Sunday, June 17, 2018

Conservative intellectuals explain how we got here. It did not go well.

By Herb Marcuse
Ideas and Culture Editor

The fatally open-minded E.J. Dionne, Jr., convened a round-table discussion with several leading examples of conservative “intellectuals” disenchanted with the descent of the Republican Party into a brainless claque of Tangerine Shirts.

What did we learn from these thoughtful folks?

Conservative intellectuals remember their glory days . . .
One conclusion leaps out: as long as conservative “intellectuals” flap their gums about their past glories and current indignities, we'll never lack for material.

Former George W. Bush flack and coatholder David Frum, come on down!

Instead of starting as he should have by apologizing for lying this country into a bloody war of choice and the commission of heinous war crimes, he deploys one classic strategy of conservatives unable to defend their past or present views: whataboutism.

There's no difference between the Grifter-in-Chief and Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders because all three have a dangerously “messianic” appeal?  Of course, the same smear was deployed against Barack Obama in 2008, to no avail.

We wonder if David Frum would admit that there is a difference between politicians who seek to inspire their followers and those who seek to inflame the racism, bigotry, and unjustified sense of grievance of their hate-filled mobs while undermining democracy with graft and authoritarianism.

Actually, we're just f***in' with you.  We don't give a toss what anyone who advances such a preposterous false equivalence thinks.

Next up, batting right, Liz Mair.   She thinks that the Tangerine-Faced Grifter is in essence advocating for single payer health care.  Score that a pop up to the first base side, out 3-unassisted and buy her a bus ticket back to Scranton.

Now we get to the heart of the lineup.  Here's Pete Wehner, another Bush flack and apologist.  Tell us a little bit about yourself, Pete:
Just autobiographically, I’m a product of the Reagan Revolution. When I was growing up and being formed intellectually and politically during the Reagan years and the 1980s, the important books at that time were: Losing Ground by Charles Murray on welfare, The Naked Public Square by Richard John Neuhaus, Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, and James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein’s Crime and Human Nature. Justice Antonin Scalia was a huge figure in terms of his articulation of originalism.  

That's pretty much all we need to know: Murray and Herrnstein were intellectual disgraces pushing utter bs theories about genetic differences in intelligence and clubability between rich white and poor black people, based on falsified (Burt's twin studies, anyone?) or inconclusive research.  Nino Scalia, when not advocating for torture on TV, had such respect for originalism that he handed the 2000 election to George W. Bush based on an equal-protection theory he invented for the occasion and interpreted the Second Amendment by failing to read its first clause and creating from whole cloth a reasonableness limitation.

After lauding intellectually dishonest exalters of white rich male privilege, where does he go?  Incredibly enough, and without acknowledging the links between the intellectual history he venerates and the shrieking mobs at U Bum rallies, he manages to get to the right conclusion:  the Bigot-in-Chief is in fact the “culmination of dark forces on the American right.”  Tune in tomorrow to find out if this causes Pete to re-evaluate everything he has ever said or done.

Betting cleanup, Jennifer Rubin blames the current deranged adoration of the Grifter-in-Chief on  “a failure to grow and a failure to keep up with the times.”  So conservative opposition to civil liberties in the McCarthy Era and civil rights in the 60's might have been OK back then but now in the age of Instachat and Snapogram we need to move on?

Of course, the reality of American conservative thought is its consistency: hatred of minorities, hatred of anyone whose lifestyle or political views differs from theirs, the belief that government exists solely to protect the interests and bank accounts of a narrow plutocratic elite, and denial of any responsibility to other people, cultures, or indeed to the planet we are stuck on.   The song remains the same; it's just we've never heard it sung so loudly and so badly from the Oval Office before.

She too shares some personal intellectual history:
If you were a teenager, or young adult, and you had conservative leanings, you took pride in Bill Buckley, who was the wittiest and the funniest and the most erudite public intellectual of his time. You also had an approach to politics that was based on the very conservative notion that people are flawed. 
The most erudite what?  Are we talking about Bill Buckley, who defended Joe McCarthy's reign of terror until the day he died (Bill, not Joe – Bill defended the drunken demagogue long after Joe's liver gave up the fight)?  The guy who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the grounds that white Southerners were naturally superior?  That's your role model and intellectual Polaris?  Get back to reviewing the royalty clauses in the contract for Scott Baio's 1988 Christmas Special.

. . . like these
We also will stop (and probably end, as we can feel our breakfast churning) with this quote, because it contains one of the most famous clich├ęs of conservatism: the supposed distinction between liberals, who foolishly believe people are good, and conservatives, who know they are not.

Have you ever heard this distinction propounded or defended by anyone other than a conservative?  How does it even follow?  If you think people are flawed, wouldn't you support a government to minimize the damage their flaws can cause, like, oh, I don't know, destruction of the earth, or misallocating all resources and social goods (like immunity from police misconduct) to a greedy few?  Oh, and if all people are flawed, why would you lie about the reasons to start a war when you really wanted to overthrow a flawed leader?  Why would you think that George W. Bush (speaking of flaws) would do a better job of running Iraq than Iraqis?

And wouldn't you strongly support the rule of law so that flawed people can't arrogate the power to torture helpless detainees or rip infants from their mothers' breasts?

The whole conservatives are wise hard headed realists bit was never anything more than a crock.  That E.J. Dionne could sit through what sounds like hours of wisdom-free reality-challenged defensive whining is a tribute to him.

As for us, we would have kicked these sorry excuses for intellectuals out onto K Street at the first mention of William F. Buckley, Jr.

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