Thursday, February 28, 2013

Conservatives: "Out of Touch, Too Extreme."

Especially for those who watch MSNBC on a regular basis, the recent Pew Research Center poll gave many reasons to cheer earlier this month.  We present the results from their poll and their take on their poll, "GOP Seen as Principled, But Out of Touch and Too Extreme, Images of the Parties: A Closer Look," with our comments and highlights for talking points in debating the Conservative Sheeplets, online or in person.

We've had to include some of Pew's language like "somewhat," "opinion is mixed," "however," and other language that tends to favor the Conservative cause in the midst of contrary data:


At a time when the Republican Party’s image is at a historic low, 62% of the public says the GOP is out of touch with the American people, 56% think it is not open to change and 52% say the party is too extreme.

Opinions about the Democratic Party are mixed, but the party is viewed more positively than the GOP in every dimension tested except one. Somewhat more say the Republican Party than the Democratic Party has strong principles (63% vs. 57%).

The national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 13-18 among 1,504 adults, comes at a time when Republican leaders are debating the party’s future in the wake of Barack Obama’s reelection. The Republican Party’s image has been hit hard over the past decade. In January, just 33% said they viewed the party favorably, among the lowest marks of the last 20 years. The GOP’s favorable rating has not been above 50% since shortly after George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004.

An earlier release from the survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY found that while both party’s congressional leaders receive negative job ratings, just 25% approve of the job performance of GOP leaders, compared with 37% approval for Democratic congressional leaders.

The new report finds that while the Democratic Party is viewed more positively on most traits tested, opinion is divided about whether the party is out of touch with the American people: 46% say it is, while 50% it is not. And only somewhat more say the Democratic Party is looking out for the country’s future than say that about the Republican Party (51% vs. 45%).

Republicans More Critical of Their Party

Republicans are more critical of their party than Democrats are of theirs on most issues. For example, 36% of Republicans say the GOP is out of touch with the American people. Just 23% of Democrats say their party is out of touch. And while 30% of Republicans say their party is not open to change, just 10% of Democrats make the same criticism of their party.

(Pew had to 'fess up here, the data is too overwhelming and revealing.)

However, Republicans overwhelmingly credit their party for having strong principles; 85% say the GOP has strong principles while 13% say it does not. And 80% of Republicans say their party is looking out for the country’s long-term future.

The GOP also gets high marks from independents and Democrats for having strong principles. Fully 62% of independents say the Republican Party has strong principles, the most positive measure for any party trait tested. Even about half of Democrats (52%) say the Republican Party has strong principles.

("Credit?" "High marks?"  The use of the phrase "strong principles" is not by itself a positive term, as a similar poll taken in the beer gardens in Munich in the '30s might have been described similarly.)

Partisan views about whether the Republican Party is too extreme are mirror images: 78% of Republicans say the GOP is not too extreme, while 19% say it is; 78% of Democrats view the Republican Party as too extreme while 19% disagree.
(These numbers are snapshots of "extremism" in both parties, and should be considered when analyzing the party structures in America, especially the current GOP Civil War.)

Democrats express highly positive views of their party across-the-board, while Republicans’ opinions about the Democratic Party are uniformly negative. At least 80% of Democrats evaluate their party positively on every trait except one, being out of touch with the American people. Even there, 76% of Democrats say their party is not out of touch, while just 23% say it is.

(A reluctant admission by Pew.)

Far more independents say the Democratic Party is open to change than say that about the Republican Party (54% vs. 39%). The gap is roughly the same in independents’ views about whether the parties are out of touch (65% Republican vs. 51% Democratic) and too extreme (51% vs. 40%).

(The key to the 2012 Election!)

However, independents are divided over whether the Democratic Party looks out for the country’s future: 45% say it does and 51% say it does not. Independents have similar views about whether the Republican Party looks out for the future (43% yes, 51% no).

About a quarter of independents (27%) say that neither party is looking out for the country’s future. An even higher percentage of independents (37%) say that both parties are out of touch with the American people.

(And here are the first numbers we should look at to determine our progress in criminalizing Conservatism - the meme that the Conservatives LOVE, that there are no fundamental differences between the Parties, that a politician is a politician is a politician is a major stumbling block in our political arena.  Educating the voters about this fallacy is one of the most important things we can do over the next four years.)

Overall Views of Parties

The Republican Party’s overall image stands at one of the lowest points in nearly two decades. And, while impressions of the Democratic Party are much stronger, they are far below where they were four years ago.

In January, 33% of the public had a favorable view of the GOP, compared with 58% who held an unfavorable impression of the party. Among Republicans themselves, 69% had a favorable impression, down from a recent high of 89% reported after the GOP convention. Majorities of both Democrats and independents viewed the Republican Party unfavorably (83% and 58%, respectively).

(These numbers can also be expressed thus:  6 out of 10 people have an unfavorable view of the GOP, and even 3 out of 10 Republicans have an unfavorable impression of themselves.  And with no explanation at all, we learn that Democrats view the GOP unfavorably, and Independents feel the same at a ratio of 6 to 4.  As the GOP Civil War heats up and Conservative pols shoot each other in the foot - or worse, we would expect these numbers to increase.)

Views of the Democratic Party were evenly divided in January: 47% favorable, 46% unfavorable. Among Democrats, 87% had a favorable impression of their party while roughly the same percentage of Republicans held an unfavorable view (84%). Independents, on balance, had more unfavorable impressions of the Democratic Party (52%) than favorable ones (37%).

(The importance of these poll results is that "Independents, on balance, had more unfavorable impressions of the Democratic Party (52%) than favorable ones (37%).  Independents are the key to elections, and while those on the left of the political spectrum are very likely to understand the criminality of the Conservative "movement," the independent voter is another case entirely...especially the low-information voter who can be impossible to reach if that same voter never looks at the news.)

For those interested in Pew's methodology, go to

But the Conservatives aren't unaware of the carnage they have wrought.  Business Insider reports on the poll in an article, "This Brutal Poll Says Everything You Need To Know About The State Of The GOP," thus:

"The poll found that 62 percent of all Americans — including 36 percent of Republicans — think the party is out of touch. That's 16 points higher than the percentage of people who thought the same about Democrats.

Respondents also blasted the GOP as "too extreme." A majority, or 52 percent, of those polled said that phrase describes the Republican Party, 13 points higher than the Democratic Party.

The GOP image is at its lowest point in nearly two decades.

Overall, Republicans polled were much less supportive of their party in general than were Democrats. Only 69 percent of Republicans viewed their party in a favorable light, compared with 87 percent of Democrats who said the same about their party.

Republicans also scored especially poorly with Independent voters — 65 percent of self-described Independents said the GOP is out of touch, and 51 percent said it's too extreme.

A majority of Independents also cast Democrats as "out of touch," but they rejected the notion that Democrats were too extreme.

The poll comes at a time when President Barack Obama and Democrats are battling with Republicans over yet another federal budget issue — the across-the-board cuts known as the sequester, which will start to kick in this week. A separate Pew poll released Tuesday found that Americans would blame Republicans over Obama by a 45-32 margin if the sequester goes into effect.
Exposing the criminality of the "vast right-wing criminal conspiracy" to the independent is a tall order, as they don't read the political sites on the web, and any outreach must be structured delicately so as not to alarm the moderate segment of the electorate.


"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a
friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense.
You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down."

Ray Bradbury


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Guns: America's Shame

Guns.   They separate our country and they are used to kill innocent men, women, and children every day.  We take a look at two posts to help explain why the country is infested with guns and the gunmen that use them.

First, from Mark Karlin at, an essay, "Gun Zealots Are More Interested in Being Seen as Dangerous Than in Using Guns for Self-Defense," that suggests that gun rights Sheeplets are less conserved with the Constitution than they are with being a manly sort of man, harkening back to the days when we accused gun nuts of lacking a certain...manhood:

"So what is it that is the center of the rabid attachment of so many aging white males to guns, particularly handguns? Will Bunch reveals a sliver of insight into the answer to this question in an interview with John Grant, a frank bluff attendee at the annual Knob Creek machine gun shoot in Kentucky (kind of a shock and awe event involving turning junk trucks, washing machines and trailers into bullet-ridden swiss cheese with automatic weapons as fans watch from bleachers).

"Grant hails from New London, Wisconsin, where crime has a low ranking nationally, with one or no robberies over each of the last few years, for example. Yet, Grant packs heat and Bunch reflects upon why he has a pressing need for being lethally armed:

"You start to ask him [Grant] what he is afraid of, but stumble as you wonder whether 'afraid' is the right word. Grant assures you it is the right word. 'What am I afraid of? I do not know – but I feel far more comfortable knowing that I have my nine-millimeter in my car. I stay in a cheap motel and the first thing I do when I unpack is I set my nine-millimeter where I can reach it.'

"Bunch then ponders the general state of paranoia among a large percentage of the fearful gun owners who created a run on bullets after Obama was elected, and then a shortage of assault weapons after the Sandy Hook massacre. 'Prices and paranoia spiraled upward in tandem,' Bunch observes.

"BuzzFlash has often discussed the paranoia of the 'other' that frequently propels gun sales and the intimidating, bullying power of the gun lobby. And all that is true; guns are needed by white males to protect the imagined sovereignty of a white Christian patriarchal America, although how that would practically be achieved against the most advanced technological military in the world is unimaginable without regarding it as a psychic crutch against a changing social order.

"But there may be another explanation – and none of these are mutually exclusive – for the ferocious, truculent grasping onto guns as if they were life vests to save a wounded psyche.

"It may be this, and the clue emerged – from all places – in the written introduction to a 'B' movie I was watching the other night: "The worst thing about growing old is that men stop seeing you as dangerous."

"This may be the molten lave core of the overheated zealotry of male gun fanatics. They are not, in general, worried about using a gun for self-defense; they are more concerned about being perceived as dangerous.

"That is not a distinction without a difference. It shifts the debate from arguing that one's life is imperiled without carrying a gun to "I need to carry a gun so that I am feared as a man should be."

"That's not an issue of so-called Second Amendment Rights; it's a cry for massive national psychiatric intervention."

And in another post, "What researchers learned about gun violence before Congress killed funding," by Joaquin Sapien Propublica at Raw Story, we learn:

"President Obama has directed the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence as part of his legislative package on gun control. The CDC hasn’t pursued this kind of research since 1996 when the National Rifle Association lobbied Congress to cut funding for it, arguing that the studies were politicized and being used to promote gun control. We’ve interviewed Dr. Mark Rosenberg, who led the agency’s gun violence research in the nineties when he was the director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

"We talked to Rosenberg about the work the agency was doing before funding was cut and how it’s relevant to today’s gun control debate. Here’s an edited transcript.
There were basically four questions that we were trying to answer. The first question is what is the problem? Who were the victims? Who was killed? Who were injured? Where did they happen? Under what circumstances? When? What times of the year? What times of the day? What was the relationship to other events? How did they happen? What were the weapons that were used? What was the relationship between the people involved? What was the motive or the setting in which they happened?

The second question is what are the causes? What are the things that increase one’s risk of being shot? What are the things that decrease one’s risk of being shot?

The third question we were trying to answer is what works to prevent these? What kinds of policies, what kinds of interventions, what kinds of police practices or medical practices or education and school practices actually might prevent some of these shootings? We’re not just looking at mass shootings, but also looking at the bulk of the homicides that occur every year and the suicides, which account for a majority of all gun deaths.

Then the last question is how do you do it? Once you have a program or policy that has been proven to work in one place, how do you spread it? How do you actually put it in place?
So what were you were able to find before funding got cut off?

One of the critical studies that we supported was looking at the question of whether having a firearm in your home protects you or puts you at increased risk. This was a very important question because people who want to sell more guns say that having a gun in your home is the way to protect your family.
What the research showed was not only did having a firearm in your home not protect you, but it hugely increased the risk that someone in your family would die from a firearm homicide. It increased the risk almost 300 percent, almost three times as high.

It also showed that the risk that someone in your home would commit suicide went up. It went up five-fold if you had a gun in the home. These are huge, huge risks, and to just put that in perspective, we look at a risk that someone might get a heart attack or that they might get a certain type of cancer, and if that risk might be 20 percent greater, that may be enough to ban a certain drug or a certain product.

But in this case, we’re talking about a risk not 20 percent, not 100 percent, not 200 percent, but almost 300 percent or 500 percent. These are huge, huge risks.

We were collecting information to answer the question of who, what, where, when, and how did shootings occur?

We were finding that most homicides occur between people who know each other, people who are acquaintances or might be doing business together or might be living together. They’re not stranger-on-stranger shootings. They’re not mostly home intrusions.

We also found that there were a lot of firearm suicides, and in fact most firearm deaths are suicides. There were a lot of young people who were impulsive who were using guns to commit suicide.

If you look at how many deaths have occurred between 1996, when there was this disruption to surveillance and research, and now, so that’s 16 years, and if you assume that there are about 30,000 gun deaths every year, you’re talking about 480,000 gun deaths over that period of time.

If even a fraction of those deaths could have been prevented, you’re talking about a significant impact in terms of saving lives."

(For the rest of the story, click -->

And to complete today's lesson we look at another post from Raw Story, "Dog shoots Florida man with ‘unloaded’ gun," not an unusual story, but always a fun one:

"Police in Sebring, Florida say a man told them that his dog accidentally shot him in the leg with a gun that he thought was unloaded.

Gregory Dale Lanier of Frostproof was riding in his truck on Feb. 23 when the dog knocked his 9mm handgun onto the floor of the truck, causing it to discharge into the man’s leg, a police report indicated.

“Sebring Police Cmdr. Steve Carr said police did not arrest the dog or detain the animal, pending the investigation, according to Highlands Today.
The 35-year-old shooting victim had insisted to police that he believed no bullets were in the gun.

Lanier was traveling on State Road 17 North “when his dog kicked his unloaded .380 pistol causing it to fire and the bullet struck his leg. Lanier said he heard boom, saw smoke and felt a burning in his leg,” the police report said.

The man told police that he was shocked to find out that the gun was loaded and that it was a 9mm pistol, instead of a .380 handgun."

The story isn't as tragic as another one from Raw Story, "Connecticut grandmother kills self after shooting 6-month-old and 2-year-old kids," or this one, "'Another day, another horrific shooting': Tragic timeline of the worst US massacres."  And this writer knew someone who kept his guns unlocked who was shot to death by his three-year old boy while taking a nap.

The fact that the Constitution's section on guns is the only provisional section, and that our militia needs have been taken over by the National Guard, doesn't impress the historically-challenged Sheeplets.  The fact that the Swiss model is closer to what the Founding Fathers envisioned here doesn't either.

With Conservatism made illegal, the profit motive by the NRA must be rejected out of hand; with Conservatism made illegal, more monies can be spent educating Americans on their rights and responsibilities without the NRA noise machine confusing them any further.


"If American women would increase their voting turnout by ten percent, I think we would
see an end to all of the budget cuts in programs benefiting women and children."

Coretta Scott King


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Raging Republican Civil War

A very interesting article in the New York Times by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Republicans Sign Brief in Support of Gay Marriage," illustrates the Conservative Civil War, a most welcome battle between Tea Party inmates in the Congress and traditional Conservatives.

Once upon a time my children, the GOP was made up of Wall Street Republicans such as the ones Richard Nixon ran to when he made his run for President in 1972, and Country Club Republicans like the group that propelled Bush 43 to the White House.  But starting from the futile attempt by Barry Goldwater supporters to change the face of the party to a Conservative party in 1964, though the election and reelection of Reagan laid the foundations for the takeover of the GOP by the base - a situation that the Wall Street and Country Club Republicans should have been warned - the inmates were about to take control of the party.  And capos like Karl Rove and Bobby Jindal are jumping from the Tea Party camp to the Party of the Wealthy.

And after the Bush 43 Administration almost sent the country into another Depression by utilizing a supposedly non-Conservative policy of spending without compensating tax revenues to pick up the deficit, by the 2010 election, it looked like the inmates were indeed in charge of the asylum - which brings us today to the recent shots fired over the GOP leadership's bow, as another American Civil War has started.

Stolberg's article is an interesting essay, especially as we see the separation of players within the Party.  We know Jon Huntsman from his futile run for the White House against the maelstrom of Conservative candidates, but pay attention to the non-Tea Party names in the article - they are in the vanguard of the Wall Street-Country Club cabal that is fighting for the leadership of the GOP as progressives stand back and cheer:

"WASHINGTON - Dozens of prominent Republicans - including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress - have signed a legal brief arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry, a position that amounts to a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election.

"The document will be submitted this week to the Supreme Court in support of a suit seeking to strike down Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage, and all similar bans. The court will hear back-to-back arguments next month in that case and another pivotal gay rights case that challenges the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act.

"The Proposition 8 case already has a powerful conservative supporter: Theodore B. Olson, the former solicitor general under Mr. Bush and one of the suit's two lead lawyers. The amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief is being filed with Mr. Olson's blessing. It argues, as he does, that same-sex marriage promotes family values by allowing children of gay couples to grow up in two-parent homes, and that it advances conservative values of 'limited government and maximizing individual freedom.'

"Legal analysts said the brief had the potential to sway conservative justices as much for the prominent names attached to it as for its legal arguments. The list of signers includes a string of Republican officials and influential thinkers - 75 as of Monday evening - who are not ordinarily associated with gay rights advocacy, including some who are speaking out for the first time and others who have changed their previous positions.

"Among them are Meg Whitman, who supported Proposition 8 when she ran for California governor; Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of New York; Stephen J. Hadley, a Bush national security adviser; Carlos Gutierrez, a commerce secretary to Mr. Bush; James B. Comey, a top Bush Justice Department official; David A. Stockman, President Ronald Reagan's first budget director; and Deborah Pryce, a former member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio who is retired from Congress.
"Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor, who favored civil unions but opposed same-sex marriage during his 2012 presidential bid, also signed. Last week, Mr. Huntsman announced his new position in an article titled "Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause," a sign that the 2016 Republican presidential candidates could be divided on the issue for the first time.

"'The ground on this is obviously changing, but it is changing more rapidly than people think,' said John Feehery, a Republican strategist and former House leadership aide who did not sign the brief. 'I think that Republicans in the future are going to be a little bit more careful about focusing on these issues that tend to divide the party.'

"Some high-profile Republicans who support same-sex marriage - including Laura Bush, the former first lady; Dick Cheney, the former vice president; and Colin L. Powell, a former secretary of state - were not on the list as of Monday.

"But the presence of so many well-known former officials - including Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey, and William Weld and Jane Swift, both former governors of Massachusetts - suggests that once Republicans are out of public life they feel freer to speak out against the party's official platform, which calls for amending the Constitution to define marriage as 
'the union of one man and one woman.'

"By contrast, the brief, shared with The New York Times by its drafters, cites past Supreme Court rulings dear to conservatives, including the Citizens United decision lifting restrictions on campaign financing, and a Washington, D.C., Second Amendment case that overturned a law barring handgun ownership.

"'We are trying to say to the court that we are judicial and political conservatives, and it is consistent with our values and philosophy for you to overturn Proposition 8,' said Ken Mehlman, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, who came out as gay several years ago. He is on the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which brought the California suit, and has spent months in quiet conversations with fellow Republicans to gather signatures for the brief.

"In making an expansive argument that same-sex marriage bans are discriminatory, the brief's signatories are at odds with the House Republican leadership, which has authorized the expenditure of tax dollars to defend the 1996 marriage law. The law defines marriage in the eyes of the federal government as the union of a man and a woman.

"Polls show that public attitudes have shifted drastically on same-sex marriage over the past decade. A majority of Americans now favor same-sex marriage, up from roughly one third in 2003.

"While Republicans lag behind the general population - the latest New York Times survey found a third of Republicans favor letting gay people marry - that, too, is changing quickly as more young people reach voting age. Several recent polls show that about 70 percent of voters under 30 back same-sex marriage.
"'The die is cast on this issue when you look at the percentage of younger voters who support gay marriage,'" said Steve Schmidt, who was a senior adviser to the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, and who signed the brief. As Dick Cheney said years ago, 'Freedom means freedom for everybody.'"

"Still, it is clear that Republican backers of same-sex marriage have yet to bring the rest of the party around to their views. Mr. Feehery said there are regional as well as generational divisions, with opposition especially strong in the South. Speaking of Mr. Boehner, he said, 'I doubt very seriously that he is going to change his position.'

"Experts say that amicus briefs generally do not change Supreme Court justices' minds. But on Monday some said that the Republican brief, written by Seth P. Waxman, a former solicitor general in the administration of President Bill Clinton, and Reginald Brown, who served in the Bush White House Counsel's Office, might be an exception."

"The interest here, of course, is that the Conservative judges across the country may decide the outcome of the War, that the Conservatives' Gettysburg will be decided by those judges that were put into place in the federal and states judiciary systems.

The article also noted, "By contrast, the brief, shared with The New York Times by its drafters, cites past Supreme Court rulings dear to conservatives, including the Citizens United decision lifting restrictions on campaign financing, and a Washington, D.C., Second Amendment case that overturned a law barring handgun ownership, and we would be remiss in not showing another posting, this time from  Ian Milhiser at, "13 GOP Pennsylvania Senators Introduce New Plan To Rig The Electoral College For Republicans," to show that whether we're talking about the Tea Party Conservatives or the traditional leadership, a Conservative is a Conservative is a Conservative:

"Earlier this year, Republican National Committee Chair urged Republican lawmakers in states “that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red” — i.e. blue states with Republican legislatures and governors — to enact a plan rigging the Electoral College so that it would be almost impossible for a Democrat to win the White House. Under these plans, a large chunk of blue state electoral votes would be allocated to the Republican candidate even if the Democratic presidential candidate won the state as a whole. Although some state lawmakers in key blue states such as Wisconsin or Michigan endorsed versions of this plan, the election rigging plans were widely derided as exactly what they are — cheating — and soon, even top Republicans like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) or Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell wanted nothing to do with election rigging. The plans to rig the Electoral College appeared dead.

"Except, that is, for Pennsylvania.

"Gov. Tom Corbett (R-PA) was one of the earliest supporters of rigging the Electoral College,backing a plan to do so as early as 2011. Republican state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi was one of the leading supporters of election-rigging the and late this week, he — along with a dozen other co-sponsors — introduced a new plan to rig the Electoral College votes in his blue state of Pennsylvania. Under this legislation, a large chunk of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes would be awarded to the Republican candidate even though Pennsylvania is a solid blue state that has supported the Democratic candidate for president in every election since 1992.

"Of course, while the Republican election-rigging plan calls for blue states to give away electoral votes to Republicans, red states like Texas or South Carolina will continue to award 100 percent of their electors to the Republican."

Whether the Tea Party inmates will be in charge of the Conservative asylum is a moot point; the country may go under faster with them in charge, but their end game is the same: the subjugation of the poor and the middle class to the good old days of feudalism.


“To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.”

Wilson Mizner (American playwright, raconteur, and entrepreneur. 1876 – 1933)


Monday, February 25, 2013

Hoover's Switch: Conservatives And Racism

Conservative Sheeplets love to explain how color blind they are by invoking Abraham Lincoln and blaming the founding of the Ku Klux Klan on today's Democrats (their leadership knows better than this, as they have a slightly better grasp of the historical change in American political parties.  Today's Democratic Party is yesterday's Republican Party, today's Republican Party is the Tory faction of the pre-Colonial period, and on and on).

But our reprint of an article several years ago by Nathan at, "Hoover and the Roots of GOP Racist Politics," should remind us that the Emancipation Proclamation might not pass today if today's Conservatives have anything to say about it.  Today's GOP is not the party of Lincoln, and the article shows how Herbert Hoover was the cause of this change that led up to the editorial in the Conservative National Review in 1957 by Conservative spokesman William F. Buckley, Jr.:
"The Negroes would, according to democratic processes, win the election; but that is the kind of situation the White community will not permit. The White community will not count the marginal Negro vote. The man who didn't count it will be hauled up before a jury, he will plead not guilty, and the jury, upon deliberation, will find him not guilty. A federal judge, in a similar situation, might find the defendant guilty, a judgment which would affirm the law and conform with the relevant political abstractions, but whose consequences might be violent and anarchistic."
And now for a bit of 20th Century Conservative history:

"Occasionally, some people will paint Herbert Hoover as a good-hearted humanitarian who ended up a bit over his head when the Great Depression came. The rise of the New Deal was built on Hoover's incompetence, not his malevolence.

"Given (George W.) Bush's incompetence, that might be an encouraging start, but what's worth understanding is that Hoover represents how the roots of modern GOP racism go deeper. Reading a wonderful biography of,W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century 1919-1963 by David Levering Lewis, it's clear that Hoover marked the point where the GOP abandoned its last vestiges of concern for civil rights in favor of appealing to the racist white South.

"While the Republicans had ceased decades earlier to do much substantively for civil rights, blacks in the 1920s still retained elected positions within the Republican Party apparatus. The crisis point in relations of African Americans and the GOP came, evocatively, in the last great Mississippi flood disaster, the Great Flood of 1927, when a million and a half people were displaced from their homes. Check the link for details, but the outrage was that the relief effort was headed by Herbert Hoover, yet he turned a blind eye as tens of thousands of blacks were rounded up at gunpoint for forced labor. Black leaders, even those previously allied to the Republicans, denounced this treatment, but the response came in 1928.

"Pioneering the 'Southern Strategy' of coming decades, Hoover forced all southern blacks to surrender their positions so that the GOP could become lily white in the South. This would help Hoover's GOP break into southern states, as the party won Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida and Texas-- notably the first time a Republican had ever won in Texas. The purge of blacks from the party and this shift by the national GOP towards appealing to racist whites in the South so outraged black leaders that with the election of 1928 began the wholesale shift of black voters in the North towards the Democrats. While the Dem nominee Al Smith was a grave disappointment for black voters, Hoover's racist actions were the soil on which Roosevelt would build his outreach to black voters for the New Deal.

"The racism of the National Review three decades later in deepening the GOP alliance with the previously solid Democratic white South just continued the explicit alliance with racists begun by the national Republicans by Hoover. Roosevelt and even more decisively Truman would solidify that shift with a rejection by the Democratic Party of its own racist commitments in favor of racial equality.

"What's striking is the myth that the 'southern strategy' of 1968 was something radically new for the Republican Party. In fact, the GOP has spent most of the 20th century abandoning its origins at the party of Lincoln to build itself on the rock of southern racism. As Ezra Klein notes, the myths of black looters and rape -- promoted fervently among rightwing blogs and media -- were nothing more than the latent racist tropes of yesteryear. And such a convenient trope for a Republican Party desperate to shift blame onto the victims of that disaster.

"But the lesson of history is that to focus on the beginnings of Democratic losses electorally in the 1960s due to their (occasionally wayward) commitment to racial justice is misguided if you don't understand that there would have been no elections to lose if the party had not built the New Deal coalition based on the GOP's abandonment of its black supporters.

"Historically, the GOP made a fatal mistake under Hoover in abandoning racial justice as a formal commitment just as the civil rights movement was rising. The Dems made a lot of mistakes in the 20th century, but rejecting their racist past to champion civil rights was one of their greatest moral AND politically astute moves.

"It's a good lesson for Democratic moderates who want to bet on weakening such commitments as an electoral strategy. In a country where the percentage of white voters continue to decrease as a percentage of the population, betting against racial justice is a long-term electoral loser.

"Posted by Nathan at October 10, 2005 01:11 PM"

Nathan's article should help destroy the "Party of Lincoln" myth, and any attempt by the Klan to hide in the garb of the Tea Party should be exposed for what it is: the usual racism of the Southern States that led to the beatings and lynchings of the 20th Century by white Conservative Sheeplets of Dixieland.


What Franklin once said about John Adams also describes John Scarborough today,
“...always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes and in some things,
absolutely out of his senses.”


Sunday, February 24, 2013

How to Defeat Conservatism

"How to Defeat Conservatism," a list of 17 ways to "make the modern world a better place to live," is the finale to the series, "What's Wrong With Conservatism," by Philip E. Agre.  Except for the last way, these tools are rhetorical ones rather than methods for candidates on the stump.  We present a few of Agre's methods and urge you to see the rest of them at

"//5 How to Defeat Conservatism

"Conservatism is almost gone. People no longer worship the pharaohs. If the gentry were among us today we would have no notion of what they were talking about. For thousands of years, countless people have worked for the values of democracy in ways large and small. The industrialized vituperations of conservative propaganda measure their success. To defeat conservatism today, the main thing we have to do is to explain what it is and what is wrong with it. This is easy enough.

"* Rebut conservative arguments

"This is my most important prescription. Liberals win political victories through rational debate. But after a victory is won, liberals tend to drop the issue and move along. As a result, whole generations have grown up without ever hearing the arguments in favor of, for example, Social Security. Instead they have heard massive numbers of conservative arguments against liberalism, and these arguments have generally gone unrebutted. In order to save civilization, liberals need a new language, one in which it is easy to express rebuttals to the particular crop of conservative arguments of the last few decades. And the way to invent that language is just to start rebutting the arguments, all of them. This means literally dozens of new arguments each day.

"Do not assume that rebutting conservative arguments is easy, or that a few phrases will suffice. Do not even assume that you know what is wrong with the conservative arguments that you hear, or even indeed what those arguments are, since they are often complicated and confusing in their internal structure. Do not just repeat a stock response that worked for some previous generation of liberals, because your audience has already heard that response and already knows what the counterargument is. Conservative rhetors have invested tremendous effort in working around liberals' existing language. In the old days, racists were racists and polluters were polluters. But those old labels do not win arguments any more. Liberals must now provide new answers in plain language to the questions that ordinary citizens, having heard the arguments of conservatism, now have. Do environmental regulations work? Why do we protect the civil liberties of terrorists? Are liberals anti-American? What do we need government for anyway?

"* Say something new

"Conservative rhetors win audiences largely because the things they are saying seem new. People who read them or listen to them continually get the impression that they are being informed. If news and opinion editors seem biased against liberals, one reason is simply that liberals are not delivering the goods. Whenever you get ready to express a political opinion in the media, first ask whether you have ever heard that opinion in the media before (as opposed, for example, to scholarly works). If so, figure out what the counterarguments are -- because there will be counterarguments -- and then proceed to base your column on the counterarguments to that. Get ahead of the curve.

"* Teach logic

"Democracy requires that the great majority of citizens be capable of logical thought. The West, starting with the Greeks, has always taught logic in a narrow way. Logic does include the syllogism, but it also includes a great deal of savoir faire about what constitutes a good argument, a good counterargument, and a good counterargument to that. In particular, the citizen must have a kind of map of the arguments. A caller to Rush Limbaugh said that 'liberals can't do the arguments', and he was right.

"Many on the left unfortunately abandon reason because they believe that the actual basis of politics is something they call 'power'. People like this have no notion of what power is. For example, they will argue that reason is useless because the powers that be will not listen to reason. This is confusion. The purpose of reason is not to petition the authorities but to help other citizens to cut through the darkness of conservative deception.

"Others on the left believe that reason is the property of the elite. This is true historically, but that is simply because the essence of conservatism is to deprive the common people of the capacity to engage in democracy. Many bad theories of democracy actually reinforce conservatism, and this is one of them.

"* Conservatism is the problem

"Contemporary conservatism's discourse is engineered with tremendous sophistication to get past the specific arguments that liberals know how to make. Conservative strategists, moreover, are willing to achieve their goals incrementally, depending on the arguments that liberals are capable of making at a given moment. Of course it is important for liberals to make the arguments against each increment. But it is more important to explain what conservatism is in general, and then to explain what is wrong with it.

"For example, I once heard Rush Limbaugh discussing with a listener how school vouchers were just a conservative tactic, and how conservatives' real goal was to eliminate public funding for education altogether. This is the sort of thing that loses elections, and yet I have never heard a liberal pundit discuss it.

"* Critically analyze leftover conservative theories

"Liberal ideology is in disarray. After all, conservative ideology has dominated human thought for thousands of years, and it takes concentrated effort to liberate oneself from it. Such intellectual liberation will never happen without a detailed history of conservative theories -- which is to say, the ways in which these theories have been designed to subordinate people's minds to a hierarchical social order dominated by an aristocracy. Lacking such a history, liberal ideology draws in random and confused ways on conservatism, giving it a sentimental update without particularly changing it. Or else liberalism spins out into something wishfully called radicalism, which at best inverts conservatism into something that does not work as well and does not liberate anyone either. A genuine tradition of liberatory social thought does indeed exist, but it must be disentangled from its opposite.

"The difficulty with too many liberal notions of social capital is that they are oblivious to the tension between conservatism and democracy. As a result, they are vague and ambiguous as to the nature of social capital, how it might be measured, and what kinds of institutions might erode or encourage it. For example, a theory of social capital that locates it in plain numbers of social network connections is insufficient because it undervalues social skills and overvalues particularistic forms of community that are not adaptive in a dynamic modern economy. This is how liberals end up quoting Tocqueville and sounding indistinguishable from conservative theorists of 'intermediary institutions'.

"Social capital is just one example of a general crisis of liberal ideology. The first step in resolving this crisis to get clear about what conservatism is and what is wrong with it.

"* Ditch Marx

"Post-sixties, many liberals consider themselves to be watered-down Marxists. They subscribe to a left-to-right spectrum model of politics in which they, as democrats, are located in some hard-to-identify place sort-of-somewhat-to-the-left-of-center, whereas the Marxists have the high ground of a clear and definite location at the end of the spectrum. These liberals would be further out on the left if they could find a politically viable way to do it. Conservative rhetors concur with this model, and indiscriminately calling liberals communists is back in style. This is all nonsense. Marxism is not located anywhere on a spectrum. It is just mistaken. It fails to describe the real world. Attempts to implement it simply created an ugly and shallow imitation of conservatism at its worst. Democracy is the right way to live, and conservatism is the wrong way.

"Marx was a brilliant analyst for his time. His analysis of technology's role in the economy was wholly original. He was the first to analyze the structural dynamism of a capitalist economy. But his theory of modern society was superficial. It overgeneralized from the situation of its time: the recent discovery of economies of scale, crude market institutions, no modern separation of ownership and control, and a small middle class. Marx followed the political economy of his day in analyzing markets as essentially independent of the state. But this is not remotely the case.

"One difficulty with Marx, which is the topic of a vast literature, is that his theory requires a periodization of history that does not correspond to historical reality. Capitalism, for example, is supposed to be a discrete totality, but claimed starting dates for this totality range across a good four hundred years. His economistic analysis of society, though indisputably productive in the way that many powerfully wrong ideas are, makes history seem more discontinuous than it is. In fact, the relationship between conservatism and democracy is more or less constant throughout thousands of years of history. One evidence of this, for example, is Orlando Patterson's stunning discovery that Western notions of freedom were invented by former slaves in the ancient world and have remained more or less constant ever since.

"In economic terms, Marx's theory is mistaken because he did not analyze the role the capitalist plays as entrepreneur. The entrepreneur does an important and distinctive type of work in inventing new ways to bring together diverse factors of production. Now in fact the nature of this work has remained largely hidden throughout history for a wide variety of reasons. Because Marx had no notion of it, the capitalist's profit seemed to him simple theft. It does not follow, though, that entrepreneurs earn all of their money. The theories of mainstream economics notwithstanding, serious how-to manuals for entrepreneurs are quite clear that the entrepreneur is trying to identify a market failure, because market failures are how you make money. The relationship between entrepreneurship and the state is much more complicated than economics has even tried to theorize. Capitalists, moreover, are not a class. Particular networks of capitalists and other well-off or otherwise connected personages may well try to constitute themselves as an aristocracy, but this is a phenomenon with several more dimensions than just economics.

"Nor is Marxism of any use as politics. All that Marx offered to people who worked in deadening factory jobs was that they could take over the factory. While unions and collective bargaining exist in many contexts for good economic reasons, they are an essentially medieval system of negotiations among orders and classes. They presuppose a generally static economy and society. They are irrelevant to knowledge-intensive forms of work. Nor do they provide any kind of foundation for democratic politics. People want their kids to be professionals, not factory workers, and democracy helps people to knit themselves into the complicated set of institutions that enable people to build unique and productive lives.

"* Stop surrendering powerful words

"Many liberals abandon any word that conservatives start using. That means, since conservatives systematically lay claim to every word of the English language, that liberals have been systematically surrendering powerful words such as family, nation, truth, science, tradition, and religion. This has made it increasingly difficult for liberals to explain what they believe. There is no alternative: if conseratives have been twisting a powerful word, then you have to explain in concise American English what the word really means and how the conservatives have distorted it. Contest the signifiers. Use the words.

"* Teach nonviolence

"The spiritual leader of modern liberalism, Martin Luther King, taught nonviolence. This has been narrowly construed in terms of not killing people. But, as King made clear, it has other meanings as well. You have to love your enemies. This is difficult: the reality of conservatism is so extreme that it is difficult even to discuss without sounding hateful. There is also an intellectual dimension to nonviolence. Nonviolence means, among other things, not cooperating in the destruction of conscience and language. Nonviolence implies reason. Analyze the various would-be aristocracies, therefore, and explain them in plain language, but do not stereotype them. Nonviolence also has an epistemological dimension. Few of us have the skill to hate with a clear mind. Conservatism is very complicated, and you cannot defeat it by shouting slogans. This is the difficulty with Michael Moore. He talks American, which is good. But he is not intellectually nonviolent. He is not remotely as bad as Ann Coulter, and liberals have criticized him much more thoroughly than conservatives have criticized Ann Coulter. But he is not a model for liberal politics. There is no doubt that Martin Luther King would (have been) in  George Bush's face. But how? That is why liberals need a language.

"* Tell the taxpayers what they are getting for their money

"Civilization requires a substantial number and variety of public services, which in turn require moderate and reasonable amounts of taxes. Despite decades of conservative rhetoric, a majority of Americans are perfectly happy to pay their taxes. And yet liberals keep letting conservatives clobber them with rhetoric that makes taxes sound like a bad thing. It is time for liberals to stop losing this argument. To start with, do not talk about amounts of money ('we should spend $15 billion on health care'). Instead, talk about what the money buys ('we should provide medical care to 15 million children').

"* Build the Democratic Party

"Your model should be Pat Robertson. He is as extreme on the right as anybody in the United States is on the left. Yet his people took over large parts of the Republican Party. They did this in three ways: laboriously designing a mainstream-sounding language, identifying large numbers of talented activists and training them in the day-to-day work of issue and party politics, and building their own communications systems. Liberals should do the same.

"Now, many liberals argue that the Democratic Party would magically start winning again if it would only move to the left. This is lazy nonsense. The Democratic Party has moved to the right for the simple reason that liberals do not have a language that wins elections. To take over the Democratic Party, liberals need to replace the left-wing policies that do not work and, for the policies that do work, get a language that moves 51% of likely voters to vote Democratic.

"Other liberals argue that the Democratic Party, and the 'system' in general, are irretrievably broken, and that they must build a third party, such as the Green Party with its endorsement of Ralph Nader. The difficulties with this notion are hard to count. For one, splitting the left is a certain recipe for centuries of aristocratic domination. For another, building a party with only people who share your opinions to the nth degree is a certain recipe for factionalism and isolation. For another, the Green Party is a chaotic mess that has no serious chance of becoming a mass-based political party.

"Life under aristocratic domination is horrible. The United States is blessed to have little notion of what this horror is like. Europe, for example, staggered under the weight of its aristocracies for thousands of years. European aristocracies are in decline, and Europe certainly has its democratic heroes and its own dawning varieties of civilized life, and yet the psychology and institutions that the aristocracies left behind continue to make European societies rigid and blunt Europeans' minds with layers of internalized oppression. People come to America to get away from all of that. Conservatism is as alien here as it could possibly be. Only through the most comprehensive campaign of deception in human history has it managed to establish its very tentative control of the country's major political institutions. Conservatism until very recently was quite open about the fact that it is incompatible with the modern world. That is right. The modern world is a good place, and it will win."

The Final Solution is, of course, to criminalize Conservatism.  The tools that Agre argues for are to use when combating Sheeplets in forums, and for candidates for political office to use.  When Conservatism is dead, the use for the tools will die too.


"To the dumb question, 'Why me?' the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply,
'Why not?'"

Christopher Hitchens


Saturday, February 23, 2013

What's Wrong With Conservatism, Part 3

We continue our series on "What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It? " from the 2004 essay by Philip E. Agre:

"//4 The Discovery of Democracy

"Humanity has struggled for thousands of years to emerge from the darkness of conservatism. At every step of the way, conservatism has always had the advantage of a long historical learning curve. There have always been experts in the running of conservative society. Most of the stupid mistakes have been made and forgotten centuries ago. Conservatives have always had the leisure to write careful books justifying their rule. Democracy, by contrast, is still very much in an experimental phase. And so, for example, the 1960's were one of the great episodes of civilization in human history, and they were also a time when people did a lot of stupid things like take drugs.

"The history of democracy has scarcely been written. Of what has been written, the great majority of 'democratic theory' is based on the ancient Greek model of deliberative democracy. Much has been written about the Greeks' limitation of citizenship to perhaps 10% of the population. But this is not the reason why the Greek model is inapplicable to the modern world. The real reason is that Greek democracy was emphatically predicated on a small city-state of a few thousand people, whereas modern societies have populations in the tens and hundreds of millions.

"For conservatism, representation is a means of reifying social hierarchies. The Founding Fathers thought of themselves as innovators and modernizers, and the myth-making tradition has thoughtlessly agreed with them. But in reality the US Constitution, as much as the British system it supposedly replaced, is little more than the Aristotelian tripartite model of king, aristocracy, and gentry (supposedly representing the commons), reformed to some degree as President, Senate, and House.

"Fortunately, there is little need to replace the Constitution beyond adding a right to privacy. After all, as historians have noted, Americans almost immediately started using the Constitution in a considerably different way than the Founders intended -- in a democratic fashion, simply put, and not an aristocratic one. The president who claims to be "a uniter not a divider" is hearkening back to the myth-making of a would-be aristocracy that claims to be impartial and to stand above controversy while systematically using the machinery of government to crush its opponents. But his is not the winning side.

"The real discovery is that democracy is a particular kind of social organization of knowledge -- a sprawling landscape of overlapping knowledge spheres and a creative tension on any given issue between the experts and the laity. It is not a hierarchical divide between the knowledge-authorities in the professions and a deferential citizenry; instead it democratizes the skills of knowledge-making among a citizenry that is plugged together in ways that increasingly resemble the institutional and cognitive structures of the professions. This generalized application of entrepreneurial skills in the context of a knowledge-intensive society -- and not simply the multiplication of associations that so impressed Tocqueville -- is civil society. The tremendous fashion for civil society as a necessary complement and counterbalance to the state in a democracy, as launched in the 1980's by people like John Keane, has been one of the most hopeful aspects of recent democratic culture. Indeed, one measure of the success of the discourse of civil society has been that conservatism has felt the need to destroy it by means of distorted theories of 'civil society' that place the populace under the tutelage of the aristocracy and the cultural authorities that serve it.

"Economics, unfortunately, is still dominated by the ancien regime...The state of economics is unfortunate for democracy. Conservatism runs on ideologies that bear only a tangential relationship to reality, but democracy requires universal access to accurate theories about a large number of nontrivial institutions. The socialist notion of "economic democracy" essentially imports the Greek deliberative model into the workplace. As such it is probably useful as a counter to conservative psychologies of internalized deference that crush people's minds and prevent useful work from being done. It is, however, not remotely adequate to the reality of an interconnected modern economy, in which the workplace is hardly a natural unit. A better starting place is with analysis of the practical work of producing goods in social systems of actual finite human beings -- that is, with analysis of information and institutions, as for example in the singular work of Thorstein Veblen, John Commons, Joseph Schumpeter, Karl Polanyi, John von Neumann, Mark Casson, Joseph Stiglitz, Paul David, Bruno Latour, and Michel Callon.

"This work emphasizes knowledge and the very general social conditions that are required to produce and use it. Simply put, knowledge is best produced in a liberal culture. This is why the most prosperous and innovative regions of the United States are also the most politically liberal, and why the most conservative regions of the country are also the greatest beneficiaries of transfer payments. Liberals create wealth and government redistributes it to conservatives. This is, of course, the opposite of the received conservative opinion in the media, and indeed in most of academia. But it is true.

"Another connection between democracy and a modern economy is the democratic nature of entrepreneurialism. People who reflexively defer to their social betters will never learn the social skills that are needed to found new types of social relationships. This was clear enough in the interregnum in the 19th century between the fall of the American gentry and the rise of the modern corporation. An economy of generalized entrepreneurialism, moreover, requires an elaborate institutional matrix that is part public and part private. As scholars such as Linda Weiss have argued, the conservative spectre of a conflict between government and entrepreneurial activity is unrelated to the reality of entrepreneurship. To be sure, much has been learned about the kinds of government policies that do and do not lay the foundation for economic dynamism. It is quite correct, for example, that direct price controls in competitive commodity markets rarely accomplish anything. (Labor markets are a much more complicated case, in very much the ways that neoclassical economics exists to ignore.) Free trade would also be a good thing if it existed; in practice trade is distorted by subsidies and by uneven regulation of externalities such as pollution, and "free trade" negotiations are a kind of power politics that differs little from the gunboat diplomacy that opened markets in a one-sided way in former times. The point is scarcely that markets are inherently democratic. The economic properties of infrastructure and knowledge create economies of scale that both produce cheap goods (a democratic effect) and concentrate power (an anti-democratic effect). Conservatives employ the democratic rhetoric of entrepreneurialism to promote the opposite values of corporate centralization. But the 19th century's opinions about the political and economic necessity of antitrust are still true. More importantly, a wide range of public policies is required to facilitate a democratic economy and the more general democratic values on which it depends.

"Lastly, an important innovation of democracy during the sixties was the rights revolution. Rights are democratic because they are limits to arbitrary authority, and people who believe they have rights cannot be subjected to conservatism. Conservative rhetors have attacked the rights revolution in numerous ways as a kind of demotic chatter that contradicts the eternal wisdom of the conservative order. For conservatism, not accepting one's settled place in the traditional hierarchy of orders and classes is a kind of arrogance, and conservative vocabulary is full of phrases such as "self-important". Institutions, for conservatism, are more important than people. For democracy, by contrast, things are more complicated. The rights revolution is hardly perfect. But the main difficulty with it is just that it is not enough. A society is not founded on rights alone. Democracy requires that people learn and practice a range of nontrivial social skills. But then people are not likely to learn or practice those skills so long as they have internalized a conservative psychology of deference. The rights revolution breaks this cycle. For the civil rights movement, for example, learning to read was not simply a means of registering to vote, but was also a means of liberation from the psychology of conservatism. Democratic institutions, as opposed to the inherited mysteries of conservative institutions, are made of the everyday exercise of advanced social skills by people who are liberated in this sense.

Next: How to Defeat Conservatism (A list of 17 ways to "make the modern world a better place to live.)


"The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."

Blaise Pascal (French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and philosopher.

1623 – 1662)


Friday, February 22, 2013

What's Wrong With Conservatism, Part 2

We continue our series on "What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It? " from the 2004 essay by Philip E. Agre:

"//3 Conservatism in American History

"Almost all of the early immigrants to America left behind societies that had been oppressed by conservatism. The democratic culture that Americans have built is truly one of the monuments of civilization. And American culture remains vibrant to this day despite centuries of conservative attack. Yet the history of American democracy has generally been taught in confused ways. This history might be sketched in terms of the great turning points that happened to occur around 1800 and 1900, followed by the great reaction that gathered steam in the decades leading up to 2000.

"* 1800

"America before the revolution was a conservative society. It lacked an entitled aristocracy, but it was dominated in very much the same way by its gentry. Americans today have little way of knowing what this meant -- the hierarchical ties of personal dependency that organized people's psychology. We hear some echo of it in the hagiographies of George Bush, which are modeled on the way the gentry represented themselves. The Founding Fathers, men like Madison, Adams, and Washington, were, in this sense, products of aristocratic society. They did not make a revolution in order to establish democracy. Quite the contrary, they wanted to be aristocrats. They did not succeed. The revolution that they helped set in motion did not simply sweep away the church and crown of England. As scholars such as Gordon Wood have noted, it also swept away the entire social system of the gentry, and it did so with a suddenness and thoroughness that surprised and amazed everyone who lived through it. So completely did Americans repudiate the conservative social system of the gentry, in fact, that they felt free to mythologize the Founding Fathers, forgetting the Founding Fathers' aristocratic ambitions and pretending that they, too, were revolutionary democrats. This ahistorical practice of projecting all good things onto the Founding Fathers continues to the present day, and it is unfortunate because (as Michael Schudson has argued) it makes us forget all of the work that Americans have subsequently done to build the democratic institutions of today. In reality, Madison, Adams, and Washington were much like Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. Like Gorbachev, they tried to reform an oppressive system without fundamentally changing it. And like Gorbachev, they were swept away by the very forces they helped set into motion.

"The revolution, though, proceeded quite differently in the North and South, and led to a kind of controlled experiment. The North repudiated conservatism altogether. Indeed it was the only society in modern history without an aristocracy, and as scholars such as the late Robert Wiebe have noted, its dynamic democratic culture was most extraordinary. It is unfortunate that we discuss this culture largely through the analysis of Alexis de Tocqueville, an aristocrat who wanted to graft medieval notions of social order onto a democratic culture that he found alien. In the South, by contrast, the conservative order of the gentry was modified to something more resembling the oppressive latifundist systems of Latin America, relieved mainly by comparatively democratic religious institutions. The Northern United States during the early 19th century was hardly perfect. Left-over conservative hierarchies and patterns of psychology continued to damage people's minds and lives in numerous ways. But compared to the South, the North was, and has always been, a more dynamic and successful society. Southern conservatism has had to modify its strategies in recent decades, but its grip on the culture is tragically as strong as ever.

"* 1900

"Something more complicated happened around 1900. Railroads, the telegraph, and mass production made for massive new economies of scale, whereupon the invention of the corporation gave a new generation of would-be aristocrats new ways to reinvent themselves.

"The complicated institutional and ideological events of this era can be understood in microcosm through the subsequent history of the word "liberal", which forked into two quite different meanings. The word "liberal" had originally been part of an intramural dispute within the conservative alliance between the aristocracy and the rising business class. Their compromise, as I have noted, is that the aristocracy would maintain its social control for the benefit of both groups mainly through psychological means rather than through terror, and that economic regulation would henceforth be designed to benefit the business class. And both of these conditions would perversely be called "freedom". The word "liberal" thus took its modern meaning in a struggle against the aristocracy's control of the state. Around 1900, however, the corporation emerged in a society in which democracy was relatively strong and the aristocracy was relatively weak. Antitrust and many other types of state regulation were not part of traditional aristocratic control, but were part of democracy. And this is why the word "liberal" forked. Democrats continued using the word in its original sense, to signify the struggle against aristocracy, in this case the new aristocracy of corporate power. Business interests, however, reinvented the word to signify a struggle against something conceptualized very abstractly as "government". In reality the new business meaning of the word, as worked out in detail by people like Hayek, went in an opposite direction from its original meaning: a struggle against the people, rather than against the aristocracy.

"At the same time as the corporation provided the occasion for the founding of a new aristocracy, however, a new middle class founded a large number of professions. The relationship between the professional middle class and the aristocracy has been complicated throughout the 20th century. But whereas the goal of conservatism throughout history has primarily been to suppress the mob of common people, the conservatism of the late 20th century was especially vituperative in its campaigns against the relatively autonomous democratic cultures of the professions.
"One of the professions founded around 1900 was public relations. Early public relations texts were quite openly conservative, and public relations practitioners openly affirmed that their profession existed to manipulate the common people psychologically in order to ensure the domination of society by a narrow elite. Squeamishness on this matter is a recent phenomenon indeed.

"* the 1970's

"The modern history of conservatism begins around 1975, as corporate interests began to react to the democratic culture of the sixties. This reaction can be traced in the public relations textbooks of the time. Elaborate new methods of public relations tried to prevent, coopt, and defeat democratic initiatives throughout the society. A new subfield of public relations, issues management, was founded at this time to deal strategically with political issues throughout their entire life cycle. One of the few political theories that has made note of the large-scale institutionalization of public relations is the early work of Jurgen Habermas.

"Even more important was the invention of the think tank, and especially the systematic application of public relations to politics by the most important of the conservative think tanks, the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation's methods of issues management have had a fantastically corrosive effect on democracy.

"* the 1980's

"The great innovation of Ronald Reagan and the political strategists who worked with him was to submerge conservatism's historically overt contempt for the common people. The contrast between Reagan's language and that of conservatives even a decade or two earlier is most striking. Jacques Barzun's "The House of Intellect" (1959), for example, fairly bristles with contempt for demotic culture, the notion being that modern history is the inexorable erosion of aristocratic civilization by democracy. On a political level, Reagan's strategy was to place wedges into the many divides in that era's popular democracy, including both the avoidable divides that the counterculture had opened up and the divides that had long been inherent in conservatism's hierarchical order. Reagan created a mythical working class whose values he conflated with those of the conservative order, and he opposed this to an equally mythical professional class of liberal wreckers. Democratic culture in the sixties had something of a workable theory of conservatism -- one that has largely been lost. But it was not enough of a theory to explain to working people why they are on the same side as hippies and gays. Although crude by comparison with conservative discourse only twenty years later, Reagan's strategy identified this difficulty with some precision. People like Ella Baker had explained the psychology of conservatism -- the internalized deference that makes a conservative order possible. But the new psychology of democracy does not happen overnight, and it did not become general in the culture.

"* the 1990's

"In the 1990's, American conservatism institutionalized public relations methods of politics on a large scale, and it used these methods in a savage campaign of delegitimizing democratic institutions. In particular, a new generation of highly trained conservative strategists evolved, on the foundation of classical public relations methods, a sophisticated practice of real-time politics that integrated ideology and tactics on a year-to-year, news-cycle-to-news-cycle, and often hour-to-hour basis. This practice employs advanced models of the dynamics of political issues so as to launch waves of precisely designed communications in countless well-analyzed loci throughout the society. For contemporary conservatism, a political issue -- a war, for example -- is a consumer product to be researched and rolled out in a planned way with continuous empirical feedback from polling. So far as citizens can tell, such issues seem to materialize everywhere at once, swarming the culture with so many interrelated formulations that it becomes impossible to think, much less launch an effective rebuttal. Such a campaign is successful if it occupies precisely the ideological ground that can be occupied at a given moment, and it includes quite overt plans for holding that ground through the construction of a pipeline of facts and intertwining with other, subsequent issues. Although in one sense this machinery has a profound kinship with the priesthoods of ancient Egypt, in another sense its radicalism -- its inhuman thoroughness -- has no precedent in history. Liberals have nothing remotely comparable."

Next: "The Discovery of Democracy," followed by "How To Defeat Conservatism."


"Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart."

Marcus Aurelius