Ideology is the Enemy: Prelude

Over the next several weeks months I will be writing about the recent ascendance of ideology in the United States and why it worries me.  Specifically, I worry that the voting public’s generations-long desire to live in a peaceful, vibrant, financially feasible and pluralistic community is being slowly replaced with a willingness to abandon those same things in the name of ideological victory.  Left unchecked, the best case scenario I see for the direction we are headed is a return to the very worst impulses and events of the 1960s; the worst case harkens back even further, to early 20th century Europe.

Some of the things I’ll be discussing will be things that ten years ago (Hell, five years ago) I’d have bet money on never seeing in my lifetime, each one ideologically driven: relatively mainstream “debates” on the moral virtues of slavery, calls for the torture of civilian crime suspects as well as enemy combatants, established political activists’ inability to draw the line between banning Ulysses and disallowing the trafficking of sexual pictures of minors without those minor’s knowledge or consent, and polls showing 40% of a major U.S. political party believing it will need to take up arms against the government and those on the other side of the political aisle within the next few years.

There are many reasons for this cultural shift, of course, not the least of which are the Internet and the challenges of selling advertising for a 24-hour news cycle.  Indeed, one of the arguments I will be making is that many of those creating this trend toward social and political instability do so not out of ideological conviction but instead for that oldest of motives: person gain.

Before I start, I thought I’d take a moment to make some statements that I take as prima facie, but which I recognize many readers (and perhaps most) will not.  Therefore it seems wise to get such arguments and clarifications out of the way upfront, so that later on we may avoid getting lost in the weeds.

Here are the statements I plan to take as “given”:

First Statement: There is no conservative political party in the United States today.

Please note that I’m using the classic definition of conservatism that describes a coalition working to retain traditional institutions and the status quo; I am not using conservatism as a synonym for “whatever the GOP is talking about this week.”  By this definition, the closest thing we have to a conservative  party is the Democratic Party.  I know I’m going to get a lot of pushback on this, so allow me to stake my case:

To be fair, today’s GOP certainly stands up for some status quo traditions.  (Opposing same sex marriage is the most obvious example.)  By and large, however, they oppose status quo traditions and institutions to a startling degree.  Over the past four years, we have seen “conservatives” push for an abandonment of our entire monetary system, eliminating our public school system, dismantling the current system of collective bargaining, jettisoning the legal barrier between church and state, making the U.S. a “Christian nation,” disposing of social safety nets that have been with us for generations, declaring preemptive wars, blocking the building of houses of worship by fiat, allowing the government to review our personal emails without cause, jailing justices who decide political cases “incorrectly,” and allowing states to declare parts of federal law and the Constitution null and void at their own whim.

Any of these stances may (or may not) be a good idea; any of them may (or may not) create a better country if enacted.  But not a single one is conservative according to the actual definition of that word.  Indeed when taken collectively as a whole, movement conservatism’s agenda is the most radical this country has seen in generations.

Second Statement: Saying “the other side does it too” or “that’s a false equivalence” are primarily used as ways to avoid accountability.

I’m going to be going after most ideologies in the coming weeks, and I know these two statements will be used over and over as a way to keep blind spots blind.

An example:

Blue State Guy: That Bush was a war criminal.

Red State Guy: Obama does most of the same stuff Bush does!

Blue State Guy: Bush was way worse, so that’s a false equivalence!

In this example, RSG’s point about Obama and BSG’s statement that Bush and Obama are not the exact same people are each 100% correct.  However, neither statement is being given in a way that is meant to advance the (really, really important) topic of what we should or shouldn’t allow in war; they’re being used to shut down that conversation in an effort to avoid unpleasant truths about their own team.

Third Statement: Despite what we like to tell ourselves, Americans of all ideologies are more similar to one another than they are dissimilar.

No explanation needed here, I would think.  But if you pushed for one, I would fall back on my own personal axiom that states, “If you believe the difference between God-given freedom and evil, despotic tyranny lies somewhere between a 35% and a 37% marginal tax rate, you’ve lost all perspective.”

I look forward to hashing this out with you all over the coming weeks.

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301 thoughts on “Ideology is the Enemy: Prelude

  1. It is interesting to me that you say there is no conservative political party in the U.S. today, and that you say that the closest thing the U.S. has to a conservative political party is the Democratic party, yet you do not say that there is no liberal political party in the U.S. today.

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  2. Let’s be careful to distinguish partisanship from ideology. I’d argue that Strom Thurmond was an ideologue, but not a partisan.

    I mean, I have other issues with the idea of there being some a-ideological way of viewing the world, past or present; but the partisan/ideologue divide is more easily hewed to than my particular hobbyhorses.

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    • Elias,

      There’s ideology as a more-or-less-coherent set of ideas that shape how a person views the world (the definition from my undergrad political science prof), and there’s ideology as a intellectual blinders that prevent us from being able, or even honestly trying, to see how others view the world.

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        • Well, yes, it is bigger than just close-mindedness–it’s also the first example I gave above. But “ideology” is just a human term, so there is no something that it intrinsically “is.” And as both of the “somethings” I mention above are within our scope of normal understanding of the term, I would argue that–despite the confusion it causes–ideology is both.

          It would be better if we had separate terms, though. It would provide more clarity. And perhaps someone who has put more effort into the study of these things than I have can tell us if there are any clarifying terms we could use. At this point in history, though, I think we’d really need two distinct terms for each, and set aside “ideology” altogether so folks knew which one of these things we were talking about at any given time.

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          • I never thought of ideology as blinders. I think that’s a function of whether one has a negative overall opinion of ideology. I would say that “ideologue” tends to connote someone with blinders on, though I wouldn’t say it’s absolutely necessary that an ideologue has blinders on.

            But Elias offers an alternative: closed-mindedness. There are others – obdurate, unpersuadable, dogmatic, obstinate, etc. These actually get at the refusal to consider other possibilities. Ideology has a different meaning – as system of ideas, more or less. Science’s commitment to pursuing true knowledge by remaining open to disconfirming evidence for all theses is itself an ideology. It seems to me that the idea that ideology has something fundamentally to do with putting on epistemological blinders is an argument someone could make about ideology (or, I would say more plausibly, about ideologues), but I don’t see where it’s a plausible alternative definition or basic meaning of the concept. I think James is wrong to think that that meaning is widespread enough to be within the scope of our normal understanding of the term. It’s an attitude that some people have about ideology (apparently), not a thing that ideology is.

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      • ” ideology as a intellectual blinders that prevent us from being able, or even honestly trying, to see how others view the world.”

        … I think this honestly has a lot more to do with personality type than with the ideology ascribed to.

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  3. I agree with all three of your basic premises. I would usually state #3 more like “If you think the difference between freedom and tyranny is free countries provide health insurance or direct health care for children of poor families, disabled people, politically powerful groups with cancer, Vets, and those over 65 and tyrannies extend those basic overages to everybody then you have lost all perspective.”
    More generally this is highly constricted conversation about what is possible or even worth thinking about really is to our detriment. The consensus over what kind of policies we can even discuss is so narrow to eliminate most of everything. This is more than just an elite thing btw, plenty of regular types can’t seem to see beyond this narrow view.

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  4. Interestingly, I was considering writing a post/essay wondering whether there were too many disparate cultures/experiences in the United States. This came from various posts with clear lines between gun people and not gun people and no one willing of their own.

    Though I wish you would elaborate more on where you think this is headed. I am not disagreeing per se but those are bold declarations.

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  5. For me, conservatism speaks to the preservation of norms and institutions.

    To the extent that conservatism is about preserving cultural norms, then the GOP seems to be to be a conservative party.

    To the extent that conservatism is about preserving institutions, then I agree that the center of gravity in the GOP appears to have shifted to a point that it is more antagonistic than supportive of existing governmental institutions, but only just over the center of gravity. A large number of GOP officeholders not within or in thrall to the Tea Party crowd wish to continue delivering Social Security and Medicare to their constituents and do not question the basic premises of the modern welfare state, only the degree to which it is funded.

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    • While I don’t disagree, I find the GOP is about preserving traditional privilege, which is in part why they are often perceived as racist/homophobe/sexist.

      But what I find missing is ‘conserve.’ There seems no interest in conserving anything; rights for all people, resources, etc.

      And I realize that making a broad statement like this is bound to offend many, so if you are a Republican reading this and interested in both extending rights to all citizens and conserving resources, I beg your forgiveness; I wish your party was more representative of your views then it currently seems to be.

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      • This Corey Robin view that conservatism is all about preserving privilege–of the rich over the poor, men over women, whites over blacks–has gotten a lot of pushback here, but it’s one I heartily endorse. For those who disagree, are there any examples of the modern conservative movement siding with a group that can be considered an underdog or attempting to actively help the less fortunate, barring special tactical considerations? I’m blanking on this.

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        • Robin’s view makes sense to me, since it explains the phenomenon that Tod notices, where the conservative party is attempting to dismantle the Progressive Era and New Deal institutions.

          They are radical, but only radical in pursuit of restoration of government and culture circa 1890.

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          • Will,

            Is your point that people might call WV or MO privileged because they are supported by conservatives when, in reality, they are not? At least not when compared to NYC and SF?

            I see your point, but I’m a bit less sympathetic to geographic privilege because of how mutable it is. But that just might be my bias showing.

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            • My point is, more or less, that the party that is alleged to universally represent privilege represents many of the poorest, unhealthiest, neediest states in the nation. Which is to be considered irrelevant, because as we all know they represent privilege.

              (Nitpick: MT, not MO)

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              • This is quite the paradox, until you consider that the “priviledge” that we are talking about is exactly the priviledge that the needy poor people in those states want to restore-
                The priviledge of men over women; straight over gay; white over nonwhite.

                That old saying about them preferring to roast a pigeon under a bridge just so long as the black guy under the next bridge doesn’t get the pigeon works here.

                This also explains why when Sarah Palin or someone at Redstate talk about the “elites” they aren’t talking about Jamie Dimon; they are talking about a community college womyn’s studies professor.

                The Palinistas would prefer to live in a world where Jamie Dimon can singlehandedly install the President, than live in a world in which a black lesbian could become their employer.

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                  • yeah. one can quite rightly argue that plenty of Kansans are underpriviledged, and that the Right argues on their behalf. (One can FURTHER talk about the GI bill, etc, as ways that the GOP enhances the status of the warrior class in our country)

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                    • I am actually down with the notion that conservatives do generally represent (historical) privilege and liberals generally represent (historical) lack thereof.

                      I think the notion that this is the defining characteristic – conservatism definitionally represents the privileged while liberalism definitionally represents the underdog every and always – to be an absurdly self-gratifying view by people who usually pride themselves on having a nuanced perspective.

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                    • So, a bit of nuance:
                      The conservative represents the Peasant, The Foreman (especially the brute), and the Lord.

                      The liberal represents the Craftsman, the Burgher, and the Entrepreneur (bourgeoisie).

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                    • Well, if you want to preserve the status quo, you are by default preserving the privilaged.

                      I mean, the status quo has to have it’s winners and top dogs, right? And they don’t want it to change, because they’ve “won” at life (so to speak).

                      So conservatives more or less tend to line up that way, even if they hate the elites. The current crop of the GOP seems a bit bipolar on that point, but they’ve kinda had that problem for ages.

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                    • Will,
                      I think the notion that this is the defining characteristic – conservatism definitionally represents the privileged while liberalism definitionally represents the underdog every and always – to be an absurdly self-gratifying view by people who usually pride themselves on having a nuanced perspective.

                      That’s pretty offensive.

                      Because I actively agitate against my own interest here in favor of those folk in KS and MO on numbers of issues; for instance, those folk prefer to keep Medicare.

                      But there’s a world of difference between what ordinary voters in ordinary districts do (much based on common identity) and say they want and what party elites actually craft as policy. And that difference exists in both parties.

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                    • Zic, if you believe that ever and always that liberals represent the underdog in any given debate (except when conservatives do by accident) then I’m not sure there is much productively I can say here.

                      Which is probably an indication that I should exit this thread.

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                    • if you believe that ever and always that liberals represent the underdog in any given debate (except when conservatives do by accident) then I’m not sure there is much productively I can say here.

                      I said no such thing, Will. So you’re tilting at a windmill I didn’t build.

                      But to extend my point on privilege: I did just see a Republican Party willing to hold everyone’s tax rate hostage to serve the interests of the super wealthy. Don’t you think it was fear of being blamed for those ordinary folk’s tax increase that finally made them budge? So you explain that to me; if that’s not a party of privilege, what is?

                      I hear the GOP wanting to reserve the privilege of marriage for some people, but not my brother and his partner of 25 years. Let’s not even get into women’s reproductive rights and forcible rape, which would exclude marital rape as actual rape.

                      There’s some talk on this thread about the gold standard, and wanting to take the party back to the 1800’s. Well, my family was there, at the table, when the party was formed. Working in Lincoln’s administrations. I had the peculiar upbringing of my mother, raised by her grandparents, who knew the people in the Lincoln administration and who were “Republicans” politically in the 1890’s through the ends of their lives. Perhaps more then most, I have some first-hand knowledge of what the actual traditions of being Republican meant, and they don’t bear much in common with the evangelical/corporate Republicanism in practice today.

                      In childhood, I got a dose of things that include being orderly and not raising a ruckus or disrupting community, being responsible for yourself and your family, getting a good education, and minding your own business. Be frugal. Work hard.

                      Since GWB’s first term, my mother has voted Democratic, though she voted for Mitt Romney in the 2004 primary. This — her move to the Democratic party — continues to astonish me. And every single time we’ve talked about it, she’s said what Tod says in the post: Democrats are the real conservatives now.

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                    • Zic, just to clarify, the “ever and always” was what I was criticizing. If you don’t believe that, then what I said in the comment you took objection to doesn’t really apply to you.

                      (With regard to your mom, I completely get it. If current trajectories don’t change, Clancy and I will both be voting Democrat in a cycle or two. Though we couldn’t quite vote for Obama, we didn’t vote for Romney which for me is the first time since 1996 and for her the first time ever not to vote for the Republican nominee. We both voted more Democrat than Republican in other races. So yeah, I get where your mom is coming from.)

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                    • Will,

                      Do you agree with the Rawlsian idea of the Difference Principle? That is, do you believe that we should only allow economic and social inequality in so far as said inequality benefits the least advantaged?

                      Or do you think inequality that doesn’t benefit the worst off is fair?

                      I think you have blinders on if you think liberalism (in its various incarnations) isn’t more concerned withe the least off than either libertarianism or Oakeshottian conservativism.

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                    • I think you have blinders on if you think liberalism (in its various incarnations) isn’t more concerned withe the least off than either libertarianism or Oakeshottian conservativism.

                      That’s not really my position. My position is more against the absolutist one (that the positions and alignments are definitionally about who cares about whom on the relative position of the privilege totem pole) as I don’t think social organisms (parties, and by extension the ideologies that they influence) work that way.

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                    • I’m not sure abut definitions.

                      But a core commitment of all liberals is improving the situation of the worst off in society. Without that, definitionally, you probably aren’t a liberal even if you are socially libertarian/liberal on gay marriage, drug use, etc,

                      I see no similar principled (definitional) commitment to helping the least off in a conservativism defined by a commitment to oreserving traditions (especially since many of those traditions are elitist, classist, sexist, racist, etc.). Nor do I see such a commitment in libertarianism, which is diametrically opposed to the kind of Rawlsian account of distributive justice (redistributing to help the least advantaged) that prioritizes the value of helping the worst off.

                      So in defining the theories of libertarianism, conservativsm, and liberalism, only the latter has a commitment to improving the situation of the least off in the definiens.

                      Moreover, I’d argue that most Democrats do have more of a commitment to improving the well-being of the worst off in rural, poor places than most Republicans.

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                    • Actually, the simplified version of libertarian thought is that the ONLY proven, effective way of improving the long term condition of the least advantaged is via economic growth. The empirical support is overwhelming.

                      One other comment, we all admit that the oppressor/oppressed paradigm rules in liberal thought. I just find it amusing that you all project it (or its opposite) upon those following a different paradigm.

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                    • “Actually, the simplified version of libertarian thought is that the ONLY proven, effective way of improving the long term condition of the least advantaged is via economic growth. The empirical support is overwhelming.”

                      Roger –

                      I am intrigued by this, as one of the things I have always been told by libertarians (here, anyway) is that as a political force they have yet to rise to power. What empirical evidence are you referring to?

                      I admit that when I look back at history – be it our country or a longer, broader scope – and review long stretches of economic “good times” I see a vast variety of different governments, parties and philosophies in power. Are most of these somehow invalid?

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                    • I think Roger’s point might be the proposition that economic growth helps people is empirically proven. He adds to that the hypothesis that libertarian programs, or the type of programs that libertarians might support even if they are advanced by people who are not libertarians, foster economic growth.

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                    • The plight of all of us, especially the poor, has improved for two hundred years since we began unleashing the power of cumulative economic growth. This is my response to Rawls, via Shaz. In other words if you really care for the long term welfare of the least advantaged, it is essential to ensure that you do not kill the golden goose of cumulative growth, not even in pursuit of short term redistribution. Many libertarians on this site are neo-Rawlsian.

                      I would not endorse a theory that we need libertarians in charge to create good government solutions. A “good libertarian political solution” borders on the oxymoronic. As I wrote below to Michael, I believe most (not all) societal problems are best served outside of the political realm or domain.

                      Economic progress does require proper institutions, and some of these have traditionally been handled best by government. However, when government attempts to solve problems best left to other domains, it can and does interfere with economic prosperity.

                      Let me add one more point though. Catch up growth is much easier than the initial creative growth. Certain creative problem solving systems such as free enterprise and the scientific method are absolutely necessary for the creative destruction that led the way to prosperity. Once created though, societies that have not adopted free markets and science can draft on these institutions. This is a valid societal choice, though I would be concerned if all we all chose it or had it forced upon us.

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                    • Roger,

                      Capitalism and some markets are good for the least well off.

                      Markets with social safety nets and regulations and unions and redistributive taxation (and some socialism in things like education and healthcare and policing) are even better for the least off than capitalism without those things.

                      That’s what history shows, not that pure laissez-faire “libertarian” capitalism is best.

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                    • Shaz,

                      My point, simply stated, is that any redistribution or market interference that REDUCES long term economic growth rates will long term harm the interests of the least advantaged. For example, if the US had a growth rate of 1% as opposed to 2% for the past century, our GDP would be roughly the same as Mexico’s today.

                      On education, I have repeatedly shown on these pages, without any valid counter response, that free markets and consumer choice do better in both results and efficiency worldwide than socialized monopolies. I am OK with both social experiments going forward as long as you keep an open mind, but I am pretty sure you will not go for that. Please correct me if you are open to experimentation over ideology.

                      On health care, my point that you can’t socialize it all without destroying the creative potential of free markets. Socialized medicine does not have the creative problem solving potential. Based upon some of the conversations on Jason’s recent posts though, I think it is futile discussing this with some of the members of the league. Again, apologies if I am including you in this group unfairly.

                      There is a common thread on all these disagreements. We can’t assume the pie. It has to first be created, and the key to prosperity for all of us, most importantly the disadvantaged, is enlarging the pie over time. Good intentions short term must be evaluated for their short and long term effects.

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                    • For example, if the US had a growth rate of 1% as opposed to 2% for the past century, our GDP would be roughly the same as Mexico’s today.

                      Per the World Bank, the gross domestic product of the United States exceeds that of Mexico by a factor of 13. For a disparity of that magnitude to manifest itself over a century, the premium in annual growth rates of read gross domestic product would have to be 2.6%, not 1%. A 1% premium would account for a 2.7 fold improvement in relative output.

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                    • Per capita was clearly implied. I think your math proves my general point, I am just surprised anyone is anal enough to prove it while thinking they did the opposite.

                      The relavent point:

                      Cumulative growth rates trump just about everything over time, especially for the least well off.

                      Now I better go finish ironing my underwear.

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              • Given that they seem to spend most of their time trying to differentiate between people with $10,000 worth of assets and people with $5,000 worth, in terms of who gets food stamps, I think the idea that they represent priviledge is not without merit.

                But the better argument is that they represent peasants. and the aristocracy.

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              • “My point is, more or less, that the party that is alleged to universally represent privilege represents many of the poorest, unhealthiest, neediest states in the nation. Which is to be considered irrelevant, because as we all know they represent privilege.”

                Who happen to have many, many times the representation of the coastal elites in the Senate. If Congress were just the House, there’d be a number of states whose votes (and existence!) would be irrelevant.

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                • I am limiting my engagement in this thread, but I did want to point outtgat Republucans represent the House districts in these states and regions, too. Not just the rich house districts (indeed, in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, the wealthier counties vote DDemocrat while the strugglung ones vote Republican).

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          • I don’t think geography is the best breakdown to use when looking at this. After all, we could argue forever about whether cities or rural areas are “privileged”, to no fruitful conclusion; but surely we can all agree that the poor are underdogs vis a vis the rich.

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            • I don’t think geography is the best breakdown to use when looking at this.

              Which is in part a problem with the analysis. Defining the underdog is usually going to be a subjective proposition. When Republicans seek to ramp up offshore drilling off the Gulf of Mexico, are they representing the interests of a depressed region, everyman oil workers, of big oil? Are Democrats representing wealthy environmentalists, people from economically advantaged areas who don’t need oil work, or poor fishermen?

              It’s easy to weave that tapestry any number of ways.

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              • You can usually tell by their actions on other fronts. For example, if the GOP is so active on behalf of everyman oil workers, surely they would support them in their fight (against BP) to get a union, correct? I think the answer is clear. The conservative movement sometimes helps the non-privileged, either due to crass strategic considerations or as an accidental outcome of helping the privileged; but it will never go up to a traditionally powerful group and say “Fuck you, I’m helping the little guy”. It’s just not in their DNA.

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                  • If I’m wrong, surely you can provide an example. Something where the GOP takes on an established privileged group in society–the rich, or men, or whites, or what have you–and instead sides with a less-privileged group. Something that’s a movement priority–the same way that national health care or increased welfare spending or progressive taxation is for liberals. I’m open to being proved wrong here.

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                  • Nah, it’s more like saying “If they do disconfirming things, it’s a side effect of their actual agenda”.

                    Which can be true, although admittedly it’d also be pretty conveinent as a political attack. You’d have to look case by case.

                    I think it’s more akin to saying the GOP isn’t a puppy-kicking monster. They’re for the elites and privaliged, and sticking up for them. They aren’t stupid enough not to cheerfully help the little man if it doesn’t hurt the elites.

                    The proof of the pudding is where the rubber meets the road: When the two are in opposition, who tends to benefit? When trade-offs need to be made, who tends to benefit?

                    The GOP is a vast thing, it’s really hard to ascribe it “motive” as if it were a singular, focused individual. But looking at things like the Ryan budget…

                    Well, maybe they aren’t the party of the elite and privilaged, ready to support the blue bloods against all comers. But darn, sometimes they REALLY act that way — even when they don’t have to. (I mean, seriously, why massive tax cuts aimed at the upper brackets WHILE slashing social services? It’s like Ryan didn’t want anyone confused)

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                • The conservative movement sometimes helps the non-privileged, either due to crass strategic considerations or as an accidental outcome of helping the privileged; but it will never go up to a traditionally powerful group and say “Fuck you, I’m helping the little guy”. It’s just not in their DNA.

                  We can say this about all major political parties. The democratic party on embraced gay rights when it became strategically advantageous to do so. But, more than that, public choice theory tells us that we can expect all/most politicians to do this. The question that faces us is whether any of the major parties on the whole do not do this and if they don’t do this why is it that they do not do this?

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                  • The distinction between parties and movements matters a lot here. The liberal movement made gay rights a priority, which made it politically advantageous for Democratic politicians. It remains true that the liberal movement champions the non-privileged frequently while the conservative movement does not.

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                    • I worry that we have a double standard here. When we think of the conservative movement, we think of Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck and maybe even the Tea Party. The former two are definitely creeps and the last one is a mixed bag, but it has got lots of high profile creeps too, but the creepiest of those are the politicians. What also seems to be weird is the way in which the way we identify “the conservative movement” seems to have lots to do with Republican Party Politics. They stereotype of the movement conservative is of one who toes the Republican Party line; someone who seems crassly on board with every item on their platform.

                      The way we use the term “liberal movement” seems different. Where the conservative movement picks out a large fraction of people who hold to the mishmash of planks on the Republican Platform, liberal movement picks out a much smaller subset of people who are much more ideologically motivated. So, the median Democrat is not part of the liberal movement in the way that the median Republican is. The liberal movement had to convince the average Democrat that gay marriage should be accepted. I remember in the 90s that only a subset of people wanted full marriage equality many democrats were for civil unions. Hell, even Obama was for civil unions until recently.

                      What is the counterpart to the liberal movement for the conservatives? What term picks out a very narrow subset of the right wing which is distinctly conservative and which is able to operate in a space of relative ideological purity.

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            • I don’t think geography is the best breakdown to use when looking at this.

              Look at the county level red-blue maps. Is there anything better than relative population density to predict which party is going to win in any given county? Relative is important; Denver’s density is low by East Coast standards, but high relative to the other parts of Colorado. And as Dennis Saunders has asked on more than one occasion about the Republican Party to which he belongs, “Why does my party hate cities?” Certainly there are a number of policy areas where you can guess a party’s position by simple urban/rural analysis. Transit spending? A carbon tax, which urban dwellers can more easily evade than rural folks? Gun control or emissions standards, which matter more when people are packed closer together? I would argue that even things like favoring the social safety net fits into this category, since I believe people in urban areas are more likely to lack family and community support.

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          • I will grant that cities and rural areas have always had different politics, priorities, and needs. This has been true since the early days of America if not the entire history of the world.

            However, you are falling into a trap by saying that everyone in San Francisco or New York is a privileged member of the elite as compared to people in West Virginia and Montana. An elementary school teacher in San Francisco is not more privileged and elite than a rich guy in Montana who owns a big ranch, ski resort, is an oil man, etc. Thinking otherwise is straight out of the Palin playbook. Once again, explain to me how a bar tender/actor with three roommates in New York is more privileged than the Montana oilman? Or the West Virginia coal mine executive?

            The current Republican Party seems to want to turn back the clock to Lochner and get rid of all pension, worker’s compensation, safety, etc plans and legislation. How does this favor anyone but the elite?

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            • “Once again, explain to me how a bar tender/actor with three roommates in New York is more privileged than the Montana oilman? Or the West Virginia coal mine executive?”

              Important, indeed critical point – the GOP ‘supports’ West VA, Montana and such, but to the extent that they can, they support screwing over West Virginians, Montanans and such.

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            • “rich guy in Montana who owns a big ranch”… owning a big ranch, if that’s the only thing you do, is likely to have you on welfare, or at least qualifying for it.
              (taking rich to be wealthy, which these folks are… just income poor)

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              • I think that depends. Some of those ranchers do very well. Sandra Day O’Connor came from a wealthy ranch family. Barry Goldwater came from a wealthy department store family.

                So did Max Baucus. I finally read Norman McClean’s A River Runs Through It a few months ago and he talks about the Baucus family ranch. They are a known and powerful family in Montana.

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            • However, you are falling into a trap by saying that everyone in San Francisco or New York is a privileged member of the elite as compared to people in West Virginia and Montana.

              Few people in San Francisco or West Virginia are properly regarded as ‘privileged’, because few benefit all that much from social connections and fewer still from social connections who can call in political favors.

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                • If you mean “heard about the job through a conversation” or “got a satisfactory reference which was decisive”, that might just be true. The thing is, this sort of advantage is fairly broadly available at every level of society. The ‘disadvantaged’ in this case would be introverted people, or recent immigrants not plugged into a social network.

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                  • You’re really an asshole who knows nothing about anything, aren’t you?
                    Neighborhoods burned in my city because of this.
                    Because it’s not “fairly broadly available”, or at least it wasn’t.

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                    • Art you are acting like an idiot. You should read some history, and then maybe you wouldn’t be such an idiot.

                      I could explain more here, but …
                      You’re about three more content-free, context-free replies from me plonking you.

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                    • Kimsie,

                      You’re really an asshole who knows nothing about anything, aren’t you?

                      Kimmi, this garbage is in violation of the Commenting Policy. The next time you pull a stunt like this, I am going to have your posting privileges suspended for a couple of days.

                      I am getting quite sick of having to remind you.

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              • Connections are an interesting concept. I’ve seen them work at all levels of job from well-paying white collar gigs to glamorous jobs to solid-paying union jobs to public sector ones and everything else.

                Now the question is how often do people go into the family trade because they think that is where they have connections/nepotism or that is just what they know? I became a lawyer because it runs in the family but it certainly the connections influenced my decision. This is after 6 years of trying and failing to break into an industry that is notoriously competitive and where I had no connections but did get some very low success. How about kids who are third and fourth generation cops or firefighters? Etc.

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                  • Quickest way to make a conservative defend a member of a union, Threaten to give the job to a black or brown guy instead. All of the sudden, the calls of reverse racism will cry loud and strong over the nation.

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                    • I have no problem with civil service exams. Including civil service exams that give a couple of bonus points to make up for hundreds of year of systemic racism, sexism, and discrimination so that those who serve and protect actually look like the community they’re serving and protecting, instead of an occupying force.

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                    • I have no problem with civil service exams. Including civil service exams that give a couple of bonus points to make up for hundreds of year of systemic racism, sexism, and discrimination so that those who serve and protect actually look like the community they’re serving and protecting, instead of an occupying force.

                      If they are adding the bonus points, that component is not a ‘civil service exam’. It is political patronage.

                      Since men and women are raised in the same households, the notion that there is some sort of social process that leaves them ‘disadvantaged’ in preparation for taking a civil service examination cannot be taken seriously.

                      The vast majority of chicanos in this country are predominantly descended from people who immigrated after 1965. The notions that they have been the recipients of ‘hundreds of years of systematic’ blah blah blah cannot be taken seriously either.

                      This is all quite apart from the question of social costs associated with sytematized political patronage or the question of whether or not there is not something poisonous about all this concern for ‘diversity’.

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            • The current Republican Party seems to want to turn back the clock to Lochner and get rid of all pension, worker’s compensation, safety, etc plans and legislation. How does this favor anyone but the elite?

              Richard Epstein is not that influential.

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          • That’s one good point: conservatives do tend to side with rural over urban, the latter generally being more privileged, at least culturally. In general conservatives tend to side with “cultural underdogs,” so to speak.

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              • True but doesn’t this produce a weird contradiction.

                Actually, judicial liberalism and judicial conservatism start at the same point – Footnote Four of U.S. v Carolene Products. That seemed to be all well and good until Griswold came around. Applying the approach that was used in Meyer v Nebraska and Pierce v Society of Sisters would have meant reverting back to the “evil” Lochner era. Instead, we got a wonderful dissertation about penumbras and emanations and unicorns. I agreed fully with the Griswold decision, but the attempt to sandwich it into the enumerated rights in the Bill of Rights was garbage.

                IMO, Lawrence v Texas has more in common with Lochner than it does Griswold.

                Yes, you’ll see conservatives apply a form of substantive due process, but that’s typically in-line with either Carolene Products (Citizens United and Heller dealt with enumerated constitutional rights and were therefore perfectly consistent applications of fundamental rights analysis) or rights that are “deep rooted within our nation’s history and traditions” (Washington v Glucksberg).

                I’m not saying that they’re always right because there are opinions I don’t agree with, but I don’t think there’s as much of a contradiction as some would suggest. In fact, I’ll go one further and suggest that conservatives would want nothing to do with the Lochner era 14th Amendment cases, especially since many of the key cases dealt with liberties not enumerated in the Constitution.

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        • “For those who disagree, are there any examples of the modern conservative movement siding with a group that can be considered an underdog or attempting to actively help the less fortunate, barring special tactical considerations? I’m blanking on this.”

          Not ‘considered an underdog’, actually an underdog.

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      • A quick lookup of the word “conserve” yields:

        1.protect something from harm or decay: to keep something, especially an important environmental or cultural resource, from harm, loss, change, or decay.
        2.use something sparingly: to use something sparingly so as not to exhaust supplies.

        If you were to say “I find the GOP is about preserving traditional privilege,” I doubt even a lot of GOP’ers would disagree with you. There are those who see tradition (“continuity,” or “precedent,” if you prefer) as an inherent good and deviation from tradition as risky and therefore undesirable.

        It’s the embedding of privilege within tradition — swaddled in the clothes of cultural norms and rendered a goal of the exercise of power by virtue of being enshrined in the law — that gets to be touchy and problematic. This is compounded by the fact that tradition often is racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise oriented towards exclusion of or dominance of those other than propertied WASP males.

        It’s here — the preservation of tradition as an inherent good despite pointing out that it embeds undesirable things like racism, sexism, etc. into the culture — that I see conservatism coming directly into clash with the demands for equality inherent in liberalism.

        Oh, crap. That means I have to define an understanding of “liberalism.” The French Revolutionary slogan is a pretty good shorthand for it: ideals of maximizing liberty for the individual to the extent possible, the equality of all individuals before the government, and brotherhood (meaning compassion and empathy), when given governmental power through the law.

        Given this, I don’t see that conservatism (the imperative to protect institutions and cultural norms) is always going to clash with liberalism (the realization of the tripartite ideals of liberty, equality, and empathy). But as I’ve bemoaned here and elsewhere, too often we let our labels do our thinking for us, and those labels themselves have become distorted in our political dialogue.

        I’m sure we’ll be exploring those ideas further as Tod leads us through what promises to be a very challenging series.

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        • Thank you, Burt, that’s a nice summation.

          For me, the missing part of ‘conserve’ is the traditions that have been replaced by the privilege of multi-national corporations; food, forest, clean water. The GOP seems to hang on the myths of the Wild West, the humble farmer, the hunter, but the reality is industrial pork and pesticides.

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        • “There are those who see tradition (“continuity,” or “precedent,” if you prefer) as an inherent good and deviation from tradition as risky and therefore undesirable.”

          Except that the GOP eagerly dismantles tradition, continuity and precedent whenever there’s money to be made.

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        • It’s the embedding of privilege within tradition — swaddled in the clothes of cultural norms and rendered a goal of the exercise of power by virtue of being enshrined in the law — that gets to be touchy and problematic. This is compounded by the fact that tradition often is racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise oriented towards exclusion of or dominance of those other than propertied WASP males.

          What you got in mind, Burt? A little specificity will not hurt you.

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  6. Great post. One concern is that its thesis contributes to the very problem it is attempting to diagnose. If the problem is that one (or both) sides are raising the stakes of democratic disputes to a life or death struggle over the fate of the polity, then saying that the proponents of ‘ideology’ are destroying our polity hardly helps matters.
    On the other hand, I have difficulty disagreeing with the diagnosis.

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  7. I’m going to quibble with point 1. The American Right has had a strong Free Market/anti-government intervention in the economy segment since the Gilded Age. They were opposed to the reform of the Progressive Era, they complained bitterly about the New Deal, and they hate the Great Society. Every sort of welfare state legistlation/government intervention in the economy was seen as taking American on the wrong path to degenerate European socialism rather than vigorous American capitalism. To the extent that Right and Conservative are somewhat synonymous in politics than the GOP can be Conservative and still want to dismantle the New Deal and Great Society since they are returning to an older conservative standard.

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    • The right was never fascist. Mussolini was a left-wing socialist who believed in big government and denounced exploitive anglo-American capitalism at every opportunity. He was celebrated in leftist progressive circles until the whole dust up in Europe got started.

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      • Um, Prescott Bush was never a Nazi sympathizer. The funds he managed were owned by a bank in the Netherlands whose ownership was unclear, but which managed properties of the Thyssen family, whose head was making money in coal and steel and had been an early backer of the Nazi party because they promised to fix Germany’s economy. Thyssen ended up fleeing Germany because Hitler wanted him dead, and the US seized all the assets because his family was Hungarian and German and thus alien nationals.

        The Kennedy’s, on the other hand, might as well have been Nazi party members for much of the era.

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        • Well heck, at the close of the war in Europe, Truman had us grab up SS officers from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp (where about 20,000 people died) along with hundreds of other Nazis, shipped them to America, put them on the US government payroll, and then tried to cover up the extent to which they were responsible for running a Nazi death camp (successfully in most cases).

          Prior to the war, the Nazi ambassador to the UK said that Joe Kennedy was their best friend in London, and considering the range of people in London, that’s quite a statement. Joe warned him that Roosevelt was under Jewish influence and the Jew media in the United States would be an impediment to Hitler’s plans. His son Joe Jr., also a big admirer of Hitler, wrote that brutality against the Jews was necessary. Joe’s Hitler boosterism was so bad that Roosevelt called him in and told him that if he ever wanted his sons to have a future in politics, he should stop supporting Hitler, or else.

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          • Can I just say here that if there’s anything that never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever gets old – not at all, not in the least, tiniest, teensiest bit – it’s the two stripes of 21st century mainstream, middle class American politics arguing about which side is really something something Hitler and Mussolini.

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            • Well dig in, and when you get to the part where the Kennedy’s wanted Joe McCarthy to marry their sister, take a drink! They’re an odd bunch. ^_^

              _ Poor tolerance for Jews and communists.
              _ Poor drinking habits
              _ Poor driving habits
              _ Poor skiing habits
              _ Poor flying habits
              _ Poor boating habits
              _ Poor self-control with hot young women
              _ Fascination with Austrian bodybuilders
              _ Live in a “compound” but with butlers instead of an armed harem.

              If you checked one or several of these boxes, you might be a Kennedy.

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            • If you think it’s a shock to the crowd of liberals like us that the Kennedy’s were assholes like a lot of rich people, you must have a pretty low opinion of us. Of course, if we must have them, I’d rather have rich assholes who put forth policies that actually help people that rich asshole who try to destroy the modern welfare state, but I’m weird like that.

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      • I don’t really think fascism fits well with modern conceptions of the left and right but the idea that leftists in the 1930’s were celebrating fascism sounds absurd. The main cause to which the left of the time rallied was the Spanish civil war and not on the side Mussolini was backing.

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      • The left had been celebrating Mussolini for a decade and a half at that point. As Cole Porter sang it, “You’re the Great Houdini! You’re the top! You are Mussolini!” There was also effusive praise for him from Ezra Pound and George Bernard Shaw. Sigmund Freud sent him an autographed book calling him “the Hero of Culture.”

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        • George, surely you know about Mussolini’s political turn after he was unceremoniously expelled from the Italian socialist party, right? Surely you wouldn’t be glossing over inconvenient facts in the service of scoring cheap rhetorical/political points?

          Also, Pound? Really? Dude, you’re shameless.

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        • He didn’t take a “political turn”, he got stiffed out of the leadership position in the Italian Socialist Party, which he though he’d earned. The split had been brewing for a while because he thought the way forward to revolutionary socialism was through the fires of WW-I and the destruction of the old capitalist order, whereas the rest of the party leadership was still pursuing an incremental, internationalist approach.

          So he went to the far left, past his Marxist roots (he had been a Communist agitator and propagandist), to incorporate anarcho-syndicalism and recast Marx’s class struggle into a struggle between capitalist exploiter nations and working class nations like Italy. He called this a move to the right. Then he drew in military veterans and went after the people who’d screwed him over, who were still potential competitors for the political left wing, and beat them senseless. His party was called right-wing from the start because when he got elected to parliament as leader of his new party, he sat as far away from his former Socialist Party comrades as possible. They traditionally sat on the left side of the chamber, so he sat on the right.

          Interestingly, one of the reasons he abandoned the original form of Marx’s class struggle was that it doesn’t work in a country like Italy where most people work for their parents and grandparents. “Throw off your chains” doesn’t win many votes when it means killing your parents to take over a store they were going to leave to you anyway.

          After the war the Fascist party renamed itself and stayed true to its socialist ideals, although I think it recently merged with one of the big Italian liberal parties.

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          • So he went to the far left, past his Marxist roots (he had been a Communist agitator and propagandist), to incorporate anarcho-syndicalism and recast Marx’s class struggle into a struggle between capitalist exploiter nations and working class nations like Italy.

            Dude, now you’re just stretching. He didn’t recast the class struggle, he actively denounced it. He remained anti-capitalist, of course, but back then there was an anti-capitalist right as well. What you’re doing is trying to cram these things into the contemporary American political spectrum to score points, and it’s really pretty silly. Have fun.

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          • So he was a right-wing communist agitator/propagandist? He was right-wing when he was editor of a string of Italian socialist newspapers like Populo d’Italia and Avanti!, including the official newspaper of the Italian Socialist Party? He was a right-wing anarcho-syndicalist? There is nothing right-wing about him, except his belief (shared with the National Socialists and the Soviets) that his country should expand by taking over other countries.

            He denounced the previous ideas of a class struggle as an error in Marxism, as did many Marxist revisionists starting in the 1890’s. The class struggle doesn’t explain why the working class would fight for king, country, and national myths but wouldn’t fight to overthrow their oppressors, even after they were “enlightened” by communist agitators. In a country like Italy, where most businesses are family owned and run, Marx was clearly wrong about the nature of the struggle, and more importantly, the class struggle wasn’t winning enough seats in parliament. Above anything, Mussolini was for winning.

            Since Italian industry was too weak to take the blame for all the world’s oppression, and Italian society was structured such that Marx’s original conspiracy theories just wouldn’t fly, Mussolini went about revising a range of socialist theories (of which he was the master), drawing on decades of Marxist revisionist thought that had been circulating among the left-wing intellectuals. So he gathered together socialists, anarcho-syndicalists (who are to the left of communists), and futurists and founded a new party, dedicated to moving Italy forward as a nation, treating the whole of the people as one body (corporatism).

            He instituted minimum wage laws, paid holidays, and worker representation on the factory floor (as did the National Socialists). He co-opted industry by promising an end to strikes and other labor unrest (as did the National Socialists). He was genius enough to realize that conventional socialism was profoundly wrong, genius enough to splice together a new doctrine, historical theory, and all the other trappings out of left-wing ideas, but not genius enough to work his way through free-market economics, Adam Smith, John Locke, and limited government. He didn’t end up at anyone would call the modern right wing, since being a pompous authoritarian narcissist sociopath isn’t a distinctly right-wing trait, as shown by Stalin, Castro, all the North Korean Kims, etc. Nor did he shift to the old European right wing and support aristocracy or feudal land holdings or any other nonsense. He merely decided it was easier to get along with the Pope and the king than to continue opposing them, since his ascension to power had made them irrelevant.

            Unlike the National Socialists, he was profoundly anti-racist and viewed racism as an abject evil invented by capitalists intent on sewing disunity. He also had a long string of Jewish girlfriends, some of whom profoundly influenced his ideas.

            Nobody on the left, other than the Italian socialists and Marxists he trounced as competitors for the left-wing vote, had any problem with him for well over a decade, other than occasionally pointing out he was a pompous flaky windbag.

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            • He was very likely a sociopath (currently termed anti-social personality disorder).

              When he was in grade school he punched a girl in the face at the water fountain and then laughed hysterically about it. He also stabbed another kid in the hallway and showed absolutely no remorse, which got him expelled. Sociopathy usually manifests pretty early in actions like that.

              He was flaky as a socialist newspaper editor, often contradicting what he wrote a previous week just to amuse himself and confound his readers (he seemed to have few core beliefs, or little concern for consistent story lines).

              He had trouble forming long-term close personal bonds, with a long string of girlfriends and no close friends to speak of. He also seem to have no qualms about turning on people or using them merely because they were convenient. He showed little concern for anything, person, or principle other than his own rise and aggrandizement.

              He was raised as a communist (his parents were communists) and that seemed to determine his overall world view throughout his life, but he rejected both that and socialism when they seemed incapable of fulfilling his ambitions.

              However, he also volunteered to fight in WW-I, and did so proudly, while most sociopaths avoid situations where they might die for something other than their own personal gain. That would be contrary evidence, with the caveat that he was using his service as a very public springboard toward personal greatness and a way to push the socialist rank and file into supporting him. Would he have crawled through machine gun fire to retrieve a wounded comrade, or was he just in the lines to get his ticket punched so he could lead the masses?

              So he seems to fit quite a few diagnostic criteria for anti-social personality disorder (a sociopath). Glib, superficial, charming and magnetic, self-absorbed, lack of empathy, inability to form close personal bonds. He was also definitely pompous (Websters says: “Pompous: See Mussolini”), and seemed to be pretty narcissistic (his ideas were the greatest, whatever they might be). Or he might have just been convinced he was right all the time, and that he was a great leader, leading a great nation, because he was great.

              Oddly, Hitler doesn’t seem nearly as good a fit for being a sociopath. He seems to me to have been a person possessed by intense hatreds, quite a bit of paranoia, and some very sick ideas, profoundly convinced he was saving the world and willing to kill millions to do it.

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              • Seems to me that certain people in history are ill-defined by politics. They were political animals to the extent that it enabled them to achieve other driving goals, not political animals for the sake of achieving political goals for political reasons.

                Most dictators/authoritarians fall into this category. It would be a mistake to generalize anything interesting about their actions to any particular political group.

                Well, excepting the important detail that these sorts of dudes (they’re always dudes, aren’t they?) achieve power thought various means, and constructing a system of governance that limits the ability to do this can help prevent them from entering politics in the first place.

                Of course, then they’ll go elsewhere, so you have that problem.

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            • Mussolini wasn’t about centralized government, he was about unity where every class and position in society has a role to play. From anarcho-syndicalism he drew, among other things, the idea that the workers should control the factories. But as I pointed out, Italians tend to work in family firms, so this meant everyone should work together, like a family, and all should cooperate with other bodies of people, furthering the Italian state (as distinct from its government, which is merely the head of the state). One body, with all the parts pulling in the same direction.

              As was said after his demise, during his rule all the Fascists went through every library in Italy trying to erase evidence that he’d been a preeminent socialist writer (Antonia Gramsci, the famous Marxist thinker who came up with cultural hegemony theory that still enthralls Berkeley liberals, worked directly under Mussolini, who was his editor). After Mussolini fell all the socialists went through the libraries to make sure the Fascists hadn’t missed anything.

              Had Mussolini not sided with Hitler, he probably would’ve ruled Italy for many more decades and would have continued to be a darling of progressives, reformers, and third way socialists (Hugo Chavez could’ve been sued by Mussolini’s family for copyright infringement in just about any speech he ever made, but then both could’ve faced a class action lawsuit by buffoons and circus clowns for cheapening the terms “buffoon” and “clown”).

              As it was, the Allies really didn’t care about the Fascists and didn’t even bother purging them. Socialists and communists tried to distance themselves from Fascists to the greatest extent possible while obscuring the record and besmirching the term, in part because the Fascists had muscled them out of parliament and claimed to have superseded their obsolete theories, and in part because most people couldn’t tell the difference between the claims of Fascism (which was evil!) and other varieties of socialism.

              The right wing doesn’t really care, because to us the vicious disputes between socialists, communists, and fascists are like listening to rabid fans at a Star Trek convention debate the merits of Romulan, Klingon, and Ferengi economic systems. “Hey, those geeks over there are having a heated argument about obscure lacunae in utopian fictional nonsense again. I think the guy in the forehead ridges is about to hit giant-eared geek with his big rubber thing! Yes!”

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  8. Well, now depending upon you’re definition of “conservative”…

    “Over the past four years, we have seen “conservatives” push for an abandonment of our entire monetary system..” The only monetary system in the beginning of the country was gold, so, it could be argued that advocating the gold standard IS a conservative position.

    “eliminating our public school system”. Same point. Twernt no public skools when that thar constitution was created. (or not many).

    “dismantling the current system of collective bargaining”. If you’re talking about public unions, same point. Fundamentally, a having elected politicians negotiate with public unions is the equivilent of having the manager of your company negotiate with your other employess on how to spend your money.

    “disposing of social safety nets that have been with us for generations” Again, twernt no safety net in the 1800s.

    “Declaring preemptive wars”, Dead on here.

    “allowing states to declare parts of federal law and the Constitution null and void at their own whim.” Actually, yes, all that “reserved for the states” parts of the constituion everyone ignores now….

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    • By that logic, the Unabomber is the ultimate conservative. After all, humans at one point lived in caves without any of that ‘progressive’ technology like modern agriculture, much less industrialism.
      Advocating the destruction of existing institutions is radicalism, or at least revanchism. You can’t ‘conserve’ something that’s been gone for generations.

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    • ““Over the past four years, we have seen “conservatives” push for an abandonment of our entire monetary system..” The only monetary system in the beginning of the country was gold, so, it could be argued that advocating the gold standard IS a conservative position.”

      All things that were not always as they are were once progressive – the New Deal, women’s suffrage, being against slavery, democratic republics, Protestantism, Catholicism, etc. Each arose out of the progressive thought of their time. That does not make them progressive forever after.

      Completely changing any countries long-standing monetary policy is radical and not conservative, or those words have no meaning. This is not to say that it isn’t a *good* idea; it’s just not conservative.

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      • I’m going to pull a “Bill Clinton”. It depends upon the defintion of “conservative” then doesn’t it? However, I generally get around all this labeling problem since I use the term “constitutionalist”.

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    • I don’t think you can claim you are ‘conservative’ because you are upholding traditions, policies, or idealogies that died out before your grandfather was born. There’s sort of a statute of limitations to the concept.

      We can quibble over when, but I suspect “in living memory” is a pretty good rule of thumb.

      Conservatives defend the status quo in the sense of ‘conserve’ — or at least the status quo of their lifetimes. They DON’T go on about changing the status quo back to 1880 or 1780.

      And really, it says something that the idea of ‘ideal society’ is stuff Americans dispensed with a hundred or more years ago and never wanted back.

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      • offtopic: I cited some interesting sources over on the Blinded Trials. I remain skeptical that the prefrontal cortex maturation is the actual mechanism that mediates increased risk behavior in adolescents, particularly since in children, you see lower risk behavior than adolescents.

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        • (Off topic: I think the most recent stuff indicates that the risk-behavior stuff comes on and offline in childhood, which makes sense as the brain really is a constantly changing thing. Especially during the teenage years, it’s also drenched in a soup of high hormone levels.

          I’m not a fan of evolutionary explanations for behaviors, but I do admit the notion that teenage risk-taking is equivilant to, say, peacock feathers is at least more sensical than many. Frankly 99% of the stupid, short-term, idiotic things teenagers do seems focused on status and sexual attraction. Stupid stunts as as a form of preening. Peacock feathers are pretty risky to the peacock, afterall…)

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          • The riskbehavior stuff seems to come on with the onset of puberty (and, interestingly enough, is the ONLY thing that really does).
            I also don’t like evolutionary explanations, but the closer you get to actual sexual selection, the more justification you’ve got for saying “hey, um, maybe this actually works??” [up next: the rational and game theory explanation for different sizes and shapes of genitalia… ;-)]

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      • I don’t agree there is some ideological statue of limitations.

        “And really, it says something that the idea of ‘ideal society’ is stuff Americans dispensed with a hundred or more years ago and never wanted back.” The fact that stuff changed doesn’t prove it was wanted. One could argue that it was imposed.

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        • Indeed. One could. But it is no longer “conservative” to change things to a way that no one alive has ever known.

          That is, by definition, radical.

          Upholding Social Security? That’s conservative, or you’re flat out admitting the “conserve” part is just window-dressing. SS has been the law of the land for 80 years. People have been born, lived, retired, and died at 85 — with SS existing the whole time.

          Call it imposed? There’s no one alive it was imposed on. My grandfather is retired on SS right now — it existed when he was born. My father is about to retire on it. It existed when it was born. Nobody “imposed” it on either of them. It’s existance was part of the status quo to the society to which they were born.

          Privatizing it, removing it — that is a radical change. It requires changing a sizeable basic governmental function that me, my father, and my grandfather have known as a simple fact of government out entire lives.

          Call it “conservative” if you want, just don’t cloak yourself in the mantle of actual conservatives — those who resist radical change, not implement it.

          Heck, by your logic? Slavery is conservative. Child labor? Conservative. Shooting strikers? Conservative. Heck, by your logic surrendering the country back to England is the ultimate conservative move.

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          • Indeed you are correct. But again, as I said, it depends upon your definition. If you subscribe to 1780’s mindset, then it’s not radical to want to go back to them, it was radical to go away from them. Anyway, my point is not to argue that conservatives want this, it’s more of a mind game.

            Now, as to SS, you’re dead wrong. Case in point: it was imposed on me-and it was imposed on your grandfather and father and you. I don’t want it, never wanted it, and can’t get my money back that was extracted from my paychecks. It was imposed on every generation since the program was created.

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            • By that definition, American citizenship was imposed on me. Dastardly, thuggish minions of the American government FORCED me to become an American citizen at birth. I was given no choice. My parents were given no choice.

              Horrible.

              Look, you can use your definition of “imposed” — but it’s BS, it really is. You’ve watered it down not just to “there was a vote and I lost” (so therefore Democracy itself, government itself is an imposition” but to my ancestors lost a vote — so that society and culture itself are impositions.

              By your definition, each and every moment of your life is FILLED with impositions upon you — your biology imposes, forcing you to eat and drink. Society imposes, by having laws and government — and of course government imposts, by having those laws and taxes and rules also. Culture imposes, for DARING to exist before your birth and make customs before you were a gleam in Daddy’s eye.

              Which makes “imposing” a useless complaint. A watered down stupidity. A bit of pathetic rhetoric to unthinking masses.

              Now if you want to define “conservative” as “full of bad logic, crap rhetoric, and dubious assertations” — go right ahead.

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              • Curious that you mentioned the citizenship, because I agree. YOU were not given any choice. Why is that? Why is it that the US gov’t automatically decides for YOU that you are a US citczen if you are born in a certain geographical region? Who gave them the authority to tell you or me who I am?

                “There was a vote and I lost”. I hear that a lot except I didn’t vote for it as I wasn’t around to vote for it. I see no legit moral reason why I should be burdened with obligations people long dead stuck me with when I had no say it it. That’s not democracy.

                Now as to how I define conservaties? I define them as statists who want to extract my money to spend on certain pet projects of theirs. In that, they are just like liberals; only the pet projects change.

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  9. “the recent ascendance of ideology”

    I don’t see any good reason to think that ideology is in ascendance.

    We have a Democratic president who is willing to cut social security benefits, who saved privatized health insurance, who has been for a strong military, who has pushed for only modest changes in the social safety net, who has effectively hammered teachers unions, who has pushed for only small changes in gun control. On and onl And we have a Democratic senate that is, by and large, even more willing to compromise with the right than the President. There are a few more leftist voices in the House, but they are generally marginalized, even when Dems take control of the House.

    Indeed, the Democratic party is no more ideological than ever. Maybe less. Post Clinton, the Dems seized the center and the technocractic approach to gov’t. (Neoliberalism and all that.)

    Moreover, I don’t see the Republican party as more ideological than it was. (Maybe this is where we disagree.) If the R’s were influenced by Oakeshottian conservativism, they would be in favor of much less radical reforms, as you point out. If the Republican party was an Ayn Rand egoist party, they would be in favor of killing Social Security, which they aren’t.

    I’d say the Republican party has gone insane with the desire to appease its loudest proponents in the media and amongst its activists: Limbaugh, Fox News, the tea party, conservative columnists, “pro-life” groups, Christian fundamentalist groups, weirdo climate skeptics and Alex Jones fans, the NRA, big money donors, oil companies, etc. The Dems (under Clinton, really) so effectivel moved away from liberal ideology and into the center, that the Republicans had to compete in some other way, and that way has been to try to rile up the base, not with ideology, but with lies and stupidity. And many of these media and activist groups are controlled by cynical grifters who are willing to say any lie to keep themselves wealthy, selling books, TV appearances, etc. to the masses.

    The reasons that the Republican party keeps doing this is that the rest of the media, the MSM, won’t be clear and forceful enough in showing the larger public that the Republicans are lying and saying stupid things. (Climategate wasn’t forcefully enough rebutted, for example.) There are many reasons for the media’s failure here. (A belief in equivalence at all costs that leads to false equivalence. A desire for controversy to improve ratings. A Beltway culture that is tolerant of anybody who has a certain status, regardless of their views being dumb lies, etc.)

    Moreover, the American political system is set up to give passionate minority voting blocs a great degree of political power (e.g. the filibuster and more), so the Republicans can still wield a lot of power, even if they will find it harder to win national majorities. So why bother not kowtowing to the media groups and special interests that can bring enough votes to keep some power, especially when the Dems have already seized the not-so-ideological center?

    The problem is that the R’s and the D’s aren’t ideological enough, IMO.

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    • Long story short, the R’s and their voters aren’t more ideological, they’re more indoctrinated by grifters and scam artists.

      I’m not sure what the solution is. I think a more Parliamentary style government would help. You don’t see these same problems to the same degree in other places with Parliaments. I mean, The are other problems, but what we’ve got is cruddy.

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    • The problem is that the R’s and the D’s aren’t ideological enough, IMO.

      I would qualify Tod’s premise to state that the “noise” of ideology is in ascendance – the reason being what you state so clearly above.

      Both parties are bought and they’ve been bought by basically the same money playing both sides against the middle. But, to keep the money coming in and to keep voters interested in a game where the winner doesn’t matter to any great degree, you’ve got to have the bread and circuses. Hence, you get the lies and stupidity for one audience and the incredulity concerning the lies and stupidity for the other audience. And this dumbshow gets all the attention, while the money folks capture more and more of the whole thing.

      Caesar knew what he was doing.

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      • I get what you’re saying. But one quibble.

        If “the incredulity concerning the lies and stupidity for the other audience” was spread to a large enough audience (the whole public and not just the left), then we would be mostly out of this mess.

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        • In “the whole public” lies the rub, I’d say. To be incredulous about the lies they are being told, the right would have to accept that things they want to believe aren’t true.

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        • Which is why I don’t believe I made the “no difference between the parties” argument and why I unequivocally support the Dems over the GOP.

          But, just look at Shazbot5’s paragraph about the positions Obama has taken in the last 5 years, look at the profound weakness of the FinReg we got out of Dodd/Frank, look at how Congress responded to the air traffic controller furloughs and you’ll see what really makes our political class dance. The issues you note are important which is why they so effectively draw so much attention while the fleecing proceeds unabated.

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    • “The reasons that the Republican party keeps doing this is that the rest of the media, the MSM, won’t be clear and forceful enough in showing the larger public that the Republicans are lying and saying stupid things.”

      It’s been useful for Obama electorally to just let Republican talking points hang in the air, like a morning fog.

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  10. Besides ideology, there’s a factor I call “Having to be an asshole all the time”, in which it’s impossible to have a normal conversation without complaining about how the world isn’t organized exactly the way you’d like. I first noticed this in college, among fringe groups like the communists:

    “That math test was ridiculous! I mean, it’s enough to know you can transform those vectors into an orthonormal basis, what’s the point of having to do it?”

    “It’s capitalism grinding you down so you’ll be a good little worker when you wind up a wage slave at some megacorp.”

    and the libertarians:

    “Traffic home from the ballgame was ridiculous! We left right after it ended, and still didn’t get home until almost seven!”

    “When will you learn that the government screws everything up? Let private enterprise, build the roads, man. We’d never be stuck in traffic, and we wouldn’t have to pay any taxes!”

    The LaRouchies too, but at least their crap was weird enough to be entertaining (“Francis Bacon was a Dutch secret agent! Jean-Phillipe Rameau destroyed the tradition of western music!” (I am not making either of those up.))

    Nowadays, what used to be considered fringe nonsense like None Dare Call it Treason is everyday talk radio and Regnery best-sellers. The two party system has become one that’s center-left and one that an asshole all the time.

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    • Mike Schilling, None Dare Call it Treason was published around about 1970 and composed by Gary Allen, the editor of American Opinion, the John Birch Society organ. The burden of it was that the Soviet Government was the subsidiary of an international conspiracy and that the American chapter of said conspiracy was the Council on Foreign Relations. It was all thoroughly fanciful. Just when have Regnery or Mr. Limbaugh been given to trafficking in anything remotely similar? Here is Regnery’s site. They usually have hundreds of titles in their inventory so you should be able to find something quite peculiar (my favorite was one they published on hunting and barbecue called Kill it and Grill It).

      http://www.regnery.com/availability/new-releases/

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    • On the subject of ‘Asshole all the time’, can we please call attention to Saul Cornell or Brian Leiter or Paul Krugman? How about the collection of people who tell you with a straight face that a constitutional provision adopted in 1868 to grant certain immunities to freed slaves requires that county clerks issue marriage licenses to pairs of dudes? How about discussions of immigration policy distorted and disfigured with accusations (“anti-hispanic racism”, &c.). I have relations who vote Democratic who seem to have ordinary manners and sensibilities. Wish I could find such people online….

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        • I doubt it, but so what?

          Mike Schilling is confounding ugly character and personality traits with political discourse itself. It is an exceedingly implausible claim for anyone who is not a hopeless sectarian and if you were going to make it, a better bet would be the crank crew currently working for Ron Unz.

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          • There’s criticism of Obama (lots to criticize, from all directions) and there’s “Everything he does is influenced by his anti-colonialist father.” The latter is assholery, pure and simple, and the damned thing was a best-seller.

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      • There is quite a bit of truth in this comment, but it’s a telling feature of the right that “a pair of dudes” who think they should be granted the same legal privileges others enjoy show up as being “assholes all the time” merely for thinking such.

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        • Whether they are or are not is irrelevant to the point I am making, which concerns misfeasance on the part of the appellate judiciary and the willingness of a great many people (often with startling sanctimony) to behave as if it is something other than what it is.

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      • How about the collection of people who tell you with a straight face that a constitutional provision adopted in 1868 to grant certain immunities to freed slaves requires that county clerks issue marriage licenses to pairs of dudes?

        I’m sorry. This would make me an asshole how?

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              • We can review the Congressional Globe, if you like, to rummage for subsidiary concerns and understandings of the text. A matter of controversy was the Black Codes enacted in Mississippi and other locales. The money quote is as follows:

                Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

                Making use of this text in the course of a contention that a public policy of defining marriage as consisting of men and women requires constructing quite a verbose daisy chain. No it isn’t done in good faith.

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                  • Clawback,

                    No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States

                    Of course there’s considerably more to the 14th Amendment than just that, so saying it was enacted “to grant certain immunities to freed slaves,” while true, is incomplete.

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                • Art Deco,

                  We can also review Randy Barnett’s Restoring the Lost Constitution where he goes into great detail about the Privileges and Immunities Clause and the proper role of the state police power. Through his research, he has developed a far more expansive view of the 14th Amendment that you claim.

                  Seeing that Barnett, an originalist in his own right, has justified Lawrence v Texas and Romer v Evans (two key cases that will be cited once SSM bans are properly struck down), on originalist grounds using constructions of the state police power going all the way back to the 18th century (a point elaborated on in detail in Howard Gillman’s The Constitution Besieged, one of the best books written on the “Lochner era”), I have a difficult time agreeing with your claim that such a construction is verbose or created in bad faith. You are going to have to do much better here.

                  If I agree with Barnett, does that mean that I would be engaging you in bad faith?

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                    • I’m also trying to find where in the Constitution it says black men can marry white women. Not finding it. Also not expecting that too many of the attendees in 1787 would have voted in favor of it.

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                    • My sources are the actual text.

                      I’ve re-read the text of the Amendment several times now, and I can’t find any reference to freed slaves, or negroes, or anything like that. Can you show me where I’ll find that?

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                    • Art Deco’s reading also could be taken to support the decision that the equal protection clause does not apply to women, or non-black ethnic minorities (those who don’t have the historical connection to slavery).

                      Robert Bork suggested that really the Amendment only applied to free slaves, and it was not clear that it extended to their descendants. But he was willing to stretch a point and allow that it could reasonably be applied to all ethnic minorities. I’m pretty sure he stopped short of allowing that it applied to women, though.

                      That’s not to claim Art Deco is in agreement with Bork (I don’t know if he is or not), but just to show where his argument logically can (but perhaps not necessarily) lead.

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                    • Robert Bork suggested that really the Amendment only applied to free slaves, and it was not clear that it extended to their descendants. But he was willing to stretch a point and allow that it could reasonably be applied to all ethnic minorities.

                      Cite? Not because I disbelieve you, I’d just be interested in reading something that insane. And also so I can save the link for the next time someone complains about how unfair it was that the old maniac was rejected for the Court.

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                  • The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

                    I am not seeing how state matrimonial law is invalidated by this text unless it be your contention that state constitutions have passages which extend a right to a ‘marriage’ license to whomever or incorporate some antecedent body of jurisprudence with contained such a right.

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                  • If anyone cares, my ‘reading’ of the equal protection clause is cribbed from Lino Graglia: an admonition to the executive to impartially enforce laws on the books. There is a huge body of case law that says that ain’t so. Given that any statute manufactures a distinction between parties, I cannot figure how you would contrive from that phrase a set of principles that would allow you to test statutes against a superordinate law, but I am not as smart as Randy Barnett. Still, an insistence that that clause requires the state, corporations, and persons to grant recognition to user-defined pairings of sexual deviants is what might have once been recognized as a reductio ad absurdam.

                    Barnett and others have created a world where constitutional law as stated is merely a point of departure, a marvelous toy theatre for intellectuals in the legal profession. There are no political purposes expressable in law because law does not do that; it is a pantomime, an exercise in gamesmanship. (The problem is exacerbated by the materials at hand: a great many constitutional provisions are poorly worded, among them the 1st, 2d, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 14th amendments).

                    One result of all this is that everyone’s discretion over their affairs is gradually vitiated and subject to second guessing by lawyers. The thing is, attorneys provide real services that are socially useful, but the quantum of formal legal services a society requires to muddle through varies a great deal. Lawyers as lawyers are not very well equipped to substitute for businessmen or physicians or parents. Lawyers carrying the outlook and history they do do not substitute well for the rest of us in animating a rough-and-ready set of social ethics (which includes a community decision about what sort of social relations are formally recognized and legally buttressed and what sort are studiously ignored). If, a generation or two down the line, the legal community wakes up in a world where they are being assessed by lay boards or military panels taking the attitude frag-em-and-let-God-sort-em-out, they will have the professoriate and appellate judiciary of our time to blame.

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                    • Ok, so it’s Lino Graglia. I had you pegged in the Bork/Berger mold so he’s not too far off from that. I’ll respond to your points:

                      an admonition to the executive to impartially enforce laws on the books.

                      I happen to agree with this, as does Randy Barnett if I recall. Modern equal protection jurisprudence has nothing at all to do with the original meaning of that form of the text. That it carries so much weight has everything to do with the transformation of 14th Amendment doctrine that took place in the latter stages of the New Deal, culminating with Footnote Four of U.S. v Carolene Products. Prior to that, the Due Process clause was the substantive portion of the text that gave judges the power to nullify state laws on federal constitutional grounds (rightly IMO).

                      I cannot figure how you would contrive from that phrase a set of principles that would allow you to test statutes against a superordinate law, but I am not as smart as Randy Barnett.

                      It seems as if you are confusion constitiutional interpretation (understanding the meaning of the text) with constitutional construction (creating legal rules and norms to put the vague language of the text in effect).

                      Creating a set of principles under the Due Process clause didn’t happen in a vacuum. State Supreme Courts dealt with questions of whether or not the state exceeded its own power in creating laws. They looked to the purpose of the law and determined if it had a valid public purpose or if it was “class-based” legislation (i.e. whether or not the law meant to aid or burden a class of individuals at the expense or benefit of another). The former would be upheld while the latter struck down. It was a form of equality under the law (very reminiscent of Federalist 10), but one that came under fire from the Progressive movement for a variety of reasons (i.e. private power imbalances).

                      Still, an insistence that that clause requires the state, corporations, and persons to grant recognition to user-defined pairings of sexual deviants is what might have once been recognized as a reductio ad absurdam.

                      Those 18th century principles apply in modern cases like Romer v Evans. I can easily make the argument that one can no easier target a group of individuals in 1868 as it could in 2012, regardless of how judges would have ruled in cases (i.e. Plessy v Ferguson) or the social norms of the time (a critique of Lawrence v Texas is that sodomy laws were on the books at the time of its ratification). Even if I concede that the framers or ratifiers of the 14th Amendment would have never had same sex marriage in mind, I say so what? Intention-based methods of interpreting the Constitution or creating constitutional constructions around the text have been widely criticized if not discredited. The whole concept of originalism moved away from it in the 1980’s and hasn’t looked back.

                      Let’s just call it like I see it: same sex marriage bans are not about protecting the institution of marriage. They target gays because of who they are. This fact was clear as a bell in the Prop 8 case. Morals legislation is arbitrary at best. It serves no valid public purpose and has nothing to do with health, safety or general welfare, the three key pillars of appropriate state police power jurisprudence.

                      Barnett and others have created a world where constitutional law as stated is merely a point of departure, a marvelous toy theatre for intellectuals in the legal profession. There are no political purposes expressable in law because law does not do that; it is a pantomime, an exercise in gamesmanship.

                      Barnett is not one of the individuals responsible for this. If anything, Barnett’s passionate defense of originalism as a normative method of constitutional interpretation is a means of pulling back the reins on what you just mentioned. Hell, as a professional in healthcare real estate, I may have been thrilled to see the Supreme Court uphold the Affordable Care Act, but believe me, I was just as thrilled to see the Commerce Clause argument shot down. Barnett was one of the driving forces behind that.

                      a great many constitutional provisions are poorly worded

                      I would say vague.

                      One result of all this is that everyone’s discretion over their affairs is gradually vitiated and subject to second guessing by lawyers.

                      Just because you find someone else’s sexual activity immoral does not mean it’s your business. Nor does it mean that you have the “right” to seek a legislative solution. If people aren’t mindful of that, they may find a lawyer reminding them. I’d say that’s a good thing.

                      Lawyers as lawyers are not very well equipped to substitute for businessmen or physicians or parents.

                      No one says they are.

                      Lawyers carrying the outlook and history they do do not substitute well for the rest of us in animating a rough-and-ready set of social ethics (which includes a community decision about what sort of social relations are formally recognized and legally buttressed and what sort are studiously ignored).

                      Just as lawyers don’t make good substitutes for legislatures, legislatures or communities may (and often do) have people that wouldn’t know the limits of the law the way that constitutional lawyers do (i.e the school board in Dover, PA during the intelligent design mess). If communities are that worried about having their decisions second-guessed, with respect to certain things, perhaps it’s best to live and let live. However, your argument seems to suggest that communities know best and that should be the driving factor behind the law. That’s a bit too majoritarian for my blood.

                      If, a generation or two down the line, the legal community wakes up in a world where they are being assessed by lay boards or military panels taking the attitude frag-em-and-let-God-sort-em-out, they will have the professoriate and appellate judiciary of our time to blame.

                      This probably won’t happen, but conservative authors will make millions of dollars selling books that peddle these theories.

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                    • Let’s just call it like I see it: same sex marriage bans are not about protecting the institution of marriage. They target gays because of who they are. This fact was clear as a bell in the Prop 8 case. Morals legislation is arbitrary at best. It serves no valid public purpose and has nothing to do with health, safety or general welfare, the three key pillars of appropriate state police power jurisprudence.

                      Dave, if you have a complaint, take it to the legislative body in question. What you insist is there is not there.

                      Just because you find someone else’s sexual activity immoral does not mean it’s your business. Nor does it mean that you have the “right” to seek a legislative solution. If people aren’t mindful of that, they may find a lawyer reminding them. I’d say that’s a good thing.

                      What? You do not like community standards, so it is correct for the judiciary to annul them because they can. We are not even discussing consensual sodomy laws here. We are discussing the law buttressing social architecture, which is to say what the collective recognizes and valorizes and what it does not. It is your contention that if your neighbors have a difference with you on this, they have to yield to you and Theodore Olson and Randy Barnett, because you are all so excellent in your understandings. I am sorry. I just do not see it.

                      Just as lawyers don’t make good substitutes for legislatures, legislatures or communities may (and often do) have people that wouldn’t know the limits of the law the way that constitutional lawyers do (i.e the school board in Dover, PA during the intelligent design mess).

                      By the ‘law’, you mean a daisy chain of judicial opinions. Whether it is prudent or not for the Dover school board to do what they did, that’s local control. To get from ‘establishment of religion’ to Judge Jones writing school curricula (or acting as a conduit for the plaintiffs lawyers to do this) is another stretch.

                      If communities are that worried about having their decisions second-guessed, with respect to certain things, perhaps it’s best to live and let live. However, your argument seems to suggest that communities know best and that should be the driving factor behind the law. That’s a bit too majoritarian for my blood.

                      There is nothing that prevents anyone from living here, Dave. They just do not get a marriage license.

                      This probably won’t happen, but conservative authors will make millions of dollars selling books that peddle these theories.

                      It is not a theory, it is a speculation. And I won’t make a dime off it.

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                    • Dave, if you have a complaint, take it to the legislative body in question. What you insist is there is not there.

                      Then we agree to disagree. You say it’s not there. I have reason to believe that it is. You’re sticking to your sources. I stick to mine.

                      What? You do not like community standards

                      I never said that.

                      so it is correct for the judiciary to annul them because they can.

                      The judiciary does not annul community standards. The judiciary invalidates laws that overstep the proper constitutional boundaries. You as a community can hate gay sex all you want. You just can’t pass a law outlawing it. Sorry.

                      We are not even discussing consensual sodomy laws here. We are discussing the law buttressing social architecture, which is to say what the collective recognizes and valorizes and what it does not.

                      So if the collective thinks we should pass a law banning divorce, you think that’s a perfectly constituitonal exercise of the state police power?

                      We’ll get back to same sex marriage shortly because I fail to see how extending legal benefits to same sex couples somehow threatens that. Plus, there’s those issues involving overinclusivity and underinclusivity that need to be discussed when we’re talking about marriage, something Professor George seemed to fail to take into account (at least successfully) when he wrote his defense of one-man-one-woman marriage. It was a great read but it had glaring weaknesses.

                      It is your contention that if your neighbors have a difference with you on this, they have to yield to you and Theodore Olson and Randy Barnett, because you are all so excellent in your understandings. I am sorry. I just do not see it.

                      That’s because you just made that up. While I appreciate the compliment, however shallow and snarky it was (and yes, I do realize my excellence in these matters far surpasses yours even on my worst day), we all yield to the supreme law of the land. Like it or not, courts decide cases and controversies.

                      By the ‘law’, you mean a daisy chain of judicial opinions.

                      A body of precedent I can tie back to the original meaning of the 14th Amendment with little trouble. Of course, we’ll agree to disagree.

                      Whether it is prudent or not for the Dover school board to do what they did, that’s local control.

                      No, it’s been out of local hands since 1986 and arguably long before that.

                      To get from ‘establishment of religion’ to Judge Jones writing school curricula (or acting as a conduit for the plaintiffs lawyers to do this) is another stretch.

                      An effortless one given that putting religion in science classrooms is obviously meant to favor certain Christian groups over just about everyone else. That sort of favortism has nothing to do with the public health, safety or welfare of the citizens of the state. It’s an arbitrary, stupid and unconstitutional exercise of that power. Again, we agree to disagree.

                      There is nothing that prevents anyone from living here, Dave. They just do not get a marriage license.

                      Personally, I think communities tend to function better that way if they learn to live and let live. No worries. There will come a day where that will have to happen, sooner rather than later I think.

                      It is not a theory, it is a speculation. And I won’t make a dime off it.

                      Too bad. Others seem to do quite well.

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                    • So if the collective thinks we should pass a law banning divorce, you think that’s a perfectly constituitonal exercise of the state police power?

                      More precisely, a law which refuses to release people from a marriage contract to which they consented, and yes that is constitutional.

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                    • That’s because you just made that up. While I appreciate the compliment, however shallow and snarky it was (and yes, I do realize my excellence in these matters far surpasses yours even on my worst day), we all yield to the supreme law of the land. Like it or not, courts decide cases and controversies.

                      Nope, I mad nothing up, Dave. There is no way you, or Theodore Olson, or the California Supreme Court get from the language of the 1st section of the 14th Amendment to where you want to be and retain a shred of integrity in the process.

                      Dave, the problem is not the statutory law or even the constitution, however much the 14th Amendment has turned into a consuming malignancy. You are expressing disgust that the grubby people who sit in state legislatures, who live among and are influenced by the grubby people in their home districts who do not value what you do, have had the discretion to grant or withhold benefits from your preferred mascots. But your problem is that you live in a world of people who do not defer to your judgments; so does Theodore Olson; so does Anthony Kennedy. And none of you respect those people. If it pleases you to give me a lesson in the rules of Dungeons & Dragons, fine.

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                    • You’ve made three pretty big mistakes here.

                      The first one was the one that piqued my interest:

                      “How about the collection of people who tell you with a straight face that a constitutional provision adopted in 1868 to grant certain immunities to freed slaves requires that county clerks issue marriage licenses to pairs of dudes?”

                      I told you with a straight face. I will continue to tell you with a straight face and I will put forth plenty of arguments to support my point. You? You just sit there with your arms folded and say “I don’t see it”. Fair enough.

                      At the very least, could you please find the testicular fortitude to call me an asshole? This way, you can walk away from this conversation being right about one thing.

                      Second mistake:

                      user-defined pairings of sexual deviants

                      This is what bigots say about gays, and I know that you wouldn’t want to find yourself associated with people of that ilk. I like tolerance as much as the next person but I also like running certain kinds of scumbags out of here.

                      Third mistake:

                      You are expressing disgust that the grubby people who sit in state legislatures, who live among and are influenced by the grubby people in their home districts who do not value what you do, have had the discretion to grant or withhold benefits from your preferred mascots.

                      Nope. I am expressing no such thing. In fact, I’ll express my joy for legislatures in Delaware and Rhode Island. Yay grubby people!!!

                      Sorry, I had a Kimmi moment.

                      You’ve gone from making no arguments of your own to making strawman arguments. I have expressed no disgust for people that have values different than mine. All I am suggesting is that governments at the state and local level do not have the level of discretion to enact their own preferred causes (or mascots as you put it) that you believe. How that translates to me hating people is beyond me. To quote the great Art Deco, “I can’t see it”.

                      While I have a distrust towards the democratic process, counter-majoritarian measures bolster the legitimacy of the democratic process by protecting the rights of those in the minority. At this point, I don’t think it’s productive to explore different theories of constitutional legitimacy.

                      But your problem is that you live in a world of people who do not defer to your judgments; so does Theodore Olson; so does Anthony Kennedy. And none of you respect those people.

                      Really? So if I say jump you won’t say “how high”?

                      The real problem here is that you believe that just because you can find a 50% plus 1 democratic majority that it gives you the right to FORCE people, through the weight of law, to defer to your judgment on any arbitrary basis whatsoever. I agree to disagree.

                      I respect people’s privacy. I’m not the one that attempts to restrict same sex couples to legal rights or attempts to outlaw sodomy on the basis that they are an affront to our social institutions (meaning that y’all find gays icky- yeah i get it). I respect people’s privacy and can leave well enough alone. You can say I’m interfering with local affairs but the reality of the situations is that there’s no interference in affairs if states and localities lack the authority on a certain matter.

                      I fail to see how that is disrespectful. If people respect the law, I’ll have no reason to come across as disrespectful. It’s nothing personal really.

                      If it pleases you to give me a lesson in the rules of Dungeons & Dragons, fine.

                      I don’t know. We may have to work up to that. Let’s start you out with a few weeks of Candyland. If it pleases you to not handle anything that’s pink, I can accommodate you.

                      We’re done here, right?

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  11. Is the ascendance of ideology itself actually the problem, or is the problem the crowding out of all other priorities – particularly solving problems of any kind – by the overweening desire to inflict defeat on one’s (self-designated) ideological enemies? The idea that people’s sets of value orderings and thus policy priorities would be set by ideology doesn’t seem like that much of a problem. What seems like the problem is that people are disregarding opportunities to make (perhaps marginal) improvements to the status quo as defined by their ideologically-defined sets of values and priorities because they are primarily interested in dealing (political) defeat to groups of people who they consider to hold wicked or dangerous sets of values and priorities and are actively opposed to compromise with such people. Basically, this cashes out to win-at-all costs partisanship, where the parties aren’t the actual political parties we have, but various groups who make us-versus-them distinctions between groups of true believers (us) whose only path to an acceptable world is full and final defeat of apostates (them). Ideology doesn’t necessitate that set of behaviors; ideology is just as consistent with compromise and problem solving. I’m not sure what the drivers behind this tendency in our political life are, but I’ll be reading to see if you have any insights into it, TK.

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    • I think you are describing what I see as the weakness of using politics as a problem solving system where not absolutely necessary. It leads to an ideological, us/them, win/lose dynamic. There are other problem solving systems which can and should be used when more appropriate that have different strengths and weaknesses.

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      • The win/lose paradigm in politics is certainly suboptimal, and by all means, politics at best has its place, that place being a limited one, and makes things worse in a lot of places. But I’m not comparing what I describe to something that we might say would be “good.” I’m just comparing what is happening now to something that’s come before – describing a trend. I’m not saying that what came before was good – just saying that the direction things have been headed in is worse than whatever it was – good, bad, or indifferent. (And actually, Im saying that it’s worse more by Tod’s lights than my own. I’m making a suggestion for a way he might sharpen his description of the thing he’s identifying as a problem here – one, I might add, that he might well completely disagree with or not find valuable.)

        A thing can be bad and then get worse.

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        • Some things, by their nature, tend to go from bad to worse. Zero sum interactions often lead to a self amplifying arms race of exactly what you describe. Defense, offense, more offense and defense, proactive offense as a form of defense. A zero sum dynamic often leads to a destructive, even catastrophic trends over the long haul.

          Hence my point. The best way to prevent destructive arms races is not to start them. If politics is not the appropriate game, then you are best playing another.

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          • Well, in my opinion we’re not going to wish away people engaging in politics, but we might plausibly be able to lay out a path to helping them step by step to avoid doing it really badly. You can prefer to just denounce all of politics, or some very substantial portion of it that you don’t like, but that doesn’t make it the wrong decision for me to care about working at the margin (leaving aside that we don’t even agree about what would make it better at the margin).

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            • Michael,

              You are not giving a fair reading to my comments. I was not wishing away politics.

              The solution is not to “lay out a path to avoid doing it really badly”. If it is indeed a destructive arms race, then the folly of thinking you can play it better is exactly what I am warning against.

              Zero sum games are best avoided, minimized or converted into positive sum games (or zero sum games with positive sum externalities). If you disagree with this, please clarify why.

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              • I don’t feel the need to try too hard decipher your meaning at the level of vagueness and generality at which you communicate aout these things, Roger. If “If politics is not the appropriate game, then you are best playing another” is completely misunderstood if it is thought to be approximately a desire to wish away politics, as far as I am concerned that’s on you, not me.

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              • Roger,

                That came out harsher than I intended. But rather than insisting that I explain where your agenda to which you have such a strong attachment to, which I’m not really interested in confronting or engaging, is mistaken, if you think I’m misunderstanding what you are saying, why don’t you just go ahead, if it’s important to you that I understand, and continue to try to explain your meaning. You seem to be saying that my hope of making marginal improvements to how we do our politics, or preventing marginal deterioration, is forlorn or misguided. You think some kind of fundamental transformation is the better thing to aim for. If that’s still mistaken, you are free to explain further. If it’s accurate, great. You can think that. So… what is it you are looking for out of this conversation? Are you asking for my endorsement? Sorry, but, without argument, I’m simply going to decline to give it. These seem like predilections that it’s justified for either of us to be on either side of just as a matter of hunch or outlook.

                Again, what do you want from me here, man? Your concerns are yours, not mine.

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                  • Roger, I’m sorry if you feel this way. I’m not sure on what basis you feel it, though. Are we under some obligation to agree with you? To not tire of going round after round with you saying the same vague, sloganistic things over and over? To welcome your getting all accuse-y about a misconstrual of your argument here or there? Just because you get a human reaction to your schtick now and again doesn’t mean that your views aren’t welcome. But they’re not going to be welcomed with hosannah every time you show up, either.

                    We’ve been over this and over this with people here. If you’re here doing this, presumably because there’s some value in it to you. But if that’s not true, it’s not true. And whichever way it goes, on a day to day basis for each person, is the way it goes. We can’t be minutely attuned to everyone’s feelings about this place on a minute-to-minute basis. If you don’t want to be here, don’t be here. It’s not a dramatic event either way.

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                    • MD, I second this.

                      Roger, if you feel like your thoughts are best kept to yourself because of the reaction they get, then maybe it’s time to re-think the type of reaction you’re trying to get.

                      With all due respect and honest, I’m just throwin that out there.

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                    • You provided a comment to someone else sharing a similar paradigm. Right or wrong, I offered another possible way to view the situation. You either misunderstood it or were brushing it away and I attempted to clarify. At which point you pretty clearly revealed your view that my “shtick” is an “accusey,” sloganeering annoyance. Duly noted, with endorsement by Stillwater and several others I’m sure.

                      I don’t come to this forum for people to agree with me. I come to have a respectful dialogue between people with diverse world views. However, if the reaction continues to be that I am a nuisance to the other members, then eventually I am sure I will get the hint. Correction, I am getting the hint.

                      Obviously representing a different paradigm in a brief comment risks reduction into a shallow sound bite. However, I clearly have established a track record at explaining my views in much longer comments where necessary. That assumes anyone is interested in the dialogue, and you have made it pretty clear that for you this is not the case here.

                      I solute your frankness.

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