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Conservatives, Donald Trump, and the Unseen

It is fast becoming a favorite pastime of political writers: trying to explain what could have possibly caused the rise of Donald Trump. Among many other possibilities, writers have suggested working class economic frustrations; reality television; a growing authoritarian undercurrent in American society; Trump’s peculiar persona; racism; political correctness; and Trump’s rhetorical skills as a master-persuader. (Twitter’s @AmateurPolSc wrote a worthwhile piece discussing many of these hypotheses.)

Surely, the emergence of Trump was brought about by a confluence of factors; no single element could have caused such a political earthquake. Below, I would like to suggest a factor worth adding to the growing list of potential causes: our society’s increasing neglect for the invisible.

Invisible Evils

One way to think about conservative argumentation is that it prioritizes the unseen. When conservatives oppose a progressive policy plan, it is not out of pique or unthinking resistance to change; it is often because, at some level, we believe that the progressive plan is neglecting some invisible—but all too real—danger. For example, conservatives generally reject minimum wage hikes because they make it more difficult for people to break into the labor market. We loathe the Affordable Care Act, among other reasons, because it risks locking the American health care system into a sclerotic, stagnant third-party payment model that will strangle disruptive innovation and ultimately result in lives lost. We reject burdensome economic regulation because it makes it more difficult for small businesses to compete. We oppose bailouts because they create moral hazard that promotes future imprudent risk-taking. We seek to transform endless welfare programs because they risk creating cycles of dependence that deprive a person of the dignity of work and accomplishment.

These unintended consequences, or invisible risks, are best mitigated by acknowledging the importance of limits: limited human knowledge and limited human capacity suggest that we should limit our exercises of political power in these complex domains, choosing instead to work with and improve existing structures that have proven their effectiveness over time.

Sadly, an emphasis on limits doesn’t make for a great campaign platform. Rejecting pleasant-sounding solutions because of “invisible evils” presents a rhetorical disadvantage for principled conservatives seeking to persuade undecided or casual voters. It is easy to promise a government benefit; it is harder to explain why the benefit will leave us collectively worse. When Republicans try to address this disparity, they are often clumsy. Remember Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” comments? Romney got this wrong; there are lots of potential Republican voters who have received government benefits. The issue is not that individual voters are bought off; the issue is that benefits sound like a great idea to most voters, and it is difficult for mediocre communicators to challenge the narrative by convincing people that the unseen consequences and costs of those benefits are substantial. Republicans have not done well here, often preferring full-throated moral arguments in favor of the small government position.

Fortunately, in the American system, change is difficult. The staggering of elections and the division of power means that any substantial modification to public policy requires that a political program win back-to-back popular mandates. (The Democrats succeeded at this in 2006 and 2008. The Republicans failed by winning only in 2010.)

These difficulties exist because the constitution’s drafters shared the conservative skepticism of humans. The constitutional system is old, but its conception of human nature remains as valid today as it was in the eighteenth century. The Founders were focused intensely on man as flawed and fallen, writing repeatedly against the dangers of the “passions” of man. James Madison writes of the risks of tyranny and mob rule constantly in the Federalist Papers. He noted that “A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” (Fed. 51). He believed that rulers can be decent and public-spirited, but that positive qualities “may all be insufficient to control the caprice and wickedness of man” (Fed. 57). The design of the government must “take the most effectual precautions” to keep rulers “virtuous.” (Fed. 57). To Madison, tyranny was when all powers of government–legislative, executive, and judiciary–fall into “the same hands.” (Fed. 47).

But it is Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist 68, which offers a strong defense of the Electoral College, that is most explicit in terms of addressing the threat of demagoguery. He argued that the existence of an “intermediate body of electors” was “much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements,” because they could be much less “expose[d]….” to popular “heats and ferments.” Hamilton drops the rhetorical hammer:

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity [emphasis added], may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.

To Hamilton, while a demagogue could win a single state, the Electoral College would serve to prevent a sort of local populist from taking over the government by running up the score in a given region.

“Passions” encourage humans to act rashly, to vote for strongmen, opportunists, and demagogues, and to think narrowly, rather than broadly. Slowing down processes and requiring broad consensus for major change is how to prevent abuses by enraged narrow and temporary majorities.

One can argue, then, that the frustrations that we experience with the glacial pace of change in the American system are the cost of preventing the much graver evil: that of the strongman coming to power and hijacking the government. Sometimes, the strongman will seem like the best course of action. The unseen consequences are what the constitutional system exists to prevent.

Thus the political system is designed to prevent irresponsible leaders from coming to power, and, if and when they do, to limit their power to do harm. Unfortunately, both elements of the system are under challenge right now.

Certainly, the power of the presidency has expanded over the past century, but the drift towards executive consolidation has accelerated in the past fifteen years. President George W. Bush emphasized the theory of the unitary executive, choosing to claim vast power on issues of national security. Justifiable though this may have been, Bush used executive power in ways that were nearly unprecedented.

His successor, meanwhile, has opted to dramatically expand the use of executive power in domestic affairs. This has included, among other gambits, the haphazard rewriting of the Affordable Care Act, a massive expansion of deferred action for childhood arrivals, substantial regulation of power plants, and an attempted end-run around Senate approval of executive branch appointments. A reliance on a simple count of executive orders–where Obama has issued fewer than his predecessors–is facile; Obama’s executive actions have been deeply consequential and directly contrary to the will of the Congress.

At the same time, the public view of the president–with the aid of the mass media–has taken to viewing presidents as saviors. This sort of view has now infected both parties; instead of being a clerk and a steward of the laws, the president is now seen as closer to a monarch.

Enter Donald Trump

Combine a situation where the power of the presidency has been greatly aggrandized, and the fact that a broad segment of the public seeks a political messiah, and we have a recipe for disaster. Donald Trump, of course, is the disaster. If Trump were a Democrat, his nativist and racist message would be equally sinister, but it would be consistent with the progressive distrust of the constitutional settlement. It is fair to say that the Democratic Party is largely invested in consequentialism at this stage. President Obama has adopted light Caesarism as a way to achieve his preferred policy aims, and his presumptive successor seeks only to continue down that path.

In attempting to hijack the Republican Party, however, Trump presents a greater risk to the republic: the Republicans are the only party that is even rhetorically committed to limited government and constitutionalism. And a successful Trumpist takeover of the party would mean that many of the party’s less courageous officials would completely abandon the rhetoric of limited government. (Once lost, the rhetoric of limited government is hard to regain in the face of well-deserved cries of hypocrisy.) Trump’s policy preferences are all over the place, but a cursory examination of his rhetoric is revealing. When asked about military officials potentially rejecting illegal orders, Trump dismissed the possibility of anyone disobeying his orders, because he is a “leader.” He argues that we should “open up libel laws” to go after dissident journalists who “lie.” He insists that we can “get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries.” He has also spoken with at least some admiration about the Tiananmen Square massacre, Muammar Gaddafi, and Vladimir Putin, all because they excelled in the exercise of coercive power.

Even if we agreed on whatever Trump’s policy platform were–even if we knew that Trump would govern as a Buchananite conservative with a pragmatic streak, and we thought that those policy outcomes were the best course for the nation moving forward–Trump’s utter disdain for constitutional government would be enough to reject him out of hand. The future ramifications of said changes to the American political system–the further erosion of our constitutional norms and our system of limited government–would not be worth the putative policy wins.

But what is critical is that it is difficult to see those potential negative outcomes, especially when the master persuader Donald Trump is offering a better future through his grand and glorious self. His “dealmaking” argument is actually asserting that Trump will be a better negotiator on your behalf. He has not used the term explicitly, but the subtext of the Trump argument is that a bunch of angry Americans have gotten a raw deal, and “we’re gonna make great deals” to make up for it. But the executive branch isn’t really in the business of “making deals”–it’s in the business of administering the laws uniformly and fairly. What is lost in an emphasis on executive action and dealmaking is hard to see, but it is inevitable: impartiality, predictability, justice, and accountability. Unfortunately, these are much less tangible than what can literally be seen from outer space: Trump’s famous Mexican-funded wall on the American southern border.

Thus the threat from a President Trump is more substantial now than it would be otherwise. As a candidate, he has no conception of limits, and many of the limits that were built into the system have been eroded. His inconsistent, incoherent proposals–such as they exist–are probably bad policy decisions, but the more serious danger lies in the unseen implications of the implied destruction of the constitutional system.

Persuasion on the Unseen

How did we get here? How did we get from a system designed to prevent the dangers of the unseen to one where the broader population appears oblivious to the unseen?

This is a rhetorical disadvantage for conservatives, and one they have struggled with, deeply, over the past couple of decades: how can you fight the visible with the invisible? In previous eras, however, this may have been a simpler task, because most people engaged with the invisible all the time in their daily lives: they were religious.

For a religious person, there is an innate acceptance of the unseen. Elements prioritizing the unseen exist in most older cultural and religious traditions. Indeed, any religious tradition that accepts a higher power–or intercession by ancestors–accepts the notion of the power of the invisible. For example, many Christians put it front and center in the Nicene Creed:

I believe in one God
The Father, the almighty
Maker of heaven and Earth
Of all things visible and invisible.

Different sects of Christianity have had long debates over the distinction between the visible and the invisible church, where the invisible church could be described as the “true church” but one that could never be seen because of the difficulties of reading someone’s heart. Different sects of Christianity, of course, believe in the reality of demons and possession, where a person is controlled by a force that they cannot see. Many Christians also believe in guardian angels acting as unseen protectors and guides in our daily lives.

Perhaps the best analogy for the hidden consequences in seemingly good ideas is in the devil himself. The devil is the master of deceit, an enemy so devious that he has convinced us that he does not exist. It is the perfect metaphor: the unseen force that ruins our best-laid plans, the empty promises of future happiness. Bad decisions are often portrayed in attractive packages; it takes mental clarity to identify the risks.

Religious belief has declined marginally in America, according to surveys. But many of these studies may well understate the level of the decline; over the last decade, there has been a huge increase in the share of adults who have not attended a church service in the previous six months; the number approached 50 percent in 2013. A popular decline in religion suggests that people are less open to the idea of the impact of the invisible.

(Worth noting, too, is that one of the few groups that have avoided supporting Trump are consistent churchgoers. Even if self-declared Evangelicals go for Trump, churchgoers–those who live out their faith–are less likely to support him.)

This secularization and neglect of the invisible seems to affect all strata of society. A permissive ethos of instant gratification and “live in the moment” colors much of our popular culture. But it also affects scholarship and study. Enthusiasts for science, for example, may well argue that only the scientific method can get at the unseen: by controlling for variables and running experiments, we can get at causation and start to make the invisible visible. For its part, social science may well be able to determine some of the direct effects of various public policy positions; it may, for instance, estimate effectively the increase in the unemployment rate caused by an increase in the minimum wage. But it cannot, say, estimate the increased collective social despair caused by difficulties breaking into the job market, or evaluate the importance of being active in a community for one’s spiritual health. Those are questions that can only be answered with intuition and deference to received wisdom.

And yet these deeper questions–the ones beyond the reach of our best analytical tools–are often ignored because they cannot be measured. The measurement challenge leads to a logical error–the belief that things that cannot be detected in our studies and experiments are unimportant, irrelevant, or nonexistent. This is, of course, in contrast to the religious worldview, which holds that the invisible things are the most important.

We should not overextend this argument. There are other ways to learn to appreciate the importance of the invisible: reading history or particular philosophers or economists at the right time; or hearing a public figure make the case persuasively. To religious people, though, the idea that bad consequences can arise from hidden factors–the things that we cannot see, that we must take on faith–requires no leap at all. One does not need religion to believe in the power of the invisible and the unseen, though it seems likely to help on a societal level to have the basis for the belief in place.

On balance, then, one can argue that society has moved from a belief in the numinous towards a belief in only the tangible. This has consequences for our conception of governance: again, the gravest dangers are the invisible ones. If our eyes are focused solely on the tangible in our daily lives, we are less likely to recognize the true dangers in our politics. In essence, then, our metaphorical vaccine against “invisibility blindness” has gone away.

Replacing the Vaccine

Perhaps the most pessimistic Founding Father, John Adams, noted that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people,” and was “wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” We must hope that he was wrong. An increase in religiosity is not something we can count on to redirect people’s attentions to the dangers they cannot see, but to its great credit, the constitution is designed with human fallibility in mind. That leaves us grasping for secular solutions. Where do we go from here?

First, conservatives should deemphasize the rhetoric of constitutional principle. Many Republicans, for example, insisted that the Affordable Care Act was an unconstitutional violation of the Commerce Clause and a massive intrusion on personal liberty. These things may be true, but they are preaching to the converted; no one who sees a potential benefit from the act will oppose it for reasons that are purely philosophical. It is better to focus on potential harm: disruption of insurance plans, rising prices, etc. Republicans should get comfortable with the phrase, “Sure, it sounds like a good idea…” Because it often does, and it usually isn’t.

Second, conservatives must distinguish between small government and limited government. They are easy to confuse, and conservatives often do in their rhetoric. Small government is essentially an economic idea: that the economy is strongest when government keeps out of the way, except for setting some basic rules. Limited government is related but somewhat different: it argues that the powers of government should be enumerated and specific, so that the government can protect ordered liberty in a predictable, fair way. The small government case for minimal economic regulation is that business thrives when it is able to work without overbearing government interference. The limited government case for minimal economic regulation is that government that can act without limits inevitably drifts toward legislative and executive prerogative, which breeds corruption and unequal treatment. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska showed the way on this distinction in his excellent speech at CPAC; other conservatives should follow suit.

Third, conservatives must start to devise policy programs that cater more towards their non-voters. The problem remains that only one party takes the notion of limited government seriously; the Democrats have been for viewing government as “an instrument of unimagined power” since FDR. If Republicans fail to present candidates and policy proposals that can appeal to non-Republican voters, we will lose elections, and limited government will erode further. A Republican Party that effectively brings working-class voters and minority voters into the fold can work to strengthen notions of limited government. Effective governance can breed additional election wins. These are impossible to do from opposition; the media and the Democrats are fully invested in painting the do-nothing Republicans as “nihilists.” Small government and limited government are both important, but facing a choice between the two, we must choose limited government. If we do not, we lose both.

Lastly, Republicans must reject Trumpism, completely and fully. One can accept that Trump has tapped into a set of voters that Republicans need to target–disaffected working class voters, not his white supremacist ones–without accepting anything that Trumpism represents. Republican officials and commentators that collaborate with Trump should be rejected and ignored going forward; anyone in politics that supports Trump has no conception of limited government, and no willingness to consider the dangers of the unseen. Supporting Trump costs us the entirety of our moral legitimacy on these issues.

Our herd immunity to invisibility blindness has been dramatically weakened, to the point that Donald Trump–a man who has no conception of limited anything, much less limited government–has a substantial chance of being the Party of Lincoln’s standard-bearer in 2016. A conservatism that loses its sight of the unseen and what it tells us about the need for limited government deserves no political power. Without that perspective, it veers into ressentiment and anger.

Image by Gage Skidmore


Staff Writer
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Dan Scotto lives and works in Oregon. He has a master's degree in history, with a focus on the history of disease and the history of technology.

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234 thoughts on “Conservatives, Donald Trump, and the Unseen

  1. The “things not seen” in this context are Trump’s competence and honesty.

    The notion that conservatism can be anything more than ressentiment (or that your readers might recognize a foreign word) is itself fatuous.

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  2. Conservatives might tell themselves that they are concerned by the unseen but I am not sure that is really true. Are big business leaders really concerned with how regulation creates barriers to entry or do DuPont and the Koch Brothers merely get annoyed at the expense of toxic waste disposal regulation? We never really talk about what regulations are good or bad. Everything is binary in American politics.

    Same goes with minimum wage and healthcare. Conservatives always bring up third world countries. They never bring up European nations with major pharma companies.

    Most people are not ideological. People who hang out on OT are weirdos who spend a lot of time thinking about politics and think ideological consistency is important. Most people don’t.

    Trump is all about unseen consequences. The unseen consequences of decades of dog whistle racist campaign techniques. Unseen consequences of stagnat wages and in some areas real economic decline. Trump supporters might as well be beggars in the land of plenty. As someone who has dealt with unemployment more than once while friends are settling down, buying houses, going on great vacations, I can tell you that being a beggar in the house of plenty is not fun. It is awful feeling like you will never land as others zoom ahead.

    I think that a lot of conservative thinkers lived in little bubbles and fooled themselves that the white working class really were into the same things as the big business elites. This was obviously untrue and now the elites are dumb-founded and don’t know what to do.

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    • “Are big business leaders really concerned with how regulation creates barriers to entry or do DuPont and the Koch Brothers merely get annoyed at the expense of toxic waste disposal regulation? ”

      No, they aren’t concerned about barriers to entry. More often they lobby gov’t to increase the barriers to protect their business. As to the cost, if you’ve protected your base by limiting barriers to entry, well now, you can pass those higher regulation costs down to the customer. Problem solved. Additionally, they will work on regulatory capture so they are in technical compliance but not the spirit of the regulation.

      Trump is all about unseen consequences. Yes he is. And more than just dog whistles and economic decline. Decades of one side telling the other side that they opinions, religious views, preferred way of life are all wrong, racist, etc. and a constant pushing to change what they never wanted changed in the first place. By legislation if possible, by court order (without public consensus if needed) or any way they can. Like I said in another thread, “and you never expected an eventual pushback”?

      I think that a lot of conservative thinkers lived in little bubbles. Any person in the elite or chattering classes is in a bubble.

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      • How many dundicuts have you bought this year?

        (translation: at least a few “elites” have enough friends/agents worldwide that they aren’t in a fucking bubble).

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        • I highly doubt that those elites are friends with the poor white folk in Appalachia, or the poor blacks in the inner cities. Their friends are in a similar class as they are. Bubble.

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          • My friend (who, as I’ve mentioned, “works politics like a fiddle”) knows enough people in Appalachia (grannydoc might ring a bell… see, I can cite a source or two), in the “inner cities” (Uigur please!), and Outer Mongolia.

            Intel is intel, the more you have of it, the more you can do.

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            • Is this “friend” a nationally recognized politician? In congress or senior staff at the white house, or highly placed in the administration? Is he a king maker in terms of political contributions and organizing?

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              • Definitely not a politician, though he’s worked for enough politicians to have earned a good few favors, and a nice long enemies list to boot (I’m sure he’s on Hillary’s enemies list, and that she owes him a favor as well).

                Nothing’s certain, and I’m loathe to call someone who isn’t Koch a kingmaker… but this is the chap who’s asking “why can’t politicos seem to see a trap within a trap?” (with the implication that “If they could, I could get more creative in my plotting”)

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    • Same goes with minimum wage and healthcare. Conservatives always bring up third world countries. They never bring up European nations with major pharma companies.

      I’m trying to think of exactly how third-world countries are brought up in this context. Could someone elaborate?

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    • Seconding this, and adding a that conservatives drop those hesi actions when they get the chance to Change things to their liking.

      ‘Unintended consequences’ gets tucked away for the duration of the their reign.

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      • Humbug.

        The ‘changes’ you’re referring to (regarding federal policy) would be cuts to certain welfare programs, adding additional eligibility screens to others (e.g. Social Security disability), and adding time limits to others (AFDC / TANF). There have also been some regulatory changes (re the Civil Aeronautics Board, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Interstate Commerce Commission). Oh, and there were some reductions in marginal tax rates.

        Hardly any of these led to end states without precedent. The ‘Fairness Doctrine’ was not some ancient practice. It had only existed since 1948 and the print media had never had anything like it. Industries other than transportation seemed to operate passably without state supervised cartels and the welfare benefits to removing cartels were both theoretically and empirically grounded. Social Security Disability had only existed since 1956 and you’d seen an escalating relative population drawing benefits. Its precise contours were too protean for anyone to be invoking Chesterton’s fence. And strange as it may seem to you, once upon a time Americans lived in a world without marginal income tax rates north of 60% and a hideous knot of sectoral cross-subsidies incorporated therein. Mr. Reagan recalled that world even if you don’t.

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          • What plans?

            The Bush Administration faced a trilemma in 2002: take the sanctions off (and let the Saddam regime do whatever), leave the sanctions on (which Big Consciences assured us were generating a five-digit population of excess deaths each year, or was it six digit?), or remove the regime. Once you’ve removed the regime, you have to replace it with something.

            One might also note in this regard that Iraq faced some acute and chronic problems in 2002 rather more compelling than Andrew Sullivan’s complaints about matrimonial law.

            The one other locus which saw some institutional changes after 2001 was Lebanon. Parliamentary institutions were not an innovation in Lebanon.

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            • It’s like you think you’re discussing some obscure segment of ancient history, confidant that no one has any education on it so won’t call out the BS.

              It’s weird. I don’t even fathom how you can have that sort of contempt for people ‘s intelligence and yet still wish to talk to them. Is it some weird form of preening?

              I mean back in the day, on Usenet, there was a joke that YEC would head up to talk.origins entirely to get ‘persecution points’. Nobody was sure what they spent them on though….maybe they’re just redeemable in Heaven.

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              • It’s like you think you’re discussing some obscure segment of ancient history, confidant that no one has any education on it so won’t call out the BS.

                There’s nothing to call out. I haven’t said anything false.

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  3. People who talk about unseen consequences are normally trying to avoid addressing the SEEN consequences, or, simply, the facts on the ground.

    Seen facts on the ground: millions of uninsured, non-coverage of pre-existing conditions (ignoring for a moment the high delivery costs), etc. Conservative response: none, because of unseen consequences. It’s OK for USA conservatives if people die of things that in any other developed country are covered at little or no cost to the patient.

    Seen facts on ground: massive pollution in West Virginia, Colorado, etc. drinking water sources due to run offs from mines or ash piles: Conservative response: none, because unseen consequences. It’s ok for USA conservatives if Charleston WV people are poisoned with glycol, or West, TX people are blown into the air when a tank (containing products that should not have been there) explodes.

    Seen facts on ground: minimum salary, which has not been increased for inflation, does not allow a person, much less a family, to support himself. Conservative response: none, because of unseen consequences. Conservative in USA would be fine if people worked just for food, like in the ancient good old days.

    Seen facts on ground: climate change, with the hottest February on record. Conservative response: none, because unseen consequences. Conservatives in USA are OK with the potential massive impact to populations all over the planet, including in the USA, because, in this case, they don’t seem to believe in unseen consequences.

    Seen facts on ground: Gay families cannot arrange and protect themselves. Conservative answer: none, because of unseen consequences. Conservatives in USA claim that the fact that gays can marry will destroy marriages and families.

    It’s remarkable that, gay marriage excepted (though the same arguments are used), the things conservative oppose because of unseen consequences are things big business oppose because directly, in the here and now, they impact their profit levels.

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  4. The theory of the unseen is another way of talking about Burkean caution, and Kirkpatrick style “temperament” conservatism, which appeals to me greatly.

    Alas, in order for this to be true, conservatives would need to respect tradition and precedent and most of all, value empirical results.
    None of which are in evidence.

    The experiments in Louisiana, Kansas and Michigan demonstrate that the current temperament of self-described conservatives is one of rashness, and heedless incaution and a love of radicalism.

    No one in recent memory has been rejected in a Republican primary for being “too conservative”; and the definition of “conservative” is increasingly resembling a caricature of what liberals have always said it is.- authoritarian, patriarchal, revanchist and racist.

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    • The theory of the unseen seems like a variety of Chesterton’s fence, where your first supposed to ask why a certain social custom exists before tearing it down and only tear it down if it turns out not to have a good purpose. This sort of conservatism does have a lot of intuitive appeal but ends up trying to prevent all change anyway.

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      • LeeEsq, Not only does such reluctance no describe the right [1], somebody also pointed out that the people trying to tear down that wall might very well know what wall was for.

        [1] For example, the right tore down a lot of banking regulatory walls in the 1990’s. The reasons for those walls being there was well known, but the right didn’t care.

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        • The act was popularly known as “Gramm-Leach-Bilily”. Among it’s co-sponsors was James Leach (who decamped to the Democratic Party in 2008 and sat a top the National Endowment for the Humanities during the early years of the BO Administration) and the man who signed it into law was one Bilge Clinton, not heretofore known as a man of the right bar by red haze sectaries. While we’re at it, Brooksley Born’s efforts to flush out the dark market in derivatives were sabotaged by Robert Rubin, Arthur Levitt Jr, and Lawrence Summers. Opposition to the efforts of the Bush Administration to improve GSE accounting practices was led by Barney Frank, whose boy toy Herb Moses worked for Freddie Mac.

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    • The problem with the unseen forces argument is that everybody get to see unseen things. It isn’t any special conservative talent. Commie’s can see unseen things that if they could only get a new five year program would be solved. It’s a truly terrible argument. The Emperor’s New Clothes are not a positive argument for whatever you want. We can all see how things should be. It’s always easy to raise concerns about some unseen things happening to every bodies ideas; liberal, conservative, libertarian, etc. Real easy. Bastiat really killed some brain cells with his famous essay. Not that is doesn’t have a decent point, but the flaws in it should be obvious also.

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      • It isn’t that people are unaware of the unseen, as Dan posits*, but rather, the costs associated with the unseen are both hard to estimate & quantify, and politicians are very good at hand-waving away these costs associated with what they want, and similarly are very bad about expressing the costs resulting from the unseen of things they don’t want.

        *BTW, this is a good post, Dan. I know you are going to get a hella comments on this, but hey, crucibles and all that.

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          • I’ll re-echo that it’s a good post. At least formally. I hesitate to endorse it substantively since I’m uncertain whether Dan S. is taking his own wisdom to heart here, one which implies, by my reading, advocating for a fundamental change in the way GOPism/conservatism ideologically interacts with reailty. Namely, that the two things have actual points of contact.

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            • I think it’s clear that the GOP’s old norms do not work in the 21st century. The Soviet Union is no more, taxes just aren’t that much of a burden, etc. They need a new script at minimum, and really, a newer agenda at bottom.

              For what it’s worth: I think Rubio might have gotten them there with some of his proposals. But he didn’t campaign on it very much, that’s for sure.

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              • The only proposal I ever heard from Rubio that somehow looked like a conservative (of the high in the very top of the Highlands, Gaelic-only speaking, kilt-commando wearing, sheepskin blowing variety) to address a real-in-the-ground issue was the Gang of Eight legislation. A proposal he couldn’t denounce more strongly if he had been a 1930s USSR Communist officer self-criticizing himself

                A very long winded way to say I don’t believe Rubio was in any way a plausible catalyst to turn Republicans (or USA right wingers in general) into conservatives.

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                • “A proposal he couldn’t denounce more strongly if he had been a 1930s USSR Communist officer self-criticizing himself”

                  If I had any sympathy for Rubio, it’d have been sad. He was just what the GOP needed, but he was rejected like transplanting an organ.

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            • To pile on, this is a great essay. The reason I am anti-republican is that they are not conservative, they are radicals. Change should usually be slow, so that society can see the consequences before policies are fully implemented. We have a good society in need of reform, not revolution. Laws are always in need of reform. Radical republicans want to burn it down. This would be a reasonable response in Venezuela or Afghanistan (where it has already happened), but we have a good society going here by historical and current standards. The republicans are like the mafia. “You got a real good thing going on, shame if something was to happen to it.”

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        • What is the line between unseen consequences and concern trolling especially with social issues like gay marriage? What if one groups unseen consequences are not consequences at all for another group? I am not normally a fan of my tribe being smug and think it back fires but there was a cartoon with a pie chart and it said “consequences of gay marriage” The pie chart stated “gay people will get married” and that is about it.

          Now of course there is a problem that the left (secular and not) live in a different theological and moral universe than the religious right. There is no real compromise between gay marriage friendly folks and those that think allowing gay marriage is literally bringing god’s wrath.

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          • Can’t really offer a response that is satisfactory to you , other than to say that the concerns of gay marriage were largely the concerns of a very vocal minority that the GOP (foolishly, in my mind) overly gave deference to. This was bolstered by the fact that polling that, at the time, showed a lot of Americans still had reservations about gay marriage (I translate that to, “The idea made them feel icky”), so the GOP pandered because it was a safe bet.

            Not every political plank has a cost factor, seen or not, even if people want to pretend otherwise.

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            • I agree with . As I read the OP, I noticed his talk about the “unseen” focused on economic matters, which in fact, I don’t disagree. The law of unintended consequences is a real thing, and I assure you liberals are aware of its existence. But he left out much of the actual “dangers of the unseen” argument that the right routinely employs, which is the danger of me, which in turn reduces to the quite visible fact I’d like to live a life with some dignity and the right would like to ensure that cannot happen.

              Let us not lie to each other. I understand the desires of the right very well. They have been clear about their views.

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              • The Law ( more like a good point than a law actually) of Unintended Consequences only seems to be directed at liberals by conservatives. It is a good point, but it affects every bodies best ideas and fondest notions. Conservative ideas can get knee caped by UI’s just like liberal ones.

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                • Honestly, politicians and pundits of all stripes have a habit of handwaving or equivocating on UICs. I think conservatives are a bit more… sensitive (for lack of a better word) to them. Maybe paranoid of them is better, not sure. Either way, they’d rather have the devil they know, while liberals are sick of that devil and more willing to tangle with a new one.

                  My concern with the left is not their willingness to tangle with new devils in the effort to rid themselves of the old (let’s face it, that takes courage), it’s that their rhetoric does not always leave me confident that they’ve done their recon.

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                  • Well, the left as a general rule sucks at addressing TLUC. But all the same, the right hates me for really bad reasons. What can I do?

                    Which is to say, I’m a political moderate. I believe in a market economy with a strong social safety net. I think regulatory capture is on the whole bad, but large economies are probably by their nature unstable and there is no “ideal” economic model. I think any sort of economic purist is going to end up like the happy-but-harmful blind-to-facts idealist that fucks up all they touch and then goes and hides.

                    In other words, we muddle through. I look to those who have the right kinds of skills to muddle through. These days that is the Democrats.

                    Plus, you know, there is nothing wrong with being gay.

                    That said, I think a rise in moderate libertarian thought would be on the whole good. A political struggle between technocratic democrats on the one side and limited government libertarians on the other would, I suspect, arrive at good compromises.

                    Like, I’m pretty sure both sides would say about gay marriage, “Wait, why are we arguing about this? This doesn’t pick my pocket and there is nothing wrong with being gay.”

                    I mean, I’d be solidly on the technocratic democrat side, but it would be nice to have smart opposition that doesn’t hate me for bad reasons.

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                    • I tend to avoid the GOP for the same reason. I can’t support a party that is at best indifferent (at worst openly hostile) toward a subset of the population because of something that causes no harm to anyone else.

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                  • “My concern with the left is not their willingness to tangle with new devils in the effort to rid themselves of the old (let’s face it, that takes courage), it’s that their rhetoric does not always leave me confident that they’ve done their recon.”

                    I’m totally willing to put liberals up against the right on that aspect, in the USA at least.

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                • To be fair, UIC applies to change, and it’s liberals pushing for change in opposition to conservatives. There’s a reasonable argument that not-change doesn’t have unintended consequences because, since the consequences are largely real, and known, they’re all intended.

                  The question becomes how you weight the unknown-but-possibly-catastrophic against the known-and-certainly-negative. Liberals and conservatives differ on this, by design.

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                • This is true. But conservatives emphasize limits–or should emphasize limits–as the remedy. My read of progressivism is that it doesn’t leave much room for limits at all.

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                  • I think progressivism is completely for limits on gov and in no way wants unlimited fed/gov power. So C’s seem to think that way or at least the way issues get discussed leads to that erroneous conclusion. Certainly P’s are fine with more Fed influence and see more of a role for gov; no argument there. But we do have and see limits.

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                  • I ask you to read a little more charitably. Cass Sunstein, after all, wrote an entire book about nudging people into better decision-making.

                    The limits of progressivism are the limits of adult human behavior. Individually we want all manner of crazy things. But collectively we can recognize both that capitalism is a tremendous engine for generating wealth, and that capitalism un-restrained leaves too many lives ground to dust. Or that the world loves and needs energy, and also that continuing to burn fossil fuels is presenting ever increasing dangers.

                    That said, the slogan “What do we want? Thoughtful regulation that rewards useful innovation without allowing the socialization of the costs thereof!” doesn’t exactly fit on a bumper sticker.

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        • I agree that its hard to estimate the unseen. But that is life. Anything new will have some unseen consequences, so do we never do anything new? And everybody gets there unseen fears. We can’t do what libertarians, conservatives, liberals, that one guy over there want because there can always be some unseen consequence. The argument is to generic to mean much. If we’re going to talk about one issue or idea then dive in to the specifics and the real life examples.

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          • Which is my point. Talking about the costs of the unseen, and whether or not they are worth it, is something that requires nuance and doesn’t fit easily into stump speeches and sound bytes.

            So perhaps Dan is kinda right. It isn’t about recognizing the unseen. Let’s assume that all but the most unsophisticated voters are aware of the unseen. Religious folks are better at talking about the unseen in efficient ways, because they are used to it. Perhaps they have mental and linguistic shorthand of some kind (being agnostic, I’m making a big assumption here, for arguments sake). Non-religious people can also talk efficiently about the unseen, but don’t have a consistent set of shorthand that can be used, because we aren’t all Christian and able to work within that context.

            Or something. I’m working this in my head as I write while I begin building the framework for a new API at work.

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            • No, no, no…that was my point first. At least i think it was. The unseen is all the horror stories and fears ( sane and insane) and fear mongering people throw at any new idea. You don’t have to be religious to do that. It is what every body does. There is nothing special about conservatism or religion that leads to that.

              But just saying bad things might happen is meaningless without the nuance. So building a movement on generic fears is not much of a movement. It turns into what Dan said it wasn’t; general opposition to anything new or different.

              FWIW API in alaska would stand for Alaska Psychiatric Institute, the state psych hospital for seriously mentally ill people who need to be committed. So good work on that.

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              • Here we go, once again dancing around the same idea. :-)

                For me, it’s this API.

                Our existing one has gotten too big and has too many issues and has become a dirty word amongst our customers, so last week I made my pitch to replace it and I got my wish. Of course, now I have to actually replace the old one, which is no small thing, and right now, the relationship to your API is becoming frighteningly clear…

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            • Religious folks are surely better at being able to see the unseeable – oops, I meant the unseen – than nonreligious materialists seduced by the empiricism. But his big mistake – as Richard alluded to somewhere on this thread – is that “seeing the unseen” cuts both ways. Dan restricts it to “seeing” the likely unintended consequences of certain policies or norms, and if that were all that conservative ideology was/were restricted to he’d have a valid argument.

              But it ain’t.

              It’s not only about seeing unintended negative consequences, but “seeing” intended good consequences (“deregulation is good for America!!” “Cutting taxes is good for America!!” etcadnauseum) AS WELL AS attributing unseen realities to their political enemies (Obama is a Marxist Kenyan Muslim; Treason!!; Dems are shipping in illegals to pad their voter rolls; Operation Jade Helm is part of Obama’s NeoMarxist plan to institute One World Government; neo-Marxists are infiltrating government to destroy the US from within; and so on).

              So in my view, the fact that coservatives focus on the unseen, as opposed to what’s seen (which is usually referred to as “reality”) is their biggest problem.

              That’s not true of all conservatives, mind. Back when I was a young lad there were plenty of conservatives who believed in balanced budgets, military conservatism, a minimal but efficient and necessary welfare state, etc. You know, policies based on what’s seen. But those folks aren’t invited to the party anymore.

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              • Yeah, the behavior(s) of the top players of the GOP run very counter to any honest philosophy or ideology. They’ve surrendered those things to the singular goal of maintaining power and cash flow.

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                • “Yeah, the behavior(s) of the top players of the GOP run very counter to any honest philosophy or ideology. They’ve surrendered those things to the singular goal of maintaining power and cash flow.”

                  And the Tea Party makes the top players look sane. If you want to find the raw deviance from reality and really bad policies, look there.

                  As bad as the GOP Establishment is (in my eyes), the Tea Party makes them look good.

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    • Also, once the fears of excessive unintended consequences of a particular policy have been mollified, true conservatives move their support behind the policy. Because the policy is now the new normal, and it’s part of what the conservatives are defending against even newer policies with possible unintended consequences.

      The fact that much of the Right has no interest in doing this shows that, as the OP fears, that large segments have lost the conservative impulse, if in fact they ever had it.

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      • Which is why using “change” as the dividing line between conservative and liberal is not helpful.
        My conservative cautious disposition causes me to support Social Security, a program with 80 years of proven efficacy. Yet the conservative movement is skeptical of it when not outright opposed.

        They aren’t about maintaining the status quo, they are about restoration of some desired Golden Age.

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    • the definition of “conservative” is increasingly resembling a caricature of what liberals have always said it is.- authoritarian, patriarchal, revanchist and racist.

      Statements like this are invariably exposed as stupid rhetorical flourishes once you get down to cases.

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  5. Are you sure you’re going to be able to appeal to the less-racist contingent of Trump’s support if you disavow absolutely everything Trump supported, just because he supported it?

    For example, after Trump, will the Republican Party still allow itself to advocate selling health insurance across state lines? Will it still want its candidates to make tax proposals that lower top income tax rates and slash corporate taxes? Does it mean it will never reconsider the wisdom of regime change in Iraq (speaking of the dangers of the unseen) – merely because Donald Trump did?

    You want to stop Trump, by all means. I don’t think you want to define your party based on him, however – obviously not because he manages to become its generalissimo. But neither, I wouldn’t think, out of a simple, inflexible rejection of everything he represented, especially if you’re going to seek to be responsive to some of those who thought he represented them. (If you’re not actually going to do that, maybe that’s less of a problem.) It seems like you should reject what is bad, but consider what was a legitimate driver of the legitimate part of his appeal.

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    • My view of Trumpism is that the policy proposals embedded in it aren’t really the crux of it. The attitude towards executive power and the need for a strongman are the fundamental elements.

      Which is to say: I think a revitalized conservatism might look a little bit like some of what Donald Trump has said about foreign policy (like, Iraq was a mistake).

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  6. Okay. The unseen consequence of a minimum wage hike is a larger underground economy.
    this is both measurable, and something fairly easy to talk about.

    Conservatives ain’t talking about it like that, though.

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    • If it’s measurable, then it isn’t unseen, is it? It’s moved into the realm of a “reasonably predicted consequence.” We can debate and evaluate the reason ability of predicted consequences.

      I take a measure of moral revulsion from the OP’s reference to the “unseen.” We don’t legalize drugs because large numbers of people start clutching at their pearls, and all the bogeyman consequences of legalization are a simple tissue on the basic reaction of “that’s morally repulsive.” Same for resistance to SSM, or questioning the war, or enforcing the First Amendment, etc. etc. etc.

      Personally, I’d hope for more policy debates motivated by reasonable predictions of practical consequences, and less by either the populist emotionalism of a Trump, or the pearl-clutching of a traditional social conservative, or the insistence on ideological purity found at either polar cluster point of the mainstream U.S. political spectrum. But that’s just me.

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  7. In addition to the principled objections raised unthread an unpretty practical objection arises as well: Conservatives would probably be a LOT more persuasive if they held their political arm to something approaching what their philosophical arm says they should be doing.

    For instance our good Mr. Scotto writes When conservatives oppose a progressive policy plan, it is not out of pique or unthinking resistance to change; it is often because, at some level, we believe that the progressive plan is neglecting some invisible—but all too real—danger. But this pleading neglects the observed facts on the ground. The GOP, confronted with a newly elected Democratic President and his accompanying majority in 2008, set out on a blatantly and nakedly cynical plan of total opposition not due to any principled concerns with the proposals on tap but in order to deny said President any of the bipartisan cooperation that he had campaigned on seeking. The GOP leadership is on record vowing that they intended to defeat Obama in his goals simply to make him a single term President regardless of what those goals were. No alternatives or compromises were offered, merely strictly enforced lockstep opposition up to and including unprecedented obstruction and shut downs meant to force Obama to adhere to the GOP’s wishes (which, it should be noted, primarily involved the unpopular task of mopping up the policy vomit that the previous GOP administration and majority had caked onto the place). Faced with the unpalatable proposal of “We’ll spend on our priorities when in power and when you are in power you clean up the fiscal house so we can spend on our priorities again when we next take power” it’s not hard to see why Obama and liberals would decline.

    In Trump we see an understandable result of the GOP and conservatism saying one thing to their followers while doing another and training their electoral base to believe in an alternate reality. Well now someone other than the GOP powers that be has seized the reigns and is dictating that alternate reality and the rank and file is trooping along. Perhaps what Dan Sotto’s conservatism needs is an actual conservative party to channel those impulses. They certainly don’t have one now and haven’t had one for, what, twenty to thirty years now?

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    • In Trump we see an understandable result of the GOP and conservatism saying one thing to their followers while doing another and training their electoral base to believe in an alternate reality.

      Exactly this.

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    • I think that in part, the OP is about Dan lamenting that there is no place in the current political organization of the US Right for principled conservatives. That they have a meaningful role in political discourse as a consistent check on too-rapid progress – making sure that only the strongest initiatives survive, and even then they ratchet up, rather than leaping forward.

      But like a lot of people, I’ve seen the lament before. Andrew Sullivan was a principled conservative fifteen years ago. I was one of those moderate libertarians that mentioned above, twenty-five years ago.

      The Right has had no real place for conservatives for a long, long time.

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        • It’s definitely there. Look past the bits explicitly about Trump and (weirdly) Obama. Sip the Kool-Aid when it gets to comparing religious and secular worldviews, but don’t drink too deep. (Sadly) ignore the policy prescriptions, since at Dan almost, but does not quite admit, the conservatives have already lost the battle for the soul of the GOP to the revanchists.

          What’s left is about half of the OP, and it’s to my mind a pretty good (when filtered through the author’s worldview) summary of the roles of progressives and conservatives in public life.

          Unfortunately, the bits that get left behind are the ones that make it directly relevant to this election cycle.

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          • This is how I read all the smart conservatives I run into (mostly on or through Twitter, including Dan): ignore anything they say about politics or politicians, and knowing that they’re smart, filter out as much as possible what I consider an abhorrent world view to find the potentially interesting insights hidden behind it. I imagine this is how smart conservatives tend to read smart non-conservatives too.

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    • “No alternatives or compromises were offered, merely strictly enforced lockstep opposition up to and including unprecedented obstruction and shut downs meant to force Obama to adhere to the GOP’s wishes (which, it should be noted, primarily involved the unpopular task of mopping up the policy vomit that the previous GOP administration and majority had caked onto the place). Faced with the unpalatable proposal of “We’ll spend on our priorities when in power and when you are in power you clean up the fiscal house so we can spend on our priorities again when we next take power” it’s not hard to see why Obama and liberals would decline.”

      Right-wingers and conservatives, if you ever see a liberal go batsh*t screaming mad in an argument, this is why. The right ***and conservatives*** gleefully f*cked things up the last time that they had the chance.[1] They then demand that others (a) clean up their messes and (b) do so by doing what right-wingers like.

      [1] And continue on – see who things are going in the Tea Party states.

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  8. This description of conservatism is actually a description of a narrowly held intellectual ideology of conservatism. It has little to do with the Republican electorate or elected Republican politicians, who consistently self-identify as “conservative.” This is how we can get nonsense such as this:

    If Trump were a Democrat, his nativist and racist message would be equally sinister, but it would be consistent with the progressive distrust of the constitutional settlement.

    You manage to work your way into deciding that Trump is really much more consistent with progressives, while overlooking entirely who is and is not supporting him. This serves to distance him from what you mean by “conservatism” but at the same time it brings out how irrelevant intellectual conservatism is in modern American politics.

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    • Its always frustrating how intellectual or respectable conservatives never take the blame for the negative consequences of their action. Its part of the entire “conservatism can not fail, it can only be failed” idea. You see something of this in nearly all ideologies but liberals and progressives seem more willing to admit their mistakes and take blame.

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      • This is why Hillary Clinton, who bears some measure of responsibilty for Iraq, Libya, Rahm Emmanuel, and TPP, has no shot of becoming the next President of the United States. Because of the liberal and progressive abilities to admit their mistakes and take blame.

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        • Well on Iraq the small blame HRC carries with it is generally, on the left, seen as having been paid for (loss of a Presidential campaign, having to swallow her pride and endorse the instrument of that defeat, then dutifully serving in his admin for 4 years). Rahm Emmanuel and the TPP is a mixed bag and doesn’t really outrage the majority of her party, merely the left wing of it. Libya is more unambiguously laid on her plate but it was a cheap multilateral war with very little cost to the US so it doesn’t carry a lot of weight with the voters.

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        • Many liberals have deeply criticized Hillary Clinton for these things and are supporting Bernie Sanders in the primary because of them. They will vote for Hillary in the general because they consider her less dangerous than the alternatives but they aren’t not criticizing her. Look at the negative response to her AIPAC speech.

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        • Hillary lost to O in 08 due to a lot negative sentiment about her stupid vote on Iraq. She has at some point, i dont’ remember when, said her vote was a mistake.

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        • “This is why Hillary Clinton, who bears some measure of responsibilty for Iraq….”.

          I’m sorry, but are you missing George Dubya Bush and the *entire * Republican Party somewhere?

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          • Adding on, the right still loves the Iraq War, and wants more of it (with more simple slaughter of Them). What we are seeing here is IMHO a temporary deal where the current Alpha Male of the GOP has decided that he benefits by dissing the war.

            If Trump loses this fall, the right will be back to ‘we won, but were back-stabbed’.

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          • Thanks for proving my point about H Clinton never having to take responsibilty for anything. Dubya and the entire GOP didn’t make a US Senator vote the way she did.

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            • This makes no sense. Hillary Clinton has taken full responsibility for her vote. She has said that it was wrong, and that vote is probably the main reason why Candidate Clinton is vying to succeed President Obama, instead of Candicate Obama running to replace President Clinton, H..

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    • This description of conservatism is actually a description of a narrowly held intellectual ideology of conservatism.

      Which is why conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed: every time the ideology makes contact with reality, the intellectual judgment is that reality, and not the ideology, is wrong.

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    • “You manage to work your way into deciding that Trump is really much more consistent with progressives, while overlooking entirely who is and is not supporting him. ”

      It *is* strikingly – well, not in accordance with the real world.

      It also ignores just what the conservative view of the ‘constitutional settlement’ has, does and will mean.

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    • “This is the best group of examples as arguments against conservatism I’ve read in a long time.”

      Agreed.

      And adding on yet again – ‘constitutional settlement’? What does that mean?

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  9. Among many other possibilities, writers have suggested working class economic frustrations; reality television; a growing authoritarian undercurrent in American society; Trump’s peculiar persona; racism; political correctness; and Trump’s rhetorical skills as a master-persuader. (Twitter’s wrote a worthwhile piece discussing many of these hypotheses.)

    Doesn’t exactly exhaust the list. Seems rather tendentious for a’ that.

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      • “Economic frustrations and it’s effects on white men’s sense of self-worth is the number one reason. The next biggest reasons are related.”

        Note that (a) the GOP has always taken the lead in f*cking the working class, and (b) especially in this years, there’s a Dem with a 30 year record of working for the working class.

        But Trumpists don’t go that way.

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  10. Fortunately, in the American system, change is difficult. The staggering of elections and the division of power means that any substantial modification to public policy requires that a political program win back-to-back popular mandates. (The Democrats succeeded at this in 2006 and 2008. The Republicans failed by winning only in 2010.)

    The way this works out in practice is that public policy reflects a trans-partisan insider consensus on select issues and is a mess of barnacles on other issues. James Madison’s sales pitch isn’t what you get 200 years down the road.

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    • The way this works out in practice is that public policy reflects a trans-partisan insider consensus on select issues and is a mess of barnacles on other issues.

      That for sure. But legislative apathy and neglect also factor into the equation. Two examples: 1) until Trump the GOP could play a song a dance about immigration enforcement because that issue took a back seat to more important conservative policy priorities, like cutting the capital gains rate. 2) Criminal justice reform which, for all of Bernie’s efforts, still retains it’s back-burner status-quo-bias since that topic isn’t (yet) an ice cutter in the electorate even tho about 70% of Americans think our incarceration rate is too high.

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    • The way this works out in practice is that public policy reflects a trans-partisan insider consensus on select issues and is a mess of barnacles on other issues. James Madison’s sales pitch isn’t what you get 200 years down the road.

      I would like to take a moment to endorse an agreement between myself and Mr. Deco, which happens infrequently enough that it should be acknowledged wholeheartedly when it does occur.

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  11. I think you’ve left no cliche unturned here. That aside, the article functions as a point of departure for people who do not give a rip about Chesterton’s fence to engage in what amounts to a fundamentally onanistic exercise. I can see why they recruited you.

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  12. As a liberal atheist I disagreed with almost all of this, but very much appreciate the food for thought.

    Another thread discusses straw men, and this is kind of like that device’s opposite, the steel man — except this was made by an advocate himself instead of an opponent trying to be maximally fair (the normal form of steelmanning).

    Now I wonder… was there ever a time when sensible liberals felt they had to translate their ideology’s then-contemporary incarnation as extremist nihilism into something palatable to other sensible people? Did it ever happen during the French Revolution or any Communist uprising? “Here’s why progressivism is actually quite reasonable and nothing like the lunatics who cary its mantle…”

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    • Welcome to the site!
      Our standard rule is that liberals must perform a ritual denunciation of Stalin before anything they say can be taken seriously.
      Denouncing Saul Alinsky and Jimmy Carter can’t hurt either.

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    • was there ever a time when sensible liberals felt they had to translate their ideology’s then-contemporary incarnation as extremist nihilism into something palatable to other sensible people?

      Apologetics for the Gulags maybe?

      But I hear ya. What’s interesting to me about all the Trump-gnashing is the inability of most conservatives to understand that conservatism itself – as a political and ideological rollout effecting policy and norms – has caused the very thing they try to account for. (But, of course, conservatism cannot fail….) Personally, I’m eagerly awaiting the same type of “existential crisis” amongst Democrat/liberals given that Dems are getting their ass handed to them at every level but the presidency. I just hope the crisis isn’t so existential. The internal logic of the party doesn’t give me much hope tho…

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  13. For a good long while, we haven’t had a “stupid party” in the country. Buckley, to his credit, tried to make Conservatism intellectual and, for quite a few decades there, succeeded.

    Trump is saying “Let’s have a Stupid Party again.”

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    • Many people would disagree that Buckley succeeded in making conservatism intellectual. They would say that Buckley provided a veneer of middle-brow intellectualism on conservatism but that the Republican Party still ran as stupid party in many ways. Trump is just making it more obvious.

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      • Let’s give Buckley credit for trying. Let’s also recognize that that effort re-defined conservatism into something so intellectually obtuse (eg., current GOP orthodoxy) that even the GOP’s own base rejects it as misguided. Trump may not be the champion they would have hoped for, he’s just the champion they have.

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        • The problem is the Republican’s are rarely honest about what they are doing (and in the case of race it appears even to themselves) and so intellect is a non-factor. This article is a great example. All that nonsense about religion and the invisible. The garbage about against the affordable care act. They are arguments against doing good things there just crap arguments.

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        • Let’s also not delude ourselves that what passed for the the intelligentsia of the democratic party (at least in the main left and centre left journalistic organs, excluding the universities) were any better. Veneer of middle-brow intellectualism is what being a public intellectual is all about, regardless of party. It just so turns out that people are more likely to either give bad arguments that support their side a pass or worse, not even recognise that they are bad.

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        • There is always going to be a disconnect between the intellectual and political forms of an ideology. The disconnect between intellectual conservatism and whatever the Republican Party or other conservatives parties is doing seems enormous though. Intellectual conservatism is supposed to be about creating a break on social change and not getting rid of traditions and institutions that have a positive function. This is what Burke, Chesterton, and Buckley advocated. What the Republican Party attempted to do is resist social change or even turn back the clock on social change as much as possible. They are the only mainstream conservative party in the developed world that thought they could undo the 1960s. Other conservatives might not have liked the 1960s that much but they didn’t thing they could go back and get rid of feminism or the Sexual Revolution.

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          • The disconnect between intellectual conservatism and whatever the Republican Party or other conservatives parties is doing seems enormous though.

            I think you’re misunderstanding my point, even if you ultimately disagree with it. I’m saying the opposite: that “intellectual” conservatism is exactly what the GOP offers it’s base, and that type of conservatism is tailored to serve very specific purposes.

            Trump blew it all up.

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          • Intellectual conservatism is supposed to be about creating a break on social change and not getting rid of traditions and institutions that have a positive function. This is what Burke, Chesterton, and Buckley advocated.

            No, Lee. That’s a strand of thought within academic and journalistic discourse. If you’re referring to the opinion journalism prevalent ca. 1960, Buckley’s business was providing a forum for various sorts of people dissenting from the regnant social-liberal discussion, maintaining boundary conditions which excluded the terminally pointless (Peter Viereck, Clinton Rossiter), the Ayn Rand circle, anti-semites (what was left of The American Mercury by 1959), despisers of religion generally (Max Eastman), and some of the more peculiar libertarians (Murray Rothbard). Buckley’s contributors were not a stable full of Edmund Burke aficionadoes and some were explicit critcs of attempting to import Burke into an American context (viz. Stephen Tonsor).

            And, of course, a Burkean discussion does not map very well to a large swathe of political tangles you have in this country.

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    • Not sure why people want Republicanism to be pretentious or as you pretentious guy’s keep calling it “intellectual”. It needs to help the people it wants to vote for it and it doesn’t.

      Republicans are like communists they have a view of the world they think it should be and then try to force the world to be that. The world is what it is not what you wish it would be.

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  14. To be honest, I don’t think people who make that argument about the minimum wage have spent much time working minimum wage jobs. From an economic standpoint, the foreseeable problem with raising the minimum wage isn’t really that workers lose access to the labor market; it’s that employers lose a labor force that is willing to work 40-50 hours a week when 20-30 will meet their material needs. I’ve seen this happen on jobs where the minimum was raised to $15 an hour. They started running out of applicants for full time positions.

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  15. “One way to think about conservative argumentation is that it prioritizes the unseen.”

    Another way to think about conservative argumentation is that it does its level best to protect the interests of those who are currently wealthy and powerful. And its master stroke in defending the status quo is to say that no major changes in public policy can ever be undertaken, due to the unseen.

    Those fences that wall off women, gays, and minorities from the political process? Can’t tear those down; we don’t know what the consequences might be.

    Creating a welfare system so old people and poor people don’t live in penury? Can’t change the old workhouse system; someone somewhere might take advantage.

    etc.

    and, for the record, there is nothing whatsoever about the current model of health care financing that prohibits innovation. Spend some time over at the Incidental Economist. (“sclerotic” is a great put-down, though. I’ll have to find a way to use that word more.)

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  16. Does America function or not? It seems that the mere possibility of the former produces an existential crisis in Mitch McConnell.

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    • Rich people are already rich! Job accomplished! The only thing we need the gov’t for now is hassling gays and blacks. Anything more is unconstitutional! Unconstitutional damn, it! Unconstitutional!!!!!!!!!! wahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

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  17. “You know what’s great about people like me? We’re religious and religious people are better at dealing with abstraction than non-religious people. Now that I’ve set up that straw man that makes me feel awesome about myself let’s face the fact that, that ship has sailed and move on so I continue to listen to the sound of my own voice describing the echo chamber philosophy I’ve over-invested in.”

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    • My point on religion was really more about a collective orientation to the world, not about me individually. I personally know non-religious people who I think share this orientation, and religious people who do not.

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      • Dan Scotto:
        My point on religion was really more about a collective orientation to the world, not about me individually. I personally know non-religious people who I think share this orientation, and religious people who do not.

        Let me put it like this. How do you sleep at night putting out these theories that Obamacare is wrong because it interferes with peoples self-determinination when the end result of that is poor southerners go to the polls and vote against their self-interest (desperate need for health care) in order to vote for candidates that will pass laws so they won’t have to work for gay people (such as signing marriage licenses)? I mean WTF?

        I think maybe your too good at abstracting to the point where you’ve abstracted the lives of real people right out of the equation.

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        • You’ve just claimed to know what is in other people’s self-interest and then a few lines later tries to take Scotto to task for abstracting the lives of real people. The two sides of your equation don’t even out.

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          • Yea, there’s a question of what’s in peoples self-interest when people with pre-existing medical conditions and no money are having cynical appeals to their religious beliefs used to convince them they should vote to have their medical insurance taken away.

            Again, how do you sleep at night.

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            • Again, how do you sleep at night.

              Usually, on my side. Thanks for asking.

              With that out of the way, I’ll just point out that when you take individual people, with all manner of individual situations, preferences and political ideologies, and decide that you know better than them what is in their self-interest then you are, in fact, abstracting people.

              It seems that you have no real problem with abstracting “the lives of real people” so long as those abstractions fit within your political and ideological preferences. That’s fine, but don’t pretend that it is otherwise.

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  18. I liked this post for many reasons, but it seems to be reaching too hard to find reasons to ignore the fact the Trumpism is occurring in the GOP and not the Democratic Party.

    This is a rhetorical disadvantage for conservatives, and one they have struggled with, deeply, over the past couple of decades: how can you fight the visible with the invisible? In previous eras, however, this may have been a simpler task, because most people engaged with the invisible all the time in their daily lives: they were religious.

    For me, this is an argument that would carry far more weight if Trumpism had taken root in the US party that trumpets secularism rather than the one that trumpets religiosity. Moreover, it would even carry some good weight if the Republican vote itself was cleaved by religious belief. However, neither of these things is true. Donald Trump has not one Democratic delegate, but he does has more GOP delegates than his two remaining rivals combined.

    Further, Trump is actually doing quite well with white evangelicals. Overall, he has more of that camp behind him than does anyone else. In order to get to a demographic of white evangelicals that do not overwhelmingly favor Trump, you have to drill down all the way to the category of White Evangelicals That Attend Church More Than Once A Week — and even then, he still picks up over a third of that universe.

    I think that you’re correct when you note that there are likely many reasons for the rise of Trumpism, and I have not doubt that actions of liberals and the Democratic Party contributed to that mix to some degree, this being a world of infinite complexities and all. Still, the truth is that Trumpism took root in and is flourishing in the GOP.

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    • Great point about Trump doing well with the religious right. Another example of how wrong this piece is claiming that he isn’t. Mormons seem to be the only religious people resisting him signifigantly.

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      • Trump seems to be doing best with Catholic Republicans from what I read. Catholics aren’t generally considered part of the Religious Right even if they are very conservative.

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        • I’d believe that about Catholics but everything I’ve seen has him doing “surprisingly” well with the religious right and doing best with catholics doesn’t mean he isn’t doing well with born-agains.

          I think one of the things about Trump supporters is a lot of them are holding their breath over major aspects of his behavior and purported beliefs in order to both send a message over feeling used by the party and thinking he’s doing something similar to the old Reagan “We’re launching missiles at Russia in 5 min.” style routines of exaggerating to make a point.

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      • I don’t want to No True Scotsman, but in a sense the “religious right” is bound by shared cultural norms even more than by a shared religious experience. Trump speaks to those cultural norms. But he is offputting to the people who are serious about their religion – he carries a cognitive dissonance in a sense. To the people who also think “Two Corinthians” is a 90s song by the Spin Doctors(*), he works just fine.

        (*) “Two Princes” was the theme song to Mike Myers’ underrated “So I Married An Axe Murderer”

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      • I think the conservative elite whether they were secular(ish) Big Business insiders or religious right preachers lulled themselves into believing that the white working class really raged against the marginal tax rates and carried interest tax rates like they did. To a certain extent, the hood and wink show worked, there are lots of people who think the Government is going to take it all from them even though the estate tax only covers estates with more than a few million dollars.

        What they are discovering though is that only so much small flags on red meat work and the WWC are not really interested in dismantling Social Security or Medicare. Entitlement Reform is very big among “very serious people” who won’t be forced out of work by off-shoring or crippling joint pain from swinging a hammer for 30 years. But the intellectual right-wing are true believers* who can’t admit their ideas are unpopular, so they have to think around Trump instead of dealing with what they wrought.

        *I think Lee is right here from other threads. Every political party is going to find that the public no longer wants what it is selling. Yet the true believers often do and it is hard to please the base and the rest. This leads to the wilderness. Labour went through this crisis in the 1970s and it looks like they are going through it again.

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        • I think during the early 2000’s before the internet fueled wall street collapse and again prior to the real estate fueled collapse people felt like the tax cuts made sense. “Well, when I get rich I don’t won’t to have this unfair tax burden stealing my MONEY!” but people aren’t buying that Wall Street is going to give them a fantasy retirement anymore. They are either working class people who used to be able to squeeze into the middle class who are now eeking out a living at Home Depot or people who were solidly middle class doing grunt tech work (Y2k jobs, web dev, etc) outside of Silicon Valley that had their jobs outsourced who just flat out feel like they’ve been well and truly fucked by the last 35 years. Add to that terrorism and a party fanning apocalyptic flames and people have had it. All that hard work and they got what?

          There’s a real problem with middle aged white men dying from alcohol and drug abuse at this point and it’s similar with the kids and opiates. They are choosing to check out from reality. There’s a feeling that there aren’t any options.

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          • As someone who graduated from law school in 2011, I know all about feeling screwed and I am one of the relatively lucky ones! Not the luckiest but far from the worse as well. Yet I’ve been pushed further to the left.

            I find it interesting how the same inputs and situations can draw two people to opposite conclusions.

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    • I think the vox article linked explains this. There is a huge difference between cultural Christians who identify as Christians and “real” Christians who go to church every week and truly believe. The true believers, I think, are not going for Trump. Look to the Trump loss in Utah. Regardless of whether Mormons are “Christians”, they tend to be more devout and therefore reject Trump just as churchgoing Christians do.

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      • Mormons apparently have a real and deep feeling about religious freedom do to their history and are deeply offended by Trump’s attitude toward Muslim’s. That’s a huge difference between them and southern prods.

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    • “reasons to ignore the fact the Trumpism is occurring in the GOP and not the Democratic Party.”

      I think a better question is Who is voting for Trump at the tail end of a Democratic presidency, @tod-kelly? Seems to be Regan Democrats, whom the party has left behind/denigrated for years, a la Whats the matter with Kansas, flyover country, etc. In other words, why has the party been obliterated in much of the country? Also, your question doesn’t take into acount Bernie, both sides of the same coin, which is disillusionment with the status quo.

      The answer to your question is quite obvious, namely that on the local level, R’s (tea party) listened to them, while D’s were still pushing the ACA. Both parties are in some way forsaking the working class vote, and that is why this inserection is coming from that direction.

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      • I’m bemused at the mention of the ACA in the same paragraph where the Dems are being excoriated for forsaking the working class. As for Bernie, his campaign, is much like the opposite side of the coin from Trumps indeed as his supporters are almost diametric opposites in policy desires and social desires from Trump supporters and Bernie himself is Trumps complete opposite in strategy.

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        • I’m bemused at the mention of the ACA in the same paragraph where the Dems are being excoriated for forsaking the working class.

          Why? Obama and the Dems spent a great deal of political capital passing the ACA. They could have spent that capital on some manner of economic reform package/jobs program or done more on the economy when they held both houses.

          They made a choice to focus on healthcare, under the theory that healthcare was the most pressing concern. Maybe it is. I don’t know. But it’s certainly not beyond the pale to argue that in 2009/10 it would have been better for working class folks to focus on the economy first.

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        • Indeed, , his supporters are often very different from Trump supporters, but one way that they are similar (to me) is how they are both groups that have been left behind in the new economy. Students with debt they might not be able to pay, workers with no jobs.

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    • Trumpism took root in and is flourishing in the GOP.

      This is true… but…

      I think the fact that Berning took root in the Democrat party shows something further.

      The current phenomenon of Trumpism and Berning have both common cause and particular cause.

      They show common cause in that a chunk of each party’s core demographic (35-50 year old non-college educated white males in the GOP, 18-30 year old college educated folks in the Dems) finds itself very much disillusioned with the party in question.

      There are structural reasons for this that probably don’t have all that much to do with party, or who is President, or who was President (although each side will have a gigantic slew of post-hoc rationalization aiming it that way.)

      They are linked by the common cause of a relatively flat economy for their respective class for the last N years, for N being a significant portion of their working lives. They all feel left out; they all feel that the other political party is the root cause of all of their problems, but they also all feel that *their own* political party has compromised far too much and needs to be recaptured.

      There are a couple of reasons why Trumpism is the focus of posts more than Berning. First is that the Trump demographic represents an age bracket that is more likely to vote, and the GOP primary system has created the dynamic where a minority-supported candidate can get farther along with a demonstrated shot at the brass ring.

      Second is that the N is different, and this drives yet another wedge between the two groups ever being able to make common cause, because each respective group feels the other group’s gripes are less legitimate than their own.

      There’s a lot to be said about *who* is gravitating to both candidates and what that shows about the consequences of the party messaging for the last 4-20 years, sure.

      But I doubt we would have either Trumpism or Berning, if the economy hadn’t played out the way it has for the last fifteen years.

      Once somebody starts yelling about how you’re getting the short end of the stick, when you feel like you’re getting the short end of the stick, you’ll let them go a long, long way at dishing up reasons for you getting screwed.

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      • Bernie is painfully earnest, has been in Congress for decades, and has held the same positions the entire time. Trump is a blowhard, has never held public office or any position where he needed to think about public issues, and changes positions in the same Tweet. There are reasons that one party chooses a Bernie and the other chooses a Trump, and they say a great deal about the latter, none of it good.

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      • There are a couple of reasons why Trumpism is the focus of posts more than Berning. First is that the Trump demographic represents an age bracket that is more likely to vote, and the GOP primary system has created the dynamic where a minority-supported candidate can get farther along with a demonstrated shot at the brass ring.

        Second is that the N is different, and this drives yet another wedge between the two groups ever being able to make common cause, because each respective group feels the other group’s gripes are less legitimate than their own.

        That’s…not why anyone cares about Trump.

        If we swap Trump out with someone who has 90% Trump’s policies (And had standard Republican policies for the rest), and who was actually a *reasonable person*, the left would be…well, amazed, and sorta cheering that the Republican base had finally gotten their head out of their ass and *stopped* supporting all sorts of dumbass things from a party that is completely beholden to special interests. (The *right* establishment, of course, would still be pissed at him and trying to stop him.)

        Why anyone cares about Trump is two things: The 10% of policies he has that are completely insane and xenophobic and racist, and that he is a petty, vindictive, obvious tyrant-in-waiting urging his followers to violence who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the presidency.

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        • The 10% of policies he has that are completely insane and xenophobic and racist, and that he is a petty, vindictive, obvious tyrant-in-waiting urging his followers to violence who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the presidency.

          Right, but… um… those 10% of policies wouldn’t be on the table for discussion if 40% of one of the political parties in the country weren’t actively supporting the guy (whether it’s for that 10%, the other 90%, or some other combination).

          That is, folks are focusing on Trump as if that 10% is *the* story. It’s an interesting story, sure, but it’s not *the* story.

          Because the distrust of party is really out there in the wide, wide open right now in both parties. *That’s* the real story. In the big picture.

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  19. “Couldn’t there be some negative unforeseen consequences to having an unregulated market in derivatives?”

    “Nah, regulation stifles innovation.”

    “Okay, never mind.”

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    • How about if people started talking about BAD regulation and GOOD regulation. Drug regulation stopping snake oil salesman GOOD! Regulatory capture stopping innovative new companies BAD.

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      • ChuckO:
        How about if people started talking about BAD regulation and GOOD regulation. Drug regulation stopping snake oil salesman GOOD! Regulatory capture stopping innovative new companies BAD.

        But that would require us to focus on the facts on the ground instead of on the grand phylosophical scheme. Once you let facts in, you might end with (gasp) Obamacare.

        Reality has been accused of having a liberal bent. That’s why true conservatives aim to “create their own reality”.

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        • @j_a

          I would say it differently. I would say that people are so wrapped in their own moral universes and it is hard to communicate. I am a secular guy so I just don’t know how to communicate with someone who sincerely (and I think they do sincerely believe) that allowing gay marriage leads to God’s wrath.

          Likewise, a lot of internet debate is between people who take ideas seriously and and try to work out coherent world views. I think Dan is sincere in his belief in unseen consequences. I also see libertarians seriously debate about what is and what is not coercion. The issue is that libertarians seem to define coercion so broadly that I can’t really do anything but head scratch. The individual mandate in the ACA comes to mind.

          My view: The individual mandate helps millions of people who had pre-existing conditions get insurance and lowers their premiums by requiring everyone to get insurance so the very ill are not bankrupted.

          Libertarian view: The individual mandate forces people who don’t want to buy insurance to buy insurance. That’s coercion. That’s evil.

          Are there people who don’t want to buy insurance for a variety of reasons? Yeah sure, probably. But that is such a stretching of coercion as a term that it is unacceptable and perplexing to me. I also don’t know why those who don’t want to pay have more say and rights than those with pre-exisiting conditions.

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          • You are right. The people that value world views over facts do exist. And it is my fault, and my personal bent, that I have little patience with them.

            I manage big numbers in my day job (utilities). Utilities are big, with lots and lots of moving parts, that you have to get them to work together, with lots of facts bombarding you left and right. And two kind of people frustrate me at my job

            1. Those (mostly recent graduates) that are in love with quantification and do not understand that in the big scheme of things anything between 90-110 is the same as 100, because in the real world variability cancels itself, and trying to chase the last decimal is a worthless effort.

            2. Those that want to ignore variability and create a grand unified theory of everything. Because, if it needs more than three bullet points to explain, they can’t get to grasp it. Mostly senior(er) management with a Law or Humanities training.

            Real life systems are mostly non linear chaotic. They cannot be accurately predicted and yet the system rarely moves beyond a certain area. Most talk about UIC is so far away (gay marriage will destroy family – Obamacare will destroy innovation) that it’s completely unreal, and it means that it’s likely that the person pushing the argument either (I) knows it’s B. S. ; or (II) really believes it, in which case he knows nothing about the subject.

            In both cases, it’s difficult for me to engage. Lack of empathy on my part, I’m afraid.

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        • J_A: But that would require us to focus on the facts on the ground instead of on the grand phylosophical scheme. Once you let facts in, you might end with (gasp) Obamacare.

          Reality has been accused of having a liberal bent.That’s why true conservatives aim to “create their own reality”.

          “They made you a moron, potential h-bomb” – Johnny Rotten, “God Save The Queen”

          It’s easier to control people who don’t know nothin’.

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      • Well, yeah. I think regulating the derivatives market would have been the good and conservative thing to do. The consequences of not doing that have been more negative than anything that has thus far resulted from recognizing same sex marriages, for instance.

        What I’m getting at here is the financialization of the economy has been a massive, somewhat Utopian, and definitely untested social experiment that conservatives have tended to fall much more on the ‘Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!’ side of than the ‘let’s think of the unintended consequences’ side. I do agree about bailing out the banks however.

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        • That’s the thing that gets me about so much government intervention – when governments do act they often only make things worse. I’d be in favour of much more government intervention it if it wasn’t for the fact that real-world governments are so bad at it.

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          • I don’t think you have the causality right. There never was a government standing up and saying: “Let there be mortgage securitized derivatives, and by the way, let them rate dubious mortgages as AAA”

            On paper, mortgage backed securities make sense. In normal conditions they reduce risk and thus increase the capital available for financing. But because MBS were designed to handle non systemic risk (x % of borrowers failing to perform for causes unrelated to each other in origin or geography) they were not able to withstand a bubble environment across the full market.

            Bankers’ greed notwithstanding (which is a big notwithstanding, like talking about water and saying “the Pacific Ocean notwithstanding…” ), again, bankers’ greed notwithstanding, the derivatives instruments did not cause the financial crisis. The housing asset bubble did. Many people from Nobel Prize winners (hello, Mr. Krugman) to hedge fund managers (go watch “The Big Short”) to average Joes that sat in the sidelines waiting for prices to drop to get into a new house (me) were fully aware that we had a bubble.

            A proper functioning regulator (in other words, not Greenspan) would have identified the bubble, would have taken a look at the percentage of financial assets tied directly or indirectly to mortgages, and would have put all their efforts into a soft landing. MBS would have taken a big hit even then, but would not have put the financial system on its knees.

            But that requires two things: a regulator devoting time to thinking about the unseen consequences , and a properly funded and staffed regulatory bureaucracy that devotes time and resources tracking and analyzing what’s going on, and hat is likely to happen if something goes wrong

            Yet the GWB and the contemporary Congress were anything but conservative, as we learned here, because they did not care at all about thinking about the unseen consequences, or, as they were called at the time, the unknown unknowns.

            The government did not create the instruments or the crisis. It was just too ideologically blind at the time to stop it from happening

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            • A proper functioning regulator (in other words, not Greenspan) would have identified the bubble, would have taken a look at the percentage of financial assets tied directly or indirectly to mortgages, and would have put all their efforts into a soft landing. MBS would have taken a big hit even then, but would not have put the financial system on its knees.

              A properly functioning *government* wouldn’t have spent a decade telling people to ‘invest by becoming a homeowner’ before that, and should have reacted the second there was obviously a bubble.

              The market can stand bubbles in a lot of things. It can stand tulip bulb bubbles, or cattle bubbles, or gold bubbles, or comic book bubbles, or any of the things that can be ignored or replaced with other things. That’s its own little universe and you don’t have to play, even if you end up eating chicken sandwiches instead of hamburgers.

              And it can stand bubbles that only last a short period of time in necessities. We recently had a copper bubble, and most people don’t even know, as it went away long before it filtered down to normal people.

              But a *long term* bubble in necessities would normally have produced rioting in the streets, if normal people can’t get access to those things. *This* bubble managed to delay that by letting people *borrow* to go along with it. <futurama>Thus solving the problem once and for all.</futurama>

              It’s not like bubbles normally have a problem with speculators borrowing, and having them bottom out when the bubble pops. So let’s make sure *everyone* borrows.

              This housing was obviously insanely dangerous and stupid *by itself*, and what makes it even more dangerous and stupid is that it, literally, appears to have been government policy.

              The whole ‘Base the entire economy on top of it’ [Edit: That is, let the banks base the entire economy on it] was just the government septupling down on the dangerous and stupid, on something we shouldn’t have let happen *anyway*.

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            • the derivatives instruments did not cause the financial crisis. The housing asset bubble did.

              Technically, derivatives instruments *did* cause the financial crisis, as in, there was no actual way to unwind *any* of that, and we had to run around pretending that giant shitpile was any good because exposing that all at once would have destroyed the entire banking industry.

              The housing asset bubble is probably what caused the *recession*, though. That would have happened regardless of any derivatives instruments, as people discovered what often was literally their sole ‘investment’, the only thing they had that had been increasing in value for the last couples of decades as their wages remained steady and their savings remained nothing…was now worth a third of what it had formally been worth.

              *That* sort of realization is what causes recessions, or, rather, that is what causes everyone to sit at home huddled up, clutching their money to their chest…and that is what causes recessions.

              The financial crisis made it harder to get out of, though.

              OTOH, the wild trading in derivatives instruments is partially what caused the housing bubble in the first place! Or at least, encouraged it along.

              Many people from Nobel Prize winners (hello, Mr. Krugman) to hedge fund managers (go watch “The Big Short”) to average Joes that sat in the sidelines waiting for prices to drop to get into a new house (me) were fully aware that we had a bubble.

              I actually told my brother not to buy a house in, I think, 2005 (Maybe 2006?), because I was convinced it was about to pop, but he did anyway. Luckily, by the time it did pop here, they had moved and were currently renting.

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          • I’d be in favor of no government intervention if self-regulated markets didn’t cause such frequent and predictable turmoil and devastation over the last two centuries. You can’t expect a state to allow the soil and society supporting it to be annihilated for the good of the market. I mean, yes, a few fanatics expect that. But it’s not reasonable.

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  20. This is a great vision of conservatism Dan, one I could respect even when I disagreed with it. It’s pretty aspirational right now, but every movement needs ideals to aspire to, and yours are a lot better than anything else I’ve seen coming from conservatism.

    I spend a lot of time thinking about unintended consequences – it’s one of the thornier problems in policy design. On the one hand unseen consequences are a real issue and one that turn the best-intentioned policy into a total mess, and the advocates of a policy will be the least able to see those hidden downsides. On the other hand “but unseen consequences” is a fully generalised argument against everything – any policy can be objected to on the grounds that something currently unobserved will cause a problem.

    You equate unseen forces to religion, and therein I see a problem. If you’re not careful, arguments about unintended consequences degenerate into a war of unsubstantiated assertions utterly unmoored from any external reality. I believe the solution to the problem lies not in faith but in science – don’t worship the mystery in the dark, but drag it into the light.

    There are things a government can do to manage unintended consequences – one thing is to have political independent experts evaluating policies in advance to see if they are likely to fall into the more common traps. Another is to require policies to be subjected to close monitoring during implementation (and ideally implementation should be phased with well-designed pilot programmes). Yet another is to change the kinds of policies government uses to solve policy problems. A lot of policies (and the ACA is a good example) are designed to hide their costs from voters. One of the reasons I support “government collects taxes and writes cheques with them” type interventions more than more direct regulation is that the costs of tax-funded policies are easier to see.

    Unfortunately all of this relies on voters wanting it. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance after all, and politicians certainly aren’t going to make themselves more accountable unless the voters demand it. But it seems to me that a party that genuinely wants to guard against unintended consequences would do well to advocate for these type of changes – they run perpendicular to standard partisan fights, but would produce a government that is less likely to misstep, and can correct more easily when it does.

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    • All philosophical discussions of this type are pointless when one party feels like it has a god given right to rule and spends most of it’s time doing everything in it’s power to completely destroy the other parties credibility to the extent that anything that party does is treason. Completely poisoning the well of government credibility is what’s responsible for Trump. Well that and not delivering anything you’ve talked about to the base.

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  21. Dan just gave a nice, thougthful explanation of conservativism. And the conclusion I, and a few others (although they didn’t state it so baldly) draw are ‘So it doesn’t exist, then?’

    Seriously. This is No True Scotsman, except it’s that ‘All True Conservatives walk around on ten foot high stilts yodeling Abba songs’.

    Those people…do not appear to exist. What Dan has described does not describe the Republican base. It doesn’t describe the ‘conservative writers’ in the press. It doesn’t describe the Republicans that like Trump. It doesn’t describe the Republicans that *don’t* like Trump. It doesn’t describe elected Republican politicians, either the current old guard, the Tea Parties that came in over last few year, or *anyone*, going back to Reagan. It doesn’t describe Barry Goldwater!

    It also doesn’t describe any of the traditional three prongs of the Republican party:
    1) Economic ‘freedom’, aka lack of taxes(Causing the entirely obvious problem of ‘no money’.), and free trade. (Talk about ‘unseen problems.)
    2) Social conservativism, which has, perhaps, the closest claim to warning about ‘unseen dangers’, but likes to keep *randomly inventing* unseen dangers long after they’ve been disproven. And also seems to think the best way to deal with social change is to pass regressive laws against it for decades after.
    3) Neocon warmongering, which is literally the opposite of worrying about unseen dangers.

    The Trump folks, as we’ve talked about here, kick out *all* those prongs, not caring a bit about any of them…but they aren’t doing it on the ground that ‘conservatives’ would either!

    I mean, I don’t intend any offense here to Dan. Dan, if you want the word conservative, you can have it. There is indeed a mythical breed of conservative thinkers out there, who do sit there and balance out laws with the unseen dangers they pose. They write books. I’ve read some of them.

    And I think, at this point, it’s pretty clear those poeple have f*** all to do with the Republican party, or 90% of people who call themselves conservative. So I don’t know what the point of *talking* about this ‘conservative philosophy’ is.

    As Trump has just demonstrated, a goodly portion of the Republican party are just *angry*. Half the stuff they’re angry at are stuff ‘conservatives’ have been doing?! And the other half is anger due to xenophobia and thinly-veiled racism.

    And as conservativism showed up hand in hand with the Southern Strategy, along with a massive influx of money (Well, we thought it was massive then), at this point I am questioning if it’s actually *ever* been a real driver of anything in American politics! Anything. At all.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not calling *conservativism* racist. I am asking if there’s any evidence at all that a significant portion of Americans *thought* in a conservative way. Or instead, as I suspect, has ‘conservative’ always just been a place for people to hang existing beliefs *on*?

    Now, this is to, to some extent, how *all* political philosophies work. People will happily use them to justify what they want to happen, even if, looking objectively, the political philosophy really doesn’t support that.

    But both liberalism and progressivism seem to have a goodly percentage of people who actually believe them, and tend to sorta self-correct back to that. Libertarianism too, come to think of it. People in those groups might wander off-track, local politics might even wander off-track, but they do eventually come back, or splinter off. On the whole, the direction of policy goals *mostly* matches that philosophy.

    Conservativism…doesn’t match. It has *never* matched. At *all*. The policy has always been bunch of random things that are, somehow, linked to ‘not changing’ or ‘less spending’.

    You know one of top ten political things in my Facebook newsfeed? A plea to *remove the income tax system of this country and replace it with sales tax*. This is clearly not even slightly keeping the status quo, and has a nearly unimaginable amount of ‘unseen’ effects….and it has ‘conservatives’ pushing it.

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    • There are four political words that no longer have any meaning, because Orwell. Socialism, fascism, liberal, conservative. Socialism and fascism are epithets. I recently had a conversation with someone about Venezuela that ended witn the other person saying, “So you’re not going to vote for Bernie.” There is no reasonable comparison between Bernie faux-socialism and real socialism. The opposite of liberal is authoritarian. The opposite of conservative is radical. So we now have a republican party, called conservative, which is actually radical.

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      • “The opposite of liberal is authoritarian.”
        Liberalism cuts a long swath through the middle of the x-axis. It can be anywhere from 0% authoritarian to 75% authoritarian, depending on what graphs you are using or how you are using it. At it’s highest it sets just to the right of Left Statism.

        The extreme x-y opposite of conservatism(and fascism) is far left anarchism. The y-axis opposite is Right anarchism, or ultra anarchism. There is nothing inherently more radical about anarchism than authoritarianism, other than the majority of the population has been conditioned to believe so. Anarchism has also been associated to the chaos that occurs when authoritarianism fails, at that point people are in a vengeful state anomie. That would happen with or without a condition of anarchy.

        It wouldn’t surprise me to see a y-axis inversion of the republican party, of course Trump would have to fail the masses who are invested in him ‘to make america great again’. It could be nothing, it could be big, no telling at this point.

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        • Liberalism cuts a long swath through the middle of the x-axis. It can be anywhere from 0% authoritarian to 75% authoritarian, depending on what graphs you are using or how you are using it. At it’s highest it sets just to the right of Left Statism.

          Authoritarianism, or at least *democratic* authoritarianism, requires some sort of populism to get in place, and elected populism will almost always have some aspect of liberalism(1), mainly because it’s impossible to get people to give you all that power unless you promise to make things much much better for them. (Which also means it only shows up when times are bad.)

          ‘Elect me dictator and everything will remain the same, or perhaps slowly changing to fit the times!’ is not really a good slogan.

          Of course, not all (Perhaps not even most) authoritarian government are elected, and a good deal of the remainder are only ‘elected’. Usually the tactic the not-really ‘elected’ use is populism, but directed at a very small group of people, claiming other *internal* groups harmed them, and then use violence and threats to get the rest of the power.

          The modern political axis we use is stupid. (And the two-axis replacement is even stupider, deliberately designed to make everyone come to the conclusion they’re a libertarian.) At the very least, we need ‘Who is considered ‘The other’?’ and ‘How should the other be treated?’.

          1) Or rather it will have progressivism, but let’s not get into that distinction.

          The extreme x-y opposite of conservatism(and fascism) is far left anarchism. The y-axis opposite is Right anarchism, or ultra anarchism. There is nothing inherently more radical about anarchism than authoritarianism, other than the majority of the population has been conditioned to believe so.

          I don’t think you’re using ‘radical’ correctly. If the population has been ‘conditioned’ into a having a government, aka, it’s how *everything in society functions*, removing that government is, indeed, ‘radical’.

          There is nothing inherent about the word ‘radical’ at all. It’s always based on ‘amount of change from what currently exists’.

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          • When times are bad, yes many things show up then. That doesn’t make the x-y axis any less useful?

            Populism is not the driving mechanism of politics of all for all. So where do we put things like Italian fascism as Roland so well addressed a few days ago? Is it in the same area as Stalin, or is the individual personification/individualization of authority a product of the right?

            How do you separate those on the left that would empower the state from those who would not? What is the degree of difference between conservative and libertarian. What are the different flavors of each.

            To make everyone a libertarian? I could just as easily say it was to make everyone a centrist liberal.

            What I do find is that people holding values at greatest distance apart on the x-y axis will tend to be at impassable odds in resolving the divergence in their values/moral alignments.

            Zac and I are pretty low y-axis dudes, but I doubt the span we hold on the x-axis could ever be resolved.

            Chip and I may have started relatively close in the x-y axis but he shifted left, and I shifted downward. Now we have a huge expanse between our preferences/moral alignments. There is no central box of unity, at any given time it is what it is.

            Using radical in several different ways, it is important to find the ‘change’ that is being conveyed. It is not the removal of government that is radical. It is the belief that Government is not ‘your’ institution, that, is radical. The discovery of this institution you thought was part of you actually isn’t yours at all. Hell it’s not only ‘not yours’ it’s not ‘good’ in numerous ways.

            But maybe Fortytwo can unpack ‘radical’ for us to be precise of the original meaning/intent.

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            • Joe Sal:
              How do you separate those on the left that would empower the state from those who would not? What is the degree of difference between conservative and libertarian. What are the different flavors of each.

              […]

              Zac and I are pretty low y-axis dudes, but I doubt the span we hold on the x-axis could ever be resolved.

              I think that first sentence is a bit of an oversimplification. There are areas where I want the state to have a great deal more power, and others where I want it to have radically less. What does that make me? Socialist/Libertarian Frankenstein? I mean, I identify wholeheartedly as part of the left, even though I have my disagreements with some of my fellow travelers. But I think most folks on the left, at least in this country, would agree with my second sentence. Hell, most people on the right would, too. It’s just that we might disagree over which areas of policy we want that power extended or retracted.

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              • Definitely not a Frankenstein but it is the difference, the left social binding that sets it apart from the individual binding of the right. Most of the people on the right would start agreeing as they diverge from the low y-axis.

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    • This picture is not of a horrible person who denies reality.

      It is, therefore, not a picture of a conservative.

      Because I’m totally smart, and I absolutely know what conservatives are like.

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      • Oh, I freely admit I *don’t* know what conservatives are like. In fact, I’ve literally said, repeatedly, over the years, that I do not understand conservativism.

        I understand what Dan and others *say about* it, and then I look at what it appears to actually be in practice, and say ‘That isn’t the same thing at all. It isn’t even in the same ballpark. You have described soccer, and I appear to be watching baseball.’.

        And, no I don’t think conservatives are horrible people who deny reality. In fact, I’m pretty certain there is no way to get ‘deny reality’ out of anything I said in my post. I’m not really sure where you got ‘horrible people’, either.

        Granted, I wasn’t too kind to the somewhat confused Trump supporters, who are angry at the establishment right (and left, for following along) for basically the same reasons the Democratic base are…but are too xenophobic to *come over* to the left. Or possibly just internalized how evil the left is. Which is kinda dumb of them. (And, hell, at least I’m taking their concerns *seriously*, unlike the idiotic chattering classes that can’t possibly understand what people are angry at. Gee, I don’t know, perhaps the fact they have no prospect of a better future and have come to realize that?)

        Likewise, as I said, I don’t think conservativism is, currently, hiding racism. I think, instead, that people have a bunch of beliefs, and sorta just *map* them into conservativism. Racism *was* one of those beliefs, and thus we got all sorts of weird ‘conservative’ justifications for various things to accomplish that.

        But that was the start. After that, various groups sorta…built things.

        The religious right invented ‘social issues’, and now changing abortion laws that have been in place for 50 years is ‘conservative’ (We *know* what the ‘unseen’ side effects of denying abortions is.), or denying people a marriage is ‘conservative’. (Unseen side effect: Destroying an entire generation’s belief in marriage.)

        The superrich invented ‘smaller government’ (Haha, except not.) and ‘lower taxes’, and now removing large amounts of revenue from the Federal government is ‘conservative’ (*Obvious* side effect: Government has no money.), or opening the borders for trade is ‘conservative’. (Obvious side effect…that giant sucking sound.)

        And the neocons decided that constantly meddling everywhere on the planet, including propping up middle east dictators, was a good plan. Thus resulting in sunshine and ponies!

        *None* of those fit Dan’s description. The tripod that the Republican party is *built* on seems very unrelated to conservativism, or at least what Dan has described as conservativism. Despite the fact it was literally built in the *name* of conservativism.

        If we accept Dan’s definition of conservative (And I really have no beef in that fight, he can have the word if he wants), discussing how conservatives think in the context of US politics is rather akin to discussing how Vajrayana Buddhists think in the context of US politics. Well, okay, it might be interesting, but we do know we’re talking about almost no one, right?

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        • The words “revanchist” and “restoration” are more fitting to the contemporary conservative movement than “conservative”.

          It isn’t about holding the line against further changes, or being skeptical or modest or cautious.

          Most people active in the conservative movement- the Erick Ericksons, Ted Cruzes- they are all from the younger side of the Boomer generation, my age.

          We came of age in the 70’s mostly, and never knew any culture prior to the Pill, Stonewall, Woodstock, Vatican II and feminism. We never earned a single paycheck that didn’t have a deduction for Medicare, we never knew an economy that didn’t have declining unionism and structural de-industrialization.

          So when someone my age starts going on about how great things were before the hippies and welfare queens messed things up, its not any personal knowledge they are referencing, its a borrowed second hand idea of what the world must have been like.

          And like most of our second hand ideas of the past, they get it wrong half the time, and the imaginary golden age is warped and distorted, and incapable of housing anything resembling real people.

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        • “who are angry at the establishment right (and left, for following along) for basically the same reasons the Democratic base are…but are too xenophobic to *come over* to the left.”

          *come over* Sheesh

          I like most you leftists individually, but when you get together and start deciding stuff….

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          • There is a party that is *somewhat* opposed to ‘free trade’.

            There is a party that is trying to strengthen the safety net for people out of work.

            There is a party that is trying to stimulate the economy.

            There is a party that agrees Iraq was a bad idea, at least in hindsight.

            There is a party that doesn’t want to destroy Planned Parenthood.

            People who want those things could vote for *either* of the people in that party. (If they want a strong opposition to free trade, they should probably pick Sanders.)

            Or they could vote for Trump, the Official Asshole of the 2016 Presidential Election, who is running in the *other* party.

            There are only three real reasons to do that: They like his position on that last 10%, his xenophobic nonsense of a giant wall or torturing people, they actually want an asshole as president, or they have been convinced, somehow, to never ever vote for a Democrat, because Democrats eat babies.

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  22. How did we get here? How did we get from a system designed to prevent the dangers of the unseen to one where the broader population appears oblivious to the unseen?

    Sweet Jesus, where does one start? 1976, when Ronald Reagan introduced the notion of the “welfare queen” to the hard working masses toiling for an increasingly shrinking paycheck? 1978, when Howard Jarvis induced Californians into doing away with their top of the line school system for the sake of a property tax decrease? (Talk about the dangers of the unseen!) 1968, when the Trickster introduced the southern strategy to fearful whites looking to bolt the party that gave America the Civil Rights Act? Or, more obviously, 1996, when Roger Ailes gave Americans interested in know nothingism a news channel designed especially for them?

    The Republican Party has spent the last 40 years, or more, attempting to create its own reality, and now that it finally has it, is staring the beast right in the face. Where were conservatives when St. Ronny reduced taxes and hiked defense spending? When GWB reduced taxes while fighting an extremely expensive war (“never get involved in a land war in Asia”!) on two fronts against a foe that hardly seemed to exist? When GWB and his Cabinet engineered bailouts of his buddies on Wall Street (talk about a missed opportunity for, and I quote, “disruptive innovation”)? I believe the answer is nowhere to be found.

    Conservatism: Died of a Theory, RIP

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  23. an attempted end-run around Senate approval of executive branch appointments.

    That is, a completely conventional use of recess appointments when the Senate used jiggery-pokery to camouflage the fact that it was in recess.

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  24. “But it cannot, say, estimate the increased collective social despair caused by difficulties breaking into the job market, or evaluate the importance of being active in a community for one’s spiritual health. Those are questions that can only be answered with intuition and deference to received wisdom.”

    Or psychology.

    Good job punching out the weakest guy on Team Science, though.

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  25. One way to think about conservative argumentation is that it prioritizes the unseen.

    I find this justification of conservatim bizarre

    So, essentially, conservatism is:
    “Yes, i am aware that there are these issues that should be addressed, and you have put forward aporoaches which might tackle these, but we shouldn’t try them because something i cant currently think of might go wrong”

    Except cutting taxes and invading other countries, of course. Those always work.

    I mean, snark off, but that’s just a way of rejecting anything you dont want to do without the bothe of even having to make up a reason.

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  26. The modern Republican party wins most consistently and decisively in low turnout elections. The advertised purpose of voter id is to maintain the integrity of our elections – in spite of no significant in-person voter fraud. This is OK, perhaps, in isolation. But the broader Republican strategy, applied in a number of Republican-controlled states, is to drastically reduce the number of polling places and reduce early voting. Why? So fewer people vote.

    Many modern conservatives are simply uninterested in the consent of the governed – they are authoritarian. The fact that so few conservatives have called for re-vitalizing the Voting Rights Act is a travesty. Republicans in Arizona, and other states, were sure eager to tweak the rules in their favor once the VRA was gutted by the Conservative wing of the Supreme Court. Coincidence? I doubt it. Similar games are played in e.g. Wisconsin, where the section 5 of the VRA never applied.

    The Republican party is plainly uninterested in expanding the appeal of its message. If it did so, after all, Republicans would be forced to govern akin to Nixon, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush – pragmatically, rather than purely ideologically. Lest we forget the EPA was created under Nixon, Reagan dealt with CFCs and implemented amnesty, etc. It’s quite difficult to imagine modern Conservatives governing similarly.

    We should never forget that the Affordable Care Act is, in large part, one of the conservative counter-proposals to Hillarycare in the 90’s courtesy of the Heritage think-tank. Of course, it was never a serious proposal; however, the subsequent rightward shift of the Republican party has left virtually no intellectual space for a serious counter-proposal to the ACA. This also illustrates how far right the Democratic party has moved along with the Republican party: from single-payer Medicare in 1960s to the ACA in 2010.

    Conservatives once had a valid complaint about media bias. Over the last 30 years or so, however, many conservative intellectuals have systematically isolated themselves inside a cozy echo-chamber. Many conservative minds have become closed as a result, becoming largely theory-driven, rather than reality-driven. Conservative policy prescriptions never need to evolve with the times – supply-side economics will work in all circumstances, always, after all.

    There is a growing push to destroy public universities on the Right and remake them into Phoenix University-like, purely profit-driven entities. So-called “academic freedom” bills are eagerly passed, damaging our public schools in the process. The Right has become anti-science, and reflexively against any public institution.

    Conservatives seemed to have forgotten the limits of military power, and I fear they still haven’t learned the right lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Trump is the ultimate realization of Nixon’s Southern Strategy, coupled with a systematic isolation of conservative minds, media, and base. Had the Republican party refused the likes of Strom Thurmond and his ilk when they decided to switch parties, history might be quite different. But then they would’ve lost elections. Very similarly, the party should have largely rebuked the Tea Party.

    Trump is a merely a symptom, authoritarianism is the disease. The Republican chickens have come home to roost. The current incarnation of the Republican party needs to be destroyed, and Trump’s nomination is the best hope.

    Whither Eisenhower Republicans?

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    • The modern Republican party wins most consistently and decisively in low turnout elections.

      About 37% of the adult citizen population make up the core electorate. About 18% make up the peripheral electorate. This hasn’t changed much in 40 years.

      Your side has an advantage among low-information voters. This isn’t something to boast about.

      The advertised purpose of voter id is to maintain the integrity of our elections – in spite of no significant in-person voter fraud.

      Well, if you do not look for it, you’re not going to find it. The neuralgic reaction among partisan Democrats to something as bland as being asked to show your drivers’ license before voting is an indication that ACORN types have been up to something or are anxious that screens are being installed which could inhibit voting by convicts and illegal aliens.

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      • You should never presume to know my side.

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/07/09/7-papers-4-government-inquiries-2-news-investigations-and-1-court-ruling-proving-voter-fraud-is-mostly-a-myth/

        https://rewire.news/article/2015/03/16/ohios-voter-fraud-investigation-finds-almost-nothing/

        http://web.archive.org/web/20110408045621/http://www.truthaboutfraud.org/pdf/TruthAboutVoterFraud.pdf

        A true “success” story in Ohio. Voter ID will ultimately disenfranchise many more people (mostly elderly). Merely coincidence, I suppose?

        If Republicans frequently introduced voter ID and then proceeded to make voting easier more broadly, there’d be no real problem.

        This doesn’t happen very often, and when it does, it usually only happens after significant damage is done. Arizona proceeded to (1) pass voter ID, (2) dramatically reduce the number of polling places from roughly 200 to 60 polling places from 2012 to 2016. Coincidence? Is it also coincidence that similar games were played by Florida Republicans in 2012? Wisconsin (early voting tweakin’)?

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        • Voter ID will ultimately disenfranchise many more people (mostly elderly). Merely coincidence, I suppose?

          Voter ID disfranchises no one bar those too absent minded to keep their drivers license in their wallet or purse. I’m not inclined to promote voting by dingbats, nor is anyone of sense.

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          • I’ll be sure to tell every damn fucking blind person in the city that they’re dingbats.
            Plenty of people don’t have drivers licenses — when you’re 85, are you really going to still have one?

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          • Remember, everyone, Art Deco, the person always ready to assume evil motives of the government and both parties…

            …sees nothing fishy about laws that appear to stop *absolutely no lawbreaking at all*, but have resulted in large amounts of people unable to vote.

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            • “Remember, everyone, Art Deco, the person always ready to assume evil motives of the government and both parties…

              …sees nothing fishy about laws that appear to stop *absolutely no lawbreaking at all*, but have resulted in large amounts of people unable to vote.”

              That’s why when right-wingers, calling themselves conservatives, argue against changes[1] by warning of unseen catastrophes, liberals call ‘bull’.

              [1] Changes which they don’t want; when they have a chance to radically alter societ, they take it, and take it hard.

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              • The vast majority of adults carry drivers’ licenses

                Oh, well, as long as only a minority of voters are disenfranchised, I’m sure that’s the same as ‘no one’.

                and states which have enacted voter ID have provided alternative channels for obtaining picture IDs.

                Erm, no, they haven’t. They have ‘channels’, but they are not, in any sense, ‘alternate’ channels. They are the exact same channels as driver’s licenses. And equally hard to get, except for the ‘driving test’ and ‘vision test’ part.

                There are, in fact, hundreds of thousands of people in this country still alive who never had *birth certificates*. At all. But they’re almost all minorities so who cares about them.

                We’re not stupid. We did notice that Jeff K, at the very start up there, did, in fact, provide you a bunch of information about how these laws were stopping *imaginary* fraud. Did you read those links?

                There is not actually any point in arguing with you about this, as you have clearly made up your mind that complaining about this is one of the ‘bad things’ that Democrats do…despite the fact that almost every court has said there is basically no voter fraud going on at all, and it’s easy to find *hundreds* of people who find it difficult to get ID. And despite the fact that DMVs keep getting closed. And despite the fact that states keep inventing rules so as to exclude college IDs.

                Art Deco, you used to have at least a little of my respect. Sure, you were a bomb-throwing anarchist that disliked both sides equally, but at least it seems like you distrusted *everyone*.

                Which is exactly why I’m amazed to find you sprouting Republican *voter suppression* nonsense, especially the idea that someone would commit a *felony* to create *one additional vote*, especially since there’s a way to do that in a lot of states (Requesting an absentee ballot) that *doesn’t* result in you committing the felony *while standing around in front of people*.

                People will sit there and blatantly lie to the government for all sorts of reason. They will lie to get money, or keep money, they will lie to stay out of jail, they will sometimes lie to get others in jail. What they *won’t* do is lie to cast a single vote, because everyone damn well knows a single vote doesn’t matter. There is no possible reward matrix in which ‘a thing that has almost no odds of tilting an election, where I really can live with either outcome’ is worth risking a felony. Maybe if the candidate ran on a promise to hunt them for sport or something, it might be worth it, but generally, no.

                All in-person voter fraud, which, again, barely exist, and almost all of the *actual* voter fraud (Which is mostly people voting other people’s absentee ballots for them, along with a few morons who try to sell their *actual* vote on craigslist or whatever.), can be traced back to dumbasses who think that sort of thing is not illegal, or maybe a small fine, and they’re doing it because it takes no work on their part.

                Actual voter fraud(1) that *tilts elections* requires, obviously, more than one voter in a conspiracy, and this simply *doesn’t happen*…people are fairly dubious being paid to vote a specific way, and certainly would have issues with being paid for vote a certain way *under a different name*.

                The odds that someone could scrap together even a tenth of a percent of the electorate, and then get them on the voter rolls, and manage to parade them through voting places without anyone blabbing, is nearly zero. (Oddly enough, no Republican ever seems have noticed that an obvious way to ‘catch this’ is to have a *big reward* and immunity posted on the ballot to people who agree to commit voter fraud and then had second thoughts in line. Weird. Almost as if they know that isn’t happening.)

                1) As opposed to general *election fraud*, things like manipulating the machines or the voting totals, or just the election people operating the voting machines themselves and then crossing voter names off the list. Which is *actually* how most famous examples of ‘voter fraud’ worked. You go back to 1960s Chicago, for example, and pass a voter-id law there, and it would do nothing, because *the election officials were in on the fraud*, and just waving people through multiple times.

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      • You couldn’t identify a stalking horse if it bit you on the ass.
        I, on the other hand, understand what ACORN was about. Housing, jackass, not manufacturing votes in stupid, easily catchable ways.

        But you’re off in your own little world where reality doesn’t need to actually show up.

        OBAMA’S GONNA TAKE YOUR GUNS!! Please, come buy some ammunition…
        [again, you couldn’t recognize a stalking horse if it bit you on the ass].

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  27. Dan, in the header on the front page, you say ‘Conservatism stresses deference to the unseen. Trump rejects that out of hand, and he’s on the verge of the Republican nomination. What happened?’

    I would argue that Trump stresses the unseen very much. He’s always talking about the incredible things that he’ll somehow accomplish. And his story changes from day to day (are we going to reduce foreign wars, or go into Syria?).

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