A Study in Partisanship

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  1. Avatar Kolohe says:

    the Slate comment section

    Well there’s your problem right there.Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Woodruff replaced Weigel who was a member of Journolist. A real consevative would be more than two degress of separation from Communism.Report

  3. Avatar Dand says:

    What does Alan Colmes think?Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Eh, there’s a “conservatives in the mist” undercurrent to the column. Even when written by a conservative, the target audience is still a buncha pinkos. I imagine that the conservatives at Slate are mostly the types who find those kind of columns to be irritating on their face.

    If I had to guess.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Evangelical Christian Hillsdale College

    Off-topic, but I have to quibble with this. While there is indeed a Christian tone to Hillsdale, it is non-sectarian, and students are not required to attend chapel or even take a religion course. A true evangelical Christian college is going to require at least one course along the lines of “Bible and Culture,” or something similar.

    It’s a school that sees itself as dedicated to the great western tradition of Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman cultural inheritance.

    They might best be described as self-consciously and purposively classically liberal (with enough conservative tinge to tap some deep-ass pockets for funding–at least I’ve never seen Ed Meese and Dan Quayle as classical liberals).Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller says:

      That last parenthetical is a subtle but excellent case for this xkcd.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      A study in partisanship.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Not sure I follow.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        He just assumed since it was conservative with Christian associations that it must be an Evangelical college.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        That’s not necessarily a bad assumption. Hillsdale is an outlier, not quite like any other college I know of, so the odds of being right about college-X were in his favor.

        I just happen to know about it because it’s only a half hour away.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


      Re: Classical Liberals

      My big issue with people trying to reclaim the term liberal from the New Deal-Great Society set is that it focuses completely on economics and not at all on social issues and classical liberals were still socially liberal (by the standards of their day)

      It was the UK Liberals like Lloyd George who introduced The People’s Budget which did mention wealth redistribution


      In short, I don’t see classical liberals as really being very classically liberal.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Hmm, well I’d say that it sounds like by socially liberal you only mean positive liberty things. All the self-proclaimed classical liberals really mean by the term is a focus on negative liberty, which isn’t really that terribly inappropriate. They might be a bit anachronistic in that they tend to extend negative liberty rights farther than 19th century liberals would have, but that’s still within bounds because in that respect they’re less socially conservative than their forerunners.

        You’re talking about a 20th century guy, who came around when perspectives were transitioning. I think the classical liberals tend to point further back than George.

        But I don’t want to worry the term too much. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. Just replace it with whatever term captures the same concept for you.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        In short, I don’t see classical liberals as really being very classically liberal.

        You are looking at the wrong people. And I don’t think it focuses on economics much at all. The social issues are exactly the place where you can see the biggest differences between conservatives, progressives and classical liberals.

        As one of those people trying to reclaim the word liberal, I will say that the point for me, and I say this often, is that progressives stopped being liberal in many ways some time ago.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        With people trying to reclaim the words “liberal” and “left,” eventually we’re going to have nothing left to call Democrats but “conservatives.”Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Dead Armadillos.Report

      • Avatar j r says:


        Out of curiosity, is that an accurate reflection of your beliefs or just an off-hand comment? Where on the spectrum would you place the contemporary Democratic party.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @jr Rockefeller Republicans.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        People shouldn’t change the meanings of words willy-nilly, and it’s perfectly valid to say that “liberal” should still refer to the sort of people who thought that Martin Luther had some valid points but should have tried to address them within the system.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Huh, Mike Schilling causes me to wonder just when the term “liberal” came into use as a political term.

        I know Hobbes is considered to be one of the early contributors to the liberal tradition in political thought, but were they using that word then or did folks in a later time ret-con the term?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        @j-r , what zic said.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        I’m not sure that answers my question. After all, the term Rockefeller Republican comes from a time before the present ideological sort when you had a fair number of liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        James, from what I can gather, the positive use of the term in political contexts came about pretty late in the Enlightenment, around the time of the American Revolution. You don’t see it paired with the word “politics,” for example, until about then:

        And “politician”:

        “Liberal policy” begins showing up a bit earlier, but this could still have the earlier negative, more social connotations:

        All together:

        From what I can tell, it was primarily about tolerance and prejudice, and not necessarily negative or positive liberty specifically, when it began to take on political connotations, but I’m not an historian, so I could just be talkin’ out my arse. I do see a couple early 19th century references to what was once called “Jacobin” now being called “liberal.”Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I consider the Democratic party to be centrist-to-conservative overall, with a “progressive” center-left/welfare-state capitalism wing that has very little power but is energetic and mobile in large elections (and bored, it seems, with local politics for the most part). From an international perspective, the party’s politics are conservative outright. Much of the party is now socially liberal, but not in an even remotely radical way.Report

      • For what it’s worth, this notion of people roughly described as “libertarian” seeking to reclaim the phrase “classical liberal” is hardly new and actually has a rather proud history that in many ways stems immediately from the very foundation of what we term modern libertarianism.

        Indeed, that foundation almost certainly can be dated to Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, which came out well before the word “libertarian” was a meaningfully useful word to describe a particular set of political beliefs. I’m going by memory here, but I’m pretty sure I discussed this at length in the early days of this site; in any event, as I recall, one of Hayek’s continuing themes throughout RTS is that a large chunk of the socialists of the first half of the 20th century were largely just impatient classical liberals who had grown frustrated that the social change promised by classical liberalism was occurring too slow and, as a consequence, had been seduced by socialism as a sort of accelerant. IIRC, he argues that the result of this was the abandonment of critical aspects of liberalism even as the moniker “liberal” was kept. He’s quite explicit that he views this abandonment as highly illiberal and IIRC is quite insistent that part of his goal in writing the book was to…..reclaim the word “liberal” to again describe something equivalent to what we would now view as a socially liberal form of libertarianism.

        The meaning of a “liberal” has changed quite a bit over the years, and in some ways has become more classically “liberal” than it was back then – for the most part (though by no means entirely), the types of economic interventionism advocated by American liberals in recent years is nowhere near the type of interventionism that most concerned Hayek. On the other hand, I think there are some other areas where the American left has become less classically liberal in more recent years – and those are actually on issues that aren’t really economic issues, but instead are probably best described as social issues, to wit: a weaker position on freedom of religion, and a weaker commitment to free speech.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Clearly Liberals should have copyrighted the term before those Hayakians tried to get their grubby hands all over it.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        “Libertarian” used to primarily mean “anarchist,” so they’re going to have to give that up. I say we just start over with the labels: reactionaries, wishy-washies, and pot-smoking gun-toters for the conservatives, liberals, and libertarians respectively.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        What’s the source on libertarian meaning anarchist? Libertarianism is obviously a pretty big tent covering everything from pot-smoking hippies who don’t mind markets to Republicans who find other conservatives a bit odious to actual anarchist types.

        As for liberal, I think we all know what it means in this context. If someone says that legally forcing someone to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance is illiberal, we know what that means. Likewise, if someone says that campus speech codes are illiberal, we know what that means.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Libertarian” used to primarily mean “anarchist,”

        Do you mean libertine?

        Looking at the online etymology dictionary doesn’t seem to support your claim. And a n-gram shows the word taking off in usage in the ’60s, when I’m pretty sure it had a connotation more in line with Hayek and/or Goldwater than Bakunin.Report

      • @james-hanley Chris’ claim on that comported with my own recollection, actually. Wikipedia agrees: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarianism#EtymologyReport

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Occasionally 19th century European (particularly Slavic) anarchists were referred to as libertarians, and you see it in the 20th century with reference to, say, Spanish anarchists.

        I’ll find some sources when I get home, but if you’re already in ngrams, look at the Search in Google Books link that covers the 19th and early 20th century for “libertarian.”Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I’ll take y’all’s word for it. But it does highlight that words change meaning. So back to Saul’s objection, I’d say that modern liberals first shifted the meaning of liberal, and now self-proclaimed classical liberals are trying to shift it, and I’m not sure that anyone has any solid basis for objecting to any of the evolutions.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @mark-thompson, that was Hayek’s interpretation but the actual history was a bit different. The split between the modern liberals and the classical liberals occurred during the 1880s and 1890s. The modern or social liberals were liberals that were beginning to open up to some socialist critics of capitalism but still largely skeptical of the idea of government or communal ownership of the means of production, which the socialists claimed was the only solution to the problem. Its during this time that ideas like positive liberty emerged. They wanted to find ways to temper what they saw as the excesses of capitalism within a liberal framework rather than a socialist framework. Modern liberals existed in most Western countries but had their strongest impact in the UK, the Netherlands, the United States, and Canada.

        The emergence of modern liberals during the 1880s and 1890s caused a schism within the liberal movement. Many liberals, most notably Herbert Spencer, thought that the intellectual project of the modern liberals was nothing more than a paved road to socialism. The Herbert Spencer school of liberalism eventually adopted the name Classical Liberals and served as the intellectual forerunners of the Proto-Libertarians.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @j-r, as I understand a lot of French anarchists referred to themselves as Libertarians during the 19th century and early 20th century. I believe that this was mainly to get around government censorship. You couldn’t publish an anarchist journal but you could print a libertarian one.Report

  6. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    The lesson to be learned about conservative commenters mocking Ms. Woodruff is that a significant segment of those who both identify as conservatives first and Republicans second, and who find pleasure in reading and commenting about political issues on these Intertubes, tend to be deeply concerned about orthodoxy. Because they are concerned about orthodoxy, they take care that their statements are orthodox, which is why they all sound alike.

    Whether this extrapolates out broadly to the Republican party as a whole is undetermined, although I find the proposition doubtful.Report

    • Avatar morat20 says:

      I think it means Reagan should have made sure there was some sort of succession for Republican Pope. The Keys of Saint Ronnie has a nice ring to it.

      Whats-his-face, with his no-taxes pledge has been doing his best, but since his disciple Tom Delay was struck down, his authority has weakened.Report

  7. Avatar Coolidge Dollar says:

    “[…]Evangelical Christian Hillsdale College[…]” … A deliriously incorrect description — perhaps even unresearched, but if not, then simplistic. See James Hanley’s earlier comment.Report

  8. Avatar zic says:

    Off topic Off-the-cuff request: an election banter thread, please? I’m in Maine, there’s feeding-donuts-to-bears to discuss.Report