Rewriting the conservative narrative

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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39 Responses

  1. Sam M says:

    Right now, it appears that we have two political “movements.” We’ll call one consefvatism, one liberalism. Everyone seems to agree that the former is a basket case, the latter is a shrewd coalition of people who get elected and get things done. So instead of dreaming up ways to make the one coalition work, why not just take a look and see how the shrewd people treat THEIR bombastic mouthpieces.

    Who are they? Maybe Michael Moore? The people at KOS and and various other outlets? Bill Ayers? Van Jordan? Al Sharpton? International ANSWER?

    How did the Left treat these various folks? If political victory is what the Right has in mind, should it not simply do the same with the Limbaughs and Levins?Report

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

        Here is something interesting…..instead of pandering to insanity, call them out.
        An emergent movement of truth and responsibility in public discourse on the Right by Barrett Brown and Charles Johnson?Report

        • matoko_chan in reply to matoko_chan says:

          E.D. you can’t go around in pantswetting fear of the base.
          You have to reform the base.
          Tell that rascism is wrong, and if they cant get over it, the GOP is a forever rump.
          The base loves Beck and Rush because they say, no, you are not racists, you are just “concerned” about socialism/obama’s birth cert/perserving marriage/ LIFE!…….and n/e ways Obama and the dems are the REAL racists.
          GW is a WEC…..that means, my way or the highway essentially.
          That is how we landed in such straits….the evangelical mindset. Bush had some good advisors, like Powell, but being WEC means god-is-on-your-side and you don’t need any stinking expert advice.
          Also, too.
          Being means never having to say you’re sorry.Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Sam M says:

      Exactly, there is a reason it is hard to tar democrats with what the named people say. That reason is that we tend to think they are crazy too.Report

    • matoko_chan in reply to Sam M says:

      con-serf-a-tism, n, defn–
      the mistaken belief by the proletariat that keeping Wallstreet’s capitalist boot on their throats will one day result in a key to the club.

  2. Ian M. says:

    You might want to mix in giving anyone who isn’t Caucasian a reason to care. If conservatives cannot really grapple with white entitlement and racism as serious movement problems they just won’t come back into power.
    In all organizing, you appeal to self-interest. You have to make a specific case to any person of color that the social conservatives of the party will not exclude them.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Ian M. says:

      Actually I think it’s important to realize that many people of color are social conservatives. One thing social conservatives need to realize is that they have natural allies in Catholic immigrants and conservative black churches.Report

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

        Also – I would say racism is on the decline. Much of the outrage you see now is not in fact racism, but rather a reaction to a lot of unknowns. Lots of fear. Racism is certainly deeply present, but it’s also the sort of thing that changes slowly – over generations.Report

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

          Giant lie.
          Over half of the conservative base are birthers aka racists.
          Larison is a member of the League of the South, and so is RS McCain.
          Minorities have very highly sensibilities to stealthy or subliminated racism– their lives ofter depended on it.
          Racism to minorities is exactly like being black– it only takes one drop.
          What good does lying to yourselves about the base’s racism do for you?Report

          • Kyle in reply to matoko_chan says:

            Please continue with your anthropological explanations of how minorities work. It’s fascinating, really.

            Do they all have very high sensibilities? Is it a genetic adaptation or response to environmental stimuli?

            Do you know where some of these minorities may be so we can study them further?

            One drop = Black, does that mean the Racial Integrity Act is back? I thought we were trying not to use the one drop rule, oh kids today and your retro fads.Report

            • matoko_chan in reply to Kyle says:

              You don’t need to convince meh you aren’t RELLY racists– convince them.
              97% blacks voted for Obama
              67% youth voted for Obama
              68% hispanic voted for ObamaReport

      • Ian M. in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        I almost put in a pre-emptive sentence about this retort. You could also mention the high levels of African-American and Latino military enlistment.
        Sure, but you have to make the case specifically because recently politically right social conservatives have enabled and cheered on racism. Regardless, pro-business policies (specifically lowering taxes and eliminating services) disproportionately hurt people of color. Organizing is about self-interest and I don’t think the 8 point plan will convince anyone who isn’t white. The conservative movement seems decidedly uninterested in directly addressing racism and inequality, perhaps hoping that a truly free market will settle all that stuff out. Perhaps it will, but you will need Latino and African-American voters for votes before you can try these policies and the economic self-interest just isn’t there.Report

        • E.D. Kain in reply to Ian M. says:

          This is still operating under the assumption that in fact more services, more money thrown at the problem, higher welfare etc. will be good for minorities. That may be intuitive, but it’s hardly grounded in unfalsifiable fact. Go see big government in action on the Navajo Reservation. All the services and welfare government can buy.

          No, throwing money at the problem is the easy answer that Democrats promise, but which is proven time and again to be only a temporary fix, or worse an extension of the underlying problems.

          I would agree that changing the tune on immigration would be a good move, though it’s likely to be very unpopular for some time to come.Report

          • Ian M. in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            I’m trying to be sincere here. Reread what you just said and imagine saying this to an African-American. It doesn’t sell. Your response is too fluffy – it will be better after this little bit of pain? That will convince someone? This seems more like your self-interest than your audience’s self interest.
            I’m perfectly fine to let you try this, because I don’t share your policy goals. But this response is more interested in winning an intellectual sparring match than in moving people towards your goal. This is why conservatives keep getting beaten by Obama – they don’t get organizing.Report

            • Jay Daniel in reply to Ian M. says:

              I wish this discussion was a front page post. I side with E.D. on the policy substance, but it is clear that Ian M. has a practical political point. Maybe the answer — when it comes down to it — is that minorities are not fiscal conservatives, and they do not identify at all with the libertarian component of the libertarian-conservative “fusion.”

              This argument has played out so many times, and it’s exasperating because it always results in a stalemate. Conservative reformer X says, minorities should be conservatives because of A and B social issues. Minority Spokesperson Y says, ok, maybe so, but fiscal policy C hurts my race/ethnic group, and also, conservatives are perceived as racist.

              Ian’s summary seems correct, although I recoil at the explicit tribalism of it. My only substantive contribution is to ask a question: I wonder if the recent perceived increase in racial antagonism on the part of conservatives is a result of frustration with the reality that Ian describes; i.e., have conservatives given up trying to appeal to minorities because it’s an impossible task given the issues of group identity and solidarity among minorities in the U.S.? The primary issues do not seem to be issues related to how conservative policy positions would affect an individual minority, and conservatives could never craft a policy that would actually lure whole minority groups away from the Democratic Party. So why bother? (ancillary question: is this a good situation for minorities to be in?)Report

              • Ian M. in reply to Jay Daniel says:

                When I talk about recent racism, I specifically mean Nixon’s “Southern strategy” to capture socially conservative white Southern voters turned off from the Democratic Party by civil rights legislation. The Republican Party spent 40 years building up a majority by pitching to white racial fear. Now they are stuck with the results – an amazingly white demographic in an increasingly non-white nation. This would be an example of explicit tribalism that I recoil from. Expect two generations for any sort of rollback of opinions – longer depending on how New Orleans fares.
                Jay – my pragmatism comes from labor organizing. It’s easy to get like-minded people in a room agreeing someone is bad. It is hard to get them to spend their free time advocating for a political goal.Report

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

            I think this is about right, though, I think the conservatives of today got screwed by their predecessors who abetted government policies and cultural conventions that actively hurt minority communities.

            The Democrats have had decades of experience with crafting government solutions to address the inequalities created and Republicans can’t really find adequate solutions within their ideological framework and are loathe to adopt the Democrats’

            So what we have now is a sizeable chunk of minorities who are Harold Ford Jr. Democrats. Democrats who are socially conservative and fiscally liberal-ish. So while they can agree with R’s that gay marriage is icky, R’s aren’t going to back programs that help make college more affordable for their kids.

            Frankly, I don’t think it’s an arrangement that’s particularly good for anyone involved.Report

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

        I think it’s important to realize that many people of color are social conservatives.
        sure, but they will NEVER for the WEC Party.Report

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

        E.D. Kain
        October 26th, 2009 at 1:25 pm

        Actually I think it’s important to realize that many people of color are social conservatives.

        Last I heard, that’d be ~2% of blacks, a minority of Asian-Americans, and a rapidly shrinking minority of Hispanics. True, it’s ‘many’, in the sense of millions(!) of people, but as a fraction of the population, it’s small and shrinking.Report

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

          You think 2% of black people are social conservatives? Did you miss the whole gay marriage battle in California? Do you know where many blacks stand on issues such as gay marriage? I’m not judging people in widely racial terms here, either. Blacks and hispanics are often very religious and have socially conservative views.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    I imagine that an anti-neocon conservativism might get off the ground… but that would entail the social conservatives and the fiscal conservatives finding common ground.

    And the fiscal conservatives are most likely to have as a refrain something like “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” like they were the first people ever to stumble across that formulation. The fiscal conservatives will probably say something like “it’s our turn” because they (wrongly, as you point out) believe that the social conservatives are constantly catered to and the social conservatives will not likely see an upside to compromise because what they believe is Important (indeed, God has all sorts of rules and regulations involving their beliefs) while the fiscal conservatives only care about the things of this world.

    It’ll take a Reagan for these two groups to overcome their contempt for each other before they swallow their pride and agree that the democrats would be worse.Report

  4. So here is my question as gay man who is a conservative: where does that fit into the whole scheme of things? Is being gay or supporting gays be treated with respect (which is considered being socailly liberal) unable to be reconciled to conservatism?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Dennis Sanders says:

      The non-religious conservatives (fiscal conservatives, hawks, neocons, conservative libertarians) tend (TEND) to not give a crap about the whole homosexuality thing. It’s a lonely world, after all, and if two people can find each other… well, more power to them. Have some tax breaks.

      It’s the religious conservatives that are the problem, for the most part. Leviticus.

      Now, I hear you say, why can’t they just use those rules for themselves and be satisfied with the thoughts of you burning in hell for eternity? Why do they have to say that other folks need to live according to Levitical Law? And, like, they don’t even care about the other parts of Leviticus! They eat shrimp, they eat pork, they wear mixed fabrics, they have sex with the wife when she’s riding the cotton pony, but when Leviticus 20:13 comes up they shrug and say “hey, God said this and we need to follow what God says”? WHAT THE HELL!!!

      And to that I have to say that I don’t disagree with a thing you’ve said.

      But, for what it’s worth, there *ARE* pockets of conservativism out there that take the attitude that your business is your business and it ain’t none of theirs.Report

      • Barry in reply to Jaybird says:

        Jim Henley ( once coined a beautiful saying:
        ‘they have people for that’. He meant that, in a political coalition, things are divied up between factions. For example, if you’re a conservative and oppose a policy of imperial expansion and continual war, tough luck – foreign policy was largely handed over to the neocons.

        Similarly, if you have a libertarian social attitude – well, the social conservatives will have far more say than the social libertarians (who got lower corporate taxes and regulations, and so should be satisfied).Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Barry says:

          One would hope that theories other than those of the neocons will get a fair hearing in the future.

          I mean, sure. The neocons will point out that we didn’t have enough willpower and they didn’t get enough funding and management had too much wastefraudandabuse… but, surely, non-neocon theories will get more face time… right?Report

    • This has been one of my most pressing issues, actually. And yes, I think it can be reconciled. I look to the British as a model, to some degree. I think especially the younger generation – even the younger evangelicals – will come around to being more supportive of gay rights, gay marriage, etc. It’s the momentum, and it needs to be the momentum. My strategy would be to offer trade-offs. To push the pro-life agenda while backing down on gay rights issues. In other words, make social conservatism more focused on life issues, and take the focus away from gay rights issues so that those issues will pass in favor of gay rights.Report

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

        If only the <pro-life agenda you’d like conservatives to push as an alternative wedge issue to gay rights didn’t involve telling more than half the population what they should do with their lives.

        How about a pro-life agenda about things like, well, not dropping bombs on kids in foreign lands? Pro-life stuff like that?Report

    • richard in reply to Dennis Sanders says:

      Dennis that makes you a rare bird. As someone who is catholic and conservative let me say this. first I don’t think of being gay as a conservative issue I don’t see what someone’s sexual orientation has to do with limited government and fiscal responsibility. I consider it to be more of a religious one. I believe everyone deserves to be treated with respect. As a catholic I believe everyone was created in the image and likeness of God. I received ten years of Catholic education, two with the sisters, eight with the Jesuits. I part with the church on two things: Their treatment of women with respect to canon law and their role within the church, and the theological view that homosexuality is a sin. I cannot reconcile these teachings with what I perceive to be Christ’s teachings on love and acceptance. If part of your question involves the issue of gay marriage and i’m assuming it does then here is where I must stand with the church that marriage is between a man and a woman. There was a recent thread on Althouse a while ago concerning Aldous Huxley’s last words:”Let us be kinder to one another”. Pretty simple advice no matter where one stands on the political spectrum.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to richard says:

        Richard, how is marriage not a First Amendment issue?

        I mean, I am 100% down with the Pope saying “marriage is between a man and a woman” and Catholic Churches everywhere denying Marriage (real marriage, anyway) to gay people. That’s what the Pope is for, after all.

        But why can’t the Unitarians and their Ministers offer gay marriage ceremonies to any two folks who show up?

        How is marriage *NOT* a First Amendment issue?Report

  5. Tamis says:

    Until conservatives turn their backs on the ‘strongman’ conservatism of Cheney and Bush, push for rule of law, and embrace investigations and trials of the Constitutional violatons of the Bush/Cheney years, many of us will never touch Conservatism. Conservatism has been deeply tainted by the lawless and tyranny-loving Cheneyites. Many conservatives have been corrupted into embracing and now defending policies that are typical of a tyrannical strongman rather than a free republic. What American in their right mind would ally with such people?

    You do not face a task of rebuilding your movement. Rather, you face a cleansing of Augean proportions, one which few of you seem willing to acknowledge.Report

  6. As I’ve said before- good luck with this. Not only as a former Republican, but as someone who believes in the value of a competitive two party system, I really do hope dissidents make some inroads. But, as alluded to above, I think you’re going to need some sort of transformational leader to do it. You need someone as big, if not bigger than, the nutbars on Fox and talk radio, which means someone who already has some sort of following that will provide a base. I don’t see that person out there, just as much as I don’t see the current base being willing to listen to anyone here or Rod or Conor or Frum.

    Also, with respect to people of color… the last Republican that seemed to have any traction in those communities was Jack Kemp. I think you’ll be hard pressed to find someone of his stature in what is largely a rump party based in Dixie. While I do believe that racism is on the decline in the US overall, my years spent in Atlanta made me realize just how much racism remains.Report

    • Kyle in reply to Justin_Anderson says:

      Interesting Jack Kemp moment, I was in the House gallery 2 days before his funeral when the House passed H. Res. 401 and the bipartisan/multi-racial honoring of him seemed impressively sincere.

      Democrats and Republicans alike spoke of his outreach/work for the poor and minority communities.Report

  7. matoko_chan says:

    And like Pope Benedict and the Anglicans, bring the dissidents back into the loving arms of the larger movement.
    Surely even E.D. is not this clueless.
    The Bad Shepherd just stole all the Anglicans that were anti-OPENLY-gay clergy or anti-female clergy.
    The pure distillate of cynicism and heartless soulless pragmatism.
    So Long and thanks for all the priests.
    Which is not to say you shouldn’t do something similar if you can pull it off.

  8. Martin says:

    My type of Republican, yea, back when center-left liberal republicans were an important staple of the party.