Conservative Thinkers So Heavenly Minded They’re No Earthly Good

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home. Andrew is the host of Heard Tell podcast.

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44 Responses

  1. Saul Degraw says:

    I suppose this means my little dash on this debate will not be published?Report

  2. Chip Daniels says:

    Ahmari is not a conservative but a revolutionary.

    The injustice, in his own words, was not witnessing someone being attacked or persecuted, but a drag queen reading to children.

    Her mere existence is an affront to him, and by extension, the mere tolerance of pluralistic liberalism is the enemy which must be destroyed.

    The behavior of Mitch McConnell demonstrates this same posture; Liberals are not equal citizens, but illegitimate enemies who are unworthy of shared power and fair play.

    The casual smirking acceptance of Russian interference in our elections, voter suppression, the deliberate cruelty meted out to immigrants- these are all symptoms of the same illness.Report

    • Ahmari is not a conservative but a revolutionary.

      I think this is correct, and more specifically he is pushing for a Catholic inquisition revolution. I didn’t want to get into the religious weeds too much here, but if you drill down into his thinking enough that is what he appears to be after. Zeal of a convert, and all that. I doubt he dare say it, but I really suspect part of the reason he used David French as his proxy for this particular fight is his well-known evangelical faith that tempers his writings. The politics and conservatism appear to be at best a companion, at worst a front, for his main goal of make the world his particular brand of dogmatic Catholic.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        It’s more than a intra-Christian spat, though.

        The common thread that ties the entire contemporary Trumpist movement is the threat posed by liberals to the hierarchy of white men.

        When you hear their conversion stories of how they were radicalized, they always sound weirdly trivial; The Kavanaugh hearings, a drag queen, the Russia investigation, etc.

        Its never something like witnessing a man shot in the back by a cop who plants a gun and is acquitted; Never the story of an actress sexually harassed and having her career ruined; Never the children being ripped from their families and put in cages;

        The real outrage in their eyes is the threat posed by a world in which people like Bret Kavanaugh and Donald Trump are not given due deference at the top of the hierarchy.Report

      • Evangelical vs. Catholic isn’t the real story; to name just a few, Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr. are red-meat Trump-worshippers, while Ramesh Ponnuru remains a French-like believer in the liberal order. Rod Dreher, who’s now Orthodox (his third brand of Christianity), is the paradigmatic example of “Trump is awful, but not as awful as every single person to my left”, especially the gays, the transgendered, and worst of all the Jesuits. This is all about escalating hatred of The Other.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        Lots of his conservative critics noted that he had all the zeal of a convert.Report

        • There is a fine line there where I don’t want to question someones actual beliefs, since that is between them and their God, but there is definitely something to “zeal of a convert” in understanding where someone is coming from when they go to a place of absolutism, and especially in how they can make their cause life-or-death.Report

    • pillsy in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Ahmari is not a conservative but a revolutionary.

      Yup. He got his start as a Marxist, and at some point decided to become a Catholic with a decidedly right-wing bent instead, but seems to have retained the basic orientation towards grand struggles and calls to revolution against a class of oppressors, while sneering at the liberals who think those class enemies can be reasoned with.Report

  3. “Bog” is also British slag for “toilet”, as in:

    Sun streaking cold
    An old man wandering lonely
    Taking time
    The only way he knows
    Leg hurting bad
    As he bends to pick a dog-end
    He goes down to the bog
    And warms his feet

    So another meaning for “bog-standard” is American Standard.Report

  4. Aaron David says:

    So we’ve reached the point in 2019 where Twitter seems to have declared that the obstacle to female progress in American journalism is the editor of the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg.

    A Vox headline complained of Mr. Goldberg’s “sexist quote.” At Deadspin, a headline declared “The Best Way for Jeffrey Goldberg To Help Diverse Journalists Would Be To Quit His Job.” The New York Times even found it worth a news article, headlined, “Writing Cover Stories Is Hard. For Atlantic Editor, Talking About Diversity Is Harder.”

    Mr. Goldberg, my colleague at the Forward two decades ago, is someone I know as implacably opposed to bigotry. The magazine under his editorship has tilted left, with articles like “Impeach Donald Trump” and another earnestly complaining that “Sexism infects every kind of courtroom encounter, from pretrial motions to closing arguments — a glum ubiquity that makes clear how difficult it will be to eradicate gender bias not just from the practice of law, but from society as a whole.”

    If Mr. Goldberg is insufficiently woke for the job, it’s enough to make a person wonder just who there might be out there with sensitivities sufficiently exquisitely attuned. Angela Davis? Elizabeth Warren? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

    The New York Times article took note that “11 of The Atlantic’s 15 most recent cover stories were written by men.” It didn’t mention that 17 of the 23 most recent New York Times Magazine cover stories were written by men, which, on a percentage basis, works out to pretty much the same as at the Atlantic

    Its a purity fight. Idiologists have them every day of the week, from every point of view.Report

    • greginak in reply to Aaron David says:

      I get the desire to BSDI everything, i mean order must be brought to the force and all. But Goldbergs actual quote was, at best very poorly framed for a writer. That is at best and being the most charitable.Report

  5. Doctor Jay says:

    It’s interesting (and perhaps only barely relevant) that I’ve been hearing “bog-standard” used that way for maybe 15 years? Maybe 20? I see that it was in the OED as of 2002. It appears to come from the British Isles.Report

  6. Pinky says:

    I disagree with your take on this situation, Andrew. It’s reasonable for conservatives to reappraise the state of the movement and the country after Trump’s election, and by definition anyone who calls himself “conservative” would be inclined to go back to first principles in that reassessment. That’s not to say that every conversation is going to be interesting or important, of course. There’s bound to be some nonsensical relitigation of old disputes. But there’s likely to be some very important relitigation of old disputes too. The close calls and negotiated compromises have to be rethought if they’re going to make sense in a new setting.

    There are only three possible courses of action. Either we throw everything out (in which case we’re not conservatives), or we keep everything as it was (in which case we’re not relevant), or we reconsider what is worth keeping and what is worth changing. It strikes me as odd that you’d even question that option.Report

    • Andrew Donaldson in reply to Pinky says:

      Not sure I follow what you mean by “It strikes me as odd that you’d even question that option.” First Principles are fine things, using the “country after Trump’s election” as an excuse to do what you wanted to otherwise do anyway isn’t a return to principles but a return to default. I am very much for considering what is worth keeping and throwing out, my overall point is while we are discussing the minutiae of that the world keeps turning and few are paying attention to the internal debate other than to notice some people over in the corner arguing.Report

  7. Jaybird says:

    When you abandon the concept of absolute goods, the goods that are left are positional.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

      But this is the real point of the Amari/French affair, and the pointed reference to Aristotle… you can’t abandon the concept of absolute goods because all polities are organized around the sine qua non of Positional Goods… and the moment you can’t live without them, they cease to be positional.

      Douthat deals with the matter in his column from June 8. DQSH is incidental to the matter… the question is what does one do when the goods around which the state are organized are re-ordered.

      That’s the problem with saying everything is positional, they aren’t… and the polite fiction of liberalism that they are is only sustainable with broad consensus on exactly which aren’t. That’s the point on which left/right post-liberalism hinges.

      That’s my philosophical appreciation of the stakes. My political take is that firing on Fort Sumter is not always as gratifying in the long run as it is in the short.Report

  8. CJColucci says:

    I have been reading what passes for high-class conservative thought for close to half a century. It gets repetitious fast. Uselessly general paeans to “prudence” – a virtue of which I am genuinely fond — tarting up an ever-changing set of specifics that one can guarantee will be embarrassing and largely disowned in about a decade. An overstuffed leather club chair and brandy aesthetic that tries to pass itself off as something substantive, until someone calls them on it and they sniff at the vulgarity of the demand. A fondness for substituting Capital Letters for explanations, as if Right Reason, the Highest Good, and the Nature of Evil spoke for themselves.
    I’m getting old, and I don’t want to die in re-runs. Can’t somebody give us something fresh?Report

    • Philip H in reply to CJColucci says:

      I’m getting old, and I don’t want to die in re-runs. Can’t somebody give us something fresh?

      Nope. That’s why allegedly Conservative Republican politicians in Congress have spent the better part of a decade now trying to repeal the Heritage Foundation’s ideas on healthcare reform that were the major basis for the Affordable Care Act. By their nature modern conservative politicians, and thinkers apparently, want to conserve a reality that was harsh, hierarchical, misogynistic, bigoted and bereft of social innovation so that white men can continue to claim undue and unearned political and economic power.Report

  9. Pinky says:

    Andrew, I also think you missed the point of the Johnny Cash song. It wasn’t complaining about theological ivory towers, it was complaining about religious hypocrisy. Unless you think that is part of the conversation, in which case I misread the point of your article.Report

    • Andrew Donaldson in reply to Pinky says:

      The song is a touch point comparison. You can have fun with religious hypocrisy and political ideological hypocrisy, close cousins that they are. But no, I was not meaning to do exegetical deep dive on Cash lyrics strickly within Christian Theology.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        Do you think that Ahmari and French are being hypocrites, or just have their heads in the clouds?Report

        • Andrew Donaldson in reply to Pinky says:

          I think Ahmari has a religious agenda that he supposes couching in conservative ideology makes it’s underpinnings of his own personal thoughts on how society should be run more palatable to the wider right. He picked a name that would get it attention, in this case French, and then manufactured “David French-ism” out of whole cloth to since many like-minded folks who want a more militant and less tolerant brand of conservative already target him and where he writes anyway. So there was a joy meeting of several agendas at the intersection involved. Who is a hypocrite on what was irrelevant to the purpose of the exercise. The point was to justify Ahmari doing what he wanted to do anyway, which was rail against what he saw as improper.Report

  10. I do think these debate, as esoteric and abstract as they are, do matter because they ultimately inform where the party is going. And one thing we’ve learned under Trump (and Obama/Clinton in some respects) is that where the party leadership goes, the party faithful will follow. The GOP voters have happily embraced trade wars, immigration cruelty and foreign policy miasma because … Trump has. A GOP led by the likes of Ahmari will be viciously cruel; one led by French much less so.Report

    • I see your excellent point as compatible to mine. Neither will ever really lead because the party will just morph into the personality that co-ops it. Then the thinkers will fall into various categories of enabling ot resisting. Then it is all wiped away and stay over with the next cult of personalityReport