Derbyshire and the Happy Meal Conservatives


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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18 Responses

  1. This is an interesting notion. Currently there is a real obsession with intellect on the Left. They believe that having a clearly articulate and well-educated President and a team of similarly acredited administration officials, not to mention a few Nobel winners as advisers, is the way to go. History may prove them right. Unfortunately this means the GOP defaults to a sort of low brow, intellect-bashing mentality.

    I think what we have to be careful of is proving liberals right by moving ‘small-town’ populism towards ‘anti-intellectual’ populism. Things like pushing for ID in public schools doesn’t help us there.

    A ‘middle-brow’ conservatism is a good idea in that it would put us at a happy medium. We wouldn’t look like the dumb football player who pushes nerds into their lockers….but we would also remind voters that theory doesn’t always trump practical experience. Goldberg refered to the tendency of intellectually-obessesed liberals to ‘pass up a good solution for a brilliant one’. I think we could see a real overreach on the part of the administration but we can’t just occupy the other extreme and wait for it. We need to go back to the Reagan playbook and create an agenda that is common-sense and easy to digest, but grounded in solid reasoning. I also with we did a better job of getting our sides bright thinkers heard. Easier said than done.Report

  2. Avatar E.D. Kain says:


    A ‘middle-brow’ conservatism is a good idea in that it would put us at a happy medium. We wouldn’t look like the dumb football player who pushes nerds into their lockers….but we would also remind voters that theory doesn’t always trump practical experience.

    I think that’s exactly right, but I’m not holding my breath. The GOP is reacting to Obama exactly like the dumb jock you describe. There is really very little intellectual honesty coming out of the Right at the moment.Report

  3. Sure, “E.D. Kain”. Whatever you say. No intellectual honesty. Riiiiight. I take it you read, say, the paper edition of National Review? Do you?Report

  4. Avatar Bob says:

    I’m going to keep this very short because I have expressed my view on populism elsewhere on this site. I will repeat my view that American history does not provide any example of a harmful populist uprising. I just don’t see it.

    E.D. you conflate the undeniable growth of presidential power with populism. I find your case at best unproven. I would say that the growth of presidential powers results more from a weak legislative branch or the legislative branch going along with a president of the same party, a la, Bush during most of his administration.

    I’m not saying your point is wrong, and certainly no one cause can be responsible for presidential powers increasing, but I need concrete examples before I can accept your theory that populism is the culprit.Report

  5. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    How is populism different from mob rule?
    Limbaugh is simply Kylon and his followers the First Democrats….. that massacred the Pythagoreans.
    Ditch the elephant…..the new republican crest is a pitchfork rampant with a torch gules.Report

  6. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    As is my mischeivous wont, I am forced to point out that part of what we are seeing is stratification due to IQ. There are simply a lot more lowbrows in conservatism.
    Hmmm….could religious belief be the hidden variable?

  7. Derbyshire writes:

    “At the very least, by yoking themselves to the clueless George W. Bush and his free-spending administration, they helped create the great debt bubble that has now burst so spectacularly.”

    And that is simply not the case. As anyone who has listened to Right radio, and specifically these shows, the criticism of George W Bush on a whole host of issues (No Child, Prescription Drugs, the deficit/spending, Illegal Immigration, and yes the Iraq War) has been regular, in depth, nuanced, and coherent.

    Either Derbyshire has invented a straw man, or he simply doesn’t listen much to these radio hosts to know what they are actually saying. Either way, this factually incorrect statement pretty much tears the heart out of his larger argument.Report

  8. Avatar jfxgillis says:



    From, oh, the 1830s or so, to the 1960s or so, the Pap Finn vote was Democratic. For some good while there, the Democratic party WAS the Pap Finn vote.

    Now that vote is Republican.

    The party that wins Pap’s support can hold power for a generation in a coalition, but it cannot do so if the party is dominated by that vote.Report

  9. Avatar Bob says:

    What does the Pap Finn voter look for in a canidate? In 1830 or 2009? 2010 or 2012?Report

  10. Avatar jfxgillis says:


    Read the link (Chap 6). I suppose you should Chapter 5, too I guess.Report

  11. Avatar Bob says:

    Ok, now answer my question, pretty please.Report

  12. Avatar jfxgillis says:


    They want the same thing as this guy here at starting at 6:51.Report

  13. Avatar Bob says:

    Thanks, that helps.

    I really rather liked the Pap Finn thing. My question was not an attack. Perhaps un-artful, but not an attack.

    I thought this part of the video best.

    Forgive me if I misquote.

    The lad, “If Obama is elected we will have another Russian Revolution in this country.”

    Some women off camera asks, “Are you crazy?”Report

  14. Avatar jfxgillis says:


    I was, in fact, wary of a flame fest erupting on my friend E.DS.’s thread.

    I guess I was referring to following category of American: Proudly uneducated, agrarian in posture if not in geography, oppressed and resentful white proletarian males.

    I should add that I myself am not unsympathetic to some of the Pap Finn voters’ concerns (while intensely resisting others).Report

  15. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Jack, thanks for the links. I’ll have to remember the “Pap Finn” voter. “Agrarian in posture” is quite well put. This is just a pre- Joe the Plumber voter, basically? “Average Joe” in posture if not in practice? That the GOP coalition has become dominated by Pap Finn politics seems obvious, it’s true, but that it has any inkling how to reverse that (or even that it’s a problem) is less certain….Report

  16. Avatar jfxgillis says:


    It surely is a problem. From the End of the Civil War to the beginning of the New Deal, The Dems only had two Presidents, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, both of whom won with the help of agrarian proletarians (the South mostly) but only in coalition. The many times in between when the Dems were seen to be dominated by that sentiment, they lost. Crushed, frequently.

    The Republicans, then, have to find or construct a countervailing constituency, as the Dems did with Labor and fresh immigrants in the late 19th-early 20th centuries.

    I’d say your job is finding new voters rather than new ideas.

    Or wait seventy years for realignment!Report

  17. Avatar Bob says:

    Jack, I am very much unsympathetic to the point of view you shorthand Pap Finn voter. But, and there is always a but, I watched the Pelosi film on YouTube and found it overly nasty, one sided. I’m sure there were McCain voters that supported him for reasons other than guns, God, gays, race. I don’t recall Ms Pelosi interviewing any. I really expected to like the film, I did not.

    I remain totally opposed to the Right in any of its manifestations, particularly the Christian Right. But also the deregulation Cato Institute/CNBC/Wall Street Right, I’m including Clinton here.

    I found your “oppressed and resentful white proletarian males” interesting. It is so very odd how people define the oppressor. Pap and his brothers sees the liberal establishments, main stream media, “Pinheads” as Bill O’Reilly puts it, as the oppressor. Thomas Frank, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” tries to point out that the Republican Party does not favor Pap’s economic interests, but cultural issues trump that fact.

    Oh well, that’s just politics in the time of the Culture Wars.Report