bad his previous brush with melanoma was, but my strong suspicion is that by the time the next presidential election rolls around, McCain will at least be seriously ill from complications related to cancer, if he hasn't succumbed by then.

#73 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 06:45 PM:

Daniel #72:

Given his age, you don't have to assume anything about cancer. He's not going to be a viable candidate in four more years, so it's now or never.

#74 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 07:13 PM:

Constance, thanks for #63. It brightened my morning before the coffee kicked in.

#75 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 07:18 PM:

#70: That makes me curious: what would have happened if the secession question had just been brought before the Supreme Court, without shooting anyone? It's not like we have no method for resolving questions about how to interpret the Constitution, or disputes about what it means.

You could write two interesting alt-hist books this way: one where the Court ruled secession illegal and the Southern states abided by the ruling, and one where they ruled secession legal and Lincoln abided by it. (If the party who loses in court decides to re-argue the issue with firearms, your timeline is probably not different enough from ours to be the basis for good alt-hist.)

#76 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 07:25 PM:

Jon Baker @50, do you have an actual problem with a specific wikipedia citation in this thread that you would care to bring up? That comment by Jim that you linked to, over in the "McCain: pass it on" thread, did you notice that Jim didn't just sneer at Wikipedia and turn his nose up, but also refuted the point with specific facts?

Where Teresa quotes from Wikipedia, it's a paragraph with embedded links to the original sources (CNN, the NY Times, Dallas News, etc) and you can follow those links to check whether the quoted info is accurate. (Or at least, if it's been accurately quoted; the news sources themselves might be wrong, but that's no longer an is-Wikipedia-trustworthy question, but is-this-other-source-trustworthy.) This, by the way, is why I still use Wikipedia a lot -- the better pages work well as collections of links to primary sources.

Linkmeister, in ct #9, quotes a chunk from a Wikipedia story that I'm not even going to bother looking up because I remember it from the original source when it was heavily blogged a few years back.

So, do you have an actual specific problem with something cited here, or are you just flinging poo?

#77 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 07:41 PM:

Mark, #46: Wesley @ 35: Only eight years? I mark the beginning of the IOKIYAR mentality and US politics' final slide into the abyss at Nixon's pardon.

You're right, but I tend to think of the deepest rot as beginning with Bush because of the preceding eight-year period, in which the President was watched very carefully by people willing and able to hold impeachment hearings on any possible premise.

#78 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 08:58 PM:

Well, most of us today take for granted that the Supreme Court has the last word on national disputes (even if we don't like what they decide; e.g. while lots of Democrats objected to the decision in Bush v. Gore, only a small minority refused to recognize Bush as president after the decision was handed down.)

But if I recall correctly, that consensus about the role of the Court wasn't nearly as strong at the time of the Civil War. The court first struck down an act of Congress in 1803 with _Marbury v. Madison_, claiming a power not explicitly granted to it in the Constitution. It then didn't use that power again until the 1850s, with the Dred Scott decision, not long before the Civil War.

There had been other disputes over constitutionality; but the conflicts tended to be worked out elsewhere. For a long time, for instance, many people held that the states were the ultimate judges of constitutionality, and could nullify federal laws that they saw as not having constitutional authority. As you can imagine, this doctrine was much more popular among secessionists (and is still held by some modern-day secessionists today).

So, realistically, I don't think the 1800s secession crisis could have been solved by taking it to the Supreme Court, since a big part of the secession argument was that the decision to secede was fundamentally the right of the state, and not subject to the ruling of any federal government body, including the Supreme Court.

Similarly, the Bush administration has sometimes tried to argue that its actions were not subject to court review. Thus far, the Supreme Court has generally managed to maintain its claim as the final authority. But it's not something we can take for granted. Which is one reason why tthe "Supreme Court" issue this year for me is an argument for the Democrat candidate rather than the Republican candidate (as it's been some other years).

#79 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 09:26 PM:

Jon Baker (50), I've recently gone out of my way to praise particularly good Wikipedia articles. Most of them have been about current events.

Furthermore, I've had too much experience researching and editing reference works and other nonfiction, and the Fluorosphere in general has too much depth of experience in that area, to put up with a sweeping derogation like your "I guess if the reports agree with the community's notions, Wikipedia is reliable." Excuse me? As though neither I nor anyone else here were capable of judging the reliability of material on its own merits?

Reply, reply.
...

Stefan (20), the trouble is that the Alaskan separatists are explicitly ticked about being required to protect the environment when they could be making so much money if they weren't. Major damage is pretty much guaranteed.

Josh (22), the question is always going to be whether he was more honorable before he tangled with Bush, or whether his character just became more apparent.

Michael Roberts (23): It's a bust-out con. As with all long cons, the words and justifications used are just scene-setting for the marks.

Fiendish Writer (24), John L. (43): leftover ceramic tiles fit nicely into mailing envelopes, and have a satisfactory heft.

I wonder why they say you've both been big donors in the past? Perhaps they intend to suggest that they've already mistakenly credited you with unearned generosity, and that confirming that initially-mistaken impression will earn you an enhanced rate of gratitude per dollar given.

Lee (27), I love "Avengelical Christianists".

Our political system has a strong tropism toward two major parties and a scattering of smaller ones. We haven't lost a major party since the Whigs went down. I think the commoner mechanism is for a political tendency that might otherwise manifest itself as a distinctive voting bloc within the party, and/or a minor party outside it, to be absorbed, and in the process pull the major party into a new position.

Hmmm. Maybe what happened to the old-line conservative Republican party I remember is that it was poisoned by absorbing the Dixiecrats. That would explain a lot. It would have given a big advantage to the kind of politicians that could artfully invoke people's fears without specifying exactly what those fears were.

Fragano (30): I'd swear he used to be wilier than this. I'll hold by my view that the most interesting thing they could have done with the debates would have been to scan the candidates for electronic devices, and test them for the presence of drugs in their systems.

Thank you for the John Stuart Mill quote. That one will come in handy.

Michael Roberts (36), I think Pope Alexander VI qualifies. His most quoted line: "Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it."

#80 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 09:33 PM:

Avram @ #76, yeah, I used Wikipedia because it was simplest and I remembered the quotation pretty well. Had it been inaccurate I'd have noticed it and gone to the original article, if it's still online.

Also, I felt that the Fluorosphere would remember it and not need the original source.

#81 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 10:45 PM:

#74 ::: Clifton Royston

I'm at least as grateful. Spread it around.

I've declared this weekend a non-current events zone.

Dancing. Music.

And off we go to hang out with Puerto Ricans and dance.

OK. José Conde's Cuban.

But it's NYC and this weekend we are rollin' w/da 'ricans! :) Who are, after all, here in NYC, really Family.

Love C.

Love, C.

#82 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 10:55 PM:

Michael Croft @56: I'd rather not parallel the insane hatred of Obama with "Bush Derangement Syndrome". The latter is a label used by people who don't understand why anyone would oppose Bush's policies of aggressive warfare, torture, and abridgment of civil liberties, and thus conclude that the only reason we're so angry with Bush is because we bear him a pathological hatred.

BDS is a bogus diagnosis, in other words.

#83 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 11:39 PM:

Teresa, #79: Maybe what happened to the old-line conservative Republican party I remember is that it was poisoned by absorbing the Dixiecrats.

That is EXACTLY what happened. The corrupt, racist Democratic machines of the Deep South went over to the Republicans in a bloc, and took all their nasty attitudes and dirty tricks with them. The Republican Party has never recovered from this... and I'm not sure they ever wanted to, once they found out how effective those attitudes and dirty tricks could be.

"Avengelicals" isn't my coinage, though I believe I came up with "Christianists" independently. But hey, they work well together and make it very clear that I'm not talking about Christians as a whole, but only the Christian lunatics and terrorists.

#84 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 02:28 AM:

albatross @ 54: "Of course, almost nobody who considers himself conservative has that as his goal."

Honestly stating one's desire to increase inequality went out of fashion with the spread of the popular vote--the built-in opposition is simply too large. Nonetheless, it is quite evident if you look at the issues conservatives have latched on to in their history*:

-segregation
-women's rights (including but not limited to access to brtn and divorce)
-free-market neo-liberalism
-the estate tax and other progressive taxes
-homosexuality
-Christian Dominionism
-National Greatness/American Exceptionalism ideology

The thread that unites all these issues is the belief that x is better than y. Whites are better than blacks. Men are better than women. Rich people are better than poor. Straights are better than gays. Christians are better than non-Christians. Americans are better than everyone else. "Conservatism" is, I feel, a misnomer: they are only conservative in the sense that previous ages were generally less equal than today's. Given a chance to reinforce inequality in novel ways like, say, discriminating against Arabs or Mexicans**, they'll happily do that too. The crucial part is the hierarchy--the division of the world into good and bad, us and them. Conservatism as it is practiced is the defense of privilege.

"And for a variety of reasons (effective propoganda, authoritarian tendencies in the movement, intentional and inflamatory polarization of the voters, etc.), the Bush Administration has managed to keep conservatives supporting them, even while betraying most of their ideas, and nearly all their worthwhile ones."

I like to grant conservative voters a little more policial awareness than that. I suspect that most of them knew how badly they were getting screwed (or, for the rich ones, rewarded) by Bush's economic policies. They simply thought the trade-off worth it. If they were tricked, the trick was in convincing them that it was better to be poor and able to beat up their wife/dark-skinned people/homos than to be more economically secure but forced to relinquish their power over those even worse off. The trick was convincing them that Democrats weren't any better, so they might as well defend what status they had in the world.

*Importance is determined by what they actually spend their time and money on, not what they claim as core principles.

**Not to say racism against either of those groups is new, but its recent ferocity is rather unprecedented in the US.

#85 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 10:09 AM:

#30, on Arizona re-electing McCain -- it's Arizona. This is the state that elected Ev Mecham and Fife Symington to governor, back to back (and we ended up impeaching and/or recalling both of them ...), keeps electing Joe Arpaio as Sheriff, and even on a local scale, tends to have massively screwed up politics ... Against that backdrop, McCain's actually one of our more respectable and decent politicians.

#86 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 12:15 PM:

Leva posts a direct answer to Fragano@30. There are two deeper causes I'd consider:
* I don't know whether Arizona has so high a fraction of moved-in retirees as Florida, but ISTM there is a significant fraction that believes it can find paradise by uprooting itself. (This is different from economic (aka illegal) migration; I'm speaking of people who are expecting their dolce far niente.) This isn't a good idea; ripping people out of their established habitat isn't good at any age, but it's even harder on older people. What fraction of this set gets sulky when paradise doesn't materialize, and become prey to whatever consolatory demagogic lies come along, just as other disappointed populations have in the past? It would be fascinating to see whether McCain would have lost past elections if they were limited to the people who'd lived in AZ for some time -- rather like the observation that the margin against Dinkins's re-election for mayor of NYC came from Staten Island, which (IIRC in the same ballot) voted to secede.
* OTOH, AZ is hardly the only place where politicians with a limited grasp on reality have succeeded; even "the next time we speak, listen" MA, just a few years after that line was popular, displaced a sitting governor in response to techniques a campaign manager summarized as "putting all the hate groups in one pot and letting them boil". Putting up a crazy figurehead is a revolting tactic, but with properly cynical management it wins elections; such a figurehead can even be managed by the less-crazed -- to their advantage rather than the polity's, but that's often why they're involved at all.

Ockerbloom@39: I am reminded, sadly, that there was actually a scintilla of reason in Bryant's position in the "Monkey Trial": he'd seen "evolution in action" used to justify savage misbehavior by the powerful.

albatross@54: Thus, the part of conservatism that involves limited government, the rule of law, balanced budgets, or devolution of power to local authorities when possible all got ditched.

As I've seen it, the consistent thread for some time has been that the feds pre-empt the state if they can overrule progressive moves, but the states are given "power" when they either want to step on minorities or can be steamrolled by corporate interests.

#87 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 12:43 PM:

John McCain is now having to calm his supporters down before someone gets hurt.

Well, I wonder why you have to do that, Senator McCain. Maybe it's because your campaign is now running 100% negative ads -- literally, that's now all they're running -- trying to associate Obama with terrorism and anti-Americanism. Maybe it's because people introducing you and your running mate at rallies have taken to emphasizing his middle name in a way formerly reserved for Fox News flacks and the more spittle-flecked right-wing bloggers. Maybe it's because the crowds at your rallies have gotten angrier and angrier, shouting out things like "Kill him" and "Terrorist" and "Traitor", and you've tacitly supported this trend by not speaking a word against it until today.* Maybe it's because your sole strategy at this point, since you've acknowledged that you'll lose if you talk about the issues, is to try to cast Obama as a Scary Other.

Let's just assume for a moment that McCain's had a sincere change of heart. If this were a movie, the next scene would be of the third debate, with both candidates conducting a cordial, respectful, high-minded exchange of ideas -- a triumph of American democracy over cynicism and hatred.

And then somebody shoots Obama as he leaves the hall. Because YOU CAN'T JUST UN-SAY THIS STUFF AND MAKE IT GO AWAY.


I noticed that McCain was looking down at the floor a lot as he was saying that Obama is a good man, and that people don't need to be afraid of him. I can't tell if it's because he doesn't really believe it, or if he's finally woken up and is appalled at what his campaign has unleashed, or what. Sadly, I no longer really care, except to the extent that it's fascinating to try to figure out what makes people tick.

Lastly, note the way that McCain negated the complaint that "He's an Arab" by saying "No ma'am, he's a decent family man, a citizen ... " As if the two are mutually exclusive.


* I don't necessarily give a lot of credence to the idea that McCain and Palin must have heard these shouts at the rallies themselves, and should have immediately condemned them from the podium. There's a lot going on, a lot of noise, and they don't know ahead of time that they're about to hear something outrageous (the way we do when we watch the clips on YouTube later). It's not at all clear to me that they're hearing this stuff at the time. That said, surely they've heard the same media reports we all have, so they know it's been happening and it's been escalating.

#88 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 02:53 PM:

Pat @32 - remember that you're talking about someone whose understanding of evolution is that Nature has specifically arranged for him to find women attractive once they turn 15 and until they turn 21.

William Buckley would no doubt have been filled with distate that the Republicans were courting voters without a classical and preferably Ivy League education.

#89 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 03:10 PM:

Nature has specifically arranged for him to find women attractive once they turn 15 and until they turn 21

Oh, now that's just gross.

#90 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 03:24 PM:

Jen Roth @87:

Lastly, note the way that McCain negated the complaint that "He's an Arab" by saying "No ma'am, he's a decent family man, a citizen ... " As if the two are mutually exclusive.
As the accusing woman was using it, they are exclusive. I think McCain might get points there for realizing what he's unleashed (provisionally until he demonstrates it, or its negation, more concretely).

#91 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 03:34 PM:

I see an important fallacy at play in the discussion of conservative goals. That is the "Fallacy of Intent", to assume that someone else's intent is shown by whatever results from their actions - whereas the world should judge us not by our actions' consequences, but instead recognize the intent we know to be behind our actions (and our explanation of it.) It's a "theory of mind" problem.

I often see this in discussion of terrorism, for instance. "The terrorists only want to hurt innocent people!" or "They hate our freedom!". These explanations make no sense at all.

The reality is that most terrorists have some grievance or cause which they see their bombings or assassinations as serving, and they assume they'll be judged according to that intent. Often it's something along the lines of "These bombings will force the world to pay attention to us, and when they do they will see how our people are suffering, and will finally realize our cause is justified." This essentially never works - the world instead judges by their actions that they are evil or crazy people who want only to cause harm and looks no further. (Al Qaeda is the exception with its own goals, which the US has been diligently helping them to carry out.)

The exact reverse is seen in, for example, counterinsurgency attacks. The US Army or Air Force in Afghanistan believe that they should be judged on the earnestness of their intent to kill Taliban and other bad guys, and that if they bomb the wrong household by mistake, the survivors and neighbors of the families who die should take this into account. The ordinary people of Afghanistan will naturally tend to assume instead that the US Army intent is to kill and terrorize people at random. And thus it continues.

The point of this tedious exercise is to remind you that you can not assume that all traditional conservatives see as their goal to establish inequality, even when that's exactly what their policies do - because most people are really fucking bad at figuring out the effects of their actions, let alone the effects of broad policies, and most of them aren't thinking about the consequences anyway - they're thinking about what sounds right according to some screwy and half-thought-out set of principles.

Let me make clear - I'm not talking about the architects of Republican strategy, the Norquists and Roves. They know damn well what they're doing and what they want. I'm talking about the traditional small-town Republicans, who may have blindly and implicitly supported a lot of totally repugnant beliefs while seeing themselves as standing for individual freedom and good Christian values.

I believe this may be more-or-less what albatross has been trying to say more politely than I.

#92 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 03:34 PM:

Speaking of Buckley... his son has just endorsed Obama. Go read his description of McCain, it's priceless.

#93 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 03:47 PM:

I just had a flash of a theory why the Ayers thing is not affecting most of the public significantly. It's the same reason nobody can seem to get exercised about the Palin Alaskan-separatist connection:

Ayers is white. Joe Blow hears "terrorist" and thinks "Oh no, crazy brownskin arab maniacs!". He Googles Ayers or looks on Wikipedia and sees boring professorial-looking white guy. He goes "Huh, what's with that?" and forgets about the whole thing.

#94 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 03:48 PM:

And while I'm babbling, it's nice to see mythago among others posting here - haven't seen enough of you for a while.

#95 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 06:04 PM:

Lee at #92: Thank you for the Buckley link -- that's wonderful!

#96 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 06:58 PM:

I'll come out and say it; these people who are yelling epithets at McCain/Palin rallies, or are "scared" of Obama, or dislike him "because of the way he looks", are racists. The McCain campaign has been deliberately playing to them by making ads saying "he's not like us", and talking up his alleged ties to terrorists, etc, and NOW they are upset that these people are starting to act on their encouragement?

McCain may be having second thoughts about what's happened, but I've not seen any evidence at all that Palin is concerned at all. She wanted to bring Obama's race into the debate early on, after all, and I do wonder just what the percentage residents in Alaska are black...

#97 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 07:03 PM:

CHip @86: Ockerbloom@39: I am reminded, sadly, that there was actually a scintilla of reason in Bryant's position in the "Monkey Trial": he'd seen "evolution in action" used to justify savage misbehavior by the powerful.

Episode 8 of The Day the Universe Changed (Fit to Rule) covered how the theory of evolution was interpreted by fascist Germany, socialist Russia, and capitalistic America:

Of course, Darwin was bound to go down well here in the States, where another academic preached his gospel of evolution — free enterprise style this time.

Name of Sumner, a professor at Yale. He took Darwin, and made it socially meaningful for the upwardly mobile.

That is to say, the struggle for survival was part of the great American tradition that brought all comforts for those who worked for them. The struggle weeded out the weak, the unfit, and the stupid; unless you gave them unfair help with dangerous nonsense like government aid, or welfare, or education. In which case they'd bred more like them, and drag the country down.

In a heart-warming little pamphlet published in 1883, Sumner asked the question: what do the social classes owe each other? And came up with the reassuring answer: (beat — then face up in the camera) nothing.

For Sumner, Darwin gave proof that what America should be all about was liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest. In other words, the meek should inherit what's left.

For Sumner, the best equipped to win the struggle, was the great American businessman. As long as his survival wasn't endangered by evils like taxes, regulations, factory acts, that stuff. Absolute freedom of action was what made America great. And now, that was a scientific fact.

Well, in a country founded on the principle of individualism, out here in the West where a man walked tall, might was right, life was rugged, where you could be anything you wanted to be if you had the guts to fight for it; in that kind of country, Darwin's theory made no more than good horse sense.

All you had to do, was stay on the horse.

#98 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 09:11 PM:

Like Clifton in #91 I usually give some slack to some 'conservatives', in that they don't truly realise the consequences of their beliefs in action, or at least taken too far. One might be able to change their minds with examples and arguments.

For example "small government", apart from making more likely failures like multiple parts of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath also promotes the rise of "strongmen" whether warlords, old-style robber barons, gangsters, corporate robber barons, merchant bankers, property developers and speculators, etc, and a society of patronage. I call this the baboon troop model of society (see my rant in Open thread 103, especially the part about the purpose of government starting with the Mutual Fund logo showing how it's hard to break a bundle of twigs even if you can snap them singly with ease). [And yes, large government has its own problems too. Boringly, I recommend moderation, checks and balances — the kind of thing I believe Australia used to have sorted out fairly well.]

A tricky bit is to work out which are these people and which are just using their arguments to justify more selfish sociopathic goals. One interesting study of the Third Reich is following different lower-level people who go through the realisation of what they've been supporting, and how they deal with it. Like the Milgram experiment and other instances, there's a lesson for everyone on their own vulnerability, and reason to examine assumptions and consequences.

#99 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 10:09 PM:
and I do wonder just what the percentage residents in Alaska are black

As of 2000, a little under 4%. I have no difficulty at all believing Palin is, at best, clueless about race. My Alaskan in-laws are mortified that she is portraying everyone in their state as moronic yahoos whose only form of entertainment is shooting large animals.

#100 ::: Elsbet ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 10:30 PM:

I bet that 4% is mostly transitory Army or Air Force living on Eielson, Fort Rich, or Elmendorf.

Although I bet half the people I knew in the service changed their home of record to Anchorage so they could retire to Alaska. It's an interesting place. The way it affects people is even more interesting.

#101 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 10:44 PM:

Clifton Royston @ 91: "The point of this tedious exercise is to remind you that you can not assume that all traditional conservatives see as their goal to establish inequality, even when that's exactly what their policies do - because most people are really fucking bad at figuring out the effects of their actions, let alone the effects of broad policies, and most of them aren't thinking about the consequences anyway - they're thinking about what sounds right according to some screwy and half-thought-out set of principles."

Are they really? Because I'm pretty sure that people who get up on election day and go vote for a ban on gay marriage know very well the effects of their action--to prevent gay people from getting married. If you believe Lee Atwater, it seems that people who cheer at the phrase "state's rights" know exactly what they're cheering for. (And they certainly seem to be willing to drop their principled opposition to federal power when it cuts their way.)

And why is it that entitlement programs spark such rage in the minds of the poor whites who benefit from them as much as anyone? Might it have something to do with Reagan's famous welfare queen in her cadillac and his "young buck" buying t-bones with food stamps? The idea that blacks are getting federal assistance too is enough to get poor whites to vote to get rid of it altogether. I doubt they failed to realize that cutting food stamps and poverty assistance would hurt them too--they aren't stupid. They simply decided that it was worth it.

What we're arguing here is the eternal "Stupid or Evil?" debate: do they do terrible, heartless things because they don't know what they're supporting, or do they do them with full knowledge and a black heart? While I have no doubt that there are a fair number of below average thinkers in the conservative camp--just about half, I'd guess--I don't find "stupid" a satisfactory explanation. For one thing, it's as patronizing as all get out--exactly what conservative expect from liberals. And it doesn't explain why it is that stances against gay marriage, affirmative action, and reproductive choice are the vote-getters: they're not the medicine being snuck down, they're the honey. They're what attracts people.

#102 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 10:54 PM:

elsbet,

I bet that 4% is mostly transitory Army or Air Force living on Eielson, Fort Rich, or Elmendorf.

i had a college friend who was mixed race (black mother, i believe, white father) from alaska. but yeah, she was a military brat.

oh, & for the record, i had a handful of alaskan friends & classmates when i was in college in seattle, & none of them had minnesotan accents.

#103 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 11:00 PM:

Clifton Royston @ 91 you may be making a bad assumption there as well. I for one don't care about their intent. What I care about is the results that putting Republicans in power have produced. We've got decades of results to look at and the results are overwhelmingly bad. I can intend to make golden monkeys fly out of my butt all I want. That doesn't mean it's going to happen or that I should be surprised when it doesn't.

#104 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 11:27 PM:

Okay, that's not quite true. I do care about intent, but it's a tempered thing. People who drive drunk rarely intend to hurt anybody, but there's a huge body of evidence that suggests that driving drunk is likely to hurt people, a body of evidence that anyone who drives should be aware of.

An enormous amount of harm has been done over the years by people who didn't intend harm but who should have known that harm was the likely result of their actions. Are they less culpable than those who intended harm? Yes, in most cases they are at least somewhat less culpable. Does that get them off the hook? No, not a chance.

#105 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2008, 01:43 AM:

They're going even crazier--Andy McCarthy is now saying he approves of an article in "The American Thinker" (another odious right-wing blog) which purports to demonstrate that Bill Ayers ghost-wrote "Dreams of My Father."

Never mind that Obama's editor confirms Obama wrote every word, and never mind asking why on earth Obama would hire a college dropout who had yet to publish a word to ghostwrite a book for him.

They're going Chris Ruddy on us *before* the election. I'd like to hope they discredit themselves with vast swaths of the American public. Have we learned from the Clinton years?

#106 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2008, 03:35 AM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 64, sorry, I didn't know that. Thanks.

#107 ::: Charlie Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2008, 11:17 AM:

On the subject of folks gone 'round the bend, there were already drugged-out drifters plotting assassination at the Democratic convention.

On "States' Rights" as a rationale for the Civil War: if you're talking to anyone who might be swayed by rational evidence, that's easy to counter. All you have to do is look at what Southern politicians themselves said about the matter --- not after the war, when they were making excuses, but before, when they were trying to justify it themselves.

The "States' Rights" excuse was cooked up by former Confederate veep Alexander Stephens after the war. But the same guy gave a famous speech before the war --- the "cornerstone speech" --- in which he said that the Confederacy's "cornerstone rests" on the principle of racial inequality, drawing that as the principal contrast with the North, while barely mentioning States' rights at all.

If that's not enough, there are several speeches extant, including Jefferson Davis's farewell address to the U.S. Senate, in which the secessionists decry attempts by Northern states to repudiate the Fugitive Slave Act.

I've got an old blog entry here with pointers and quotes...

#108 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2008, 02:07 PM:

Raphael #106: I am in the position of being able to look things like that up. And to note that Sullivan wrote his dissertation under the supervision of Harvey Mansfield, perhaps the most important of the surviving disciples of Leo Strauss. I wouldn't suggest, however, that Sullivan is a Straussian.

#109 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2008, 04:45 PM:

WRT to intent/results: If this were a thing which had no track record... then intent might give people a pass. But the simple questions (are you better off than you were before this politician, ad his associates, took the reins of power: How have the lives/rights/etc. of other people been affected by the policies these people supported/passed: Hav they done what they promised) are just that simple (I'm not asking, specifically, that people do the research which shows the budget deficit has grown more consistentently under repubs than dems, or that brtns go down when dem policies are pursued. What I am asking is for more macro responses... Has the gov't been more/less involved in day-today life, is the economy around them up, or down, etc).

If they can look at that (and I presume even the meanest of intellects can do that sort of reasoning; it's a form of self-interest), and still vote for the people who do that to them.... I have to assume they either don't care about intent, and just want to have their "tribe" in power [never mind that being on the side of the power players in that tribe doesn't mean they give a damn about you], or they agree with the end results.

Going on 40 years of results are there for the appreciating.

I used to be more tolerant of that sort of, "forgive them, they know not what they do," but you know what, I'm coming to think they do.

#110 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2008, 07:59 PM:

Terry @ #109, "I'm coming to think they do."

Oh, let there be no doubt. How else would you explain organizations like The Young Republicans, from whence Karl Rove originally sprang?

#111 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2008, 09:18 PM:

Linkmeister: I never doubted there were evil men who actively sought such things.

What I didn't use to believe is the vast mass of people willing to go along with them willingly; i.e.. not duped.

I am losing my faith in that.

#112 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 11:54 AM:

In related news:
"Nurglon Supporters Claim Obama Is A Witch"
http://aryngve.blogspot.com/2008/10/nurglon-supporters-claim-barack-obama.html
---------------------
Sean Inannity: Joe-Bob... you and your friends, die-hard Nurglon supporters, are saying that Barack Obama is a witch.

Joe-Bob Sispak: Yeah!

(Voices in crowd: A witch! A witch! Burn'im! Burn the witch!)

S: But how do you *know* he's a witch?

J: He turned me into a newt!

S: A newt?

J: (Pause) I got better...

S: It does look like Obama is going to win the election. Do you expect your candidate, Nurglon, to bow out gracefully?

J: No! Nurglon must win! She's the only one who can save us now!

S: From the economic crisis?

J: No, ya dope! From the elves!

S: The elves??

J: Yeah! See, Nurglon's been givin' us a few hints who's really behind them bad loans and risin' prices and stuff! It's all the work of a global conspiracy of elves! But Nurglon's gonna eat all the elves and then the problems are going away! Nurglon forever!!

(Crowd cheers)
---------------

#113 ::: Tuxedo Slack ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 12:02 PM:

Belatedly to BruceB @#61:

The real secret of the conservative movement is that they've learned how, via environmental stimuli plus dietary manipulation, to reunify the bicameral mind.

It's called Pentecostalism (like the Assemblies of God, Palin's church). "The Reverend Wayne's Pearly Gates is the cult of Asherah." — Hiro Protagonist

#114 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 12:44 PM:

Linkmeister #110: Oh, let there be no doubt. How else would you explain organizations like The Young Republicans, from whence Karl Rove originally sprang?

I'd say "slouched" rather than "sprang". No, wait, rough beasts tend to slouch towards rather than spring from. Durned Daylight Savings End Times.

#115 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 01:02 PM:

heresiarch #101:

So, if I'm reading you right, your take is that the only reasons anyone would hold these positions (say, opposing gay marriage, opposing affirmative action in education or minority-owned-business set asides in government contracts, favoring welfare reform, opposing brtn) is because they're either a fool, a villain, or both. Is that right? Is there some other way I'm supposed to read your comment?

Look, I understand you have strong opinions on those issues--so do I, so do most of us. But assuming that anyone who disagrees with you is at best stupid and at worst evil (and probably both) is like blinding yourself. With that assumption, you will pretty much never learn where you're wrong. That's fine, if you're sure you already know everything there is to know about optimal laws and policies for a country like ours. But if you might be wrong, you might want to be able to learn about it. Even if you're right, you're liable to have better luck making common cause with people on the other side of these issues, if you can actually get some sense of non-monstrous reasons why they believe that. I promise you, you will have very little luck changing anyone's opinion by telling them they're evil fools for disagreeing with you.

Do you personally know anyone who disagrees with you on any of these issues? See, I know a lot of people who disagree with me on them and others, and mostly, they're decent, smart people. I've learned a lot by listening to people with whom I don't agree, people who told me years ago that humans often didn't work the way my neoclassical economics influenced libertarian models suggested, people who pointed out that a dog-eat-dog social system meant people who lost the genetics lottery for health or intelligence got permanently, royally screwed, people who pointed out that just because *I* didn't see the discrimination happening didn't mean it wasn't there. If I had discarded all that information (since clearly, it was coming from evil fools who wanted Big Brother running the world, who worshiped the state, who wanted special rights the rest of us didn't have), I'd have remained far more ignorant of the world as it is. This is a losing strategy for both individuals and society.

#116 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 01:34 PM:

albatross, thank you for your eloquence above.

heresiarch at 101: I belong to a church -- in fact, I am a member of the Pastoral Council of the parish -- in which many, not all, people believe that abortion is morally wrong and legal abortion is a terrible social evil. They also believe that allowing the legal marriage of gay people will harm society in some way. The bishops of my Church also say these things. I think the bishops are mistaken; I think these people, with whom I pray and work, are wrong on these issues. I know these men and women: they are not evil or uncompassionate, they would not shoot a doctor who performed abortions, or beat a young gay man and leave him to die on the fence. They struggle with ethical and social choices, as do I. But they will vote for Prop 8, here in California, and some of them will not vote for Obama because of what they know about his position on abortion.

But maybe you aren't talking about the people I know, but about some other people...?

#117 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 01:45 PM:

Lizzy, you might be interested in this story from the LA Times.

#118 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 02:32 PM:

Stupid or evil? Of course one or the other or some mixture of the two. But the thing is, that doesn't sum up the entirety of the person in question. From the top they look good and honorable; from the bottom likewise; from every angle of approach they may be good and splendid people you would want carrying your coffin... Except for the angle, in this case, of gay marriage. And if you're standing there looking at them from that direction, you see the rotten streak.

No need to make this an argument to absurdity. You can do a stupid thing without being a stupid person. You can hold a stupid idea without being a stupid person. Every other idea you hold may be worthy... But it's ridiculous to say that, because of your general goodness, your one stupid idea mustn't be called out for what it is.

#119 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 02:52 PM:

Lizzy L, #116: I'm sure you're right, that the people in your church would never shoot a clinic doctor or hunt gays for fun. But they are willing to contribute to a social climate in which both of those things happen, under the unexamined assumption* that it is "morally superior". This doesn't make them evil, but it does make them fellow travelers with those who are.

* Because no matter how much they struggle, in the end it all comes down to their personal interpretation of the Bible. They never truly question whether that interpretation could be incorrect.

#120 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 03:06 PM:

Ok, if we can't use "stupid" or "evil", what's left? "Willfully misled"? "Paving the road to Hell"?

#121 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 03:28 PM:

I guess I think people are responsible for their own beliefs, unless they've been thoroughly brainwashed and/or never encountered any contrasting beliefs.

Maybe we should back away from labeling people and label acts instead. Someone who votes yes on Prop 8 is doing evil; whether they are an evil person overall depends on the sum of their acts, and is difficult if not impossible to evaluate, but that act of voting yes on 8 is an evil act, and should be treated as such, regardless of whatever beliefs or traditions led to it.

I think the people who say same-sex marriage will "harm society" are ignorant (and possibly stupid) OR they just mean "oh noes, we're not getting our way as often! Badness!" In the former case I would challenge them to come up with a way in which it will harm society, and point out ways in which it benefits society; I'd follow up with arguments about justice and the American way.

In the latter case, they can bite my fat gay ass.

#122 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 03:31 PM:

As I was just saying to my ethical vegetarian friend the other day:

I'm sure you're right, that the people you eat veggie meals with would never club lab scientists or send nail bombs to butchers. But they are willing to contribute to a social climate in which both of those things happen, under the unexamined assumption* that it is "morally superior". This doesn't make them evil, but it does make them fellow travelers with those who are.

* Because no matter how much they struggle, in the end it all comes down to their personal interpretation of morality. They never truly question whether that interpretation could be incorrect.

Does anyone here ever buy things made in China? Or eat factory-farmed meat? Buy non-fairtrade coffee, tea, sugar? Do you know what living and working conditions you're supporting, what suffering you're paying for? What are you, stupid or evil?

Everything we do has consequences, near and distant. We choose among those consequences, either avoiding things that we consider bad, or selecting those that we consider good. But every action also has unintended consequences, or known ones that we accept as side effects of the ones we seek.

You may not agree with the priorities and choices of others. But if you're going to posit that everyone who doesn't agree with you and your priorities is either stupid or evil, you're plotting the world like a third-rate slushpile novelist. The cardboard villains and idiots that you people the world with do not exist.

Please stop assuming they do, or you damage any chance that you can make common cause with them, or persuade them to care about the same set of consequences that you do.

#123 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 03:35 PM:

Xopher @ 121... I'd follow up with arguments about justice and the American way.

Last year, TCM ran the original Superman serial, with Kirk Allyn, who flew in before George Reeve. At some point, he explain what he's fighting for:

Truth, Tolerance, and Justice.
#124 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 04:44 PM:

It's good to remember that we, too, are stupid and evil. Helps break it down to stupid = if you thought about it with more info, you'd see I was right; and evil = what you've decided to do is just wrong. But it has no real bearing on whether and how you get to judge others.

"We shouldn't say this out loud because it's counterproductive" is a tactical argument, separate, I think, from the main argument.

A Secret Asian Man comic the "buying stuff from China" thing reminded me of.

#125 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 06:47 PM:

They never truly question whether that interpretation could be incorrect.

Lee at 119, what do you think struggle means? Of course they question -- as I do. The opposite of faith isn't doubt -- it's certainty.

Xopher, I believe that the folks I am talking about are ignorant. As I am, about many things. Do I like the consequences of some of their conclusions? Hell no, and I will fight those consequences, by voting, speaking out, donating, marching, etc. But as abi has so eloquently pointed out, it does us all no good and much harm for me to turn them into cardboard cutouts.

#126 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 08:47 PM:

abi, #122: I will say only this: Yes, I am flawed; I do some of those things. But I don't do them because I think they are the morally right thing to do (in the teeth of all evidence to the contrary), nor do I try to convince others that they are the morally right thing to do, nor to make it the law of the land that things must be done that way.

#127 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 12:40 AM:

I thought some of you might find this interesting -- and I have no desire to turn this into an brtn thread, that's not the point...

From National Catholic Reporter:

While American bishops are usually circumspect about declaring their electoral preferences, at least one African prelate currently attending the Synod of Bishops in Rome feels no such scruples. Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, said today he would “obviously” vote for Barak Obama if he could cast a ballot on Nov. 4.

Known as a strong advocate for social justice, Onaiyekan said Obama’s pro-choice record wouldn’t stop him from voting for the Democrat.

“The fact that you oppose abortion doesn’t necessarily mean that you are pro-life,” Onaiyekan said in an interview with NCR. “You can be anti-abortion and still be killing people by the millions through war, through poverty, and so on.”

A past president of the African bishops’ conference, Onaiyekan is widely seen as a spokesperson for Catholicism in Africa. During the synod, he was tapped to deliver a continental report on behalf of the African bishops.

Onaiyekan said the election of an African-American president would have positive repercussions for America’s image in the developing world.

“It would mean that for the first time, we would begin to think that the Americans are really serious in the things they say, about freedom, equality, and all that,” he said. “For a long time, we’ve been feeling that you don’t really mean it, that they’re just words.”

Onaiyekan said he’s aware that many American Catholics have reservations about Obama because of his stand on abortion, but he looks at it differently.

“Of course I believe that abortion is wrong, that it’s killing innocent life,” he said. “I also believe, however, that those who are against abortion should be consistent.

“If my choice is between a person who makes room for abortion, but who is really pro-life in terms of justice in the world, peace in the world, I will prefer him to somebody who doesn’t support abortion but who is driving millions of people in the world to death,” Onaiyekan said.

“It’s a whole package, and you never get a politician who will please you in everything,” he said. “You always have to pick and choose.”

#128 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 07:56 AM:

albatross @ 115: "So, if I'm reading you right, your take is that the only reasons anyone would hold these positions is because they're either a fool, a villain, or both."

I can see how you got that impression from my post, but it's not what I meant--I was being sloppy.* I was essentializing, and turned a thing one does into a thing one is. That doesn't reflect what I believe.

I think Madeline F @ 118 captures it well: "You can do a stupid thing without being a stupid person. You can hold a stupid idea without being a stupid person." I would say the same about believing evil ideas. Simply voting against allowing gay people to marry doesn't make you an instant, undiluted villian--but it does make you villianous in that respect. Denying gays the right to marry is enforcing inequality, and I do not believe that fact escapes those who hold that view. I will hold them to account for that. No amount of kindness towards your neighbors or love for your family makes that act of evil go away. Neither does that act of evil make your virtues vanish.

People are complicated, and any complete moral reckoning, if possible at all, is beyond my power. So let me say this instead: Conservative ideology is (unlike people) fundamentally evil, and the extent to which people adhere to it, they are doing evil.

"Do you personally know anyone who disagrees with you on any of these issues? See, I know a lot of people who disagree with me on them and others, and mostly, they're decent, smart people."

If I said yes, would it be any more convincing than someone accused of racism mentioning all their black friends?

It would be nice if everyone who held evil beliefs cackled constantly to themselves and kicked puppies,** but that's rarely the case. To all appearances, the Cheney family is very tight and loving, but they nonetheless support an ideology that has manifestly led to immeasurable human suffering.

There's a tendency to believe that being decent and respectful towards the people you encounter on a day to day basis is a protection against doing evil things*** and holding evil thoughts. It is not. Political ideology can rarely be executed on a person-by-person basis, and so one's personal kindness means little to those on the receiving end of the policies.

*Shocking, I know.

**Well, not from the puppies' point of view.

***Above and beyond the evil of being rude.

(Lizzy L @ 116, I don't mean to ignore you, but I think my replies to albatross work as replies to you as well, and I need to go. Sorry!)

#129 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 08:48 AM:

heresiarch #129:

(When the spam goes away, I think you will become #128)

Fair enough. When I see you talk about the reasons why people believe and advocate for certain positions, I don't usually catch this nuance. I agree that people can be decent and rational in most parts of their lives, and still be a mess of nastiness and irrationality in others. I guess there's some connection between your decency and rationality in different parts of your life, but I don't know how strong, as the world is full of people who can cheer on the bombing of foreign kids one day, and send a big chunk of their paycheck to a charity to feed starving foreign kids the next.

Net.politics discussions are full of inferred evil motives for your[1] opponents, most of which shed no light on the real reasons for some disagreement, but serve to make you and your friends feel good. This is making heat without any light. To see this more clearly, it's good to find a political argument in which you simply have no dog in the fight, and then watch as the two sides infer bizarre and villainous motives to one another. (Think about gnu control debates in which those who want more gnu control are labeled as "gun grabbers" or people who want women strangled in an alleyway rather than explaining themselves to a jury. Or the arguments about how the people who don't want state-sponsored religious displays are carrying out a "war on Christmas." All heat, no light.)

ISTM that the inferred evil motives are great for rallying the troops, for convincing the faithful, and for keeping up the kind of anger necessary to get donations and volunteers. But not for actually understanding the world, in which (frex) people oppose brtn or gay marriage or favor gnu control or easier immigration for entirely non-monstrous reasons which may be wrong, but which are hardly ever driven by evil motives.

[1] This is the impersonal you. If I were a better writer, I'd find a different way to express this.

#130 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 11:41 AM:

albatross @ 131 (130?): "ISTM that the inferred evil motives are great for rallying the troops, for convincing the faithful, and for keeping up the kind of anger necessary to get donations and volunteers. But not for actually understanding the world, in which (frex) people oppose brtn or gay marriage or favor gnu control or easier immigration for entirely non-monstrous reasons which may be wrong, but which are hardly ever driven by evil motives."

I think we're still miscommunicating, because my point is, no, they do support policies I detest for monstrous reasons. Not everyone I disagree with and not all the time, but the vast bulk of that thing I call conservatism is monstrous, and the non-monstrous parts are typically the first to be discarded. I am saying that they do it not for the sake of society or justice or good, but because it makes them feel better about themselves.

This is important because a great deal of the liberal educate-your-opponent-into-submission strategy which has served so poorly in the last several decades is based on this idea that conservatives are only conservatives because they don't know any better. But they are not merely liberals who haven't seen the light yet, they are people who have a fundamentally different worldview, one in which inequality is necessary, and even good. Until that view is held responsible for the problems it causes, and roundly recognized as the toxic, evil thing that it is, people will continue to champion it, and people will continue to listen.

#131 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 11:58 AM:

I am still trying to find adequately negative words for David Frum's melancholy fit on the Racheal Maddow show last night. No, the tone of political discourse will not be raised by Ms. Maddow becoming as dry and boring and humorless as you are, Mr. Frum. I realize it must be hard to see all you've worked for and promoted for coming up on two decades fall to ruin, but those who are pointing out the ways in which the ruin is a result of over-application of the social and economic nostrums you've been prescibing are not equally responsible for the outcome because they're mean and making fun of you.

And, by the way, Mr. Frum, here in the US we do not say "moving into the opposition." We say "losing."

#132 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 12:12 PM:

JESR 133: Sounds like a good thing for me to watch while baking a Schadenfreude Pie. David Frum whining and sniveling and suffering would be balm to the many wounds of anger he's inflicted over the years.

#133 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 12:33 PM:

Xopher, watch his body language in the interview. It screams "cornered rat."

#134 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 05:40 PM:

heresiarch @132:
This is important because a great deal of the liberal educate-your-opponent-into-submission strategy which has served so poorly in the last several decades is based on this idea that conservatives are only conservatives because they don't know any better.

There's a lot of superiority, and a measurable amount of contempt, in that statement. This might be an alternative explanation for the failure of liberals to convince ordinary conservatives* of the reasonableness of their views. Very few people are "educated out of" views, though they may be discussed out of them. The difference involves listening, and being open to change yourself.

Really, for people who oppose arbitrary moral absolutism, some of the commenters in this thread are coming off as awfully self-righteous and fairly light on the very doubt and introspection that they prescribe for others.

I am a liberal in almost every sense, and still I find myself put off.

Lee @126:
I can't see how to pursue this further without turning it into a brtn thread, and that I will not do.

-----
* in other words, the people who haven't got their public reputations and livelihoods tied up in their conservative identities, as opposed to the idealogues who make their bread and their names by their membership of the movement.

#135 ::: sherrold ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 07:19 PM:

Continuing abi's thought in 136:
I am very left in my views, and I admit, I use "conservative" as a sneer word sometimes...and yet, I'm surprisingly (to me) uncomfortable with conservative = evil.

I am okay with authoritarian = evil, and I readily agree that many aspects of current USian conservative thought are supportive of an authoritarian world view, and practice, but apparently, I'm not willing to say "all current USian conservatism is authoritarian".

Some people really just want lower taxes and haven't noticed that their bridges are about to fall down. I am annoyed that they don't pay more attention, but I don't think they're bad people.

#136 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 08:16 PM:

sherrold #137: There are those people who want to keep government small, and who, at the same time desire that it should act, when it does act, to promote virtue and restrain vice, because they do not believe that human beings, by their nature are very trustworthy. They generally have the grace to include themselves in this, and accept that they should be regulated for the general moral good as much as everybody else. These are conservatives in the classic sense.

Then there are those persons who want to keep things as it was in some mythical former time when things were safe and orderly, and all those people(for several values of that term that include women, the ethnically different, the sexually different, and, increasingly these days, people who can speak familiarly of a noun and a verb and such abominable words as no Xtian ear can endure to hear) subordinated and excluded from power. They also call themselves conservatives. For some reason, they have taken to calling conservatives of the former type 'liberals', even though they and liberals -- i.e., persons for whom the highest political good is liberty -- don't have all that much in common.

#137 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 08:19 PM:

For 'as it was' please read 'as they were'. Ugh.

#138 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 09:15 PM:

Somebody who wants to compel you, without regard to your consent, never mind your informed consent, for their own profit, really is evil.

American "movement conservatives" are, and have been for a couple generations now, really seriously in favour of policies of compulsion.

#139 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 09:15 PM:

Somebody who wants to compel you, without regard to your consent, never mind your informed consent, for their own profit, really is evil.

American "movement conservatives" are, and have been for a couple generations now, really seriously in favour of policies of compulsion.

#141 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 03:51 AM:

abi @ 136: "There's a lot of superiority, and a measurable amount of contempt, in that statement. This might be an alternative explanation for the failure of liberals to convince ordinary conservatives* of the reasonableness of their views."

I'm not sure how my opinion, which is evidently not widely shared by liberals, can be responsible for liberalism's decades-long failure to convince conservatives. But yes, you're right: I do find my moral reasoning superior to that of racists, sexists, and bigots. Don't you find yours to be?

"Really, for people who oppose arbitrary moral absolutism, some of the commenters in this thread are coming off as awfully self-righteous and fairly light on the very doubt and introspection that they prescribe for others."

Opposition to arbitrary moral absolutism implies no opposition to necessary moral absolutism. Casting about randomly dividing categories like gender, race, class and sexuality into good and bad is enormously damaging, but equally damaging is refusing to label as good or bad anything at all. It is, ironically enough, the danger conservatives are constantly accusing liberals of bringing about.

#142 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 04:03 AM:

sherrold @ 137: "Some people really just want lower taxes and haven't noticed that their bridges are about to fall down. I am annoyed that they don't pay more attention, but I don't think they're bad people."

(I'd bet that most people who are for low taxes, but opposed to deregulation, discrimination, wage inequality, and nationalism would self-identify as liberals, but maybe that's just me.) I think we're far beyond the point where failure to notice the consequences of conservative ideas is plausible.

Those two posts that I linked to above are by Fred Clark, a former evangelical. They detail his experiences of trying to combat a particularly ridiculous, implausible but nonetheless widely-believed rumor within the evangelical community. To quote:

This is a mind-bogglingly silly story. It's not just implausible, but inconceivable, impossible. It is unbelievable on its face for dozens of reasons that become clear from even a moment's consideration, and it's based on factual claims that are easy to check on and quickly disproved. But we don't need to get bogged down here in the ridiculousness of this malicious rumor, so bracket that for now, that's not the interesting part.

And yet, when he conclusively debunked the story, he found that rather than be relieved, people were upset and angry at him.

The dossier/Snopes approach doesn't work because it attempts to apply facts and reason to people who are not interested in either facts or reason. That's not a nice thing to say, or even to think, about anyone else, which is why I was reluctant and slow to reach that conclusion. But that conclusion was inevitable.

In trying to combat the P&G slander with nothing more than irrefutable facts proving it false, I was operating under a set of false assumptions. Among these:

1. I assumed that the people who claimed to believe that Procter & Gamble supported the Church of Satan really did believe such a thing.

2. I assumed that they were passing on this rumor in good faith -- that they were misinforming others only because they had, themselves, been misinformed.

3. I assumed that they would respect, or care about, or at least be willing to consider, the actual facts of the matter.

4. Because the people spreading this rumor claimed to be horrified/angry about its allegations, I assumed that they would be happy/relieved to learn that these allegations were, indisputably, not true.

All of those assumptions proved to be false. All of them. This was at first bewildering, then disappointing, and then, the more I thought about it, appalling -- so appalling that I was reluctant to accept that it could really be the case.

But it is the case. Let's go through that list again. The following are all true of the people spreading the Procter & Gamble rumor:

1. They didn't really believe it themselves.

2. They were passing it along with the intent of misinforming others. Deliberately.

3. They did not respect, or care about, the actual facts of the matter, except to the extent that they viewed such facts with hostility.

4. Being told that the Bad Thing they were purportedly upset about wasn't real only made them more upset. Proof that the 23rd largest corporation in America was not in league with the Devil made them defensive and very, very angry.

Again, I'm not happy to be saying such things about anyone, and I'm only doing so here reluctantly, yet this is the appalling truth.

This is what conservativism is: a set of appealing lies that are only believed in because they justify the unjustifiable. They are not reasons, they are rationalizations for something that they want to do but couldn't otherwise bring themselves to.

#143 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 07:50 AM:

Heresiarch @ 144

I don't think Fred Clark counts himself as a 'former evangelical'. Unless he's changed his position in the last few months he still self-identifies as an evangelical Christian - he just has no truck with the religious right, who he correctly identifies as betraying everything evangelical Christianity is supposed to stand for.

#144 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 07:51 AM:

heresiarch @143:

But yes, you're right: I do find my moral reasoning superior to that of racists, sexists, and bigots. Don't you find yours to be?

But not all conservatives are racists, sexists or bigots*. Demonizing an entire set of your fellow Americans—your fellow people—because some of them are nutters is practically a national sport these days, but that doesn't make it right.

Taking the broader point, of course I find my opinions to be more right than others'. That's why they're my opinions. What I'm trying to point out is that too high a degree of certainty, and the concommitant contempt for anyone who does not share them, is damaging. And you don't seem to be differentiating between moral views that are generally held very strongly (about equality, for example) and weak ones (about, for instance, wealth distribution).

For instance: I have certain views about the extent of social safety net that is appropriate in a wealthy society. I believe that too great a gap between the rich and the poor is harmful to the cohesion of the community, and I think it is appropriate for the group as a whole to support the less fortunate ("raise the floor").

However, many conservatives believe that too much of a safety net removes the incentive for people to strive, to better themselves and their families. They feel that rewarding success and punishing failure will lead to a higher rate of success, and that the shared values of hard work and independence will build a better community than one that does not emphasise these values.

I can see where conservatives are coming from here, though I think the consequences to the poor are too great to agree with them. But I am willing to grant that people of good will may hold beliefs that are different than mine, for perfectly valid reasons.

(Of course, both approaches then get tangled up in edge cases and diluted by cushioning the consequences of the pure philosophies. When does taxation to support the safety net become too redistributive, causing the wealthy to leave the country (see British tax exiles)? When do people suffer from handicaps that they cannot overcome with hard work and determination?)

An additional problem with painting your opponents as extremists is that it cause them to behave tribally. And we're neck-deep in that already, and drowning.

An interesting read in this context, via Scalzi: Rick Moran on not sabotaging the system when The Other Guy is elected. (My memory of the history he recounts...emphasises different actions...than he does, but the point he comes out to is valid.)

-----
* neither in the sense of people who make their decisions based on race, to the detriment of some, nor in the sense of people who don't care about the negative impact of decisions taken for other reasons on certain groups (intent vs impact).

#145 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 07:59 AM:

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
- Lao Tzu

That being said, let's not forget that people here are on the same side. Really.

#146 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 09:49 AM:

Not particularly, Serge.

People here aren't even on the side of facts consistently; it's not like the typical Making Light conversation references the peer reviewed literature at all, never mind frequently. (Emotionally on the side of facts is a different thing.)

Courtesy? There's a reason Teresa has the reputation as a moderator that she does; courtesy is to a significant degree enforced. (Necessarily autocratically enforced.)

I wouldn't even take a bet that more than half of the habitual Making Light commenters would be for an assertion to the effect that the chief purpose of government is to advance the common good.

One doesn't have to be on the same side, or have the same tribal identification, for there to be some things whose side one is altogether not on, to paraphrase Treebeard, and I think that is much more of the basis of agreement being seen now.

Abi --

What's going on now, politically, is significantly a choice between, on the one hand, continued change in society, driven by communications infrastructure and the increase of knowledge, so that one can be quite confident that your children will not in their adulthood believe as you believe, and that your grandchildren, if grandchildren there should be, shall in their turn believe less as you believe than your children did, and on the other hand making the rate of change slow or stop, so that one's children can and shall believe as you believe. (Note how much of the American movement-conservative view wants to make that retroactive, to reverse change that has already happened in generational time.)

This has happened again and again; the last three hundred odd years are unusual only in as much as the forces of refusing change have been up against the flowering of industrialized power and as such prone to losing wars; whether the comms advances are as powerful an argument as steel tube artillery remains to be seen. (And if it is seen, no one is going to like it. No one liked the steel tube artillery, after all.)

Typically, the reactionary forces win. It is a lot easier to forcibly simplify a social organization than it is to produce a necessarily more complex more capable one, that allows more people to co-operate.

I agree that going nasty and tribal in one's choice of language about this issue isn't a help, but pretending that it's got an amicable resolution, or is in any fundamental way amendable to compromise is, and I think obviously is, false to fact.

#147 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 10:21 AM:

Graydon @ 148... We're not on the same side? I guess we'll have to disagree on that one. :-)

#148 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 10:46 AM:

Not really, no; there's a "Serge" side, that's your, personal, specific goals; maybe your spouse or your sibs are significantly on it, maybe it's just you. This is going to be pretty much entirely disjunct from a "Graydon" side.

There are wider, but also much less general, groupings; the common purpose you (may!) have with colleagues, the crew of a boat, a team you play sports with; those are groupings to achieve some relatively narrow ends.

Political ends are similarly narrow; they aren't, and shouldn't be, matters of tribal identification but present common purpose. If that's not true, co-operation in large enough groups to achieve political ends becomes very challenging.

#149 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 11:07 AM:

Graydon... If we're not on the same side, then we appear to have a common purpose. How does that sound?

#150 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 11:21 AM:

That sounds fine.

But it also means, that, as a political thing, we ought to be consciously determining what those common purposes might be.

For example, you are not -- at least, I would expect that you are not -- in favour of a stronger monarchy, or abolishing the provinces as unfortunate remnants of eighteenth century communications technology.

On the other hand, you might well be in favour of replacing first-past-the-post with single transferable vote, or with shifting the basis of the tax system to emissions charges.

It's the insistence on uniformity of purpose that leads to authoritarianism and schisms and all manner of wasted effort, and I'm not in favour of that whatsoever.

#151 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 11:38 AM:

Graydon @ 152... I would expect that you are not -- in favour of a stronger monarchy

I'm not?
Drat.
I'll put my General Zod outfit back in the closet.

Our common purpose is probably one that involves the prevalence, not of Fascism, but of Freedom. Of course we then get into the problem of the definition of what Freedom is.

#152 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 11:51 AM:

Freedom is pretty simple to define -- realizable access to choice.

It would probably be fairly straightforward to measure the amount of freedom in those terms, too, if one could ever get away from the thrice-vexed money proxy.

#153 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 12:03 PM:

Graydon... If it truly were straightforward to measure the amount of freedom, there'd be no Prop 8 being considered in California.

About conservatism and reactionary forces tending to win... Not always. Look at the Battle of the Sexes comedies that starred Doris Day in the early 1960s. Or look at yogurt. Last year, TCM showed 1954's comedy Athena: there's this young man with a very promising political career that may take him to the Oval Office; unfortunately, he is also in love with a young woman whose family is quite excentric - it's big on physical fitness and on healthy food. At some point, the young man's advisers say that, if he stays with her and if they make it to the White House, they'll embarass people by serving yogurt at social events.

#154 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 12:09 PM:

heresiarch #144:

On Clark's second numbered set: 1,2, and 3 are entirely inconsistent with 4. You can't know/behave as if something is false (even though you're trying to promulgate its "trueness") *and* be upset when you get proof that it's false. WTF?

#155 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 12:28 PM:

abi #146: Demonizing an entire set of your fellow Americans—your fellow people—because some of them are nutters is practically a national sport these days, but that doesn't make it right.

I admit to having indulged in that particular national sport, and yet I still feel uncomfortable that Making Light recently had a "mock Cindy McCain" thread.

#156 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 12:29 PM:

I think the whole concept of "sides" is flawed. Unfortunately it's the way things are divided in American politics. Few if any of the regular commenters here will be voting for Pinky and McCain/Palin. The ones who are US Citizens will mostly be voting for Obama, some more happily than others.

Even those of us who are not Christian (such as me) can see wisdom in "Do justice, and love kindness." Even those of us who are Christian don't think women should be silent in church, or that it's sinful to wear red, or that slaves should stay with their masters.

I remember a speech at a gay rights rally, where the speaker said "Coalition politics means working together for the things we agree on...[and] not fighting about the things we DON'T agree on."

Arguing about the things we don't agree on makes us stronger; fighting about them wastes our time and energy. We share a commitment to rationality (with some reservations in some cases, including mine), and a recognition that facts are important. I think insisting that being "on the side of facts" means "referencing the peer-reviewed literature" is patently absurd. When someone brings something in from the peer-reviewed literature, we tend to accept it, though a few of us might point out flaws in the methodology of the study in question.

But the facts we're on the side of are more basic. They're things you don't have to read the peer-reviewed literature to know. You don't have to read peer-reviewed literature to know that the US really did put humans on the Moon in 1969, and that the conspiracy theories about it all being faked are invented garbage. You can take the word of people who DO read the peer-reviewed literature, and even contribute to it, on facts like the Big Bang and evolution.

I've learned a lot from Making Light. I've learned why the even distribution of the cosmic background radiation proves the Big Bang. I've learned that nectarines are not a hybrid of peaches and plums, as was formerly believed, but a genetic variation of peaches. I think these are facts; if someone refuted them with evidence I would change my opinion.

This is what it means to me to be on the side of facts. I change my opinion in response to new evidence. And being on the side of reason means I may change my opinion in response to argument—though I can't see any way Graydon will convince me that strong monarchy is a good thing, since I believe monarchy should be utterly abolished, I'm open to the idea that he may be able to, if he presents the right evidence and logical arguments.

There are people out there who hold all opinions fixedly and with certainty, and who would not believe the Earth is round if you showed it to them from space. They will not change their opinions for new evidence, and arguments pass over them and through them like neutrinos, without leaving so much as a transmuted sodium ion, or stray thought, behind. These people are, unfortunately, a potent force in American politics at the moment.

These are the people whose side I am altogther not on, and I believe that all or virtually all of the regular commenters here oppose them as well. (Some of us don't utterly discard them, but believe they can be saved; I choose not to fight on that issue.) I believe that if you have no doubts at all you are probably wrong about most things, since people who doubt bother to check, whereas the chronically certain do not.

So the side does not have to agree on everything. We know what we share and what we do not. We're on the same side in principle, and one of the things we agree on is that it's OK to disagree on the details.

#157 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 12:37 PM:

joann 156: You can't know/behave as if something is false (even though you're trying to promulgate its "trueness") *and* be upset when you get proof that it's false.

You don't think it's upsetting to be caught in a deliberate lie? Or that there's evidence you've been lying, even if you don't get caught? Or that your goal, which is to bring down the victim of your lie, has become harder to achieve?

In my experience people get QUITE upset when these things happen. They start trying to shout you down, or, if they're in authority, they just arrest you until the convention is over (or whatever).

#158 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 12:39 PM:

On Clark's second numbered set: 1,2, and 3 are entirely inconsistent with 4. You can't know/behave as if something is false (even though you're trying to promulgate its "trueness") *and* be upset when you get proof that it's false. WTF?

You can if you're using the false idea to prop up something you like.

In this particular case, the chain goes like so:
*I want to believe my religion is a persecuted minority so that I can feel good about being one of the few enlightened souls.
*Nonetheless, the religion in question is in fact culturally dominant.
*So I need to find hidden conspiracies that are "really" working against it.
*So I make things up, or promote absurd things that I hear (in our example, that Proctor and Gamble is somehow in the service of Satan).
*So when you demonstrate to me that the enemy is imaginary, you remove one of the props allowing me to feel like a martyr.
*So I get angry at you.

#159 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 12:41 PM:

Serge @ 155 - Prop 8 is being advanced by people who are straightforwardly against freedom in the general case, though.

Just because you can measure it doesn't mean there's going to be more!

The general trend, well, I did say the last 300 years are this weird anomaly; I suspect the anomaly has been driven by transportation technologies with direct military application. I don't think the conditions that created the Dutch/Anglo mercantile thassalocracy and its consequents and postcursors continue to pertain.

So I'm not expecting the next 300 years to be the same kind of anomaly.

#160 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 12:51 PM:

Graydon @ 161... Prop 8 is being advanced by people who are straightforwardly against freedom

I bet you they'd object most strenuously. It's this pesky problem of the definition of what something is. And we just can't agree about what constitutes a desirable Society.

#161 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 01:28 PM:

Serge @162 -- By the definition I advanced, they certainly are straightforwardly against freedom.

They're certainly free to advance some other general definition, under which they are not against freedom, but I suspect they'd have a hard time of it.

That's one of the reasons the language used is so gyratory around reasons. It's very hard to argue for a flat prohibition of a behaviour in the absence of demonstrable harm without some intuitive sense that freedom is being constrained. Most of the reasons being advanced are contrafactual stuff about the essential historical character of marriage.

#162 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 01:46 PM:

As I've said elsewhere, the real reasons they want Prop 8 basically amount to "wahh, we're not getting our way as much as we think we should!"

Whiners.

#163 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 01:58 PM:

Was my post at 158 so thorough, so compelling, and so obviously right that no one can think of a thing to say about it?

Or was it just tl;dr?

Or have I just not waited long enough?

#164 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 02:00 PM:

Abi@122: But if you're going to posit that everyone who doesn't agree with you and your priorities is either stupid or evil, you're plotting the world like a third-rate slushpile novelist.

I just want to say that Making Light is an excellent source for sentences of the "Post it on the wall of the meeting-place in letters of fire (or, at least, letters of bright red neon)" variety, and the above is most definitely one of them.

#165 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Xopher @ 165... It's because it was so compellingly right. (As for the Moon-landing conspiracies, did you ever catch the MythBusters going thru the 'proofs'? Pretty neat.)

#167 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 02:47 PM:

For what it is worth in our broke economy my opinion of #143 ::: heresiarch is that he's right.

Slaveholders had to believe in the inherent inferiority of Africans, even deny they were human, in the face of all reason, all fact, all information, all evidence, in order to justify the inhumanity (to put it mildly) of their practice, which benefited them and them alone, economically and sexually, not to mention inflating their sense of self as superior and powerful.

This inhumanity, which is condemned as far as I can determine, by the founders of all our current major religions, continues. They get something from their hatred of Other, inflation of Like Me, conviction of Exceptionalism when it comes to ME and, in this nation, U.S.A. Rationality, reason, none of this matters. They believe Obama is a Muslim because they want to believe it, and it stands in for what they feel they cannot say in public, which word you know.

Just like what was on the official California GOP website until just a little while ago, a call to waterboard Obama.

You may believe that whoever manages to wrest the presidency out of this election is POTUS and is Your POTUS. But They do not.

We learned that lesson from the Lincoln elections and his assassination. For them assassination, theft, etc., is just elections or war by other means.

So what do you do in the face of that? In 2000 we all, including Gore, just allowed them to come into Florida with their goons and force the hand re-count to stop. That is not accepting that who wins the election is the POTUS.

Again, rationality, reason, any lofty discussion of intent vs active evil does not change the action, the consequences of the action, their thinking or their behaviors. Their motive is to Win. Period. By any means. The power must be theirs, and it is the power to coerce.

All slaveowners, no matter how personally beneficient a few might be, for as long as it suits them, is without the power to coerce.

So what do you do in the face of this? Do you form another party and work like hell to unravel and unseat the regime? Or do you arm yourself? Because all the proof of decades is that they don't mellow and suddenly return what has been taken from you. They just take more and more and more.

This is not a snark, but a genuine question. In the face of at least perceived coercion from Britain we had a War of Independence.

Love, C.

#168 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 02:48 PM:

Xopher @165 -- yeah, actually, it was a pretty compelling post, and I certainly agree.

When you said, "I remember a speech at a gay rights rally, where the speaker said 'Coalition politics means working together for the things we agree on...[and] not fighting about the things we DON'T agree on'" ...that struck a chord. It applies to so many areas, but reminded me especially of the women's movement. IMO women in the US achieved a lot when they worked together; advances for everyone slowed down with fights over brtn and the Mommy Wars. My first impression in Germany was that women tended to identify themselves as rural conservative housewives or urban liberal lesbians* first, which led to an emphasis on differences, which led to issues losing momentum and not getting anywhere. Despite women in prominent positions here, the glass ceiling is low and thick.

This polarizing trend toward tribalness in so many areas of life is something that has been frustrating me about the US for years.

*extreme stereopyping deliberate

#169 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 10:02 PM:

abi: I confess I feel as if some of that barb was aimed at me. Not so much that I feel defensive about it, but that I considered my position (if it wasn't, you don't need to tell me so... I took some of it to heart, and so they guilty mind is justly chastised). And I still come to the conclusion that those who are supporting the things which are leading to the gaps you (I think quite rightly) decry have to be wilfully blind to not see that the things which have happened have come of those votes they cast.

I don't demand they change; and I've not (despite how illegitimate I think the installation of Bush was) done anything to undermine the gov't they created over those decades of voting.

And I don't think them evil, per se, but I do think they are supporting (and I can't see how they can be so unaware of the effects they have created) an evil way of treating their (our) fellows.

I don't know what to do about the tribablism. I do my damndest to keep them in mind as people; yet I know the same is not being accorded me. I am afraid for the fruits of the rhetoric being sown (that the Dems are stealing the election through fraudulent voting, that Obama is a terrorist/traitor), because that sort of thing leads to violence.

I hold them as much in the light as I can, but I am not the best of Quakerly sorts (being no pacifist I cannot call my self more than a Quakerly sort).

#170 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 10:38 PM:

Xopher #158:

I loved your post.

Two thoughts came to mind as I read it:

First, it's important to recognize that stopped clocks don't tell you the wrong time, just a time arrived at in an inaccurate way. Just because the folks whose opinions were installed at the factory believe X doesn't mean X is false.

Second, changes of opinion are complex. I've changed my beliefs in some pretty radical ways over the years, and even when it seemed rather sudden externally, the seeds were usually planted in earlier discussions or reading or whatever--today, I hear an argument that some idea of mine may be wrong, but don't know enough to evaluate it. Tomorrow, I get the experiences or learn enough to see that the argument is right, or at least should raise questions about that belief.

#171 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2008, 04:09 AM:

abi @ 146: "For instance: I have certain views about the extent of social safety net that is appropriate in a wealthy society. I believe that too great a gap between the rich and the poor is harmful to the cohesion of the community, and I think it is appropriate for the group as a whole to support the less fortunate ("raise the floor").

However, many conservatives believe that too much of a safety net removes the incentive for people to strive, to better themselves and their families. They feel that rewarding success and punishing failure will lead to a higher rate of success, and that the shared values of hard work and independence will build a better community than one that does not emphasise these values."

The problem with both of these statements is that they don't describe positions, just tendencies. Depending on context, "more social safety net" or "more consequences for failure and rewards for success" could be used to describe any number of positions, or even the same position. In modern America, I'm definitely pro-social safety net, but drop me in China in 1970 and suddenly I'd be pro-individual consequences, without shifting a political inch.

Theoretical situations can be easily imagined in which either abstract argument offers the correct answer; so can situations where each is dead wrong. Evaluating the moral quality of someone's conservative or liberal tendencies is meaningless in the absence of the actual policies they support, and the positions they defend.

In my view, the policies and positions that conservatives advocate--privatization of Social Security, elimination of "entitlement" spending, opposition to governmental healthcare--do not reflect a belief in less social safety net and more individualized consequences. They reflect a belief in no social safety net and completely individualized consequences. It is not that no one may ever stray to the right of me and remain a moral actor. It is that the conservative movement is consistently beyond the realm of reasonable disagreement, and systematically acts in such a way as to perpetuate and increase inequality.

#172 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2008, 06:11 AM:

Graydon@161: "Thalassocracy".

#173 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2008, 12:33 PM:

David @174 --

Sigh.

Thank you.

I must remember that just because something gets Google hits doesn't mean I have spelt it correctly.

#174 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2008, 12:39 PM:

abi, your arguments are much too fair-minded and well-reasoned. Will you knock it off, please? ;-)

#175 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2008, 01:41 PM:

As an aside, does anyone else look at what's happening to the Republican party right now and see parallels with the way the old Communists looked when they lost power as the Berlin Wall fell?

It's like all kinds of internal dissent was kept silence by the threat of retribution or the promise of future jobs/patronage/status, and it's now come home to everyone that the party won't be in a position to back those threats up in the future. Lifelong Republicans are abandoning the party, career Republican pundits/hacks/what-have-you are openly breaking with the party and to some extent with the movement.

At the same time, the party leadership seems less and less in control of the situation as time goes on--probably because McCain's not up to being the boss and also campaigning hard, and W has long since spent all his political capital. The crap going on at the rallies, the enormous lose cannon named Palin, crap like the "waterboard Obama" poster on the California GOP website--those things are indications that there's no adult supervision.

And finally, the propoganda arm of the party is producing propoganda that's more and more transparently fantasy. This is beginning to look like the old line about how "I knew we were losing because each glorious defeat of the Russians was closer to Berlin." Each time the propoganda is obviously BS, you drive away more and more of your more rational viewers/readers.

It's like watching apoptosis, applied to a political movement/party rather than a cell.

I wonder what will rise to take the place of the current powers in the party, and whether it will be better or worse.

#176 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2008, 02:40 PM:

"tl;dr", Gracie?

#177 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2008, 02:59 PM:

tl:dr -

Too Long: Didn't Read

#178 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2008, 03:02 PM:

Albatross asks:

"I wonder what will rise to take the place of the current powers in the party, and whether it will be better or worse."

Well, the current US political system strongly favors a two-party equilibrium. So I suspect that the Republicans will come back eventually even if they're heavily spanked this time around. But it may be a different kind of party when they do.

There seem to be two main ways that US parties find their feet again. One is for them to reconfigure to pick up a bloc that's dissatisfied with its "traditional" party, or that neither party has been particularly catering to. One example would be the southern racist vote, which left the Democrats and joined the Republicans, after the Democrat-led passage of the 1960s Civil Rights acts and the Republican "southern strategy" for Nixon's 1968 campaign.

I don't see a clear bloc like that at present for the R's to grab. The signs of them are usually pretty clear (for instance, the "Dixiecrat" movement had already partly pulled away from the Dems by the 1940s, making it clear that there was a bloc in play).

It's arguable that the success of the 1990s Perot campaigns (in comparison to other non-major-party campaigns) came in part from a "fiscal responsibility/balanced budgets" bloc that may still be up for grabs. But the Republicans can't credibly claim that group at present, after the last 8 years of ballooning deficits. It remains to be seen if the Democrats can stake a lasting claim on this bloc, but for now they have the initiative.

The other way a party regains ground is to recognize that the political center has shifted, and move towards the new center. This strategy can take a while to work, but after enough time, there can be some fresh faces that aren't too tied to the party's old, dead-end agenda, and that can present themselves as alternatives to whatever excesses the other party has accreted while they've had power. Bill Clinton's campaign seems to have had notable success with that tack.

If the Democrats win (which I expect), and govern well (which I hope), they can stay in power for quite a while to come. And if the Republicans eventually come back as a saner party then they are now, it's still not such a bad thing to have shifted the political center in a productive direction.

#179 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2008, 03:29 PM:

belatedly nodding into the evergreen American Civil War discussion, obsf: Barbara Hambly's _The Emancipator's Wife_, about Mary Todd Lincoln, is excellent. One of the interesting things is how good it is with a unreliable and fairly unsympathetic central character; SF has, I would say, a kneejerk tendency to try and justify unsympathetic behavior -- one of the lingering adolescent things about the genre -- instead of just loving the character anyway. Hambly doesn't.

#180 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2008, 06:34 PM:

albatross@177

In the short term, probably worse. The GOP base seems to be under the impression that the problem is that they didn't run a "true conservative".

Speaking of which, major elements of the theocrat wing of the GOP seem to be thinking of Palin as the natural heir apparent to the leadership of the party.

(I'd still bet on the next nominee coming from the business wing of the party, but there may need to be more trinkets than usual thrown the theocrat's way.)

#181 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2008, 08:46 PM:

Xopher #164:

I'm pretty sure that's not the precise reason for most supporters of the proposition to get rid of gay marriage. I mean, you can make the same statement for any side of any issue. I want to see gay marriage legalized. If I fight for it in Maryland, am I also a whiner who can't stand it that I'm not getting my way?

I'll admit, the arguments I've seen against recognizing gay marriage don't seem too sound to me. I suspect (but acknowledge I may be wrong) that those arguments are weak enough that they're mostly accepted by people who find the conclusion emotionally comfortable, and so don't dig too hard on the logic side.

The best general argument I can see is one from conservativism in the classic sense: monkeying with such a fundamental part of civilization is something to be done only with great care. (A Federalist might suggest trying it in a couple states first to see how it goes, but I haven't seen that suggested by many gay marriage opponents.)

#182 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2008, 11:57 PM:

Xopher @ 158: Cut-and-pasted into my notable quotes file.

#183 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2008, 04:09 AM:

Graydon@175: I note that "thalassocracy" has about 38,000 Google hits while "thassalocracy" has only about 40.

Admittedly, it helps that I've read the Odyssey, in which "thalassa" is quite a commonly-occurring word.

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