personae non gratae

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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55 Responses

  1. It’s not enough to simply agree with the end goal of certain conservatives anymore. Now you also have to agree with the exact methodology. I recently told a fellow conservative that I was opposed to gay marriage but felt that constitutional amendments banning gay marriage were a violation of conservative principles. I was told in response that I might as well endorse gay marriage since I don’t support any and all efforts to stop it.

    I think what i have come to realize is that there are a lot of conservatives who have conservative goals, but the problem is that they are more concerned with ‘winning’ than sticking to principles. So principles be damned and anything done in the name of achieving victory is okay. That attitude is bad enough but this eventually leads to the misconception that any actions taken in pursuit of conservative goals are conservative by association. So a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, that I believe even Barry Goldwater would have been horrified by, is presented as conservative because of its goals.Report

  2. William Brafford says:

    The “pretentious slut” bit was, I think, a reference to the old Dan Akroyd/Jane Curtin point-counterpoints on Weekend Update in the 70s. The same probably goes for the rest of the paragraph. I’ve no quick explanation for the other stuff.Report

  3. Bob says:

    Dan’s tone, combative, take no prisoners, was readily apparent in his conversation with Conor. His comments to me were equally combative. Dan calling me “naive” is certainly *within* bounds but I found his flawed attempt to cast me as not from America as way over the line. I’m not surprised at anything that comes from his mouth or fingertips.Report

  4. mike farmer says:

    I agree with the points regarding conservatives being confused and off-base, for the most part — I don’t want to frame all conservatives this way, though — but, my question is how would Conor be labeled? Is he a conservative, a liberal, or what? Is the problem between the moderates and base conservatives like Limbaugh, yet they both claim to be conservatives? If the differences are this pronounced, is “conservative” even a useful label anymore?Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to mike farmer says:

      Mike – All good questions. The problem I have is not with “all conservatives” but rather with this (ever-shrinking) group that comprises the “movement” and pretend that fealty to Limbaugh and a particular set of criterion is the only important or qualifying metric by which to judge their conservatism. Conor is certainly a moderate. But a better question would be – is Larison a conservative? Dreher? They both hold fairly strong social conservative views and are nonetheless often labeled as being somehow not conservative. What about Frum? It’s an okay discussion to have but with this sort of behavior how can it ever really take place?Report

  5. James says:

    I’m baffled that anyone could hate Rod Dreher that much.Report

  6. Dan says:


    I’m not sure where the surprise and outrage is coming from. This is how political movements function and how conservatism has always operated:

  7. E.D. Kain says:

    It’s not really surprise. It’s mainly that I find the tone of the whole thing so disagreeable – and hence the edit of my own post to reflect that. The movement just seems to be tail-spinning worse than ever.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    The old criticism of the Democratic party was that it was little more than a whole bunch of different groups who had little in common than that they weren’t Republicans. You had the ethnic groups (who didn’t like each other overly), you had the gays, you had the green types, you had the feminists, you had this, that, and the others…

    While The Republicans, on the other hand, had only three legs to the conservative stool. Social Conservatives, Hawkish Conservatives, and Fiscal Conservatives.

    Well, that analysis, historically, pointed to the democrats not being able to hold everybody together and make everybody happy (and wouldn’t be able to keep others in the tent by asking them “where else you gonna go?”).

    I was surprised, however, to see that it was the Republicans who collapsed.

    The Democrats can survive losing one (or two) of its little coalition partners for an election or two.

    The Republicans, on the other hand, absolutely cannot… and, much like the Democrats, asking “where else you gonna go?” isn’t enough to keep them in the tent.Report

    • Bob in reply to Jaybird says:

      As a lifelong Democrat, and always proud to claim it, I have never considered what you describe to be a “criticism.” Your description is what I consider to be a strong point of my party, and America – a lot of small groups basically getting along. Let the Republicans and conservatives argue over purity.Report

    • Roland Dodds in reply to Jaybird says:

      That’s a good point Jaybird. I would say that without a very charismatic figurehead, it is difficult for Democrats to win in national elections with the coalition they have, but clearly the Republicans will have a harder time winning national elections with both their libertarian and Christian conservative wings in tow these days, and that is a larger hurdle to overcome. The Republican wings seem to be at odds more than aligned on any issue circulating at the moment.

      I do disagree with E.D. that if a war in the party clears out the movement cons and/or the neocons that a stronger Republican Party would emerge. I am not sure who it would leave left, and if those segments of the Party would actually be able to pull in independents or Democrats to join in a new coalition.Report

      • E.D. Kain in reply to Roland Dodds says:

        You know what, I think you’re right Roland. I think a compromise is in order – and the neocons are going to have to give a lot to the realists this time. The same bravado just won’t fly. But the conservatives do need the neocons, just like fiscal hawks need social cons.Report

        • Roland Dodds in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          If this showdown comes to fruition, the neocons would probably end up taking the back seat in the coalition, simply because many of those described as neocons also fall into the Democratic camp. With the failures of the Bush administration, interventionist numbers have also decreased as a whole, leaving them a group too small to dominate in any coalition.

          That being said, their ideas are still going to be strident in the public debate (for better or worse). The basic ideas behind their ideology will find new converts, especially if the Obama administrations “hands off” approach does not produce positive results.Report

  9. Neil says:

    Interesting to invoke WFB in opposite to those pointing out “traitors” to conservatism. It seems to me that, in the early years, this is a lot of what he did e.g. Peter Viereck. While I admire WFB greatly categorizing him as more like Conor than Dan Riehl seems strange.Report

  10. mike farmer says:

    Yes, I’m only surprised at the degree to which the schism has developed — it’s natural for the out party to battle among factions until solidarity is reached, but this split looks irreparable. It’s almost like two opposing parties. The moderates seem to be moving toward the Democrats and both factions seem to be resisting any agreeable solution. It’s probably premature, but it almost seems like the end of the Republican Party — I’ve never seen the party so divided — but then the information age makes the squabbles much more transparent. I continue to dream of a third party.Report

  11. E.D.,

    I just posted a big criticism of the moderate label the other day over at Progressive Republicans. My thesis is that it’s a problematic label because it’s vague and it implies that everyone else is extreme. I think we need to be more specific. i don’t like the idea of calling someone who is 75% conservative but liberal on some social issues a ‘moderate’. Why not be more specific and call them a socially liberal conservative?

    Rod Dreher is a social conservative. Other people might be fiscal conservatives. Or foreign policy conservatives. Or 2 of the 3. or something else. This speaks to a premise that Scott Payne and I discussed awhile back of labeling positions on various issues rather than people. It allows for more variation.Report

    • Definitely, Mike. Actually this whole experience has got me thinking…Report

    • For the most part, I agree with this, although I think it depends how you’re using the word “moderate.” If you’re using it to describe temperament rather than a set of positions, I think it’s a useful description. If vice versa, then it’s counterproductive. Centrist is often used instead of moderate to describe a set of positions that don’t fit well within either mainstream liberalism or mainstream conservatism, but that’s an even less helpful terminology since it would define a hardcore libertarian as a “centrist,” even though there’s nothing centrist about them.Report

      • I agree we could take ‘moderate’ to mean, “less inclined to extremism” or something like that. The problem is that again, if you call yourself a moderate it implies everyone else is extreme. For example, a socially liberal Republican self-identifies as a Moderate. So the implication is that any position to the right of them is extreme. But I would argue that opposition to abortion is a fairly mainstream conservative position. There’s nothing extreme about it. (Of course we could say that people who want a full ban with no exceptions are extreme, but to argue that anything other than being pro-choice is extreme is very inaccurate.)Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

          For my part, I don’t like the moderate position.

          Let’s say it’s 1775. What’s the moderate stance on how slaves ought to be counted wrt Representation?

          Let’s say it’s 1850. What’s the moderate stance on slavery?

          Let’s say it’s 1900. What’s the moderate stance on women voting?

          Let’s say it’s 1940. What’s the moderate stance on integrated schools?

          Let’s say it’s 1990. What’s the moderate stance on gay marriage?

          The moderate stance sucks.Report

        • Mike: I completely agree with you that the term is misused more often than not to describe someone who dissents from the official party line on a given issue, thereby defining everyone else as an extremist, which is totally wrong. I guess what I’m saying is just that if the term were consistently and properly used as simply a description of demeanor or temperament, it might have some value. Of course, this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon – it’s sooooo easy to call Joe Lieberman or Susan Collins a “moderate” just because they have a propensity to vote with the other “side” on particular issues without any consideration of their rhetoric, style, or the measures they prefer to implement their opposing beliefs. I guess what I’m saying is that it should have more to do with intensity of belief or certainty than it should have to do with actual ideology.Report

          • Mark,

            You’re describing ‘moderate’ in the old sense which was usually analgous to ‘wishy washy’ or ‘lukewarm’. I always thought it meant, “less passionate about an ideal than the rest of us.”Report

            • “Less passionate about an ideal than the rest of us” sounds closer to what I’m getting at, although maybe not exactly what I’m shooting for. I’d maybe rephrase it “Less passionate about a set of means to accomplish an ideal than the rest of us.” I think someone can be both deeply principled and moderate. To me an extremist is someone who is not only certain about their ideals, but is also absolutely certain that those ideals may be accomplished in only one way.Report

              • Ahhh..I think I’m seeing your point Mark. And I’ll even give you an example. I just had a big email debate with my brother the other day about gay marriage. Both of us are generally opposed but we disagree on how to combat the spread of gay marriage. I believe conservatives must be convincing on the floors of statehouses and sway public opinion. He prefers constitutional amendments. I think his solution is too extreme and actually non-conservative. He says because my solution is doomed to failure it is a defacto acceptance of gay marriage. So if I understand your point, my view represents the ‘moderate’ one in this debate, even though we have the same end goal.

                Am I understanding you correctly?Report

  12. Dan Riehl says:

    The irony here is that: 1) my disagreement with Conor had nothing to do with political views. So you are all debating something that isn’t even there in this case. 2) I call myself a conservative and have always been more a liberatarian on social issues and have never once kept silent within the movement about my views. What I have never needed to do was run up a flag and say, Oohh, lookie here at how different I am -because I’m not, many of my movement friends have differing views. But ten, I haven’t a felt a need to vilify social conservatives with whom I am proud to stand arm and arm. Has it ever occured to you wizards of intellect that the problem may be you and your need to declare how different you are, when you actually aren’t? 3) Perhaps some of you have been around for years in some form or fashion for years, I’ve no idea. But had you been at the center of the conservative movement on line in blog form as I was five years ago, your sensibilities in hyperventilating over my post would have prevented you from lasting a week. Now thems was some fights, gals! Carry on.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Dan Riehl says:

      Fair enough, Dan. In all honesty, I think I was reacting more to the piling on than to you in particular. It seemed a bit absurd to me that a whole host of bloggers who claimed in the first sentence or two to know absolutely nothing about Connor should then heap mound upon mound of criticism and at times pure ad hominem at his feet with little or no justification.

      I have already mentioned that I overstepped and have retracted most of what I wrote. No hard feelings.Report

  13. matoko_chan says:

    “That’s something that dissident conservatives and mainstreamers should both be afraid of.”
    Why? What if the conservative movement is just over, like the Whigs?
    If their memes are not competitve, and they can offer no platform except for hatin’ on Obama, why shouldn’t they go extinct?
    Failure to evolve.Report

  14. matoko_chan says:

    I think…that homosapiens sapiens comes in two basic flavors, conservative and liberal. Sure, you can have different sprinkles or cookie crumbs or w/e…but the basics are the same. The conservative problem right now is that they have gone fundamentalist.
    Pascal Boyer– (Religion Explained)

    Fundamentalism ….is an attempt to preserve a particular kind of hierarchy based on coalition, when this is threatened by the perception of cheap and therefore likely defection.

    Another typical tactic of fundamentalism is to burn the middle ground, to force moderates into the extremist camp. Also fundamentalists feel threatened by memetic dilution, so they enforce message purity……”conservative values”.

    Still, if the GOP dies, a new party will arise to fill the needs of the conservative half of America, just like when the Whigs died out.
    We will always have a two party system, E.D. …..we are hard-wired for it.Report

  15. Bob Cheeks says:

    Sorry I’m late to this. Just a comment here.
    I thought Conor was a RINO. I’m not trying to be cute, just his attack on Levin and my interpretation of his general outlook, though limited by the materials.
    For me once you embrace the ‘foreign intervention’ postition you ain’t a conservative, your a RINO, neocon, movement, statist Republican.
    It’s not Conservatism that’s in the crapper it’s the GOP, because of the RINO, Neocon,movement, statist Republicans.
    Those of us who engage and embrace the symbols of the republic will rise up, my guess by the next congressional election. If we cede power to the statists, again, same old sh*t. If we seize power we get a republic, or the effort to restore the republic, which because the U.S. is a socialist people’s democracy will fail.
    But we have to understand that it’s not the revelation of truth that the majority seek, it’s the journey.Report

  16. matoko_chan says:

    /gapes in shock at Bob Cheeks
    “If we cede power to the statists, again, same old sh*t. If we seize power we get a republic, or the effort to restore the republic, which because the U.S. is a socialist people’s democracy will fail.”
    But you have NEVAH done that…..not ever when you had the power. Republicans always grew govenment while lipservicing limited government, and have continuously agitated for growing government with laws intruding into peoples bedrooms!
    I don’t feel it, sry.Report

      • Dan in reply to Dan says:

        This data is of course before the bulk of the Bush year’s and our current troubles.Report

        • Bob in reply to Dan says:

          “Republicans always grew govenment while lipservicing limited government, and have continuously agitated for growing government with laws intruding into peoples bedrooms!”

          This simple fact is one that Republicans seem incapable of grasping. I have asked several times for Republicans/conservatives to point to a historical period when their philosophy actually brought about government retrenchment. Will, a self described libertarian, gave it a go several weeks ago and he basically pointed the Reagan and deregulation. The disastrous deregulation binge started under Carter, if memory serves, and reached its heights under Clinton and the Republican congresses after 1994. In any case government, overall, continued to grow. Perhaps Bob Cheeks would like to address this question. What would a government of his liking actually do? Abbolish lots of New Deal a post ND programs? Scrap FDIC, FDA, Dept. of Education etc?

          Dan, thanks.Report

  17. From Bob:

    “For me once you embrace the ‘foreign intervention’ postition you ain’t a conservative, your a RINO, neocon, movement, statist Republican.
    It’s not Conservatism that’s in the crapper it’s the GOP, because of the RINO, Neocon,movement, statist Republicans.”

    So I could be a by-the-book conservative on every other issue, but if I was, say, in favor of invading Iraq, then I am no longer a conservative? Are we looking for 100% purity here? Has that what conservatism has come to?

    It keeps coming back to the stupidity of labeling people verses positions. We have these very long, very unnecessary battles where we challenge someone’s self-labeling because they hold one or two contrary opinions, even though they stand with us 80% of the time. If we allowed people the fluidity of labeling their positions rather than themselves, we would probably have a much more productive dialogue. It would sort of be like a parlimentary system with various coalitions forming to deal with certain issues.Report

  18. mike farmer says:

    “What would a government of his liking actually do? Abbolish lots of New Deal a post ND programs? Scrap FDIC, FDA, Dept. of Education etc?”

    Yes…yes…YES…YES!!! Damn, I need a cigarette.Report

  19. Bob says:

    [Too much invective for my own taste in the first edition of this post. Thanks to several Gentlemen who shall not be named for speaking reason to reaction. Thus the (unprecedented) edit.]

    1. I thought the usual practice was to strike through the offending words.
    2. When you say “several Gentlemen” do you mean your “Brothers?” The people listed as “The Gentelmen?”
    3. Your edit is shame full.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Bob says:

      1. Too many words to strike through.
      2. Was too hot-headed a post and asked for some feedback and received it from specifically one Gentlemen who will not be named.
      3. Dude, it’s a blog. Some people just delete posts when they are not happy with them. Some people are purists and never do. Sometimes I can be reactionary and I find my own town shameful, and this time I cut the post in half because, yeah, I was not happy with the level I took it to. I figured at that point there would be those happy and those upset with the decision, but hey, again, like I said – it’s just a blog. Maybe the decision to edit was wrong, maybe the decision to post was wrong – I don’t know. But again, this was a decision to edit based on the tone of the post, which went beyond where I like to take things and which was fueled by someone other than the target of the post to begin with…Report

  20. matoko_chan says:

    I would appreciate an answer to my question, E.D. …….
    Exactly what is there in conservatism anymore that is worthy of preservation?Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to matoko_chan says:

      Do you see how that sort of question is absolutely meaningless at its core? There will always be some form of conservatism just as there will always be some form of liberalism. That is simply how society works. And the two act as checks on one another. Conservatism should operate as an ideology of restraint and good order. Conservatives should be distrustful of institutions – both economic and government in nature. Conservatism has a great deal to offer a nation prone to excess, exceptionalism, etc. Conservatives, if they could ever get over their deep hatred of all things “government” could, by their very nature, be excellent stewards of the state. Realism is natural in conservatism, and that is one of its best traits.Report

      • In which I agree, sort of, with Matoko

        But why must philosophical conservatism exist as a political coalition unto itself under the name “conservative”? Why can’t it be just a general resistance to radicalism within each coalition? The natural opposite of philosophical conservatism isn’t liberalism – it’s radicalism. Philosophical conservatism need not be an ideology unto itself – in fact, it doesn’t really make for a viable independent ideology in the long run because it’s characterized by resistance to change of the status quo; as long as the status quo is itself changing, however subtly, philosophical conservatism must itself change its ideological preferences. In order to have a long-term political platform, then, conservatism has to attach itself to ideologies that have some sort of ultimate social goal in mind but that are trying to resist a set of changes that they think will take them away from that goal – hence modern conservatism’s alliance with libertarianism, so-called “defense conservatism” and the Religious Right.

        I’m less convinced than I was a few months ago that modern “movement conservatism” is on the verge of collapse if it doesn’t undergo major changes, but I still think that it’s living on borrowed time and at least one of its so-called ‘legs’ is ultimately going to break off, leading to a significantly different political Right than currently exists. But I see no reason why the remaining elements will necessarily need philosophical conservatism as their raison d’etre if they wish to survive.Report

  21. Koz says:

    It’s the hackery, stupid.

    I haven’t been in the middle of this, so I’ll just write a brief word here. Daniel Larison, for all he frustates me, is an exceptional talent. I’m a little warmer towards Rod Dreher than I used to be, largely because I can see him a little more impressionistically than I used to, and therefore I don’t take any particular thing he says very seriously. But so much of late-Bush/post-Bush dissident conservatism is utterly hacktacular.

    That, and the fact that so many of the dissident conservatives seem to be impervious to any kind of loyalty tends to induce distaste and disdain from a male reading audience.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Koz says:

      Why is loyalty important?

      It strikes me as a handmaiden to the virtues rather than a virtue in and of itself.Report

      • Koz in reply to Jaybird says:

        It’s not necessarily about the Aristotelian value of loyalty as a virtue, it’s simpler than that.

        Disloyalty is perceived (especially by men) as weakness, and weakness is aesthetically disdained by men (again, especially the weakness of other men). It doesn’t even have to be spoken of directly, but I think this is underlying some of the hostility toward dissident conservatives.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Koz says:

          Loyalty to an *IDEAL* is great.

          Loyalty to a dude? After you find out that the dude was a right bastard (that is to say, someone who, himself, was not particularly loyal to any given ideal)? That becomes a vice in and of itself.Report

          • Koz in reply to Jaybird says:

            I don’t quite buy this train of thought, but more than that it’s really besides the point. And that is just what I said before. Loyalty has aesthetic consequences just as much as moral ones.

            And in that sense, you have it mostly backwards. Loyalty to an ideal may or may not be perceptible. Loyalty to friends, family, or tribe of some sort is obvious to everybody.Report

  22. matoko_chan says:

    E.D. You are restating what I said about the biological persistance of affilition in populations. I meant, what is it about this instantiation of conservatism, ie the GOP, that is worth preserving?
    Why shouldn’t it go extinct like the Whigs, and the core memes respawn in a different conservative vector?Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to matoko_chan says:

      But matoko you asked about conservatism, not the GOP.Report

      • matoko_chan in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        Ahh…but you should have read my intentionalism and signalling from the comparison to the Whigs. I was talking about the current instantiation of conservatism.
        Let me craft analogy for you…
        Do you know vamphyres?
        They can’t come into your house unless they are invited. But once they are in, they are extremely hard to get rid of.
        After a while, everyone in the house has to become a vamphyre, and the vamphyres begin to think they own the house. The only remedy is to run the vamphyres down and stake them in the heart. Conor is trying to this.
        But I think the vamphyrization of the GOP is too extensive.
        Your only viable strategy is to burn down the house.
        I think the House of Vamphyres is already on fire.
        Let it burn.Report