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September 10, 2004

Comments

Burke would be spinning in his grave over Iraq.

meta-comment - can we get more conservative posts here, or some Kerry-bashing ones from the left? One might get the impression that Kerry is unobjectionable to conservatives, moderates, etc. Or say a post on why conservatives should vote for Kerry over Bush.


Conservatives (including those of the old-fashioned kind)place far greater stock in fear as a crucial element in bringing about good behavior: the Bush team draw on this idea repeatedly and very effectively.

Why Should Conservatives Vote For Bush?

Because the alternative is less appealing, even if its just a little bit less.

Modern conservatism is a misnomer. The anti-abortionists claim to be conservative, but anti-abortionism rests on a completely untraditional (un-conservative) view that fetuses are humans with full rights. No religious or cultural traditions that I know of support this view. We celebrate "birth" days, not "conception" days; voting and drinking rights are computed by "birth" days, not "conception" days. I'm not aware of any cultural traditions that proceed otherwise.

The so-called economic "conservatives" are now all, simply, radical plutocrats. John Cassidy in last week's New Yorker reported as to how the R's plan for their hoped-for 2nd Bush Administration is to take further steps toward eliminating all taxes on all unearned income -- interest, dividends, capital gains, inheritance. The goal is: If you are rich enough not to have to have a job, you and your heirs will never have to pay any federal taxes again, ever, period. People who work for a living will pay to maintain the cost of American government.

This is not conservatism. This is feudalism.

The other stuff -- military, Iraq, the Orwellianly named "war on terror" -- that's all distraction & by-the-way. Anti-abortionism and neo-feudalism are all that matter to these people (and a lot of the neo-feudalists, like Schwarzenegger, Giuliani, et al, don't give a rip about anti-abortionism because they know they & theirs will always be able to get around inconvenient laws).

So why would conservatives vote for Bush? They wouldn't. But anti-abortionists and neo-feudalists would, and do, enthusiastically.

This is a good post and makes a point well worth making, one that's been made before but made well here. And really, if you know anything about historical conservatism, it's pretty obvious that Bush is no conservative; he's a wild gambler willing to risk all sorts of things on academic theories and let's hope-sos.

So if we can take it as a given that real conservatives don't care all that much about Bush--but nevertheless support him for election to the tune of 90%+--would somebody kindly clue me in on why the universal attitude is the one expressed by criona, i.e., Because the alternative is less appealing?

I mean, at least in terms of foreign policy, I see John Kerry as a guy who has bought into the old school foreign policy consensus, believes in the judgment of the professionals, and won't go off on a wild goose chase--in other words, he's a conservative. Deeply conservative. It's in his nature.

So what's the problem?

Now let me say this: I'm not really buying the campaign arguments, i.e., that he is a flip-flopper, that he revealed a hollow soul by betraying his brothers at the Winter Soldiers testimony, or that his virtually-indistinguishable-from-Bush position on the GWOT* makes him "soft." Also, he's not really the most liberal senator; lifetime, he's #11, and that doesn't I think paint such a scary picture when you consider the constituency he's representing: he could get away with really being #1 if he wanted to.

Granted, the mere fact that I don't buy the campaign arguments--especially "flip-flopper," if there was something to it why is it always supported with such moronic twaddle?--doesn't mean they don't appeal to real conservatives. I just haven't heard a principled argument for any of them yet.

What I'm asking is this: could one of you conservatives that doesn't care for Bush come out and make a truth-based argument about why you believe Kerry is worse?

*Note that when I say that Kerry's position on the GWOT is virtually indistinguishable from Bush's, I mean Bush's stated positions. Don't forget that Bush virtually never mentioned Iraq during the 2000 campaign, yet songbirds have twittered that he began planning an invasion shortly after taking office. Which, IMO, boils down to the heart of it; I'm afraid Bush is going to go off on another secretly-planned wild tangent and this time it will really be too much.

Sorry, crionna.

The broken record sings:

" . . . divided government, divided government, divided government, divided government . . ."


What on earth do conservatives really think is going to be worse about the alternative? That Mr. Delay can't fix?

Liberal is the new conservative.

rilkefan: among my various purposes in posting this, along with genuine curiosity and a desire to get people talking about something more interesting than kerning vs. proportional spacing -- was just to draw out exactly the kind of argument whose absence you're lamenting. I am too, actually: I would actually like to know. Naturally, I can't find out the answer through introspection, nor can I ask my Republican friends -- one of the reasons I initially started reading this blog, before I got to post things, was because I really did want to understand why, apparently, somewhere around half the country is voting for Bush. While I know lots of Republicans, I know only one (1) person who plans to vote for Bush, and having talked to him about why, I have concluded that his judgment has just failed him. (This is not because he's voting for Bush; it's because of why he is.) Thus the question. I would actually be really interested in the answer.

Simply put Judges

Here's to hoping there's something left for them to judge.

Sorry, crionna.

What for? You know I respect you Trickster, as one of a handful of people worldwide that actually espoused a reasonable alternative theory on how to win the WOT. So, I have no problem with you using my answer to ask a repectful question. If you're saying sorry for the mis-spelling, well then....nevermind ;) and really, no biggie.

could one of you conservatives that doesn't care for Bush come out and make a truth-based argument about why you believe Kerry is worse?

I think that they're both lying to get elected. I expect the President to go more conservative fiscally and more liberal socially if he's re-elected and Senator Kerry to go more liberal fiscally if he's elected.

Yeah, that's what I meant, for the misspelling; I should've been clearer.

And thanks, I certainly believe that to be a truth-based answer. If you ever come back to give more detail, I'll be paying attention.

One comment: although I think you're right that Kerry's inclination is to be fiscally more liberal, there's really no room for a big new welfare state. We're close to a fiscal cliff, and I think Kerry's innate conservatism would keep him from pushing us too much further toward the edge. My best guess is that he would try to pass watered-down compromise versions of his campaign proposals and otherwise the concentration would be on keeping the fiscal house from blowing away in the storm. And any tax-raising beyond what he's campaigning on would be strictly 2nd-term.

And thank you very much for that compliment. It seems extravagant at first blush, but when I look at it, so far as I can tell, it's true (at least if you think my proposal is a reasonable alternative).

Which is really a shame. Why aren't smart people coming up with proposals? I can't tell that we or any one else have any sort of plan other than to react and try to project attitude. That's Bush, Kerry, Putin, the French, or anybody. And as for us, the people in our government, and even in our universities so far as I know, have been really bone-dry, idea-wise (except for well, what I think was one really bad idea).

"Simply put Judges

Posted by: Timmy the Wonder Dog | September 11, 2004 12:15 AM"

. . . divided government, divided government divided government, divided government, divided government . . .


" . . . I expect the President to go more conservative fiscally and more liberal socially. . .

"Posted by: crionna | September 11, 2004 02:00 AM"

Based on? Why do you think what we're getting isn't who he really is? I ask not only because he makes a big deal out of his integrity in this regard, but because all the politics that drives the current positions will do so still in the next term as well. Looked at another way, if he was really going to be more fiscally conservative and socially liberal, he could say so now, and win 60% of the vote.

Judges?

Let me see if I've got this right.

You have an Administration that is implementing an agenda that's totally unconservative in every way that matters, and one of the only forces left in the nation (as Congress has rolled over to play dead) still able to act as a check and balance to these unconservative goals are the courts.

So you want Bush to pack the courts with his people, so that he can continue to enact totally unconservative policies now totally unchecked?

Do the math Timmy...you won't end up with what you want if you still hold traditional conservative values.

I think the issue boils down to taxes. The very effective conservative smear of Democrats is that they are the 'tax and spend' party; so long as the conservatives find candidates willing to promise to cut taxes while promising the same level of (or greater) services--you'll have no shortage of folks willing to vote GOP.

The notion of smaller Govt. as a conservative principle is akin to believing in a perpetual motion machine. No GOP administration, going back past our own lifetimes has reduced the size of Govt.

Hilzoy,

Good post.

May I add one point: Rule of law. This Administration has effectively declared itself not bound by the law. They claim unlimited power for the President as Commander-in-Chief, sneer at the Geneva Conventions, condone torture, etc.

During the Clinton impeachment we hear repeatedly from the right that "no man is above the law." Inoperative now, I guess.


I took the question to be: why might self-identified conservatives vote for Bush? One can find this especially puzzling given how reckless (and non-conservative) Bush has been in terms of fiscal and foreign policy. Now, of course, many self-identified conservatives who will vote for Bush don't see how reckless Bush is just due to factual ignoreance. But I also think that what many liberals perceive as reckless in foreign policy is perceived as a proper show of strength by those who think use of power (and generating fear) is a proper and effective method in ensuring good behavior (eg. scaring the terrorists into submission). I also thinks this connects with the rhetoric of strength, standing for something, and moral authority more generally (these latter themes employed to maximum effect re the gay marriage issue of course).
And might there be something to the conservative idea that self-identified conservatives do have firmer and more fixed moral convictions? The best lack all conviction while the worst are filled with passionate intensity?

BTW, the main reasons I've heard from likely Bush voters are 'tough on terror' and 'don't change jockeys during a race' (or some other sporting analogy). But I think the idea of moral conviction is key. It's why the Repubs are happy to have Bush called stubborn; better stubborn than flip-flopper.

On the subject of feudalism and the Repubs, see Michael Lind's Made in Texas.

Nicely written, Hilzoy. Your post captures my feelings and general level of disenchantment much better than I could have. I'd like to be able to help you -- I'm a "small c" conservative -- but I can't: I will reluctantly vote for Kerry. I won't hate voting for Kerry the way I hated voting for Gore, but I won't be a happy man.

Four years ago, I was flabbergasted that the best candidate my party could nominate was Bush. I believed then (as I do now) that he wasn't qualified for the job of president, and he certainly hasn't risen to the challenge while in office. I value competence more than ideology, and there was no reason to believe that Bush was a diamond in the rough. Frankly, if he wasn't the son of George H. W. Bush, I doubt that he'd be in the public eye at all; it's hard to believe that he'd be listed in, say, the top 1% of all Americans with the skills necessary to be president. I'd be prepared to entertain the idea of increasing that margin to 5%. I find Timmy the Wonder Dog's apparent belief that judges trump all to be ridiculous: it's hard for me to imagine that there will be cases of such critical importance coming before the courts over the next four years that it will be worth suffering the incompetence of this administration.

For the record, I left the Republican Party about 18 months ago; I'm sure as hell not a Democrat, though, so I registered to vote as a non-partisan. It was weirdly sad sitting out the primaries this time around, but it was a natural consequence of a trend that I saw start in the nineties: when I wasn't paying attention, someone grabbed the two ends of the political spectrum and glued them together. The result is a Republican Party run by the likes of Tom Delay, and a Republican presidential political philosophy cribbed from the Cosa Nostra. Even if I was still a member of the party, I have never been so tribal that I wouldn't have admitted that I found the Republican convention -- particularly by comparison with the Democratic convention -- to be appalling and embarrassing. In principle, I suppose that I could just sit the election out (i.e., not vote for Kerry), but I believe that I have a duty as a citizen to make the best decision that I can in the best interests of the nation.

I have a potentially interesting suggestion for any other conservatives out there who -- like me -- have kids that don't deserve what we're doing to their financial futures. I'm old enough (and fortunate enough) that my hard work over the years has allowed me to become reasonably well off. For the past two years, I have asked my accountant to calculate my federal income taxes under the old (2000) tax laws as well as the new, and then I have sent a check for the difference to the Bureau of the Public Debt. (I don't know html, but here's the URL: http://www.publicdebt.treas.gov/opd/opdgift.htm.) It's not much, but it's the best I can do now. When I retire, I doubt that I'll need my social security checks, so I plan to use that money to buy US Savings bonds for my kids (or their kids). They can use the money to help pay the portion of their taxes comprised by interest on the debt!

NPCurmudgeon, you rock.

Well, the reason Republicans will vote for Bush have already been stated: tax cuts for the party's donors; and judges for the religious right's issues. Whether the set of Republicans and and the set of conservatives have any intersection at this point is a good question.

Power can be very corruptive.

Well I kept a level head in a time that was pretty chaotic.

-- George Bush on Surviving the Vietnam War

George Bush's National Guard Interview

If anything else, Bush's fear in the face of danger is very troublesome for some Hardcore Right-Wing Alpha Males, so I have been told.

Why should conservatives vote for Bush?

Well, it ain't hard to explain, he's more conservative than Kerry. Duh!

Here's a rough comparison:

On tax cuts: Bush A; Kerry F
On gov't spending: Bush C-; Kerry D+
On N'tl Security: Bush A-; Kerry C-

Somebody calculate the GPA's -- I'm bad at Math:)

Why should conservatives vote for Bush?

Well, it ain't hard to explain, he's more conservative than Kerry. Duh!

Here's a rough comparison:

On tax cuts: Bush A; Kerry F
On gov't spending: Bush C-; Kerry D+
On N'tl Security: Bush A-; Kerry C-

Somebody calculate the GPA's -- I'm bad at Math:)

Navy, do competence, integrity, open government, and Burkian conservatism (i.e., an aversion to risk-taking) mean anything, or is just fiscal policy and "security"?

Trickster
Don't fall into the trap. Tax cuts do not equal fiscal policy.
From what I've read no fiscal policy has been expressed or exercised by the current administartion.
"Tax cuts are good for a surplus. Tax cuts are good for a deficit." is not a policy.

Navy
On Government spending:
George Bush: THREATENED TO VETO FIRST BILL FOR $87M THAT HAD ALREADY BEEN PASSED BY THE SENATE.

John Kerry: VOTED TO CUT SPENDING IN ORDER TO AFFORD $87M FOR TROOPS.

Which one do you find better fits a conservative fiscal policy.

Sorry.
Kerry voted to cut spending and apportion some of the $87m to a loan to be paid back with Iraqi oil profits.

Tax Cuts: The Bush/GOP platform is to make the current tax cuts permanent and to eliminate taxes on unearned income, while at the same time increasing the tax burden on earned income. Add to this the shift in taxes from federal to state level, and what people don't pay to the one they'll wind up paying to the other. Also, public sector services will shift more to fee-based rather than subsidized: higher fees for healthcare, professional and drivers' licenses, vehicle registrations, road tolls, public park entry, sales taxes, and utility surcharges. Real spending power and real income for the lower- and middle-class will deteriorate even more rapidly than it is already. Oh, and did I mention a worse crunch in funding schools, public safety, and transportation infrastructure?

Govt Spending: The pharma-and-insurance company giveaway program mislabeled "Prescription Drug Benefit" will bankrupt Medicare within one generation. The bait-and-switch in Social Security (SocSec taxes were raised in the 90's to ensure system viability, and then the trust fund was looted to help pay for the tax cuts) has ensured that benefits will be reduced and the whole system is also predicted to be bankrupt within a generation. Please note that the Baby Boom retirement bulge will happen at the same time both systems are predicted to go bust. Defense-related budgets have a bottomless credit card while veterans' benefits are cut and VA hospitals closed.

Nat'l Security: The Taliban are back in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda recruitment is going great, and Iraq continues to chew up American soldiers. North Korea is continuing its nuclear weapons program, just as Bush decides to pull most of our troops from the DMZ; and the only thing keeping nuclear-armed Pakistan even nominally on "our" side is Prevez Mushariff - who has survived 3 assassination attempts so far. Meanwhile, the Bush Admin is starting to put its ducks in a row to go to war against Iran and possibly Syria -- though "with what armies?" is a good question, since we're already bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. If Bush decides to make war on Iran, you can bet there will be a draft. The rest of the world will not rush to help us; the rest of the world pretty much despises us.

That's just in response to what NavyDavy feels is the measure of all things, governmentally speaking. I'm not even talking about the theocratization of science and health policies, the violation of every civil liberty guaranteed by Western civilization, or replacing accountable governance with backroom deals made to benefit cronies.

On tax cuts: Bush A; Kerry F
On gov't spending: Bush C-; Kerry D+

Am I the only one who sees the conflict here?


I was working with the assumption that we might try to understand (in a non-hostile way) why conservatives would still vote for this guy. But I appreciate it's hard to think about this in even a remotely charitable way given all the awful stuff they have been up to (as CaseyL points out).

A lot of it, surely, is about cultural identification in ways that go beyond Religious Right affilliation (not all Repub voters, obviously, are Religious Right; nor are they all significant party donors). And it is easy to be quickly reductive: white, male, racist, homophobic etc. But the people I know who are voting (or thinking of voting) for Bush are in many ways perfectly decent (mainly blue collar, for what that's worth) folks. That's what is so painful. So: I was looking for something that unites a bunch of Repubs and self-indentified conservatives that one might understand and see as a reason even if one thinks that ultimately they're misguided. And I think the issue of moral authority -- as opposed to what is perceived as liberal 'explain it all away' wishy-washyness -- is a significant one for these people. The Bush folks are clever at making liberals seem like they are madder at Bush than Bin Laden -- but isn't this at times close to the truth? This, at any rate, explains why some conservatives will vote for Bush. It's part of why Kerry needs to spend more time just acknowledging the obvious: 9/11 was barbaric, bin Laden is evil etc. You can't let Bush own these feelings.

On tax cuts: Bush A; Kerry F
On gov't spending: Bush C-; Kerry D+


Am I the only one who sees the conflict here?

No. But he said he's not very good at math. It shows.

Do the math Timmy...you won't end up with what you want if you still hold traditional conservative values.

Eddie, speaking of math, at the end of September, I will set up a diary where we can discuss our bet.

See you then

From the left bank of the Housatonic, I'm Irish I always remember a bet.

Kerry voted to cut spending and apportion some of the $87m to a loan to be paid back with Iraqi oil profits.

Million, billion...what's a few orders of magnitude, between friends?

Million, billion...what's a few orders of magnitude, between friends?

An order of magnitude here, an order of magnitude there... pretty soon, it adds up to real money.

Navy: Well, it ain't hard to explain, he's more conservative than Kerry. Duh!

I'd agree with that.

Q: What is conservatism? A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world. (cite)

Bush & Co believe in rule by aristocracy, which is the essence of Conservatism. Now explain why it is that people who will never be part of the aristocracy want to vote in aristocratic rule. That's the part I've never understood.

I think it would have been a tad more compelling, Jesurgislac, if he'd redefined conservatism as the embodiment of pure evil. As long as you're making up your own definition for a word or idea, you might as well go whole hog.

See you then

From the left bank of the Housatonic, I'm Irish I always remember a bet.

Looking forward to it. ;-)

Jesurgislac's definition of conservatism suffices since today's conservatism, like libertarianism, is like trying to nail jello to a wall. Essentially, today's conservatism is whatever its leaders think it is--today--that will help them maintain power.

Look, there are three ways any political philosophy can be attacked. First, external coherence: are its "first principles" or premises true? Second, internal coherence: are its premises internally consistent?
Third, is its agenda feasible?

If we stipulate conservatism's "first principles" are true (and one could probably make an argument they aren't), the fact remains today's conservatism fails badly on the last two points. Is today's conservatism internally consistent? A quick reviw of their social agenda reveals an almost schizophrenic conflict. Is their agenda feasible? Again, we need only return to today's fiscal conservatism which comes awfully close to saying, "you can have your cake and eat it, too...BTW, did you want some of your kid's cake also?"

As long as you're making up your own definition for a word or idea, you might as well go whole hog.

Agreed. Please do explain what your definition of conservatism is, and how Bush embodies it while Kerry doesn't.

My problem with the current presidency is that it has all the competence and consistency of a Star Wars film in which Jar Jar Binks strives to become the Evil Emperor.

(Or did that already happen? I skipped Attack of the Clones.)

Jesurgislac, can I ask why you didn't lead with your 12:53pm post instead of your 8:28am one?

Anarch:
8:28 = cranky Jesurgislac, no coffee
12:53 = cheerful Jesurgislac, coffee AND lunch

Bush did not lower taxes. I repeat, Bush did not lower taxes. The only way to lower taxes is to lower spending. All the budget shortfall, all the dept and all the interest on the debt still has to be paid. What Bush has done is delayed collection of taxes. He also shifted the burden of taxes from the very rich to the middle class. But he has not lowered taxes. I appeal to all right thinking men and women to cease giving credit to Bush for irresponsible actions.

Please do explain what your definition of conservatism is, and how Bush embodies it while Kerry doesn't.

My definition is irrelevant to the point, as is Bush's embodiment of it (or lack thereof). The actual point is that the author of the piece you linked to is redefining conservatism to be something it clearly isn't. If I'd posted something to the effect that liberalism was just totalitarianism disguised as socialism*, I'd expect vigorous objection from you, no?

*Note: I actually don't think this is true. It's just an illustration to underscore the absurdity of Agre's redefinition of conservatism.

The actual point is that the author of the piece you linked to is redefining conservatism to be something it clearly isn't.

True. It's not conservatism. But "domination of society by an aristocracy" is not a bad description of Bush's goals, at least with respect to his tax policies. When you lower or eliminate taxes on investment income and abolish estate taxes you inevitably establish a wealthy hereditary aristocracy. And when political power depends heavily on access to wealth you empower that aristocracy far beyond its numbers.

ogged of unfogged on what might convince him to vote for Bush.

Slarti: If I'd posted something to the effect that liberalism was just totalitarianism disguised as socialism*, I'd expect vigorous objection from you, no?

Indeed. But I would be able to give definitions of totalitarianism, socialism, and after a little thought (it's a looser word) my view of what liberalism actually is. Whereas you have been invited, by Edward in the initial post, and by me a bit further down, to define conservatism/Bush's embodiment of it: and it appears that either you can't, or you prefer not to. I suspect the latter, but do not wish to be accused of mind-reading. ;-)

Bernard Yomtov: But "domination of society by an aristocracy" is not a bad description of Bush's goals, at least with respect to his tax policies.

Exactly. And I'm still wondering why those who will never be part of that aristocracy want to vote it in...

by Edward in the initial post

Argh! *hits self over head*

Hilzoy started this thread. Apologies to both.

Third option: I don't care to, I'm too lazy to bother, and it doesn't affect my point in any event whether I accept or decline your invitation.

There are many varieties of conservatism, but none share common features with Agre Conservatism (which, as far as I can tell, is a set both new and empty). Enumerating them all here is a complete waste of time, IMO.

Third option: I don't care to, I'm too lazy to bother, and it doesn't affect my point in any event whether I accept or decline your invitation.

And how is this different from what I said? No third option needed: you prefer not to define conservatism, which I figured was the most likely of the two.

There are many varieties of conservatism, but none share common features with Agre Conservatism (which, as far as I can tell, is a set both new and empty)

Certainly not new - goes back centuries; and certainly not empty. It fits Bush & Co's brand of conservatism like a glove. (Your brand of conservatism may be different: as you prefer not to define it, I'll just have to wonder.)

Ah, but Agre didn't define Bush conservatism, he defined conservatism.

If you're arguing Bush's politics, well, you're going to have to take that up with him. I don't happen to think that Bush is a conservative in any broad sense, but that's neither here nor there with respect to Agre's whinge.

Every American should read the book "FIRESTORM!" before voting. It can be found at amazon.com or xulonpress.com or can be ordered at your local book store. It tell of the vulnerability of the U.S. to nuclear annihilation, and why Bush is the man to run this country. It was written last year, by me. - Lawrence W. Corob

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