Conservatives: “We’re Doing Great! Just Ask Us”

By | 2016-10-21T12:07:03+00:00 October 21st, 2016|
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Noah Rothman, in characteristic charitable fashion, takes on a view that he attributes only to “white nationalist[s],” “opinion writers who fancy themselves respectable sorts” (i.e., who are beneath a Commentary columnist), and people who wish for despotism. Got that? Racists, losers and fascists are the only people who question Conservatism, Inc.’s claim to rousing and recent success.

Rothman repeats the truism that Republicans scored two yuuuuge midterm wins in the Obama era and even cites numbers to make his case unassailable. Thirty-two lieutenant governorships! He breezes over liberalism’s titanic policy, administrative, cultural and legal victories over this period—to say nothing of prior periods.

To make the case for conservatism’s successes, Rothman turns to a piece from February by NR’s Charles C.W. Cooke. Cooke’s piece struck me then, as Rothman’s does now, as a preemptive plea for his job. It’s not our fault that you think conservatism has failed across the board! In fact, it’s a big success! Keep giving! Please!

Anyway, as it happens, I addressed Cooke’s case at some length on my old blog. I re-post the relevant section (remarkably short for a 1,600 word article of which it is the centerpiece) below. The main text is Cooke’s; bracketed interjections, mine:

the tarring and feathering of the reflexively technocratic mindset that obtained from the outset of the New Deal to the end of the 1970s [vague; what specifically do you mean?]; the marginalization of wage and price controls, and of other centralizing tools [“marginalization”? are you seriously arguing that America life is less centralized today that it was 10, 20, 30, 40 (and so on and on) years ago?]; the lowering of destructive tax rates on income and other forms of wealth [fair enough, but haven’t we reached diminishing marginal returns when we essentially grant tax-exempt status to hedge-fund billionaires?]; the deregulation of a significant number of major industries [and you see no downside to the abandonment of anti-trust?]; a renewed focus on national sovereignty [you have to be kidding]; the successful reform of the welfare system [which Obama reversed while the Republicans stood by and watched]; a consensus around free trade [oh, you bet! but what has this “conserved” beyond 1%er incomes and profits?]; a much lower minimum wage [ditto]; a focus on both the text and the original meaning of the Constitution when discussing limits on government power [among eggheads, maybe; the actual results in the courts are close to nil; thank you, Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter and John Roberts!]; the restoration of the right to keep and bear arms [we’ll grant D.C. v. Heller as a genuine accomplishment, but calling it a “restoration” is a stretch]; the stronger protection of freedom of expression [this has to be a joke; campuses are more illiberal than ever and dissent in the broader country often means losing your job; Mike Ditka just got fired for saying Obama is a good man but a bad leader; that’s one of but a million examples]; a national partial-birth-abortion ban [necessary only because of the greatest abuse of judicial power since Dredd Scott, and even then Gonzales v. Carhart walked Roe back about two millimeters]; the death of speech-killing “campaign-finance reform” [to make it even easier for the donor class to dominate elections and smother dissent]; and, lest we forget, the peaceful dismantling of the Soviet Union [bad choice of words; the Soviets did the dismantling themselves, though I give conservatives some credit for forcing them into it]. For some much-needed context, understand that the GOP’s standard-bearer in the early 1970s, Richard Nixon, was the mind behind the Environmental Protection Agency, whereas today’s Republican candidates are opposed to so many departments that they can’t always remember all of their names [and of which they’ve abolished, or even checked the expansion of, exactly zero].

Note that nearly all the actual policy “victories” in that list are nothing more than implementations or entrenchments of the Davoisie rapacity agenda. Perhaps the weakness of the case explains why none of the intellectual right’s “big guns” have tried to make a better one, but were content to let a fledgling foreigner charge that hill. And remember, that’s the best case that anyone has so far tried to make. What it shows is that the Republican Party isn’t even effective in opposition.

When Rothman strikes out on his own, the first thing he mentions is that “more than half of the Union is now right-to-work.” Is this meant to flash in neon the out-of-touchery of the Acela intellectual? The Trump rebellion is fueled in very large part by blue collar workers fed up with the economic trajectory of the post-NAFTA era. What does gutting their unions do to conserve their jobs, their communities, their allegiance to the Republican party? It’s great for the donor class—I get that. But how hard is it to see that, at the very least, the results of this policy are not perceived or experienced as great by the people it directly affects, many of whom the Party desperately needs to win elections?

That’s to leave completely aside the justice of such measures. A non-doctrinaire conservative should be able to see that voluntary, private sector unions are useful and just when they protect the legitimate interests of workers against overweening capital, harmful and unjust when they stifle productivity and promote rent-seeking. Circumstances matter. The days of industry-crushing Big Labor are long gone. In hedge-fund, Davos America, the little guy needs help.

Next up is that perennial urban right-wing bugaboo, the teachers unions. I admit, I too used to be hard over on this one. Bad unions! And, to be clear, I still oppose public sector unions in principle. But I have come to believe it’s much too pat to ascribe all our schools’ problems on the unions. The collapse of sensible curricula may have been abetted by the unions. But that movement was devised in the universities, evangelized by the ed schools, and enforced by the feds.

Besides, the deeper problem is the students—specifically, the flooding of so many formerly American districts with foreign, non-English-speaking children whom our system is not designed to teach, and whom in any case it was not built to teach and should not exist to teach. It’s supposed to be for us, the citizenry, and our posterity. To blame decent, decently educated middle-aged women for failing to make Central American economic migrants—many with no father—achieve at the level of American kids is perverse. One thing the unions do accomplish is to give middle class Americans—actual citizens, born here—a lifeline to live and earn a living in the communities where they and their forebears have lived for generations. Outrageous!

Rothman then notes that Republicans stopped the DREAM Act. I’m glad they did! But wait. Rothman doesn’t actually say he’s glad. He just notes that they did it. A little cursory Googling reveals Rothman to be an open borders shill in favor of “comprehensive immigration reform.” So there’s one conservative success that the “conservative” Rothman opposed. It’s enough to make one question the integrity of the rest of his list.

Which, to be honest, is just lame. That’s not to say that every “achievement” he cites is worthless. But taken altogether, they don’t even come close to matching—much less overcoming—liberalism’s gains. The trajectory remains left, left, left. If Rothman and his #NeverTrump friends get their wish, that trend will accelerate. Then we can look forward to more such pieces. “The Big Conservative Victory of Limiting Hillary’s 2017 Refugee Plan to 950,000 When She Demanded One Million.”

About the Author:

Publius Decius Mus
Publius Decius Mus, or "Decius," is a Contributing Editor of American Greatness.
  • jack dobson

    I laughed quite a bit but, really, it’s time to start ignoring Administrative State court jesters such as Rothman and Cooke. No one takes these trained circus poodles seriously any longer, most of all the Statists who hold higher and higher the flaming hoops through which the little mutts jump.
    Incidentally, the people who caused the 2010 and 2012 landslides are the same ones who were roundly trashed by the likes of Rothman, and the very voters who made Trump the Republican nominee. Some even are dreaded, gasp, union members.

    The divorce is final and Conservatism, Inc.’s Buckleyite clown act old, tired and irrelevant.

    • Peter Henderson

      What will likely happen if Clinton is elected is that the younger, more daring, and more tech-savvy elements on the right will become more active, such as the libertarians and Alt Right. Since these two are pretty far apart, the right will grow more chaotic. Clinton will try to implement censorship and intensify though-reform in the schools and wherever government trains workers, but hopefully there will be pushback on the internet and enough tech-savvy rightists to keep the electrons flowing.

      • Forbes

        >”Clinton will try to implement censorship and intensify though-reform in the schools and wherever government trains workers, but hopefully there will be pushback…”

        No, Clinton won’t have to lift a finger. Just as the IRS under Obama obstructed conservative 501c applications without any hesitation, gangster government will proceed without any instructions from Hillary. They have their play book–they don’t need marching orders to commence.

        • Peter Henderson

          The Alt Right has the right idea in one sense: they refuse to acknowledge the left’s right to set limits to acceptable discourse. The establishment right does not dare to defend free speech except in can’t-lose cases. Without freedom of speech all other freedoms are illusory. William Burroughs once said ‘the ultimate police state would need no police.’ Self-policing, which is now very common, saves the left the embarrassment (and added risk) of having to arrest people for disagreeing with them. During the Cold War the left was all about free speech. Not so today. Wonder why….

  • QET

    Another compelling Decius entry, but I admit to having to choke down his remarks on teachers’ unions. Like him, I am opposed on principle to public employee unions, which today, not only in principle but in practice, are important contributors to the declining health of the body politic: the Leftward impetus of the national government requires us more and more to have to deal with government employees, and their unions almost entirely disincentivize them to remember that they work for us and not the other way around. And in a rare bit of disingenuousness, Decius sets up–dare I say it?–a strawman: no one to my knowledge ascribes all our schools’ problems to the teachers’ unions. The emphasis of those of us who find fault with the way in which the teachers’ unions have conditioned the operation of the public school systems is not in the “teachers'” but in the “unions,” and really it is not necessary to single out teachers’ unions for special scorn, as it the class that we oppose, not just a particular member or two.

    • rashirey

      Excellent observations QET, Decius should have condemned the teacher union statist leaders in the strongest terms , although the rank and file members are largely “useful idiots” !

  • stuart.macdonald

    Here is the real irony of the above. Heller is rightfully conceded as a real accomplishment. While Robert Levy of Cato financed and was the brains behind the Heller argument. I am not so certain that the ground work for the victory in Heller wasn’t laid by former border patrolman Harlon Carters take over of the NRA in 1977, where the emphasis of the organization was changed from promoting shooting sports to political advocacy. While Levy clearly is a conservative intellectual, Carter though an educated man really wasn’t. If you follow public opinion polling from 1975 to 2005 on the second amendment, you will see the NRA did change minds. You would be surprised how many “rednecks” actually do understand at a theoretical level why the second amendment matters.

    Now I know the NRA was against filing the Heller case what I am arguing is that Heller was winnable because for close to thirty years the NRA laid the groundwork in the public mind. I am convinced that conservatism is losing is because professional conservatives spend too much time talking to each other and writing for people like me with whom you can use the word virtu’ without having to explain it. But for everyday usage balls and grit come close enough.

    Though Decius’ flight 93 election wasn’t written for them because Rush Limbaugh read it on the air I have had the opportunity over the last few weeks to explain it to a diesel mechanic, a tool pusher, a bill board installer, and a truck driver. They got it, they understood that the administrative state was out of control and why it’s bad. I even concluded it by telling them about Plato’s guardians and how the problem was the guardians were inept. You know when Trump says the country is run by idiots that’s really all he’s saying. At least that’s the connection these men made.

    If men who never got further than th Sunshine Consolidated School can basically get this many others could as well, but they aren’t really being talked to. We won on the second amendment because we talked about it to common people, we lost on about everything else because we haven’t. We have got to all learn to condescend in the 18th century sense of the word.

    • Peter Henderson

      Excellent point and informative. The NRA went ideological, though perhaps not as ideological as it should have. A number of right-wing positions appeal to the masses but they are the same ones that offend the neocons and endanger the careers of those known to espouse them. This seems to leave the right with no way to win except to go populist, which is how Trump gained his great success, but this terrifies the establishment, including the conservative establishment, especially the neocons, who think the Third Reich is returning. So reaching out to the masses won’t help unless one is able to deal with the hostile response of the CINOs, who control the purse. (which is dramatized by the billionaire Trump’s unprecedented success in publicly breaking speech taboos put in place by the left but meekly accepted by the right.) IMO there is room for successful and potent advocacy of a conservative alternative in the following areas: 1) freedom of speech; 2) breaking up monopolies (the super-rich now having joined the enemy); 3) challenging the scientific pretensions of psychology and social science, to counter the demonization of religion and traditional or commonsense attitudes; 4) debunking feminism and the ideas behind gay parenting and single parenting; 5) research on fetal suffering during abortion; 6) undermining free trade dogma to secure the defense of nationalism and populism; 7) Publicizing the pro-Christian character of the current Russian leadership and the tensions it creates between Christians and Jews concerning the threat allegedly posed to Jews by self-determination in Slavic countries; 8) Publicizing the crimes of Communism with war-crimes trials, museums, and so forth. Being an ex-communist should carry the same stigma as being an ex-Nazi. If we had achieved this alone the country would still look like 1950s Peoria. For example, Hillary’s youthful worship of Saul Alinsky would doom her candidacy. Eugene Genovese asks in a Dissent article from the 90s why his audiences never ask him what he knew and when he knew it about the crimes of Communism.

  • Severn

    If America was a majority Jewish country. Commentary Magazine would be leading the charge to plant landmines and machine gun towers around its borders. From their “About Us” section.

    Since its inception in 1945, and increasingly after it emerged as the
    flagship of neoconservatism in the 1970s, the magazine has been
    consistently engaged with several large, interrelated questions: the
    fate of democracy and of democratic ideas in a world threatened by
    totalitarian ideologies; the state of American and Western security; the
    future of the Jews, Judaism, and Jewish culture in Israel, the United
    States, and around the world; and the preservation of high culture in an
    age of political correctness and the collapse of critical standards.

    COMMENTARY was founded in 1945 by the American Jewish Committee. To
    learn more about AJC, which has worked since 1906 to safeguard and
    strengthen Jews and Jewish life worldwide by promoting democratic and
    pluralistic societies that respect the dignity of all peoples, click here.

  • Peter Henderson

    As a baby boomer I recall the 1950s, lived through the Woodstock/antiwar era, the Reagan Revolution, and the Conservative Revolution of 1994 with its stillborn “Contract with America.” My sense is that, basically, the Soviet Union won the Cold War and we are headed for Crony Communism. The conservative movement has been ineffective because it is averse to winning, which is in turn because liberals control it. They own the microphones and presses and fund the think-tanks, which is why pro-life intellectuals like Tom Sowell write pro-choice columns when the chips are down. If conservatism means to you that high IQ people get to make a lot of money while indolent yobs are left to beg, conservatism might be doing okay. But that is not the conservatism of 1964. The right, unlike the left, has as its first priority kicking out extremists. Even such tame methods as a boycott are regarded as dangerous radicalism by the obstructionists in our ranks. Instead we should look for the nuggets of truth inside the rough ore of tabooed right-wing positions. We will see that racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia can all be constructed as defensible, hate-free positions. Instead of fleeing from labels, we should refuse to be defined by our enemies’ communist lingo and gleefully break their taboos. No country lacking free speech can be called a democracy. The demise of free speech in Europe has not been condemned by a single American politician and very few journalists, even on the right. And if Hillary gets in and appoints Cass Sunstein to the Supreme Court, you can kiss the First Amendment goodbye. After that revolution becomes the only option. So if conservatives don’t offer a more vigorous and full-bodied opposition now, while they still have access to the airwaves, they will be partly to blame for the choice between violence and acquiescence in total defeat later.

  • I generally refrain from commenting unless I genuinely think I have something to add to the discussion, but I just can’t resist saying reading this post, and “American Greatness,” is like watching that scene in “Good Will Hunting” when Will schools the Harvard snob about American history. The smug, self-satisfied, snobbery of Conservative, Inc. rivals the progressives in its disdain and condescension.

  • clazy8

    It is “gutting unions” to allow workers to choose whether or not to join? So much for your anti-elitism. I guess some elites are more out of touch than others.

  • Sean

    I’m an utter pleb when it comes to finance, but I trust Decius implicitly. His grim, Cassandra-like hysterics pretty much mirror my own outlook (no sarcasm). But can anyone give me a primer on the problems with carried interest? I just googled it and read the wiki. I get that that phrase is short-hand for “how hedge fund billionaires attain a degree of wealth that is detrimental to the Republic,” but how so?