Bracing, or Shocking?


In retort to Laura Ingraham’s odd claim that conservatism has been the most influential political philosophy of the past 100 years, Andrew Sullivan says:

The past 100 years? I don’t know any Hooverites who think the last century was a triumph for small government and individual liberty. Look at the size of government since 1909. Look at the level of taxation. Look at the welfare state. Look at racial civil rights. Look at the role of women.

I guess it’s good that a conservative will come right out and say conservatism opposes equality for racial minorities and women.  Opposes it just as much as it opposes (or, as Sullivan goes on to point out, at least thinks it opposes) taxes and deficits and big government and helping poor people.  Not that iconic conservatives like Bill Buckley ever bothered to keep their racial animus a secret, but most nowadays at least try to deny it.

So it’s good to hear somebody admit it so starkly, but also shocking.

It’s also interesting to hear somebody say — or at least strongly imply — that, by conservatism’s lights, individual liberty has been in decline for the past 100 years despite the huge leaps forward in personal liberty for over half of our population: blacks, women, religious minorities, and other of America’s historically most oppressed groups.

I know from reading his blog for a few years that Sullivan personally disagrees with his fellow conservatives about the race and gender stuff (and sexual orientation).  But the fact that he doesn’t try to shine conservatism’s record by just writing this stuff out of its history is refreshing — approaching unique.

Nearly all of contemporary conservatism’s leading spokespeople sacrifice history to The Great Cause, much as antebellum Southern theologians sacrificed Christianity to their Cause.

Sullivan goes on to say that, instead of the right just being rejectionist:

social change – a multi-racial society where women and gays seek and deserve full equality – should be imaginatively shaped by the right

Instead of imaginative engagement in policymaking, however, we get active disengagement from the whole legislative process; and irrational shouting about socialism and death panels instead of good-faith negotiation to make health care reform better.



5 Responses to “Bracing, or Shocking?”

  1. jazzbumpa Says:

    I kinda, sorta like Sullivan. I believe he has integrity, though his lines of reasoning often make me say, “WTF?”

    If individual liberty was ever of any value to conservatives – a proposition I am not willing to accept at face value – it certainly got deflated during the Bush years.

    But it gets better.

    a multi-racial society where women and gays seek and deserve full equality – should be imaginatively shaped by the right.

    Maybe Andrew’s right does not include tea baggers, Addison Graves Wilson, or Carrie Prejean. It’s not that way on any planet I’ve ever visited.

    JzB the individual liberty trombonist

  2. urbino Says:

    Yeah, I generally like Sullivan, too. He does go on some very quixotic crusades from time to time, though, and holds onto them for years and years.

    As for the last bit, I think that’s his point. His right doesn’t include those people. He’s a classic British Tory conservative; to him, those people you mentioned aren’t real conservatives.

  3. jazzbumpa Says:

    To me, those people I mentioned are not real conservatives.

    I don’t think this is being smarmy. To a real conservative, these people would not be real conservatives. Tea baggers are authoritarian followers, essentially mindless in their political beliefs, Wilson is a racist, right-wing tool, Prejean was suddenly catapulted to “Great Conservative Woman” status (God, I wish I was making this up) for speaking out against equal rights (if I may generalize it that way) for gays.

    When I say Clinton was the best Republican President since Eisenhower, people look at me like I’m nuts. Granted, it’s a bit hyperbolic – but only a bit. He governed from a centrist-conservative ideological position. Maybe that is part of why the Repugs have moved to the nut house – they had to out-right-flank a conservative Democrat.

    Sullivan baffles me. He’s devoutly Christian, devoutly conservative, and gay. I cannot package that combination in any way that makes sense.

    Prompted by recent comments to old posts, I followed the trail back to your original post. The two Americas idea the anon troll so vehemently protested has been born out. The election map you displayed recently shows how stark the divide is.

    Jzb the undivided trombonist

  4. urbino Says:

    Wow, jb. That’s some serious archaeology you’re doin’, there, digging up a post that old.

    I hadn’t ever thought about the Clinton presidency that way — forcing the GOP to move way right to get on his flank. It’s really intriguing. One question comes to mind: wasn’t the GOP already moving right by that point?

  5. jazzbumpa Says:

    Who knows what evil lurks in the minds and hearts of Repugnicants?

    Actually, the idea of Rs outflanking Clinton occurred to me as I was writing it. But something – I don’t remember what – planted that seed way back in the Clinton era.

    There is a continuity to the Rs since Nixon. Lots of Bush insiders trace their careers back to that sorry time, and Karl Rove learned his dirty tricks at Lee Atwater’s knee.

    But that’s beside the point. Other than wanting to cluster all the wealth in the world into the fewest possible hands, those bastards had no ideology.

    The current Republican party is functionally illiterate, abysmally ignorant, hopelessly cynical, and quite possibly insane. How they got to that point from Eisenhower and Dirksen might make a fascinating study. Movement conservatism really does not go back farther than about 1950. IMHO, it only took a couple of decades for it to become ethically and intellectually bankrupt. In the absence of a real ideology, it devolved into jingoism and pseudo-patriotism. Their driving force, fueled by Limbaugh, Beck and their ilk is negativity.

    My hope is tht they dry up and blow away. The Democrats have already become the center-right party of big business. There is lots of room on the left for a new political force to rise up. Alas – I don’t see it happening.

    Oh – the spelunking was quite easy with the right frame archive list.

    JzB the left-leaning trombonist

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