May 17, 2005

Buchanan: Conservatism is Dead

Pat Buchanan says American conservatism is dead.

"The conservative movement has passed into history," says the one-time White House aide, three-time presidential candidate, commentator and magazine publisher.

"It doesn't exist anymore as a unifying force," he says in an interview with The Washington Times. "There are still a lot of people who are conservative, but the movement is now broken up, crumbled, dismantled."

I almost never agree with Pat Buchanan. I’m rather partial to Stephen Greene’s argument that Buchanan is, as ever, a Nazi apologist. And I don’t use that term lightly. Neither does Stephen.

But Buchanan is right about this. “Conservative” is as useless a label as “liberal.” Neither term describes anything unified. “Conservatives” are a coalition of competing, and often mutually hostile, groups of people with different ideas. So are “liberals.” Just because we have two dominant political parties doesn’t mean there are only two kinds of Americans or only two schools of political thought.

Let’s say (just for fun) that conservatives are defined as those who are members of the Republican Party. Well, you’ve got your isolationist and traditionalist paleocons like Pat “Old Right and Old Church” Buchanan. Then there are the socially liberal Wall Street conservatives like Steve Forbes, whom Buchanan and his ragtag band of “peasants with pitchforks” deeply despise. Liberal Republicans like Arnold Schwartzenegger and Rudy Giuliani can plausibly be called RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) because they are really only “conservative” when compared with their fellow blue-staters. Libertarian Republicans - most of them anyway - are only Republicans in the first place because they think the GOP is the lesser of two evils. Theocons like James Dobson often make libertarian Republicans wonder if the Democrats might be the lesser of two evils after all. Don’t forget the neoconservatives – recent converts to Republicanism who still retain some of their old liberalism (whatever that is these days).

Lord only knows where swing voters who pulled the lever for Bush fit in – if they fit in at all, which is unlikely.

Cox and Forkum summed up the fight on the right quite nicely in one of their cartoons a couple months back.

Schiavo Rift.JPG

Here’s more on Buchanan:
He suggests that in some respects, traditionalists might be fighting for a lost cause. "We say we won a great victory by defeating gay marriage in 11 state-ballot referenda in November," he says. "But I think in the long run, that will be seen as a victory in defense of a citadel that eventually fell."

As he later says, "I can't say we won the cultural war, and it's more likely we lost it."

The evidence? He says it was all over the tube, in prime time, at last year's Republican National Convention, which featured California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, New York Gov. George E. Pataki and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, all social liberals.

"They are indifferent to those moral issues because they see them — and correctly — as no longer popular, no longer the majority positions that they used to be," he says.
That’s how it goes. Buchanan’s brand of conservative wants to freeze history in place and leave everything as it is. Such people are useful as a social anchor, but they are doomed to fail always and everywhere. People change, cultures change, history rolls on. What is conservative today was progressive yesterday.

Sometimes I feel sorry for Pat, even though I think he’s wrong about practically everything - especially foreign policy, from World War II to the present. He no longer recognizes his own country. He’s experiencing culture shock inside his own country. It must be ten times worse for the Islamists of Saudi Arabia.

Today’s more mainstream conservatives, those a bit to the left of Pat Buchanan, can expect to feel a similar sort of alienation if they can’t adjust to the times as they grow older. The same can be said of some of the so-called liberals (of the 1960s variety) as well. Like I said before, there are many kinds of conservatives.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 17, 2005 10:59 PM
Comments

He no longer recognizes his own country.

That's a fact. And that makes him a radical and an extremist.

Posted by: spaniard at May 17, 2005 11:04 PM

Great post, Michael, but I NEVER feel sorry
for Pat.

Posted by: Roger L. Simon at May 18, 2005 12:55 AM

"Buchanan’s brand of conservative wants to freeze history in place and leave everything as it is. Such people are useful as a social anchor, but they are doomed to fail always and everywhere."

How about phrasing part of the idea this way: Buchanan wants a society that supports committed heterosexual marriage as the most optimal, and opposes social changes which undermine this ideal.

The general optimality for raising children in an environment of "committed marriage" is almost as scientifically proven as any social generalization can be -- including the inevitable individual exceptions.

[Using UN or most quality of life measures, those people living in married couple families have more health, wealth, and happiness.]

Because it's not perfect, and because there are obvious tradeoffs, i.e. gay-marriage pro-con, it is always tempting to try to "liberalize" the culture to continue having the old benefits PLUS new benefits (at no cost).

It might be that legal gay-marriage is more optimal. It might be less optimal. Buchanan believes it to be less (so do I). Progressives want change, conservatives oppose.

It might be that legal abortion is more optimal; Pat and I are sure it's not.

As a less-optimal step is taken, like Roe, society and culture change. And the theoretical social results become real. Roe is now one anchor (or is it albatross?), and "progressives" want to change it ... back. (60s style NARAL "wants to freeze history...", that's what the judge filibuster fight is about; I smiled at your note)

But Pat's right about how big-gov't spending has infected the Reps -- the corruption of democracy is based on OPM; the spending of Other People's Money. (The secret to getting rich, in real estate or almost anywhere.)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at May 18, 2005 01:20 AM

Interesting post; just tonight Pat Buchanan was on Hannity & Colmes and Scarborough Country waxing about these very issues.

John Derbyshire was lamenting the same thing in a recent article in National Review (Twilight of Conservatism). In said article, he articulated that though the Republicans are the majority party - and conservatives outnumber liberals - This 'conservatism' isn't very conservative at all according to him.

He's right of course. The Old Right has long been suspicious and disapproving of the effect ex-Cold War liberal Democrats cum Republicans would have on the party and the conservative movement as a whole. Indeed this 'Post-Liberal Conservatism' or 'Neoconservatism' if you prefer, has become the dominant train of thought, and the Old Right has become as powerless and scarce in American Conservatism as the Old Guard 'New Deal' Wilsonians have become in contemporary American Liberalism.

I disagree with both. If anything I think we are becoming a more conservative country, and this trend will likely continue for some time. However, no matter how conservative we get, 1950 will never happen again.

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway at May 18, 2005 04:14 AM

The bottom line with a lot of cultural warriors is that they DON'T LIKE FREEDOM.

You can't be pro-freedom and then say that the free choices of the people are abominable.

Posted by: Undertoad at May 18, 2005 05:57 AM

Or, Tom, liberals might be arguing that in some areas of life the government is not the best decision-maker. It's very, very doubtful that smoking around your children is part of an optimal child-rearing strategy, but I don't think that the government should ban smoking because of this.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 18, 2005 06:09 AM

Yeah, Buchanan's style of isolationist tyranny-tolerating conservatism is dead -- and good riddance.

Posted by: TallDave at May 18, 2005 06:46 AM

Buchanan is best left ignored- whether its his not-so-latent anti-Semitism (as exemplified by his recent "was World War II justified?" column), his obsessive hatred of immigrants, or his distrust of American power that's on par with Michael Moore's. I think we should treat Buchanan the way we'd treat a belligerent vagrant muttering to himself in a subway car.

Posted by: Steve at May 18, 2005 06:58 AM

What I want to know is why Buchanan, Nazi-sympathizer that he is, gets so much airtime with the damn liberal media.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 18, 2005 07:05 AM

Pat Buchanan's populism always managed to fuse the worst of both political worlds, so to speak. Moreover, The man is so self-absorbed that he can't even realize that he's brought out on the cable shows to discredit "conservatives". If Buchanan and his political chauvanism is representative of the "conservatism" which has died, I say let it die.

Posted by: Andrew Schouten at May 18, 2005 07:10 AM

I was telling someone the other day: you're a liberal until the world starts to work the way you want it to. Then you turn conservative.

Posted by: Paul Brinkley at May 18, 2005 07:35 AM

Very nice article, Michael. How about a follow-up article on the heterogeneity of "liberals"?

And Paul Brinkley, I love your comment "…you're a liberal until the world starts to work the way you want it to. Then you turn conservative."

Posted by: VinoVeritas at May 18, 2005 08:04 AM

Part two of my "ironies of neoconservativism" series. (part one was in yesterday's MJT post)

Based on what Nathan Glazer says in the current and final issue of The Public Interest, Buchanan's concerns, and his pessimism, were echoed by the founding fathers of neoconservativism:

"We began to realize that our successes in shaping a better and more harmonious society, if there were to be any, were more dependant on a fund of traditional orientations, "values," or, if you will, "virtues," than any social science or "social engineering" approach. Consider Dan Bell writing on "The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism" as early as Fall 1970, in the PI's special issue on "Capitalism Today": 'The deeper and more lasting crisis is the cultural one. Changes in moral temper and culture-the fusion of imagination and life-styles-are not amenable to 'social engineering' or political control. They derive from the value and moral traditions of the society, and these cannot be 'designed' by precept. The ultimate sources are the religious conceptions which undergird a society...'

"Irving [Kristol] was in complete agreement with this thesis. When [he] wrote...that "for well over a hundred fifty years now, social critics have been warning us that bourgeois society was living off the accumulated moral capital of traditional religion and traditional moral philosophy, and that once this capital was depleted, bourgeois society would find its legitimacy ever more questionable."

Posted by: markus rose at May 18, 2005 08:07 AM

Michael,
You and Pat Buchanan provide evidence for the belief that America is destined to become a freer and more tolerant society.
Perhaps Bush has led a revolution. He is throwing bones to the conservatives left and right because he knows America is moving on.
Perhaps Bush truly believes in his freedom rhetoric. Not only should people around the world be free, but so should Americans and recent immigrants. They should be free to have homosexual marriages, free to get a driver's license without citizenship, and free to worship in Church.
The area in which the country might be becoming more conservative is in values of the body: abortion, cloning, and stem cells. As the possibility to do more arises, a strong reaction may emerge.
The jury is out on America's opinion of abortion. It's not one of those, "Oh, it will be accepted one day" kinds of issues like interracial marriage.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at May 18, 2005 08:35 AM

The Dominicans, in 17th Century Europe, railed against the destruction of a Moral Society by evils such as Science, Art, Music, Freemasonry, and Martin Luthor. They burned, tortured and publicly humiliated thousands and thousands of people, to save their moral society.

Arabs rail against the influx of Western clothing, western entertainment, western politics, western philosophy and western morals. They shoot, maim, slaughter, disgrace, abuse and terrorize anyone whom they consider a threat to Moral Society.

I think that people may be best off worrying about their morals and the morals of their immediate family. Apparently if one gets too concerned about this Moral Society bit, extremism may result in murder. I for one, would think it better to live in a less moral society, than a totalitarian one.

Silly notion, I know.

Posted by: Ohmshiva at May 18, 2005 08:41 AM

Conservatism is Dead</i?

I disagree. It is merely changing in order to be more relevant. The crisis of our civilization is moral relativism-- not fiscal issues or isolationism.

Modern conservatism is shedding those negotiables and focusing on the non-negotiables-- like preserving our judeo-christian civilization, and all the things that come with that.

Posted by: spaniard at May 18, 2005 09:08 AM

"Or, Tom, liberals might be arguing that in some areas of life the government is not the best decision-maker."

You have just described the libertarian position on just about everything.

Why is it that liberals trust the government to make important decisions about medical care and economic planning, but won't trust them on just about anything else?

I can keep the republicans out of my bedroom, but I can't keep the democrats out of my wallet. Although this seems to be slowly changing. sigh.

Posted by: J1 at May 18, 2005 09:55 AM

Posted by The Commenter at May 18, 2005 07:05 AM

"What I want to know is why Buchanan, Nazi-sympathizer that he is, gets so much airtime with the damn liberal media."

I always figured it was because a liberal producer thought he represented conservatism (re: they didn’t get it)...

Anyway, great post Michael. And I'm glad the republicans can tolerate internal debate. Try talking to a moveon member and you get called evil.... or worse.

Posted by: Thomas at May 18, 2005 10:03 AM

J1, I guess the reason is that I don't view all government decisions as necessarily bad. I don't think the government would be very good at making child-raising decisions. If another country were to have a healthcare system run, in part, by the government that provided good care to all of its citizens for less cost than we spend, then I might suggest that we try to adopt that policy. That's all - I'm not a knee-jerk "government is always good" or "government is always bad" person.

Thomas, I love this stuff. We have an accusation: the media is biased towards liberals. We have evidence against this accusation: people like Buchanan get lots of time. Does this evidence, in any way, detract from the accusation? No, of course not, because, let's do the twist! Yes...I peer into the minds of producers, find them to be liberal, and also find that they mistakenly believe Buchanan to represent conservatives!

Is there anything the media could do that would make you think it wasn't biased towards liberals, or does every piece of evidence get explained away by your ability to read the minds of members of the media?

Posted by: The Commenter at May 18, 2005 10:24 AM

Commenter: Is there anything the media could do that would make you think it wasn't biased towards liberals,...

Well, there was that leaked British government memo recently that indicated that in the summer of 2002, before talking to the UN, the British and American governments had decided to invade Iraq , and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." That was splashed all over the British press, but took two weeks to make it to page 18 of the Washington Post. And when I peruse the media from other parts of the world, I'm always seeing horrific photos of Iraqi civilian casualties that never make it into the American press.

I think that right wing thrives on the liberal media conspiracy myth. Don't expect anything to change their minds.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at May 18, 2005 10:35 AM

Lately, I've been listening to Reagan's radio commentaries from the 70s. Certainly, much of that conservatism is in recession or at least down for the count. However, Reagan does not come accross as near the cultural warrior as Buchanan.
In fact in the last 20 years, I'd be hard pressed to find a true big victory for the cultural warriors; atleast not one that wasn't just a temporary victory in a losing war. Sure, people's opinion's and actions have perhaps grown more conservative in some areas, but in the legal arena it has been a coninuous path to more liberties (with some bumps in the road).

Posted by: elambend at May 18, 2005 10:38 AM

In fact in the last 20 years, I'd be hard pressed to find a true big victory for the cultural warriors; atleast not one that wasn't just a temporary victory in a losing war

This actually is a salient point. Much of the strength of social conservatism comes not so much from enacting parts of its agenda as it does from getting their issues in the debate, inflaming the passions of their supporters, and using the lack of enactment as another reason for outrage.

For instance: last year's Federal Marriage Amendment, which didn't pass, never came close to passing, and was not (I don't believe) introduced with the intention of passing. But introducing it got the topic into the news and got its supporters to the polls- and its failing to pass will allow it to be reintroduced, probably multiple times, in future election years.

Posted by: Steve at May 18, 2005 11:13 AM

I used to despise Pat Buchanan, but after watching him on the McLaughlin Group over the past few years, I have come to actually like him.

At first this was disturbing to me, because I disagree with him about 90% of the time, and find his xenophobia especially to be nauseating. I came to realize, however, that Pat represents something that is quickly evaporating from the political landscape: People who are genuine in their beliefs and are willing to argue in an honest way. For better or worse, he says what he thinks and he doesn't run away from inconvenient facts. Truth is, I really want to hear the viewpoints of people I disagree with, but when facts are the point of debate rather than ideas about how to address them, discussion becomes very frustrating.

As to whether traditional conservatism is dead, I really doubt it. It is true, however, that the GOP leadership currently acts more interested in power than principle. Human nature and all that.

Posted by: sivert at May 18, 2005 11:27 AM

I don't think Buchanan's recent media appearances have anythimg to do with naivity or ulterior motives on the part of the 'liberal media'. Buchanan has long been a guest on and guest host for the Conventionally Republican 'Scarborough Country' and his profile has increased on many Fox News programs.

I think he gets play because he's a voice of dissent in an otherwise unified conservative movement, and for all his faults, he always comes across as a terribly polite and respectful man.

As for the 'Culture Wars', I predict that the 'Right' will eventually prevail on the issue of Abortion. I also predict that the 'Left' will prevail on virtually every other front (including Gay Marriage).

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway at May 18, 2005 11:31 AM

Spaniard,

Saying modern conservatism is "shedding the negotiables" is code for "moving the goal-posts." Does anyone think gay marriage would have been even on the moderate lefts "negotiable" list 40 years ago? Prayer in schools is a non-negotiable issue to a lot of conservatives, yet the Republican Party gives the issue lip service at best. Issues come and go. 100 years ago when child mortality was high the idea that the life of the fetus was sacred didn't even register among religious Christians. People turned a blind eye to aborted births all the time, even infanticide by the lower classes was often treated as "don't ask-don't tell." Certainly abortion was considered morally wrong, but a Victorian would have been far more upset by state-recognized homosexual marriage and the easy availability of graphic pornography. To many Americans miscegenation was the ultimate "non-negotiable." Thank God that has changed.

Posted by: Vanya at May 18, 2005 11:31 AM

"I used to despise Pat Buchanan, but after watching him on the McLaughlin Group over the past few years, I have come to actually like him...

At first this was disturbing to me, because I disagree with him about 90% of the time, and find his xenophobia especially to be nauseating. I came to realize, however, that Pat represents something that is quickly evaporating from the political landscape: People who are genuine in their beliefs and are willing to argue in an honest way. For better or worse, he says what he thinks and he doesn't run away from inconvenient facts."

I'll cosign this. I'm actually somewhat fond of Pat Buchanan, this despite the fact that he holds views I believe to me much more contemptable than many otherwise much more moderate conservatives that I'm not so fond of. I think it's because he always comes from a very honest position in his debates. There are so few wonks and pundits and talking heads in the daily political cycle that have any genuine intellectual honesty. They just stick to talking points and spout the party line. I'll also note that it's readily apparant that whatever Pat Buchanan is saying, it's motivated by a genuine love and feeling of benevolence for his country, rather than cheap political expediency.

It's too bad he's wrong so often...

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway at May 18, 2005 11:45 AM

Pat Buchanan says: "L'Conservatisme--c'est moi" (although, of course, Pat would never say it in French!)

In other words--he identifies his own brand of extremely paleo-Conservatism with conservatism itself. Buchanan used to be more of a mover and shaker on the national scene, but now he's reduced to being a TV talking head, at least as far as I know.

Who would have guessed that the high point of Buchanan's political career would wind up being all those votes he got from the elderly Jewish residents of a certain county in Florida?

Posted by: neo-neocon at May 18, 2005 12:32 PM

Conservatism is dead.

Long live Conservatism!

Posted by: TallDave at May 18, 2005 01:15 PM

As a libertarian, I've always been interested in:
Freedom WITH Responsibility.

"The bottom line with a lot of cultural warriors is that they DON'T LIKE FREEDOM."
Wrong.
Cultural warriors DON'T LIKE IRRESPONSIBILITY, and are willing to use gov't force to punish those they think are acting irresponsibly.

But God's gift (/reality) of Free Will is the freedom to sin. The culture war is over defining what a "sin" is. In words, it used to be the sexual F* word, now it's the racial N* word.

Most pre-Wallace (68 racist Dem independent, reason Rep Nixon won over Humphrey) conservative opposition has failed: against ending racism, against ending sexism, against sexual liberation, against growth of gov't.

Insofar as ending racism did not increase irresponsible behavior, there's no going back; same with ending a lot of sexism. But sexual liberation HAS increased irresponsible behavior, so conservatives are enraged and will stay enraged until society changes to increase responsibility.

Every responsibility is a decrease in freedom.

No big conservative victories yet -- but the filibuster/ judge nomination battle is the crest of the hill. When anti-Roe judges dominate the USSC, that will be the start of some small victories of responsibility (over too much freedom).

Ending affirmative action (gov't racism) will be one of the early "victories" that Dustin is wrong about. Would gay civil unions be a conservative or progressive victory? I think that's the more stable place, as long as the Pope maintains the sinfulness of gay sexual behavior.

On the growth of gov't, the 60s boomers haven't retired yet, haven't demanded that 2015 workers pay BIG bucks to cover their lack of responsible retirement savings.

Pat's isolationism might come back far sooner than most realize -- as the world successfully dumps dictators, and replaces them with democracies, the stable "our bastard" system ends. In an all democracy world there's little need for a huge military industrial complex, especially with unfunded Medicare. (The EU ain't gonna re-arm; maybe Russia won't much, then, either.)

A new pro-democracy riot every 6 months or so; or every 2 months? So many it's hardly news. I don't think it will be this fast, but didn't think Uzbekistan would protest, either. Syrian elections in 2007? China in 2011? (???)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at May 18, 2005 03:12 PM

Tom,

Why do you call yourself a libertarian if you're against such things as legal abortion and gay marriage? Why not just call yourself a conservative? I know the labels are mostly useless, but you seem to me more like Bill Frist than Arnold Schwartzenegger.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 18, 2005 03:23 PM

But Buchanan is right about this. “Conservative” is as useless a label as “liberal.” Neither term describes anything unified.

Just as business marketing has changed over the past few decades so has politics - they both have become personalized. Not all that long ago one would go to a car dealership and buy from the cars on the lot - today one can have his/her car customized to his/her liking at the factory and shipped. Politics have transformed too. Now each person has a individualized set of positions on multiple issues, including a specific set of priorities, and the general labels don't mean anything anymore. Suppose you own an SUV. Well, a Porche Cayenne, Toyota RAV4, and GM Suburban are all SUV's but are so different (even without furthur customization) that the term SUV doesn't really mean much. To tell someone you own an SUV will cause the other person to make (usually incorrect) assumptions unless you provide a bunch of qualifiers and descriptions. No different for "liberal," "conservative," "democrat," "republican," "neocon," or "socialist." Arguing about what the general labels mean (or which one is better/worse) is a waste of time.

I'm tired now and must take a nap.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Posted by: MJT's cat at May 18, 2005 03:28 PM

Lebanon.Profile

I would like to point out a non-sequitr in an otherwise nice post. You noted that perhaps the president wishes people to be free to get driver's liscenses without citzenship. You realize, I'm sure, that anyone in this country today may apply for and receive a driver's liscense without citzenship. In the future, under the legislation inappropriately placed in an emergency defense authorization, those without citizenship, and in the country illegally, will not be able to get a driver's liscense to be used as federal ID. In several states, they may still be able to receive a certificate for driving that is not to be recognized as identification. The operative point here is that non-citizens will not be denied the privilege of driving in this country. They will have a more difficult time of using that liscense to access facilities (government buildings, airports, etc) and services (car/van rental, bus/train/plane ticket purchases) that require picture ID if they are in the country illegally. That is merely prudence, as burdensome and onerous as it is sure to be.

Posted by: Christopher Nicolaus at May 18, 2005 04:11 PM

If I recall correctly, Mad Magazine once described Patrick Buchannan as "A man who claims to love America, but hates 90% of the people living here." I think that pretty much sums him up.

Posted by: Sean P at May 18, 2005 04:28 PM

Dustin Ridgeway:

"he's a voice of dissent in an otherwise unified conservative movement,"

I don't think you're very familiar with conservatism--or you're looking at it from so far away that some pretty significant differences are not apparent to you. Conservatives have always been split between several factions that don't always like each other very much, and they are now no less (but not much more) than ever. Michael's taxonomy is one way to put it; there are others.

I would argue that we're far more heterodox than liberals these days, and that that's a strength. I think, as others here have put it, that to Buchanan the wrong kind of conservatives are winning political battles these days, so they don't count and the "real" movement is going down.

I don't think we're talking about the same Buchanan, by the way. "He always comes across as a terribly polite and respectful man"? Like when he addressed his critics as un-American? He "doesn't run away from inconvenient facts"? Ever read his column that diesel exhaust doesn't kill anyone, because some schoolkids survived 45 minutes in a trapped subway?

I don't mean to toss rhetorical grenades here, but I find these descriptions excessively charitable. If I were a liberal who wanted to make conservatives look very nasty, he'd be the first guy I hired to speak for them.

Posted by: JPS at May 18, 2005 07:16 PM

As often as I've linked to the guy here, it should be no secret that I find Laurence Auster (of amnation.com) something of a must-read from the traditional conservative perspective (as opposed to the neo-conservative perspective which he rather mercilessly attacks. He's no friend of Bush, to say the least.)

I found this entry interesting, in which he talks about the fact that David Horowitz labels himself a liberal. Obviously Auster doesn't disagree:

Horowitz: I am a liberal

The 'money quote' as it were is this:

"..even though he is not a leftist, he nevertheless shares a fundamental orientation with the left: the lack of allegiance, or at least of primary allegiance, to a substantive civilizational or spiritual order. Such a person will be more concerned about defending and expanding individual freedoms than defending the social and familial order that makes such freedoms possible...

Even though liberalism is very different from leftism, and is often at war with leftism, it starts from the same spiritual basis as leftism: the denial (or at least the downgrading and thinning out) of transcendence and of particularity, the attempt to base society on abstract ideas and procedures (tolerance, inclusion, equality) rather than on the substance of a culture, namely transcendent reality as transmitted through a particular historical tradition."

Well, that latter part about "transcendence" is a bit over my head but I enjoy reading the guy. His archives make for fascinating reading about liberalism and most especially what he calls the fundamental flaw inherent in liberalism - the "unprincipled exception".

I am increasingly inclined to view him as a daily must-read, to understand what 'conservatism' really means.

Posted by: Caroline at May 18, 2005 08:05 PM

First of all, I have enjoyed reading a comment list with posters from each "team" and even some internationals (what up Spain and Lebanon!).

As far as I can tell from the comments on this blog most people are "moderate". The people on the "left" do not want to destroy America and make everyone have abortions and the people on the "right" are not trying to make everyone go to church and kill non-whitey. Is it possible that both Buchanon and Clift (skank from the same Group) both suck? Why would anyone care about two jackass pundits?

(I don't edit my posts:)

Posted by: Mike # 3or 4 at May 18, 2005 09:29 PM

"I don't think you're very familiar with conservatism--or you're looking at it from so far away that some pretty significant differences are not apparent to you. Conservatives have always been split between several factions that don't always like each other very much, and they are now no less (but not much more) than ever. Michael's taxonomy is one way to put it; there are others."

I'm not disputing the existance of different branches of 'conservatism', and differences between them. I would however argue that the large bulk of occupants in the modern mainstream conservative movement share a far greater degree of fraternity and similiarity than not. So much so, that any intellectual or moral defecit on the Part of Buchanan, has little if any effect on modern conservatism as a whole. That being because he is so unrepresentative of modern, mainstream American conservatism.

"I would argue that we're far more heterodox than liberals these days, and that that's a strength."

In one of his columns in the NYT, David Brooks was opining about this very heterodoxy in the conservative movement, proclaiming that this, rather than militant unity was the key to conservative success. I agree that their is surprising intellectual diversity among conservatives, but I would say that for however diverse their beliefs, motives and causes might be , their consensus on actions that must be undertaken are fairly homogeneous.

Perhaps I'm wrong; it will be interesting to see how these various camps engage eachother as more and more of their agreed upon preliminary goals are achieved.

"I don't think we're talking about the same Buchanan, by the way. "He always comes across as a terribly polite and respectful man"? Like when he addressed his critics as un-American? He "doesn't run away from inconvenient facts"? Ever read his column that diesel exhaust doesn't kill anyone, because some schoolkids survived 45 minutes in a trapped subway?"

My asessment of his character is primarily based on his several stints on politically oriented talking-head shows, and as a substitute host on Scarborough country. If you REALLY wanted to get critical, You could focus on things much more damning to him than those two observations you just made. Perhaps the ease with which he could be tarred politically, and his complete lack of effect as a serious political actor are part of what endears some people to him, who knows?

"I don't mean to toss rhetorical grenades here, but I find these descriptions excessively charitable. If I were a liberal who wanted to make conservatives look very nasty, he'd be the first guy I hired to speak for them."

In all honesty, I could employ Pat Robertson or Phyllis Schlafly and deliver more aftershock to Conservatism than a disregarded Pat Buchanan. That probably says at least as much about Conservatives these days as it does about Pat.

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway at May 19, 2005 06:53 AM

He’s experiencing culture shock inside his own country. It must be ten times worse for the Islamists of Saudi Arabia.

I hate Pat, but comparing him to the Wahabis in Saudi Arabia? lol... give me a break.... that sounds like the over the top analogies you'd hear at a Noam Chomsky gathering. And what culture shock in Saudi Arabia, that place it tight as a drum.

Mike

Posted by: Mike at May 19, 2005 10:33 AM

Count me in the "I like Buchanan even though I disagree with him" club (my favorite name for him is "Buchanana"). On history he's loony--on current events he really is pretty honest and I like that about him.

I'm a little surprised to see anyone saying, of Reagan's 1970 radio commentary, that not much of that mentality is seen today. Actually most of it seems very alive and well to me--and I have read most of those.

The problem for Pat isn't just that social conservatives have lost certain arguments. They've also won certain arguments and often failed to realize it. The level of taxation and government regulation we live under today is much, much less than it was 30 years ago. Religion is as popular as ever. Divorce, abortion, drug use, and violent crime have all been on long downward spirals for quite some time now. On popular culture they couldn't get things banned but they could get warning labels (ratings on not just movies but TV shows and video games and music--and for all the liberal handwringing over those, none of them ever turned into "censorship"). Except for the very old, the very sick, or the permanently handicapped, welfare now has time limits and work requirements. America has the strongest military in the world, and has kept it that way for a long, long time, even though a long period of peace and stability and prosperity (the 1990s) as well as through the current period of war. Capitalism and free trade have become the default environment most people expect to live under.

In only the "free trade" department can Pat really call that a loss: conservative protectionists and conservative free traders have been arguing with each other for generations, and the free traders won.

In short, Buchanan has failed to notice than on many huge issues of the last 30 years, conservatives won substantial victories--either outright victories (capitalism won, hands down), or substantial partial victories (most young people now view divorce as bad for children because they saw its effects growing up, most now acknowledge that casual sex, "free love," isn't very healthy, etc.). Hell, the fastest-growing career choice among young women these days is MOTHER AND HOMEMAKER.

Part of the reason Pat's old-school conservatism is dead is because it won a lot of arguments that are now settled, and they're left wither with extreme positions or issues where their own ranks were always divided in the first place.

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Posted by: Dean Esmay at May 19, 2005 10:55 AM

Fine points, Dustin, and nicely put. I think I may have misread you somewhat.

I still get the sense I view conservatives as a much more fractious lot than you do, but you make a fair case. What stands out to you (if I read you right) is conservative unity on a few overriding issues; what stands out to me is how much nose-holding is involved in generating that unity among factions that often can't stand each other.

While I don't read Brooks regularly, I think I may have been quoting him (secondhand) without realizing it; I didn't mean to try to pass that off as my own.

Finally, you'll get no argument from me that you could find people even nastier than Buchanan if you were out to play guilt-by-association. Not sure what that says about conservatives, though. Hanging Pat Robertson around our necks is, to my mind, a lot like hanging Michael Moore around liberals' : not fair, really, but it ought to be harder to do persuasively than it is.

Posted by: JPS at May 19, 2005 02:35 PM

Posted by The Commenter at May 18, 2005 10:24 AM

"Thomas, I love this stuff. We have an accusation: the media is biased towards liberals. We have evidence against this accusation: people like Buchanan get lots of time. Does this evidence, in any way, detract from the accusation?"

I've always been on the conservative side and everyone I've known 'from my team' has always found Buchanan to be an embarrassment. He also seemed to be the only 'conservative' on TV….

Laugh all you want. Since then we've pretty much thrown him out of the conservative movement all together... no irony there? The guy always on TV as a conservative can't get invited to speak at any mainstream conservative meetings; his articles are not published in leading conservative magazines, et cetera...

So of course it looks odd. Like if I got to pick the liberal (to put on tv shows) and always went with someone abrasive whom most liberals didn't think was a liberal...

But if you want to stick your fingers in your ears and hum that you can't hear me, that works too.

Posted by: Thomas at May 19, 2005 03:52 PM

Michael, see Libertarians for Life .
Libs are against initiating the use of force against other people. The human fetal person has different DNA; it's innocent; it's wrong to kill it.
The folk who WANT abortion legal pretty much want promiscuous sex; including Libertarians (especially? so MANY horny nerdy men. I was one). I now believe "responsible promiscuity" is not really possible.

On gay marriage, I favor civil unions, NOT marriage. I believe the purpose of "gay-marriage" is to establish such full civil acceptance as to justify the condemnation of any religion which says gay sex is sinful. It does NOT have the purpose to support the creation of human life through the "marriage" of a papa sperm and a mama ovum -- it is this creation that social marriage should celebrate. Not the sexual partnership. [I also believe "marriage" without raising kids is mostly a civil union.)

The moral underpinning of Lib thought is that all gov't action is based on force, not peace; therefore it should be minimized.
The utilitarian support for Lib policy is that less gov't usually means better results, over time -- as folk learn to act responsibly in their own self interest.

Dean's points were great -- when the good ideas of one side "win", and become standard, that "side" is left with the less good ideas.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at May 19, 2005 06:48 PM

I am amazed by your interpretation of libertarianism, Tom.

I understand the concept of minimizing government action. What I don't understand is how you can claim, at the same time, "I wish to minimize government action" and "I want the government to forceably prevent women from having abortions".

Or, "I wish to minimize government action" and "I want the government to defend religions that people might otherwise condemn".

Seriously, if you want to minimize government action, that generally means letting people make decisions for themselves - and those decisions include whether or not to have an abortion, whether or not to be promiscuous (abortion and promiscuity have been shown to be statistically unrelated), whether or not to accept gay marriage, whether or not to condemn a religion, and so forth. You want people to choose responsibility over irresonsibility? Straight marriage over gay marriage? Non-abortion over abortion? That's all fine. You can want those things all you want. But the basic idea behind libertarianism is that if you want people to choose something, you should find a way of getting them to do that yourself - convince them, bribe them, whatever. But the minute you start asking the government to do those things for you, you stop being a libertarian and become a statist. A pretty conservative statist.

Sorry, I call bullshit.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 20, 2005 07:46 AM

Commenter, I don’t consider myself a Libertarian, but I can see the logic in Tom Grey’s “Pro Life Libertarianism”. Libertarians, if I understand correctly, are not anarchists. They believe the state has a certain minimum set of duties. Protection of human life is one of them. And there is no denying it: the fetus is a human being, who just happens to be living inside the body of another human being. The only intellectually honest defense of abortion is “yes, it’s a human being, but the freedom of choice of the mother trumps the right to life of the fetus”. I, like Tom, reject that premise. I recognize that the pro-choice view currently holds sway, but I hope that the “Culture of Life” eventually prevails. I just regret that the "Culture of Life" label has been highjacked by a bunch of cynical pro-big-business charlatans.

Tom, with regard to sexual promiscuity, I agree with Commenter. As a Libertarian you would agree that there are certain things the state does badly, and I believe that regulating sexual behavior is one of them.

Regarding gay marriage, I again agree with Tom when he says “I favor civil unions, NOT marriage.”

Commenter, you say “if you want to minimize government action, that generally means letting people make decisions for themselves … whether or not to accept gay marriage”. Ah, but the proponents of gay marriage are not arguing in favor of societal acceptance of gay marriage, but the STATE SANCTION of gay marriage.

Let gays have civil unions. Indeed, let ANYONE have civil unions, whether sexual in nature or not. Why grant two homosexuals all the benefits of such an arrangement while denying them to, say, a widowed woman and her unmarried daughter? Or two unmarried elderly brothers? In fact, the state should probably get out of the marriage business altogether and leave it to the churches, except in areas regarding the welfare of children.

And yes, let people decide for themselves whether to accept gay marriage. If gays want to set up The First Church of Jesus Christ Pederast – well, I for one would find that distasteful, but let them have whatever ceremonies they want, and let you, me, Tom, and everyone else decide what we think of it. But the government shouldn't be involved, aside from regulating it just like any other civil union.

Posted by: VinoVeritas at May 20, 2005 06:33 PM

Perhaps Buchananism is dead too.

In all my posts on Winds of Change, I hope that the central theme to come out of them is that the labels 'liberal' and 'conservative' have no cogent meaning in this age. As we move ever further into a world where technology will defy borders and redefine what it means to be human, those simplistic labels will mean even less than they do now. That's why I don't identify with any body politic in this era, which I consider transitional. There's nothing but slippery slopes, and I don't really see any substantial bedrock offered by the politicians of our time.

In all deference to you Michael -- you are a diamond in the Blogosphere -- I would prefer that people like Buchanan are made irrelevant by not paying much attention to them. He's an old microphone-hog who is a demagogue. Demagogues draw life from the media -- from having their views amplified and celebritized. Otherwise, they're just wind.

Posted by: Marcus Cicero at May 21, 2005 08:05 AM

The issue of abortion, as it pertains to libertarianism, would be no different than the rest of the political sphere (choice vs. protection of life)

As it pertains to Gay Marriage however, I can see no libertarian based argument against such an arrangement, which is why I suppose many libertarians are otherwise in favor of the concept.

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway at May 21, 2005 11:00 AM

Posted by Dustin Ridgeway at May 21, 2005 11:00 AM

"As it pertains to Gay Marriage however, I can see no libertarian based argument against such an arrangement, which is why I suppose many libertarians are otherwise in favor of the concept."

As a libertarian, I'm against the state having the right to define marriage at all. It takes two to make a wedge issue. While the liberal press only sees the republicans thrashing with this club, it's obvious that the left is aggressively going for the term 'marriage' (vs. fighting for civil unions) in order to keep their constituencies fired up... Must hate reactionary republican dominionists.... On the other side, the religious feel under siege and that this is their institution which the majority has no right to fashion as they choose..

So a pox on them both, both are trying to use the state for legitimacy for a world view.

As a libertarian, I'd like to see the state only recognize all unions as civil. If you want to be married, go to a church. If your gay, make it a Unitarian church…

Posted by: Thomas at May 23, 2005 05:24 PM

For all of you theorizing on the 'death of conservatism', or whatever you want to call it, I just have to say that all of this theoretical analysis is quite fascinating, yet quite devoid of reality.

If you want to really know what the 'modern conservative movement' is like, then I suggest you find a conservative grassroots group in your area that is on this cutting edge.

I would suggest looking for a Townhall.com meetup. (But look fast, because Townhall.com is dumping Meetup.com, to form it's own version of 'meetups') If you know anything about modern conservative thought, then you know that Townhall.com is quite an influential place.

I have been active in my local Townhall.com group for over a year now, and I can safely say that most of you are 'way off' in your theorizing about the character and condition of conservatism.

Our group is a dynamic mix of all sorts of 'types' of conservatives: religious conservatives, both christians and orthodox jews, libertarians, economic conservatives, free-traders, you name it. There are some, like Buchanan, who fret over the effects of free trade and globalization, but I think it is now an established fact that all conservatives share a deep respect for and confidence in the free market, and that includes religious conservatives.

We find plenty of common cause, and work together on many issues. Those with isolationist views such as Buchanan's are nowhere to be found.

We are all united on the issues of aggressively prosecuting the War On Terror, promoting democracy around the globe, protecting homeland security with effective borders, stopping the assault on faith and the Christian religion (Dennis Prager and Rabbi Lapin are our leaders in this cause), protecting against the Islamo-fascist threat at home and abroad, lower taxes, lower government spending (not a happy bunch of campers on this issue!), and reining in an out-of-control judiciary and appointing judges with an 'originalist' view of the Constitution and a respect for the law.

I think there is plenty of common ground there for conservatives of all stripes to join together.

Townhall.com groups are proof of it.

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Posted by: 优化男儿 at September 21, 2007 11:51 PM
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