It has been more than 15 years since I gave up on American conservatism, but since it represented a big change in my (at that time young) life I still remember much of the process quite clearly. Two things in particular were the deciding factors for me. One, I watched the Southern wing of the party slowly become dominant and it made no sense to me why anyone would take policy cues from and submit to the leadership of people representing the absolute worst parts of the country. "Do we really want to make the country more like Mississippi? Why?" was a question I asked a lot and never got a satisfactory answer. The second tipping point (Is it possible to have two of those?) was the realization that the American definition of conservatism is like the American definition of mayonnaise – it would not be recognized as such anywhere else in the world. American conservatives are not conservatives. Their ideology is better described as either nationalism, anti-government-ism, or some combination of the two.

The fundamental principle of conservatism in political history is, in my view, the defense of the institutions of government (or, as some people argue more expansively, society as a whole). This implies the utmost respect for the rule of law and the constitutional process. Republicans, however, gave up any pretense of that during the 80s and 90s. While I would never describe myself as a conservative (because people would interpret that incorrectly), I still believe that adherence to the power-sharing arrangements of our system of government takes precedence over anything else in the political arena. Without that foundation, we have a system of majority rule that is wide open to manipulation and abuse of power.

Defense of political institutions is necessary because without it, people lose sight of the necessity of the same. When faith in the institutions of government disappears, people are seduced by all manner of nonsense in its place. They might even, hypothetically, react favorably to authoritarian appeals to give one individual the power to act as he pleases without the constraints of any rules or institutional checks and balances. What we see today is nothing more than the logical end result of forty years of telling people that government is evil, rotten, and the obstacle between America and Greatness. How many times can people be told that government is the problem in their lives before they conclude that it serves no purpose that they can see?

American conservatives gave up long ago on defending our institutions. If the Supreme Court makes a decision they don't like, they shit all over the Supreme Court. If the president is not a Republican, they slander him as illegitimate. Any law they do not author is a direct attack on the Republic and its humble, freedom-loving citizens. If they do not win an election, then the election was rigged. Is any of this sounding familiar? Somehow the American left became better at the traditional role of conservatives than conservatives themselves. Al Gore had to be the one to go on TV in 2000 and tell the country that we are obligated to respect decisions of our institutions even when they are obviously riddled with problems.

The Republicans have been living dangerously with their new, nihilistic take on the role of government for years. Despite constant references to their love of the Constitution, they've encouraged Americans to look the other way for the sake of advancing their own agenda. But now it appears that the mood they cultivated has gotten out of their control and they've no longer control their own party. They've been taken over by a con man / publicity hound who doesn't even want to do the job he was elected for. Republicans needed to hawk the importance of the rule of law just enough to maintain control of the institutions they used to acquire or maintain power. But they pushed it too far, like the thief who keeps coming back for one last big heist over and over until he ends up in cuffs. "I should have walked away when I had the chance" summarizes what a lot of Republicans must be feeling today, even if they don't verbalize it and on paper they control all of the levers of governing. They know now that what they have are majorities, not control.

Now the Republican Party is under the control of someone who doesn't even pay lip service to institutions and the rule of law, which is the final nail in the coffin of any meaningful claim to the term "conservative." Token shows of backbone during the election have been replaced by a parade of Republicans into audiences with their new master, groveling for favor and a whiff of the spoils. It isn't the racism and nationalism that means that the GOP is now officially an authoritarian movement; the giveaway is the eagerness with which they embrace government by Big Man, not to be inconvenienced by anything as insignificant as the rule of law getting between America and greatness.


  • At Thanksgiving my father – a Democrat and a conservative in the outmoded sense you make reference to – asked me how much damage I thought Trump could do. I told him that I didn't think it had anything at all to do with Trump. It had to do with whether Americans were going to stand up and defend their institutions. If they do, then he'll do as much damage as GWBush did – and it was considerable – but if they don't, then the damage he can do is down and beyond where Erdogan is taking Turkey.

  • This kind of thing is why I'm not vulnerable to my far-left friends supporting anarchism. Without political institutions, all you have is either mob rule, or rule by the person with the most/best weapons, or rule by the best flim-flam/bunco/bullshit artist. Trump is a consummate bullshit artist, or maybe a guy who puts the "con" into "consummate," I dunno. A hundred and some odd years ago, he'd definitely be a snake-oil salesman, or a guy selling fraudulent land claims during one gold/silver rush or another somewhere. It's a bloody damn shame for the world that he has access to the mass media and/or the Internet, and (soon) the nuclear football.

  • "American conservatives gave up long ago on defending our institutions."

    I've been yelling this for a year, but here goes: You're confusing "conservatives" and Republicans. Everything you say about conservatives is true, but about Republicans. The con (so to speak) is how the GOP has continued to promote itself as conservative even through the blatantly anti-conservative Geo. W. Bush years (let alone Reagan). Some time around 2004 or 2005 I read a piece by Daniel Larison in The American Conservative harshly critical of Bush, Iraq, etc., and I thought, Oh, so THAT'S what an actual conservative is. Okay. Too little too late, but there it is.

    Wags and wits will say that the Democratic Party has taken on the mantle of conservatism. Whatever. In any case, Trump is indeed the logical evolutionary result of Republicanism.

  • Trump is going to charge the Secret Service millions of dollars a week to rent a floor of Trump Tower. The payments will go directly into his bank accounts.

    Republicans are totally fine with this because, hey, Michelle Obama put a garden in behind the White House.

  • Shit I've been saying for years; thank you for putting this out. Except…

    1. Proper conservatism (outside of the US) is the maintenance of the community in an orderly and recognizable form. This includes, by definition, both the state and civil institutions and the moral instruction they provide. You cannot excise the latter and still call it conservatism in any meaningful way. Its reductio ad absurdium is feudalism, while that of liberalism is libertarianism, both of which suck.

    2. Trump is neither a republican nor a conservative, whatever definitions you use. He is simply an opportunistic huckster that saw through the hollow rhetoric of republican elites and their complete disconnect from their voting base. He is attached to none of the anti-government nonsense they have preached since Reagan but neither to anything else, really.

  • Great post, and I agree with a lot of it. But frankly, what I see right now is not an autocrat consolidating his power around a cult of personality. I see a MASSIVE power vacuum opening up in the executive branch and Congressional lifers swooping in to capitalize. Trump doesn't know, and doesn't care, what's going on, which means people like Paul Ryan, who DO know and DO care, see their chance to do what they've always wanted. Do you remember Trump running on abolishing Medicare? Neither do any of his supporters. But since Trump is an empty suit and a bad hairpiece, suddenly Medicare repeal is item 1 on the agenda.

    Institutional inertia in a bureaucracy like the US is simply too massive for a person with the indifference of Trump to affect at all. My first approximation for the Trump presidency is W., who was such a mental child that he could be easily distracted by fake decisions between cooked-up alternatives and lousy photo ops while his underlings actually ran shit. They ran it into the ground, certainly, and W bears the blame, but W himself wasn't actually doing it personally, and neither is Trump. He's the figurehead of a ship that is being steered by greater forces.

  • Nihilist Conservative Syndrome has spread to the UK.

    Take the recent court ruling that Parliament has to vote to authorise Brexit. This is exactly what the Brexiteers were fighting for, no? British judges and legislators, making decisions on British law, without interference by foreigners?

    Not so much. The British right went into apocalyptic rage. The next day's headline in the Daily Mail (rough equivalent of Fox News) declared the judges in question were "Enemies of the People."

    A Parliamentary debate would expose all the reasons why Brexit is a terrible idea. It might force the government to make concessions on a closer relationship with the EU, or even halt Brexit altogether. So the hardliners calling the shots in the UK government want to expedite Brexit as quickly as possible, institutions and the rule of law be damned.

  • @mojrim:

    "Trump … is simply an opportunistic huckster that saw through the hollow rhetoric of republican elites and their complete disconnect from their voting base."

    Don't give him that much credit. He didn't think he was going to win and there's a non-zero chance he didn't even want to. He didn't know this disconnect was there; he just kept saying what made people clap and got his name on the news, and figured he'd just keep going until he lost, which he never did (sort of).

  • I'm kinda' thinking what the southern wing of the GOP has brought it to has got to be the perfect revenge for the republican role in the civil war, they had principles then, but have you really seen them lately?

  • I remember when Mitch McConnell was initially scared of Trump and looked like Beaker from the Muppets after a car accident. Now he's smiling and licking his rapacious lips above a neck that looks like a goiter-infused turkey gobbler.

  • re: "looking like the South": I wanted to mention a possible reason for the massive migration southwards after WW2 and the resulting worsening of, well, pretty much everything. If you haven't read "Mosquito Empires" I recommend it as a scholarly take on why it was so hard for people not born in the Caribbean to successfully invade due to the effects of yellow fever and malaria. Along the way the author points out that the Brits at Yorktown had about 1/3 of their troops out of action due to malaria and that Washington knew that his northern troops could only last a short time in the South before they too would succumb. Folks born in the South would get these diseases at a very young age and while many died those who didn't would become immune. It was the advent of DDT during and after WW2 that finally eliminated malaria from the southern US. Suddenly it became a possible destination for those who hadn't been born there. Adult Africans brought over due to the slave trade had seen all the same diseases (it is likely that slavery _brought_ yellow fever to the new world) so were already immune.

  • Totoro – one of the possibilities of global warming is increased insect vectors, spreading disease to humans, animals, vegetation…

    HoosierPoli – The Deep State in action?

    Polished off Swimming with Sharks: My Journey into the World of the Bankers yesterday.

    Soooo… we're doomed. All systems fucked. Now what?

  • Davis X. Machina says:

    In a country where you can sell Velveeta™ as cheese, you can sell the GOP as a conservative party.

    And largely to the same people.

  • The current "conservative" movement in the US — like the delusional "libertarian" movement — isn't at all what it claims to be. Both are actually creations of the billionaire class, which has spread it's propaganda convincing people that what it's proposing would be good for them. These movements attract two types of people — those of limited critical thinking skills and those who hope to aspire to a ride, however limited, on the billionaires' gravy train.

    Everything in both the conservative and libertarian schemes would do nothing except enrich the corporatist and billionaire class and impoverish their followers.

    We used to have a small government in the US. It worked well — but that was back in the day before corporations were given human life and uncheckable powers. Larger government has been the countervailing force to the giant, soulless, and destructive corporations.

    When people tell me that the government interferes in our lives, I tell them that the biggest government interference in all our lives is the act of chartering omnipotent corporations that are above the law. Do away with corporations first — or at least control them as we used to do — and then we can shrink government. To do the latter without doing the former is to commit suicide.

  • Skipper … the "countervailing force" has been co-opted by the corporations.

    The finance industry, for a stellar example.

    Such a neat trick, eh, convincing the rubes whose taxes will pay for your bailout to demand _less_ gubmint regulation? Because a run-in with the local building inspector on your little fire code violation is just like Dodd-Frank, and such enterprise strangulation must be stopped!

  • Then there's this "conflict of interest" thing. Indeed. Based on Trump's mental health issues and Twitterstorms, there appears to be a manifest desire to manufacture conflict with no convincing interest in being a public servant.

    But as the frog people insist, he'll replace America with something terrific.

  • Emerson Dameron says:


    The Libertarian movement did a heckuva job doling out wingnut welfare to Gen X icons: Peter Bagge, Penn Jillette, South Park, half the writers from It was an almost Scientology-like campaign to generate cred with my generation of nerdy white guys. Thing is, they don't have enough respect for non-billionaires to hide their true colors whenever the chips go down on any significant issue.

  • I am almost certainly pessimistic, but it seems that any labels that refer to so-called "principles" (e.g. Liberal, Libertarian, Conservative) are totally horseshit cover for "I want things that benefit me and don't want things that don't benefit me".

    You can quibble over the definition of "benefit" (e.g. "I sure like the idea of those WHORES who have premarital sex not being able to have an abortion"), but in my experience every principle that people believe in with regard to politics and government boils down to pure, mainlined, blatant self-interest.

    People have made a million memes pointing out the hypocrisy, but it all boils down to "Yeah, but that part benefits me".

  • Emerson Dameron says:


    I wouldn't even go that far. I'm increasingly convinced that, for a lot of people, those capital-letter labels are more like clubs we join or groups we decide to fit in with in high school. I'm not sure most people do any serious cost-benefit analysis on, say, whether or not the Republicans have the best plan for improving conditions in the trailer parks of greater Spartanburg.

  • At some point, conservatism is what conservatism does. If conservatism was defense of white supremacy and Patriarchy as part of a commitment to maintaining a stable society, but then became just white supremacy and Patriarchy after it was proven that a society can be stable without them…

    …then "Conservatism" is just intellectual window-dressing for white supremacism and Patriarchy and always was.

  • Well, (shakes head), I never liked Reagan to begin with, but since we're at the 30th anniversary, the Iran-Contra affair made it pretty clear to me that the "conservative" "principles" of "strict adherence to the Constitution" and so forth were all bullshit from the get go.

    And "small government" is really just weasel speak for gutting regulations of ALL sorts (financial, antitrust, environmental, etc.) which might hinder corporations' ability to "earn" monopoly or oligopoly profits and offload the expense of externalities on the public.

  • I grew up in a comfortable family that liked Ike. I was pretty conservative. By the eighties, I grew up again when it sunk in that Republicans no longer deserved to be known as conservative intellectuals. Gone was the north eastern business party. It became a party of pious selfish pricks. The party that hated elites got more than they deserved.

    Donald Trump has nothing to do with what used to be Republicans or conservatives. Since the election, Paul Ryan and his ilk have behaved like gleeful obnoxious twerps. They've discovered that Trump has opened the way to a twisted form of objectivism that Ayn Rand would be proud of. It fits right in no matter what it does to the rest of us. The GOP has become a tribe of white straight male so-called nationalists hemmed in behind a wall of people that think only of themselves. Boring but dangerous too.

    By the way, am I the only one that thinks Giuliani is either high or has had some kind of stroke?

  • Emerson Dameron says:


    Guiliani has been a professional jackass for going on 15 years. He is now a Trump surrogate because Gary Busey didn't want to get his hands dirty.

  • I stopped reading this drivel when he stated that Southerners and the South were the "absolute worst part of the country." It is funny, but I think that designation goes to New York / New Jersey area.

  • Gerald McGrew says:

    I see a Republican Party, and conservative movement as a whole, that has become very disconnected from reality and is more about faithful loyalty to ideology and party rather than anything else.

    Think about how many right-wing talking points are just plain wrong….climate change is a hoax, tax cuts increase revenue, guns make you more safe, the safety net harms the poor, not raising the debt ceiling is no big deal, social security is completely broke, supply-side economics works, our military is in shambles, voter fraud is epidemic, Obamacare includes death panels….and on and on and on.

    And now after this election we're seeing reports that people made a fair bit of money creating 100% fake news articles, which Trump supporters gobbled up like candy and spread far and wide (while liberals "never took the bait", see: ).

    You see the pattern…conservatives have a different idea of what "truth" is. To them, "truth" is "whatever agrees with conservatism".

    In that sense, today's American conservatism has become cult-like. We saw how conservative Christians sold out every one of their core moral values to line up behind Trump, thereby indicating that conservatism is their true religion. We're seeing how a lot of conservatives aren't all that upset over Trump quickly backpedaling on just about all of his major campaign promises. And we're seeing signs that any sort of negative information about Trump that comes out is quickly dismissed by his supporters as "lies from the liberal media".

    IOW, conservatives, who live in a world that's largely divorced from reality, now have an authoritarian leader who can do no wrong, and if he stumbles or doesn't do everything he promised, it's someone else's fault ("the left").

    Cut off from reality, authoritarian leader who can do no wrong, belief that all facts must line up behind belief….yep, sounds like a cult to me.

  • @Mark–

    Just like your assertion that the "worst" designation goes to the northeast, it's an opinion. So you read until something pisses you off, drop a turd, and move on?

    Really, it isn't the least bit funny. If you find this post to be "drivel," what are you doing here?

  • Gerald McGrew says:


    I have to disagree. I don't remember the GOP of the 1960's and 1970's being this disconnected. I remember Nixon creating the EPA, Republicans passing the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. I remember Republicans being supportive of common sense gun regulation. I remember Republicans raising taxes!

    None of those things would ever, ever happen within today's Republican Party. People have studied and quantified this too…

    It's one thing when the two parties disagree over policy, as they did in previous years; it's something else entirely when they disagree over reality.

  • People who say the NYC/NJ area is the worst remind me of the old joke about how "Nobody goes there, it's too crowded!"

    More seriously, the South tends to have a definite split between pleasant and unpleasant areas – if you want to argue the South sucks, you point to the deep South and its bad health, corrupt state/local government, and miserable weather – particularly obvious in rural areas in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Louisiana. If you want to defend the South, you point to its better parts – Atlanta, the Research Triangle of North Carolina, Nashville, etc. As a rule of thumb, you can figure out what parts are good or bad based on which areas people move to: folks in Texas like to brag about our growing population, but how many people are moving to the "Texas Triangle" cities (San Antonio, Houston, Austin, and Dallas/Fort Worth), and how many to the Panhandle? Even the most ardent supporters of Texas pride tend not to spend much time in the expanse between El Paso and Dallas.

  • When LBJ signed the Equal Rights Act of 1964, he remarked that by doing so he lost the south for just about ever to the Republicans. He was proven right immediately.

    When the old Democrats could depend on the "Solid South," they behaved pretty badly. When GOP took over down there, it was even worse. It was magnified by being largely the stomping ground of the religious right. For decades the GOP has pretended to be the party of TV evangelists, creation "scientists" and Peter Popoff fans.

    You never know though. With Indiana's Mike Pence hanging around DC maybe the state law he signed trying to impose funerals for aborted fetuses and disallowing gay wedding cakes will come to pass. All we need are more enlightened SCOTUS judges.

  • Yes, trump will probably sign anything the congresscritters put in front of him. It's the U.S. of Kansas. If it wasn't so fatal for so many it'd be good for a drinking game.

  • @Tim H: that's the real essence of American conservatism these days. Ed says "Their ideology is better described as either nationalism, anti-government-ism, or some combination of the two." And since government is useless and evil, why not transfer huge amounts of money from it to themselves and their deserving friends? Nationalism greases up enough of the masses to cheer it on.

  • My aunt used to work at the Pentagon and noticed an interesting habit of the Republicans–which is to crow about how government is BAD, we need less and less of it, and that it's bloated, excessive, inefficient, and slow. Then they'd slash funding for programs or fire a bunch of people in response to this insistence, cutting everything down to a skeleton crew, which would in turn bring everything to a snail's pace. This is used as "proof" that Big Government Can't Get Anything Done.

    They have a similar habit in Congress of peddling the same message, then going out of their way to prove how terrible government is by doing their best to dig in their heels and drag everything down to sub-glacial speeds, refusing to actually do their job. Despite all this, they want us to elect them so they can, what…put themselves out of business? Does nobody see this as totally disingenuous?

  • It reminds me a bit of the stories of Chernobyl techs who bypassed inconvenient alarms – most of the public has no idea how their government, or much of anything else actually functions.

    Or perhaps it's like the fortune cookie: "Any fool can learn from his own mistakes, but it takes a wise man to learn from someone else's." And too many foolish people are going to learn the hard way that if it looks like a dangerous fool, and acts a dangerous fool, it's probably a a dangerous fool.

  • @Noskilz and Aurora S; I spent a couple of years in an office with a power unit smack-dab in the middle of the room (instead of in a closet or something). You had to scoot around it to get through the door (no, the room was was in no way ADA compliant). This power unit gave off a constant high-pitched whistle–some kind of alert. We complained about sitting in a room with a power unit in perpetual alert, the health-and-safety folks showed up and took a sound reading and told us that 70 decibels was considered hazardous to human health, and this only clocked in at 69, so we were totes kewl and should just shut up about it. We were all concerned and wouldn't shut up about it…so our office was issued a television set to keep on to drown out the safety alarm. (it also raised the ambient noise in the room to well over 70 db, but as the health-and-safety folks pointed out, it was TWO different sources, not one, so again we were totes kewl.

  • I have to agree and their latest spokesthing couldn't be happier. To hell with the country, just so he has fun.

    Over and over Republicans tell us that all we have to do is surrender our brains to various approved conservative supernatural forces, discard critical thinking and replace Medicare with alternative medicine paid for by medical savings accounts.

  • @Katydid

    For the group, In case you ever have to work in a similar situation, the OSHA limit is 85 dB, averaged over an 8 hour work day. What they should have done would have been to put dosimeters on you to record the sound level for the day for you personally. Point source measurements are useful for identifying areas of concern, but are useless for proving/ disproving OSHA noise exposure limits.

    ADA has egress requirements, but so does OSHA. Depending on the situation there are a couple of different measurements that may apply, usually 28" or so iirc. ADA may not apply if a door isn't a main egress.

    Tl:dr OSHA standards are actually pretty minimal.

  • I need to read that book you link to, just as soon as I finish, "Being oUT in the rain, gEttinger wet–Correlation or causality?.

    Considering that virtually all of the hate crimes in this country are committed by KKKristianist whackjobs, that particular issue is one of which I already have a clear undertanding–and those who should learn about it do not want to.

    There is a reason that the OED's word of the year is ""Post-truth".

  • I need to read that book you link to, just as soon as I finish, "Being oUT in the rain, getting wet–Correlation or causality?.

    Considering that virtually all of the hate crimes in this country are committed by KKKristianist whackjobs, that particular issue is one of which I already have a clear undertanding–and those who should learn about it do not want to.

    There is a reason that the OED's word of the year is ""Post-truth".

  • What's sad, is that for all our talk about how Republicans are out of touch with reality, delusional, authoritarian, and mostly out to further enrich the wealthy…..

    …they're in almost complete control of the country. So whatever they're doing, at the very least you have to acknowledge that it works.

  • "But now it appears that the mood they cultivated has gotten out of their control and they've no longer control their own party."

    Thinking that might be a typo.

    So what is the traditional role of liberals in government? If the traditional role of conservatives is the defense of the institutions of government, then my simple-minded conclusion is that liberals must traditionally have been in favor of reducing the institutions of government somehow, but that doesn't make sense any way I look at it.

  • @Dan:

    The way I see it, the traditional role of conservatives would be preserving the institutions of government as they stand (rather than demolishing them outright), while the traditional roles of liberals in government would be changing the way the institutions apply to make things both more progressive and relevant with the times.

  • @SafetyMan and sluggo: we didn't have actual OSHA people (they're not allowed in); we had the customer version, and they're freakin' useless. Their criteria seems to be "will fixing this problem take any effort whatsoever and/or cost money?" If the answer is yes, then magically the office will pass whatever standards they're claiming.

    We moved from that office in a big reorganization, and now we're in a room that routinely hits 80 degrees by noon. When I left this afternoon, it was 85 degrees. My team complained about it was told the temps didn't violate office standards and since our new boss is perfectly happy with the temp (this is sadly true), they will not accept any more complaints about the room temperature so shut up.

  • @Sluggo; sorry, went off on a tangent. In order to get in or out of the room by the *only door* (and there were no windows, either), one had to turn sideways and skitter through. Nobody on the team is overweight–not sure how a heavier person would have made it through and I can guarantee you couldn't get a wheelchair around the power unit. We're all pretty sure that room used to be an electrical closet that someone shoved some desks into and called it good.

  • @Gerald:

    What they're doing is marching in lockstep and engaging in black and white thinking. The cultural narrative seems to value the strongman–winning is more politically advantageous than actually being correct. The worst mistake you can make, in their minds, is to admit fault. They'll deride you for changing your mind about anything, even if it's within the presence of new irrefutable evidence, or, say, you're voting for two different drafts of the same bill (remember how Kerry was a "Flip flopper"?). Facts truly do not matter to them when their pride is on the line, and they individually do not have the balls to break rank and rebel against the party. They'll embrace–or at least tacitly accept–anything their party does, no matter how ridiculous, in the name of presenting a united front against all others. Trump as the inevitable result of their actions actually makes sense, looking back on it.

    Democrats, on the other hand, have a reputation of being pussies that just can't get it together. When you think in terms of nuance and trust that everyone else will do the same for the betterment of society, you don't treat representing the people like you're marching off to war. Democrats think the Civil War is over, while the Republicans decidedly do not. Americans are a war-like people and appear to enjoy the conflict. (PS: ANY Trump supporter that alleges they didn't vote for Hillary because they didn't want to go to war is 100% full of shit. These people thrive on conflict–they just prefer internal conflict when possible.)

  • Gerald McGrew says:

    @Aurora S,

    Another blogger I read ("Mikethemadbiologist") likes to say that nothing in modern conservatism makes sense except in light of creationism.

    Everything you describe about conservatives also perfectly describes creationists. If you've ever interacted with one, you'll know what I mean. Black/white thinking, never admitting error, chastising others for changing their minds, refusal to even acknowledge contrary evidence, adherence to absurd and demonstrably wrong beliefs…..

    Understand creationists and you'll understand today's conservatives.

  • "the giveaway is the eagerness with which they embrace government by Big Man, not to be inconvenienced by anything as insignificant as the rule of law getting between America and greatness."

    Yup. Nail. Head.

    And since the rule of law that respects human rights is actually the thing that does make the US great, they've smashed the greatness they want.

  • @AuroraS and Gerald; one thing I've noticed about fundagelicals and conservatives (the two groups overlap quite a bit) is the extremely shallow thinking. Do you remember when the conservatives wanted to change the whole structure of the USA to allow Arnold Schwarzenegger (a man who NO DOUBT ABOUT IT was not born in the USA) to run for president? They honestly believed the man *was* The Terminator. This past election cycle, I had a discussion with an extremely conservative relative…about a local restaurant, of all things. He demanded we all go, "Because they say they're better than their competition!" So that must obviously make it true! Conservatives don't do nuance, don't recognize shades of gray–everything is all black and white.

    Not long after the BushCo declared war on Iraq and France, among a few sensible countries, said, "Uhm, no; that's stupid and we won't send our troops to die because you want to attack a country that had nothing to do with 9/11", I took my team at the time out for a working lunch so we could all blow off steam. One of the conservatives threw a screaming toddler fit at the table that he would NOT order French fries because the French were all cowards. Dear Dog, I had to explain to a 50-year-old man that French fries weren't from France and in any event, ordering cole slaw instead was *not* 'sending a message" to France.

  • @aurora s Sadly it appears to be a winning strategy.

    I lost my conservatism in undergraduate school. Learned things. Like Keynesian macroeconomics, which I really couldn't effectively come up with an alternative to. Later encountered the rational expectations movement and wondered how anyone could take all the implications seriously.

  • What if conservatism isn't really "the defense of the institutions of government"?

    Maybe it's just the ideology supporting "the domination of society by an aristocracy." See this:

    "The most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use "social issues" as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. . . . People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years."

    Seen this way, Mr. Trump is a conservative, and his antics are just another move in the same old game.

  • I noticed about 3 decades ago that Republicans had run out of ideas about how to do anything in terms of governance, and had decided that all they really wanted was the power, irrespective of what ideological framework they should use to exercise it. They made the rational decision that since they had no truth left, they should simply embrace the lies as their only hope. With years of proof that so many peoples' bullshit detectors were permanently broken, Republicans were onto a pretty keen idea – just never stop lying. It's all they got, but it works, and it doesn't matter anymore if it ain't true – they get all the money and votes they need without truth.

    So: how do we restore cognition and respect for truth?

  • Disruptive Nine says:

    I always kind of assumed I'd turn conservative when I grew up. 56 years into the process and apparently haven't reached L'=0.
    I took a primate biology class in college. Prof was a Franciscan nun.
    The big duality was between centric and acentric groups.
    Some primates respond to a threat by banding around the alpha. Those are centric. Baboons are very centric. Baboons are also so primitive and small-brained they almost don't qualify as primates.
    Some primates respond to a threat by spreading out. These are acentric. Orang-utans are very acentric.
    Some species can go either way, as groups. Some chimp groups are centric, some are acentric. Since our field work occurred in the exotic wilderness of Milwaukee, we mostly observed groups of of the one primate species common to the area. Some gross of those are centric, some acentric.
    More advanced larger brained species (grain of salt here, this may only be one particular nun's opinion, no citations were provided, "more advanced" seems ill-defined to me, correlation seems weak) are more likely to form acentric groups.
    Centric/acentric has nothing to do with aggressiveness. Centric groups attack our run away together. Acentric troops may have individuals who attack, they may even coordinate an attack, but it won't be the alpha and his crew, it will be a bunch of autonomous individual attacks.

    The weird thing about centric groups is that it doesn't matter if the threat is the alpha – the group pulls together. Sometimes when the group is spread out, the alpha will attack one or more members and the group will pull together. This behavior appears to be "intentional" or at least be a functional instinct. Fear provides group cohesion, and the alpha provides the fear in the absence of an outside threat. Abusive families are centric groups, which explains the other members not running away from the abuser. Fear tends to drive acentric groups temporarily apart.

    I tend to look at politics through that lens.

    One party looks rather centric to me, the other more acentric.
    And no, the freedom to freeload of bankruptcy laws instead of paying for health insurance is not acentric.

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