Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Pleasant Surprise

By analyzing site hits, it seems I attracted some above-average traffic via Google searches yesterday by blogging a post on Ann Coulter by Linda Hirshman. Going from these search reslts, I came across a lefty idea blog, TPMCafe, and the first two parts of a series (here and here) by Ms. Hirshman examining liberal principles by starting with a recent post on an attempted philosophy of environmental policy and working backwards (please pardon that sentence's construction). What a pleasant surprise.

Now, I don't know why I had never really noticed TPMCafe before now, given I've had TPM on the blogroll for years (other than I just don't have a lot of time for lurking in leftist haunts), but they basically do stick to the examination of ideas; contrast this to typical liberal pablum like Paul Krugman's recent "analysis" of the "modern right-wing political machine."

Now, of course, while it is largely internally consistent (something I always appreciate), Ms. Hirshman's examination is riddled with false premises--something I'm not going to go into here--so I cannot agree with many of her conclusions. Nevertheless, she makes several good points and hers is an exercise worth reviewing and, frankly, the kind of effort (re-examining first principles) that appears to be lacking sorely on the right. (Someone please prove me wrong on this last point.)


  1. Just ran across your blog for the first time.

    While I can't disagree that everyone should revisit first principles periodically, I can tell you that I do so from time to time, and such posts tend to get linked under the "posts to remember" heading in my sidebar.

    Should more people do so, more often? Yes, of course. But it's not unheard of.

  2. Thanks for stopping by. I do occassion your blog and have seen your best ofs.

    It's a fair point that some revisiting does occur, but I'm talking about taking it to a different level.

    Look at your "Back to Basics" post as an example. As a person on the political right, I can't disagree with any of your "principles," but in and of themselves they don't express sufficient coherency to give meaningful right-of-center guidance on many issues of the day like tax policy, health care payment reform, immigration, or the Long War.

    Successful political movements require a coherent philosophy. Right now, not that I necessarily include myself in the camp, self-described "conservatives" are all over the map on each of these issues. The political state of conservatism struggles a bit today because it is largely a victim of its own success. In the last 25 years, the Cold War has been won, taxes have been lowered, welfare has been reformed, crime rates are lower, and the Supreme Court is more constructionist, just to name a few. Nevertheless, "going back to Reagan conservatism," a refrain I often hear, is not sufficient for the simple reason that the circumstances of the world are markedly different from Reagan's time.

    So, let me ask it this way: In a philosophical sense, what makes a conservative today? Until the answer to that question informs and infuses a major political party, the political right-of-center will likely remain splintered, and we will face lousy choices, such as having to hold our noses and pulling the lever for the likes of Messrs. Giuliani and Schwarzenegger, or voting for someone who doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning.

  3. Well, I think that it's a fallacy to suggest that "conservatives" are one group.

    There are pro-lifers, fiscal conservatives, war hawks, nationalists, and libertarians. There's a lot of overlap between these labels, but there important differences and emphasis, and fewer people than you might think embrace all these at once.

    As in any political party, there's not just one political philosophy, but a coalition of views.

    And, sometimes, coalitions come apart. The appears to be happening to the Republicans now.

    If you're looking for the underlying principles of conservatism, I would point to traditional Judeo-Christian morality, combined with a constructionist view of the Constitution, a preference for free-market over government solutions to problems, and a federalist ideal that when government must intervene, it's best done at the lowest-possible level of government.

    Therefore: Immigration should be legal, not illegal. Abortion is murder. Government spending should be cut. Wars should be declared by Congress, but we should be prepared to defend our interests militarily. The government shouldn't be in the business of ensuring that everyone has healthcare. Taxes should be minimized. Marriage is the union of a man and woman.

    But that's my opinion. We seem to have some leading candidates who don't share some of these principles, and their supporters seem quite willing to throw their fellow uncompromising conservatives under the bus.

    Let me point out that it is NOT a conservative "first principle" that Hillary Clinton must be kept from the White House at all costs. But that certainly seems to be the view of many Republicans today.

    The GOP today is on the road to shattering the coalition that President Reagan assembled. The nomination of Rudy Giuliani will leave social conservatives effectively without a political home, and we will have to find or make a new one.

    Frankly, most of us don't understand the willingness of our fellow coalition partners to dis us in this way. It appears that they aren't really pro-life after all, despite their protestations to the contrary, or perhaps they are fooled by the Mayor's promises to appoint conservative judges, and the false claims (heard every four years) that appointing judges is the only thing that a president can do about abortion.

    But there are candidates, like Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, and Alan Keyes, who embrace, more or less, all of these principles.

  4. Again, I can't disagree with much other than that the principles you list aren't primary, but intermediate. I probably will have to break out what I mean into a separate post.

    Regardless, I am with you on the whole "Hillary must be stopped at all costs" mentality. It sounds like you were listening to the same make-me-want-to-punch-the-dashboard discussion I heard on Bill Bennett's program Wednesday morning. I am completely unwilling to accept the premise that only Giuliani can defeat Clinton in the general election. Nevertheless, even if it were true, some things are worth losing elections for.



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