conservatives as self-parodies

This interview with Andy Schlafly [below] of conservapedia.com is hard to watch.  It’s almost embarrassing.  I think Colbert is at his best for most of the exchange, and the zinger about creating his own reality is marvelous.  Schlafly really is the ultimate self-parodic conservative, and I’m not just saying that because he has one of the most annoying laughs in the history of television.  He says, and I shit you not, that most of Jesus’ parables were lessons in free market economics. I really am spoiled reading the conservative writers that I do read at the Scene and the Porch and Pomocon and the other little pockets of intellectual conservatism remaining.

But really.  Good grief.  I’ve heard of conservapedia but I never realized how utterly inane the project really was.  Of all the silly things on the internet, this one is beginning to take shape as a future hall-of-famer. That’s the magnificent thing about the internet – there’s always room for one more elegant disaster.

Let’s see – here’s the opening paragraph in the entry on evolution:

The theory of evolution is a naturalistic theory of the history of life on earth (this refers to the theory of evolution which employs methodological naturalism and is taught in schools and universities). Merriam-Webster’s dictionary gives the following definition of evolution: “a theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other preexisting types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modifications in successive generations.”[2] Currently, there are several theories of evolution. Since World War II a majority of the most prominent and vocal defenders of the evolutionary position which employs methodological naturalism have been atheists.[3]

As far as public support for the evolutionary viewpoint, an article by CBS News begins with the observation that, “Americans do not believe that humans evolved, and the vast majority says that even if they evolved, God guided the process. Just 13 percent say that God was not involved.”[4] A 2005 poll by the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Social and Religious Research found that 60% of American medical doctors reject Darwinism, stating that they do not believe humans evolved through natural processes alone.[5] Thirty-eight percent of the American medical doctors polled agreed with the statement that “Humans evolved naturally with no supernatural involvement.” [6] The study also reported that 1/3 of all medical doctors favor the theory of intelligent design over evolution.[7] In addition, there is evidence to suggest that the evolutionary position is gradually losing public support in the United States.[8] The prestigious science journal Science reported the following in 2006 concerning the United States: “The percentage of people in the country who accept the idea of evolution has declined from 45 in 1985 to 40 in 2005. Meanwhile the fraction of Americans unsure about evolution has soared from 7 per cent in 1985 to 21 per cent last year.”

Got that? Almost no information about the small-t “theory of evolution” but a CBS News article about American public opinion and the next bit which I didn’t excerpt is some Intelligent Design stuff.

Or how about this entirely “factual” opener on Barack Hussein Obama:

Barack Hussein Obama II aka Barry Soetoro[1] (allegedly[2][3][4][5][6] born in Honolulu Aug. 4, 1961) is the 44th President of the United States, and previously served as a first-term Democratic Senator from Illinois (2005-2008). Obama and his running mate Senator Joseph Biden won the presidential election[7] after 23 months of campaigning that spent over $700 million,[8] much of it raised from undisclosed or fraudulent donors.[9] Obama spent far more per vote than McCain did: Obama spent $7.39 per vote, while McCain spent only $5.78 per vote.[10]

Seriously people, you can’t make this stuff up.  Now go check out the one on homosexuality if you can stomach it.

~

Now maybe this is old ground I’m covering. I may have been out sick that day when everyone was all a-flutter over Conservapedia and its many entertaining … twists. It just strikes me as a remarkable example of how absurd the conservative movement really has become. (There are so many examples but this brings them all under one roof.)

….or has it always been this way?  Have the intellectual pockets of conservatism always been just that – merely pockets?

Watching Schlafly try to reconcile free markets and Christianity is just sad. It’s exactly why thoughtful proponents of free markets run into such jaded and hostile reactions from people on the other side of the fence. I think Christianity and free markets are reconcilable but only with the addition of some form of safety-net-state. The Christian Democrats understand this concept over in Europe.  Americans like Schlafly think Jesus was the first coming of Milton Friedman.

It just makes me throw my hands up in the air. I try too hard to retain the word “conservative” – to hold on to some other sense of its meaning, some other definition that the American right has no hold over. I have great admiration for the paleocons, but I would never really fit in even with that idiosyncratic bunch. I’ve tried to come to terms with the idea that the movement can be changed for the better but I’m beginning to doubt myself even there. The invention of the modern Tea Party only reveals how deep the fraud runs.

In the end I’m just at a loss. I see less and less hope for the American right however much they bellow and bluster to the contrary. I don’t even mean this in terms of electoral hope. I mean this in terms of salvation.

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109 thoughts on “conservatives as self-parodies

  1. Rationalwiki keeps tabs on the insanity going on in a section called What Is Going On at Conservapedia? – users literally put entries just minutes after something is done or said on the site. It also has many, many articles debunking most, if not all, of Conservapedia’s claims of conservatism.

    One point in particular, Andy supports the British National Party (BNP), which is an openly racist organization.

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  2. Andy Schlafly joins Jonah Goldberg, John Podhoretz, and Bill Kristol as examples of the affirmative action of nepotism. None of these people would have gotten past 3rd tier blogging, were it not for their family names.

    Glenn Greenwald nailed these people to the wall with his usual acid clarity:
    “They’re the people who hate affirmative action because of how “unfair” and “un-meritocratic” it is, but who thrive on legacy admissions to college and have their moms and dads get them jobs and make their careers.”

    And the rest of your post captures my thoughts exactly- the contemporary “conservative” movement has abandoned the most basic premises of conservatism, the faithful adherence to reason and empirical evidence, and instead substitutes theory and dogma.
    It is as if the Social Conservatives not only captured the political territory of morality, but overwhelmed the entire movement with faith-based, magical thinking; that supply side will forever and always be the miracle cure for any economic problem, that any political solution that utilizes the market is unassailable, regardless of its outcome; the fact that it is market based is proof of its superiority.

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    • I think simplifying it down to “social conservatives” is wrong. It’s not entirely wrong, but it misses something. There’s more to the picture. There’s the whole neocon element. There’s some intangible hybrid I’ve been hunting for some time now and can’t quite put my finger on….

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      • If I may, as a liberal?

        We know from the history of the neocons that many of the leading lights were ex-leftists of a very Bolshevik tendency. They are folks who fell into the right wing as a result of Democratic rejection of their ideas of foreign policy, and it’s fair to say that they had little, if anything to say about domestic policy.

        The only reason they became something, to my mind, is because they had the ears of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and managed to get appointed into the security apparatus of the US. Had Wolfowitz, Perle, et al. never made it into the inner circle, I doubt we’d be even talking about them at all, let alone as a ‘force’ in conservatism.

        If I had to blame anything for their rise, I’d say it was the virtual abdication of foreign policy by the other actors in the Republican Party. They just filled the vacuum. Regardless, I don’t see them holding on to any power in a new Republican administration anytime this generation.

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      • I think I know what you mean. The Social Conservatives believe in their magical thinking, but there’s another element of the movement, derived from its business and foreign policy wings, which believes that transparency is dangerous and that deception is appropriate to prevent public disclosure of uncomfortable facts. This is the Nixon/Cheney paranoia school of conservatism.

        These two groups, the Social Conservatives and the paranoids, the believers and the bullshitter’s, have long been the basic building blocks of conservatism. But now I think you are seeing a combination of the two — what you call a hybrid. These are folks (G.W. Bush may have been one) who both truly believe the myths and simultaneously believe that it is important to lie in order to propogate and protect the myths.

        Maybe these people have existed all along, but it seems like their numbers are growing.

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  3. It’s the culture war stuff. It was a side dish during Goldwater’s run, and Nixon made it conservatism’s main course. And the right has gorged itself to death ever since.

    Look, when you have a party that 75% approved of George W. Bush after Iraq, after Afghanistan started to go sour, after Katrina and after the financial collapse, it’s reasonable to ask what they expect out of their leaders. And the answer is simple: it’s nothing. They don’t really care what the GOP does or doesn’t do–if they shrink government, very well. If they grow it, as Bush did, so be it. But the right sees elections not as an opportunity to discuss issues but rather to prove their primacy in the culture war. That’s all they want, to win in order to prove that their way of life is ascendant. And until the culture within the right changes, they’re going to be a hopeless cause. In other words, if you’re a reformist conservative, you have to be rooting for the right to lose the culture war.

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  4. As hilarious as the actual entries are, the behind-the-scenes discussion about the entries is a scream. All I knew of Andy Schlafly was from his repeated trips to the woodshed from apparently intellectually honest conservative editors of the site over things like objectivity, properly sourcing information and not using logical fallacies. This clip is priceless.

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          • Well, liberals have every reason to try and make the association as close as possible. But claiming conservapedia represents mainstream conservatism seems a little ridiculous to me. I mean, I’m sure Douthat, Salaam, Brooks, Kristol, Lowry, Goldberg and Frum collaborate closely on all of the entries, with Larison as a special consultant on difficult topics like evolution….or maybe it’s little fringish. Your call.

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            • I think Douthat and Salaam are very reasonable guys, but still fairly minor players on the right. Kristol is a hack. Frum is also sensible, and largely tossed out as a RINO. And Larison is the fringe (although a GOOD fringe) not part of the mainstream.

              The mainstream is Powerline and Right Wing News.

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              • Saying Douhat, Salaam adn their friends are the mainstream of of the growing part of the conservative movement is like saying that Bart Stupak represents the liberals and deomcrats position on abortion. Yeah they are a part of the group but they ain’t calling the shots.

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              • Well, you can define your mainstream as you want. But I don’t see either Kristol (I agree: hack) or the Powerline guys promoting something as self-evidently ridiculous as Conservapedia. I’m not really that familiar with Powerline, except for their coverage of the Minnesota Senate stuff, and I’ve never heard of Right Wing News – maybe they would be fans of Conservapedia. But a close cousin of weak-manning is declaring a particular group of crazy people is the ‘vanguard’ of a movement. Again, what mainstream Republicans would promote Conservapedia? And since I can’t think of any – maybe you can name one, I don’t know – how is it the vanguard of the movement?

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                • John,

                  I think there are two mainstreams. I’ve written about this before. There are coalitions doing battle for the heart and soul of the party. This post is my exasperated attempt to say that the faction that I think is wrong, wrong, wrong, is the one that is coming out on top and that the picture looks grim. The other mainstream is dwindling and is losing the war. The purge is heating up. The Limbaugh/Conservapedia/Beckian faction is winning the war. They have Fox News etc. etc. They will win this stage of the fight and then maybe, maybe, maybe something better will come of it and the other mainstream can have a shot.

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                  • While it has an intuitvie appeal (everyone likes neat categories), I think your framework is several degrees to simplistic. I don’t think there are two mainstreams as much as a spectrum of polemical activity. Some of the polemicists are very bad on both sides (9.11 truthers/trig truthers, call your office), and depending on their antecedent political commitments, most people enjoy painting one side or the other as over-run by crazy people.

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                    • I think you misunderstand me. There are two mainstreams within the right itself. There are obviously many more diverse groups within the right, and even a good deal of overlap between the right and left, but really there is a more moderate right and more red-meat right and at the moment I think the red-meaters are winning the internal war. Obviously then there is also the mainstream left (which is likely full of similar divisions) and then more fringe elements on the left, and so forth.

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                    • I should add, I don’t really expect agreement on this point. For obvious reasons, no one can nail down with ironclad certainty who comprises the vanguard of a movement. And most voters are rational enough not to pay much attention in any case. That’s why polemicists on both sides earn a good living describing their fellow Americans as dangerous crazies.

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                    • This comment is to the 1:38 comment. Well, yeah, there are more moderate and less moderate conservatives. Where we disagree is that I don’t think you can necessarily identify the red meat base with the Conservapedia fringe. But I could be wrong. You said Conservapedia represented the leaders of the movement (vanguard); I’m not seeing it.

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              • Well, I just did some googling on Conservapedia. I ran searches on Powerline and Right Wing news for Conservapedia. No hits. I did run across this quote from Rod Dreher, though, which was funny:

                “It’s like what you’d get if you crossed the Jesus Seminar with the College Republican chapter at a rural institution of Bible learnin’.”

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              • This is the problem I have sometimes with my fellow dissidents on the right: we get to easily discouraged and a bit intimidated at what passes as “mainstream conservatism.”

                I think we too easily dismiss the Frums and Douthat’s of the world because they are seen as “bit players” or as “RINOs” by the larger movement. We focus on the big boys and tend to ignore the “green shoots” that I believe are the future of American conservatism.

                FrumForum may never be as big as Red State, but it does have a following and is a place for thinking conservatives to go and confer on the issues. It has given me hope to read people like Frum and Douthat, Brooks, et al. because they show that the tea parties and the like are not the end all and be all of conservatism.

                I am reminded of the quote attributed to Ghandi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

                True change never comes from the mainstream. It comes from the margins.

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  5. Don’t despair E.D. Have you ever read some of the literature the left put out in the 80’s? Fruitcakes abounded, they just didn’t have a medium to disperse it. Surely the republicans specifically and the conservatives in general will recover from this. I’m guessing a couple disastrous electoral cycles could burn this intellectual scrub brush back down so the red pine saplings can grow tall from the ashes. Or I hope so at least, for the countries sake.

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  6. The entry on Jesus begins thus:

    “Jesus Christ is the person who changed the world forever with teachings of love and faith, using logical parables like the Prodigal Son that flow from the existence of God.”

    Is it ironic that Conservapedia’s introduction to Jesus, its first thought about him, if you will, is a celebratory statement that he brought about fundamental, global change?

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  7. Not to be mean or anything but conservapedia style argument and thinking is what I expect from conservatives I encounter in real life.

    The impression I get is that as a group the conservative movement has no use for facts or reason. Thus I vote for liberal democrats.

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  8. I like the idea that they are “blessed with pageviews.” Makes you think twice about following those links, no? He’s certainly right about their having “no liberal bias.” (It’s not the bias that’s the problem, it’s the direction in which it leans.) “No gossip” is pretty rich, too. Gossip like, for example, the rumor that Obama was born in Hawaii.

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  9. Schlafly firmly believes there was no true humor before Christ.

    Aristophanes and all that was mere base slapstick. Humor didn’t come about until a guy got nailed to a plank.

    No, I don’t understand the logic.

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  10. “This interview with Andy Schlafly [below] of conservapedia.com is hard to watch. It’s almost embarrassing.”

    NO! It “is” be embarrassing but Andy is to fucking stupid to have a clue. God help this country.

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  11. By the way, my favorite unbiased entry, under the topic Glen Beck:

    “Liberal activism groups attempted to silence Beck by pushing his advertisers to abandon his program, after he courageously pointed out Barack Obama’s racism against white people and Obama’s hatred of all white culture.”

    It’s nice that nutters who don’t want their opinions challenged have a place to call home.

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    • After watching the colbert bit I went to Conservapedia and edited Beck’s page to add “Glenn Beck raped and killed a girl in 1990” a briefly popular internet meme.
      It lasted about 2 minutes then I got this:You do not have permission to edit this page, for the following reason:

      Your user name or IP address has been blocked.
      The block was made by Karajou. The reason given is Moronic vandalism: And you are just another lying liberal…which proves our point..

      Start of block: 23:47, 10 December 2009
      Expiry of block: infinite
      Intended blockee: Pizzajohn
      You can contact Karajou or another administrator to discuss the block. You cannot use the ‘e-mail this user’ feature unless a valid e-mail address is specified in your account preferences and you have not been blocked from using it. Your current IP address is 68.992.2#1.103, and the block ID is #61255.
      Sorry for the bad humor but as a registered Republican since 1980 I gave up on this group long ago. I’m soured on the whole thing.

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  12. I’ve never understood websites like Conservapedia or Right Wing News. If there’s a problem in the media or in Wikipedia with a supposed liberal bias, then why is the answer to that bias creating something that is even more ridiculously and obviously biased? Maybe I’m missing something.

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  13. Does anybody else think this guy is a deeply undercover troll? I mean, there’s motive as this gig gets him fame and recognition, and the views are just too perfectly ironic. It’s like his biases manifest themselves in the most humorous ways possible. It’s just too good to be true.

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  14. This is why I have never been able to even consider voting for a Republican. I’m 30, and during my lifetime, there has been a strong strain of THIS in the G.O.P. These people are alarming. If the G.O.P. can cut themselves off from the Cranks and Kooks and get to some kind of normal, adult politics, then we’ll talk.

    As has been pointed out, the roots of this go back a ways. The crazy has really taken over during the past decade, but the roots of the crazy can be seen in Nixon and Reagan. No matter how incompetent or pathetic the Democratic party has been over the years, they’ve never had a serious strain of anything like this. Sure there are left wing nuts too, but they’re marginal yahoos. There’s never been a left wing Rush Limbaugh. Consider for a moment that Dick Cheney used to go on Rush’s show. Isn’t that alarming? Even if we didn’t know any other dirt on Cheney, shouldn’t that be enough to disqualify him for his job? Consider Karl Rove. Is there a Democratic version of Karl Rove? Is it feasable to imagine a Democratic administration giving a liberal Karl Rove the kind of power that he had?

    I don’t know why anything this guy says should be surprising. This cancer has been a part of the right for decades.

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        • “Did Bush Know About the 9/11 Attacks in Advance?”

          I guess people can find ambiguity whereever it suits them, but the question above seems pretty clear to me. It asks whether he knew ‘about the 9/11 attacks in advance,’ and 35% of respondents said ‘yes’. Notice it asks whether he ‘knew’, not whether there was intelligence out there suggesting some sort of attack could come.

          Were Jeremiah Wright’s theories about the CIA and AIDS similarly ambiguous? Or is it possible that there are crazies on the left also?

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          • Crazies on the left exist. But they don’t run the Democratic party. Most wouldn’t even be in the Democratic party, regarding it as too conservative.

            The issue with the Republicans isn’t that the party includes crazies. The issue is that the crazies have been in the drivers’ seat since 1980 at the latest, and they’ve been getting continually worse.

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      • I know no such thing.

        Link to the poll. I don’t buy it. I CAN link to polls that show that there is an alarming percentage of Republicans who don’t think Barack Obama is a citizen. Hell, Andrew Sullivan’s made a sport of linking to those polls. They are an embarrassment.

        Jeremiah Wright and his ilk are not an important part of the National Democratic party. If you review my post, you’ll see that I DO in fact mention that there are crazies on the left. I know good and well that that is the case. I’m from Georgia, where Cynthia McKinney is from. She’s a nutbag.

        But the crazies aren’t central to the political coalition that gets Democrats elected in the way that conservative crazies are central to the political coalition that gets Republicans elected. Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer, and Jerry Fallwell have been quite important to the Republican party (although they’ve fallen out somewhat in recent years). They are much WORSE than Jerimiah Wright, if you ask me. And every election season the Republican nominee has to go down to Bob Jones University and make an appearance. There’s no comparison.

        Has anybody from the media right asked Sarah Palin to dissociate herself from her church, a place that performs exorcisms and supports Africa ministries that combat witchcraft? Do you know the actual, real human suffering that those ministries inflict on real people? Go read about it. Lots of influential media Liberals were offended by Jeremiah right. Go watch John Stewart’s piece about it (very funny).

        There have been numerous Republicans from Congress at Tea Party rallies. Have there been numerous Democrats from Congress at Truther rallies? There are prominent Republicans from Congress who’ve publicaly defended the “birthers.” Where there prominent Democrats from Congress who’ve defened the “truthers”?

        Here’s an interesting bit of conspiracy theory history: part of the core birther movement are the same people who were the truther movement. As these things radiate out they’ve become more liberal or conservative, but some of the core group of anti-government conspiracy nuts are same folks. (Alex Jones is the most famous and influential.) The difference is the the G.O.P. has really played ball with these people. Remember all the stuff about black helicopters when Clinton was President? For God’s sake, why do you think Kenneth Star was there in the first place? It wasn’t to investigate adultery.

        The G.O.P. exploits this kind of nonsense to keep “the base” riled up. I’m really not aware of the Democratic party doing the same thing. Yeah, I’m sure you can find irresponsible things coming out of the mouths of Democrats, but you can’t find the same kind of concentrated effort to exploit the crazies.

        Can you imagine a prominent Democrat saying the earth is 10,000 years old, the climate change isn’t happening, or that evolution is a conspiracy? There are Republicans in congress right now who claim that they believe those things. Show me beliefs that are popular among Democrats in positions of power or influence that are as crazy.

        Yeah, there are some crazies on the left. Since you are a conservative, they shouldn’t be your first priority. Since Jesus has come up here, I’ll just remind you of a little saying about a eyes, splinters, and beams.

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          • No, actually he doesn’t, and Obama did a pretty good job of explaining the whole thing in a speech that got lots and lots of attention that you probably didn’t take seriously.

            Come on, man. Remember? Eyes, splinters, beams? What about glass houses?

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              • That’s the one. I really don’t want to resort to the kind of silly cheap shot that you are using, but what the hey: “As a Republican, you’re probably unfamiliar with nuance or intellegence in politcal speech.” Ba da dump. (crickets) “Let’s Roll!”

                If you recall, Obama specifically explained what he disagreed with Wright about and why, but he acknowledged that some of the rhetoric Wright was spouting was a fact of life in the black community and he wasn’t ready to abandon him even though he disagreed with him. Just like he wasn’t ready to abandon his grandmother for saying racist things. As someone who grew up in a conservative white family and who lived in a predominantly black city in the South, I am identified immediately with what he meant. That speech was probably the best political speech from my lifetime.

                You’re free not to like it, but I suspect that you don’t actaully even care. I suspect you are just being a troll.

                What the hell though. . . .let’s keep going. . . if you recall, AFTER that speech Wright held a press conference where he doubled down on some of his more irresponsible claims. Then Obama did in fact sever ties with him. Sounds to me like a grown up handling a situation in a grown up way.

                Now its your turn to make another silly joke.

                Glass houses? Splinters?

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                • Oh, you think I’m a Republican? How charming.

                  Republicans can go do that thing that Larry Craig was doing in that airport to Hitler, as far as I’m concerned. They can do that thing that Ted Haggard paid to experience. They can make a first person point-of-view movie based on what happened to the nice ladies David Vitter paid for the time of and use that movie as an instructional video of what they need to reflexively do to themselves.

                  They can call it “Triumph of the Will”.

                  Now.

                  It seems to me that Obama remains part of Wright’s ilk.

                  And you can’t deny that any more than you can deny Obama’s grandmother.

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                  • (Of course, I mean the party leadership and politicians themselves, excepting Joel Hefley… private individuals who identify themselves as Republicans are fine people and some of them number among my best friends.)

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                  • I assumed you were a Republican because you are making a strange allegation about Barack Obama. Forgive me for making a leap.

                    Um. . . okay then. You are correct that I can’t deny that you think that, and I’m officially bored with this, so whatever. Before I quit though, I’d like to know exactly how it matters to Obama’s governance or to his political strategies that he used to go to Wright’s church. So far, I’d have a hard time finding the influence that black liberation theology is having on anything. But whatever. Knock yourself out. Ilk away.

                    I do owe you an apology though for assuming you were a Republican. That was low of me, and I’m sorry. Words can hurt. I’m glad you took it so well. I’d be mad as hell if you called ME a Republican.

                    “Triumph of the Will” is a win. I suppose my glass houses and splinters thing is a FAIL. Alas.

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                    • What strange allegation was I making? That the a reference to Obama’s pastor and his (the pastor’s) ilk would not encompass Obama?

                      Dude, if I went to the local Unitarian Church religiously and I gave a speech about how awesome my Unitarian Pastor was despite some of the stuff he says about Christopher Columbus and how I could not denounce him any more than I could denounce my own grandmother, I would expect to be considered part of my Unitarian Pastor’s ilk.

                      Even if I *DID* denounce him a couple of weeks after that.

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        • Hey, here’s the link. Apologies for not posting it before; it’s a fairly well known survey
          http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/bush_administration/22_believe_bush_knew_about_9_11_attacks_in_advance

          btw, I’m not a Republican either, and I understand your boredom with the conversation. I’ve seen the following argument play out too many times, though, and it strikes me as pretty lame:
          Statement 1: The party I don’t belong to is the party of crazy people.
          Response 1: Really, it seems like you’re party has its share.
          Statement 2: Well, yeah, but they’re all on the fringe of our party, but they’re the heart of the other party.
          Response 2: It depends on how you define ‘fringe’ and ‘heart,’ I guess. Confirmation bias works that way.
          Statement 3: Well, you’re just saying that because you are one of the other party.
          Response 3: No, I’m not.
          Statement 4: Well, I’m bored, and I’d like to get back to bashing the other party.
          Response 4: Have at it.

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          • Thanks for the link. This sounds vaguely familiar. But I am skeptical. This sounds like the kind of thing people say at cocktail parties. I don’t remember any prominent Democrats riding that train in the way that certain G.O.P. folks have milked the birther thing. There are so many contradictory things in those poll results that I’m not impressed. (57% of people have a favorable opinion of the C.I.A. while only 8% believe they are truthful? What the hell does that indicate anyway?) How strongly do people believe this those things?

            But whatever. Yawn. I know I started it, but yawn.

            As you said. This isn’t interesting anymore. I’ve said what I have to say. I stand by my assertion about the G.O.P. being the crazier party. It’s not a winnable argument though.

            Just to be clear, I’m not a “strong Democrat.” I am a strong “anti-Republican” though. Not anti-conservative, but certainly anti-Republican. I’m not particularly loyal or enthusiastic about the Dems, but they’ve always seemed like the party of grown ups. Sure there plenty of cranks and wierdos over there, but the cranks and weirdos don’t seem to have much sway. Democrats are often disappointing, but in predictable, unspectacular ways. Republicans, on the other hand, can be spectacularly un-serious and/or dangerous. Dick Cheney? Michele Bachman? Tom Delay? Sarah Palin? There just aren’t prominent Democrats that can compete with that level of crazy. If you dig around you can pull up plenty of dirt, but come on. I don’t worry about Democrats starting unnecessary wars or bankrupting the country. I do worry about the “deficits don’t matter/let’s roll” version of the G.O.P. doing things like that.

            I am enthusiastic and pleased with Obama. He seems like the most serious prominent American politician that’s come along during my adult life. I don’t know if he’ll manage to navigate all the obstacles that could mess him up, but his decisions always seem to be the least bad alternative (sadly, that’s the standard these days). I’m a regular Andrew Sullivan reader, and his enthusiastic praise of Obama is pretty much like mine, only more informed. I like him as much as AS, and for the same reasons. AS argues that Obama is great because he’s a real conservative (unlike the populist rabble that the G.O.P. depends upon), and I’ll go along. A president could be great because he was an effective liberal (Roosevelt?), but that’s not what’s great about Obama.

            What the hell am I talking about? That’s enough for today.

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            • I like Obama as a person (as far as one can judge that from afar). As a politician, I’m really, really not sure.

              This: “I don’t worry about Democrats…bankrupting the country” struck me as more than a little odd, if only because the Democrats are signing the country up for several orders of magnitude larger than the Bush-era deficits. It seems like concern-trolling to say you’re terrified of Republicans bankrupting the country, particularly given the fact that international military spending ebbs and flows, whereas entitlement spending creates a structural problem. I’m not saying, of course, that I prefer the uses to which Republicans have put that money internationally as opposed to expanding access to health care; just that it doesn’t make much sense fiscally to care about one when the other is a much larger problem in the short and long term.

              As to AS, I count him among the crazies. His obsessiveness is part of his charm to some people, but to me the Birthers and Trig Truther(s) deserve each other.

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              • Not concern trolling. Serious. Despite their rhetoric, Republican administrations are much worse from a fiscal conservative point of view than Democratic ones. Here are a couple of links. I haven’t read these carefully, but this is pretty easy information to find:

                http://www.libertyunbound.com/archive/2004_11/bradford-spending.html

                http://thelongrunblog.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/tax-and-spend-democrats-small-government-republicans-and-other-myths/

                Of course, you can argue that these are all specific administrations with specific concerns and that this is unfair since Republicans really do believe in fiscal responsibility. I can argue “Hey look, Reagan gets elected, and spending (as a percentage of GDP) goes up. Clinton gets elected and it goes down. Bush Jr. gets elected and it goes up.”

                It’s entirely possible that Democratic administrations just have to be more sensitive about this stuff since its more of a liability. You might argue that the legislature is more important than the executive branch when it comes to spending stuff. Who knows. Maybe we want a libertarian conservative legislature with a center left President. (Actually, that probably is what I want. No wingnuts though.)

                The budget problems we had are indeed structural, and to solve them we’ll have to cut entitlements, cut defense spending, and raise taxes.

                Traditionally, cutting entitlements would be a slam dunk, let’s go support our local conservative issue, but not these days. The G.O.P. skews old, and they’ve latched onto the medicare thing for craven political reasons. I know its not their traditional stance, but go tell the tea party folks that.

                Cut defense spending? The G.O.P.? Next.

                You get the G.O.P. to agree to some kind of tax increase on somebody without screaming about socialism, and I’ll throw in the towel and go vote for them.

                The Democrats have been spending a lot of cash lately, but it’s a recession. That’s their job in a recession. Talk to me in three years. You may be right, but it’s hard to tell right now.

                As for the healthcare thing, it does seem that this project is bad for the bottom line (although there is some disagreement about that), but healthcare is 20% of the GDP. Democrats might be moving some of a problem to the government’s books from other places, but I’m not convinced that this is necessarily a new problem.

                Again, you’re free to disagree, but I’m not concern trolling. Bush and the Republican Congress CUT TAXES during a war. That’s preposterous, and any Republican who voted for that loses the right to complain about the deficit.

                Again, I’m not saying I’m right, but I’m not playing games. I really am convinced that the G.O.P. is the more irresponsible of the two parties.

                We need a Ross Perot to kick our butts on this issue again actually. The two big parties don’t seem to have to will to address it. Obama’s made gestures in that direction. Again, we’ll talk in three years. I might be totally wrong.

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  15. Watching Schlafly try to reconcile free markets and Christianity is just sad.

    I came across this line of reasoning a few years ago. I can’t get the link right now but I believe
    it was being taught at one of the right-wing hatcheries like Regent or Liberty.

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  16. Possible “tags” for this interview if posted by the estimable John Cole:

    “Good News for Conservatives”

    “General Stupidity”

    “Assholes”

    “Clown Shoes”

    “Hoot-Smalley”

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  17. Regarding your reconciliation of Christianity and Free Markets, they are not difficult to reconcile in the least.

    First off, give me any biblical references WHATSOEVER that promotes a “safety-net-state”. There are none. The bible does regularly promote a safety net, but it is a safety net that is by individuals willingly and through their own free choice deciding to help the poor, feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Not once do they say to form a state and force others to do “good” on your behalf.

    True Christians put in place the safety net. They built the hospitals, built the universities, regularly feed the hungry. This has happened throughout history. They do not say let’s make the State forcefully take our earnings to do God’s bidding.

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    • I’d like to point out here that Christianity generally goes beyond what is merely biblical. For instance, if you are a Catholic you have a treasure trove of Catholic social teaching and ideas that speak directly to the importance of safety nets. I think also that there has been a long tradition of Christianity working with governments to achieve Christian ideals.

      Second, while private individuals do a very good job at providing some safety nets, it is nearly impossible for them to provide enough for everyone. That’s why the bulk of history is filled with the impoverished falling through the gaping wide cracks left in society’s foundation. This is a delicate matter of course. Bad welfare initiatives can do more harm than good.

      And quite frankly, I simply don’t see private citizens stepping forward to provide enough of a safety net for the uninsured. Before Medicare and Medicaid many, many more old and poor people were living without any healthcare at all. However flawed those programs may be, they’ve helped a lot of people who weren’t getting enough help from their neighbors. And that might not have anything to do with what people would like or wouldn’t like to do to help. It may just not be possible.

      I think when ideology sits in line before faith we run into problems. When a belief in a political system takes precedence over our morals, we run into people attempting to reconcile the two in the wrong order.

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    • “First off, give me any biblical references WHATSOEVER that promotes a “safety-net-state”. There are none. ”

      I guess that also bars Christians from visiting the New World. Or using electricity, gunpowder, the germ theory of disease,…

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      • I guess that also bars Christians from visiting the New World

        Except for Christians of the Mormon/LDS variety, of course (not meaning to open the “Mormons are/are not True Scotsmen” fest, though that might be inevitable).

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    • No, but there is one that not only promotes but requires a complete redistribution of property (the means of wealth production at the time) every 49 years, so that any purchase of land is viewed only as a temporary rental.
      Also, a cessation of agriculture every 7 years to allow the land to rest. The charging of interest or selling of food at a profit is forbidden.

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          • True. The Levitical verses are valuable to a debate because the old covenant is the only one in which God set out the rules for a state. The new covenant is not state-based, so it no more advocates a state social safety net than it does state banning of abortion, state prevention of same-sex marriage, state defense of free speech, or anything else about the state. Pretty much the only thing the new covenant says about the state is to obey legitimate authorities.

            But if a Christian believes we should prevent gay marriage because the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, why shouldn’t he or she also believe that we should implement a social safety net because the Bible says abandoning the poor is wrong?

            In addition, while the new covenant says little about the State, it says a great deal about the accumulation of wealth, which is the foundation of the free-market system. It condemns the rich – not simply the unjust rich, or those who gained wealth illegitimately, but any of the rich – and call on us to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth.

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  18. Judging by a brief review of conservative blog opinion even at sainted venues like Frum Forum and these folks are the conservative vanguard alright. Add in the effusions of large parts of the Republican house representation (think Issa and co) and a not insignificant portion of their senate contingent if you want further confirmation. I’ve long been of the opinion that this is a tendency that cannot be stopped and will have to play out over the next 20 years. Its inability to reconcile with demographic, generational and societal shifts is going to mean prolonged electoral eclipse. This doesn’t mean they are not going to win in state elections where local issues are more important and those elected are generally compelled to govern from the center or win some house seats back, but the trend is going to be against the GOP. Ultimately the only thing that is going to change this picture is this electoral eclipse because these folks are basically impervious to reason. Therefore, it follows that the sooner the crack up occurs the better but we are much more likely in for a period decline since I just don’t see the leaders that can do a Blair or Reagan and pull the contesting factions back from the lunacy.

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  19. I looked up the entry on Stephen Colbert at Conservapedia. At the very bottom, in a box, was a header stating “Liberal Characteristics and Traits.” Underneath this header: “Bias • Deceit • Denial • Evolutionary Ideology • Friendship • Eugenics • Global warming • Globalism • Gun control • Hate speech • Hollywood values • Homosexual agenda • Hypocrisy • Ideology • Liberals • Logic • Media elite • Myths • Obfuscation • Quotient • Redefinition • School grading • Style • Values”

    I found it fascinating that “Values” was included along with bias, deceit, and hate speech.

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