At any rate, the main distinction to be drawn here is between cultural conservatives, who are willing to bet the future of their country on the practical virtue and persuasive power of their practices, and social conservatives, who mistakenly seek to create a nonentity (’society’) in order to get people who don’t share their culture to act, in public, at least somewhat more like they do. Or so I’d argue, anyway…Republicans would do well to work to protect and maintain significant parts of working-class culture (but not others: a story for another day); they would do ill to try to ‘create’ in America something meant to give us all a sense of being in a more ‘blue-collarish society.’
He also sees (unnerving) parallels between the right social cons and left wing traditions towards society creation, particularly disturbing when done from the top-down. This is why I said that I thought Palin should focus on her story, her gifts, and an argument from McCain rather than be the attack dog against Obama.
When sticking to the former she was a culture conservative–in James’ formulation. She legitimately defended her culture. And as Conor Friedersdorf (James’ blogging confrere) correctly points out Obama had it coming on her line about how people from small towns don’t appreciate big city politicians saying one thing to them and another to a shi-shi San Fran audience.
But when she went into full on attack dog mode, I felt like we were seeing the social con side come out. [Disclosure: I found that section fairly revulsive]. The social con side that possibly wants to decide what books you should/shouldn’t read at the library. Or more creepily from my perspective (as a seminarian!!!), equating certain political outcomes with God’s will.
Another line of conservatism that this point about a conservative left-wing societal creation impulse would hold of course is neoconservatism (in foreign policy). Neocons of course were former Trotskyites/left wingers so that makes perfect sense. They transferred their allegiance for a utopian societal creation from a domestic sphere (they became anti-New Deal/Great Society) to foreign countries (“remaking the Middle East.”)
McCain/Palin then at its best is a cultural conservatism–McCain defending the military ethos, Palin the family life/marriage-work mix, both helping to foster republican (little r) civic virtues.
McCain/Palin at its worst however is the combination of these two top-down right-wing enforcement streams: neo and social conservatism.
We’ll see if McCain can turn it around here tonight and pivot to the center in the upcoming campaign, but my fear is the headed the way of the latter. If so, it’s going to get very ugly. And it’s not just the sexism thing that is going to be lobbed out, the racial waters are inevitably going to get roiled again. It’ll be the worst of the Dem primary all over again–as opposed the positives of having the first woman and first A-A on the tickets.
My fingers are crossed for the former, but my head tells me differently.