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I hear a lot of nostalgia for the "good old days" when "respectable" conservatives roamed the plains and journals of this land.   Why can't we have good old Bill Buckley instead of frother Bill Kristol?  Why can't we have kindly old Barry Goldwater instead of those loonies like Jim DeMint and Jan Brewer?

The answer is that the "respectable" conservative is a myth -- for two reasons:  First, their ideas are and always have been economically and morally bankrupt, even when articulated so civilly by Buckley or tempered with tolerance for gays, like Goldwater.  Second, those good old "civil" conservatives endorsed and made common cause with true crazies of their time.

On the first point, it's clear now that the conservative position is indefensible. The New Deal here and the successful mixed economies in Europe approximate a balance between unfettered capitalism and Soviet style communism that the right can never accept.  Conservatism is no more than either a rationale for greed (St. W.F. Buckley), phony intellectual masturbation (Andrew Sullivan), racism (Pat Buchanan, Charles Murray) or all of them (Niall Fergusen?).

Absent the successful, largely race-based Republican ascension in the '70s here, the US would be a successful social welfare state like Germany or the Scandinavian countries. Instead, we're beating back the racist and venal reactionaries, with cheerleaders like Brooks providing nonsensical rationales for the comfort of the tote-baggers.

Second, as pointed out in a great article, Why Conservatives are Still Crazy After all these Years by Rick Pearlstein, the right has always been crazy -- not just Buckley and Goldwater, who endorsed the likes of Fred Schwarz but more recent "rational" right wingers like Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan, who were also fans of Schwarz.  Reagan's "gift" was his political capacity to hide his affinity for nuts like Schwarz, who wrote that "the Kremlin dominated its subjects by deploying 'the techniques of animal husbandry,'" and harbored 'plans for a flag of the USSR flying over every American city by 1973.'"

So why does the craziness persist?  Perlstein writes:

because power begets power: Democrats can be counted on to compromise with conservative nuttiness, and the media can be counted on to normalize it. And it's because there will always be millions of Americans who are terrified of social progress and of dispossession from whatever slight purchase on psychological security they've been able to maintain in a frightening world. And because there will always be powerful economic actors for whom exploiting such fear, uncertainty and doubt pays (and pays, and pays).
I would also add the willingness of "totebaggers" to believe that the likes of Brooks, Safire, Douthat et al. are "reasonable" conservatives.

No.  They are stealth emissaries to the normal from discredited economic policies and paranoid anti-communism.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

    by Upper West on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 11:31:54 AM PDT

  •  Right-wingers like preacher David Noebel (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    luckylizard, Smoh, MKSinSA, ER Doc

    exposed the "Communist subversion of music" by which Russian spymasters deployed Pavlov's techniques to rot the minds of America's youth via their bought-and-paid-for agents, the Beatles.

    unsurprisingly, Glenn Beck is a big fan of Noebel's.

    The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

    by Upper West on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 11:36:38 AM PDT

  •  There's no such thing as "conservatives". (5+ / 0-)

    They're regressive.

    I'd rather have a buntle afrota-me than a frottle a bunta-me.

    by David54 on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 11:39:10 AM PDT

  •  The Middle Class Stalled the Year Nixon Was Electd (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    allergywoman, MKSinSA, Upper West

    At that point we didn't have national health, we'd already begun pulling back labor rights a decade and more earlier, we worked longer hours and had greater wealth disparity than people in other democracies that had or would adopt more liberal governance and have better results for the people than we were getting.

    We never got as liberal as we needed to get.

    Instead our own party became conservative and has contributed to the New Deal - Great Society rollbacks since Ford. And the people's wealth flowed back to the very rich, very few of whom hold the same dominant share of it they held in 1929.

    One thing we've proven over 40 years, conservative policy fails whichever party practices it.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 12:08:15 PM PDT

    •  Isn't Nixon an enigma? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc

      Racist, paranoid, warmonger, but not really a "movement conservative."  Wasn't his health care bill more liberal than the ACA?  And I don't think he signed the EPA and other bills with a gun to his head.

      Yes, a crook, who began the vile Southern Strategy to drive middle class whites away from the Dems.  But unlike Reagan, didn't use that to destroy the middle class.

      The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

      by Upper West on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 12:34:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nixon did what he had to do to get relected, no (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Upper West

        more and no less. And on the personal level, I would say that the over all record fairly presents him as an absolutely horrible person.

        There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

        by oldpotsmuggler on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 01:14:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  agreed as to the horrible person part (0+ / 0-)

          but some of his progressive legislation was after he was re-elected.

          The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

          by Upper West on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 01:43:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There was a time when he actually thought that (0+ / 0-)

            he could go for three terms. And then shortly after the 72 election, he focused on trying to keep people from being mad enough to go after his job. FAILED.

            There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

            by oldpotsmuggler on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 03:03:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  This ia a great summary: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upper West
    Conservatism is no more than either a rationale for greed (St. W.F. Buckley), phony intellectual masturbation (Andrew Sullivan), racism (Pat Buchanan, Charles Murray) or all of them (Niall Fergusen?).
    Good diary, thanks!
  •  Buckley had a vocabulary and an accent. He paid (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upper West

    great attention to the "how" of his writing and speaking, and totally butchered the "what". He was all over when I was gtowing up, and I always found him to be a first class moron. Sort of a Rich Lowry on steroids.

    Brooks is a George Will wannabe (going back to the Will of forty years ago) and makes absolutely no more sense.

    And Goldwater, anyone who makes offhanded remarks about using nuclear weapons if elected (HELLLOO Rick Santorum) is a scary, scary mf. How often does being born toch lead to lazy thinking?

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 12:11:42 PM PDT

  •  Anyone want to opine about the meaning of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upper West

    natural law or inherent rights as they are used in the constitution?  The terms liberal and conservative as they are used in the US today confuse things.  I don't see that self-described conservatives today have much respect for what used to be foundational principles.  They should be described as reactionary radicals.
     

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 03:16:45 PM PDT

  •  No they're evil & evil is unrelenting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upper West

    In its pursuits. All Rs are evil until proven otherwise.

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 04:23:28 PM PDT

  •  LOL - you won me over with the title alone... (0+ / 0-)

    If you desire a better world - be a better person.

    by laserhaas on Fri Mar 30, 2012 at 11:35:56 PM PDT

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