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Movement Conservatives

[ 121 ] July 17, 2012 |

I’ve always considered this term an oxymoron.  Anybody who knows anything about Burke gets this.  Ideally my students get it as well, given that they should know some of what I know about Burke, which is greater than nothing but shy of authoritative.  This term also illustrates a rift between theoretical expectation and empirical reality.  True conservatives shouldn’t be a movement.  True conservatives should weigh any action against the potential for unintended consequences.  But, then, movement conservatives have as much in common with Burke as I do, a point somewhat illustrated in this excellent read by David Roberts.

Roberts nails two of the conventional wisdoms held here at LGM.  First, increased polarization in American partisan politics is not symmetrically distributed.  Although the left has crawled further left, the right is sprinting towards the cliff.  It’s the right who are moving.  Citing both political science (Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal) as well as Galston (also of The Democratic Strategist) and Mann from Brookings, Roberts offers a compelling account which demonstrates the asymmetry in contemporary polarization.  His argument is perhaps best captured by the following quote:

The national Republican Party, by contrast, has now been almost entirely absorbed by the far right. It rejects the basic social consensus among post-war democracies and seeks to return to a pre-New Deal form of governance. It is hostile to social and economic equality. It remains committed to fossil fuels and sprawl and opposed to all sustainable alternatives. And it has built anepistemological cocoon around itself within which loopy misinformation spreads unchecked. It has, in short, gone loony.

Such an epistemological cocoon allows for this sincere exhibition of hilarious lunacy noted by Erik a few days ago.

Second, “centrist” pundits are, well, idiots.

Instead, pundits — and, to be fair, lots and lots of non-pundits — cling to the presumption of symmetry. Their minds rebel at asymmetry, especially extreme asymmetry. The notion that “partisans on both sides” are preventing a sensible middle course is deeply rooted to the point of catechism.

Which nicely sets up the money shot of Roberts’ post:

Maddeningly, when pundits actually lay out what that sensible middle course would look like, they end up describing Obama’s agenda. Benjy Sarlin at TPM put it best: “Pundits Urge President Obama To Back President Obama’s Proposals.”

It is this political environment that allows for Mitt Romney to vociferously run against an ACA that is close to the very Massachusetts plan that he signed.  It allows for voters in the “center” and the right to disbelieve that Romney supports the Ryan budget when the specifics of the latter are spelled out for them (I saw this within the last week, but I can not find the link / cite to it.  Ergo, I could just be making it up. h/t commenter Howard, I’ve now attached the link.) And it might even allow for John McCain to say, presumably with a straight face, that it wasn’t the 23 years worth of tax returns which cooled McCain to selecting Romney as his VP running mate, it was that Sarah Palin was the better candidate all along.

Back to our pal Burke: “It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the publick to be the most anxious for its welfare.”  I wonder whom Burke would find the loudest complainers of the past three 20 years.

h/t Tom Birkland for the Roberts piece.


Comments (121)

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  1. Craigo says:

    I agree that “conservative” is a misnomer, if we’re defining it in terms of Burke or Oakeshott or Peel or whoever reasonable Republicans quote to try and prove that they’re not running a three-legged race with a lunatic.

    Reactionary? Bourbonist?

    • superking says:

      Counter-revolutionary fantasists.

    • Steve LaBonne says:

      Fascist. I don’t see how they fail to legitimately qualify for that label.

      • superking says:

        Back in 2008, Fred Thompson had a bumper sticker that just said “Unity. Security. Prosperity.” That is the single most fascist piece of political advertising I’ve ever seen in my life. I think most conservatives are weak on the unity and prosperity aspects of fascism. They are, after all, still making arguments about the free market where a fascist is corporatist.

        I think plutocrats is closer to it. they want the rich to be able to do anything they want.

      • There is not way fascists would countenance off-shoring jobs, losing the industrial base, or widespread childhood poverty and food-insecurity. Fascists believe in a common national or ethnic identity that transcends class. They may want the lower orders to be obedient, but they feel a certain responsibility towards them, and would consider it an embarrassment if “daddy” wasn’t providing for all of his “children.”

        Fascists also support a strong public sector. They build highways and public transit; they don’t starve them of the capital needed to maintain them properly.

        The modern American right – at least the elite right, and the Republican Party as an institution – adheres to a transnational or post-national ideology. What do hungry American children in another neighborhood, or unemployed American workers in another city, have to do with them?

        • DocAmazing says:

          We’ve gotten to the point where our political class is in many ways worse than the Fascists.


        • TruthOfAngels says:

          Quite so. It’s not fascism they want but feudalism. A place for everyone, and everyone in their place. Except even lords and thegns didn’t usually let the peasants starve.

        • Haystack Calhoun says:

          I finally get it!

          THIS is what the Pantload means with his book. Compared to 21st century Republicans, Fascists are liberals!

        • John says:

          I think if you look at what is the closest thing to a real fascist movement in the United States, the 1920s era KKK, you’ll find that whatever paternalistic concern may have existed for the lower orders was limited to only certain parts of the lower orders. Blacks, Jews, and Catholics (among others) didn’t count, and were, in fact, persona non grata.

          Given that the current Republican lack of social consciousness seems to be largely based (at least among the rank and file) on racism, I’m not sure the distinctions you’re making are completely valid.

          • Given that the current Republican lack of social consciousness seems to be largely based (at least among the rank and file) on racism, I’m not sure the distinctions you’re making are completely valid.

            Have you noticed a great deal of paternalistic concern for white, Christian poor people from the Republican Party circa 2012?

        • Heron says:

          The modern American right – at least the elite right, and the Republican Party as an institution – adheres to a transnational or post-national ideology.

          And they aren’t very shy about it, either. All you’ve got to do is watch the Travel channel during the weekend, when they’re running all their hotel, cruise ship, and casino “documentaries” to see these people openly admitting that they care about their wealth, its maintenance, and not much else. We’re here for them to exploit, and any suggestion that the government ought to provide helpful services, or that their tax money should go to anything that people with less money than them use, might as well be the storming of the Bastille to these people.

      • LeeEsq says:

        Fascists had better production values and more definite, charismatic leadership plus at least some nods to the need of community?

        I think the best description of American conservatives I’ve come across was really vulgar versions of 19th century liberals with some reactionary social ideas through in.

    • David W. says:


    • I like Robert Reich’s “regressives.”

    • anniecat45 says:

      Hysterical reactionaries

    • Sly says:

      All conservatism is a form of political fundamentalism that follows a simple formula:

      1) The nation possesses an enduring and essential set of political values that form the backbone of a national identity.

      2) The national political culture of the contemporary era does not reflect those enduring/essential values and the identity that they produce.

      3) There was a period in history when it did, and this period is highly idealized and romanticized to the point where it has strikingly little in common with a genuine historical accounting.

      4) In order to reclaim our national identity and reinvigorate our enduring values, we must return to the values of the romanticized era and marginalize those who would oppose us.

      What defines the various aspects of conservatism are which values and what identity is essential to the nation (and, among those, which more important than others) and what period represents the ideal occurrence of those values and that identity.

      • John says:

        That’s a definition of reaction, not conservatism. Certainly, if you look at Peel and Disraeli, who are probably the paradigmatic conservatives of the English-speaking world, they didn’t believe any of these things.

        Conservatism is an ideology about preserving the status quo and protecting the economic classes that are currently on top. When a major challenge to the status quo starts to make headway, conservatives can start sounding like reactionaries, and there’s certainly some overlap, but what you’re describing is not inherent in conservatism.

  2. howard says:

    you either saw the “disbelieve” in krugman, or in drum (to whom krugman links), who in turn extracted this money shot from robert droper in the ny times magazine about polling on behalf of a democratic superpac:

    Burton and his colleagues spent the early months of 2012 trying out the pitch that Romney was the most far-right presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater. It fell flat. The public did not view Romney as an extremist. For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan — and thus championed “ending Medicare as we know it” — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.

  3. david mizner says:

    The left is moving left? Really? Which “left” is this?

    • rea says:

      When Roberts says that, he’s looking at congresspeople on a left/right spectrum over several decades. The “left moving left” largely represents southern Democrats changing parties.

      • Glejnn says:

        I apologize in advance for this question — I know I should be able to find the answer to this with Teh Google, but I’ve tried and I can’t seem to. Does the zero point on a DW-NOMINATE graph for a given Congress represent the median member of that Congress? Or is it intended to represent some fixed point on the left-right scale that transcends Congresses? My assumption is it’s the former (or something like it), so that while you can compare Congresses on polarization, you cannot compare them on any “absolute” left-right scale.

        In other words, if Dem scores have gotten more negative (negative being liberal, positive being conservative), that only means Dems have moved left relative to the center. But if the center has moved rightward by an even greater amount, that would mean Dems had actually moved right over time. Am I right about that?

        • Glenn says:

          and I see I can’t even spell my name right. Sorry, bad day.

        • elm says:

          Depends. Some Nominate scores are normalized to a common “space” so they are somewhat historically comparable and some aren;t.

          A careful analyst will make sure they’re suing the right score, although even the ones that are normalized make problematic assumptions to get comparability. Nominate is a pretty good way to determine how left or right a member of congress’s roll call votes are relative to others’ in that same house of that same congress, but any attempts to do more than that (over-time comparisons; cross-chamber comparisons; imputing presidential and court scores; etc.) begin to get questionable pretty fast.

      • Murc says:

        Which doesn’t reflect the left moving left at all, especially since after the southern Democrats changed parties, the remaining ones ran straight into the arms of neo-liberalism.

    • wengler says:

      The ‘left’ that can’t move fast enough to sign free trade agreements.

    • The only leftward movement I can detect in American politics is the consequence of the shrinking middle. A significant chunk of what used to be the middle have become center-left or liberal, just as another significant chunk has become center-right or conservative.

      But that’s not really the same thing as “the left” moving left.

      • It’s pretty much impossible to answer this question without defining exactly what we mean by “the left.” Radical leftists? The far left wing of meaningful politics? The entirety of the left of median?

  4. Professor Know-It-All says:

    It’s the right who are moving.

    In what time frame?

    If you’re looking at a 40 or 50 year window, both parties have moved far far to the left of where they were.

    So now you think you see the conservatives not as conservative as they were last year or the year before and because they’re not at the pinnacle of their leftism, it’s panic time??

    • Anonymous says:

      40 or 50 years ago Republicans were debating whether to support the Geeat Society. Today, they want to roll back the New Deal, and maybe the Enlightenment.

    • The 1972 Republican Party Platform says:

      If you’re looking at a 40 or 50 year window, both parties have moved far far to the left of where they were.

      Dear Cthulhu, Jennie, you are the fucking stupidest troll on the fucking internet.

    • DocAmazing says:

      The EPA was begun under Nixon. It may well be destroyed today. That’s demonstrable rightward movement. In the 1970s, the Republican Party came within an ace of supporting the Equal Rights Amendment. Now they’re challenging Ledbetter. That’s demonstrable rightward movement.

      Shall we continue?

    • superking says:

      Yeah, by exactly what measure have the Republicans moved to the left in the past 50 years?

      • DocAmazing says:

        They no longer publicly encourage lynchings.

        • Only because of liability laws. If they could get tort reform passed….

        • Manju says:

          They no longer publicly encourage lynchings.

          Claude Pepper would like a word with you.*

          *Since most folks here don’t possess the knowledge of civil rights history necessary to get this retort, I shall explain. Pepper was a Dixiecrat from FL who made the most bone-chillingly racist speech on the Senate floor until Robert Byrd got up and told us that black brains were smaller than white ones. He was pro-lynching.

          He was also so left of center that Harry Truman thought him a Commie (and had him ousted by Smathers, otherwise known as Gorgeous George).

          • John says:

            This is ridiculous. Claude Pepper did oppose an anti-lynching law in 1937/1938, towards the beginning of his career, but only the whole his record on civil rights was quite good for a southerner – he supported the Fair Employment Practices Commission, voted for an anti-poll tax, bill, and so forth. He later cited his opposition to the anti-lynching law as one of his greatest regrets.

            It’s also pretty clear that, at the time, his decision to support the filibuster was about political survival, not personal conviction. And, unlike other less racist southern senators, he actually ended up breaking with the south and supporting civil rights legislation, which is part of the reason he lost his seat in 1950.

            And I’m am astoundingly dubious that he gave a more “chillingly racist” speech on the Senate floor in 1938 than any of the garbage consistently delivered up by people like Theodore Bilbo and James Eastland over the next several decades. Specific descriptions of his speech against the anti-lynching bill note that it did not match the “racist demagoguery” of someone like Bilbo.

            So give it a rest.

            • Manju says:

              It’s also pretty clear that, at the time, his decision to support the filibuster was about political survival, not personal conviction.

              George Wallace and Orville Faubus heart you.

              This is ridiculous. Claude Pepper did oppose an anti-lynching law in 1937/1938, towards the beginning of his career, but only the whole his record on civil rights was quite good for a southerner – he supported the Fair Employment Practices Commission, voted for an anti-poll tax, bill, and so forth. He later cited his opposition to the anti-lynching law as one of his greatest regrets.

              I know. He also supported the 64cra (as a Congressional Rep).

              Folks over at National Review think it ridiculous to mention on Buckley’s segregationists ways…because he allegedly recanted. I do not think it ridiculous.

              And I’m am astoundingly dubious that he gave a more “chillingly racist” speech on the Senate floor in 1938 than any of the garbage consistently delivered up by people like Theodore Bilbo and James Eastland over the next several decades.

              You may have a point here. I would have to review the speeches first.

              So give it a rest.

              Look, you think it ridiculous of me to mention a lib-Dem who actually spoke in support of lynching.

              But apparently it is not ridiculous to say “[Republicans] no longer publicly encourage lynchings.”

              Lets be generous and assume this sentence refers to asshat Republicans who voted against cloture in order to stick it to FDR. Well, they didn’t exactly “publicly encourage lynching”. They were collaborators, like FDR.

              Or, lets assume this statement refers to Dixiecrats. Well, Dixiecrats weren’t Republicans and only a few switched. The biggie, Strom, actually fought the Klan, lynching, and the poll tax.

              Or, lets be generous and assume this statement refers to conservatives, not Republicans. Given that the liberal heros like Pepper and LBJ supported lynching and that most Dixiecrats were not conservatives, this interpretation would make no sense.

              I’m quite sure you posses the knowledge to knock down idiotic and ahistorical statements on civil rights that get constantly spewed on LGM comment threads. If you don’t like the way I do it, feel free to do it for me.

    • mingo says:

      This comment (by Prof Know-absolutely-nothing) is a delightfully perfect example to illustrate the post.

      • DrDick says:

        (by Prof Know-absolutely-nothing)

        That really is not fair at all. He is quite intimately familiar with the contents of his colon. Everything else, however, is a total mystery to him.

  5. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    I’m a bit suspicious of the argument that “true conservatives” = Burkeans (or even so-called Burkeans). Since at least the early 1950s, there has been a continuous (if evolving) American political movement that calls itself “conservative.” Although their claim to the title “conservative” was hotly contested in the early years of this movement, since the late 1960s, at the latest, this movement has been what is colloquially meant by “conservative” in US political talk. It is entirely coherent to call those working for this political movement “movement conservatives,” regardless of their relationship to some ideal type of conservatism. Indeed, the adjectival noun “movement” in the phrase effectively suggests that one isn’t taking a stand on the appropriateness of the description of them as “conservative”: “movement conservatives” are conservative insofar as they belong to the political movement that calls itself “conservative.”

    • DrDick says:

      I agree with this entirely. As with any social category, “conservatives” are whatever the people who call themselves that and are called that by others say and do. That this changes and evolves over time and is not reflective of any platonic ideal should not surprise any social scientist. See “family” for instance.

    • david mizner says:

      Not to mention that even Burke wasn’t a Burkean. Corey Robin gets it mostly right in drawing a line from Burke to Palin.

    • Craigo says:

      It’s unnecessary and unwise to twist the long held definition of a term to fit a political movement more or less unique to one country. There’s more than one strand of conservativism in the world, and current Republican politics do not resemble any of them. (It’s tempting to draw comparisons to far-right Europeans, but that’s not exact either.)

      All conservative ideologies share an aversion to change – and up until the 1970s, this was the defining characteristic of right-wing Americans. It is no longer. Today’s Republican party is – whatever you call it, reactionary, counter-revolutionary – all about radical change. They’re not attempting to preserve the existing social order, because that framework was created in the Great Society era and represents, along with the New Deal, everything that they hate and fear. They want to impose a new social order, vintage 1925.

      Radical change is not conservative.

      • Craigo says:

        I should say up until the 1990s.

      • DrDick says:

        Radical change is not conservative.

        Tell that to the fascists.

      • Bruce Baugh says:

        This is going to end up with an argument that Bismarck and Victoria weren’t conservative, and then it will be necessary for many of us to laugh.

        • Hogan says:

          Bismarck was conservative in an “if we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change” kind of way.

          • Bingo.

            All conservative ideologies share an aversion to changes in power relations among different groups. Many of them are quite willing to see changes happen in response to changing social and material conditions, if those changes are necessary to keep the Prussian military aristocracy/Wall Street financiers/straight white Christian males at the top of the heap.

        • Craigo says:

          They’re ideologically similar – what would later be called one nation conservatism in Britain, while Bismarck would fall squarely into Christian democracy today, minus the kulturkampf.

          “Averse” to change does not mean “No change ever” – Disraeli supported the Reform Act of 1867 to avoid a repeat of the Days of May, while Bismarck built a welfare state to undercut the SPD. Neither reformed for their own sake, but to conserve the existing social order by outflanking threats from the left.

          • John says:

            I don’t think it’s possible to say that Bismarck’s positions at the time, which were largely about preventing any kind of meaningful democracy, preserving the authoritarian power of the Emperor (as excercised by Bismarck), persecuting socialists, and so forth, fit very well into the mainstream of a modern European center-right party.

        • IM says:

          Bismarck was considered as no longer a conservative by many of the true conservatives of his time. Bismarck was very much a conservative revolutionary.

          We have to remember Lampedusa here:

          “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”

      • rea says:

        They want to impose a new social order, vintage 1925.

        1925 was waaay too progressive for them. They want to get rid of everything that RINO Theodore Roosevelt accomplished. McKinley they can mostly tolerate, although he should not have annexed Hawaii. James G. Blaine? No, too truthful . . .

        • Craigo says:

          “Separation of Church and State” Blaine? No way.

          Read up on TR’s New Nationalism when you get a chance. Pretty radical for the standards of the day, and far more progressive than what even Wilson, who was left of center, was offering.

      • DrDick says:

        All conservative ideologies share an aversion to change

        I think this is wrong. What conservative ideologies actually share is a desire to maintain the existing power structure. The New Deal and Great Society did not overturn the existing power structure, but did weaken it and allow for greater social mobility. Modern Republicans (as well as those from 1950-1980) seek to overturn those changes and restore the elites to their full power.

        • Craigo says:

          That’s a good way to put it as well.

          But a key trait of conservatism, as opposed to reaction, is that conservatives largely accept modest change after it has come to pass. Britain’s conservatives fought tooth and nail against electoral reform in the 1830s, but almost immediately accepted it once it came to pass, instead of trying to roll it back. You can see the same in the postwar consensus in the US and UK, where the right wing of the next generation largely accepted the previous generation’s reforms.

          Now contrast that to the behavior of today’s Republicans – who don’t merely accept the 1960s, but the 1930s either. (Or the Progressive Era, as someone argued above.) That’s more akin to French monarchists trying to put a Bourbon on the throne a hundred years after the Revolution.

          • DrDick says:

            I think that you only describe moderate conservatives. I think today’s Republicans are simply extreme conservatives. Bear in mind that the Republicans have been trying to repeal the New Deal at least since the 1950s and the Great Society ever since it was passed. They also have tried to repeal the CRA and VRA continuously since they were passed. Unless you want to argue that none of the Republicans since WWII have been conservatives, I do not think your definition holds up.

            • John says:

              I don’t think it’s accurate to say Republicans have been trying to repeal the New Deal since the 50s. The Republicans were trying to repeal the New Deal in the 30s. In the 40s, the internationalist coastal wing of the party made its peace with the New Deal, and when they took over the White House in 1952, Eisenhower made no effort whatever to repeal the New Deal. This angered some of the “primitives” in the Congressional party, but given that the primitives lost every presidential nominating contest until 1964, I don’t see how their position can be seen as *the* Republican position.

              Goldwater indeed let a conservative takeover of the party in 1964, but after that led to disaster, the Republican Party again stopped challenging the New Deal until Reagan’s election. Given that Republican’s controlled the White House for 16 of the 24 years between 1953 and 1976, and never really made any effort to roll back the New Deal, in spite of what was essentially a conservative (though not Republican) majority in congress for most of that time, I don’t think it makes much sense to say that the Eisenhower/Nixon era Republicans were trying to get rid of the New Deal.

              I’m also not sure what you mean when you say that the Republicans have continually tried to repeal the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Those measures were passed by enormous (if somewhat reluctant, in some cases) majorities of the congressional Republican Party. Nixon’s southern strategy was never about repealing those laws, but about using southern white resentment of those laws to win over the South to the Republican Party – this was to be advanced not by repealing Civil Rights, but by actually carrying them out, and expecting that the fallout would lead southern whites in the direction of the less pro civil rights of the two national parties.

              There were, of course, always elements on the right wing of the Republican Party that were further to the right, and those elements gradually took over the party, but it seems totally wrong to see them as dominant throughout the post-war era.

  6. c u n d gulag says:

    I don’t see anyone on the “Left” holding up books by Karl Marx, Lenin, or Mao, and waving an American flag.

    Virtually EVERY Conservative is carrying around books by Ayn Rand, holding their Bible, and waving the American flag.

    It’s NOT hard to see, when you open your eyes, punTWITS!!!

    So, what ‘Lefties’ have moved further “left?”
    He asks – again?

    • Malaclypse says:

      holding their Bible

      To be fair, the Bible, when actually read and paid attention to, is a fairly subversive book.

      • c u n d gulag says:

        Not the first part.

        And THAT’S the part they like!

        All of that smiting, and people made to suffer for their sins by and angry and vengeful God.

        It warms the already red-hot cockle’s of their teeny-tiny hearts.
        Or, maybe it’s their spleens – since they seem to vent them all of the time, so they need more warming.

        • Malaclypse says:

          The first part far more than the second. Much of the second is written by Paul, who clearly seems to be the Ted Haggard of his day. The moment you finish the Gospels, the NT is all about codifying a movement that needs to accommodate to Rome.

          But read the OT. Whole thing is all about obligations to the poor. Read the story of Nathan standing up to King David, publicly rebuking him for actions any king of the day would not blink at. “Thou art the man” indeed.

        • actor212 says:


          Even the first part.

          Remember, Jews were slaves to a polytheistic culture surrounding them. This was a highly subversive book. Like many manifestos, it had outrageous and strident radical postulations.

        • Katya says:

          Dunno. There’s an awful lot in that first part about caring for widows and orphans that they don’t like so much. A lot of the sins that God smote people for involved the lack of charity, a fact they conveniently overlook.

      • wengler says:

        It’s written so poorly in most parts that it’s impossible to get the body of believers to agree on anything from it. The parts that almost all Christians agree on are also usually the least politically relevant(I am the way, the life, etc).

    • DrDick says:

      Well, there are a few of us, like Mal and I, but we are a microscopically small minority.

      • c u n d gulag says:

        Yeah, it’s been over 30 years since I read the Bible.

        And that was the Russian language version of the Orthodox Bible.

        I’ve never read the King James, or any of the newer “translations” in English.

        I’m pretty sure it’s exactly the same.

        • wengler says:

          I found the ‘how to build an ark’ section very helpful. Other than that is a compendium of near East historical factoids told mostly for the benefit of one group of people.

        • rea says:

          Ranks right up there with Homer and Tolkien as heroic fantasy–vastly entertaining. Queen King James commissioned some decent poets, too, for the translating . . .

        • DrDick says:

          In my early teens, I read the whole thing, cover to cover. It was part of the deal I made with my mother when I was 13 and had my apostasy to avoid going to church.

          • Malaclypse says:

            Be glad – my deal included the Book of Mormon. I remember being twelve and making a list of historical impossibilities. And don’t get me started on Joseph’s prose stylings.

    • UserGoogol says:

      How many people were waving around Karl Marx in the 1970s? A few hippies here or there, but it’s not like the Democratic Party ever embraced the guy. And on the other hand, it’s not like Ayn Rand only suddenly became popular in 2006. Atlas Shrugged was a bestseller at the time of its original release, and she has had a rather cultish fanbase for a long time.

      I mean sure, there are certain issues which have moved hard to the right over the last few decades, but bona fide Marxism has been a rather fringe viewpoint in mainstream American politics for a long long time. Let’s not overstate things.

      (As an unrelated point, there is a tremendous irony in someone holding Ayn Rand in one hand and the Bible in the other.)

      • wengler says:

        Except Karl Marx made some fairly cogent observations about the transformative and cannibalistic qualities of an economic system that was just starting to impact the world.

        Ayn Rand just made up a persecution complex and combined it with a god complex to make the rich and privileged feel good about being sociopaths. It’s not an ideology that works well. I’ve said this before, but the fascists at least had job programs.

        • John F says:

          My one and only ever defense of Ayn Rand- she did not make up a “persecution complex” she grew up in Russia/USSR and did not leave until 1925/26…

          of course she [mis]interpreted everything subsequent to leaving the USSR as a totalitarian charade of the type she’d experienced there…

        • actor212 says:

          Marx was closer to Adam Smith than most “capitalists” today. Workers owning the means of production would probably prevent outsourcing, job cuts and vulture capitalism while still maintaining a for-profit competitive enterprise

    • rea says:

      So, what ‘Lefties’ have moved further “left?”

      It’s not that any actually lefties have moved left–it’s that people like, say, Zell Miller, or earlier, Jesse Helms at one point were Democrats, and so nominally of the left, but later abandoned all pretense and became straightforward rightwingnuts. No individual moved left, but the average moved–like Bill Gates leaving the bar and the average bar patron being worth $billions less . . .

      • I think there’s a somewhat underappreciated aspect to this even in the realm of economic policy. Much gets made of how the Democratic Party is supposedly more economically conservative than it was during the time of the Great Society, which is true in some ways, but consider also that in 2009, every single Democratic member of the Senate voted in favor of the PPACA, something that probably would not have happened even in 1965.

      • Manju says:

        It’s not that any actually lefties have moved left–it’s that people like, say, Zell Miller, or earlier, Jesse Helms at one point were Democrats, and so nominally of the left, but later abandoned all pretense and became straightforward rightwingnuts

        Zell Miller never became a republican and his DW Nominate Score (using the one that allows the legislator to change during his career) was a consistent .156…moderately conservative.

        DW Nominate: -1 to +1 lib to conservative.

        Helms switched before he became Senator, so he has no DW Nominate score as a Dem. He is as ideologically consistent as Miller, but much more conservative (.686)

        That leaves Strom Thurmond as the only relevant segregationist in the Senate to switch parties. Although he was always a conservative, according to the Poole and Rosenthal algorithm, he did move to right after switching: .321 to .408.

        • Zell Miller never became a republican

          In on the most technical sense. They guy gave the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention,

          • Manju says:

            at .156, WF Buckley would be calling Zell a Rino if he were a republican. And before you give me some snarky retort about how he’d find common ground with Zell on segregation, Buckley hated Wallace too.

            The point is that the likes of Zell and Wallace have nothing to do with political polarization on the 1st dimension (the 2nd dimension is civil rights, using the Poole and Rosenthal methodology).

            During the Jim Crow era and for about 30 years later, Southern Reps were moderates who leaned left and who supported segregation (though the latter diminishes after 64). 30 years after the fall of Jim Crow, they were replaced by extreme conservatives who did not support segregation (on average, and the issue basically disappears).

            Zell is pretty much a reverse Joe Lieberman.

      • Manju says:

        Also, rea…since Strom was an outlier, the best way to demonstrate how the southern shift increased political polarization would be to look at seats that changed hands due to a republican knocking off a dixiecrat.

        Take he hellish Helms. This fucker is a solid conservative at .686 as I mentioned. But look at the psychopathic piece of shit maggot who he replaced: B. Everett Jordan. Moderately liberal: -0.066.

        Going from a -0.066 to +.0.686 is quite a move.*

        *Keep in mind that civil rights legislation is not included in this score because it is the one major issue in American history that does not align to the left-right spectrum. Sorry to twist the knife again.

  7. actor212 says:

    Although the left has crawled further left, the right is sprinting towards the cliff. It’s the right who are moving.

    Real progressive political solution: Grease the cliff.

  8. Murc says:

    Roberts nails two of the conventional wisdoms held here at LGM. First, increased polarization in American partisan politics is not symmetrically distributed. Although the left has crawled further left

    If its considered to be conventional wisdom at LGM that the left has moved further left at any point during the past thirty years or so, you guys are crazy fucking wrong.

    I’d also be reluctant to speak for the whole group that way. I would like to hear, say, Loomis say that he thinks the left has moved further left. Because that would run contrary to most of his writing.

    • DrDick says:

      I can’t say that I have ever seen any evidence in the writing of any of the posters here.

    • dave brockington says:

      The first conventional wisdom is “First, increased polarization in American partisan politics is not symmetrically distributed.” No more, no less. One could argue that the left has in some ways moved to the left, but that’s not what I’d call a conventional wisdom here. Furthermore, I’m not reluctant to speak for the whole group. If any of my colleagues disagree, they’d happily comment.

  9. Sanctusivo says:

    American conservatives approach their politics as they do their religion: if they can’t get their way, they attempt to take the ball and leave with it. Eliminationist rhetoric, voter suppression laws, birther conspiracies, and labeling (Gov. Sununu’s remarks about “Americaness” are a spot-on exhibit) evidence their attitude.

    Look at the attitude of the conservatives among the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Methodists. They’d rather divide than accept loss of control. It’s one thing to divide a voluntary association; quite another to apply this to an entire country. It’s secessionism for the 21st century and should be exposed as such.

  10. burritoboy says:

    Aren’t American “conservatives” just doing a similar maneuver to the European Right of 1880-1930? Plenty of the European Right was pretending that they were merely conservatives even while they were supporting radical Right regimes or even becoming key figures in those regimes. Indeed, most of them continued to insist on this decades after the massive crimes of those regimes were revealed. In several of those cases, members of the Right were supporting the most radical Right regimes while those regimes quite literally murdered major figures of more traditional conservativism: the NSDAP’s murders of von Schleicher, von Bose, and von Bredow, the Japanese military’s desire to overthrow the Emperor in 1945, the murder of Dollfuss and many other such incidents.

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