Think of the Children. Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children.


Dennis Sanders

Dennis is the pastor of a small Protestant congregation outside St. Paul, MN and also a part-time communications consultant. A native of Michigan, you can check out his writings over on Medium and subscribe to his Substack newsletter on religion and politics called Polite Company.  Dennis lives in Minneapolis with his husband Daniel.

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56 Responses

  1. Avatar DRS says:

    Dick Cheney: “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

    Common good, riiiiiiight.Report

  2. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Maybe it is because I was born in 1980. Maybe it is because my family is too filled with dye-in-the-wool Northern, Urban Democratic types (the only time anyone voted Republican in my family is when my mom voted for the judge that married her to a county judgeship. I don’t think my dad did this.)

    What I must say is that Reagan-mania has always perplexed me. I really don’t get it at all. Though obviously I have my own Presidential likes as you can tell by the screen name.

    How did Reagan offer a conservative vision of the common good? I would say it was the catalyst of the current factionalism that is currently part of the GOP. Okay Goldwater was probably the catalyst but Regan was the accelerant.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

      If somebody explained Reagan’s vision of the common good to you, would you say, “OK, I guess that’s actually a conservative vision of the common good,” or would you say, “But that’s not the common good at all!”Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Probably the last option if I am being honest. See my dialogue with Pierre below.

        Even if I agreed with the first, I still find Ronnie worship to be extreme.Report

        • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

          If the second option would really be your answer, then why would any conservative bother answering? Are you really inviting their views with an interest in trying to understand them?Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

      A lot of people are going to hate this but I think that you need to view Reagan-mania through the same lens of Kennedy-mania or even Obama’s popularity among African-Americans. Most informed people today know that Kennedy was a bit of a “meh” as a President and had many flaws personal and in his leadership abilities. At the time Kennedy was elected, he seemed like a Godsend to the children and grandchildren of what used to be called the ethnic whites. An Irish Catholic President was a sign that they arrived and were really American. Its probably how a lot of African-Americans felt when Obama won in 2o08.

      Reagan-mania is kind of similar but its tinged by a return to the way things should be. He was seen as providing relief from all the ceaseless, hectic change that seemed to besot America from the mid-1960s onward. A lot of people from our socio-economic status and geographic area see the mid-1960s to early 1970s as a time of great and important social change and experimentation. Many view them more negatively. Nearly everybody sees everything after Water Gate to 1980 as a very bad hangover. To many Americans Reagan was a sign that things were going to be the way things should be.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

      Propaganda perplexes you?
      Follow the money, and you’ll find fewer perplexing problems.Report

  3. Liberals have long thought Ronald Reagan and the GOP of that era as made up of nothing but selfish jerks. I don’t think that ever was the case- Reagan in many ways offered a conservative version of the common good; that Republicans were more than just people serving interests, but working together as part of a greater whole.

    I think this is generally true, especially when the point is made in contrast to the more hyperbolic claims about Reagan and his fellow travelers (“nothing but selfish jerks”). The conservative vision of a common good certainly did have its arguably positive messages, if one accepts certain assumptions about governance and “the good.” Examples included revitalizing the economy through deregulation, offering a critique of the cycle of learned dependence that the welfare might (again, “arguably”) be conducive to, and a firmer stand against the USSR than had been the norm c. mid 1970s. (Of course, Carter embraced a deregulatory philosophy and adopted firmer stands against the Soviet Union in the wake of the invasion of Afghanistan.)

    But this vision of a common good in many ways provided cover for what was already a faction, or alliance of factions. Those who allied to help make the “Reagan Era” became the vanguard of a reaction against the very real advances that marginalized groups–persons of color, women–had achieved during the previous 20 or 30 years. The “military industrial complex” hummed along quite well during those years and as a result of those policies. And the recent factionalism that you and Douthat criticize is a pretty direct descendant from the Bushism of the 2000s, the Gringrichism of the 1990s, and yes, the Reaganism of the 1980s.

    When talking about the GOP today, I see, in short, a strong continuity with the GOP of the 1980s more than I see a departure from it. Its current failures are in some ways more a result of its success, the Democratic Leadership Council and even post-DLC liberals like Obama have to play to a populace that is more conservative than the one Reagan played to.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      Good points. I would argue that some deregulation is best for the common good but not all deregulation. I’m still a firm fan of Glass-Steegal and other New Deal locks on the banking industries.

      The issue seems to be that specialists see problems through a very specific lens when a more multi-disciplinary approach might be needed. My city planner friend has very different solutions for solving the affordable rent problem than my economist/neo-liberal friends. I’d venture a guess to say that a mix of both might be optimal.

      We put things in separate boxes too much. What is good for business or from an economic standpoint is not necessarily good from an ethical, moral, or community based standpoint. I think community and family is worth saving and is important but might need to be saved in ways that are not necessarily “Markets Yay!”Report

      • Agreed, especially about Glass-Steagall and banking.

        I still think the National Recovery Administration was a bad idea, though 🙂Report

        • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

          I’m a Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps kind of guy.Report

          • Eh…..I have my reservations about those programs, especially the CCC’s quasi militaristic, boot-camp approach. That program seems a little too…..Uncle Joe to my tastes, although any honest accounting of how it worked in practice was much more Uncle Sam than Uncle Joe.

            I’m more of an SSA, FLSA, and Wagner Act kind of guy, although I have qualms about those, too, especially the Wagner Act (for contradictory reasons, concerning both what it was at the time and how it has evolved).Report

            • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

              Well they were far from perfect and I would also get rid of the boot camp experience but they put a nation to work especially WPA. I am fond of the Wagner Act.

              Taft-Hartley needs to be repealed thoughReport

              • Have you read Christopher Tomlins’s STATE AND THE UNIONS? It’s been a long time so I might be misremembering, but if I read him right, he argues that Taft-Hartley mostly codified what had already been done in practice by the NLRB through the 1930s and 1940s.

                Obviously, the cooling off period, the loyalty oaths, and the permission granted for anti-union shop laws (also known as “right to work” laws) were new additions. But if I remember correctly there were also NLRB trends toward something like what would become the ban against secondary strikes, against so-called unfair labor practices by unions, and against “closed” (but not “union”) shops.

                Not that Tomlins is the only authority on Wagner and Taft-Hartley, but it’s an interesting thought. My point is, if he’s right (and assuming I remember/read him correctly), then repealing Taft-Hartley might not have the effect that supporters of repeal think it will.

                I’m not sure where I stand. I have much more reservations about what unions can (and cannot and ought not) do than I did, say, 10 years ago. And these reservations include cautious approach to what role the state ought to play.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

              The bootcamp approach was intentional, and designed to train people for war.
              Today’s military would favor a different approach.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      Here is a good example:

      The rise of temp labor is very good for business and corporate profits. It is not good for people, communities, or families. I find it insidious that people are working as temps for the same companies for years.

      Or as Ed Milibrand said of Zero Hour contract, this sort of stuff is nasty, brutish, and unfairReport

      • I haven’t read the article yet, but thanks for the link.

        I can already say that I have mixed feelings about the temp industry, seeing some possibilities for workers along with the obvious exploitation of them. As someone whose own job is temporary and set to expire in 4 months or so, but also as someone who is privileged to have a lot more resources than the typical temp worker, I have a certain optimistic/pessimistic view regarding the possibilities of temp work that I might not have in a different situation.Report

      • Avatar Matty in reply to NewDealer says:

        I make my money both through business contracts for my services and sometimes (to make the paperwork easier) as an employee on a zero hours contract. I actively chose this lifestyle with its flexibility and opportunities to pick the work that offers the best rewards both financially and in terms of job satisfaction. Zero hours is one of the things that lets me work on what I want when I want.

        No I am not a typical temp but don’t tell me that I would be better off spending 40 years in a 9-5 monday-friday role with a fat corporate hierarchy on top of me and four weeks holiday a year.Report

        • Avatar j@m3z Aitch. in reply to Matty says:

          I remember students in my grad program complaining about how some of the secretarial/administrative staff at the university were only hired for 9 months a year instead of 12. One of the secretaries in our department reacted with horror–she wanted her summers free.

          I’ve also seen complaints about companies giving comp time instead of overtime, but I’ve known people who prefer comp time.

          Perhaps we ought to be wary of assuming everyone feels the same way we do about all these things.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to j@m3z Aitch. says:

            If it’s real comp time, it’s carried on the company’s books as a liability and is payable in full in cash when the employee leaves. I’m skeptical that all companies that pay overtime in comp time do that.Report

            • Avatar j@m3z Aitch. in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              In my experience most companies that allow comp time require the employee to take it in a reasonable time frame, often within the same pay period if possible. So I doubt many employees get stiffed when they leave.Report

              • Avatar Matty in reply to j@m3z Aitch. says:

                I’m going to guess comp time is the same thing as time off in lieu. When I was a regular employee and got this we were normally expected to take this as soon as the extra work was finished, the company had quite a powerful health and safety department that saw making people work when tired as a risk. It was sometimes possible to get permission to delay but I never knew anyone who got one more than a couple of months.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Matty says:

                Time off in lieu sounds like the same thing. But not only is comp time a more efficient phrasing, but the other sounds too close to time off in loo, which is not where I want to spend my comp time. (But time off in loo would be a great euphemism for taking extra, or extra long, bathroom breaks.)Report

            • Avatar trumwill mobile in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              Comp time usually isn’t an option for nonsalary employees, which kind of pusses me off, actually. Bush made a push for it, but certain folks argued against it arguing that my preference on the matter was exploitation or someday. The whole debate pisses me off.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                I think I’ve related my experience with comp time. The short version is that in a situation where management had fished up big time that required immense overtime to repair, (salaried) people were promised one-for-one comp time, spent months barely seeing their families, and then at the end of the project were told that the VP who would have had to sign off on the comp time had declined to. Sorry. I guess we owe you one. (This was not some fly-by-night outfit; it’s one of the largest corporations in the world.)

                So yeah, I think overtime should be paid for with cash in hand. If you want the option to trade that in for comp time, sure, knock yourself out.Report

              • I have issues with overtime-exemption more generally. It’s pretty abused. For non-exempt people (unless you work for the government and other very select conditions), you can’t usually “knock yourself out.” That’s my objection.Report

              • Avatar Matty in reply to Will Truman says:

                I don’t know how it works for you but I would have a problem with assuming that cash can always compensate for . “No you haven’t slept for 48 hours but we need you to operate this heavy machinery”.

                There are reasons other than fair pay for limiting hours at least at the extremes.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Matty says:

                haha. Know that a good deal of people operating heavy machinery around here are treated as agricultural workers. no overtime. Plenty of 12 hour days.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

                … and people wonder why I won’t go salaried any more. I’ve asked people who have attempted to offer me full time positions, basically the same position I’d been doing as a consultant: “Tell me the truth: have you been involved in political infighting or turf wars in the last year? Have you worked any mandatory overtime? Ever had your decisions overruled by senior management, breaching your mandate to make such a decision?”

                Sheepishly, I’ll be told “Wee-e-e-ell, yes”, then brightly, still trying to sell me on the position “But not very often, and I’d be backing you, so there’s that.”

                “What you mean is this: you’ll be paying me about half of what you’re paying me now, I’ll have less mandate and more obligations. No. It’s possible to love Jesus and Mozart and your kids and your pets. Don’t love your job. It will never love you back.”Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

                … as a consultant, you aren’t involved in turf wars?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                No. I’m not involved in turf wars. That’s why I’m a consultant. I only take orders from the person who signs my time sheet.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

                never had your boss get fired, i take it?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “Shut up” he explained. -Ring Lardner. I’m strictly mercenary. When it’s possible for me to do the right thing, when I’m given the mandate to do so, I’ll act in the best interests of those who gave me that mandate. And where it’s not, I proceed on that basis, too. As a consultant, I have the right to say “To do what you’re asking, I need political cover. My points become your points, nu? I’m here to design and write software. I’m not going into battle for you. I can feed you the ammunition but you have to pull the trigger.”

                And I don’t go into battle. Woe betide the consultant who thinks he’s got any mandate.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

                yeah, that fits more with my intuition. Since you won’t be there long, you’re just a pawn (“da guy wif da brains”) for the politically adept.Report

              • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Employees got screwed by your firm, so no other firm or its employees should have the option.

                There’s our problem.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Did you have the promise in writing or in email? More importantly, do you have a record of who reneged on such a promise? Report

        • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Matty says:

          “No I am not a typical temp”

          Which is kind of the point. You have specifically made a decision to have your employment work this way, and you’ve considered the benefits and costs on a more-than-mere-salary basis, and you’re aware of the risks you’re taking.

          The *typical* temp has no idea about any of all that, beyond “I GOTTA GET A JOOOBBBBBBB”Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to NewDealer says:


        As a bright young attorney, what do you anticipate our retort will be?

        Master planners tried to socially engineer the world by requiring employers to provide a panoply of mandatory benefits and employment restrictions for full time employees. We warn you guys every time of the inevitable effects this will have. You guys ignore us and waive it away as inconvenient truths. Exactly what we said would occur does occur and you then come to the conclusion that corporations are evil.

        The real master planners are not stupid. They know what the effects of assuming power will be. But guess what… they want power for themselves not prosperity for us. The fools are the knuckleheads who vote for master planners and believe the load of crap they shovel.Report

  4. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    That drive and belief of being your brother’s keeper seems to be absent from today’s GOP.

    Make no mistake, it was absent from Reagan’s GOP as well. That’s what the whole rhetoric of welfare queens and Cadillacs was about – a way of communicating the ideas of “this ain’t your brother/sister and they ain’t worth your trouble of keeping”. What Reaganite conservatism did was transform “your brother” into “underclass”, and it did it so effectively America’s adopted that frame ever since.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to KatherineMW says:

      Seems to me that the idea of being one person being their brother’s keeper is precisely what the GOP likes to criticize in liberals. Brothers have been reduced to merely leeches or parasites in the current rhetoric. Something to be expunged for the greater good. And then, additionally, there’s the complaint that liberals are too stupid or partisan to see that “reality” for what it is. {{{Dumbasses.}}}Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Stillwater says:

        If you consider government as the only way to keep one’s brother, then maybe that’s true. But the Republican vision has never been one of government reliance.

        I realize that some of the Tea Party and libertarians voice negative reaction to government compassion, to the extent that they seem to oppose compassion in any form. But if you look at what most Republicans say, they support some public charity and advocate strongly for private charity.Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Pinky says:

          I forgot to add: oftentimes, liberals will respond by saying that private charity is just a code for not helping people. That’s baseless and unfair.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Pinky says:

            No, it’s not baseless.
            A private charity often discriminates — based on faith, based on persuasiveness, based on a ton of different matters.

            If, as a liberal might think, some things ought to come without strings attached, you’re doing better to have a big broad organization, rather than a ton of little ones with major overhead.

            That said, I like pretty bird woman house. I also like laws that allow rapists to be prosecuted, therefore decreasing the need for charity of that variety.

            Fixing problems will always be better than ameliorating symptoms.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Pinky says:

          The GOP supports its own herd of grifters and parasites. Their idea of a handout is a tax loophole. When all the additions and subtractions are done and the ol’ Summation Line is drawn, there is no practical difference. It’s just a question of Who Benefits.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to BlaiseP says:

            “The GOP supports its own herd of grifters and parasites.”

            Yes, it does.

            I don’t remember where I read this first, but it’s been said that the Agriculture Committee is unique in Congress. Every other committee, you’ll find some people on one side, some on the other. On this committee, the “sides” are wheat versus corn versus cattle, et cetera. No one’s against any spending. There are other examples of both parties putting a drain on the system, but there’s arguably none worse than this.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Pinky says:

          And let us not forget the GOP is Strong on Defense, filling the capacious meat lockers of porkulousness with weapons systems we don’t need and the military doesn’t want. All around DC, vast new office complexes are going up to house tens of thousands of Gummint Contractors, all nuzzled up to the Sow’s Teat of the Defense Industry.

          Now if that isn’t a Reliance upon Government, a parasitic encumbrance upon the body politic, nothing is. And while the GOP squeals about every cut to the DoD budget, they give the lie to their Vision of Free Enterprise.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I prefer that the people who tell me how to live do so with unbridled contempt.

    It’s easier to put up with than the whole “I’m doing this because I care about you and I want you to thrive.”Report

  6. Avatar John Lofton says:

    FORGET, PLEASE, modern “conservatism.” It has been a failure because it has been, operationally, de facto, Godless. In the political/civil government realm it has ignored Christ and what Scripture says about the role and purpose of civil government. Thus, it failed. Such secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God they are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure. As Stonewall Jackson’s Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:

    ??”[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn.

    ??“American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth.”

    In any event, “politics,” for the most part today, is whoring after false gods. It will not save us. Our country is turning into Hell because the church in America has forgotten God (Psalm 9:17) and refuses to kiss His Son (Psalm 2.) See, please, 2 Chronicles 7:14ff for the way to get our land healed.
    John Lofton, Recovering Republican
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    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to John Lofton says:

      Dabney was quite the moral exemplar:

      Strong in the truth of God and history, the people of the Confederate States therefore calmly breast the adverse opinion of the world. They fortify their position by the fact that their right to the labor of their slaves is not only protected by the laws they inherited from their fathers, but by the laws of God, and by eternal rectitude. Had they been unable to assert the latter truth, their resistance to anti-slavery aggressions would have been proper; because the Constitution, which alone united the States, recognized and protected it. But now their attitude is in every respect impregnable; for God protects it as well as the Constitution.Report

  7. Avatar John Lofton says:

    Stupid, irrelevant reply, Mike. Just because Dabney wrong one one thing doesn’t mean he was wrong on everything.

    John Lofton, Recovering Republican
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