Over at the American Conservative…

Bruce Bartlett describes his experiences trying to break into the epistemic closure bubble of the amazingly delusional Thing That Used to be Conservatism. It’s oddly reminiscent of accounts of deprogrammers working to bring people out of the grip of a cult. The Thing that Used to be Conservatism, both in his account and in my own limited experience with some of its avatars in the media, comes off looking more and more like the Church of Scientology, manipulating a media empire to Pravdafy Party Favorites and disappear Enemies of the Regime (I too am familiar with the phenomenon of having good work carefully ignored by certain organs due to my ideological unfitness on subjects having nothing to do with the book under consideration for review). The conviction grows that there was something about the utterly disastrous tenure of George W. Bush that was like a comet of doom that struck the party and infected it with a wasting illness with which it still struggles, as though it were under an enchantment. The amount of impenitent, feckless, irresponsible, eyes-shut-tight folly that still grips this ill-starred political movement is astounding to behold.

As he notes, however, reality tends to be an efficient teacher. What people will not learn from those they have walled themselves off from, will be taught in the School of Loss, till the Party of Personal Responsibility learns to take some, you know, personal responsibility for its incredible folly. Happily, places like The American Conservative and Front Porch Republic are acting a hatcheries and incubators for a sane conservatism. That’s a healthy thing. What will be far healthier still will be a Christian and Catholic laity in this country that is decoupled altogether from commitments to the Loony Right or the Looney Left, a Church that weighs reality in light of the Faith, not the Faith in light of ideological commitments to Left or Right.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

    Mark,
    I think you should really read more of The American Conservative before singing their praises. While there are a few decent folks over there (Daugherty, Dreher, Jacobs), the majority of their positions are more left-libertarian than conservative. In their recent symposium, for example, more than half their writers supported a pro-abortion candidate for President. Indeed, you can be pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage and be welcome at AmCon. The only litmus test they have is anti-interventionism.

    They are merely trading the Thing That Used to be Conservatism for the Things That Was Never Conservatism.

    • ivan_the_mad

      Nah. I’ve subscribed to TAC nearly since its inception. There’s a libertarian bent to some of the writers, but on the whole it’s decently conservative. You should read that symposium again, and keep in mind that voting for someone doesn’t mean you support all their policies. Russell Kirk, for instance, voted Socialist rather than for either FDR or Dewey.

      If you’ve got ideological and positional litmus tests, I’d suggest you read up on conservatism, especially Kirk. He’d find that pretty abhorrent.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

        Can we please stop the “Kirk voted for a socialist” nonsense? Kirk did that in his early 20s as a protest vote. He would never have done that later in life.

        And anyone who who thinks Kirk would find ideological and positional litmus tests simply doesn’t know anything about Kirk. You do realize that he was the one that came up with the “6 tenets of conservatism”, don’t you? And have you read his essay “Chirping Sectaries”? Here’s a quote:

        “What else do conservatives and libertarians profess in common? The answer to that question is simple: nothing. Nor will they ever have. To talk of forming a league or coalition between these two is like advocating a union of ice and fire. The ruinous failing of the ideologues who call themselves libertarians is their fanatic attachment to a simple solitary principle—that is, to the notion of personal freedom as the whole end of the civil social order, and indeed of human existence. The libertarians are oldfangled folk, in the sense that they live by certain abstractions of the nineteenth century.”

        What is that if not an “idealogical litmus test?”

        • ivan_the_mad

          “He would never have done that later in life.” Quod gratis asseritur gratis negatur.

          It’s the six canons, by the way, not tenets, which he later developed into the ten principles. But they describe a disposition, not an ideology. But I’ll let the man speak for himself:

          “For there exists no Model Conservative, and conservatism is no ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order. The conservative movement or body of opinion can accommodate a considerable diversity of views on a good many subjects, there being no Test Act or Thirty-Nine Articles of the conservative creed.”

          “I am not implying that conservative folk should set to forming a conservative ideology; for conservatism is the negation of ideology.”

          http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/detail/enlivening-the-conservative-mind/

    • The Deuce

      Thanks Joe. I read the article. It started out good and provocative, but as you read through it, you start to see more and more indications that rather than trying to “keep conservatives honest”, Bartlett has simply moved to the political, economic, and social Left, and wants the Republican party to move with him. The whole thing turns out to be a deceptive bait-and-switch.

      There’s the descriptions of Frum and Sullivan, of all people, as conservatives. There’s the insinuation (albeit buried in the correct point that conservatives should at least know what the NYT is saying) that the NYT is moderate. There’s the weird statement that the Laffer Curve, which is mathematically inescapable fact, is “nutty.”

      It all culminates with him saying that Barack Obama(!) is a right-wing moderate, and endorsing Paul Krugman’s “print infinite debt and give it to the banks until the cows come home” ultra-Keynesian, command-n-control, centralized economics. And then he describes himself, the guy we conservatives are all supposed to listen to, as being to the left of Obama! And this is after he (rightfully) excoriated Bush for having ballooned entitlements at a fraction of what Obama has done!

      And, of course, there’s all the other stuff you’ve pointed out here, on the positions that Bartlett and other TAC writers have endorsed regarding abortion and gay marriage in other articles.

      I have to think that Mark didn’t read the whole article when he posted this. I can’t imagine that he believes that moving to the left of Obama on every issue is an idea that constitutes “hatcheries and incubators for a sane conservatism,” especially when he’s been sounding the alarm on “conservative” voices looking to jettison social conservatives just as TAC is trying to do (except that TAC is also trying to jettison economic conservatives while they’re at it).

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

    Oh and I forgot to add, part of the “epistimic closure bubble” that Bartlett is referring to is the fact the GOP attempts to appeal to “anti-abortion extremists” (e.g., people who think abortion is always wrong). Here is what Bartlett wrote in August (http://blogs.ft.com/the-a-list/2012/08/23/abortion-returns-as-an-american-election-issue/)

    “On August 21, the Republican Party’s platform committee, which is meeting in Tampa, Florida, in advance of next week’s party convention, adopted a plank endorsing an amendment to the Constitution that would ban all abortions without exceptions.

    Abortion will almost certainly be a major issue in the presidential campaign. Clearly, this will be to the disadvantage of Republicans, who would prefer to continue their practice of appealing to anti-abortion extremists without endangering the votes of women and other members of the party likely to bolt if forced to accept the extremist position.

    The attention on abortion also prevents Republicans from focusing the campaign on the economy, which is Barack Obama’s weakness. But given the power of anti-abortion extremists within the Republican Party, it may be impossible to finesse the issue that matters most to them this year and could tilt the election toward Mr Obama.”

    The “abortion extremists” that he’s talking about? That’s folks like me and you. This is the kind of “conservative” that The American Conservative champions.

    • Dan C

      Conservatives, honest and good champions of anti-abortion matters, need to take responsibility for the tremendous political failure of progress on this matter. In fact, these matters have loss ground politically and with the populace.

      Conservatives need to acknowledge their failures on this and identify a new strategy to create an anti-abortion culture. Its current strategy is failing.

    • Mark Shea

      Yeah, I’m aware that a number of Righties would really like prolifers to disappear. However, I think Bartlett’s central point: the absolutely Soviet bubble of closure to reality that has gripped the organs of Opinion Manufacture on the right, is well worth noting.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

        I agree that their is a “bubble of closure” on the right and I agree that’s its a problem. But what Bartlett thinks is “epistemic closure”—that conservatives are too pro-life and not open enough to more government spending—is not at all what you and I have in mind.

        • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

          But that’s what I’ve noticed so many seem to not get. Nearly any time someone talks about “epistemic closure” for any view (of course I notice it most often towards conservatives) usually boils down to “the party needs to agree more with me”. Like you pointed out (oh and I can find so many more examples), some think it’s “epistemically closed” on abortion and gay marriage. Others, taxes. No one ever seems to grasp that if you want to build a coalition, you’re going to have to work with guys that disagree with you.

      • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

        However, I think Bartlett’s central point: the absolutely Soviet bubble of closure to reality that has gripped the organs of Opinion Manufacture on the right, is well worth noting.

        Based. Upon. WHAT?

        As I’ve pointed out several times before (and once I never did see the post hit), you can hit any of the major right-wing sites and almost always find plenty of “fisking” of left writings. What’s fisking? Why it’s when you quote and (most of the time) link to a piece you are rebutting. How can anyone have a bubble of closure if they’re quoting the other side? The more you harp upon this discredited meme, the more you look like you’re the one denying reality.

        • Mark Shea

          Offhand, based on things like stuff I’ve discussed here, here, and here. Or you can continue to live in the current bubble of unreality that Fox and the rest of Conservative Entertainment Complex have created. Your call.

          • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

            Let’s see…

            Link 1- one person complained, and without any identity so we’re left to conclude that it’s an individual crank and no more representative of the conservative movement than Fred Phelps is of the Christian religion.

            Link 2- We have… Jon Stewart, king of edits. Looking at video 1 those saying “romney will win” are… not even a half dozen commentators. (though my sound keeps crap ping out on me, I’ll have to try watching them all the way through again)

            Link 3- OMG, actual evidence. From… Rush Limbaugh and ONE author at NRO. That’s… a small, tiny fraction of the “Conservative Entertainment Complex” (CEC). Even a cursory glance at NRO will show lots of back and forth and not everyone agree with Kevin.

            I don’t see how this is any different than those atheists that want to paint all Christians as Fred Phelps or pedophilic priests. They’re ignoring just as much as you ignore in banging this drum. (indeed, it’s almost becoming a comedy routine in how many “exceptions” to this bubble you’re finding in the CEC… which would seem to counter the claim of an enclosed CEC) So really, who’s in the bubble of unreality?

            • Mark Shea

              Enjoy your bubble. Everything is great! Conservatism is moving forward! Romney was a success! Do not listen to critical voices outside the Bubble! All is well. Critics are enemies. Stay the course!

              • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

                Your “rebuttal” would have more weight towards someone who didn’t regularly listen to this guy.

                And when your reply is “lalalala I’m not listening!”, who really is the one in a bubble?

                • Mark Shea

                  Yes! Tu Quoque! An excellent parry!

                  Thing is, I don’t think the alternatives are “dig in or die”. You do. And so you dig in while reading people who counsel pessimism. This is one of the strategies the right plumped for after the election: a people unworthy of self-governance failed Mitt Romney and the GOP. That’s just another way of staying in the Bubble. I suggest poking your head out of the Bubble and looking at the Thing that Used to be Conservatism in light of Catholic teaching, not in ligbt of Limbaugh and FOX news “analysis” that got conservatism into it’s current predicament. This involves, among other things, listening to ritually impure people who are not completely right about everything, but who still have some valuable insights into how the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism walled itself off from reality. Or you can go on denouncing people like Jon Stewart when he does you the favor of highlighting just how utterly delusional FOX and similar manufacturers of unreality are.

                  • http://agapas.me Bob LeBlanc

                    Part of the problem here is that the media, the press, the 4th estate have such a bad reputation that common folk rely on Jon Stewart for their political news. He’s an intelligent person, but he is entertainment (beer and shampoo).

                    Before you get all defensive here. I don’t watch Fox news, nor listen to Rush Limbaugh. And you still owe me a gold star for using a “ritually impure source.”

                    • The Deuce

                      And Stewart his his own bubbled-in unreality to sell. It really has become a minefield to navigate (Btw, I don’t watch Fox News either, and find it to be pretty insufferable, if somewhat less so than the other main outlets. I very occasionally listen to Limbaugh if he’s on when I’m in the car).

                    • ivan_the_mad

                      The point isn’t that Stewart’s in a bubble all his own, it’s that he’s outside of the Republican bubble.

                    • The Deuce

                      At the same time, he’s not interested in helping conservatives out of their own bubble so they can win. He’s interested in them going away or ceasing to be conservatives, by selling his own distorted reality. And the same is true of Bartlett here, even though he misrepresents his intentions.

                      What we need are outside-the-bubble critiques courtesy of people who nevertheless are conservatives, and who want us to truly find our principles again and advocate them so we can be effective. This is a good start: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/11/the-temptation-of-secular-conservatism

                      Btw, we conservatives also need to understand that even if we do everything right, it’s not guaranteed that we win. It could be that being outside the bubble, and knowing our principles, and explaining them well, will still result in us losing, because the culture simply doesn’t want to hear it anymore. The “name it, claim it” prosperity “gospel” is false, you know. But we will have a healthier effect on the culture, which is what we should really be concerned about, than if we “beat” them by joining them (assuming that would even work, which I also doubt).

                    • ivan_the_mad

                      Ah, I see. It all comes back to Stewart being ritually impure. If you are going to define whence valid criticism comes, are you really outside of a bubble?

                    • The Deuce

                      No, conservatives should listen to Jon Stewart so they know what and how the other side thinks, and to maybe correct some blind spots. But they should not be under the illusion that Stewart is trying to “warn” them or help them in any way.

                      It seems fairly obvious to me. When liberals screw up, I never see people telling them how they should take advice from conservatives on how to make liberalism more effective.

                  • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

                    (several replies to above put here for convenience sake)

                    Thing is, I don’t think the alternatives are “dig in or die”. You do.

                    How do you know what I believe? Though the above would be hilarious to hear from some atheists that think the Church needs to give up all that Jesus stuff (and more) to prosper. After all, they don’t think the alternatives are “dig in or die”.

                    And so you dig in while reading people who counsel pessimism.

                    How do you know the full extent of what I read? Need I post the study referenced by legal insurrection (again) that points out most people have a diverse reading habit?

                    This is one of the strategies the right plumped for after the election: a people unworthy of self-governance failed Mitt Romney and the GOP. That’s just another way of staying in the Bubble.

                    Says someone who hasn’t really read or surveyed what all the opinions have conveyed. Rather your sources on this seem to be… the other side. That’s rather like going to Protestants or Muslims for confirmation that Catholics worship Mary. Oh and if anyone tries to correct you by what Catholics actually say/do, well they’re just “staying in the Bubble”.

                    We can play that intellectual game all day. Why listen to scientists on Evolution? We should go listen to the IDers to avoid being stuck in a bubble. Of course… if you ALWAYS go to one source and never another… a child could point out you’re just trading one bubble for another. Without making the slightest case for why your bubble is better other than taunts at the other bubbles.

                    I suggest poking your head out of the Bubble and looking at the Thing that Used to be Conservatism in light of Catholic teaching, not in ligbt of Limbaugh and FOX news “analysis” that got conservatism into it’s current predicament.

                    Well first I would have to get radio and cable TV so I could listen to Limbaugh and Fox.

                    This involves, among other things, listening to ritually impure people who are not completely right about everything, but who still have some valuable insights into how the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism walled itself off from reality.

                    And do you heed the ritually impure people for valuable insights into Catholicism? Or heed medical advice from those who are not doctors? The sources’ purity is irrelevant, what matters first is whether the conclusion is proven. So far the most common “insight” among all these complaints is: “They disagree with me.”

                    Or you can go on denouncing people like Jon Stewart when he does you the favor of highlighting just how utterly delusional FOX and similar manufacturers of unreality are.

                    All I’ve seen from Stewart (so far, again playback issues) is that just a few people on Fox are delusional (possibly, some clips seem to lack context so some might be less delusional than perceived). So are we allowed now to judge an entire swath of people based upon the actions of a small group that has similarities to those people? It’s lazy thinking like that which keeps the “priests are pedophiles” stupidity alive.

                    The point isn’t that Stewart’s in a bubble all his own, it’s that he’s outside of the Republican bubble.

                    Which is rather like saying someone who is outside your house knows best what to do about your family. While outside perspectives can help, most people realize that one usually needs to have a fuller picture and knowledge of the background to know what they’re talking about.

                    Otherwise, all unsolicited advice would always be the best advice.

                    Btw, we conservatives also need to understand that even if we do everything right, it’s not guaranteed that we win. It could be that being outside the bubble, and knowing our principles, and explaining them well, will still result in us losing, because the culture simply doesn’t want to hear it anymore.

                    Thank you! That’s exactly the point!

              • http://agapas.me Bob LeBlanc

                “Conservatism is moving forward! Romney was a success!”

                Here’s the problem I have. Is Romney a conservative? Was McCain a conservative? Both these guys created a reputation for being moderate. As presidential candidates for the GOP they were painted as “extreme” conservatives, and we can thank the liberals for successfully redefining moderates as conservative, and everyone, including conservatives qua conservative seem to believe that conservatism can’t win national elections. It seems more important to see someone with an (R) after his name win, than any principled reason.

                • The Deuce

                  we can thank the liberals for successfully redefining moderates as conservative

                  Of course, we can also blame self-identified “conservatives” like Bush who are actually moderates or liberals for helping to redefine moderates as conservatives by their own example, and we can blame conservatives for helping them to pull it off. If there’s one astute observation in Bartlett’s piece, it’s that (of course, the fact that he then goes on to advise us to turn our inner Bush up to Obama levels kind of spoils it).

                  • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

                    Oh there were so many annoyed at compassionate conservatism… Heck it still makes me cringe.

  • http://Www.SaintLouisAcupuncture.com Dr. Eric

    “The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.”

    What?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

      What’s even more disturbing is that in that same article Bartlett says that he himself is “center-left.” Since Bartlett thinks Obama is on the “center-right” that means Barlett is to the left of Obama.

      The fact The American Conservative published an article saying that the failure of the GOP is that they are not moving fast enough to the “center-left” (i.e., supporting abortion, gay marriage, etc.) will surprise no one that has been paying attention to the publication’s abandonment of all things conservative. There’s a good reason Andrew Sullivan calls it his “favorite conservative magazine.” (Notice in the article Bartlett refers to Sullivan as a “dissident conservative.”)

      For the life of me I can’t understand why Mark would link to this piece as if it is praiseworthy. Barlett’s entire thesis is that Keynesianism and Paul Krugman are right. In other words, it’s a full-throated apology for Obamanamics.

      • Dan C

        A Catholic may believe in Keyenesianistic economics and be completely holy.

        This piece, which I read this weekend, is a bit self-indulgent. But the organs of the right, Catholic and secular, have participated in a closure of the mind and cannot even discuss varied points among themselves without charges of heresy and censorship, much less communicate with fellow communicants who are on the left.

        This article’s prime thesis is that the right has promited such actions, which it certainly has in my experience. The Catholicnright has tried soft “excommunication” for members of the left with claims of CINO and heterodoxy. More recent disgraceful attempts by the right to shut down opposing economic views start wit labeling opponents as particpating in the vice and sins of envy.

        Mr. Bartlett points that out.

  • Dan C

    It is a matter of unrelfective wisdom that Obama is a communist.

    For those of us on the left, Obama stands to the right of George Bush. A smart conservative would account for where Obama deviates from real wealth redistribution. The problem is that conservatives HATE liberals. Not just their ideas.

    HATE has resulted in a loss of intellectual integrity and is like the aphorism “sin makes you stupid.” Conservatives were once the smart arm of American politics. What happened?

    • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

      For those of us on the left, Obama stands to the right of George Bush.

      Barely, and only if you’ve lost all sense of proportion (though I notice leftists have horrible trouble with definitions). But then, a lot of conservatives long complained that Bush was a pretty leftist president. (see under “BHO presser 2″ in this transcript of Radio Derb where Derbyshire makes the point that not being like George Bush would have gotten us a pretty conservative president)

      A smart conservative would account for where Obama deviates from real wealth redistribution. The problem is that conservatives HATE liberals. Not just their ideas.

      HATE has resulted in a loss of intellectual integrity and is like the aphorism “sin makes you stupid.” Conservatives were once the smart arm of American politics. What happened?

      Well let’s think about it…
      Conservatives are regularly called racist, sexist, and every other worst insult of the current culture.
      Their rights are regularly repressed by leftists (HHS mandate for just the latest).

      Gee, I wonder why such an intense dislike would develop. /sarcasm That’s like beating a dog every day, then wondering why in the world it suddenly bit you.

      • Dan C

        We agree on two points. GWBush is to the left of Obama, if barely. We can argue later over degree of separation.

        Conservatives hate liberals.

        Two points of agreement.

        • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

          Incorrect, I meant that a legitimate case could be argued for Bush being left of Obama .

          Conservatives hate liberals.

          By that logic, liberals hate conservatives, and any qualifiers or defenses you might muster to counter that would apply equally to your equally foolish statement. I recommend you learn well to avoid #6 and 1 on this list

  • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

    The Thing that Used to be Conservatism, both in his account and in my own limited experience with some of its avatars in the media, comes off looking more and more like the Church of Scientology, manipulating a media empire to Pravdafy Party Favorites and disappear Enemies of the Regime (I too am familiar with the phenomenon of having good work carefully ignored by certain organs due to my ideological unfitness on subjects having nothing to do with the book under consideration for review).

    I was going to post a long reply, but then I remembered the words of a catholic blogger:

    how truly despicable I am for not hosting them in an abuse fest at my expense on my own blog. … I reserve the right to delete and/or ban commenters as I please.

    What was his name… Mark something…

    So, one wonders, if we are to judge Mark by the measure he judges others… then he’s also looking more and more like the Church of Scientology ensuring that Enemies of his regime disappear.

    I guess we can all start talking about the Thing that Used to be Catholicism now and it’s epistemic closure bubble? Or maybe realize that just because people disagree with you, they aren’t necessarily delusional, wicked, or subhuman.

  • http://agapas.me Bob LeBlanc

    I’m not an economist. I’ve merely a few undergrad courses in economics. But I don’t find Bartlett’s piece to be all that helpful. I’ll state it plainly, the moral issues (abortion and marriage) are economic issues. He seems to blame social conservatives for being uncompromising (it’s a fair charge, but these issues admit very little compromise… abortion is intrinsically evil, changing the definition of marriage is like changing the definition of a triangle). Despite his history of working with Bauer, he seems to put priority on economic issues. Forever, oh forever, the social conservatives are the red-headed step children of the conservative coalition. Often, economic conservatives are social liberals (and many do seem to move to social liberal positions).

    So Barlett is now fiscally left of Obama/Bush. Big deal.

    I’ve found the following more informative (simply because it actually speaks of the philosophy involved). I think it’s pretty cool that they’ve set it to music (it should help the mental digestion).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0nERTFo-Sk

    • http://agapas.me Bob LeBlanc

      (Continued, to avoid spam filter) Round two of the series.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTQnarzmTOc

    • The Deuce

      Hey Bob,

      I think it’s pretty fascinating how, in the process of blaming social conservatives for distracting from economic conservatism by being too uncompromising on social issues, Bartlett himself has moved to the far left on the economic issues he was supposedly motivated by. In fact, this seems to be the normal trajectory for dissident ex-conservatives. It just goes to show how deeply the moral and economic concepts that make up each of the two “sides” are interrelated with each other and hold each other up, such that jumping ship on one almost inevitably leads to abandoning the other as well.

      • http://agapas.me Bob LeBlanc

        I haven’t seen the transition go the other way (or I don’t recall at the moment). That is, a conservative who goes left on economic issues and later follows by giving up on the moral side as well. Do you have examples?

        • The Deuce

          Now that I think of it, no I haven’t. The closest I’ve seen to that is on the Left, where people who were previously socially conservative to some degree, while being generally fiscally leftist all along, embrace their leftism more fully and completely abandon their social conservatism. Examples would be Al Gore, Doug Kmiec, Jesse Jackson, and others. But in these cases, I don’t think those folks ever had genuine convictions regarding their previous stated views on abortion and other moral and social issues. I think their religion was leftism, even though they had nominal affiliations with actual churches, and that as their careers progressed, they found that leftism was a jealous god, and embraced their real driving ideology more fully.

          With conservatives, it does seem to always be a case of their economic views following their moral and social views into leftism, or both happening at about the same time. I think the reason is that, as you put it, the moral issues *are* economic issues, and hence jumping ship on moral issues requires a realignment on one’s economic outlook too.

          • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

            I’m having trouble following you guys. Is this more or less what you’re talking about?

            • http://agapas.me Bob LeBlanc

              I’m not sure if I agree with Goldberg. I do know people who claim to be conservative, but they are willing to dump social conservatives. Economics (or prosperity) seems to be their sole focus. The GOP establishment seems convinced that a social conservative can’t win the White House. Calling Romney a conservative is a joke. Ha Ha. But, insofar as Romney built his presidential run on his ability to fix the economy and that folks claimed he was a conservative, well it seems to me that’s an economic conservative. But then again, I’m not an economist, so I’m not sure if conservative/liberal is a useful distinction. It seems that the conservative promise in that area is that “we’ll grow the government slower than the liberals”.

              • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

                Ok, a lot of terms are being thrown around, and I think that’s causing the trouble.

                First premise is Republican vs Conservative. Though they often work in tandem, they are not synonymous.

                I do know people who claim to be conservative, but they are willing to dump social conservatives.

                I’ve heard it theorized that this might cover some libertarians, but many that I’ve run across are also social conservatives. The big separation within conservatism (the intellectual movement) is that while generally ends are agreed upon (yes there are libertarians for life – fetal life I mean, and against gay marriage), the means are what’s argued over. (and namely, how much to involve government)

                The GOP establishment seems convinced that a social conservative can’t win the White House.

                How well do they do in other elections? I haven’t done any hard analysis of the subject so I’m actually curious. At any rate, it seems that if social conservatives aren’t elected broadly across the country for governors, senators, etc etc, then it’s hard to argue the tactical consideration that one of them is going to win the presidency.

                Of course this isn’t me in my bubble, but just observing reality. Have we so soon forgotten “the war on women”? Seems a repeated pattern in this nation that any time a social conservative gets close to power, the competition paints them as mad Puritans or Talibans that are going to require 2 hour daily bible reading across the nation. Ironically, the Conservative Entertainment Complex might be the only hope for any social conservative to reach the finals.

                Calling Romney a conservative is a joke. Ha Ha.

                Amen to that. Though he was only “conservative” by comparison with the other.

                But, insofar as Romney built his presidential run on his ability to fix the economy and that folks claimed he was a conservative, well it seems to me that’s an economic conservative. But then again, I’m not an economist, so I’m not sure if conservative/liberal is a useful distinction.

                That’s why many when talking about economics describe it as Hayek vs Keynes. Conservatives traditionally favor the former economic theories, liberals favor the latter, so that’s usually what the distinction boils down to. (though I can find you libertarians and communists rebutting both – just keep in mind the scale I always do: one side is anarchy, the other side is totalitarianism, weigh things and see which side it pulls to) So while we might say Romney was more conservative than Obama on economics… not every conservative bought it.

                It seems that the conservative promise in that area is that “we’ll grow the government slower than the liberals”.

                No, THAT are the Republicans. Pick a conservative author, you will usually find them making that statement (or something very close to it) SOMEWHERE in their body of work. It’s pretty universal among the movement intellectuals.

                • http://agapas.me Bob LeBlanc

                  I agree that there’s a lot of confusion with terms. If it’s true that conservatism is the negation of ideology, then it’s probably to be expected. There is no real core idea behind it, and it should mean different things in different countries and cultures. I’m sure I haven’t helped any.

                  I suppose there could be many splits..
                  social
                  hayek/keynes
                  size of government
                  constitutional/federal
                  foreign affairs

                  Add in the mix of priorities, social, individual liberty, fiscal, and there seems to be a bewildering array of labels to be applied.

                  As far as whether a conservative could win as a conservative, I think it’s a good question. Conservatives seem to have split into professional politicians and professional pundits (I’ll group in academics here since in that area, we’re so small). It would be nice to see a statesman of Washington/Lincoln/Reagan stature who is able to see the principles and the practical. It’s probably necessary that we see some Russell Kirks cross over to become Edmund Burkes.

    • The Deuce

      The other thing that gets me is, even though Bartlett has switched to the economic Left, he still presents himself as disagreeing with Bush over economics from the Right. So you’ve got the spectacle of him (rightly) denouncing Medicaire Part D as an unconservative government expansion that we can’t pay for, in the same article where he praises the namesake of Obamacare as “center-right” and endorses Krugmanomics. What the heck are conservatives supposed to make of this? Is it really supposed to be helpful in finding our principles and rebuilding conservatism to listen to incoherent and contradictory advice from two sides at once?

  • Jay McNally

    Bartlett has it wrong on Republican opposition to ObamaCare, and Catholics should pay attention.
    The Catholic principle of subsidiarity tells us “universal health care” — federal government stuff — is wrong, flat-out wrong. The bishops are wrong to support it and Catholic bloggers are wrong to be silent about it. ObamaCare does indeed include “Death Panels” and rationing and is a violation of the 4th and 10th Amendments. These are issues worth fighting for. Conservatives fought an honorable battle. They lost due to the betrayal by the Catholic bishops — the USCCB — which had staffers literally in Nancy Pelosi’s office who were negotiating with Naral and Planned Parenthood to come up with the compromise that came to be called the Stupak Amendment.
    There is a vibrant conservatism in our culture, especially in the tea party movement, which is only going on four years old.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Scripture says the physician is to be respected because he is funded by the king. I am perfectly willing to entertain the argument that post-1865 America, left AND right, flies in the face of subsidiarity, in toto.

      Otherwise, just because you assert something don’t make it so. Believe me, the moon isn’t made of stilton, but I’ve claimed such time and again.

      • The Deuce

        No, he’s right. While conservatives ought to get outside the bubble to understand what’s happened to them and what allowed it to happen, so should Catholics. The bishops were very supportive of Obamacare, giving Obama all the rope he needed to hang them with, and only balked when it was too late and the perfectly predictable had already happened. All the warning signs were there, and many of us warned that the corrupt power structure Obamacare was setting up would by its very nature be hostile to Christians, and that things like euthanasia panels and the HHS mandate were inevitable. Left-leaning Catholics simply didn’t want to hear it. But just as conservatives need to understand what went wrong, so do they:
        http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/02/contraception-subsidiarity-and-catholic.html


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