Against Trump (Again) And Why I’m Not A Conservative

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Alex Perdue

Alex is a 19 year old Political Science and History double major attending the University of South Carolina. He is interested in music, US and UK politics, European history generally, and the enduring relevance of liberalism to American politics.

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  1. Avatar Pinky
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    says:

    “if we reject the premise of intellectual conservatism and we accept the premise of a value shift”

    I don’t understand the former assumption. Can you flesh it out? As for the latter, I’m not sure how much of a shift there has been. I like the structure of your overall argument, though.Report

  2. Avatar George Turner
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    says:

    Well, I could see how Biden is actually the more conservative choice, since he worked with Jesse Helms to preserve what he could of segregation, and his prominence gave other Congressional Democrats room to get on board with him on that. And frankly, what could me more conservative than preserving white privilege, or voting for someone who may have very little recollection of many things that have transpired since Gerald Ford left office?Report

  3. Avatar CJColucci
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    says:

    Conservatism will never die out because it is not about anything that can change. Those who call themselves “conservatives” are, and always have been, backers of the altar and the throne, except when they get in the way of the more fundamental conviction: “Them that’s got shall get; them that’s not shall lose.” Whether this leads to favoring unrestrained free-market capitalism or crony corporatism, or boob-baiting the bubbas depends on the circumstances of the time. Some of the smarter conservatives, like Burke and TR, are clever enough to favor just enough reform to keep the peasants from grabbing pitchforks and torches, saving the dumber ones from their own stupidity, but the animating impulse is always there and always the same.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels
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      says:

      “Conservatives” are, and always have been, backers of the altar and the throne, except when they get in the way of the more fundamental conviction: “Them that’s got shall get; them that’s not shall lose.”

      I like this comment so much I am appropriating it in the name of the people.Report

    • Avatar gabriel conroy
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      says:

      To me, the logical conclusion of your comment is, “conservatives are always the bad guys and non-conservatives are always the good guys.” That’s not exactly what you said, and maybe you didn’t intend it, but that’s what I take from it.

      Given my framing, you can see I see it differently. I don’t think conservatives are bad for being conservatives. I realize I’m not offering definitions or discussing what type of conservatism we’re talking about. I could probably think of some types that are inherently wrong and bad. But I’m not prepared to paint the brush so broadly.Report

      • Avatar CJColucci
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        says:

        Whether conservatives are the good guys or the bad guys at any given time depends on the circumstances — a stopped clock is right twice a day. But the clock is still what it is.Report

  4. Avatar Michael Cain
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    says:

    I’ll guess the version of the conservative message that gets traction in 2024 will be that the country needs desperately to close the gates and pull up the ladders “temporarily” until we get back on our feet again. Employment will likely still be lower than it was pre-virus. A ton of 50-60-year-olds are going to have their noses rubbed in the fact that every chance they had at retirement is gone, and will clutch at straws. There will be the argument made that we need more authoritarianism to find and eject millions of people who are here because they overstayed their visa.

    The economics are almost certainly wrong, but that doesn’t make them unattractive to a lot of people. The demographic arguments are almost certainly wrong, but that doesn’t make them unattractive.

    Honestly, if states were allowed to control in-migration, there are a lot of people here in Colorado who would vote to close the gates and take a respite from adding a million people per decade to the population.Report

  5. Avatar Aaron David
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    says:

    This wasn’t always the case, but it was the reason that many who would consider themselves formerly of the right and staunchly in the Never Trump movement were very worried about the rise to prominence of pseudo-intellectual grifters like Charlie Kirk, Ben Shapiro, and others.

    And yet, we are given no indication of how, exactly, these people are supposedly grifting. Which speaks to the entire piece. You constantly make reference to how there is no intellectualism on the right, while we can see the takeover of the left by the Social Justice movement, possibly the least intellectual set of ideas. A movement with zero falsifiability, a marked refusal to accept disagreements, and an inability to deal with empirical truth. Indeed, we were presented with a list of unacceptable topics here at Ordinary Times just yesterday in the comments to a post on the threatened doxxing of a blogger by the New York Times. And this follows on the heels of that papers firing of an editor who allowed an editorial by a sitting senator that matched the opinions of 58% of Americans.

    Saying that conservatism needs to abandon its base is, frankly, idiotic. Both from the specific point of view that this admits tacitly that conservatism has an intellectual aspect, and in general being that it ignores the two halves of any political movement, which are part-and-parcel; the base and leaders. This is equally true of the aforementioned Social Justice movement. And this goes doubly for completely misunderstanding the concept of “owning the libs” and idea that goes back to time immemorial, and can be seen in such comments as “shocking the bourgeoisie” and “freaking the squares.” The use of this phrase, in conjunction with whatever actions it describes, is how a movement shows it is attempting to take control, making fun of the controlling paradigm, and in general treating it as irrelevant, which is the goal of any competing movement.

    One must accept that in any given society, half will be more conservative than the other half. And while this is a bit of a tautology, in the United States it seems to work out to be an equilibrium. This must be taken into account at all times, and at all points. As, while hating the US president is a time-honored tradition, indeed it is truly our national sport, we do ourselves and our causes a massive disservice when we start the day by convincing ourselves that roughly half the country is irredeemable.Report

    • Avatar Pinky
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      says:

      I don’t think the article said, as you put it, “there is no intellectualism on the right”. I’m not sure though. Given the context, I think the author was saying that the conservative media are motivated by partisanship rather than ideology. If so, that would be an interesting idea to respond to, but I don’t want to because I’m just not sure it’s what he was trying to say.

      I really like your last paragraph. You should think about expanding into article form.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Conservativism as the inclination to say “no, we shouldn’t do that, it won’t work” will be with us for as long as there are people who explain to us that we need to change things to make things better.

    Mostly because older people will be there saying stuff like “we tried that, we screwed it up, we made it worse.”

    This will always be counter-balanced by people (usually younger people) saying “we can change this thing and make it better” because, hey, that thing probably isn’t as good as it could be.

    When it comes to politics, the problem is institutionalizing this results in lopsided coalitions and even if this thing could be improved, and even if it can be improved by changing it dramatically, and even if it can be improved dramatically by going whole hog into Thing sub 1, and even if it can be improved dramatically by going whole hog into Thing sub 2, the deal we’re going to get is Thing plus a little of Thing sub 1 smeared on it, with the title written to make it sound like it’s doing some Thing sub 2 stuff as well.

    And the conservatives will be able to say “see? You made it worse” and the progressives will be able to say “but we didn’t do Thing sub 2! Thing sub 2 wasn’t even *TRIED*!!!”

    And they’ll both be right.

    That said, there are some advancements being made with Qualified Immunity anyway. Maybe we can reform the job of Police Unions. We’ve made baby steps on the War on Drugs. Maybe there are baby steps that can be made elsewhere that we can sneak past the conservatives who play “hide the ball” and question whether baby steps are worth taking.Report

    • Avatar Pinky
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      says:

      Is there any benefit to applying the conservatism-as-perspective definition to conservatism-as-modern-American-movement?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird
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        says:

        The problem is that even if the Republicans are destroyed and go the way of the Whigs (AND GOOD RIDDANCE IF THEY DO!), twenty minutes later, we’re going to start noticing that there will be arguments over whether we go Full Speed Ahead in THIS direction or Full Speed Ahead in THAT direction and, eventually, there will be some jerkface in the back who stands up and says something to the effect of “whichever direction we take, could we instead go half-speed?” and, next thing you know, you’ve got yourself a new American movement.Report

      • Avatar Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        Did we lose the “click to edit” option?

        Anyway, I wanted to clarify that comment of mine. By conservatism-as-perspective, I don’t mean that conservatism has more perspective or anything. I’m referring to the inclination toward keeping things the same, sometimes called ideological conservatism.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird
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          says:

          I don’t think that ideological conservativism exists anymore.

          Wherever we go, the agreement seems to be that “here” sucks. So not changing things isn’t an option. The remaining debates are over vector.Report

          • Avatar Pinky
            Ignored
            says:

            Ideological conservatism, conservatism-as-perspective, always exists. You bothered to post here. People eat at McDonald’s. Russians accept their current Czar. You can talk about movements changing, but any impulse toward caution is ideological conservatism.

            I always think about the behavioural study, that when young children are given a choice of toys, they’ll take a few that they’ve played with before and a few new ones. That’s human nature. If you want to use a term other than the ones I’ve used, feel free, but you can’t say that this aspect of human nature has vanished.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird
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              says:

              Wait, I thought “ideological conservativism” referred to the modern American movement. (The gut-rumble that says “no” strikes me as being decidedly pre-ideological and the one that says “maybe we shouldn’t touch the electric fence?” as not particularly ideological either.)Report

              • Avatar Pinky
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                says:

                I don’t like the term “ideological conservatism” either. That’s why I tried not to use it at first. I’ve also heard “philosophical conservatism”. Would we both be ok with “conservative instinct”? I’m looking for a term to refer to that cautious impulse, ie toward familiar toys.Report

              • Avatar Pinky
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                says:

                Not a bad term, but I think something so instinctive is pre-wisdom.Report

              • Avatar InMD
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                says:

                I think the term you’re looking for is ‘disposition.’ One can have a conservative disposition without it being determinative of their stance on any particular issue of policy.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels
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                says:

                You know, someone on this very site called me “dispositionally conservative”, and I rather like the term.

                What’s interesting about it, is that all that stuff about Burke- y’know, valuing tradition, respecting things that are tried and true- and the things about Chesterton’s Fence take on a different sort of meaning when we talk about the New Deal, the Great Society and their dismantling.

                Social Security, the New Deal banking regulations and public infrastructure and Medicare all are by now, American Traditions things that are tried and true.

                The innovative disruptions of the 1980s and 1990s deregulation and globalization are forces of new and dangerous experimentation, the sort that make people want to stand athwart and yell “Stop!”.

                Except that, even yelling “Stop!” is itself a radical experiment.
                For those of us reaching middle age and beyond, we’ve seen how destructive reflexive resistance is, and how healthy learning new things can be.

                There is that saying that liberals and conservatives both yearn for the 1950s, just that liberals want to go to work there and conservatives want to go home there.

                Maybe its best to pick and choose, discarding the things that didn’t work then, and embracing the things that did.
                Or maybe we can look around at our peer nations now, and pick out what they are doing right, and learning from what they are doing wrong.Report

              • Avatar Pinky
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                says:

                Now, back to my first question to you. What’s the benefit of your comment introducing the familiar-toys aspect of human nature into a discussion about the modern American political movement called “conservatism”?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird
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                says:

                Well, the modern American political movement grew out of the American political movement that did, ostensibly, argue that the point of conservativism was to stand athwart history shouting “stop!”

                After the Republicans are destroyed and a permanent democratic majority is established again, the burnt forest ground will find itself covered with all kinds of germinating seeds saying “hey, we’ve finally established a new order… maybe we should keep it?”

                And we will, once again, find ourselves with a new American political movement that will be vaguely conservative at the same time as vaguely embracing the name.

                (Also, the original comment had a twist, of sorts, at the end. If you remember the arguments we had over whether QI ought to be ended, the argument that we need to get rid of it was seen as the… what? Is ending QI the conservative or the progressive take? Is ending Police Unions the conservative or the progressive take? (Abolish the police, but keep police unions! Is the radical centrist take, I think.))Report

              • Avatar Pinky
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                says:

                I didn’t follow the QI discussion.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                We had a couple arguments (here and here are the first to come to mind but there were probably a couple more on top of those).

                You also saw this in arguments over the importance of police unions and how the precautionary principle might want us to consider going after other things first, if we want to improve society.

                Like statues, I guess.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC
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                says:

                After the Republicans are destroyed and a permanent democratic majority is established again, the burnt forest ground will find itself covered with all kinds of germinating seeds saying “hey, we’ve finally established a new order… maybe we should keep it?”

                That…seems slightly reductionist?

                Conservativism, in reality, is saying ‘The people in charge should be in charge’. (And I should clarify that by ‘people in charge’, I mean, the people the rules _are made for_, not the people who make the rules for them.)

                I.e., it defends privilege, in the original meaning of the term: Private law. Except it’s not ‘private law’, it’s the law everyone follows…that outlaws living under bridges, for example. Laws that are structurally unequal and enforcing existing inequalities, and enforced with a really specific social position in mind.

                Like you pointed out with QI…that’s something _incredibly recent_ that conservatives support. This is because, again, they aren’t trying to ‘conserve things they way they are’, they are trying to ‘conserve a specific power structure’.

                But progressiveness almost always claim to be trying to _reduce_ privilege, not _replace_ who is the beneficiary of it. No one is saying that the police should shoot white people instead of black people.

                If the government is no longer supporting a social hierarchy, then…what does conservative even mean? Are they reactionaries, trying to put the same people in back in charge?Report

              • Avatar George Turner
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                says:

                Gee, and I thought conservatives were trying to throw all the incompetent elites out of office. Oh well, whatever narrative floats your boat.

                Conservatives are trying to keep white Democrats from erecting a race-based power structure that enforces race-based laws, and it’s a tough fight. Schumer blocked the only realistic attempt at police reform because there’s no way white liberals were going to let the reform effort be led by a black Republican who has been racially profiled by cops, since he might not preserve Democrat’s white privilege, one designed to keep blacks poor, dependent, oppressed, and voting as a block for Democrats in return to a slight easing of the thumb screws.Report

              • Avatar Philip H
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                says:

                That’s a load of trolling horse hooey sir. Schumer blocked Scott’s package because it doesn’t actually make substantive changes that actually make things better for African Americans and other brutalized minorities. It may be the best Scott could get through the Ultra-right Republican caucus but it doesn’t even end Qualified Immunity much less chokeholds and other oppressive and common police tactics.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling
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              says:

              The movement that made Donald Trump president has no claim to the word “caution”. “Fear”, sure, but also “recklessness” and “nihilism”.Report

      • Avatar Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        Dang it! Jaybird answered me before my clarification!

        I’m hoping you notice my clarification, though, because I don’t think your answer addressed my question.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      Conservativism as the inclination to say “no, we shouldn’t do that, it won’t work” will be with us for as long as there are people who explain to us that we need to change things to make things better.

      “Let’s cut the social welfare budget!”
      “No, we shouldn’t do that, it won’t work.”

      “Lets open up federal lands for mining and development!”
      “No, we shouldn’t do that, it won’t work.”

      “Let’s privatize Social Security!”
      “No, we shouldn’t do that, it won’t work.”

      “Let’s ban abortion!”
      “No, we shouldn’t do that, it won’t work.”

      The proposal to change things can come from any direction.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling
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        says:

        “Let’s do the low-cost things that appear to slow the spread of the virus.”
        “No, we shouldn’t do that, it won’t work.”Report

      • Avatar George Turner
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        says:

        The California legislature just voted to repeal article 1 section 31 from their state Constitution.

        That section reads

        “(a) The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

        (f) For the purposes of this section, “State” shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the State itself, any city, county, city and county, public university system, including the University of California, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the State.

        Jim Crow says “Hi! Did you miss me?”

        I’ll be curious to see how the conservative argument shakes out on this among California Democrats.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          “What’s happening to our property values?”Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels
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          says:

          Note to the gentle readers.
          You will not be surprised to learn this is not accurate in the slightest.

          The Legislature approved a ballot measure which allows affirmative action in colleges.Report

          • Avatar George Turner
            Ignored
            says:

            They always tell you silly little things like that when they’re stripping you of your rights so they can institute some kind of race-based class system.

            California ACA5 WikiReport

          • Avatar North
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            I mean, technically, you’re both right. The stated purpose is to allow race based affirmative action. It would also, of course, allow less savory forms of race based activity (and some racial groups do consider affirmative action malevolent as well, some Asians for instance).Report

            • Avatar Pinky
              Ignored
              says:

              At least it’s a formal acknowledgement that affirmative action is racism. That’s better than the usual dodges. To George’s question, the Democrats will embrace it for three reasons. One, it’s from their team so it counts as a win. Two, it’s from their team so they trust it will be implemented well. Three, they never cared about equality.Report

              • Avatar Pinky
                Ignored
                says:

                Clear proof that Trump is a white nationalist and/or re-tweets things without paying attention. This should crush anyone who thought he was an attention-paying non-white-nationalist.

                That aside, your comment doesn’t justify those Democrats who are explicitly rejecting equality.Report

              • Avatar Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                That aside, your comment doesn’t justify those Democrats who are explicitly rejecting equality.

                So working to make California universities more diverse through giving oppressed people the leg up that is the least the deserve is rejecting equality? Wow, such a nice 1950’s retro white people’s attitude you have there.

                Discrimination is all about power dynamics, and the state constitution makes clear the goal is dismantling the power dynamic to make sure that diverse and often oppressed groups do actually get equality of chance. Seems to me that reinstating affirmative action in college admissions promotes that goal.Report

              • Avatar Pinky
                Ignored
                says:

                I wrote a longer reply and just deleted it. The core of the debate is that you’re endorsing discrimination on the basis of race as a means to promote equality. I reject that.Report

              • Avatar Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                Expanding equality of opportunity by making sure everyone gets a piece of the pie doesn’t take pie form you – it just makes the pie bigger. Pretending that the bigger pie will just spontaneously bake itself is the problem that affirmative action seeks to overcome.Report

              • Avatar Pinky
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m not sure I follow, but in the case of affirmative action, there are people who are being chosen and people who are being rejected. I think for your analogy to work, you’d have to be building new schools and admitting everyone.Report

              • Avatar Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                without affirmative action there are people being chosen and people being rejected. Based on statistical analysis of that outcome – i.e. who gets selected – absent affirmative action more white people get selected more often over equally qualified minority candidates. All affirmative action seeks to do is correct that imbalance so that qualified minority persons have an equal chance of being selected. Its making the pie bigger by making sure more people who are not white can eat it.Report

              • Avatar Pinky
                Ignored
                says:

                It’s not making the pie bigger. The pie is the number of job openings, university slots, whatever. With or without affirmative action, there are a finite number of slots, and some people will be chosen and some rejected. If individuals who are white are being chosen over individuals who aren’t, that’s against the law. (In fact, it’s against several laws, one of which you apparently want to get rid of.) If individuals who aren’t white are being chosen over individuals who are white, and you get your way and that becomes legal, it’s legal racism.

                I think you’re making statistical analysis do too much heavy lifting. That’s why I’m emphasising individuals. You need to consider the person who is getting chosen. If his qualifications are lower than someone who’s not getting chosen, that’s a specific problem. And as a society, we should try to define qualifications as best as we can, so that we’re not using some flawed proxy that will cause distortion.Report

              • Avatar Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                You need to consider the person who is getting chosen. If his qualifications are lower than someone who’s not getting chosen, that’s a specific problem. And as a society, we should try to define qualifications as best as we can, so that we’re not using some flawed proxy that will cause distortion.

                Black men without criminal records are 5 time less likely to get a job then white men with criminal records adjusting for experience and qualifications.

                Black men earn 85% of what white men earn adjusting for experience and qualifications.

                Black women earn 65% of what white men earn adjusting for qualifications and experience.

                A black man will have to send out 25% more resumes to get a job then a white man adjusting for experience and qualifications.

                Those statistics are lifting just fine. And they all still mean that absent specific changes under color of law, black men are still at a huge disadvantage in the workplace, to say nothing of college admissions.

                The problem with your priors is they don’t square with reality. What society should do is irrelevant in this context. What society is doing is the relevant factor. and there, we are STILL NOT HIRING absent racial, gender and sexual bias. There aren’t enough lawyers practicing this kind of law for free for us to litigate our way to a solution. So we have to make another statutory change.Report

              • Avatar Pinky
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t know about your other stats, but I’ve spent considerable time looking at pay gaps, and the differences are tiny if adjusted for experience, qualifications, and profession. Did you take profession into account? Either way, please provide a link for a specific claim so I can look into it.Report

  7. Avatar DensityDuck
    Ignored
    says:

    “I don’t like conservatism,” says the person who lets liberals tell him what conservatism is.Report

  8. Avatar InMD
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    says:

    Finally, modern conservative views on trade have also come to rely on the pretense that any gain which is not wholly in the benefit of the American market and American companies directly works against them. While, of course, this was not true, else NAFTA, CAFTA, and the TPP wouldn’t have made it off the negotiating table, let alone within a mile of adoption, this once again misses the forest for the trees and states emphatically that the idea of equality is not a value conservatism fights for.

    This has to be one of the craziest things I’ve ever read. Race to the bottom international capitalism is about equality? Who knew?

    If only more people could find it in their hearts to sacrifice a little more for the sake of foreigners in backward and hostile places, all at the behest of our beneficent corporate overlords. Oh what a world it would be.Report

  9. Avatar Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    I think you mean “saber rattling”. Sable-rattling would be what happens in Paris is Burning.

    (Sorry to be pedantic. I just wanted to make that joke.)Report

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