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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Profligacy wears a Conservative Mask: A cultural parable

The following article appeared in "Daily KOS," which I read almost daily. I reprint it here because I am positively slack-jawed by the parallels between what is happening in our country and what is happening in our church.

The "new Conservatism" as embodied in the Present Occupant is as appealing as the 'new Feminism" as embodied in the Republican candidate for VEEP. The "new Anglicanism" as embodied in the leadership of some of the Global South is as appealing as the "new Episcopal Church" as embodied in the "new evangelical orthodox."

We are in the midst of a real shift in ideology as well as theology. The days of government or religion as "empire" are numbered.

Read it and tell me if you see what I mean.


Former National Review publisher endorses Obama
by kos

Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 01:44:34 PM PDT

Wick Allison, current editor-in-chief of D (Dallas) Magazine:

In 1964, at the age of 16, I organized the Dallas County Youth for Goldwater. My senior thesis at the University of Texas was on the conservative intellectual revival in America. Twenty years later, I was invited by William F. Buckley Jr. to join the board of National Review. I later became its publisher [...]

[T]oday it is so-called conservatives who are cemented to political programs when they clearly don’t work. The Bush tax cuts—a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war—led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt.

Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.

Today it is conservatives, not liberals, who talk with alarming bellicosity about making the world “safe for dem ocracy.” It is John McCain who says America’s job is to “defeat evil,” a theological expansion of the nation’s mission that would make George Washington cough out his wooden teeth.

This kind of conservatism, which is not conservative at all, has produced financial mismanagement, the waste of human lives, the loss of moral authority, and the wreckage of our economy that McCain now threatens to make worse.

That is, in a nutshell, the conservative argument against Bush/McCain. Elegantly done so, but he's not the first to make this case. But Allison then does something I had yet to see -- make the conservative argument for Obama.

I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as wha t Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.

Most important, Obama will be a realist. I doubt he will taunt Russia, as McCain has, at the very moment when our national interest requires it as an ally. The crucial distinction in my mind is that, unlike John McCain, I am convinced he will not impulsively take us into another war unless American national interests are directly threatened.

“Every great cause,” Eric Hoffer wrote, “begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” As a cause, conservatism may be dead. But as a stance, as a way of making judgments in a complex and difficult world, I believe it is very much alive in the instincts and predispositions of a libera l named Barack Obama.

How can Allison claim Obama has a "deeply conservative view of the world"? Because of his definition of "conservatism".

Conservatives are skeptical of abstract theories and utopian schemes, doubtful that government is wiser than its citizens, and always ready to test any political program against actual results.

That's a romanticized definition, no doubt, but one I had embraced in my Republican years. My break with the Right came when 1) it was hijacked by cultural conservatives, attempting to impose their theocratic abstract theories and utopian schemes on society at large, and 2) when that "skepticism" over solutions to our problems manifested as outright hostility to change.

In other words, I'm not afraid to try new solutions to our problems even if those solutions sometimes involve the government. Skepticism is healthy, and a demand for accountability is crucial, but being paralyzed in fear of change does nothing but impede progress.

Modern conservatives have long abandoned Allison's definition. As he states clearly, Republicans are now the party of "abstract theories and utopian schemes". Witness the failure of deregulation currently costing taxpayers tens of billions and financially destroying countless people, or the failure of utopian schemes to "defeat evil" around the world, costing us thousands dead and closing on a trillion taxpayer dollars.

Yet Republicans shrug off the painful lessons and insist on staying the course. The results are irrelevant, their ideology trumps all.

Remember, conservatism can't fail, only people can fail conservatism.

But when you get past ideological blinders, it's clear that modern-day conservatism has utterly failed. If reality-based conservatives want to claim Obama's pragmatism and realism are "conservative", then all the power to them. We should embrace them with open arms.


Bill said...

I don’t know if his time line is correct. In Goldwater’s time, it was still the Conservative faction that wanted to be the world’s policeman. It was the Liberal side, especially the kids in school who wanted out of Viet Nam. People were actually afraid of Goldwater because they feared that he wouldn’t hesitate to use the Nuclear option. Using “Nukes” was never a Liberal point of view. It was the Liberals who were taking over college campuses with the Conservatives aghast at their actions. It was the Liberals who got shot at Kent State while protesting the war while it was the Conservative National Guardsmen who did the actual shooting. No right thinking Liberal wanted to be in the Army. On Wall street it was the Liberal students who tried to lower the flag at City Hall to half-mast in honor of the Kent State dead, while it was the conservative Wall Street workers and construction workers who rioted and went after them. I know because I was there.

I think his time line has to be stretched farther back to get the result the author is talking about. It was probably different at the outset of WWII when the opposite was happening. The Conservatives of that era would have loved to practice isolationism and remain neutral while it was the liberal side of the aisle that approved Lend Lease and wanted to aid the British and French. It was FDR, a Democrat, who befriended Churchill and looked for ways to provide aid. Remember, it was Pearl Harbor that dragged us into the war. If it wasn’t for that insult to national pride, the conservatives in congress would never have agreed to go to war. Conservatively speaking, wars cost money and the money comes from taxes. So, I would put this shift in ideology back almost 70 years and not the 40 years he is referencing.

I can’t begin to look for parallels in the church because my knowledge of the church in that period is sorely lacking.

Jack Reylan said...

Blame professulas whose posh pensions graze on stumbent loan interest from vacuous degrees in basket weaving commie nutty organizing. Turn grant grubbing blatherers into fuel, especially perverts like mayor crotch who gas for obsama zbin biden. Your islamosympathic gutterswabbing clothing and pierced privates spread diesease. If you weren't such baby killing, vermin snuggling perverts you wouldn't be driving up our health costs, then collecting disability for your commie nutty organizing dementia. Your passive aggressive labor unions grab our guns, cars (congestion pricing), balls (SONDA), wallets, and homes but we will grab your throats and dang you from trailer bone tolls. Repeal the seventeenth amendment before any VAT. All the homeless are drugged out hippies. Second Amendment is the ONLY Homeland Security. Wait until we waste all your stumbent subprimes, so you need to sell your affectation glutton art and work instead of diverting tution and Y2K scams to soviet freezeniks! Deport for multiple visits to same country. If you controlled your own pension neither your boss nor the government could abuse it. Lynch soviet wealth fund abbetting aghadhimmic peakies when oil plummets! Hazards and pollution stem mostly from mandates. Aqua volte! This land wasn't build by bullocraps.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jack - I don't know who you are or why you came here, but I don't think I want any of whatever it is you've been smoking.

Come here again and use that same language and you will be block.

This is your first and only warning.

Why did I publish this? So you can see some of what I have to put up with on a regular basis.

Bill said...

Agreed Elizabeth. The word "nihilist" comes to mind.