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How to Fix a Broken Elephant: Prologue

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I am about to publish a post detailing exactly which steps those Republicans and conservatives who are rightly horrified by a Trump candidacy will need to undertake in order to right their proverbial ship. This upcoming post will be fairly merciless, even to people I love and respect. The steps I will lay out will be necessarily difficult for all to take; because of this, I expect it will be difficult for non-liberals to swallow. It will also be quite lengthy.

In an effort to both mitigate word count and get readers in the right frame of mind, I thought I might first provide a kind of written montage, with each scene a news story from the past several years. Consider this post that montage.

Though each of these stories broke through the detritus to make the news, none was seen as particularly big or important by either the mainstream or the conservative media or punditry. So in one sense, each was a very small story. In another sense, however, when taken collectively all of these stories were, shall we say, yuuuuuge. Some of the stories in the montage below are ones I noted on these very pages as they occurred; others, at least to my memory, have never been discussed at Ordinary Times.

All of these stories, however, are important to answering a fundamental question that I see conservatives everywhere asking themselves as they prepare for the utter cluster-fish circus that will be the 2016 Republican Convention: How did our own base come to nominate someone so outside the values we have been preaching for decades? Every answer to this question that I have seen thrown against the kitchen wall like overcooked pasta by conservative thinkers and pundits is necessarily flawed, because so too is the question itself. Here is the hard truth the #NeverTrump crowd needs to face if they wish to stem the rising tide of Trumpism:

Donald Trump is not 21st century conservatism’s ruiner; he is its embodiment.

Further, Donald Trump is not a magical being armed with unicorns and fairy dust. Were Trump not to have entered this race, Trumpism would still have occurred — albeit under a different name and perhaps not beginning in earnest for another two or four years. Any fix of the so-called “Trump problem” that does not fully embrace these truths — be it “sitting out” 2016, contesting the convention around an anointed savior, or flirting with a third party run — will at best accomplish nothing, and at worst simply provide momentum to Trumpism’s ascendancy.

Like I said, hard truths to swallow.

Before we dig in with what steps “true” conservatives and the GOP leadership must do to retake and right their ship, then, a sour and curdled apéritif is sadly required. Thus I present to you, dear reader, the following montage.

Bon appetit.

 

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Summer, 2012

As he steps to the microphone in a plush and crowded Houston Marriott hotel ballroom, Ted Cruz looks every bit the cat that devoured the canary. As well he should. Cruz has just won the special runoff election for the Texas GOP Senate Primary. This victory required besting a popular, seasoned, and significantly better funded Lt. Governor who has outspent Cruz 3-to-1. More impressively, Cruz has won despite being disliked and vigorously campaigned against by Texas Governor Perry and the state party leadership. Texas being Texas, Cruz’s primary nod means that a seat in Senate with his name on it is but a formality.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 11.46.50 AMSpeaking to the crowd at the Marriott, Cruz first does what all politicians do when accepting victory. He thanks God, his wife, and his family, and then he takes time to both thank and honor a short list of America’s most “great,” “fearless,” and “extraordinary” leaders. In and of itself, this praising of national leaders is expected. It’s good form for politicians to acknowledge their team’s political and cultural luminaries in acceptance speeches. Were you to gather every GOP Senator and Congressman whose victory speeches in the 1990s did not give a big shout out to Ronald Reagan, for example, you’d likely be able to fit them all in a Volkswagen Beetle. By tradition, these shout outs to power are given in an explicitly hierarchical fashion; like the characters of a Shakespeare play, the names descend in order of rank and importance.

The six “great,” “fearless,” and “extraordinary” national leaders Cruz chooses to thank and honor first and foremost in his speech are therefore curious choices.  They are also quite tellingThose leaders are, in order of appearance: Fox News contributor Gov. Sarah Palin, ex-Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum, Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, conservative radio host Mark Levin, Fox News and Blaze barker Glenn Beck, and conservative radio host Michael Berry.

For those keeping score, that’s a short list of America’s Greatest Half Dozen Leaders™ that counts six Fox News contributors, four conservative radio shock jocks, one reality television star, and one presidential candidate who had been forced to drop out of the race due to lack of any significant national support months earlier. And before you scoff, consider: Not only has Cruz won, in less than four years from this night he will become the human Maginot Line the GOP establishment will briefly and flaccidly rally behind to be the leader of the free world.

Within a matter of months of his Senate nomination, in fact, Ted Cruz will come to symbolize for much of the GOP’s conservative, evangelical base what it means to be a true conservative in the 21st century. He will go on to propose several bills and lead several party stratagems. Among the most notable are bills to repeal Obamacare, a bill to prevent Obama from killing his enemies within the United States with drones, a bill to prevent known terrorists from legally entering the country as UN ambassadors, a bill requiring citizens to submit birth certificates before registering to vote or run for office, and several attempts (one successful!) to shut down the federal government on an indefinite basis. All of these will turn out to be ineffective, unnecessary, unwise, and/or implausible, but all will also share this common trait: Each will ensure that in his first year as an elected official to any office, Ted Cruz will become among the most (and likely the most) interviewed politician on Fox News and conservative talk radio. In turn, the conservative base will decide that a Senator who can boast exactly zero political or legislative accomplishments, but who has logged in countless hours on talk radio and Fox News, is the obvious choice to be President of the United States of America.

Or at least Cruz would be, were there not a reality television star who habitually slurs Mexicans, Muslims, and women who has thrown his hat into the race as well.

 

 

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Late 2014, Exact Date Undetermined

In 2014, House Republicans approach Ben Carson and ask him to become the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Really.

Now, to be fair, there is nothing in the Constitution that says the Speaker must be a member of Congress. Still, because it’s been assumed by pretty much everyone for the past 224 years that you do, it bears noting that as he is approached Carson is not — and indeed has never been — a member of the House. Nor has he been elected to any public office of any kind. Nor, at the time he was asked, had he ever even run for office. In fact, unless they are asking him very, very late in the year, he likely isn’t even a Republican. Throughout most of 2014, Ben Carson is just an ex-surgeon and corporate motivational speaker who has only recently become a political commentator on Fox News and other conservative media outlets.

At the time he is approached to head the House, his single contribution to the Republican Party and his single qualification for the office of Speaker of the House of is that he is a black man who is known for going on conservative television and radio shows and bad-mouthing Barack Obama.

If you are part of the #NeverTrump movement, you really need to stop and think about that for a good long while.

 

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Winter/Spring, 2016

Two notable conservative voices become the online faces of the #NeverTrump movement. One becomes its face in the blogging world, the other its face in the Twittererverse. They are Erick Erickson and Kevin D. Williamson, respectively.

In an attempt to explain away the cause of Trumpism, each offers their conservative followers the bromides those same followers have tuned in to have repeated: GOP leadership has simply not been conservative enough; SJW’s forced people to like Trump by being all SJW-y; poor white people are rubes that can’t be expected to know the difference between charlatans and the deeply principled; and so forth. Each loudly decries the crassness, the racism, and the misogyny Trump has seemingly brought into the movement all by himself, likely at the behest of those pesky and sneaky Clintons.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 11.49.42 AMThrough all of this, the cover story Williamson wrote for the National Review in 2012 apparently slips his and his followers’ minds.

In that frat-boy-esque piece, Williamson jovially argued that women should vote for Mitt Romney on the basis that Romney had sired sons while Obama had merely had daughters — who to Williamson and the NRO editors, are comparatively worthless offspring. Williamson even suggests that if a man fathers and raises a daughter with pride rather than shame, that father might as well have been born with “fallopian tubes.” Also, Williamson implies, because Obama seems to be highly educated, it’s a pretty good bet that he’s totally gay. In addition to forgetting about this Romney NRO piece, Williamson also seems to have forgotten his  referring to black children as “primates” as way to generate page clicks.

Erikson, for his part, seems to forget his oft-repeated comments in 2013 that a woman making more money than a man, regardless of circumstance, was “anti-science,” and that a woman’s natural state is to be “dominated” by whatever male happens to be lying around handy. Likewise, he seems to forget his describing Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from the US as “brilliant” at the time. And his referring to a Supreme Court Justice as a “goat f***king child molester.” And his calls for whites-only scholarships. And his dismissal of more than one woman talking in an evening at one event as “vagina monologues.” Or, really, everything he is written or said on air, ever.

Yep, Williamson and Erickson are both pretty darn sure that the crass, racist, and misogynistic tone of Trumpism caught on in the 21st century conservative base because something something Jeb Bush.

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Fall, 2012

At the annual Values Voter Summit, the conservative base comes together to rally around VP candidate Paul Ryan.

In three days of speeches, several claims are repeated over and over to the crowd by that year’s presidential candidates, sitting governors, Fox News personalities, talk radio show stars, and elder conservative statesmen. Among these claims: That Barack Obama is a Kenyan sleeper agent illegitimately elected. That the Obama administration is planning The Next Phase, where they will make churches and synagogues illegal, and force Americans at gunpoint to convert to Islam. That the attack on the Libyan embassy that claimed the life of Ted Stephens was likely planned by the Obama administration — and even if it wasn’t, that the administration issued a press release applauding the terrorist acts and the killing of a US Ambassador on foreign soil.

Not one of the conservative luminaries invited to speak refutes any of the ridiculous, over-the-top, inflammatory claims made. The entire event is shown live on C-SPAN, and covered unquestioningly in its entirely by the conservative media.

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February, 2016

Terrible news for conservatives, fans of jurisprudence, and lovers of gorgeous judicial prose everywhere: Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away.

The GOP seizes on the tragic event as a possible winning political strategy: to make the presidential election all about replacing Scalia with an equally and appropriately gifted and intellectual conservative justice. The Cruz camp believes that its moment has finally arrived.

The Cruz camp spends the next several weeks declaring that if Ted should win, he will likely nominate J. Michael Luttig. By any measure, it is a truly inspired choice for the Cruz camp to pitch. Luttig is conservative — indeed, he is oft compared to Scalia himself — but his intellectual prowess and discipline is also widely respected throughout the judiciary. Forty of his clerks have gone on to clerk for the justices sitting Supreme Court. And on top of all of that, the floating of Luttig highlights Cruz’s own intellectual chops. Cruz was himself a Harvard-educated “Luttigator” that went on to clerk for the highest court’s Chief Justice. To a conservative base in almost any era save this one, it’s pretty damn close to a checkmate move.

Donald Trump’s camp goes a very different route. The name they decide to float in what the GOP has decided is its key, lynchpin, litmus-test election issue is Fox News contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano.

For a brief time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Napolitano was indeed a judge in New Jersey, albeit not a particularly recognized one. Instead, Napolitano achieved his national fame by becoming the sitting judge on the syndicated reality television show Power of Attorney, a kind of People’s Court knock off. After Power of Attorney, Napolitano went on to host conservative talk radio shows, as well as get his own Fox News television show for a few years. He is currently Fox’s Senior Judicial Analyst.

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Needless to say, Donald Trump will go on to utterly crush Ted Cruz.

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I could go on and on, of course. Indeed, feel free to click on my archives here on this site and you’ll find scores if not hundreds of other examples.

As I have noted repeatedly over the past five years, these hand-in-hand actions by political leaders and its Media Machine were always going to come to this. The mass ostrich-ing of heads in sand with which conservative moderates and “grownups” treated the above events and all the others like them was always going to have consequences. To have spent the past eight years denying that this was so, as pretty much all of them have, is akin to… um… Well, it’s akin to seeing a dangerous, whopper-telling, openly racist and misogynistic, demagoguing mountebank lead by double digits in your party’s polls pretty much every day through the entire primaries, and all the while pretend that there was simply no way the man could possibly get the nod.

It’s time to stop all of that, my moderate conservative and GOP-leaning brethren. It’s time to stop pretending. It’s time to stop wishing the poisonous impact of your own “fair and balanced” media on your base away. It’s time to put your collective Big Boy Pants on.

It’s time to face and fix the broken Elephant in the room.

Image Credits: Antione Louise Barye’s Elephant Asleep, via Wiki Commons. Ted cruz, via Wikipedia


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Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular contributor for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter. ...more →

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313 thoughts on “How to Fix a Broken Elephant: Prologue

    • I’m going to steal Tod’s thunder. The cure is loss and losses. The GOP has to get roundly drubbed in a few elections. That should cure what ails them in a cycle or two.

      I have no idea what they’ll look like when they emerge from that crucible; to be honest I’m a little bit scared. Maybe it’ll be some kind of moderated libertarian/conservative fusion. Maybe it’ll be some recalibrated conservative beast. Maybe it’ll be a more centrist/libertarian hybrid. I don’t know what it’ll be but whatever eventually springs forth will be leaner, more coherent and electable. Then it’ll probably be my sides turn to slog through the wilderness.

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      • As a reminder, Republicans are doing pretty damn good in state elections, the Senate and the house. They’ve lost two presidential elections in a row, so I’m not sure it’s time to assume they are on their death bed. If I recall, Dems lost two in a row before Obama.

        Trump is certainly a bizarre blip on the radar but not the first in American politics. It does mean the GOP needs to better understand their base, but I remain skeptical that they need quite as much help as the Left thinks.

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        • My concern about the GOP is not that it is incapable of being elected in its current form, but that its incapable of governing in its current state. So the evidence for the prosecution involves the policy failures of the Bush administration and the manner in which the GOP has opposed Obama and governed at the state level where they hold power.

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          • I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘govern’. As a progressive conservative I certainly agree they are not governing when they just seem to want to spend all of their energy on rollbacks of liberal policies. I’m not saying that it’s never good to do that (liberals are wrong plenty of the time so their policies should not be beyond review) but as a general rule I wish they were more forward looking. Unfortunately, I think a lot of conservatives see rollbacks and obstructionism as governing, so it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

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        • Lately I’ve been thinking about whether the Republican governors demonstrate part of the Republicans’ recent “national election” problem. Chris Christie of New Jersey is not Sam Brownback of Kansas is not Brian Sandoval of Nevada. Nor could any of those — at least IMO — win in the others’ states. This year’s primaries, and those of 2012, suggest to me that the Republicans lack a real national identity. That’s good at the state and local level, not so much when it comes to the Oval Office.

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        • I’ve said it before — the absolute worst thing for the modern GOP is the see-sawing turn-out patterns between Presidential and non-Presidential years. (Second might be the sort of “built in” advantages the GOP currently has with House and Senate seats. You can blame gerrymandering or the Founders or the whims of Fate, doesn’t really matte.r)

          It really prevents the GOP from properly assessing it’s own problems, much less fixing them. What works in non-Presidential years is killing them in Presidential years, and that sort of reward/punishment cycle is really locking them in.

          I’m sure the movers and shakers see it, but the average GOP voter (heck, the average voter at all — it’s not some special flaw to GOP voters) just sees a specific pattern: RINO/”electable” conservative loses Presidential race. True Conservative wins mid-term race. Ergo, the problem is the candidate isn’t conservative enough. (And again, turnout patterns hurt them because the mid-term elections have lower turnout in primaries too — leading to more extreme candidates).

          What the GOP really needs is for lazy Democrats to turn out during mid-terms. It’d make analysis and re-alignment easier.

          (A last problem is things like redistricting really have created some ‘locks’ on a lot of districts and state legislatures. That’s also providing a cushion against the problem. And they’re moving to restrict voting, as much as they can, to add another cushion between them and certain types of voters. Which again, will just extend the collapse but not prevent it. Then again, in the long run we’re all dead, so….)

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          • Morat20:
            I’ve said it before — the absolute worst thing for the modern GOP is the see-sawing turn-out patterns between Presidential and non-Presidential years. (Second might be the sort of “built in” advantages the GOP currently has with House and Senate seats. You can blame gerrymandering or the Founders or the whims of Fate, doesn’t really matte.r)

            The first directly leads to the second. If the Obama coalition of 2008 didn’t completely fall apart in 2010, the shellacking of Dem state legislatures right before decennial redistricting would have been averted or mitigated.

            (which also points to the issue of how an electoral victory can hide issues with the political health of a party – but this one is with the Dems)

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      • I agree with you but I think that the GOP going through what is necessary is possibly quite far away. I’ll be a broken record but Mike is right. The GOP has done really well in state legislative and local elections and governorships in the past few years. They have used these wins to create tactical strongholds.

        My cynical prediction is that the GOP can continue on this course for another 15-30 years possibly.

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        • They have used these wins to create tactical strongholds.

          They’re not alone. Look at the red/blue maps at a detailed level. The Dems hold the NE urban corridor and some of the neighboring states, the Pacific Coast, and the urban core of most big metro areas (as a side note, in the physically larger of those states, the exurb/rural areas are generally solid red). It’s somewhat easier, I think, for the Dems to turn that into a “national” identity than the problem faced by the Republicans.

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          • Maybe but how so. I agree that the Democratic Party has a lock on these areas but the GOP has been able to effecrtively gerrymander and lock the Democratic Party because of these urban strongholds.

            Notice that in safe Democratic districts (which are usually urban), the Democratic candidate usually wins by 65 percent of the vote or more. Often they win by 70 percent of the vote or more.

            In safe Republican districts, the GOP tends to win by 55 percent of the vote which is comfortably safe but by not as much.

            The GOP does this by keeping cities largely as their own Congressional districts instead of having a city suburban one. There are some exceptions but not many. My old district in New York was part NYC and part Nassau County but only because New York is a fairly blue state and there is just not much you can do when part of Nassau County is on the border of Queens. But it was still the most liberal section of Long Island that got included with Queens.

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            • The GOP does this by keeping cities largely as their own Congressional districts instead of having a city suburban one.

              I’m sorry, I’m from the West — keeping cities intact within Congressional districts as much as possible is in most of the state constitutions, often dating back to the Progressive Era. More recently, both blue California and red Arizona gave those restrictions a prominent place in the requirements laid on their independent redistricting commissions.

              (And yes, I know where you live, but note that you drew your examples from the New York metro area rather than from California.)

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                • According to Ballotpedia, 23 states require Congressional districts be contiguous, 19 require that county and city borders be honored to the extent practical, 18 require “compactness” in some form, and 13 require consideration of “communities of interest”. Some of those are constitutional, some statutory. I would be willing to make a modest wager that a majority in each category are western states.

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            • It’s not that difficult to contrive a practice manual for the construction of electoral constituencies which incorporates circumscribed variation in district populations, a general respect for local government boundaries, and very limited use of discretionary cuts. Two problems: the judiciary’s madcap insistence on equipopulousness within pointlessly narrow ranges (see Robert Bork’s account of working as a special master) and the judiciary’s madcap insistence on racial gerrymandering.

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        • My cynical prediction is that the GOP can continue on this course for another 15-30 years possibly.

          And *that* will cost them the presidency for that amount of time.

          The GOP will, never again, win the presidency until they stop only appealing to white men. Period. They don’t have enough voters. The last time they *could* have won with only white men was 2008 or 2012, depending on who you ask.

          Actually, they might even have had problems in 2004…but Bush, for all his flaws, was not a racist, so they did moderately fine with minorities then, before throwing it all away in post-2008.

          And the stuff women dislike has proceeded full bore since then, also.

          By 2030 or so, we’re looking at Reagan-sized wins for presidency for Democrats, as their voters are half dead and extremely outnumbered.

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          • Perhaps but how much damage and polarization can occur when you the Democratic Party keep winning the Presidency but the GOP has a long term lock on Congress and the Juan Linz thesis might be true?

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            • I’m not sure the GOP *can* keep their lock on the Congress.

              The Republicans are not magic. They do not magically win Congressional elections. They have an *advantage* at Congressional elections.

              It actually seems possible they could lose the Senate *this election*. And then win it back in 2018, and lose it again in 2020.

              As for the GOP ‘long term lock’ on the House…I find myself baffled by that talk.

              In 2014, the Republicans got basically the exact same winning margin of 6% of the popular vote as they did in 2010…and got a few more seats. Gerrymandering didn’t do anything there.

              Gerrymandering has, perhaps, altered exactly one election so far, in 2012, where a tiny 1% win in the popular vote for the Dems resulted in a 4% loss…under which we can conclude the Republicans have a small, 5% advantage via gerrymandering. (One sample point is, perhaps, nonsense, but whatever.)

              The problem is…most swings in the House are *way larger* than 5%. Rerun the 2008 election *even under gerrymandering*, and I’m pretty certain the Dems would come out ahead. Not by as much, but ahead.

              Additionally, gerrymandering can turn on you, where a bunch of those 45% Democrat districts you made all slowly swing 6% towards Democrats over the decade…and now you’ve just accidentally gerrymandered a bunch of *pro-Democrat* districts. The *worse* the gerrymandering was, the thinner the margins by which Republicans packed away Democrats where they can’t win, the faster it blows up when vote preferences slightly change…like if they attempt to elect someone like Trump, for example.

              The Republicans can keep trying to build sandbars out of gerrymandering and voter suppression, but the demographic tide is still coming in. It’s already here for the presidency, which has been lost. The House and Senate will be intermediate for a while, but will be lost. (They can perhaps re-gerrymand in 2020 and keep the House intermediate for a bit longer, at least for midterms.)

              The *only* way to fix the structural problem is to appeal to any group other than white men.

              I was going to say that ‘older white men’, but while losing a lot of the white male youth vote hurt them and caused this to happen sooner, but going *after* those people at this point would be running to just try to stand in one place.

              This is assuming, of course, that the American people voting for Republicans at all, if they keep doing things elect nominating Trump. In fact, this is all complete nonsense…the Republicans have shown they are currently winning to go so far outside the political norm that this entire thing is could be moot, because some GOP state government might decide that *they* should pick their Representative than the people, or attempt to restrict the franchise to property-owners, or some equally batshit insane thing.

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      • I don’t think that loses in American politics have the same moderating force that electoral defeats in other countries do. When you loose in a parliamentary system it tends to be so complete that plausible denial is not possible. Even than it could still take a long time for a party to change. It took Labour eighteen years to reform itself after losing to Thatcher and the Conservative Party in 1979. American politics give more plausible deniability.

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        • In a parliamentary system, you have to win one thing: a majority of seats in the legislature, or at least enough that you can buy off a minor party to form a working majority. In a strong-president system, you have to win the legislative majority and the presidency. This is even more true in contemporary US government, where the legislature has delegated a great deal of the detailed law-writing to the executive. Periods where one party has both seem to be getting rarer and rarer.

          Was it here that someone recently pointed at something written by a history of political science type that asserted all strong-president systems except the US have eventually failed because they reach a state where each branch is more interested in denying the other branch the authority to act, than they are in dealing with the problems of the country?

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          • That would be the Juan Linz thesis first articulated around 1991. Linz was a Chilean political scientist who taught at Princeton. He was wondering why the Presidential thesis in the United States was a success while it was a failure every where else he tried. Linz’s conclusion was that ideological distinct parties do not work in a Presidential system because when the Presidency and Legislature are split than there is little incentive to work together. Since the Presidency has a national rather than district based mandate, the President is often to tempted to argue that the people believe with him and forgo procedural niceties. America worked because for most of it’s history, the parties covered a wide ideological range. When the parties became calcified around a particular issue like slavery than things fell apart.

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          • If by ‘quickly’ you mean ‘thirty years later’. I suspect Corbyn differs from Michael Foot in that he’s more invested in identity politics and is certainly less educated and less experienced. Foot held a number of cabinet ministries. Corbyn rotted on the back benches for thirty years because the party leadership didn’t trust him (because dopey, one suspects).

            What’s curious about the Corbyn phenomenon is that it indicates that their is an abiding population of repulsive sectaries in the Labour Party (or in the body of voters who take enough of an interest in public affairs to take out a membership on short notice). Tony Benn toadied up to the Trotskyist element who could stay up all night and take over constituency parties, but never quite won the party offices he sought; he was, however, quite the heavyweight compared with Corbyn.

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  1. This is timely and appropriate. I think the challenge is that the incentives for cynical opportunists like Ted Cruz are just too good, and I think *that’s* the key challenge for principled conservatives: how do you alter those incentives to prevent people like Cruz from using the Senate to grandstand to the misinformed?

    One potential solution: rally to prevent that candidate from using that approach to become the nominee. Which, you know, may well have happened.

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  2. I’m going to resist my gut-level reaction to having the facts liberal-splained to me in this series. Also interested to see how far the suggested solutions go. Will Tod be satisfied with the GOP just being a harmless opposition that merely delays liberal plans, or does he want a progressive opponent that actively tries to move the country along using conservative principles?

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    • — I can speak for myself. I want a stronger libertarian movement, to counter the centralizing tendencies of we technocratic types. In other words, I want to see the “culture war” grind down to a “well obviously” discourse, with the holdouts regarded much as we regard the Amish — weirdos who are fine cuz they keep to themselves. The point is, I want to see a fruitful exploration of the tensions between “let’s make a bunch of smart rules to fix this” and “LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!”

      To my view, the “mixed economy” approaches to regulated market capitalism have worked pretty well for the past 100 years, with the occasional awful blip — such as the recent unpleasantness. But all the same, I don’t want a “revolution,” cuz I’m pretty darn sure that would be catastrophic for everyone. Likewise, I don’t want “full socialism,” cuz that doesn’t work for shit. But at the same time, the post-Reagan “rah markets!” types seem pretty out of touch with how the world works.

      We muddle through. A politics based on “muddling through” is what you should look for, if you want something that might actually work.

      Regarding “conservative principles” — fine whatever. Just stay out of my face with that shit. I’ll stay out of yours.

      Except I get to use the bathroom like everyone else. I might sit next to you at the lunch counter. I’m a citizen too. You gotta deal with that. I deserve to get served. I get to move through the world.

      #####

      Last week I was on a flight from Orlando to Boston. On the plane, I sat next to this Western MA WASPy fuck. The entire flight he was reading National Review on his phone. Judging by his body language and tone, he didn’t like me much. In fact, before the flight began I was being nosy, and I noticed that he texted to someone, “I’m sitting next to a very strange person.”

      Ha!

      But whatever. He left me alone. I left him alone. He perused his right-wing nonsense — and I’m sure it was nonsense. I read (sections of) an unusually good math book.

      The flight attendants were lovely and polite. They called me “ma’am” in an obviously respectful way. I wonder if that bothered him.

      I dunno. He didn’t say anything.

      So goes the “culture war.”

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  3. In a comment above, refers to “conservative principles.”

    This is a phrase that, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, had coalesced around some coherent and intellectually robust political philosophy. Which, in turn, led to a substantial consensus of what the government should and should not do. The great intellectual hero was William F. Buckley, Jr. Near as I can tell, Bucklean conservatism was a stool with four legs: cultural traditionalism, anti-communism, judicial textualism, and economic libertarianism.

    These days, we’ve rejected the Laffer Curve as not what really happens when taxes are lowered, that supply-side economics leads to a problematic amount of accumulation of public debt. Plenty of Republicans cannot square the circle of the restricted-government-services vision of the low-tax, low-spending vision of the government that the National Review preached in its glory days: they’ve mistaken “this isn’t the government’s job” philosophy for a respectable decoupage atop the ugliness of class warfare and political marginalization of demographics captured by Democrats. This is how we get “real Americans” ostracizing the Others in their midst as welfare cheats and moochers and limousine liberals.

    Anti-communism as a defining motive force of conservatism, informing foreign policy and military priorities, fell victim to its own success. There is no more Soviet Union. China and Vietnam are too valuable as trading partners to be thought of as overt adversaries, and at long last we’ve begun to treat Cuba the same way. Venezuela has oil and North Korea has nukes and Iran has been mostly containable. Replacing anti-communism with anti-Islamicism again teetered on the brink of, and eventually fell prey to, the temptation of cultural Othering.

    Buckley carved out a nuance for internal cultural conservatism too: the kind of go-slow, think-about-collateral-consequences, don’t-fix-what-ain’t-broke attitude to social change we can read in, for instance, the Moynihan report. This, too, was seduced into Othering, with a healthy dose of reactionary thought contaminating the quasi-Burkeanism to the point that resisting and reversing change has become an end unto itself rather than a means toward the measured goal of preserving that which was good from the past while incrementally paring away the less desirable.

    Judicial textualism was indeed one of the first things to fall victim to this tendency, at least within the political sphere. Actual textualism judges did what they had intellectually girded themselves to do, but “strict constructionism” turned quickly into code for “will reverse Roe v. Wade“and now includes the codicil “will also reverse Obergefell.” (Edited to add: Textualism is no longer what conservatives actually want on the bench. They simply want results that favor their political agenda and don’t much care what reasoning gets them there. Chief Justice John Roberts used textualism to affirm the individual mandate of Obamacare as a tax, and is thought of as a “traitor” and endured calls for his impeachment for it.)

    So what I see is that where the intellectual foundations of conservatism have not been superseded by experience, they have been corrupted by tribalism to the point that they seem irredeemable. Thus am I no longer a conservative myself, and indeed makes me actively oppose much of what makes the contemporary “movement” tick. The phrase “conservative principles” itself has become so ambiguous and cloudy in meaning as to be more of a spin on the roulette wheel than a litmus test; what someone like Sarah Palin thinks is or is not congruent with “conservative principles” is almost certainly different from what someone like Paul Ryan thinks, which is different from what someone like Rand Paul thinks which is different from what someone like Rudy! Giuliani thinks which is different from what someone like Rick Perry thinks.

    How this gets fixed is beyond me; for myself, I’ve just plain walked away and I have no plans to return.

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    • Buckley carved out a nuance for internal cultural conservatism too: the kind of go-slow, think-about-collateral-consequences, don’t-fix-what-ain’t-broke attitude to social change we can read in, for instance, the Moynihan report.

      This is certainly the type of conservatism I subscribe to. I will say though, that the ramping up of rhetoric is often reactive. A good example would be some of the rhetoric around hunting vs. the anti-hunting movement. Hunters were once a well-respected part of the conservation movement. Now they often feel attacked and on the outside and their rhetoric reflects this. This was a direct response to cultural changes that happened in the 60s and 70s, led by groups like PETA, Greenpeace and even the Humane Society. This also gave much more power to the NRA which was seen as one of the only groups fighting for hunters.

      So I think both sides need to take some responsibility there.

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      • No argument there, but saying “You have some fault and I’d like you to do something about it,” is not the same thing as “We have some fault and we’re going to do something about it.”

        What I’m seeing written here in these comments is “Liberals need to stop being mean to conservatives, and once that happens, conservatives will get their house in order.” Conservatives need to get their house in order anyway, pointing out that the other side is also flawed is the means by which they excuse themselves from doing it.

        Reminds me a bit of the moatdigger faction’s policy on immigration reform. “First, we have to impose massive amounts of physical security to control our borders and thus prevent even a single illegal immigrant from getting in the country. Only once this is done will we even discuss reforming the work permit, visa, and naturalization processes.”

        #BetterThanHillary is a fine example of this happening right now: “I know Trump is an excerable quasi-racist and an overt misogynist, whose economic policies, such as they even are subject to discernment, would cause a massive recession and call the good credit of the United States into question, and whose proposed foreign policy seems to consist of prosecuting every war that would piss off our own allies, breaching multiple treaties, and inciting our largest trading partners to enter into tariff wars with us. But at least he won’t be Hillary Clinton, who is self-evidently worse than any of this!”

        A cultural leader of our nation of Trump’s moral character ought to be unacceptable, period. An economic agenda like Trump’s ought to be unacceptable, period. A foreign policy agenda like Trump’s ought to be unacceptable, period. The spectacle of Republicans advancing this concept isn’t ringing true for me because it’s not at all clear to me that Clinton’s anodyne corruption and run-of-the-mill political slipperiness would be anything substantially different than her husband’s administration. Bill Clinton as President really wasn’t all that awful until he got impeached, and the impeachment was a creation as much of a GOP leadership defining itself by way of putting tactical reactivity on autopilot, rather than affirmative pursuit of any sort of policy goals.

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        • If Repubs gave the amnesty crowd what they want do you think they would ever tighten boarder security? They wouldn’t b/c illegals benefit them. Besides, what is wrong with security first so you can stop the problem?

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          • The issue here is not the merits of the policy proposal. It’s the tactic of deflection and avoidance.

            As to the merits of immigration policy, I’m amenable to addressing security concerns as part of a package that also includes streamlining naturalization and the various forms of visas. Streamlining naturalization and visa applications is not the same thing as amnesty.

            But the issue here is a refusal to address problems on your own side of the fence until the other side done what you want first. It’s pretty rare that this is a good faith negotiating tactic (outside of a structured negotiation with a truly neutral and mutually-trusted intermediary, the likes of which do not exist in our political environment).

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            • The issue here is not the merits of the policy proposal. It’s the tactic of deflection and avoidance.

              Just b/c my side wants security before amnesty doesn’t make it deflection and avoidance. Or is it that you simple can’t understand that the other side has different priorities than yours?

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              • If you want security before amnesty, vote for Democrats. Both Obama and Clinton have done more for security than the Bushes. [And I’m citing a republican when I say this,not just making up bullshit]

                The Bushes are more in favor of slavery, which might not surprise you so much if you knew who their friends were.

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        • I think that mis-interprets the reactionary nature of mainline conservatism. They see themselves as the watchers on the wall. Basically, most of them are Alliser Thorne. What they do, they believe is the right thing for the country, even if they get hung for it.

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            • Watchers on the Wall is a Game of Thrones, reference, – cf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Watchers_on_the_Wall, though the term predates the episode. Pretty sure it came from the books.

              Basically the guys who are isolated from the rest of society, but see a growing danger that could wipe out ALL of society, that they may or may not be sufficient to guarding against, but dammit, they’re going to try…

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              • In my day job, I work under our Quality group. There’s a constant tension between us and the Operations folks because they see us as needlessly worried, and the guys with grim faces who always have to tell them why their ideas won’t work. Recently, and because many of my team are GoT fans, we’ve started actually referring to ourselves as the Nights Watch. It’s a good morale booster and also highlights that it’s not always fun to be the person that must sound the alarm.

                I’m not saying the alarm is always justified, but perhaps if liberals didn’t always seem to default to, “You oppose this because you are mean/biggoted/racist/xenophobic/etc,” then maybe conservatives could go back to simply standing watch. As it is now, when you are told that all of your concerns are founded in ignorance…it makes it hard not to walk away.

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                • “As it is now, when you are told that all of your concerns are founded in ignorance…it makes it hard not to walk away.”

                  Yes, I think this is pretty much always true for everybody (and I like how you phrase it) … I have certainly felt exactly that way when my concerns are met with what feels like meanness, bigotry, racism, xenophobia, etc. – felt like the person confronting me thinks I am an idiot for having those concerns. For example ;). And I often do just walk away.

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                • You see the similarity between the vigilant and faithful Watcher On The Wall, to Col. Jessup in A Few Good Men?

                  That is, that the Watcher, by being detached from the society he ostensibly serves, slowly becomes contemptuous of it, and holds himself above it as superior.

                  Isn’t that the story of the conservative movement, that by being constantly alarmed at changes to society, wanting to stand athwart the world yelling “Stop”, they have come to hold a majority of their fellow Americans in contempt?

                  I would ask anyone here to consider how much of conservative expression is devoted to condemnation of Americans- how Americans are lazy, Americans are weak willed and too cowardly to stand up to The Enemy, Americans are impious and disrespectful of religion, Americans are licentious and scornful of traditional mores.
                  American schools are collapsing, American cities are cesspools of crime and dysfunction, American colleges are filled with crybaby brats, the American legal system is infested with cynical lawyers conniving on behalf of greedy consumer, the American government is both totalitarian at home and a paper tiger abroad.

                  America, the Watchers tell us, is not great, and needs to be restored to some former glory.

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                  • That is a fault where I think BSDI is pretty fair, though. One doesn’t have to look very far to find liberals that essentially agree with the Real America idea: that America is a backwards country full of gun-crazy Jesus freak racists in which they fit poorly.

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                    • It is interesting how both Red and Blue generally agree that Red America is more American than Blue. Sure, sometimes a liberal tries to paint it the other way — that Real America is about diversity and civil freedoms, a “land of immigrants” and so on. But that’s not the norm, and for some reason can sound like protesting too much.

                      I wonder if this is common around the world; are liberals in other countries more likely then their conservative fellows to have a negative image of their nation, with the conservatives being more overtly patriotic and accusing the liberals of insufficient love of country? Or is the USA exceptional (heh) in this? Do French conservatives feel out of place in a Real France that is inherently too liberal for their liking?

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                      • I’ll just jump in here. No sporking way is Red America more american than Blue. Both are just as American. America is many different and conflicting things and no political or cultural side gets to claim the good ol US of A as there own.

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                        • America is many different and conflicting things and no political or cultural side gets to claim the good ol US of A as there own.

                          Oh, I agree 100%. I’m just observing a tendancy in the culture. Much as cconservatism to “own” God/faith, it also gets to own patriotism. It’s difficult to imagine any conservative being truly on the defensive about his faith, not even the sleazy Donald opposite the devout Hillary. And similarly with love-of-country, although maybe that will change this year?

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                      • I think there are a lot of issues going on.

                        1. Upper-middle class liberals of the “I have a graduate degree, listen to NPR, like to talk about foreign travel” are just a small part of the Democratic Party. If the Democratic Party needed to rely on the votes of upper-middle class professionals alone, they would half much less power because that is just a small part of the American electorate. Yet this small part seems to have a higher than actually true perceived influence.

                        2. Lots of people flee to Democratic strongholds like San Francisco and NYC or other big cities to be who they are. Unsurprisingly it is a lot easier to be openly LGBT in the Bay Area (especially SF) than in a small-town in Michigan. Though there are LGBT communities in many red states and rural locations, a lot of people in areas like SF are transplants and they have strong (usually negative) connotations about their hometowns. Even if they were otherwise white and heterosexual, they were still beat up for being the quiet kids who liked art and books.

                        3. I think if you are the party that talks about and believes in the importance of multi-culturalism and diversity. Nationalism/Patriotism can ultimately be something hard to talk about except in a vaguely embarrassed way. I think many liberals are proud to be American but feel kind of sheepish talking about it ways that Hubert Humphrey might have talked about being a proud American.

                        4. The Democratic Party, in their own imperfect way, does try and deal with the past wrongs of the United States and this seems to enrage the right. This is not the only country where this happens. The Japanese right-wing is notorious for fighting tooth and nail about keeping all the bad stuff Japan did during WWII out of Japan’s school textbooks.

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                        • 1. Upper-middle class liberals of the “I have a graduate degree, listen to NPR, like to talk about foreign travel” are just a small part of the Democratic Party. If the Democratic Party needed to rely on the votes of upper-middle class professionals alone, they would half much less power because that is just a small part of the American electorate. Yet this small part seems to have a higher than actually true perceived influence.

                          Both parties are controlled by the wealthiest people around who have a lot of free time. *Everything* is controlled by the wealthiest people around who have a lot of free time.

                          It’s pretty much a law of nature of institutions. Figure out who is interested in what that institution does, figure out who has enough free time to pay attention to that, and, pick the richest subset of that group. You’ve discovered who is in charge…either officially, or unofficially.

                          This applies to everything from a small non-profit to an HOA to the United States of America government.

                          (Well, I lie. Sometimes ‘wealthiest’ is actually some other, very specific, form of power, like the most famous.)

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                  • Isn’t that the story of the conservative movement, that by being constantly alarmed at changes to society, wanting to stand athwart the world yelling “Stop”, they have come to hold a majority of their fellow Americans in contempt?

                    That seems hard to square. Since we’re talking about policy, I assume you mean how conservatives feel about liberals. Since only about 25% of Americans self-identify in that camp, ‘majority’ hardly seems fitting.

                    And the mirror narrative to this is that liberals are the ones that hold people in contempt. Many conservatives believe that liberal policies devalue human potential and seek to tell people the government knows best. So in that sense, I guess that makes you all…the Lannisters? Or if we’re being charitable, perhaps Danerys. At least she means well.

                    Isn’t the ultimate point that both sides think they are doing what’s best for society?

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                    • Self-classification is tricky. The Democratic Party regularly gets larger aggregate vote totals for various federal offices than the Republicans, so many people who are not liberal vote for Democrats.

                      And you also do have to untangle the differences between what Paul Ryan and other major Republican leaders want — major reductions to Soc Sec and Medicare/aid — and what the voters wants — that those programs remain stable or even grow.

                      Honesty about budgeting is hard to find. But did any of the 17 Republican candidates get even close to honest?

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                    • It is a tricky line to tread, where one scolds society for its failings while lovingly encouraging it for it successes.
                      The counterculture of the 1960s lost primarily because they couldn’t find that line- not very many people were impressed with their vision of “Amerikkka”.

                      Which brings us to tone and vision- Reagan’s skill- and Obama’s as well- was to find that sweet spot where he could put forward a vision that a broad majority could see themselves in, where criticism was matched by exhortation.

                      I am not the only one who has marveled at how perfectly The Onion captured the conservative opposition as a “Shrieking White Hot Ball Of Rage”.

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                  • I thought of A Few Good Men too. No doubt we’re both remembering They stand on a wall and say, “Nothing’s going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch.”

                    I’m impressed with myself that I remembered the line as clearly as what Demi Moore looked like in that uniform saying it.

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                • Sadly, I think I’ve got all those pretty much locked up. The only thing that might disqualify me is an absolutely morbid fear of heights. I can’t even climb a ladder, much less walk around on a wall with no safety railing.

                  If they were the Watchers Sort Of Near By The Walls, I’d be in without an interview.

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        • A cultural leader of our nation of Trump’s moral character ought to be unacceptable, period.

          Isn’t that cute?

          ‘Fraid that horse left the barn around about 1998, if not a half-dozen years earlier.

          And while you’re complaining about the frying pan, recall that he’s running against the fire.

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    • You write as though you have determined that the primary sin, the sin of sins, is “Othering.” So, of course, you have to turn your back on politics, since the defining political distinction or the distinction that defines politics remains “us” and “them,” “friend” and “enemy.” collective “self” and “other.”

      The left-liberal notion is that politics is about “policy” for the good of all – “all people created equal” and so on – but no left-liberal politics is able to address the good of all immediately, or to whatever extent it might it passes over into the apolitical or politically irrelevant: Even the further left Bernie Sanders is a protectionist, appealing to the narrowly defined self-interest of the victims of globalization (i.e., universalized economic liberalism), suppressing the extent to which benefit to “us” along such lines must come at cost to and against the evident will of unidentified “thems,” while the anti-othering social justice movement pursues a program of othering the otherers (mostly as “hating/fearing conservatives”), dividing the world up into those to whom such a paradox expresses the highest purposes and those to whom it demonstrates hypocrisy or lack of self-awareness.

      As for the intellectual foundations of “conservatism” and the foundations or potential foundations of a “conservative” governing coalition, they are not necessarily the same thing, and reaching a shared understanding of the relationship (broadly, between theory and practice) will itself entail a complex discussion in which public narratives and sincerely and widely held presumptions may or may not diverge from sensible explanations, with the divergences thought to reflect on participants in different ways, with every possibly significant position factually and morally contestable, and with everyone determined to short circuit the process in a way that, more often than not unless invariably, will just happen to replicate the same self-interested friend-enemy distinctions (under whatever name) with which they began: Every other re-othered, just like we like it.

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      • You seem to assume that I like Bernie Sanders. If so, that assumption would be mostly incorrect.

        I fully recognize that politics necessarily requires distinguishing one person from another, one policy idea from another, one political ideology from another. It further requires the making of arguments as to why one person, one idea, one ideology, is preferable to another.

        I’ve no objection to “My idea is better than yours,” or “I have better relevant skills than you.” My objection is “You are the enemy.” No, you are not the enemy; I accept that like me, you want to make the country a better place in some fashion. But you are mistaken; your idea is not going to achieve the result you claim and might even backfire. Here, I’ll explain how. Not to mention, my experience has better prepared me to handle this position than you. Compare how I handled this one problem and it turned out well, with how you handled this other problem and oh man, what a clusterfish that was.

        What I won’t do, though, is say, “You’re evil.” You’re not evil, but you’re also not nearly as good a choice as I am. Vote for me.

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    • These days, we’ve rejected the Laffer Curve as not what really happens when taxes are lowered, that supply-side economics leads to a problematic amount of accumulation of public debt.

      This is kind of inaccurate. We have not rejected the Laffer Curve, because the Laffer Curve is just an accounting identity. It is tautologically true. When the highest marginal tax rate is somewhere around 90%, then yes, a cut in taxes is likely to increase total revenue, because at 90% people either choose to work less or negotiate ways to receive their income in some form other than taxable income. The central issue is and always was, “where is the inflection point?” With the highest marginal tax rate presently in the 30s, we are likely well below the inflection point and further tax cuts are not likely to bring in more revenue. Although, it’s worth noting that the inflection point is likely not static, so for instance, we could probably raise a lot more revenue through corporate taxes if we lowered the statutory rate and simplified the structure (ie raised the low effective rate).

      Also, the economic libertarianism of that conservative movement was about more than taxes. Taxes are just a subset of a economic mindset that can be summed up as “incentives matter.” You can’t just centrally direct the economy by fiat. The de-regulation, which started under Carter, was absolutely key to reviving a sclerotic economy. The EITC is a better poverty-fighting tool than many of the very poor programs of the Great Society era. Stagflation happened and the Phillips Curve broke down. These things all happened.

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      • The Laffer curve describes a real phenomenon, but it’s not an accounting identity. An accounting identity an equation that’s true by definition, like debits = credits or profits = revenue – expenses, or Y = C + I + G + X – M. The Laffer curve relies on the empirically but not definitionally true fact that people respond to very high tax rates by working less.

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        • The Laffer curve relies on the empirically but not definitionally true fact that people respond to very high tax rates by working less.

          No, it doesn’t. From Wikipedia:

          In economics, the Laffer curve is a representation of the relationship between rates of taxation and the resulting levels of government revenue. The Laffer curve claims to illustrate the concept of taxable income elasticity—i.e., taxable income will change in response to changes in the rate of taxation. It postulates that no tax revenue will be raised at the extreme tax rates of 0% and 100% and that there must be at least one rate which maximises government taxation revenue.

          The Laffer Curve is literally a curve with endpoints at zero tax rate=zero revenue and 100% tax rate=zero revenue. How people respond to a change in the tax rate depends on where you are on the curve. That was true then and it’s still true now. The question is as to the shape of the curve (ie where the inflection point is).

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          • Uh, no. is correct.

            Collecting no taxes at 0% tax rate is, indeed, a mathematical truth. It is tautologically true.

            Collecting no taxes at 100% tax rate is not a mathematical truth, and neither is collecting any taxes at, say, a 50% tax rate.

            It’s sorta how things work *in reality*, at least in general. But it is not tautological.

            For example, try taxing my one-year-old nephew at a 50% income tax rate. You’re not going to collect *any* taxes this year. Why not? No income! (Yes, silly counter-example, but it *is* a counter-example, and tautologies shouldn’t have those!)

            Likewise, the idea that 100% income tax rate wouldn’t produce *any* revenue is based off the strange idea that people will never, ever work for free. As is demonstrated by a lot of charity work in this county, people *will* work for free!

            Granted, we probably have some sort of social resistance to us ‘deserving’ money from work, but the government taking it all…but that’s just how we, as society, think. There’s not some sort of Truth to that, and it’s not impossible to figure out a society where that *is* how charity work happened. Not that such a structure would make much sense (Full-on communism would probably make more sense than pretending to pay everyone but taking *all* their money via taxes.), but it’s not *impossible*, technically speaking.

            In fact, I find it somewhat dubious, that if we, next year, literally change the tax rate to 100%. (And not deductions or anything), that we would actually collect *no* revenue. I’m pretty sure we’re get *some*. Mostly by accident or people who can’t move all their income off-books. At minimum, there’s *politicians*, who are usually in their position for the *power*, not the money. I’m quite certain they would not *all* resign their job!

            So the statement that we’d get *no* revenue at 100% tax rate is not only not a tautology, but is probably not literally true! We’d get *almost* no revenue, yes, but not *none*.

            Of course, another objection to the entire idea is that the thing is a ‘curve’, which is generally thought of a smooth arc. This idea actually has very little evidence, and the thing could be a line upward that sharply drops at the end, or even be jagged, going up and down and up and down. (People have strange interactions with round numbers, and it’s possible that 40% might collect less revenue than both 37% and 42%.) But that’s for another post.

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          • We can imagine a New Soviet Man who keeps working just as hard at 100% tax rates. He might even work harder, since now all is for the glory of the collective. This is not an accurate model of human behavior, but it’s an empirical question. Accounting identities are just definitions, and not sensitive to empirically-determined values. You can make any assumptions about human behavior or laws of nature you want, but GDP is always the sum of private consumption, investment, government consumption, and net exports, because that’s how we define it. That’s an accounting identity.

            I guess you could say that the Laffer curve is any curve describing the empirically observed relationship between marginal tax rates and tax revenues, but it still wouldn’t be an accounting identity, any more than a supply or demand curve is. That’s just not what “accounting identity” means.

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          • Collecting no taxes at 0% tax rate is, indeed, a mathematical truth. It is tautologically true.

            Collecting no taxes at 100% tax rate is not a mathematical truth, and neither is collecting any taxes at, say, a 50% tax rate.

            By that line of argument, the 0% thing isn’t “true” either, because even at 0%, someone is bound to donate a few cents to the government. Congratulations on spending that many words on a reduction to absurdity and missing the point of the comment.

            I’m not that interested in having a purely semantic debate, so fine, I’ll ditch the term accounting identity. The Laffer Curve is still tautologically true. At 0% and 100%, tax revenue is effectively zero. There are points along the line connecting the two where raising the tax rate brings less total revenue. That is the insight of the Laffer Curve.

            I’m also not interested in defending the supply-side position that grew out of that insight, because I believe that the optimal tax rate isn’t necessarily the one that optimizes tax revenue. Rather, it’s the one that justly funds the proper functions of government, while doing the least amount of overall economic distortion.

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            • By that line of argument, the 0% thing isn’t “true” either, because even at 0%, someone is bound to donate a few cents to the government. Congratulations on spending that many words on a reduction to absurdity and missing the point of the comment.

              While I disagree with the idea of the Laffer curve in many ways (As I said, there isn’t even technically any evidence it is a curve.), the Laffer curve applies the *tax revenue*.

              And only of a specific tax system….i.e, a 0% personal income tax rate could still have revenue from sales tax, or corporate tax, or whatever. Or revenue from voluntary donations.

              If we’re talking about the Laffer curve of income tax, but the revenue doesn’t come in via *income tax*, it isn’t relevant.

              There are points along the line connecting the two where raising the tax rate brings less total revenue. That is the insight of the Laffer Curve.

              And this is where the actual problem arises with the concept of a ‘curve’. We have no evidence at all it *is* a ‘curve’, or at least no evidence it’s the clean parabola curve that people think it is. (I guess mathematically if it’s not a straight line, it *is* a curve of some sort, but everyone seems to *draw* it as a parabolic arc.)

              It is entirely possible there are points along the line connecting the two where raising the tax rate some amount brings less total revenue, but raising it even *more* brings more total revenue, and then raising it more than that brings less…but there’s a point above that with *even more revenue*. It could zigzag…a lot. Who the hell knows? Likewise, it’s entirely possible that income tax rate has almost *no* effect on the amount of work people do, all the way up to where it becomes unreasonable and they completely exit the market. So it’s more of a linear increase that abruptly drops at the end.

              We have no idea. The entire concept of a Laffer curve is ‘making some basic and rather obvious guesses about how tax rates work and pretend people have a lot more flexibility to ‘work less’ than actual reality would seem to dictate. Then take this simplification as some sort of real rule, and then using that new rule in political arguments’.

              It’s complete bullshit. Yes, you can reduce it down to statements that appear to be mostly true in our society (Although, as we pointed out, not *tautologically* true.), as long as you don’t drawn any conclusions from it…but what the hell is the point of talking about that version of it?

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      • Also, including Medicare and state taxes, the top marginal tax rate in some jurisdictions is currently in the low 50s, not 30s. The effective tax rate on savings with a sufficiently long investment horizon (e.g. a twenty-something saving for retirement) may be even longer, depending on turnover frequency.

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  4. You know what isn’t going to fix the GOP? Crocodille tears.

    pretty much nails it above, and about the only thing to add is that a I while back I mentioned in some comment thread that if you call someone stupid, bigoted and whatnot for long enough, they will start to believe it. And then they will start to like it and not listen to you anymore. That is the point the R’s are at right now. The left has been calling them names for so long that they don’t care anymore. Every R has been compared to Hitler. They don’t give a shit what you think, and shaming them is a joke. No matter who they put up for president, this would happen.

    So please, no crocodile tears.

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    • Though I’m pessimistic about the GOP and its modern articulation of whatever it calls “conservativism” these days, I really hope this isn’t what happened. “Oh, you called me a racist so now I’m going to be a racist and that’ll show you!” is not the stuff from which Buckley and Kemp and Reagan were made. It is the petulant emotional vomit of a thin-skinned fifth-grader who takes Pee-Wee Herman’s “I know you are, but what am I?” as a rhetorical trump card. (E.g., “Democrats are the real racists,” a trope we’ve all seen in various places).

      If it is true, then bad on the Republicans again, for demonstrating such colossal immaturity.

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      • — +1

        And you actually say it more charitably than I would. I was tempted to post, “If someone called me a pig fucker all the time, at no point would I ever fuck a pig. If in some fit of madness I did fuck a pig, I don’t think I’d try to blame the jerks who called me a pig fucker. After all, I choose what I fuck.”

        In any case, America has a race problem. We’ve had it a long time, since our founding. In my life, since childhood, that race problem as festered among the American right-wing, particularly its Southern manifestations.

        Keep in mind, I’m old enough to remember Reagan. I remember the “welfare queen” discourse. I was a kid back then, but I was old enough to understand what was being said. I knew what sort of person the term “welfare queen” referred to. The American right-wing has not improved much since then.

        If someone calls you a racist, the critical issue is, are you indeed a racist? When people complain, “Oh noes! This filthy SJW called me a racist! Oh my fee fees!”

        Well, my sympathy is exactly proportional to how much I think they indeed have a “race issue.” So it goes.

        That is the topic, the racism itself, its structure, how it is expressed, sustained, and so on, even in a society that pays lip service to racial equity. Today we have fewer of the cross-burning, hood-wearing, overtly racist types. But all the same, we are lousy with racists.

        When I see through your lip service, I’m gonna say loud and clear what I see. You’re not supposed to like it.

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      • That all might be the case and problem , but what is the left doing to stop that? How are they reaching out?

        There has been many article put up lately, by people on the left! even, about how the left is Smug, Bigoted, etc. This makes it hard to hear a message of inclusion and mutual love for ones fellow man. In fact, it is simply bigotry, no better than racism. We are better than them…

        They stopped listening to the left some time ago. And as every bit of opposition to Obama was called racist, wether it was or not. Trivialising it in the process.

        Immaturity indeed.

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        • So the GOP is holding itself for ransom? Stop calling us names (while we stay just as polarized and partisan), or we’ll nominate an authoritarian know-nothing reality TV star? You are assigning blame here in ways that I do not understand

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        • So conservatives are rubber and liberals are glue? This isn’t a problem of the left. It is a problem of the right. If you count yourself a conservative, then you can’t control what the left does. Pointing out that the left does sub-optimal things is avoidance.

          Notice how “We don’t care if they call us racists” quickly morphs into “We don’t care if we really are racists.”

          When I critique the use of the law to promote or repress particular religious points of view in the United States I’m often told, “Go to Iran and complain about religious freedom and the interposition of church and state there.” Or when I complain that our government is far too willing to abridge individual civil liberties and deploy torture to advance its foreign-policy goal of eliminating particular terrorist groups, I’m sometimes told, “Our enemies would, and actually do, far worse than this.” My reply to them is always the same: “They are not our teachers.”

          If you call yourself a Republican or if you call yourself a conservative, and you say, “I don’t like it when some liberal calls me a racist,” that’s fine as far as that goes, but what I hope to see from you is “Here’s why they’re wrong,” because I don’t like racism. I don’t want to hear, “I don’t care if they call me a racist or not,” because that suggests you are indifferent to racism itself rather than just the name-calling attack. I certainly don’t want to hear, “Oh yeah? Well, hey, I guess the shoe fits, so here you, have some racist public policy!”

          If you call yourself a Republican or if you call yourself a conservative, I urge you to take some time to define yourself in positive terms. Don’t tell me what you are against. Tell me what you’re for. Tell me what you’re trying to achieve, how you’re going to make the world a better place. You get to decide if you will allow yourself to be defined by your adversary, or if you’re going to carve out your own identity. In order for a liberal to successfully define you, you have to cooperate with her. What you’re describing here is exactly that: taking up their invitation to do and be exactly what you’re accused of doing and being, out of spite.

          You have the option of deciding for yourself who you are what you stand for and proudly proclaiming to the world why it is good. That is, if you wish to exercise that option. If you wish for me to (re)join you, I remain open to being convinced that this would be a worthwhile thing to do. What you’re describing in your original comment — “We don’t care anymore” — isn’t going to accomplish that.

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          • Except that liberals are going to call Repubs racist until we totally give up our beliefs and capitulate to their demands or they can’t get any more mileage out of it, regardless if it was ever true in the first place. Therefore I don’t care if liberals call me a racist anymore b/c you can’t reason with them.

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            • All I ask of people is that they pick up a shovel and start shoveling.
              Links available upon request, you too can help poor little orphans earn a living rather than coming to America to freeload.

              Or you can help prevent houses from burning down, or give people clean fresh water.

              I don’t mind if you do this in a more competitive than cooperative sense, if you buy a business or make one yourself.

              Really, I don’t give a shit — there’s work to be done, and if you ain’t doing a goddamn thing, you’re in the way.

              Maybe I’ll have time to go calling people racist some other day. Right now there’s work to be done.

              I say the same about politicians as about anyone else — show me some results, and that’s all I ask.

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          • Again , is nailing it.

            I left the D’s as they clearly showed that they didn’t want to govern. Wait, isn’t that what the D’s say about the R’s? I also left the D’s as they were becoming the party of hate. Wait, isn’t that what the… The place for me was the Libertarian party.

            Right now the R’s cannot govern on the national level, as they don’t hold that seat. They can only legislate, which if they pass laws they like, Obama veto’s. Those laws might or might not be what you want, but there you go. They also don’t hold the same views as the left does, but that doesn’t matter, as they are the party of hate. Oh, wait…

            “Notice how “We don’t care if they call us racists” quickly morphs into “We don’t care if we really are racists.”” Thats interesting, as it is not what I said. I think everyone is a bigot. Everyone hates the outgroup, the other. One party has, until recently, the media bully pulpit. And has used that to say everything regarding the other party is racist, when, as I showed above, they are just as bigoted. Only to other groups.

            Again, I am not a conservative and did not say “We”. And again, like you, I am concerned with my former party, as I would like to see them heal themselves. But as long as they play identity politics, the other side will too.

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            • Burt: “Notice how “We don’t care if they call us racists” quickly morphs into “We don’t care if we really are racists.””

              No, he did not ‘notice’ that because it’s in your imagination.

              I did notice that you cannot seem to tell the difference between people fixated on what they call ‘HBD’ on the one hand and the conventional starboard on the other.

              Which surprises me not at all.

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      • If it helps you feel better, go with that, Burt.

        I think it has been pointed out in this thread (and I’ll point it out again) that there has been a gradual shift in dispositions among Republican voters who pay attention to political life. Insults from Democratic operatives are understood as asinine trash talk and not as arguments or accusations requiring a reply. All the epithets in the liberal lexicon are tools in a rhetorical game.

        What’s interesting about Trump is that he does not offer the canned apologies you expect to here when the media call out culture is stirring up trouble. That’s a good thing, and our political culture will be much improved if we see more of that. It’s not good for your side, but your side hasn’t had anything agreeable to offer in 25 years or more.

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    • Must…resist…snark….
      Oh what the hell…
      Yeah, conservatives are not to blame for the racism- it was liberals who forced them to nominate Trump by being mean to them!

      Conservatives are just products of their environment, helpless victims of society.

      Look at Trump, liberals! See what you are forcing the conservatives to do? Have you no shame? At long last, have you no sense of shame?

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    • Thing is, Aaron, the account you provide here, if correct, reflects even more poorly on conservatives than Tod’s critique above since it denies that conservatives exhibit any agency, personal character or conscious self-determination in arriving at their political views other than mere reactivity to liberals’ name calling. If I were a conservative I’d find it personally insulting. Not being a conservative, it just strikes me as condescending.

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      • Let’s accept that it is both insulting and condescending. Absolutely.

        Is it accurate?

        If it is accurate, how much is that fact outweighed (if at all) by the fact that it is both insulting and condescending?

        Do we just want to agree that it is an odious truth and move on to nicer propositions that everyone can agree with without hard feelings?

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      • Well, if conservatives are reactionaries…

        I am not a conservative, so I am kinda indiferent about things, but I would guess from reading Dan Scotto and Dennis Saunders that some don’t like it on a certain level. And that is OK, parties change and the members of them come and go. I did with the Dems, Chip talks about how he did it with the R’s. The party is changing, and many will not like it. But again, YOU thinking it reflects worse on conservatives goes back to the crocodille tears. YOU arn’t going to vote R, YOU aren’t going to support them.

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        • There’s a bit of a chicken and the egg problem here, no? So long as the GOP is the kind of party that struggles to choose between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, you’re damn right I won’t vote for them. But I could see voting for a reformed GOP from time to time. I voted for Pat McCrory in 2008, much to my current regret.

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          • Well, I cant say I blame you for not wanting to vote for someone you don’t like. I’m not. I am going to vote Libertarian. Unless Bernie wins, then I would think about voting for him.

            But I live in CA, and I already know which party is getting the states electoral votes.

            A big part of what informs me is that I feel that the D’s moved away from where I stood and I could no longer be on that team, so to speak. But in that moving, I did not move to the right on the issues I cared about. If they represent the ideas that you support, then that is great. Keep voting for what you believe, as that is how the whole thing is supposed to work. But not everyone is going to be on the same page as you, and they will vote accordingly. So, yeah, a bit of the chicken/egg problem. But, hey, if conservatives who don’t like Trump come over, you might find it changing also. (Assuming you are a D and not further to the left, I don’t want to take liberties.

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            • That’s not what I meant. If you narrow the tent down to just the truest of true believers, it’s then a bit of a bold move to say that the opinions of former tent-denizens don’t matter because they’re no longer in the tent. So if you’re saying that the disapproval of a liberal like me doesn’t matter, then ok, i more or less get it. But for somebody like Burt, or Andrew Sullivan, or Jim Webb, etc. etc etc, it goes over a bit less well.

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              • Mmmm, I kinda see what you are saying, and as regards Burt et al, I am in that same boat. Simply from the other side of the fence. Though I was only a pretty standard D, I cannot support that party in its current iteration. They, in my eyes, have moved too far left.* So, I am a bit sympathetic to the Burts and Sullivans, but in the end not too sympathetic.

                * I am pretty sure (from your comments) that you disagree with this. And that is cool. But as far as I am concerned, and this speaks to many of the issues I have with the OP, both parties are moving away from the center due to the impass we have in current politics. YMMV

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        • YOU thinking it reflects worse on conservatives goes back to the crocodille tears. YOU arn’t going to vote R, YOU aren’t going to support them.

          The problem isn’t that I’M tearful about anything. I’m not. It’s that YOU aren’t a conservative either and yet you’ve provided an analysis which is inherently insulting to THEM since it reduces conservative ideology in its entirety as a response to liberal name-calling. I’m actually defending the ideology as constituting more than that. So I’m not sure who’s doing the crying here Aaron.

          Jaybird: If it is accurate, how much is that fact outweighed (if at all) by the fact that it is both insulting and condescending?

          None at all, in my calculus. But I don’t think it’s an accurate description or analysis of what conservatism has become either. Consider the examples Tod presents in the OP: do any of those actions/beliefs result from liberals systematically calling conservatives bad names or telling them they’re stupid? What’s the causal link? What’s the counterfactual?: that if liberals had refrained from calling conservatives stupid they wouldn’t have created the mythology that Obama’s a Muslim Commie plant? I don’t see it, myself.

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          • Well, I am not crying, and I am not saying you are either. I am saying that much of the charges that Tod and others of the left are making (where I do put you, sorry if that is not correct) are in directions that many on the right either don’t care about, or feel that they aren’t as important as other concerns. Just below me, here in this thread, is agreeing with what I am saying. “Republicans/conservatives are so tired of being maligned that they just sort of don’t care anymore.” is what he said, and that doesn’t strike me a being condesended to nor insulted. And I am not reducing Conservative Ideology to one thing, I am simply presenting one aspect, albeit one thing that often precludes pieces like the one we are commenting on from being effective.

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            • Republicans/conservatives are so tired of being maligned that they just sort of don’t care anymore.”

              If that is a legitimate feeling, then I’m justified in just any politically extreme position imaginable. Do you even have an inkling of what the righties routinely say about me? Like, should we limit ourselves with what Erick Erickson says about me?

              You realize, I’m not a bomb throwing queer radical.

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              • Uhmm, I would say that any position is cool, extreme or not. My only real thought is that there could be consequences to it, but something tells me that might not really worry you.

                And that is pretty cool .

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            • Aaron,

              Mike Dwyer is agreeing with what I am saying. “Republicans/conservatives are so tired of being maligned that they just sort of don’t care anymore.”

              Yes, I know. That’s why I said that the only two people on this thread who’ve called conservatives “stupid” are you and Mike. Which is ironic, no?, since the thesis under discussion is that conservatives have been driven to their current state as a result of liberals calling them stupid.

              More to the point, the analysis makes no sense, as Patrick, greg and El Muneco mention. Or at least, as stated it makes no sense. And even more-more to the point, the analysis attributes to individual conservatives an inability to pro- rather than re-actively determine their own belief matrix. It’s as if you’ve attributed to a natural property to individuals – being a conservative! – and then described how individuals with those natural properties naturally react when confronted with disagreement by other folks.

              I mean, it’s a really nice theory. But as El Menuco mentioned it doesn’t seem to apply to liberals, and as Patrick and greg mentioned name calling is part and parcel of political life so conservatives – rather than say, oh, GAYS, for example – aren’t uniquely different in that regard even tho you’re saying conservative’s behavior can be accounted for by appealing to it. Which is nonsense.

              Add: Oh, and Tod’s not a liberal by self-identification; I am. Politically anyway.

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              • “since the thesis under discussion is that conservatives have been driven to their current state as a result of liberals calling them stupid.”

                No, that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that they have been called that for so long that they don’t care that you are calling them that. What they are subsumming is “well, you are calling me racist for X, but you have being calling me racist for everything else, so fuck it, I guess I am a racist now. Whateves.” Much like the R’s calling everyone on the left socialist for years now. They hear it so long they go “and thats a bad thing? Whateves.” That make sense?

                And I know how AreTod identifies, but is right on that.

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                • No, that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that they have been called that for so long that they don’t care that you are calling them that.

                  Hmmm. I guess I can see a connection between conservative’s arriving at a point where they really DON’T CARE what liberals think of them and loudly proclaiming that President Barack Obama is an illegal Communist Muslim plant.

                  Well, actually, no I can’t. :)

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                  • I guess I can see a connection between conservative’s arriving at a point where they really DON’T CARE what liberals think of them and loudly proclaiming that President Barack Obama is an illegal Communist Muslim plant.

                    Well, actually, no I can’t. :)

                    I’m a participant or have been a participant at a number of sites. The only one where ‘birther’ memes have any currency is called The Conservative Treehouse. An attraction to such things is a psychological disposition, not a political one, and has a scattershot relationship to one’s politics. (See most of the people attracted to Kennedy Assassination literature). The moderator of The Conservative Treehouse is a fantasist who attracts fantasists. It’s a reasonable inference that the people who are telling the pollster they think BO is a Muslim or that BO is a foreigner are largely drawn from the segment of the electorate that Wm. F Buckley described thus, “the 30% who have never heard of the United Nations”, not from the paranoid sector.

                    There is a mess of nonsense babble about ‘Marxism’ or ‘Cultural Marxism’ though that sort of discourse is not a majority taste.

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                    • The only one where ‘birther’ memes have any currency is called Donald Trump, the most popular figure in the Republican Party.
                      The nominee of the Republican Party is a fantasist who attracts fantasists.
                      It’s a reasonable inference that the people who are telling the pollster they think BO is a Muslim or that BO is a foreigner are largely drawn from the Tea Party.
                      There is a mess of nonsense babble about ‘Marxism’ or ‘Cultural Marxism’ though that sort of discourse is the staple of Fox News and rightwing blogs.

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    • I think is right here. Republicans/conservatives are so tired of being maligned that they just sort of don’t care anymore. It’s funny how liberals (often on this site) sit around and pat each other on the back for being SO SMART and see this as chickens coming home to roost…but they don’t realize how many smart conservatives sit around and talk about how silly liberals are and what a trainwreck Hillary will be.

      Sometimes you just have to be okay with being the bad guy. Darth Vader just wanted the galaxy to be safe for his kids.

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      • The $64 question is why it’s happening on the right and not so much on the left. I’ll grant that liberals can be smug bastards, many of whom can’t tell inherent classism apart from actual superiorly reasoned arguments.

        But still – on race, on gender, on religion – almost every liberal has been demonized (in the case of atheists, that’s in a literal as well as a figurative sense) by rightists with national audiences. On a regular basis. And as veronica would point out, often in person as well.

        Why has the left not crumbled into a quivering mass of reaction when disdain runs just as deep and just as strong in their direction? Why the unique lack of resilience on the right? That’s the interesting question.

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        • Why has the left not crumbled into a quivering mass of reaction when disdain runs just as deep and just as strong in their direction? Why the unique lack of resilience on the right? That’s the interesting question.

          I agree. That is to say, I would agree if I took the above analysis, provided by Aaron and Mike D, seriously: that conservatives are inherently weak-willed, characterless and petulant.

          I mean, on this subthread we’ve had two people imply that conservative’s are stupid – Aaron and Mike Dwyer – and neither is a liberal.

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      • Republicans/conservatives are so tired of being maligned that they just sort of don’t care anymore.

        I don’t buy this, entirely, and to the extent I do buy it, it’s not a -ism based phenomenon.

        Granted, the Fox News crew is not the entirety of conservativism, but if they are an exemplar of anybody (and surely we don’t need to argue that they’re an exemplar of *some* anybodies) then being beat up on for being reactionary is in fact something that they care really deeply about, because they complain about it a lot. Jesus, look at some of the commentors up above: they come here (as near as I can tell) just exclusively to complain about how the site is unfair to their predispositions.

        For the non-Fox-News crew of conservativism, I need to give you a wake up call: being tired that the other side routinely trashes you is universal. Shoot, if you spend time on social media right now and you see the Berner Crowd response to Hillary and the response from the Hillary supporters, you can see that they’re tired of getting shat on by the “more progressive than thou” crowd on the left.

        That’s a universal problem in modern American political dialogue. But Air America tanked and Fox News didn’t, which tells you something about weights on the BSDI measuring scale.

        It’s funny how liberals (often on this site) sit around and pat each other on the back for being SO SMART and see this as chickens coming home to roost…but they don’t realize how many smart conservatives sit around and talk about how silly liberals are and what a trainwreck Hillary will be.

        I think you should spend a little time masquerading as a liberal. Because there’s more conversations about Hillary being a potential trainwreck on my social media feed coming from the left than from the right.

        On the right, I see TVD, a #nevertrumper from the beginning, talk about maybe, because Hillary would be worse.

        Amusingly he thinks Hillary would be worse because he thinks Hillary is too left, and the Berner crowd thinks Hillary would be worse because she’s a Republican.

        Jesus, everybody has to take a politician and figure out a way to put them into a box with the preferred negative label on it in order to be happy.

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      • I put this somewhere above but i lost track of it. Like Pat says, nasty over the top vitriol has been a part of American discourse for as long as i can remember. I’ve been hearing conservatives( and libertarians) tell me i hate freedom, hate America, want a police state, am a traitor and a billion other things. Conservatives have no sensible way to act like they are the sole victim of ridiculous attacks. That sucks for all of us, but is the way it is. Look at the sh*t the various big Fox or radio talkers regularly say about D’s and liberals. What did actual R pols say about Obama?

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      • ‘they just sort of don’t care anymore.’

        X: Your candidate’s anti Civil Rights bill stance is racist and ignorant. It is racism and ignorance that leads people to support him.

        Y: You’re always saying that. It hurts my feelings. I just don’t care about what you say. Really, it is your fault that we have this anti Civil Rights movement in my party.

        X: Wow. This reminds me of the fallacious arguments that came up on the OT webpage.

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    • In teaching, we often say that children rise to the level of expectations*. But I think a necessary corollary — well understood but rarely stated — is that children will also sink to the level of low expectations. Labels quickly shift from descriptive to prescriptive. Prophecies become self-fulfilling.

      So it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility that support of Trump specifically and what he (seems to) stand for more generally might at least be partially motivated by this same phenomenon as described above. To some extent, this tendency is part of human nature.

      That said… I think and ‘s critique is valid. We should expect more and better from adults responding to labelling applied by adults on the same level as them. Further, when dealing with actual life and death issues — and let’s be honest and say that much of what Trump is trumping about are life and death issues for some people — you’d hope for something more than knee jerk reactionism when forming opinions.

      * I think it is a bit more complicated than this as expectations need to be both reasonable/achievable and children given the proper tools to reach them.

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      • Well put. There is something to the notion that Trump supporters and their kin act in racist or quasi-racist ways partly as a backlash against liberal accusations of racism. It’s just not an excuse.

        I actually don’t think it’s because of low expectations so much as a mental association between certain demographics and left-wing values. A Trumpist who was half-honest about his motivations might say he would tolerate Muslims more if only liberals hadn’t tainted tolerance of Muslims by claiming it as a signal of liberal superiority. It’s like buying whichever brand of SUV environmentalists most hate just to spite them, independently of how bad it actually is for the environment. The sort of Trumpists I have in mind aren’t quite trying to be racist, they’re trying to perform racism — which obviously has the same effect in the end, just as a Spite Car will pollute as much as any other.

        That said, mainstream Democratic politicians don’t espouse outright anti-patriotism or anti-Christianity even though conservatives have long held up those things as instances of conservative superiority. (Of course a conservative would say: nope, they sure do, which is the whole reason for holding those values up like that. I guess one can spend all day asking who started it.)

        Regarding racism and backlash, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern recently of conservatives flipping the script on liberals regarding the Civil War — didja know the emancipator Lincoln was a Republican while genocidal Andrew Jackson founded the Democratic Party? This is a kind of spite I very much support; whatever its faults, it arrives at the correct conclusions regarding the villains and heroes of history. But it’s also the sort of argument you’re much likelier to hear from the NeverTrump folks than from Trumpists.

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        • Interesting perspective, . It makes me think of another phenomenon I see with my students that I think can be instructive here.

          People want to feel powerful. They want to feel like their existence matters and like they can influence the world. No one wants to feel inconsequential or unable to have an impact. And when people don’t get this need/want met, they often seek it out.

          Sadly, it is often easier to feel these things through negative, anti-social action than through positive, pro-social action. I can walk over and punch you in the nose and see you bleed and watch you scream or cry and think, “Yep… I did that. Me. With my own hand I made all that happen just now. How powerful and influential I am!” I could also walk up to you and tell you that you are attractive and smart and worthwhile. This would likely have a positive impact on you. But it’d be less visceral. I wouldn’t feel the impact of my actions the same way.

          Now, I think this is a pretty common part of the human condition. We see it become really common during children during certain periods of development just based on what their brains are doing, but I don’t think this need or desire ever goes away.

          And in contemporary American society, many conservatives feel disempowered. Whether they are actually disempowered or not doesn’t really matter; they feel that way and thus are seeking to reclaim their power. So some of them actively take on this agitator role, proverbially punching liberals in the face because they know it antagonizes them and, in doing so, they can say, “I did that!”

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      • Well, I don’t know about reasonably expect. Moral psychology and self respect are complicated things. Self perception is linked up with how other people perceive you (or more accurately, with you think other people perceive you). I think liberals like and who understand how this can go badly when LGBT people are treated badly suddenly become rugged individualists about how conservatives should just not succumb to enormous socio- psychological pressure and accept the labels with which they have been painted. There is a sense in which by accepting the labels they have done something wrong, but it is easy, form the outside, to miss that this is a very human thing to do.

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    • Hmm Oh goodie. Now i can never ever listen to a conservative or gosh forbid a libertarian ever again. I’ve been called a commie or a traitor or anit-freedom or wanting a police state etc etc by those types for years ( Some of that here but in other places and even in meat space). Those C’s and L’s have been spewing their derogatory terms since i was a kid. Well okay in the 70’s it was just conservatives saying how liberals hated freedom blah blah blah.

      Well that was easy. Now nobody has to listen to anybody ever again.

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    • tl;dr — thought I’d add a bit. At its core, this conversation has been about the same thing that I have been bringing up repeatedly: bigotry is not symmetric with the opposition to bigotry. They are opposite things.

      #####

      There is plenty of nasty name-calling and snide bullshit in politics. And indeed, BSDI. Blah blah blah. This is not that. It is not mere name-calling to call out someone’s manifest bigotry —

      — even if that bigotry is being expressed through dog whistles, or even if the bigot is in denial, operating behind some tower of cognitive dissonance.

      This is not name-calling. Instead, it is naming a manifest character flaw. It is opposing a great political evil that has been with humanity from the beginning and will probably never entirely go away. Such a fight will never be pleasant. Did you think it would be?

      Not every conservative is overtly racist. Not every liberal is overtly anti-racist. However, the American conservative movement has become a place where racism can thrive. The story is complicated, as with any long stretch of history. It doesn’t rest simplistically on the political parties, when viewed over long periods. After all, we have the “party of Lincoln” and the “southern democrats.”

      ’Cept those things aren’t really with us anymore.

      The American Conservative movements, along with their media and their favored political party, are openly sexist, homophobic, and transphobic. They sometimes try to hide their racism. But they fail, cuz words are not deeds.

      We see through you.

      (This is this thing, where people who don’t want to be bigots end up supporting a bigoted social movement. It’s complicated. But as the conflict rises, as the dust-ups become open fights — did they expect their comfortable bigotry to remain unchallenged? — then people get a chance to set their stakes. Did they really not want to be a bigot? They get to choose.)

      #####

      I expect there is indeed a psychological thing where, after people feel attacked for long enough, they stop trying to please those who attack them. So yes, the underlying psychology that led gays to throw bottles at cops during the Stonewall riots, and later to join ActUp — indeed you might draw a line between that and angry Fox News hosts saying terrible things.

      There is a difference, of course.

      #####

      We are allowed to judge people. Of course we are. How else is society supposed to function, if we engage no judgement at all? It’s nonsense.

      By disposition, some people are more judgemental than others. In my experience, the latter sort, the less judgemental, tend to be nicer to be around. I’d rather foster more of that over more judgement. But that does not suggest we can have zero judgement.

      I’d like to see less mean-spirited judgement about people’s fashion choices, musical tastes, food preferences. I‘d like to see zero judgment on sexuality, race, and other “identity categories.” Sure. Yes. Less judgement.

      The state of “being a bigot,” however, is so obviously different from these things. I do judge people for being bigots. I judge them harshly, with a searing flame. I also insist on naming and opposing their hidden prejudices, cutting through their bullshit excuses.

      Of course I do these things. Duh. Slagging a right-winger for being a racist shit is not the same as trashing their taste in wine.

      #####

      For as long as I’ve heard of him, Erick Erickson has been a mean-spirited little shit. He is openly sexist, homophobic, and transphobic. He makes not the slightest effort to hide these things. In fact, he seems to delight in how much this will annoy people such as me.

      Fine. Whatever.

      So yes, I get it. This is part of a “social cycle” or whatever. Society has changed. What was acceptable has become unacceptable. Those who cling to the unacceptable are being opposed in ways they’ve never been opposed before, and thus they feel “bullied.” However, feelings are not always fact. A person can perceive their circumstances incorrectly, which is what is happening here: these right-wing goons are being rightly judged. But still, feelings are feelings. So it is natural, as part of this social process, for some of them to become emboldened.

      Yep. I understand.

      This does nothing to change the fact that the right-wing is fighting for bigotry, oppression, and hate, while my side fights to stop or mitigate these things.

      I’m gonna judge people according to this. It won’t feel good. Duh. It wasn’t supposed to.

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      • tl;dr — thought I’d add a bit. At its core, this conversation has been about the same thing that I have been bringing up repeatedly: bigotry is not symmetric with the opposition to bigotry. They are opposite things.

        I think that asserting this just begs the question. Anyone who is not self consciously evil will assert that the values that they oppose and wish to quash are not symmetric with the values that they themselves hold. When Catholics were rounding up Protestants and burning them (e.g. Queen Mary I of England) I’m pretty sure the Catholics of the day thought that opposition to heresy was not symmetric with heresy. Hell, conservatives like Art Deco and notme don’t think that opposition to what on their view is sexual perversion is symmetric with that thing itself. The difficulty is that while you might claim that you are right and they are wrong, neither the Catholics of the 16th century nor you nor social conservatives (or I doubt anyone ever) can make good on that claim. Nobody really has not in any substantive sense.

        So, yes we have to treat bigotry and opposition to bigotry symmetrically. This doesn’t necessarily license bigotry on the part of the state, but the argument for equal treatment by the state has to (and I think indeed successfully does) rely on that procedural and justificatory neutrality.

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        • So, yes we have to treat bigotry and opposition to bigotry symmetrically.

          You don’t have to treat burning people and getting burned symmetrically; likewise you don’t have to treat asking for and denying equal rights under the law symmetrically. In particular, when one group is harmed and the other merely offended (as is the case with same-sex marriage), there’s a clear and very pertinent asymmetry.

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          • Bigotry is distinct from equal rights. I can be bigoted and still be fine with equal rights. Bigotry extends to things like whether you think women should stay in the kitchen (regardless of what rights they should have) So our hypothetical bigot might for instance say that women should not be legally prevented from applying for and being considered on an equal basis to male candidates for any given job or kept from voting. That is, he can endorse the principle of career open to talents. But, he might then say that women, nevertheless, should not apply for traditionally male jobs and should instead apply for traditionally feminine jobs if they have to work or be stay at home wives and moms. Or he might say something like women should not register to vote. There is no particular reason why a bigot cannot also say that X is immoral for you but I support your right to do it anyway and still remain a bigot.

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            • Bigotry extends to things like whether you think women should stay in the kitchen (regardless of what rights they should have)

              No, a bigot is someone not open to argument. Derived from that is a less utile definition: a person not open to argument (or biased against) certain classes of people. I suppose we can check the OED to find when this second usage appeared. I think the common use today (a person alienated from or critical of the bien-pensant’s chosen clientele) appeared at some point after the war. You’ve now offered a variant of that: someone not on board with your idea of what domestic division of labor should be.

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              • A few points:

                1. I`m a conventionalist about language. Since bigotry is used to denote any non-progressive views about women and minorities we can bypass debates about whether some particular view about sexual division of labour is sufficiently egalitarian to count as non-bigoted by just accepting the term that is commonly used in these parts.

                2. I really don`t want to get into pissing contests about whether such and such a view about the sexual division of labour is correct. They are pointless and intractable.

                3. I`m personally flexible about who shoulders more of the household chores. When I`m at home more often and my wife works full time, I will shoulder more of the chores. And vice versa.

                4. Given that Mike holds an egalitarian about such things (as do most people, I think) none of the points I`m making depend on whether Mike would be right or wrong about the sexual division of labour.

                5. I fight with those to the left of me more often for two reasons. Firstly, it so happens that both online and in meat world, though more so in the latter, I`m surrounded by people who are to the left of me. Secondly, I hold the left to a higher standard in part because I expect more out of the left. Obviously social conservatives do a downright terrible job of a) separating their personal morality from politics and b) Being sufficiently self aware about how justified their beliefs tend to be. A lot of socially progressive public policy can be justified on neutral grounds. A lot of leftists do a bad job of actually doing this necessary justificatory work. They too have way more confidence in the rightness of their beliefs about personal morality than is actually warranted Socially conservative policies do not even meet the standard of being possibly justified by neutral reasons. I’m saying this so we can be clear on where we stand.

                6. According to the oxford english dictionary,

                Bigotry: Intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself:

                The word you are looking for is

                Dogmatism: The tendency to lay down principles as undeniably true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others:

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      • The problem here is that you’re not making any real effort to account for the possibility that you yourself are biased or mistaken in any way. You and the other Hatfields have appointed yourselves judge and jury over whether the McCoys are a bunch of murderers who should be punished, and unsurprisingly the verdict is always “Guilty!”.

        I’m gonna judge people according to this. It won’t feel good.

        It will certainly feel good to you. Judging other people always does.

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        • — That is always true for everyone all the time. In other words, you prove too much.

          Myself, I’m an empiricist. I think quite a lot about what I believe. I want to, so far as I can, base my beliefs on sound principles and fact. On the other hand, perhaps my enemies are correct. Perhaps I am the product of demonic influences. Perhaps I am a lunatic or a pervert. But let us please be honest about the terms of conflict.

          Anyway, when it comes to needed self-inspection, perhaps focus you’re energy on those who preach hate. I don’t reject the right-wing randomly, without cause.

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      • “Instead, it is naming a manifest character flaw. It is opposing a great political evil that has been with humanity from the beginning and will probably never entirely go away. Such a fight will never be pleasant. Did you think it would be?”

        You are smart , that is pretty oviouse from everthing you have written here. Other that the fact that I am not a conservative, you have some interesting observations here. I constantly have to point that out, my non-conservativeness, as the commentariate here has tilted so far to the left that we libertarians are seemingly Facists. But whateves.

        As both and piont out, not only do you get to judge, but the rest of society gets to judge also. (I think Camus had something to say about this.) And here in the states at least, they get to vote. Now, do you want them to vote with you, or against you? And if you want them to vote with you, how do you get them to do that?

        I am pointing out what I see, and some of the barriers to this. came back with a very good point, something from the other side of the fence. Namely that if the right wants to get some of the people of in the middle to vote for them, maybe calling our presidant names isn’t helping either. On that I agree, I don’t generally point it out here as the commentors are for the most part quite liberal, with a few conservative exceptions.

        Personally, I want LGBT rights to be not even thought of, as they are just rights our citizens have. I want people of all colors to have the same opportunities in society. I want religious thoughts to be able to be expressed at will. I want conservative thought to be equally repressented in all of our institutions. But most importantly, I want free speach.

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        • — Please don’t patronize me. I know that I am smart.

          Of course people are going to judge me. Of course they will vote. Duh. In addition to not patronizing me, please don’t condescend. These things are a manifest reality in my life. They are constant. Yes people judge me. Indeed they vote to hurt me. This is not new.

          That said, you are deeply naïve if you think people judge me according to how I judge them. In fact, it is very much the opposite. People judge me because I am transgender, and I assure you, we LGBT people put forth significant effort toward outreach and education, far more than you probably guess.

          And yet the hate continues, it pours forth from bitter, broken hearts. We cannot have infinite patience, for the problem is not us. It is them, one-hundred percent them.

          Stop demanding that the victims of hate play some bullshit role of mock perfection. Those who hate me are entirely wrong. They deserve 100% of our censure. None should come to me and mine.

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          • Well, I was trying to be polite, not condesend or patronize. I am sorry that I came across that way.

            That said, I am always going to vote and care mostly about freedom of speach. Period. That is all I can say at this point.

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  5. Interesting piece (and upcoming series), Tod.

    I was thinking of a similar issue the other day, namely the claims that Trump emerged because of an incredibly weak field. But was it really? I’m not so sure. Here were his competitors…

    Ted Cruz: A staunch conservative, highly educated lawyer, and apparent “true believer”
    Marco Rubio: Charming, charismatic, engaging, young, good looking.
    Jeb Bush: A Bush with a war chest.
    John Kasich: The grown-up in the room.

    Now, that doesn’t strike me as a particularly strong field but it also doesn’t strike me as devoid of legitimate competitors to Trump the way many have insisted. Each had their weaknesses (Cruz’s likability, Rubio’s inexperience, Bush’s Bush-ness, Kasich’s lack of name recognition) but none seemed fatally flawed if GOP voters were really looking for an electable alternative to Trump.

    The GOP wasn’t left with Trump because there was no one else viable. The GOP voters chose Trump, again and again, over other candidates that the party itself would have greatly preferred.

    And yet Trump one… and seemingly going away.

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    • You may recall a flurry of discussion about the GOP’s deep bench of candidates not so long ago. When someone goes into a game saying “our team is so strong we’re having a hard time picking starters” and comes of the game saying “of course we were going to lose, this is a weak restructuring year for us“, which of those statements should we even believe?

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      • Good point. To continue the analogy, some teams are depth-laden but lack a super star. Some teams are top heavy. The analogy isn’t perfect because these “teams” were engaged in a weird form of intrasquad competition but ultimately I think the Republican field was a little lackluster but not lacking anyone who could pose as a viable alternate to Trump if they the voters really wanted one. They didn’t have a super star but they had enough legitimate candidates that we can’t say Trump simply won by default.

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    • There’s also a structural defect in the GOP nomination process. (One, IIRC, they deliberately introduced). The winner-take-all system, combined with a wide field.

      Trump seemed to have a fairly solid core of about 30% (27%? That number pops up all over!) The other 70% was split between multiple candidates.

      Even once the field was winnowed, you ended up with three or four candidates splitting the vote — with whomever eeked out a win getting all the delegates (or close to it). Even as candidates dropped out, their supporters tended split between candidates.

      If the system was proportional (like the Democrats), Cruz and probably Rubio would still be going strong. OTOH, the possibility of a contested convention would be almost 100%.

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      • I’m curious, though, if we swapped the rules, would Hillary be doing better or worse over Bernie right now?

        (a quick look says Hillary does better, because her early narrow victories become (even more) overwhelming delegate blowouts. Otoh, you change the rules of the game, you change how people play the game – Bernie probably throws more effort into wta than he did when as a underdog, a tie and a split delegate slate was good enough in the early rounds)

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        • No telling, really. OTOH, Hillary seems to have done really well in the delegate heavy states (including California, it appears) so I suspect she’d have had a more apparent commanding lead. (The math on “Catching up” would have been more clear, at least). Or possibly already passed the viability threshold.

          One of the reasons Clinton has such a large lead is the string of sizable blowouts she had, which approximated a winner-take-all setup. Sanders always passed the viability threshold, so he always got delegates, but some of those wins were pretty heavily tilted. Sanders had far fewer of those.

          But you’re certainly right, they’d have campaigned differently for certain. In a sense, Clinton lost in 2008 because she campaigned like the Democrats used WTA, whereas Obama campaigned like it was a proportional system. (Clinton has, apparently, learned from that!).

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      • Trump’s baseline was about 35%, which rose past 40% as the other candidates departed. The four candidates who won at least one contest corralled about 67% of the GOP electorate between them just before the voting got underway, while the 8 other candidates had about 25% between them.

        Some GOP states have winner-take-all distribution, some winner-take-all within electoral constituencies, and some have proportional distribution.

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    • If you have Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Victoria Coren Mitchell, Daniel Negreanu, Howard Lederer, and Chris Ferguson sitting around a table, that’s a pretty strong lineup to play poker.

      If James T. Kirk deals himself in for a game of Fizzbin, all bets are off.

      The Rs had a very good lineup for another primary season like all the others – but that wasn’t the primary season they actually got.

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      • Which I think confirms my point that it wasn’t the candidates but the voters.

        Which isn’t to say that the voters were wrong or a problem. Only that we really shouldn’t say the voters couldn’t pick what they wanted so they picked Trump instead. I think the voters got exactly what they wanted by picking Trump.

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    • John Kasich: The grown-up in the room.

      And he qualifies as that why? He’s a year older than Bush? He’s spent 32 of the last 42 years as an elected official or on the staff of elected officials? That he had no children until he was pushing 50? Or is it that he’s indifferent to enforcing immigration laws?

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  6. a bill to prevent Obama from killing his enemies within the United States with drones

    When Donald J Trump gets elected and begins his process of Making America Great Again, you may find yourself idly thinking “huh… maybe Cruz was on to something”.

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  7. Ok, now that I got some morning snark out of my system, what are the paths ahead?

    A) Suppose, as suggests, the GOP looks around and decides that they are doing pretty well just as they are, and maybe Trump just accentuates what is already wining for them?

    Suppose Trump wins or just comes very close, and we get a thousand mini-Trumps across the country running for Congress, state legislatures, and city councils? And winning in various degrees?

    What would “conservatism” or the GOP look like by 2020? What sort of place would America be?

    B) Alternatively, suppose Trump and Trumpism are crushed utterly.
    What does conservatism look like, and what would be its framing issues?

    If the Three Legged Stool made sense in 1980, does it make sense still, or are there other defining issues?

    The 20th century was the story of the epic struggle between the two economic theories, which colored every single issue from civil rights to the environment. Opposition to the Soviet Union defined both our foreign policy, military policy, and our domestic economic policy.
    This was in much the same way that the epic struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism in Europe affected nearly every political issue in the 15-17th centuries where everything was viewed through that polar scale.

    If Socialism as an all-defining political organizing principle is dead (and it is!) then what sense is there in championing something called “Capitalism” Isn’t a mixed economy of regulated markets something that everyone agrees on? So how would that become a defining issue?
    “Small Government” was always just a proxy argument in opposition to socialism.

    So suppose that the size and scale of government is no longer the defining issue; suppose we all agreed that regulated markets was preferred policy?

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  8. An additional question worth asking: If Trump wins in November (and I think is seriously possible if the Dems run with Hillary) then what does that mean about the Left? If losing the White House is the repudiation that this post implies, does that mean it’s the American Left that has a problem?

    If Trump is a true reflection of American conservatism, then are Obama, Sanders and Clinton a true reflection of American liberalism? That’s a question for the liberals out there. Do those people accurately reflect your values? Was a return of the Clintons really what you have been hoping for? If not, then it seems something is also askew on the Left.

    This whole exercise might be a cautionary tale for why we shouldn’t make too much of Presidential politics in the 24/7 information age. It’s more a cult of personality than it is a true barometer of American politics.

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    • if Trump wins, we’re going to see massive resistance to federal authority from state and local governments, except this time those governments will be from the left side of the aisle (though they’ll still be Democrats)

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    • On my twitter feed, I was just shown this Atlantic article and it contains the following really awesome excerpt from Robert Gordon’s _Rise and Fall of American Growth_:

      The lack of competition from immigrants and imports boosted the wages of workers at the bottom and contributed to the remarkable “great compression” of the income distribution during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Thus the closing of the American economy through restrictive immigration legislation and high tariffs may indirectly have contributed to the rise of real wages … and the general reduction of inequality from the 1920s to the 1950s.

      The guy points out that the Atlantic is saying that the left populist case against capitalism is Donald Trump’s platform. And Hillary Clinton is running on the whole “unfettered capitalism” thing. He calls this “incompetence” on the left’s part.

      I don’t know that I can improve on that take but I sure as hell can add to it: I think it’s the incompetence that follows from being captured.

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      • One thing that just struck me… Why was there no Sanders waiting in the wings on the R side before the primary season started? If there’s a deep vein of populist sentiment – and by all indications there is – why did it take Trump to see it and capture it?

        Are populists too inherently uncontrollable for the power structure to be able to swallow? Or – worse thought – would anyone capable of tapping that vein essentially be another Trump or Long? Can that tiger be ridden?

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        • At this point, I think that anybody who becomes a politician of any note at any level above dogcatcher in pretty much any township or bigger is a person who has to be groomed. You have to go up through the ranks, learn the kabuki, learn which boutonniere to wear with which tie, learn exactly how to pucker for which donors… and this grooming into the consummate candidate who can sustainably run for re-election indefinitely will, by its very nature, create an Elite Technocratic Politician.

          Iterate this for a generation or two and, next thing you know, you’ve got inbred politicians who are incapable of hearing certain notes, seeing certain colors, or thinking certain wrongthoughts.

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        • You had quite a run of Sanders equivalents running. They weren’t catching on. The people implicated in Capitol Hill business as usual were Rubio, Kasich. and Graham. Everyone else was either (1) not a professional pol (Carson, Fiorina) or (2) had spent their entire career in state capitals (Bush, Perry, Huckabee, Jindal, Walker, Christie, Gilmore) or (3) had been a vocational dissident on Capitol Hill (Paul, Cruz) or (4) was now at odds with Capitol Hill (Santorum). Bush is sufficiently conventional, well-connected, and in tune with Graham et al that he’s Capitol Hill for the most part. Christie’s a business Republican and careerist. No one paid much attention to Gilmore, whose reasons for running were poorly articulated.

          That still leaves you with nine choices. Huckabee and Walker saw their base of support largely evaporate in the summer of 2015, Fiorina had only a brief moment in the sun, Carson never pierced a certain ceiling, and four others were ignored by voters. Cruz and only Cruz managed to put himself on the map.

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    • >>If losing the White House is the repudiation that this post implies, does that mean it’s the American Left that has a problem?

      I guess we’ll have to see the rest of Tod’s series, but the way I read this post was that a party is in trouble if: their voters nominate a candidate zero party history; the party brain-trust are refusing to endorse the nominee, with some going so far as to vote for the opposition; the party establishment is seriously threatening a third-party run. None of these things hinge on the outcome of the general election at all.

      >>That’s a question for the liberals out there. Do those people accurately reflect your values?

      This may come as a shock, but most Democrats like Obama and have liked him pretty much the whole way through. So the current primary is actually pretty reflective of the Dem agenda: a majority of folks who want to cement Obama’s policy gains and make incremental improvements where politics allows; a minority of folks who reject incrementalism and want more of a “why don’t you get the bastards” policy; not a whole lot of disagreement on the *aspirational* party platform.

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    • Speaking as a liberal I’m pretty okay with HRC. Sanders is a bit too GOP-innumerate for my tastes and his sentiments skew to the left of my preferences but I could stand him (I think we’d lose brutally with him at the head of the ticket though).

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        • By GOP-innumerate I mean he uses math one typically sees on the GOP side only to advocate for his own preferred left wing policies rather than their preferred right wing policies.

          I have seen all of the polls on Sanders/Trump matchups, he comes in a little better than Hillary does. Considering he’s not been the target of anything approaching a sustained barrage on his background and positions (whereas she’d endured about 20 some years of the same) that’s weak tea indeed.

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          • ,The first polling data I Iooked at showed the person leading in the preconvention polls won 12 out of 15 elections. With those odds and if I had to bet I would go with the leader.
            While I am extremely tired of pro banker neocons who think what we call free trade is good for America, I do not think she is a racist, misogynistic jerk with the believability factor of a white guy making deals with 18th century Indians.
            .

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            • The first polling data I Iooked at showed the person leading in the preconvention polls won 12 out of 15 elections. With those odds and if I had to bet I would go with the leader

              That depends on how you define “pre-convention”, don’t it? Does that mean “Candidate has already won, all others withdrawn”? Does that mean “May”? Does that mean “The day before the Convention?”

              Statistics are tricky. You don’t even have to be trying to lie to mislead.

              (I’d bet money it was door number 1, wherein you had two established candidates).

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              • You are correct. The poll talking I saw was talking about a one on one race but every poll I have seen shows Sanders beating Trump handily and Clinton winning but having a much harder time.
                If I was given a choice I would prefer to be ahead in the polls all the time.

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  9. The problem is that I don’t think the Republican Party can change.

    I know Lee has mentioned this at LGM and am not sure if he mentioned it here but you can see stuff like this happen through out history. Lee’s favorite example is from the Labour Party in the 1970s. Labour could not adapt to the times because their base was still adamant in believing in public-ownership. A good example according to the historian Dominic Sandbrook is over public estates. The British people wanted some kind of lease to own plan that would eventually turn the estate into private property. Labour leadership wanted to go along but could not because the backbenchers and the base still believed in public ownership. This was a sincerely held belief. The Tories came in and embrace a lease to own scheme. This along with other factors caused Labour to be in the wilderness from 1979-1997. Even then it still took a heroic effort to modernize the Labour Party because in 1984, they doubled down on old-school Socialism and wrote a platform that was famously dubbed “the Longest Suicide Note in History.”

    I think this tension is always going to exist in political parties and with political ideologies. Do you abandon sincerely held beliefs when they go out of fashion or are unfavorable with a majority of the electorate? Or do you stick to your principals and ideals and accept a position in the political wilderness or as a semi-permanent minority party until the winds change?

    Erick son of Erick seems to be maintaining his Never Trump beliefs. He even wrote a piece demanding that the GOP apologize to Bill Clinton for impeaching him because Trump is also an adulterer or something like that. The problem is that this is the same Erick Erickson that tweeted his parents did not allow him to have Asian food on December 7th because of Pearl Harbor (never mind that the Chinese were our allies and his mom called him out on the lie.) He is also the same right-wing firebrand who called Justice Souter a “goat-fucking, child molester.”

    In short, I am having a hard time not showing Schandenfreude about how clueless these right-wing pundits are. They spent years stroking the flames of populist and racist resentment and now are shocked, shocked, and shocked about Donald Trump. I have a hard time feeling sorry for Erick Erickson right now.

    The problem is as our right-leaning members stated above. The GOP has done pretty well in state and Congressional elections over the past few years. I do think that Gerrymandering is a good part of this (regardless of what anyone else says) but they played tactical politics well and this might give them a shield that allows them to avoid reality for a bit. Again Labour spent nearly twenty years in the minority before they were able to modernize and moderate the old socialist tendencies that went out of style. I think the more fractured nature of American politics and elections can delay this even more.

    The GOP has turned itself into a permanent minority in California or at least seemingly so. But the GOP here is not changing and seem content on this status. I guess good for them for sticking with their ideology?

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    • Yeah, this. Political parties with a definite ideology, even if you can’t really articulate it, are going to have a hard time adjusting to changing times because the base is going to be filled with true believers. In this case, several aspects of the Republican ideology is holding them back. It should be really clear that anti-LGBT is big political loser with the electorate as a whole. It might be popular in heavily Republican areas but lightly Republican to very Democratic districts are really behind LGBT rights. Republicans can’t move forward and still have to pull off stunts like the North Carolina bill because the base wants it really badly. There are other things that are preventing the Republicans from adapting but LGBT issues are the most salient one.

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        • I doubt it. Trump is so clearly “Trump” that the GOP will be fairly untarnished. That outsider vibe can protect, you know? He’s clearly not a “party member”.

          Ted Cruz, on the other hand….if it had been him at the top, it would have stuck more cleanly to the party.

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          • I can see purplish states like Colorado going more for the blue column depending on how Trump Trump gets during the election.

            Though I am just a liberal who is absolutely slack-jawed that the GOP nominated Trump. We are talking about someone who is a cartoon. Or as one tweet I saw remembered, we are talking about a guy who as participated in the clownish aspects of the WWE and body slammed someone on TV while wearing a suit.

            Is that an unironic voting of “America, Fuck Yeah”?

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    • I do think that Gerrymandering is a good part of this (regardless of what anyone else says)

      You lose statewide races with fixed-boundary constituencies as well. And there isn’t much disjunction between popular voting and the balance of seats in the House, no more than you’d expect in a first-past-the-post system. Take your fingers out of your ears.

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  10. Based on his repeated references to Fox News Corp, I’m guessing Tod will focus primarily on party culture. Which makes sense. But, as some folks have pointed out, this is the first modern election in which the debate will no longer be about the size of government but about redistribution. That’s a huge loss for the GOP establishment and I think it’s something the party desperately needs to come to terms with to figure out where they’re going.

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  11. I will reiterate Burt’s point. What are the principal policy goals of the Republican party, including the rank and file?

    A. Lower taxes, offset by a reduction in govt spending. What spending? I honestly don’t know what cuts would be acceptable if honestly explained to the American people.

    B. Repeal of Obamacare. OK, you don’t have to have health care insurance. Now what? Who besides the taxpayer pays for the delivery of health care to those who can’t afford or even obtain insurance?

    C. Strong military. Stronger than we have now? At what cost?

    D. Immigration. You still need the vote of the 60th most liberal Senator. He’s likely to insist on a substantial penalty on employers for hiring undocumented labor. And deporting 11 million people in four years is going to be (a) really expensive and (b) really divisive and (c) unlikely to capture that Senator’s vote.

    I am willing to concede all day long that the Democrats are smug, mean, unwilling to compromise and also rely on magic numbers for their budgets. But the Kansas and Louisiana appear to show that the Republican magic beans aren’t working.

    Cruz ran on fighting the culture wars

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    • D. Immigration. You still need the vote of the 60th most liberal Senator.

      You only need that if you have someone preternaturally ineffectual as Republican caucus leader. Someone with sense replaces AM McConnell, the idiot parliamentary rules go in the trash where they belong.

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    • B. Repeal of Obamacare. OK, you don’t have to have health care insurance. Now what? Who besides the taxpayer pays for the delivery of health care to those who can’t afford or even obtain insurance?

      Why not come up with something which (a) does not incorporate pre-paid everything and (b) does not incorporate federal rationing boards or a raft of esoteric manipulations? It’s not horridly difficult if you begin with the understanding that first-dollar coverage of medical services is not sustainable absent central planning.

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      • As to point A — Please note that PPACA-compliant policies can and do require co-pays.

        As to point B — True enough. An unregulated health insurance market can exist. And the Bush administration could have canceled Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But it turns out that your fellow voters don’t actually want any of those things. One essence of a market is those who cannot afford do without. And since people are largely emotional and illogical, it won’t be long after the repeal of the PPACA that the Democratic party will have ads running with people dying at home from a treatable disease that they couldn’t afford.

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  12. I think we’ve got a solid set of examples here about how GOP reform is gonna be a long time coming.

    So far, the most ardent response has been, literally, “It’s the liberals fault”. Which neatly sums up a lot of things, I think.

    I mean putting on my conservative hat, I’d say one of the real problems with the GOP is it’s not conservative: It’s reactionary. I, once upon a time, used to be a pretty conservative fellow (not kidding! Voted for Bush Senior. Couldn’t quite get behind Dole, though). But you know what “Getting rid of Social Security” is? Reactionary. It’s getting close to a century in age. There isn’t anyone alive today who remembers a time without it. Massively changing Social Security (like private accounts) — that’s not conservative — that’s a humongous change to a giant, core program. (And that’s ignoring all the reactionary rhetoric).

    Starting wars of choice isn’t conservative. Invading Afghanistan? Yeah. Iraq? WTF? Running up giant deficits with tax cuts paid with tooth fairy money (Bush Senior was right about “Voodoo Economics” — but ask Kansas if the GOP had admitted that) isn’t conservative.

    What’s left? Screaming about gays, for a decade there. Holding hearings on the Clintons (“THIS TIME!”). always more tax cuts, especially on the top. Always more deregulation, even as the banking system burns. There’s nothing….pragmatic…about the GOP. Nothing conservative. Nothing prudent.

    What did the last two GOP Presidents run on? “Drill, baby, Drill”? “Bomb Iran”? “Gays suck!”. How’s that going to appeal to people?

    I appreciate the demographic trap they’re in. But honestly, I think the real problem is the GOP doesn’t have any ideas that fit the modern world. They don’t even seem to have much of an ideology anymore.Tax cuts? Deregulation? They’re slogans, not targeted at problems — they’re cast as a panacea. Ask Kansas how that’s working.

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      • A teaser:

        As the forty-year dominion of the right begins to fade, however
        fitfully, writers like Sam Tanenhaus, Andrew Sullivan, Jeffrey Hart,
        Sidney Blumenthal, and John Dean have claimed that conservatism
        went into decline when Palin, or Bush, or Reagan, or Goldwater,
        or Buckley, or someone took it off the rails. Originally, the argu-
        ment goes, conservatism was a responsible discipline of the govern-
        ing classes, but somewhere between Joseph de Maistre and Joe the
        Plumb er, it got carried away with itself. It became adventurous,
        fanatical, populist, ideological. What this story of decline—and you
        see it on the Right as well as the Left—overlooks is that all of these
        supposed vices of contemporary conservatism were present at the
        beginning, in the writings of Burke and Maistre, only they weren’t
        viewed as vices. They were seen as virtues. Conservatism has always
        been a wilder and more extravagant movement than many realize—
        and it is precisely this wildness and extravagance that has been one
        of the sources of its continuing appeal.

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