On conservatism

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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56 Responses

  1. steve says:

    I am a physician who follows HCR closely. I write on it some and helped co-write some ideas for our Republican Congressman. Now…

    “For instance, Republicans actually did compromise on healthcare reform. ”

    What were the compromises? As I remember it, when Wyden-Bennet was actually talked about, all of the Republicans backed off, which was disappointing as I liked it .


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

      That’s a tricky thing, though. Did Republicans back off or did they merely read the writing on the wall? The unions were never going to let that bill through.Report

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

        Why does ED Kain find endless new ways to absolve the GOP of its blatant obstructionism? Could we just have some basic reality in the room, for once? And the union-bashing gets tired. How about Kain confronting what the Southern labor model a la Walmart really means for people? Unions may be imperfect, but they’ve done a damn sight more for working people than the GOP in the last 30 years.Report

        • Art Deco in reply to ScottBrown says:

          Strange as it may seem, the opposition…opposes. If you want to complain about the Senate’s rules, address your complaints to the caucus that writes the rules.Report

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

          You can also ask me to my face instead of using the somewhat contorted “Why does ED Kain find endless….” phrasing. In any case, I think I’m fairly balanced in my critique of the GOP and its tactics overall. I fail to see how I let either the Republicans or Democrats off the hook. But maybe I’m just biased in favor of my own opinions. Who knows?

          Regarding unions, I’m a lot softer on them than many people. I’m not against unions at all, actually, any more than I’m against corporations. What I am against is either unions or corporations wielding too much power in government. With the bailouts both these groups have gained power. And in the healthcare reform deal, the unions were going to be exempted from taxes other working Americans were going to have to pay. That, along with their resistance to any reform which taxed benefits (including Wyden/Bennett) earned them my ire.Report

  2. Dan Miller says:

    For a man with a cynical view of humanity, you sure have a kindly view of the Republican party. “Quite a few” backed Wyden-Bennett? Let’s judge by results. Democrats have mustered 59 votes for their vision of health care reform–100% of the Senate caucus. I guarantee you you couldn’t find 50 Senate Republicans who would vote for Wyden-Bennett, now or in 2005 when they were strong. I’d bet you couldn’t find 20.Report

    • Bo in reply to Dan Miller says:

      Imaginary Republican Legislators and real Democratic Legislators both support health care reform, so obviously it’s a toss-up.Report

      • Kyle in reply to Bo says:

        Given the lack of passage of health care reform doesn’t that particular bit of snark reflect pretty poorly on the efficacy of your real Democratic legislators.

        If real Democratic Legislators can’t produce real laws, why should we vote for them?Report

        • Bo in reply to Kyle says:

          Hey, no need to tell me that. The Congressional switchboard number is 202-224-3121. Let them know that.Report

        • zic in reply to Kyle says:

          That’s like saying its my kid’s fault your kid drove drunk because they were at the same house last night.

          This is only a legitimate complaint if Republicans allow debate. They passed the stimulus because a few Republicans participated, hoping to forestall another great depression. Beyond that? They’ve had their faces stuck in the punch bowl.

          Republicans would rather drink the Kool Aid than govern.Report

          • Kyle in reply to zic says:

            So now you’re saying the Republicans stopped debate? I thought they were the ones in favor of keeping it going indefinitely? I think you criticisms are confused, zic.Report

    • Kyle in reply to Dan Miller says:

      Well I hate to nitpick but part of why you couldn’t find 50 Senate Republicans is because there aren’t 50 Senate Republicans.

      Erik made two points quite clear that Republican antics significantly contributed to his cynicism and criticism (hardly a kindly view) and he said “quite a few” not a majority of the caucus or of the chamber.Report

      • Dan Miller in reply to Kyle says:

        Well, that’s why I specified in 2005 as well. And that’s the point I’m trying to make. The Republicans had 6 years to do something about health care–years in which they had budget surpluses, and were at the height of their political dominance. They enacted a prescription drug benefit without paying for it (over the strong objections of their base) and…that’s it. No action whatsoever on controlling costs or expanding coverage beyond a politically demanding constituency. It’s simply facile to pretend that both parties are equally bad when it comes to health care reform. If you care about extending coverage or reducing cost growth, the Democrats really are the only game in town.Report

        • Dan Miller in reply to Dan Miller says:

          Which, to be clear, is not a defense of the Democrats’ recent performance on the issue–it’s been pretty disappointing. But to pretend that a Republican resurgence will lead to a revival of Wyden-Bennett is deeply unrealistic.Report

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

            It doesn’t have to be a Republican resurgence. But I think the Democrats could certainly take the Republican’s health care plan and use that as their springboard (I’m not saying take it as it is, but take it as the starting point). That would be a pretty overt attempt at bipartisanship, and would neuter GOP opposition to some degree.Report

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

              From what I can see, the bill in the Senate is deeply rooted in Republican health care ideas; and the end result has simply been to shift Republican ideas to something else — what, I can’t quite say.

              I doubt if the included an option for purchasing across state lines tomorrow that it would pick up any Republican support.Report

              • Koz in reply to zic says:

                “…..what, I can’t quite say.”

                Let me help. The GOP is not in favor of expanding free or subsidized health coverage to anybody who doesn’t have it now. Some conservatives are opposed to it on principle, green-eyeshade types oppose it now in the context of out of control entitlements, and the American people might be talked into supporting it, but frankly don’t care very much about it now.Report

        • Kyle in reply to Dan Miller says:

          So let me get this straight.

          Republicans don’t pass health care reform that they don’t say they want to do.
          Democrats don’t pass health care reform that they say they want to do.

          I should give them credit for what, exactly? Good intentions? Politicians over-promise and under deliver, it’s how they get elected, this is my more cynical side but Democrats talk about what they’ll arm-twist the government into giving you and Republicans talk about how they’ll defend to the death everything you care about. Then Democrats fail to deliver and Republicans decide that because the words warrant-less wiretaps aren’t in the Constitution the 4th amendment doesn’t apply.

          Words matter but not nearly as much as inaction does.Report

    • Koz in reply to Dan Miller says:

      Once we can get rid of the idea that the gov’t is not responsible for covering the uninsured or giving subsidies, there’s a lot of things in play.Report

  3. Michael Drew says:

    Michael Moore constitutes “the liberal reaction” to Citizens? Please. The problem with this website’s attempted critique of liberal reformers’ “hyperventilating” reaction to the decision has been that it has had to scramble to pull together two pieces from serious places that actually engage in anything close to an over-the-top reaction — which is not surprising given that the critique was up nearly before the reaction it was purporting to criticize.Report

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

      Meh. There was a great deal of liberal reaction to this. I was looking for that Keith Olbermann silliness because it was soooo over the top. But hey, there were several writers over at True/Slant I could have used instead, mourning the death of American democracy and such. And others elsewhere in your typical liberal stomping grounds. Not all liberals of course. The point I’m making is that both sides can have silly reactions to things.Report

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

        Point Erik.
        The NYT and SEIU among others has hardly been substantially more measured.Report

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

        Then use one of those. So far the examples are a measured E. J. Dionne piece and Michael Moore. I actually don’t have a huge problem with a lot of what MM says, but using him as an example of liberal rhetorical excess is like using Beck to do the same with conservative rehetorical excess. And Olbermann is like using O’Reilly. You can just watch any given night — it doesn’t show particular excess in this case, unless for some reason you are more sensitive to it on this matter than others. It doesn’t prove liberals are hyperventilating on this to cite a serial liberal hyperventilator hyperventilating about it.Report

  4. Michael Drew says:

    As to Wyden-Bennett and labor, you’re absolutely right. But it looks like this reform effort is going to fail. I’d advise to get you yer Scott Browns and Bob McDonalds and enough others to get a majority together, find a suitable presidential candidate, and pursure yourself some conservative health care reform. Despite the fact the the resulting legislation would directly after a core Democratic constituency in a way the current bill does not attack any comparably essential Republican interest, I predict that you would have more Democratic votes for something like Wyden-Bennett under a Republican majority and administration than the current lot of obstructionists have yielded.Report

  5. sam says:

    “Then came the special election in Massachusetts. The Scott Brown victory, if nothing else, has restored my faith in the possibility of Big Tent conservatism.”

    I’d reserve judgment on that, ED, until we see what Brown does in DC. The Republicans seem pretty good at enforcing party discipline. And anyway, it was independents that elected him, not Republicans. BTW, I’ve heard that Sarah Palin is now a RINO. Good lord.Report

  6. Bob Cheeks says:

    I should think it’s almost impossible to associate conservatism with the contemporary Republican party.Report

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

      Well that’s the topic of many a blog post, to be sure….Report

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

        BTW, I don’t know how this blog deteriorated into a whining session re: the HCR bill, and correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t the the commie-dems have super majorities in both houses and a Marxist president to boot and failed to come up with some radical left HCR? So how is it the incontinent Repubs are to “blame”(actually I thank the good Lord for this failure which is almost impossible to believe happened). I believe the Repubs have been out done by the commie-dems in the “stupid, ignorant, and greedy” dept.
        E.D., I’m looking forward to your blog on the SOTU!Report

        • North in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

          Me too. Though I haven’t seen much whining on the League about HCR Bob so I’m wondering if Obama’s obamabeams zapped your eyesight during the state of the union and you’re seeing stuff that isn’t there.Report

          • Bob Cheeks in reply to North says:

            NOrth, I have to tell you, my man, I had to do “four fingers” of Buffalo Trace last night, nearly had the big one when the Gifted Oracle blamed the “banks” for bad loans…when we all know Barny, Chris, Maxine, et al threatened the cowardly bankers with recriminations if they didn’t lend to people who couldn’t pay. But, my palsy, you didn’t answer my query…in the past few months why did the commie-dems fail to pass the HCR, they didn’t require one fulminating Repub vote?
            Did you see Justice Roberts shaking his head when His Apostacy critiqued the recent SCOTUS decision?Report

            • North in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

              The longer answer Bob is that they didn’t require any Republican votes but since the Republicans whipped their caucus so effectively the Democrats needed to get 100% cooperation from the third party in the Senate and House; the centrists and this meant that every single squish with a score to settle in that centrist party got to hold the process hostage in turn. Additionally since the Dems wanted bipartisan cover they were very cleverly duped by the Republicans into delaying for a considerable amount of time while they tried to woo various Republican moderates. Since Obama was hands off and no one was feeling any heat the Democrats didn’t whip their own team in turn and just trundled along slowly. Then we have a black swan of Brown in Mass and things went flying every which way.

              Short answer: The Dem Congress was complacent and lazy. The Dem Administration was complacent and deluded (they believed their own goo-goo we are the ones we’ve been waiting for hype).Report

              • Bob Cheeks in reply to North says:

                Hey, I know you’re sad about the “stupid” commie-dems (they’ve taken the title from the emasculated Repubs) but hang in there. My own fear is that the Gracious O is a Island Zombie and will rise up…again and again. Not to mention the fact that the Repubs are not known for erudition. The drama continues……!Report

              • North in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

                I’m not sad precisely. I’m looking forward to a SOTU topic on the league so I can expound more on how I’m feeling about them in general. Suffice to say that while I support HCR I’m not exactly passionate about it and my desire for it to succeed was grounded more in a desire for the Dems to govern effectively (keep in mind that HCR is far from dead regardless of what the right may wish). Since I absolutely abhor the idea of cap and trade the setback has not been without a silver lining and Obama gave me an unexpected gift by sticking a stake into the heart of DADT (And Gates applauded!!). So I’m actually a bit muddled. You’re right to be concerned though Bob, nature abhors a vacuume and the Republicans don’t look like they’re in much of a state to fill it, which leaves it falling back into the lap of the Democrats.

                And ultimately of course it all depends on the economy. The rest is just window dressing.Report

            • ScottBrown in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

              I always had the impression that the League of Ordinary Gentlemen had some self-proclaimed standards for commentarial decency. After reading this repellent screed, I conclude that they only censor left-wing views, and that any bull-session rightwing kook gets a free pass. Quelle surprise!Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to ScottBrown says:

                Ten days ago I’d have leapt to the site’s defense.Report

              • North in reply to ScottBrown says:

                Come now, that’s unfair. I’ve not seen any cencorship in action at the league but for foul language.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to North says:

                True, but the views that are endorsed and those that are resisted are very well-delineated. I fear that the initial doubt that mixed with the hope I had that the site is what I thought it might be (all of which at the time were entirely undersupported by any sufficient observation) was quite well placed. At least now I know.Report

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

                ScottBrown – if you’re referring to Bob Cheeks with surprise, then you don’t hang around here too often. That’s just his way. And we let a lot get through the censor’s fingers around here – pretty much up until specific commenters are attacking other commenters directly with some sort of bad language or false accusation. You can joke about the fascist right-wingers if you want, just like Bob can joke about the commie-dems. What I really don’t like is people whining. Maybe less of that would be good.

                Michael Drew – I’m a little disappointed in your response. I’ve always admired the strength of your arguments and respected that where we disagree we do so amicably. You provide challenging defenses of what you believe in and you do it well. That liberal ideas are “resisted” by more libertarian-leaning writers on this site is not surprising, nor should it be viewed as some form of implicit censorship, and I find it somewhat hard to believe that you’d come to that opinion.

                What hope did you have exactly? That this site would be more ideologically in tune with your beliefs? Because that’s not the point nor will it ever be even if we keep adding liberal writers like Jamelle. The point of the site is to have a conversation, and one in which many sides can disagree and some can do so jokingly and others more seriously but also one in which nobody leaves wounded or (too) angry.

                And perhaps I’m just not seeing what you’re seeing.Report

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

        I have to agree with Bob on this one (to my great and lasting shame, of course!); you begin by saying that you’re drawn to conservatism by its “respect for tradition, restraint and of course the conservative disposition (which I realize is awfully vague and fairly apolitical).” But those things are still philosophically conservative. And then you say you’ve been pushed away from conservatism by the antics of Republicans, who don’t really strike one as being particularly conservative. At the end, you even it up by saying that you’re none-too-fond of liberals because certain Democrats have profoundly unliberal views on speech. And, maybe the majority of them, in fact. What I think you’re decrying (and I’m sorry to sound argumentative because I think you’re actually saying this and I’m just trying to clarify) is simply the overall political/cultural/intellectual decline of the American public sphere. …Maybe even just the inability/unwillingness of the parties to think seriously about anything any more. Okay, that’s probably just me and I’m likely gloomier than you are! In that regard, I’m happy for Scott Brown and atypical Republicans, but I’m not exactly hopeful. Do the parties want fresh ideas, or do they want seats and intend to largely ignore those ideas? Hope springs eternal, but it’s good to keep a little cold blood on reserve.Report

        • Bob Cheeks in reply to Rufus says:

          Rufus, dude, welcome aboard the paleo-special!
          North, you’re right of course, this HCR thing is far from over..I expect to see a surprise assault on the fortifications shortly, time’s running out!
          But His O’ness could just implode as well…I’m concerned that the state sponsored media is beginning to mock him and that’s not pc. BTW, where’d you people get JOe Biden, man he looked like a bobble-head doll!Report

    • zic in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      After SOTU and response last night, my husband said, “Obama sounds like a conservative.” And the response? “Sounded like random sound bites from the Rush Limbaugh show.”

      (I wouldn’t know about the second, I don’t listen to Rush, he offends my female sensibilities.)Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      This is why I prefer Paleos, for the record. I agree with them on precious little… but they have excellent taste in enemies.Report

  7. Art Deco says:

    Your post has little to do with discussion of tendencies in political thought or even a particular constellation of programmatic preferences. You are gazing on the flotsam and jetsam of contemporary political discourse. There is some public interest in film reviews. There is no public interest in reviews of talk radio programs. If you and Conor Friedersdorf do not care for them, turn the radio off.Report

  8. Koz says:

    “Moreover, the liberal reaction to Citizens United (Glenn Greenwald notwithstanding) has made me realize that my recent lack of faith in conservatives/conservatism is more a reflection of my overall lack of faith in humanity/politics.”

    This is a very important point. Especially how our political inclinations are powerfully affected by personal emotional states that are only tangentially related to substantive issues.

    I’m essentially coming to the same point from the exact opposite angle. I’m bullish on the Republican party in large part because I’m bullish on America and trust the ability of Americans to restore the economy if given they get the chance.

    We have to be able to repudiate despair from our national discourse. Despair has an unfortunate tendency to be self-fulfilling, but more than that it’s also unwarranted. We have a road out of our problems, we just have to be willing to take it. Nothing is more invigorating that being shot at to no effect.Report

  9. Bengt Larsson says:

    No. What happened lately is that there was trouble in the Eurozone, more specifically with Greece. Nothing makes American conservatives get it up as much as a hint of problem for someone else.Report

  10. steve says:

    Still no response on those supposed compromises? If anyone knows of compromises offered by Republicans related to HCR, I would genuinely appreciate listing them.

    Just FTR, that Dem 60 vote majority included Lieberman, the guy who was almost McCain’s VP candidate. The guy who has a bit of a grudge about his last election against the left wing of the Democratic party.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to steve says:

      Quite. I too would love to hear chapter and verse on precisely what offers of true compromise Democrats turned down from Republicans. I realize it is the Democrats’ responsibility to seek bipartisanship if it can be had, but how can partnership be reached when one party openly seeks to inflict Waterloo on the other. Perhaps the moment of failure preceded that, however. I would truly like to know the history in any case. Given that the Democrats opted for the nominally less partisan route (cloture) and sought some minimal Republican support, it certainly would have served them to at least make a real effort to determine if there was in fact any set of concessions that could bring some Republicans on board. This would extend most certainly not so far as embracing an entirely different fundamental structure of reform than they could support in their own caucus. Such an expectation is foolishness. But if they didn’t take steps to honestly determine where some Republican votes might lie on substance within their preferred approach, that would constitute a very serious error.Report

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

      I’m not sure it ever got to that point (Wyden/Bennett notwithstanding). Nor am I saying that it would have gotten to that point with any other bill. But I think that the Democrats approached the whole notion of compromise poorly. The entire Gang of Six, behind closed doors thing was a terrible idea. And yes, I also think this could have been done more incrementally. If they could have snagged Snowe and ditched all talk of public options and so forth completely they may have had a bill. They could have come back later with the public option.Report