University Professor Declares Conservatism “Mental Illness”

November 14, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Canadian professor and devoted naturalist Jan Wendt of Canada’s Mount Royal College has long been perplexed by the seeming indifference self-proclaimed conservatives have toward the environment.  This perplexion eventually led to her leading a large group investigative study into the emotions surrounding conservatism, and the end result of that study confirmed what she had long considered - conservatives, in comparison to their liberal counterparts, are far more prone to “emotional imbalance”.

“It actually makes sense though, doesn’t it?”  Says Professor Wendt from her small office with a quaint view out to the heavily wooded side of the Mount Royal’s campus.  “The earth’s environment is, when healthy, one of balance.  Our study showed time and again that those people describing themselves as liberal tended to understand and relate to this balance, while those who described themselves as conservative were far more dismissive and even aggressively against this concept of balance.  Given that the environment is very important to our own well being, to the well being of the human race, it is then a logical step to conclude liberals are actually in concert with policies protecting the human race while conservatives continue to exist ignorant of those protections.  In the long history of species development, if there were no society to protect them from this ignorance, these conservatives would likely die out, while the liberal humans would live on.  That is so long as the conservatives did not destroy the liberals’ own environment in the process.”

Wendt’s study consisted of nearly 200 surveys conducted over the course of three months.  Data was compiled, assessed, and ultimately categorized.  Where self described liberal particapants rated such concepts as empathy and caring as high, their conservative counterparts rated those qualities low on the overall scale.

According to Professor Wendt, “By almost any sociological scale, liberals would be viewed as far more healthy and nurturing examples while conservatives clearly show higher degrees of anger and selfishness.  They appear to suffer from a form of mental illness.  This then leads to the statement that conservatives are in fact emotionally unbalanced.  Some might call them crazy, but I feel that is too demeaning a term.  But less than emotionally sound, yes, this study appears to confirm that.  Society must continue to educate and develop more empathy and awareness in our younger people so that eventually, conservatism will be a concept or state of mind that will ultimately become extinct, much like we hope to see with other highly negative emotional manifestations such as racism and greed.”

Professor Wendt’s study is scheduled for publication in the Canadian Journal of Naturalism in spring of 2011.


Gerson’s War on Conservatism Threatens Bush Legacy

November 9, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Michael Gerson became the latest former Bush operative to escalate the post election war on the tea party and Sarah Palin in his Washington Post column “The GOP’s Sarah Palin Problem.”  He mangles the facts terribly, even blaming Palin and Senator Jim DeMint for Sharon Angle’s ill-fated nomination in spite of the fact neither endorsed Angle until after she won the nomination.  Doug Brady dismantled effectively the rest of Gerson’s specious argument at Conservatives4Palin.  But most ironic was his closing statement that “the leading figure of the Tea Party movement seems increasingly indifferent to Republican fortunes and increasingly tolerant of disturbing extremism.”

I wonder how it comports with President Bush that just as he comes forth from seclusion to begin his book tour and rehab his image with the public and perhaps with conservatives, a number of his former operatives like Gerson have been reminding everyone of their war on the tea party and Sarah Palin.  While Bush’s big government policies might be excused, generously, given his wartime presidency and small mandate as the best conservatives could have hoped for at the time, those who once believed he was only compromising conservatism out of circumstantial necessity have become rapidly disabused of such notions.  The risk for the president is that conservatives become much less generous in those presumptions and excuses the more his operatives refuse to allow the Republican Party to move on.

First of all, recall that Sarah Palin identified Nicole Wallace and Steve Schmidt as the individuals who undermined her during the 2008 campaign – both borrowed high level Bush operatives.  Similarly Karl Rove, Schmidt’s mentor, clearly sabotaged Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell’s campaign.  Not only did he obliterate O’Donnell’s post primary honeymoon by eviscerating her before she had even given her victory speech, but he then had the audacity to wonder why she wasn’t “grabbing the imagination of the people of Delaware and moving ahead in the polls like these other candidates did around the country” after her “stunning upset.”  It goes without saying that former Bush speechwriter David Frum has spent the last two years trying to destroy Palin and the tea party.  Lastly, the New York Daily News reported last week that Bush himself has strongly disparaged Palin among his friends, and the Financial times reported today that Bush told Gordon Brown and other British dignitaries in 2008 that he would probably vote for Obama over McCain.

All of these highly public and ferocious attacks on conservatives seem to verify everything Matt Latimer has said about the Bush Whitehouse’s efforts, particularly Rove’s, to purge the Republican Party of conservatism, but Michael Gerson’s post-Whitehouse efforts might be the most incriminating of all.

Gerson has developed a manner of employing far left tactics against conservatives that resembles a more erudite and magniloquent Meghan McCain.  While the Republican Party has been huddling closer and closer to the fulcrum of the Political seesaw trying to counterbalance the Democrats’ move to the far left, Gerson disproportionately focuses his attacks on the supposed dangerous radicalism on the right.  Whether he is denouncing conservatives for “refus[ing] to police the excesses of their own,” equating O’Reilly with Olbermann, decrying “Tea Party Jacobinism” and their ”Bolshevik approach,” or accusing conservatives of “nativism” and of proposing to “undertake a multiyear effort to feed racial conflict in America,” he is validating the left’s narratives about the supposed dangerous radicals and influences among conservatives.

Perhaps the worst leftist narrative Gerson promotes about conservatives is that conservatives are “anti-government,” which is where Gerson really reveals that he simply isn’t conservative at all regardless of how many times he labels himself as such.  In 2007 Gerson denounced backlash against Bush’s “efforts to redefine the Republican Party” as an effort to “adopt a mean, anti-government message.”  In his book released that year, Heroic Conservatism, Gerson wrote that “anti-government Republicans saw Katrina as an opportunity to cut off medicine to old people” confirming “the worst image of Republicans as the party of shriveled hearts.”  He also explained “traditional conservatism has a piece missing — a piece that is shaped like a conscience.”  Gerson has also been highlighting and warning of the dangerous “faux-revolutionary” language of conservatives.  Worst of all, in his September 27, 2010 column, Gerson suggested conservatives “have their own consistency problems. A misty-eyed patriotism is difficult to reconcile with anti-government radicalism. How can you love your country and hate its government?”

I could go on for a while, but given the libelous drumbeat from liberal media warning of the conservative or tea-party domestic terrorists that have never existed, this last suggestion by Gerson that conservatives claim to “love” their country but “hate its government” is a particularly low blow.  It is awfully close to the Timothy McVeigh narrative that suggests McVeigh’s problems with the FBI, a government institution, must mean that he was a conservative anti-government radical.  Conservatives aren’t “anti-government” at all, the disparaging term Gerson chooses; they just support different parts of the government than the left, among which is the FBI.

Conservatives believe, as Milton Friedman advocated, that government should get out of industries and endeavors that can be handled by the free market to focus on the chores that government alone can do, including law enforcement and the defense of the nation.  Leftists believe the opposite, as summarized neatly by Robert Gibbs when he explained the “professional left” would only be satisfied when “we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon.”  Polling reflects the same.  How is “misty-eyed patriotism” in any way difficult to reconcile with conservatism to Gerson, particularly in comparison with the left’s position?  What does it say about Gerson that he is intent on smearing conservatism, consistently using leftist terms like “anti-government radicalism” and “anti-immigrant” when he knows full well conservatives only oppose big government and illegal immigration?

It is hysterical for Gerson or anyone from the Bush camp to accuse Palin of being “increasingly indifferent to Republican fortunes” given her success and the deliberate efforts of Rove and other Bush loyalists to undermine conservative Republicans at every turn, not to mention the obliteration of both the party and conservatism that occurred on their watch.  Regardless of the affection and respect many conservatives accord to the Bush legacy, that generosity will dry up the more they try to protect their redefining of the party not merely by constructive argument but by undermining conservatism.  The tactics used by Gerson, Rove, and other Rove disciples in this struggle will eventually redound on the former president, and if this is their notion of “saving conservatism from itself,” they may find themselves needing a life raft.

Big Journalism

Last night was a win for the Tea Party, conservatism, and mama grizzlies

November 3, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

While some conservatives like to lament about some of our losses last night, some like Karl Rove, I am in a rather cheery and fighting mood.

I saw last night as the blossoming of the great tea party movement. While democrats and frankly some republicans, lament about the embarrassment of this movement, we proved to them the strength and power of our vote.

For a relatively young movement, we sure have grown into a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Liberty Pundits Blog

Rational Conservatism Still Exists

October 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Reality-Based Conservatism

October 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

David Frum preaches compromise:

Much of government is an exercise in choosing the least bad option. A movement that demands everything and punishes any politician who strikes a bargain that is better than the status quo but less than libertarian perfection – well, we’ll have our chance to see how much that movement achieves.

The Wyden-Bennett health plan that wrecked the career of Senator Bob Bennett would have been better from a conservative point of view than Obamacare.

TARP and the rescue of the banking system are better from a conservative point of view than a new Great Depression that would have involved a decade of massive government support of the private economy.

Some form of consumption or energy tax will be better from a conservative point of view than what we are on our way to getting instead: the lapse of the Bush tax cuts on saving, work and investment – and new payroll taxes to fund Social Security and Medicare.

People are responsible not only for their actions, but for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of their actions.

And this engagement with the real world, with people who disagree with you, with reality, and not ideology, is temperamentally and dispositionally conservative as well. I think some of us were blinded by the radicalism of Reagan and Thatcher. But both inherited economies far more regulated than ours, far more highly taxed than anything Obama is suggesting, and in Thatcher's case, a country where the state owned vast amounts of industry. They were responding to the conditions of their time. Thatcher didn't need to compromise much because of a divided opposition; but Reagan dealt with the Democrats and would today, by raising taxes be seen as outside "acceptable bounds of Republican thought."

Conservatism if it becomes an ideology will suffer the fate of all ideologies. But if it becomes a fixed ideology - or, even worse, an unchangeable theology (as it has in America) - it has already abolished itself.

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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Amanpour: Tea Party an ‘Extreme’ Departure from Reagan’s Conservatism; Campaign Spending Bad for Democracy

October 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

ABC’s Christiane Amanpour on Sunday discovered “a long and venerable tradition of conservatism in this country” exemplified by Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley and “all of that sort of intellectual conservatism,” but she only showed respect for that tradition in order to contend “people,” who she failed to name, “are saying that right now, it's really gone to the extreme.” Repeating her “people” generality, she insisted: “People are looking at the Tea Party and saying this is not conservatism as we knew it but it's extreme.”

George Will retorted: “Which is exactly what they said about Bill Buckley and Bill Buckley's candidate, Barry Goldwater, who was supposedly representing the paranoid style in American politics.”

Later, during the October 17 roundtable, Amanpour fretted: “Where is campaign finance reform?” Will called the lack of legislative prospects on that front be “an absolutely wonderful development this year,” to which an appalled Amanpour wondered: “How can that be wonderful for a democracy, I mean not to know where all of this money comes from and who is putting it in?”

read more - Exposing Liberal Media Bias

Change, Reaction, And Conservatism: Reading The Tea Leaves

October 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 


Noah Millman uses gay equality to make a larger point:

It gets worse before it gets better – indeed, it gets worse even as it’s getting better. That’s the way the politics of these sorts of issues goes, issues that appear to present very fundamental challenges to an entire worldview. At the outset, the worldview has a variety of sources of support: longstanding traditions and patterns of behavior; a larger societal consensus on the rightness of a position; the support of scientific authorities; etc. But as these supports fall away, as patterns of behavior change, as the question becomes contested rather than settled, as the scientific consensus dissolves or even switches to the other side, the defender of the traditional understanding is left with only one actual argument: if I give this up, I will have surrendered everything. And so I will never give up.

This isn’t even a specifically religious phenomenon, something I think Andrew is reluctant to recognize.

The pieds noirs grew more radical even as their political position grew untenable as they were abandoned by Paris. Ditto for Rhodesia. Ditto for defenses of segregation in the American South. The challenge of homosexuality is distinct in that gay people appear everywhere, in all kinds of families – the solution of separatism is not a viable one. But otherwise, it’s a pretty familiar dynamic. And we’ve probably got a decent idea of how that dynamic will play out:

It’ll get worse before it gets better. Indeed, it’ll get worse even as it gets better, even because it gets better.

I think that's exactly right about the dynamics of certain aspects of change. And, yes, it's not just religious, as Noah notes - although religious fundamentalism does become more psychologically helpful in periods of social change and personal bewilderment. I think this also helps explain the intensity of the cultural reaction to Obama. There is a rational argument against some of his policies, of course (health insurance reform primary among them). But the passion of opposition stems, I think, in part from a sense that the way the world once was is disappearing, that this is inevitable, and a repressed acknowledgment of the inevitability actually intensifies a resistance to it.

The America of the future will not be the America of the 1950s, the teenage years of many of those in the Tea Party movement. It will be majority-minority, it will be one where gay people are not only visible but equal, it will blur racial identity and more and more people will have very complicated and mixed-up selves. The Tea Partiers want "their country back" in an almost poignant way - because their country will never come back, because change is now here for ever. That's also why there is an irrational resistance to any kind of acceptance that 12 million largely Latino illegal immigrants simply need to be integrated somehow, because mass deportation is impossible and a total control of the border very very hard (though still worth attempting). But the babies are already here! And American! So we have the panicked bizarre proposals to tear up birthright citizenship, the settled way of things for a very long time, because emotion - fear - is flooding the frontal cortex.

Obama, for many of the afraid, almost sums up in one person this entire, blurring, mocha, non-Rockwellian vision of the future, which is why so many under 40 felt drawn to him culturally and psychologically - and also why we under-estimated the inevitable cultural reaction among many of the over-40s once he actually had power and exercised it.

He is not, after all, the first black president. He is the first miscegenated president. He is a blurring of boundaries, a Hawaiian-Chicago-Black-Ivy-League-Child-Of-A-Single-Mother kind of blurring. The very complexity of his identity can threaten those whose experience simply hasn't been the same. (One thinks of Palin, for example, and her idealization of an America that requires a wild frontier of a Rockwellian Alaska to stay faintly credible as part of modernity).

Add that to the sense that Obama represents a kind of collectivism, intensified by necessarily collective responses to a major crisis like this recession, and I can certainly understand where the Tea Party is coming from psychologically.

This is not the same as calling it racist. Tea partiers rightly recoil from that personally because it isn't true for most and is far too crude to explain why they feel the way they do. And I think it's the cultural feeling that really dominates their psyche - and our politics - right now, not a political argument. They feel besieged by change. And that is, of course, a conservative feeling.

But the lashing out is not conservative; it is reactionary and populist and dangerous. And the goal of the Burkean conservative is to try and bridge the feelings of loss and panic with a calmer assessment of actual reality and its practical challenges, not to double down and intensify the fear and panic. In that, I remain of the view that Obama truly is the conservative in this - or is trying to be - and that until a calmer, saner, more open-minded Republican emerges, he's the best option as president that we've got.

(Photo: Tea Party activist Dot Michael of Dresher, PA., wears her favorite Tea Party button to a 'Get Out The Vote' rally for Pat Toomey at SmokeEaters Pub in Philadelphia on October 12, 2010. Philadelphia Tea Party Patriots, along with FreedomWorks PAC hosted a grassroots activists rally in support of Pat Toomey's campaign. By Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images.)

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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Taking The “Conserve” Out Of Conservatism

October 14, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 


Bill McKibben confronts the lockstep denialism of GOP senators over climate change:

The odd and troubling thing about this stance is not just that it prevents action. It’s also profoundly unconservative… Conservatism has always stressed stability and continuity; since Burke, the watchwords have been tradition, authority, heritage.

The globally averaged temperature of the planet has been 57 degrees, give or take, for most of human history; we know that works, that it allows the world we have enjoyed. Now, the finest minds, using the finest equipment, tell us that it’s headed toward 61 or 62 or 63 degrees unless we rapidly leave fossil fuel behind, and that, in the words of NASA scientists, this new world won’t be “similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” Conservatives should be leading the desperate fight to preserve the earth we were born on.

Manzi dissents, calling it "comfort food for liberals":

This is the crux of the problem with McKibben’s argument: According to the IPCC, the expected economic costs of global warming are about 3 percent of GDP more than 100 years from now. This is pretty far from the rhetoric of global devastation that McKibben, and so many others, use.

But since when did conservatives only care about "economic costs"? I respect Manzi's cost-benefit argument, and his policy pragmatism. But there is a moral dimension to real conservatism, even a spiritual one, that does not treat the planet as something to be used, but as something to be a sensible steward of. And, as Jim also acknowledges, we do not know for sure whether the temperature rise will be stable, or whether there could be a sudden feedback loop that changes things far more radically. When you do not know such things or sure, it seems to me that a conservative veers on the side of caution, which, in this case, means taking this problem seriously, doing all we can to mitigate it (using the market and government to innovate and research clean energy urgently, for example), as well as thinking deeply about what it means for humankind to suddenly alter the environment in which we have always lived since we emerged as a distinct species on this earth.

This cannot be reduced to percentage points of GDP. And a conservative disposition, it seems to me, regards the loss of habitat, of species, of the settled way of things as sources of grief, not indifference. Let alone denial. As I wrote a few years back:

The earth is something none of us can own or control. It is something far older than our limited minds can even imagine. Our task is therefore a modest one: of stewardship, the quintessential conservative occupation.

Conservatives do not seek to remake the world anew. We do not hope to impose upon it some abstract ideological “truth” or bring about some new age for humanity. We seek as conservatives merely to live up to our generational responsibility and to care for the inheritance we have in turn been given. This ecological vision is a Burkean one, which is why Toryism’s natural colour is as much green as blue.

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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

‘Birther King’ Joe Farah Debates Gay Conservative Group; Questions Conservatism Of Coburn, Thune

September 21, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In the past two years, WorldNetDaily (WND) publisher Joseph Farah — the self proclaimed “Birther King” — has made a name for himself promoting “birther” conspiracy theories and sponsoring billboards questioning President Obama’s citizenship. But in August, Farah made news by booting Ann Coulter from her speaking role at his “Taking Back America” conference after learning that she planned to address GOProud, a right-wing group for gay conservatives. Reacting to her dismissal, Coulter mocked Farah as a “publicity whore” who peddles “birther nonsense.”

Because of the Coulter controversy, GOProud sent one of its founders, Chris Barron, to debate Farah over the topic, “Is GOProud conservative?” That debate took place last weekend at the WND conference in Miami attended by ThinkProgress. In full display of his paranoid style, Farah called in security officers to wave metal detectors over members of the audience before the debate. Several audience members and loyal WND readers told ThinkProgress that the extra security was warranted because Barron could bring his “radical gay” supporters to the debate.

During the debate, Farah called into question the conservative credentials of Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John Thune (R-SD) for associating themselves with GOProud. He also called for an outright ban on any gays serving in the military — openly or not:

FARAH: I would actually agree with you. I’d like to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell also. But I think we should go back to banning from the military.

BARRON: I’m sure you can understand as a veteran of the United States Air Force reserves, I find that more than just a little insulting.

FARAH: Well, you know, lots of military leaders who have looked at this. Commissions and others have determined that they’re getting the best and the brightest without recruiting from homosexuals.

Watch it:

Before the event, ThinkProgress spoke to GOProud board member Jimmy LaSalvia, who said WND is “clearly out of the mainstream.” He also expressed disbelief that WND had ordered additional security for the event.

Think Progress

R.I.P. Compassionate Conservatism?

September 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Newark, DELAWARE – The morning after Tea Party movement darling Christine O’Donnell made political mincemeat out of Karl Rove’s and George H.W. Bush’s favored GOPer Mike Castle in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, the News Journal here reflected reaction in the state – and beyond:

Its headline screeched: “Anti-establishment insurgency rocks Delaware…O’DONNELL IN SHOCKER…TEA PARTY-BACKED OUTSIDER STUNS CASTLE IN GOP SENATE RACE”

The Tea Party movement that grew with considerable help from Obama administration bungling, an ailing economy, big bucks from the right-wing Koch brothers, free promo from Fox News and talk show hosts, had enjoyed other victories but this was the biggie. The Washington Post’s EJ Dionne, Jr., one of the best political columnists around today, wrote of the death of moderate Republicanism.

But it really was more than that. Moderate Republicans were already becoming as hard to find as pay telephones.

What REALLY died was “compassionate conservatism” – the notion that conservatives could reach out and become accessible to those who might not agree with them, convince those who felt they were against them that they were wrong and even indulge in compromise for broader goals.

Read the rest HERE.

The Moderate Voice

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