Category Archives: conservatism

The “Racist Tea Parties” debate

My RealClearPolitics.com column, Tea parties racist?  Not so fast, has drawn not one but two responses on Salon.com.  The first is from Prof. Christopher Parker, a political scientist at the University of Washington and the lead investigator on the study of the racial attitudes of Tea Party supporters on which my column was largely based.  The second is from Salon.com editor Joan Walsh, whose article based on Parker’s findings, “The Tea Partiers’ racial paranoia,” I  mentioned and criticized in the column.

When Prof. Parker’s study was first released, it was widely discussed as evidence that the Tea Party movement was driven in large part by racism.   The proof was in the numbers: as Salon.com’s David Jarman summed it up, in a “Who are the tea partiers” article that for some reason can no longer be found at its original URL,

Among whites who approve of the Tea Party, only 35 percent said they believe blacks are hard-working, only 45 percent believe blacks are intelligent, and just 41 percent believe that they’re trustworthy.

Salon.com editor Joan Walsh, whose article also seems to have disappeared but is cached here, sarcastically inquired,

And Tea Party supporters don’t like it when anyone notices the racists in their midst?

As I found when I obtained a fuller set of numbers from Prof. Parker (by now, all the data are on the UW website), the actual picture was far more complex.  Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under conservatism, race, U.S. politics

Not enough government?

On TNR.com a few days ago, William Galston criticizes David Brooks’ “Moderate Manifesto,” which accuses Obama of overreaching on an ambitious government-expanding agenda.  Says Galston:

[T]here is no question that the Obama budget contemplates a growth of the federal government relative to both the states and civil society. This is what happened under FDR, driving the conservatives of the time to paroxysms of rage. Today’s conservatives are doing what Ronald Reagan never did–namely, relitigating the merits of the New Deal. It’s not clear whether Brooks intends to join them. If so, he should either argue explicitly that the New Deal was a mistake, or distinguish between today’s needs and those of the 1930s. If not, it’s hard to see the prima facie case against Obama’s course.

Well, leaving aside the merits of the New Deal, there is one major difference.  In 1940, total federal, state and local spending in the United States equalled about 19% of the GDP (up from 13% in 1930).  Today, it’s close to 37%.  (The data can be found here.)  Growing government from a small base is — to point out the obvious — not the same as growing it from a large base.  A Rooseveltian expansion of government today would push its size to some 56% of the GDP.

Meanwhile, on Salon.com, Michael Lind castigates Obama for not being pro-big-government enough and for espousing market-oriented “neoliberalism,” a liberal adaptation to the tyranny of conservative free-market fundamentalists.  (Back in June, Lind wrote that conservatism had already been defeated.  Never mind.)   He dislikes the cap-and-trade approach to pollution, preferring command-and-control.  He is angry that Obama wants to encourage private initiative and investment to develop “green” energy, instead of organizing a government research program civilar to the one FDR created to develop the atomic bomb.  (If Lind cannot see the difference between a weapons program with a very specific goal and the development of alternative energy sources in a vast and complex economy, trying to explain is hopeless.)  He hails FDR as the model of centralized action that Obama is failling to emulate, since FDR “imposed a single, simple, efficient tax to pay for a single, simple, efficient public system of retirement benefits.”   You’d think it was only “free-market fundamentalists” who have warned about the problems an aging population creates for Social Security.

By the way, here, Lind says that “socialism” is a racial code word in the same manner as “welfare queen.”  But of course; that’s why there’s all this talk of “European” or “Swedish” socialism.  Because when Americans think “Sweden,” they think “lazy shiftless blacks.”  Makes perfect sense.  Does anyone take Lind seriously?

And here on Slate.com, Jacob Weisberg explains why Obama is not a European-style social democrat and why “European socialism” wouldn’t work here even if Obama endorsed it.  He makes an interesting case.

(Cross-posted on RealClearPolitics.com.)

5 Comments

Filed under conservatism, economy, liberalism, socialism, the left

Fools rush in

(Yes, another tired pun on the word “rush.”)

What do I think on the great debate about Rush Limbaugh and the GOP?  I don’t think there’s any way in which it can be good for the Republican Party to be seen as in thrall to The Mouth That Roared, any more than it would be good for the Democrats to be seen as in thrall to their big fat idiot.  (I will say that I don’t think the DNC chairman wouldn’t call Michael Moore’s rhetoric “incendiary” and “ugly” for fear of alienating his fan base, but I also doubt that Moore would be the star speaker at a gathering of liberal activists.)

Jonah Goldberg defends El Rushbo here.  Among other things, Jonah asks why it’s wrong for Rush or any other conservative to say that he or she wants Obama to fail, considering that Obama’s agenda — to “remake America as a European welfare state” — is one that conservatives naturally oppose.  But there are many ways to say the same thing.  I, for instance, would say that I hope Obama succeeds in turning the economy around, but fails in foisting upon us the big-government programs he is seeking to enact.   Surely, Rush Limbaugh is smart enough to figure out something like this.

Jonah also asks:

Besides, since when did hoping for the failure of ideological agendas you disagree with become unpatriotic? Liberals were hardly treasonous when they hoped for the failure of George W. Bush’s Social Security privatization scheme.

No, but they were certainly called unpatriotic or downright treasonous — and rightly so — if they hoped for the failure of American troops in Iraq.  Maybe war is different; but hoping for bad news in the midst of a major economic crisis does not seem much more attractive than hoping for bad news in the midst of a war.  I would also add that if the Social Security reform did go through, any liberal who stood up and said that he or she hoped it would end in disaster and bankrupt millions of seniors would quickly become public enemy No. 1 to Rush and others — Exhibit A in the case against America-hating liberals.

Obviously, I don’t particularly care for Rush.  I don’t listen to him a whole lot.  I know that, unlike some of the talk radio screamers, he doesn’t insult and berate callers who disagree with him.  I know that, compared to Michael Savage, his show is an oasis of civility, and that in some cases he has readily apologized for using ugly language.  I do, however, know that Rush’s stock in trade is demonizing the opposition and treating Americans with different politics as the enemy.  That, as far as I’m concerned, makes him part of the problem.  Jonah mocks Tom Daschle for complaining about Rush’s broadsides in 2002, but those broadsides really were pretty extreme; Limbaugh basically accused Daschle of treason for criticizing the Bush administration’s conduct of the war and called him “Hanoi Tom” and “Tokyo Tom.”

I do wholeheartedly agree with Jonah’s proposal to bring back Firing Line — the old show hosted by William F. Buckley that featured rational, civil, interesting conservative-vs.-liberal debate.  An online version of Firing Line would be good as well.  I’d participate.

(Cross-posted to RealClearPolitics.com)

5 Comments

Filed under conservatism

The S-word and the F-word

obama-marx-reason-cover1

Updated March 7 at 7:45 pm — please read below the cut!

My column on the brouhaha about Obama as a “socialist” appears on RealClearPolitics.com (and on Reason.com) this week.   Short answer: Yes, Obama’s proposals advance and enhance the welfare state and government involvement in the economy (and yes, I think this is a bad thing); no, this is not any sort of radical departure from the existing system (as my Reason colleague Veronique de Rugy has noted, Obama’s budget “simply expands the Bush policies of bigger government and increased centralization”); and to compare this to Communism by invoking, as Mike Huckabee and others have done, the decrepit ghosts of Lenin and Stalin verges on obscenity.

Now, we have a debate between my friend Ron Radosh and The New Yorker‘s Hendrik Hertzberg on whether Obama’s policies are leading us toward “fascism American style.”    Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Barack Obama, conservatism

Now he tells us

National Review’s Rich Lowry on Bush’s Top 10 mistakes, and two items that drew my attention.

Not reading enough history. Bush has admirably applied himself to an extensive reading program as president, but if he had absorbed more history before taking office — particularly about military matters — he’d have had a better grounding to make important decisions.
….
Underestimating the power of explanation. By temperament and ability, Bush was more a “decider” than a “persuader.” He’s not naturally drawn to public argument, giving his administration its unfortunate (and not entirely fair) “my way or the highway” reputation at home and abroad.

I remember a different tune from Rich Lowry. Here’s my take on it in my own 2002 Reason column “Intellectual Warfare“:

“Maybe we don’t want a presidential candidate who can pronounce Kostunica or recite the constituent parts of Yugoslavia,” wrote National Review Editor Richard Lowry. … Sometimes, especially at National Review, the animus against braininess has overlapped with a crusade for traditional manliness — the idea being that book learning is for wimps.
Appearing on the Fox News show On the Record to discuss a recently released documentary about Bush on the campaign trail, Lowry hailed him as “a more traditional, red-blooded guy” than Al Gore: “He’s tough. He’s manly….He’s not very reflective.” To Lowry, it turns out, even familiarity with “hip” pop culture products such as Sex and the City — a familiarity that Bush, in the documentary, appears to lack — denotes excessive intellectualism and elitism. “Bush probably knows more about NASCAR, which is more tuned into what most Americans care about, than any of these reporters writing about him,” he commented.

And from another column:

In October 2000, at a Cato Institute symposium on the presidential election, National Review Editor Rich Lowry spoke of a “war on masculinity” in America and asserted that Bush appealed to the voters because he exemplified an action-oriented, nonintellectual manly resolve.

Oh yes, that Cato symposium; I remember it well, especially Lowry’s enthusiastic praise for Bush’s lack of bookishness.

Now it turns out book-learnin’ (and a little bit of reflectiveness) can be useful after all.

As Glenn Reynolds would put it: Heh.

Leave a comment

Filed under anti-intellectualism, conservatism, George W. Bush

The wages of populism: Joe the Journalist

If you think I’m making too big a deal out of anti-intellectualism on the right… then check out the latest from the Pajamas Media “citizen journalist,” Joe “more-than-15-minutes-of-fame” The Plumber:

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think journalists should be anywhere allowed war (sic). I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what’s happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I think it’s asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II when you’d go to the theater and you’d see your troops on, you know, the screen and everyone would be real excited and happy for them. Now everyone’s got an opinion and wants to downer–and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers.

I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, “Well look at this atrocity,” well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it.


To quote the line I’ve paraphrased before from the Russian comedian Mikhail Zhvanetsky: “Words fail. At least, printable ones.”

A very appropriate quote, actually, considering that Mr. Wurzelbacher’s musings strongly remind me of Russian Putinistas who justify censorship of unpleasant news because, heck, you don’t want to “downer” the public.

I know that media reporting on wars often leaves a lot to be desired. But … well, Bill Roggio on the Weekly Standard blog pretty much says it all:

[W]hile embedded as an independent reporter in Iraq and Afghanistan several times, I have seen journalists do some appalling things. I could probably write a book about it, but honestly I’m far more interested in the war itself. Despite what I have seen, I believe the media should have access during conflicts. Shutting the media out would entirely concede the information to al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, etc. who are increasingly developing sophisticated information strategies. Yes, there is bad and slanted reporting coming out of the combat zones, but there also are good reporters out there who can get the story right. The public needs to hear these stories to understand the nature of the war.

The real irony here is that PJTV, a 21st Century, Internet-based news organization is sending a reporter–who doesn’t want reporters to report on war–to report on a war. And apparently Joe would love to return to the days when the news was influenced by the government and seen at the theater.

Precisely.

Could this be the beginning of the end of American conservatism’s fatal-attraction love affair with populism? Or am I being too optimistic again?

11 Comments

Filed under anti-intellectualism, conservatism, media

NAS conference notes 2: Barack Obama and the colorblind vision

Remember when conservatives talked about the vision of a colorblind society and about moving past racial preferences?

In the past couple of years, this issue has been out of the limelight. Last November, a ballot measure to ban the consideration of race in public college admissions and other government operations succeeded in Nebraska but was narrowly defeated in Colorado, after a vicious smear campaign that linked the initative to the Ku Klux Klan and questioned the high salary paid to one of the leaders of the anti-preferences movement, African-American businessman Ward Connerly. Several similar measures were kept off the ballot in other states.

What now?

It’s interesting that two speakers at the NAS conference who are strongly associated with the anti-preferences movement — both decidedly right of center — spoke of Obama and his election with unrestrained and unabashed enthusiasm. At the opening session, my good friend Abigail Thernstrom, co-author with her husband Stephan Thernstrom of the classic America in Black and White, called Obama’s election “a historic turning point” and “a racial conversation-changer.” She also noted that a black man’s ability to win a contest for the White House came as no surprise “to those of us who have been following polling data and have long believed in the racial decency of ordinary Americans.” The fact that the leader of the free world is now a black man, Thernstrom said, has to make it easier and more attractive for people to move beyond race and race consciousness — and harder to justify preferences with arguments about the alleged intractability of racism. “The younger generation is coming of age in a racially altered world,” Thernstrom said, and eventually campus politics will have to catch up.

Maybe Abby is an optimist, as someone suggested in the Q & A; to that, she replied she was cautiously optimistic. It is worth noting that Obama has suggested (in vague terms) that affirmative action should refocus on class, not race.

On Friday, one of the luncheon speakers and award recipients was Ward Connerly, the man hailed as a civil rights leader by some and derided as an “Uncle Tom” by others. At the NAS luncheon, Connerly got a standing ovation. (One of the few people who remained seated, and did not applaud, was the AAUP’s Cary Nelson.)


Connerly is an amazing speaker; gracious, warm, energetic. He opened his speech by saying, “We are here in the nation’s capital a few days before an event that will demonstrate something most of us in this room have always believed: that America is a fair country and that the colorblind vision works.”

Connerly noted that he did not vote for Obama, but believed he deserved to win: “He ran the best campaign and made the strongest case. I accept this verdict by the American people, and I wish him success.” (Here, there was a burst of applause from which about half the people in the room abstained; including, I might add, Victor Davis Hanson, who sat on the dais.) “He will be inaugurated only feet away from where Martin Luther King gave his historic ‘I have a dream’ speech. I am sure that the spirit of Dr. King will be smiling on him,” Connerly continued, recalling King’s “deep patriotism.”

After discussing the recent fortunes of the civil rights initiatives, Connerly noted that “the issue is not just getting beyond racial preferences but getting beyond race. The election of Barak Obama confirms that.”

I think Connerly and Thernstrom are right; and I think the kind of conservatism that has a future today is their kind. I’m an optimist, too.

(Ward Connerly photo courtesy of the American Civil Rights Institute.)

2 Comments

Filed under Barack Obama, civil rights, conservatism, race