Incestuous Blogometry

My buddy Juma over at his new blog (co-written with young Master Bergen) has a post up comparing (and inviting reflection) on the interplay between my work and Matthew Dallman’s. Embedded in his post is a link to me and Matthew’s latest round o’ commentary.

Give it a look, I think it’s accurate in a lot of ways. Or at least I hope so; I have a feeling he’s being far too generous towards me.

I’d just like to fill out one piece.

Juma mentions that MD suggested I read National Review for a few years and as Juma puts it I “rejected that advice.” That’s not exactly correct. While readers of this blog will know I am no fan of The National Review (and specifically McCarthy, Goldberg, Lowry amongst others)–I do like David Frum’s work on a new domestic conservatism in Comeback though not his neocon FP–I do read it pretty regularly. But it’s true I’m just not there. Nor with much of The Weekly Standard or Commentary crowd. Or even the wignuttier Red State, Hot Air, and PowerLine.

On the other hand, as I mentioned in this post, I’m much more interested in something like what Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat are after with Grand New Party. Or James Poulos, Rod Dreher and crunchy conservatism as well as paleocons like Larison, a constructive foreign policy realist like Drezner, and libertarians like Wilkinson. See this post by Douthat on heterdox conservatives and you’ll get the idea.

For whatever reason the combination of libertarian on economics and (neo)conservative on surveillance, foreign imperial aggression and unilateral American power abroad, just doesn’t work for me (see Goldberg). i.e. Movement conservatism.

Unlike both Matthew and Juma (to a lesser extent) I was not raised a contemporary liberal. I was raised as a conservative. A moderate conservative to be sure but a conservative nonetheless. I haven’t had any later in life conversion to conservatism. Or frankly away from it to full on liberalism.

The snark that Juma mentions, is birthed from my frustration with feeling like I am being put in a box by Matthew and equated with being a (so-called) contemporary liberal and only as such. My praise for writers like William Easterly, Bjorn Lomborg, John Robb, and Peter Barnes should at the very least suggest otherwise (see here , here, here and here as representative sample).

I was a George HW Bush Republican and was actually sad (at 13!!!) that he lost to Clinton in ’92. Clinton then went through both my high school and college years. I respected him though I wasn’t a really big fan of his (or his wife’s), (he was a top drawer political talent and communicator–not anymore it would appear) but I became estranged from the Republican brand because of the impeachment proceedings which I thought were totally out of line, though again I disagreed with Clinton’s immorality and slick Willie-ness. I thought he was the target of a politico-character assassination attempt; I didn’t see how this mania around his extramarital affair threatened the country and rather thought it was eroding the standing of the executive by needlessly politicizing their private lives, confusing the office and the person.

Comments like the one at the bottom (on “left wing worldview”) from Newt Gingrich (himself at the center of that controversy) help to explain the estrangement. I’m tired of Kossack lefters describing all conservatives as evil beings. I’m tired of the right using wedge issues (Karl Rove style), fear-mongering, and accusing others of lack of patriotism. [Newsflash: Sometimes people are just wrong neither evil nor America-haters].

George W Bush (again as readers will already know) has angered me to no end. Now conservatism is certainly not equatable with the Republican Party but neither are they totally de-coupled either–unless one goes the Ron Paul way. To see how so many have backed Bush from the right, I just don’t get it.

My conservatism growing up was a Catholic social moral variety meaning I didn’t go for evangelical right-wing Protestantism and I couldn’t equate the world with an American-centric outlook (Larison is an Orthodox Christian which has a very similar feel to it). It was not a country-club Republicanism (my family being staunchly middle class) and while my mom and grandpa went the way of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, I obviously have not. It was also of the “seamless garment” Catholic morality proclaimed by Cardinal Bernadin (former Archbishop of my hometown Cincinnati later of Chicago). That means opposition to the death penalty and torture, defensive wars only, humane treatment of immigrants, support for the dignity of labor and the poor, protection of the environment. I have since come to disagree with elements of that thread (e.g. gays and lesbians), but I see those others as profoundly conservative issues.

My basic criticism has always been that it doesn’t work to have a small government philosophy and then run a large government–it ends up in rampant corruption (K Street and Tom DeLay) and lacking in competency (Iraq). Government increases in size (as under Bush) and is poorly run (as under Bush).

“Orthodox” Reagan-ite conservatism It’s a little too like post-colonialist theory for me–great at critiquing the past and changing the discourse not really effective at bringing about any forward looking solutions.

That’s why generally on a federal level I tend to favor a Bloomberg-Schwarzenegger Rockefeller kind of Republicanism. In the best of all possible worlds we could reduce the size of government. It’s just after 6 years of Republican (and ideologically small government conservative Republican to boot) rule of all federal branches (2000-2006) government ballooned and I don’t see any moment like that coming again in the foreseeable future. I don’t see how it is going to happen. I think given that reality, something of the kind of conservatisms outlined above have value but not ideological purity.

Published in: on April 11, 2008 at 10:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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