A conservative finds himself in embarrassing company, and doesn’t like it.
When I say that the political and media (one can hardly say “intellectual”) leadership of the Red team is dominated by fools, charlatans, and lunatics, that’s hardly news. But when Stephen Bainbridge says the same thing, we’re in man-bites-dog territory. Bainbridge isn’t holding back:
These days … the most prominent so-called conservatives are increasingly fit only to be cast for the next Dumb and Dumber sequel. They’re dumb and crazy.
I’m less nostalgic than Steve is for Richard John Neuhaus, William F. Buckley, and Ronald Reagan. But they were grown-ups. Sarah Palin, not so much.
Author: Mark Kleiman
Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out.
Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken)
When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist
Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993)
Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989)
View all posts by Mark Kleiman
10 thoughts on “Prof. Bainbridge takes today’s GOP to school”
I'd love sometime to take a hit on the bong that helps you get tp your [self-defined] "reality-based community."
Klinghoffer really is a sort of fossil if he thinks NRO is the vanguard of conservatism. You hopefully are capable of understanding that Bainbridge is confusedly talking about Republicans which are a whole different kind of critter.
Even NRO has stand-up guys like Jonah and Andy McCarthy who are actually as strong-minded on Islam as any conservatives or Republicans. Would Klinghoffer call McCarthy "crazy-con" for saying in his recent book The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Threaten America that the Demonrat left and the Islamic terrorists are in a curious parallel mode?
I think that Journolist and other media cabals are ignored by the left, but Palin is far more honest and straightforward than the NYT and agitprop nets with their goofy unwatched cable subsets—plus the defunct CNN.
I was going to say that as much as I liked Bainbridge's post, the comments to it are thoroughly depressing. However, daveinboca beat me to it, except that he went with an example rather than a description.
I’m all for self-deception, the unacknowledged engine of human progress. If Bainbridge has to tell himself bed-time stories about the urbane conservative past before he can be embarrassed by the malignant rightwing present, more power to him. But let’s not deceive ourselves about it. When we draw the line between what we embrace & what we can’t on the basis of such insubstantial distinctions as he offers — Palin is a half-educated sports reporter, whereas Reagan was a half-educated sports reporter and actor; GW Bush was a fiscal disaster whereas Reagan was … ; etc —, we can just as easily concoct superficial reasons to reconcile ourselves, when the moment's ripe, to whatever fresh embarrassment is on offer. The demagogy & rank bigotry Bainbridge laments didn’t fall out of the sky. They were vomited up by conservatism's venerated past.
The difference between today's "conservatives" and yesteryear's is that back then when they got in power they had the well of half of a century of equity built up by liberal policies to draw resources from. Now after three decades of power they have bled the well dry (and then some). Now all they have is their unparalleled ability to rave and blame liberals, the working class and anybody who isn't rich. Meanwhile the corporate lobbys, stacked SCOTUS and GOP owned electronic "voting" machine corporations buy/steal the elections so the ravers can point to the phony results as proof of the will of the people (polls be damned).
Today's GOP ravers only sound crazier because reality now is damn near impossible to ignore and reality has a well known liberal bias.
Excellent point, K.
While I'm pleased Bainbridge recognizes these problems (though I share K's reservations) it's also interesting that the supposedly serious writer he praises, Klinghoffer, is himself a creationist. The Klinghoffer column Bainbridge refers to is mostly a lament that we are not as religious as we used to be, and partly blames Darwin for – well, it's not clear what, but something bad.
This is a classic example of moving the center. When all it takes to be a Conservative Grownup is not to be Glenn Beck, we're not getting a net better result
As a one time conservative/libertarian – some decades ago – I have been long perplexed by what has happened. Let me throw out a suggestion as to how Prof. Bainbridge's description came to be true, and in the process alienated many one-time conservatives. American conservatism long had a classical liberal wing that rooted it in part of the liberal political tradition, especially respect for civil liberties and the rule of law, and a kind of market fundamentalism. It bled off into Northeastern “liberal republicans” who had less fear of government but still respected markets and the American political tradition.
Once the Southern Strategy opened up, and the South’s Neoconfederate traditions and attitudes and religion was incorporated, conservatism’s center of balance shifted into far more illiberal directions. The ante-bellum South explicitly rejected the Founders’ thinking, as with Calhoun’s Hobbesian sense of government, and people like Alexander Stephens’ (VP of the Confederacy) rejection of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution.
Southern ‘conservatism’ was not anti-governmnt, it was anti-government they did not control. They were for states’ rights because they controlled states. In the states they dominated you could forget civil liberties, forget rule of law, forget even free markets as service to the oligarchy trumped any real commitment to the classical liberal ideal. When they dominated the national government they brought the same attitudes, states’ rights be damned. The tactics of divide and conquer through fear and divisiveness, so long employed in the South between Blacks and poor whites, became SOP. The Southern Baptist rejection of reason in favor of will to believe and assert came to the fore.
Conservatism here was never so much an ideology as an attitude, as Russell Kirk described it, and it was an attitude that appealed for somewhat overlapping reasons to Northeastern Republicans and classical liberals and certain kinds of Christians and ‘rugged individualists.’ This group was a kind of ecosystem. Once the Southern tradition became dominant the ecosystem degraded dramatically into the radical nihilistic movement that calls itself ‘conservatism’ today.
I'm surprised that William F. Buckley Jr's overt and aggressive racism didn't suggest that he might be omitted—though when you're looking for members of the conservative movement who can take the role of "hero", the pickings are slim, I admit.
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