Forgetting Wilson (Reply to Jonah Goldberg)

Much as I might enjoy debating the comparative progressivism of President Warren “Racial Amalgamation There Cannot Be” Harding; much as, armed by biography, I’m ready to stand up for Professor President Thomas Woodrow Wilson against the dextrosphere’s leading anti-intellectual intellectuals, I’m happy to accept Jonah Goldberg’s suggestion that we look instead to larger and more pressing issues:

The reason why it is both important and necessary for conservatives to tackle the progressive era is that that’s where the assumptions of 20th century liberalism begin… If Wilson isn’t the best poster boy for Progressivism, tactically or substantively,  I’m open to alternative nominations. But the notion that conservatives are wasting energy in assaulting the progressive era strikes me as exactly wrong. We’ve wasted time in not attacking until all too recently.

In the process of quite correctly characterizing my prior defense of Wilson as not “all that powerful” (I was seeking balance, not apotheosis), Mr. Goldberg also gives his own view on relevant context (emphasis in the original):

A big chunk of [MacLeod’s] critique boils down to an argument I’ve heard many times: Wilson (or this or that progressive) merely reflected the prevailing ideas at the time. Well, that’s sort of my argument, you know? That these were the prevailing ideas at the time: Collectivism, eugenics, militarism (both as a mobilizing metaphor as well as the real thing), nationalism, statolatry, technocracy and – in America – a desire to “Europeanize,” often on Bismarckian lines,  political institutions and arrangements. And while these ideas were popular in all sorts of places, their champions were the Progressives.

As volunteer conservative left deviationist progressive apologist, I have previously composed my own lists of to me less obviously bad progressivisms, seeking to highlight those Progressive Era reforms that I judge as integrated with American life, but, even if we stick with Goldberg’s version, we’re still left with perhaps the largest question:  Why were the Progressives able not just to champion these things, but in championing them gain control of American politics, and set the country and the world on a course they’ve been on ever since?

Some might want to attribute the Progressives’ vast political success to the diabolical genius of charismatics, conspirators, and tricksters, but much more persuasive explanations are readily available.  They often start with statistics on American life from the middle of the 19th Century to the first decades of the 20th (Wilson’s lifespan, one point for posterization) regarding employment, urbanization, production, immigration, communication, transportation, fertility, income, and on and on.  For example:  Population:  More than quadrupled, 50% of the increase through immigration.  Proportion receiving wages and living in urban settings:  From small minority to vast majority.  Communication:  speed of horse to speed of light.

It was in relation to such changes that Goldberg’s favorite scholar, Ronald Pestritto, was questioned by his colleague Jean M. Yarbrough, in the conclusion of her review of Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism and Woodrow Wilson: The Essential Political Writings:

[O]ne wishes that Pestritto had extended his analysis to the presidential years to see how Wilson’s academic theories fared when confronted with political reality. Although [Roots…] touches briefly on the 1912 election and beyond in a concluding chapter, this question goes largely unexplored. Finally, one wishes that Pestritto had given his political imagination a bit more scope and had tried to envision what solutions to the novel problems of industrialization, urbanization, and mass immigration, as well as the old problems of racial injustice and growing economic inequality, the founders might have devised.

Yes, indeed, one surely might so finally wish – for these are exactly the problems that Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, numerous lesser politicians, sundry intellectuals publishing relatively late in the Populist-Progressive Era, and, more important, millions upon millions of Americans not only set themselves to solving intellectually, but were confronting everywhere, everyday, without a century to ponder possible over-dependence on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, and regardless of how much they might have preferred to live in a Jeffersonian agrarian republic, a Bellamyite super-commune, or, equally unreachable, the largely pre-industrial America of Wilson’s early childhood.

Once we accept that, for better or worse, the Progressives were responding to Something Real, then it’s clear that the task for conservatives isn’t to find good reasons to “condemn” Wilson or anyone else, but to develop alternative, additional, or ameliorative responses, if any, to that manifold Something Real – still with us, 100 years more real and manifold, and greater in extent by circumferences of the planet, at least, in multiple dimensions.  If, like a commenter at HotAir, you’re happy to dismiss the Federal Reserve System, Anti-Trust legislation, and the Federal Trade Commission as “junk, junk, junk,” then just how do you propose to distribute capital equitably and productively in a complex modern economy, and to preserve competitive and entrepreneurial opportunities for small and medium business? Before you answer:  Remember to achieve the same thing in relation to the globalization of raw economic and political power that Americans of the Progressive Era accomplished on the national level.  The same burden must be lifted or off-loaded for every other aspect of Progressivism and post-Progressivism that you, radical-constitutional anti-statist anti-prog to your toes, must be ready to dispose of instantly, as so much junk, junk, junk.

As the scope of our inquiry thus widens to encompass the present day, it naturally circumscribes the further past as well, but Goldberg demurs:  Responding to his friend US News writer Scott Galupo, Goldberg rejected the idea in a manner that resembles his rejection of that un-powerful mitigation defense of mine discussed above:

If you want to claim everything stemming from the Western Enlightenment tradition as “progressive” you’re free to do so. But analytically, where does that get you? By this logic we’re all progressives—and by all, I mean conservatives, libertarians, Bolsheviks, liberals, anarchists, and Maoists—because we’re not Medievalists.

Maybe it gets us this far: The Progressives were not an aberration.  They represent continuity, under radically transformed circumstances, in the same direction as the Founders’ historic statement to the ages, which has been succinctly translated into modern vernacular by historian Gordon Wood:

The illimitable progress of mankind promised by the Enlightenment could at last be made coincident with the history of a single nation.  For the Americans at least, and for others if they followed, the endless cycle of history could finally be broken.

It was much the same promise that Tommy W. Wilson, 24 years old, could embrace in 1881, when he associated himself with a “younger generation of Southern men… full of the progressive spirit.” It’s the same promise all Americans still have available to them more than a century later – among other things:  to progress beyond Progressivism, and to expose today’s nominal progressives as the regressive, reactionary anachronisms they too often are.

For the space of an extended epoch, men and women of the progressive spirit re-defined America because Americans increasingly voted for them to do so.  Compared to the socialists, communists, anarchists, and, later, the fascists, all representing varieties of panic in the face of industrialism and its discontents, the Progressives qualify as relatively and meaningfully conservative.  Whatever they perceived, thought, and did wrong, they conserved enough of the American possibility for us still to be arguing about it today – in their day no certain prospect.

No one sane has a way forward that won’t still leave us in their shadow for the foreseeable/imaginable future.  Their mere negation may have seemed a tenable political position at the dawn of the Age or Episode of Obama, but is less so under approaching responsibility, in perilous times.  I differ with Robert Laird/Instapunk on particulars, but I like how he frames the needed discussion in his own post on Wilson – away from “him” or “them,” toward “us” (original emphasis):

The potential destruction of America and its constitution is not a predestined outcome of a plot hatched by Woodrow Wilson and his racist, anti-semitic Princeton football cronies. It’s a possible outcome of our inattentiveness, our indifference, our poor decision making, our short-sighted thinking and convenient memories. It’s nice to know where dangerous and contemporarily destructive ideas originated. But it doesn’t absolve us of our responsibilities. Which are located in the here and now, with absolutely no room for evasion or delusion.

In other words: Forget Wilson. He doesn’t really matter.

Of much more concern: The deep improbability that the bromides of yesteryear – sung over a chorus of “NO!” – can do more than motivate a fickle segment of the electorate for a short while, or to any great purpose.  This assessment seems to haunt the hated, hunted pundits and office-holders who decline the path of least immediate resistance to the Tea Party and its hosts. Meanwhile, the hard right’s anger with the “traitors,” with the progressives, and with the Wilsonian Progressives – not the disagreement, the annihilating anger – derives first from their self-imposed isolation from the American project, but also from fearful uncertainty, no clear idea what the dog will do with the rambling wreck if he catches it; and from fearful certainty, of the compromises and betrayals to come, forced on imaginary purisms by consensual mass democracy.

Conservatives will, by definition, look to the past for inspiration and instruction.  The 18th Century British politician and essayist Edmund Burke, a man whom Jonah Goldberg likes to call the founding father of modern conservatism, had much sage advice, but his idioms will strike many Americans as obscure.  Fortunately, the United States produced at least one great interpreter of Burke’s conservatism for un-conservative times (my emphasis):

Questions of government are moral questions, and … questions of morals cannot always be squared with rules of logic, but run through as many ranges of variety as the circumstances of life itself. … The politics of the English-speaking peoples has never been speculative; it has always been profoundly practical and utilitarian. Speculative politics treats man and situations as they are supposed to be; practical politics treats them (upon no general plan, but in detail) as they are found to be at the moment of actual contact.

As for that Burkean – his name, what else he had to say – I think we
just agreed to forget him, though I’m willing to re-consider.

86 comments on “Forgetting Wilson (Reply to Jonah Goldberg)

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  1. Without Wilson you don’t have FDR, or the Haitian invasion, or Breckenridge Long. likely you might not have the Dulles brothers since they got their job under Secretary Lamont. We might have gotten into the War earlier and likely left earlier

  2. If, like a commenter at HotAir, you’re happy to dismiss the Federal Reserve System, Anti-Trust legislation, and the Federal Trade Commission as “junk, junk, junk,” then just how do you propose to distribute capital equitably and productively in a complex modern economy, and to preserve competitive and entrepreneurial opportunities for small and medium business?

    There most be no redistribution of assets at all, except we have to have more than the present inadequate 11 carrier groups, we must build multi-billion dollar anti-missile defense systems in Eastern Europe that would be capable of stopping up to 10 missiles if the system worked, which it maybe almost does sometimes if the definition of worked is taken as meaning something kinda like “close miss” , and we shouldn’t really cut Tri-Care because that’s a really good non-entitlement program because it’s funded by withholding earnings from people that they would otherwise get in salary so that means it’s different from Social Security.
    Other than making sure that we have just enough government to insure that we are hegemons of the Middle East, the Far East, North, South and Central America, the North Atlantic, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe (only so that the Soviet Union isn’t re-assembled now that the Russian Army couldn’t fight it’s way out of a wet paper sack), government is unnecessary, inefficient and tends to concentrate power (for some weird reason) and some brilliant guy from Austria says that it always adds more cost than it’s worth.

    Therefore, we can eliminate all that junk and insure the smooth and beneficial free-market to do everything better. We should start by restricting the writ of government and abolishing the coinage.

    Then we can abolish that terrible Income Tax and get rid of most of the unnecessary non-military spending that the government does.
    Military spending can be subsidized by returning to the tried-and-true methods of sack-and-spoil, plunder and prize-taking, and the sale by auction of captives. Ransoms are good, too.

    While, I’ve got to go now! It’s back to my conning tower for me.

  3. narciso wrote:

    Without Wilson you don’t have FDR,

    Really? Perhaps then it was for the best that James Roosevelt never learned the truth.

    The Haitian invasion was typical for American policy during the period. To me it seems rather unlikely that any American president would have been much less activist or interventionist than Tommy was. A more adventurous or militarily self-confident or aggressive leader would have gotten in even deeper somewhere – probably in Mexico – it’s anybody’s guess to what results.

    But the idea is to focus less on the personality than on the conditions and circumstances that summoned him forth and defined his choices.

  4. @ fuster:
    I ‘m thinking that’s probly the longest comment, and one of the most acerbic, which is saying something, you’ve ever deposited here, at TOC, or at Contentions.

    The former Contenders whom I would take to be your main targets have been making themselves scarcer of late. Goes without saying it’s their choice, if they’d prefer not to defend or test their contentions – or, unimaginable as it sometimes seems to me, they actually have lives.

    If you graphed the ideological positioning of this blog as the resultant of commenter and author vectors, we’ve clearly been moving closer to the center on the conventional left-right spectrum. I of course would acknowledge that I’ve been providing some directional force. I’m not sure that I’ve been pushing more than I’ve been pushed – both by the dialogue and also by external events and impressions.

  5. Lol, CK, as Smedley Butler tells us, likely Roosevelt or Taft would have intervened in Haiti, because it’s all about the banks don’t you know, forget about Guillaime Sam, being hacked to death on the doorstep ofthe presidential palace,since he got the fate we keep saving Aristide from,without much thanks for. Tampico and Veracruz would have been too isolated to hold as US territories. Turtledove’s alternate history of a bisected United States, taking it through the First and the Second World War, would disabuse some of the progressive suspicions of TR, but that is counterfactual after all.

    The Income Tax, was suppposed to be the substitute for the tariff, which in part was said to accelerate these boom to bust cycles,
    not much evidence of it’s success there,.

  6. Goldberg’s not everything post Enlightenment is Progressive observation is obviously correct, but incomplete. Cultural Modernism, provides an additional framework for analyzing this period.

    The self awareness/consciousness of early Modernism helped to form Progressivism in the US in its “can do” evolutionary form.

    In Europe, Modernism had already begun to embrace a deconstructivist approach before WWI actually broke out.

    Both approaches though, fundamentally relied on a rejection of tradition. I think this is the mostly unarticulated part of all the drama about Wilson and the progresives.

    The anti-communism of the Cold War right carried the freight for the right’s anti-modernism. This enabled the right participate in the technological, “can do”, part of modernism while rejecting its political (progressive/technocratic) expression.

    The religious right now provides the cultural answer to modernism for the right, but not as successfully. The religious right’s form of religion tends to feel threatened by some scientific findings or directions of research. This leaves the right open to the attack of being “anti-science”.

    Commentators have struggled to find a term to describe the cultural era we are in now. “Post-Modern” is generally used, but is not very satisfying.

    I believe neuroscience will increasingly come to culturally define the near future. If so, Goldgerg’s “here and now” will truly be uncharted territory.

  7. Jonah’s not a cultural reactionary, too many TRek and Simpsons references, for that. Derbyshire might be, despite that stint asa double on a Bruce Lee film; Irish Spenglerianism. But the question
    is raised where are the guide rails. Wilson was still a social conservative
    despite his economic progressivism, LBJ less so, Clinton who knows,
    Had they been smart, they might have chosen this last time, and
    not have had such a spectacular collapse, in their prognosis

  8. @ bob:
    As you point out, modernism already entailed deconstructive elements, and the observation makes a bit of a hash out of the notion that “post-modernism” is really all that “post.” The paradoxes multiply: A movement that turns on a critique of progressive movements presenting itself as progress. It has no argument for itself except under the terms it pretends to reject – so is either a fraud or a passive aestheticism (nihilist in its moral, quietist in its political dimensions). If there’s no difference between authenticity and fraud, high and low, and reaction and progress, then we might as well randomly walk back into neo-classicism or romanticism or popular art or Soviet Realism or American Idol. That the everyday experience of most consumers of culture somewhat approximates this approach only seems to relieve us of judgment: That I watch American Idol doesn’t make me an American Idolist. Our environment is pervaded with aesthetic constructs: American Idol is expensive shrubbery, or one of those tapestries at the Palace of Versailles against which the nobility would relieve themselves during breaks in the conversation.

    You rightly point to the social conservatives as effectively anti-modern, and make a good point about the Cold War. On the other thread I suggested that American conservatism is relative and European conservatism is (or was) absolute. Or maybe I could use the vector terminology: That’s an oversimplification in the sense that scalar conservatives exist in America, just as American-style vector conservatives exist in Europe. But if I’m right, and the Founding was progressive (as well as statist), then maybe that’s the difference: Under overarching progressivism, conservatism is either relative – nothing to conserve but a progressive vector, to be nurtured, carefully cultivated, properly and conservatively channeled – or untenable, leaving the absolute conservatives with a choice between withdrawal from politics or a revolution that, lacking roots in or access to a feudal (pre-progressive) system of political rights and privileges, would tend to follow fascist patterns.

  9. @ CK MacLeod:
    It had to exceed smidginess to range the target.
    But I’ll duck on acerbic. It was meant as a lampoon, fair and half-fond, of the forked brilliance of the fairhaired former analyst’s calls for Imperial might girdling the globe somehow to be sustained sans an extensive and tax-hungry governance.

  10. The reverse is quite true, LG, we are quadruplying the debt, while effectively downgrading our military committments, our domestic
    programs are crowding out our more substantial and constitutional
    ones, I can’t think that is not on purpose, and the consequences of same, in the not too distant future

  11. @ narciso:
    The contradiction between small government conservatism and neo-imperialist gigantism remains, and must hit, maybe sooner rather than later, one or a series of breaking points. The Reagan coalition, 30 years on, still can’t explain how we’re supposed to have democracy, neo-empire, and small government at the same time. Consistency leads you to Ron Paul – who comes across as insane not because his approach is incoherent, but because it’s utopian. The apparent constitutionalist conservative consensus – to the left of Paul, to the right of everyone else – seems to be trillions for defense, and not a dime for social services and public administration. The radical constitutionalist militarists seem to expect us to believe that we can democratically manage an elephantine military-industrial complex with an ant-like state.

  12. Are you already, dumping on Paul Ryan, CK, or do you think he’s just faking it, neo empire, well it’s about time that the Europeans pay their
    freight, but have those muscles atrophied over time, that is Steyn’s
    (among others) Embarking on Obamacare, which sadly will overhang the next few years, even with partial repeal, which is what will be plausible in the near term, this btw, was the tactic used on Gingrich
    and co, to discourage even moderate retrenchment on social spending, I’m surprised you’re using it

  13. narciso wrote:

    Are you already, dumping on Paul Ryan,

    Well, turnabout’s fair play. His actions have confirmed for me the suspicions awakened by his TARP, bailout, and coporate reform votes that he lacks great personal character.

    Ryan has some good ideas, but I haven’t noticed the neo-Minute Men and neo-Annie Oakleys offering him more than what the kindergarten teacher offers a particularly enthusiastic finger painter. They’ve helped open a space for him to be heard… a little. He may have been right to seek support – and a backbone transplant – from the populist right, I’ve said as much, but I’m not sure where it’s heading, if anywhere. I see him and Sarah and others so far declining the opportunity to educate the Tea Partying masses.

    As for Newtie: One tactic among many. There was some fiscal retrenchment- Newt would certainly claim as much – and otherwise it was hard to build the will for much more when the budget was heading into surplus. Needless to say the 2010s are shaping up to be a rather different period from the 1990s.

  14. As opposed to the establishment, who was willing to carry Romneycare on their back, and muted their opposition to Obamacare, hence we enter a “New Ice Age” as one of their spokesmen, proudly announced. Newt, had a lot of misteps, I’ll freely admit, but it was in part the demagoguery that made the ‘sauna of sordidness’ much more palatable from ’97 on,

  15. @ narciso:
    Would just add that Ryan’s approach still stands to my mind as one of the best examples of what I called it before – “real progressivism.” It represents a vision for the improvement and rationalization of the progressive state – smaller (vector) not small (scalar) – in its fiscal/budgetary aspects. It might be accurate, in fact, to term what Reaganist conservatives offer as “smaller-than-otherwise government conservatism,” but, aside from being a bigger mouthful, it doesn’t offer up simplistic “stop the world I want to get off (at no cost)” fantasies.

  16. @CK

    The literary critic Harold Bloom years ago said the defining characteristic of the post WWII literarature was its “belatedness” ie that the giants of literary Modernism had done all that could be done with the Modernist appraoch. Living in the shadow they cast, and all that was left to writers and poets was to admire and imitate. He compared this dynamic to Milton’s relationship to Shakespeare.

    That belatedness is what defines Post-Modernism and post Cold war politics.

    The lack of access you point out that conservatives have to the feudal is an expression of that. The Consolation of Philosophy no longer provides the comfort it used to.

    The progressive version of the belatedness is cause proliferation. For some time now, conservatives could outflank progressives with very little effort.

    My point about Goldberg’s “here and now” comment wasn’t well thought out, but to the extent that it had substance it is this: the discoveries of neuroscience wil more and more remove discussion of the nature of the self from the metaphysical to the physical.

    This will more and more undercut the authority of subjective experience.

    Surely that would have a profound impact on us. Neither conservatives nor progressives will be safe. We will have no giants of any persuasion on which to rely, or evil geniuses to blame.

    Even our self delusions may be quantifiable. But even then, I think our responsibilites will remain.

  17. bob wrote:

    He compared this dynamic to Milton’s relationship to Shakespeare.

    Milton wrote some great stuff. I wouldn’t want to stay home without it. We can be glad Shakespeare cleared away so much of the underbrush for him.

    The ANXIETY OF INFLUENCE was very influential when I was studying criticism. Didn’t prevent Bloom and a bunch of others from continuing their work.

    I generally think that “death of x,” “exhaustion of y,” “it’s all been done” themes are as overdone, if inescapable, as “appearance vs. reality” and “restoration of great chain of being” and “overdone” themes in criticism. “I am a latecomer in the world!” is how Nietzsche parodied the “voice of irony.” Many of the High Modernists were writing out of a perception that they were too late on the scene, their civilization was exhausted and done for, there was nothing new to do, just “shore fragments against [their] ruin.” They were proceeded by one of my favorite art movements, the Aesthetes and Decadents, who were generally surer than anyone that the only theme left was maximally decorous dissipation and extinction.

    And it’s too early to predict, if not too early to be fascinated by, the potential impact of cognitive science on ideas of the self. Maybe, as we strip away the false accoutrements of the self accessible to finely mixed narcotic cocktails, we’ll arrive at sweet and ineluctable reason, just like Locke wanted. Or maybe, when you consider that humanity functioned for millennia in diverse locales and contexts with little or no concept of the self, or with highly intricate and/or deterministic views, we shouldn’t be terrified – yet. If I should be, then I can be glad I’m not very young, and, as always that I’m a Beta, Alphas having so much responsibility, Gammas being so stupid. Or maybe we should move On Tyranny up on our reading lists – from the descriptions it looks very relevant.

  18. An element of Goldberg’s anti-progressive schtick that irks me (I can’t speak to Beck’s, which I haven’t really examined) is his tendency to brush off all the accomplishments of the era. Oh yeah, they banned child labor, but so did the Nazis (for Aryans anyway)… Though I’m not sure I buy your genealogical scheme – latter-day cons and libs both parented by progressivism – it seems more sensible to me than Jonah’s. By not distinguishing between good and bad elements of progressivism, and tacitly implying that sensible non-progressives are/were for all the good elements (they certainly weren’t, and if they are now it bears asking what changed), Goldberg is basically throwing the baby out with the bathwater and then denying that’s what he’s doing.

    Perhaps I should hold my tongue until I finish the tome, but based on what I’ve seen so far, Goldberg never really defines conservatism historically, just equating it with Manchester liberalism and covering everything else – except perhaps royalism, which gets a few curious asides here and there (mostly in an effort to disprove its connections to fascism) – as “the left” (making his criticism of Galupo rather “pot calling the kettle”).

    He does not explain how the good progressive reforms (surely there were some) would have arisen sans progressives, and his coverage of the war seems bizarre: as if there had never been a repressive war state in American history, and thus what Wilson was doing had to be explained in 20th-century “fascist” terms, as something fundamentally new, and fundamentally tied into the larger fascist project.

  19. MovieMan0283 wrote:

    An element of Goldberg’s anti-progressive schtick that irks me (I can’t speak to Beck’s, which I haven’t really examined) is his tendency to brush off all the accomplishments of the era.

    Beck is basickly a melodramatic and irresponsible JG on this subject, IMO.

    If you take the theoretical position that progressivism is a kind of societal illness, the name for the Enemy, then, yes, it becomes a lot more difficult to point to this, that, or the other progressivism and say “well that one’s okay.” Why? How? Who ever heard of a good malignant cancer? That’s a big part of what I’ve been trying to say. Others – frequently at this blog especially when we first started getting into this subject – have tried to argue that child labor was already being phased out, or women’s suffrage isn’t really progressive (alternatively maybe not a good thing), or political machines and railroad trusts did lots of good things. Some truth to some of that – of course. We don’t have to go all the way over to the other side and declare Progressivism wholly holy.

    Mostly, I think they’re stuck on the intellectual’s fetish for intellectual work: It’s easier to take apart the flaws of progressive writers and theorists, who in my view were imperfectly and often self-interestedly abstracting and reducing the matter, most of which had advanced on its own before and without them, than to look at the full range of Progressive Era reforms, which mostly proceeded “upon no general plan, but in detail.”

  20. “Others – frequently at this blog especially when we first started getting into this subject – have tried to argue that child labor was already being phased out, or women’s suffrage isn’t really progressive (alternatively maybe not a good thing), or political machines and railroad trusts did lots of good things.”

    Well, at least those are arguments! Goldberg seems to brush over complications in his reasonably-spoken but at-bottom-simplistic black & white views, something he has a tendency to do. (I once had an e-mail exchange with him, asking how he could justify the imposition of an actual mass-murdering dictator [Pinochet] in the place of a duly-elected, so far non-murderous, but possibly trending authoritarian president [Allende]. His answer was simply something to the effect of, “When the president is going to impose totalitarian communism.” No evidence of why this was so, or how the calculus valued an actual dictator over a potential one – looking squarely at human rights. Just taken on faith. As is so much of Liberal Fascism – it’s a nuanced, reasonably-toned, well-researched edifice built on clouds.)

  21. Is anyone pushing for the reinstitution of child labor, I don’t recall that as even a minor plank in any of the prospective candidates. Jonah who’s a little tongue in cheek in his formulations, but he has caught
    the attention of some serious people. Pestritto, who is Jonah’s source
    material is less accessible but like Burt Folsom on the New Deal’s failure
    is necessary

  22. @ narciso:
    We have a bit of a problem in forcing some of our extreme rhetoricians to face the implications of their own words. Beck, for instance, likes to have things both ways: He’ll toss off a line, beseeching his audience to recognize the moral need for the “least possible government,” and then he’ll turn around and ridicule his critics for suggesting that he’s calling for reduced education, law enforcement, environmental enforcement, workplace safety, etc. In the radical libertarian utopia, who would be around to bar children from laboring? I betcha if you look around you can find someone, maybe at Reason, ready to recite how wonderful labor was for many children and their families.

  23. You, CK, seem to be setting strawman ablaze and calling it smoke, how did we have education in this country before 1965, or any environmental enforcement, as for law enforcement isn’t the argument
    there that the law was been too aggresive enforced

  24. @ narciso:
    We didn’t have much environmental enforcement actually, and, as a lifetime resident of Southern California, L.A. and environs, I have a hard time completely condemning Air Quality Management as it’s been implemented. More to the point, Beck and to a lesser extent Goldberg, and many of their fans much more so, want to enjoy the thrill of railing against Big Government “junk” without ever admitting the trade-offs. Most will lambaste the insufficiently pure anti-statists, yet when tested on a specific point, they retreat to “whatever, to the right of you.”

  25. Well to paraphrase a line from the original film to which they will doubtlessly make a terrible sequel ‘how much is enough’ because they keep moving the line, as relates to why they call it progressive. For it’s opponents, it’s like the Brezhnev doctrine on any of the left’s principles.
    Hence we can’t drill off any Coast, regardless how many brownouts, gas shortages, et al, if you’re in the Central Valley, get used to the taste of worms, because the smelt prevents farming.

  26. That’s just it though – I don’t see anyone pushing for the reinstatement of things they don’t like, but they do disparage those who took ’em down in the first place – and are mum on the subject of how such reforms would have been enacted without the dastardly progressives pushing for them. They certainly weren’t at the forefront of the laissez-faire classical Manchester “liberal”/conservative agenda at the turn-of-the-century…

    An interesting diagnosis would, I think, credit the progressives for what they got right, and not just in passing, while connecting the accomplishments to the mistakes, recognizing an underlying pathology which resulted in both good and bad. But Goldberg’s too eager to polemicize, frustrating because his book is half-history as well but he keeps yanking it back into bromide territory. The more I read, the more frustrated I became, and yet at the same time the more appreciative – he raises lots of interesting points, and has obviously influenced the national discussion (albeit with many unfortunate results). All the more reason I wish he’d squeezed some more complexity into there, but sadly it seems one can seldom be influential and reasonable at the same time.

  27. It’s a polemic, certainly, but as supposed to what sober analytical work on the left or even the center left. I’m sure there is one, somewhere out there, or an even handed analysis of recent foreign
    policy challenges say 2001-2009

  28. @ Zoltan Newberry:
    Both Meg and Poizner have pretty much convinced me that they’re say-anything mainstream finger-in-the-wind cons, but still preferable to Jerry Brown. The younger Jerry Brown might have beaten either of them, but he’s gotten more conventional left, and rumor has it that he’s borderline non compos mentis.

  29. You seem like the longwinded version of David Frum. It’s not what you have to say, it’s how you approach debate that is the turn-off. You are a whiner and contentious, and you seem to have bug up your butt about conservatives in general. You even lectured Mark Steyn approach to talking about income taxation, which just seemed desperate to nitpick at somebody that you know is popular. Seems to me you are more on the Left side of the issues than you want to admit.

  30. Matt X, the problem with that attitude is it privileges style over content and leads to more of the “my team rah rah” thinking that is a dead-end. Sometimes the annoying people (not that I’d put CK in that category) have a point, and it’s best to put aside irritation and analyze what they’re saying rather than how they say it. (As a counterexample: a lot of people, with some good reason, I think, were really irritated by Goldberg’s approach to writing and debating Liberal Fascism: the mixture of polemic and history, the cutesy marketing alongside claims for scholarly legitimacy, the way he sometimes avoids debate by dismissing his opponents. I get that, but in letting this guide their rebuttals into screed rather than debate, they missed an opportunity to engage in a dialogue over the contentious and interesting subject matter, and further poisoned the exchange. So it works both ways.)

  31. No, no, movieman, Matt X is right. I’m a long-winded sub-Frum, and I dared to question the huge and much better-liked Mark Steyn on his trite, idiotic, and politically insane fantastically insightful taxes rap.

    And there’s nothing, nothing I care more about than where others place me on the ideological spectrum. And nothing that the nation and the world should be more concerned about.

    Matt, I’m sorry for slobbering all over your beautiful and pure conservatism and taking up your valuable time with my self-indulgent efforts. Would you like your money back?

  32. @ MovieMan0283:
    Though you’re right about people on the left and within the pseudo-elite whose responses to LF did them no credit. I think one of the reasons JG deigned to respond to a whiny little off-putter like me, aside from the fact that he’s a congenial person willing to take on all reasonably civil comers, is that so much of the response from critics has been derisive and dismissive rather than engaged with the topic, which, greatly to his credit, he treats as more important than who spat the best wad at the other kids.

  33. CK, I’m more inclined to cast the proverbial pox on both their houses. While the tone of many LF critiques were rather mean-spirited (then again, Goldberg set out to be provocative, not scholarly/aloof, so I’m not sure why he’s surprised) many were also substantive as well as snide; yet Goldberg chose only to respond to the snark in kind. Understandable to a certain extent but frustrating as I would like to here more engaging rebukes of some of those takedowns then simply a “Well, he just doesn’t like me” with a few airy and generalized dismissals of their (some of) their points. But again, if Jonah set the bait, a number of pundits were more than willing to swallow it whole, meeting polemic with polemic. Unfortunate because, beneath its numerous irritations, the book does have something of interest to point out and the project of excavating his insights from his thesis and argumentation is a worthy effort, and one that has to be gone about carefully.

    In this sense, the tone of your critique was definitely appreciated.

  34. @ CK MacLeod:

    Hey, when all you do is henpeck popular conservatives and rarely talk about Obama and the Democrats, you are going to get criticized. It seems to me that you and the other Frum types want to be able to do this without yourself getting criticized.

    You like to label conservatives that you don’t like as “hard right” and then deny that this is a term used by the LEFt and others like the populist fool Bill O’Reilly , for mainstream conservatives. Define the “hard right” for us….give us some names. Given your constant whining about Mark Levin’s “tone”, I assume you include him as a member of the “hard right”. It would seem you would include Beck, who you called a demagogue, as a member of the “hard right”. I have no doubt, as a guy that seems to parrot the David Frum’s and Brooks of the world, that you despite Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity as well. You seem a lot more interested in sneering at popular conservatives, and it seems kind of a waste of time, if the objective is to defeat liberal Democrats. That doesn’t seem to be your objective.

    I think to deny that you used “hard right” as an insult is smarmy.

  35. I never thougth I see somebody accusing Goldberg of being a “red meat” conservative. Wasn’t he the guy that Ann Coulter called a girlieman? I’m not sure why a “conservative” would get their panties in a wad about a book called LF, and if you are so thin skinned that the book title “offfended” you, that’s a little weird. The book seems more scholarly than intended for us “red meat” conservative, as I have no interest in Woodrow Wilson’s “progressivism”. I don’t see the point in beating up on dead Republicans like Wilson or Teddy Roosevelt at this point…..Obama is the man with the power and he’s giving us plenty of material to work with to describe what’s wrong with liberal ideas. We can deal with the dead liberal Republicans later.

    I also don’t get the point in getting down in the weeds to prove Goldberg’s assertions are wrong, but it seems to be driven by your hate of Beck,who you called a demagogue. While I’m not a big Beck fan as I find his delivery to be awkward and hyperactive, I’m not sure how he’s so sinister that any sane person can call him a demagogue. I dont’t think he’s purposely telling “lies” to “amass power”, which is what a demagogue does. He’s not even a politician…he’s just a guy on the radio with an opinion…he has no power. He’s a dork and dorks are not sinister, at least, not to me. :)

  36. Well Matt X, I don’t put CK in the same category as a FrumDreher, a Brooks, a Moran, a Douthat, and the like. He set himself apart from the
    pack in the GR, along with Dab yn Hugh, our very own J.E. Dyer, and
    the other undead denizens. Wilson shares many of the same ‘epistemic
    closure’ issues as the current incumbent

  37. @ Matt X:
    Insult? A) you be one to talk, and B) lotso folk on the hard right would be proud to be identified as such. Some seem to wake up every morning and perform an hour of starboard-hardening exercises before they even turn on their computers to blast Crime Inc. (aka The Obama Administration) at Free Republic or wherever. If you told them they were soft right they’d punch you out right through their computer monitors with their right hands.

    Getting dainty about terms like that, when people are throwing around “Maoist” and “cancer” and “fascist” and “traitor” and “Hitler” to describe the other side, or defending the people who do, is almost touching in its childlike lack of self-consciousness.

    Hard right, hard left, who cares? I think Rush is pretty smart, but I’ve been critical of him. Hannity: I’d put him at medium hard: Far enough to right to appeal to and represent the hards, but of a moderate demeanor and civil. I’ve watched him off and on for years and have a hard time bringing to mind a single interesting thing he’s ever said. I’ve wasted much more time on Beck, whom I consider a much more interestingly dreadful phenomenon, and who once reached down from the media heights to mischaracterize something I wrote on air – that’s just how famous I am, whoop-tee-doo for me. You can search this site or HotAir for my opinions on Beck in what they used to call folio installments.

    As I indicated in the post – possibly during a part you tuned out on because it was too long and off-putting – I think Party of No-ism was justifiable in 2009, and back in 2008 I was all for rightwing popular front against the Dem wave. Times change: There hasn’t been a whole lot new to say on Ø, the Ø-ers having mostly shot their wad, conservatives appearing to be “in the ascendancy” and with a chance for power and therefore responsibility, so it’s a lot more important to speak now or forever hold your piece.

    Got it?

  38. @ CK MacLeod:

    Your problem isn’t that you disagree with popular conservatives. It’s that you tallk down to them, you lecture them, despite having no popularity with any group of people. You can hoist yourself on a Cross if you want, but there are plenty of people attacking popular conservatives. I was little surprised that you even went after Steyn though, because as far as “tone” goes, he’s the anti-Mark Levin. Who is good enough, outside of you, of course, to deliver the conservative message? My point was that your appraoch to disagreeing with other conservatives is snarky and arrogant….I don’t disagree with the substance of your post that maybe Wilson wasn’t so bad. But as I said earlier, I’m not interested in dead Republican presidents. We have all the time in the world to deal with dead Republican presidents. Obama should be the focus now. While you are henpecking conservatives on their “tone” and minor issues like Wilson, other conservatives are focused on defeating the Obama Democrats.

    You wanted the attention that you are receiving from people like me by attacking popular conservatives…’s a business model that many Republicans have, like Frum and Brooks, but you have to accept the criticism that comes with that. Nobody’s trying to shut you up….it seems to me that you Frumbots want to intimidate me and other conservatives into a form of self censorship by suggesting we are just “rah rah” for Rush or Hannity or Beck or Steyn or Goldberg or Levin or any other conservative that you happen to be sneering at. All I’m doing is putting the liberal Republicans like yourself under the same microscope that you place the popular conservatives that you sneer at (for attention for yourself). :)

  39. As someone uninvolved with any portion of the conservative “movement”, or any other “movement” for that matter (though to local eyes, I could probably be classified among the dreaded Obami – a term I quite like by the way), I guess I should withhold my opinion with the preachers-to-the-choir Matt X mentions. But, of course, I’m not going to.

    I get Rush – or at least, have a slightly-grudging respect for him. He’s a true original, the absolute top at what he does, and really kind of brilliant in how he manages to always outflank the opposition. I seldom agree with him, but I enjoy listening to him (or did when I was doing work that faciliated a radio in the vicinity) and admire his talent & sophisticated command of his audience and his opponents, if not his other qualities.

    Beck, whom I haven’t listened to/watched since early ’09, pre-Fox and hence pre-explosion, I found amusing and entertaining. His crrrrrazy persona is/was fun, if now perhaps it’s gotten out-of-hand, and I enjoyed his show as entertainment.

    Hannity, I just don’t like at all. A complete hack; listen to him after Rush and you’ll see that all he does is gibber after the Big Guy, collecting his crumbs and burnishing him as his own in that whiney, petulant little voice of his. Even when I leaned right, years ago, I couldn’t stand the guy – he seemed a stereotype of every liberal cliche about thick-headed right-wingers. As CK suggests, he almost never has anything original or interesting to say, he just repeats conservative cliches and giggles.

    That’s my un-movement take on the talk radio triumvirate, whom I haven’t listened to in a while.

  40. @ CK MacLeod:

    I don’t think your response refutes my central claim, which is that all you basically do is henpeck popular conservatives. You claim there is nothing much to criticize Obama on now? Not one thing slightly more pressing than you “refuting” claims by Goldberg and Beck that Wilson was a progressive? I think that kind of gives away the store on where you are at.

  41. Incidentally, as I don’t really keep up with these things anymore, is the disfavor with O’Reilly widespread – and is he usually classified as a “populist fool” or is his apparent critique of the “hard right” seen as a new leaning towards anti-populism? I’m intrigued…

  42. I dont’ think Beck is a “true” conservative. I think to some extent he parrots Rush but he seems to much more like Ron Paul on the issues these days. Again, I can disagree with him, without demonzing him, as our hero does, by calling him a demagogue, which is hyperbole defined. :)

  43. @ Matt X:
    Business model? Sheesh. I have a business – disconnected from this blog. I know about business. Business is a good friend of mine. Pardon me, commenter, but this is no business.

    I didn’t “attack Steyn.” I criticized his approach to a particular issue in strong terms, and I stand by my criticism, and as far as I can tell he seems somehow to have recovered from the devastating blows I landed on him…

    I could respond to the rest, but I’d just be repeating prior comments/posts. Maybe you haven’t gotten to them yet. Maybe they were too long-winded. If you’re not interested in this topic, there are lots and lots of alternative entertainment, information, and opinion sites on the web.

    Also, FYI, Wilson was a Dem. I know you don’t care, but no need to get yourself tripped up in future.

  44. I think it’s laughable to label Rush, Hannity, Levin, Steyn, etc as populists. They aren’t constant Wall Street bashers, which is like the core tenent of populism. It seems to me it’s Obama and the left that are on a jihad against Wall Street. Rush was even supportive of the Dubai Ports Deal, while most Americans were opposing it. This notion that he just says stuff people want to hear isn’t true.

  45. O’Reilly lost a lot of his credibility with his very weak interview of Obama during the campaign, and his continued hemming and hawing
    and who and what Obama’s objectives are. Beck is at times enfuriating
    and enlightening, Rush is generally positive, in contrast with Beck, a more ‘interesting’ time demands it’s own interlocutor. One listens to them, because the contrast with the ‘main stream media’ is galling,
    “Candide’s the best of all possible worlds” is the closest way to describe. Or they are reporting from the alternate Fringe world with
    the Zeppelins, and the Twin Towers are still standing

  46. Oops.

    I guess that I sort of lump him in with Teddy Roosevelt, becauise Beck, who has brainwashed me and countless others, tends to do that, so I assumed he was a Republican.

    But you are right, I don’t care. I think in the greater scheme of things, Woodrow Wilson is probably one of the most “boring” presidents to talk about. You could say that one of the “benefits” of Goldberg’s book was to get people interested in a president that nobody was interested in before, even if it was sheer populism to dump on Wilson. :)

  47. I always got a strong sense that a lot of people hate Hannity b/c they think he’s a “hick” because he doesn’t have a college degree and he has a country music theme on his show. There’s a lot of jealous people out there that don’t like it when some guy with no college degree is successful. It’s just human nature, but Hannity’s a bright guy, and a very good debater. A lot of people like to compare him to Rush, but I don’t think his show is anything like Rush’s, as Hannity has guests and does a more traditional talk show with guests. Hannity has on McCain all the time…don’t think Rush would ever have McCain on. Rush’s show is more a satire show, and he does satire well. Beck tries to do satire, but he doesn’t do it so well. Hannity doesn’t try to do satire so I think hard to say he copies Rush. Obviously they agree on a lot, but again, they are conservative “purists”. :)

  48. Welllll, I don’t think you can quite say that. One of the most violent wars in U.S. history (albeit one that America only participated in for about a yer and a half) is hardly boring – and the Versailles/League brouhaha was a major point (albeit ultimately not a turning one). I guess you could call his presidency “boring” in relation to the event-heavy presidencies which followed in the 20th century (not including the interim of relatively quiet Republicans in the 20s), but certainly in light of most preceding presidencies, Wilson’s was action-packed.

    OK, it’s too nice outside to be sitting at a computer talking about Wilson! Outside I go…

  49. I didn’t mean in terms of style, just in terms of how they frame issues. I find Rush’s way of doing so thought-provoking (even if, again, I seldom agree) and clever, whereas Hannity’s was predictable and derivative. But it’s been a while since I listened to either, so I’m recalling generalizations rather than particulars. Ok, last comment for the afternoon, I swear…

  50. O’Reilly is always saying he is “looking out for the folks”. He’s claimed in the past that his reporting on Big Oil intimidated them into dropped oil prices, which had skyrocketed after Katrina knocked out some refinieries. Cavato on Fox News mocked him and suggested it was probably more supply and demand than O’reilly’s reporting that resulted in gas prices coming back down. O’Reilly has also said his boycott of France brought France to it’s knees. O’Reilly is a big “wall street greed” guy, which is the hallmark of populists. Bonus, he even has called himself a populist. :)

    When we call him a populist fool, this is the kind of nonsense we are talking about. He also loves to talk about the “hard right”, and in the past that did include Rush and Hannity. :)

  51. Matt X wrote:

    I think in the greater scheme of things, Woodrow Wilson is probably one of the most “boring” presidents to talk about.

    Well, you’ll have to let JG know. He believes his Wilson chapter was the best part of his book, and he’s made a million or several off of “getting Woody.” He also thinks it’s critically important to conservatives to get at what Progressivism was and is. Beck also seems to think so. I kind of agree with them. If I’ve made it just a teensy bit harder for one or two cons to go off half-cocked at the mere mention of the “P” word, then my life’s work of arrogant snark has not been completely in vain.

  52. I think for some reason, I got Hoover mixed up with Wilson.

    When I saw the expression “Wilsonian democracy”, I remembered learning about him in high school. I guess a lot of people that are anti-Iraq war are anti-Wilson, because no doubt Bush was compared to Wilson as to “wanting to spread democracy”. So in that sense, mabye it is populist to beat up on Wilson?

    I report, you decide. :)

  53. Well,

    I hate it when Beck refers to liberals as progressives. That’s lett them run away from the liberal label that they hate. And Beck does probably sound insane to political neophytes when he’s railing against “progressives”, b/c after all, who doesn’t like progress.

    But again, I don’t think Beck is a demagoguge. That’s the kind of thing you say that is polarizing… can deny that if you want, but it seems to me he just has opinions on things like you do, and he’s no more full of himself than you seem to be.

    Goldberg has never seen like a ‘red meat” conservative to me. He’s lectured Rush in the past for “only preaching to the choir”, although that seems like something you can say about any conservative when they say conservative things. I happen to think conservatives are m ore persausive when they in “preaching to the choir” mode. I’m not sure who exactly Frum and David Brooks, etc bring into the Republican tent. If you dump on Republicans all day, seems like you are making the case for the Democrats. :)

  54. I never understood why “conservatives” like you get your panties in a wad when conservatives call Obama a Marxist or socialist. He is those things. Do you think no American subscribes to the politcal philosphy of Marxism/socialism?

    Or is it, I suspect, that you just dont’ want anybody to accuse of “McCarthyism”, although the Verona papers along with other evidence, has vindicated McCarthy….there were Communist spies in the government. :)

  55. @ Matt X:
    O’Reilly on oil prices was and has been painful and embarrassing. However, the fact that he qualifies as a populist in some respects doesn’t mean Beck or anyone else isn’t, despite whatever stylistic differences. Don’t know who characterized Steyn or Goldberg that way, or for that matter lumped them in with the hard right. I do believe some of their rhetoric tends to imply an unbridgeable gulf between them and everyone to their left, as in Steyn’s repeated and influential claim that O-care = End of the World as We Know It. It’s not the particulars of the analysis so much as the openly stated, finalizing intentions that make it “hard” – regardless of the analyst’s demeanor, attitude or history, or even of his self-image.

    Panties in a bunch on Marx and socialism – nyah. But the currency of the charge gets devalued. For the large number of Americans who don’t even know which came first, World War One or World War Two, calling Obama a Marxist or a socialist may simply normalize the terms for them. To some of the rest of us who have studied Marxism and socialism, it obscures what Obamaism is, which in some ways is more dangerous, today, precisely because it is or was more attractive to the broad American public.

  56. Obama has always run away from the liberal/socialist/Marxist label, despite the fact that he is. He was never attractive to the American people on policy issues…he downplayed his liberalism in the campaign.

    I think people like you that don’t think Obamacare is the end of America was wel know it are naive.

    I’m not sure how defining Obama’s political philosophy as Marxist/socalist is inaccurate or obscures anything. You have not made a convincing case as to why he’s not a Marxist/socialist. I think you are more concerned about being labeled a “red meat” conservative than defeating Obama’s agenda. :)

  57. Calling Obama a socialist/Marxist hasn’t seemed to hurt Republicans in recent elections, including the liberal states of NJ and Mass. Obama’s poll numbers are in a ditch despite all those “teabaggers” and “wingnuts” calling Obama a socialist or Marxist. I always laugh at how there’s never any criticism of liberal Democrats for using terms like teabaggers and wingnuts, but conservatives get blasted as almost evil if they call Obama a Marxist or socialist. They teach Marx in colleges….it is a political philosophy that Leftists subscribe to…..I don’t see what’s wrong with making them own it. They don’t want to own because they know it’s a political loser in America. If Obama’s poll numbers are in the ditch, and it looks like Republicans are heading for some massive gains in the Congress in the midterms, I dont’ see anything that buttresses your case that the use of the word “socialist” and Marxist to describe Obama is hurting the conservative movement. :)

  58. In fact, it is much easier to see the word ‘teabagger’ in political parlance with the fully intended obscene connotation from the
    Urban Dictionary, a vile concoction right up with the Necromicon.
    Now according to one poll, among the young, socialism is slightly
    favored as a descriptive, and capitalism is slightly negative. This
    is a sign that something has gone wrong among the younger cohort

  59. I think the widespread dislike of Obama’s agenda by the majority of Americans is all the more reason to associate the words liberal, socialist, Marxist, and Democratic to him. I think Obama is doing more untold damage to the Democratic brand than anybody wants to admit, even conservatives because we always think we are going to lose. This was one of the things Rush talked about in his CPAC speech a year ago….conservatives shouldn’t be mislead into believing they are a minority and always on defense. We have Obama and the Democrats playing defense, and nobody saw this just over a year ago.

  60. Matt X wrote:

    I dont’ see anything that buttresses your case that the use of the word “socialist” and Marxist to describe Obama is hurting the conservative movement.

    Never attempted to make such a case. You were the one who brought up the terms in this connection. I think cheapening the terms marginally hurts the conservative movement, though I’m not a big fan of “how many socialists can dance on the head of a pin?” stuff. JG wrote a Commentary article on this question, and seemed to want to call Obama a Neo-Socialist, which might work for fans of the MATRIX movies and worsen those numbers that I believe narc has slightly mis-reported.

  61. I think you overestimate Jonah Goldberg’s reach. He’s kind of lost in a sea of conservative columnists, it seems to me. He’s a good conservative columnist when he wants to be but a lot of the time he seems kind of timid…..I think the reason that Frum and other moderates like you like to “pick on” Goldberg is he gives the impression that he’s somewhat “weakkneed” in his defense of conservativism. You think you can goad him into denoucing Rush or Beck or whoever your conservative villian is at the moment.

    He is a Star Trek geek so I don’t doubt that he want to appeal to Matrix fans as well. Why not take this up with him…he’s responded to a few of my emails in the past, and looks like he publically responded to your assertion that Wilsom wasn’t so bad. It seems to me you should like Goldberg, as that was your big break.

    You can take this personally if you want to, but I think you need to get to the point where you stop seing the worse and accentuuating the flaws, real or imaginary, of various popular conservative figures. Everybody’s human, and that means nobody is perfect. You could just put forth your own ideas on things, like your disagreement with Goldberg on Wilson, without dragging in your personal dislike of Levin, Beck, Rush, etc. It distracts from the central point that you trying to make. There’s no need to constantly nitpick and henpeck Rush and company. You are not automatically more thoughtful if you are anti-Limbaugh and company. It’s cool to disagree with them, hell I don’t care if you listen or watch them at all, but enough of the scolding.

  62. You should take a gander at Bob Tyrell’s book After the Hangover.

    It pokes a lot of holes in some of the “conventional wisdom” about the state of the GOP and Democratic parties. You kind of seem to buy into a lot of the liberal’s characterization of the way things are.

  63. I’ve been reading a lot of old TIME stories lately, since their archive is free online. This makes an interesting read in light of Goldberg’s absurd contention that Hitler was a “Man of the Left”:,9171,745299,00.html. Particularly the notion that in the early 30s, as Golberg suggests, everyone (aside from Stalinists who also described Trotskyists and social Democrats as “right-wing”) saw fascism and even Nazism as a left-wing movement and it was only later that it was redefined as right-wing. Opportunistic, sure, borrowing elements from left and right, ok (I’d still put the emphasis on right but not to altogether ignore what Hitler took from other traditions nor to ignore the many differences between his “right” and the American right today). But “man of the left”?

  64. @ MovieMan0283:
    We used to have some regulars at this site who would have willingly taken up the argument with you with some enthusiasm. For reasons open to speculation, they don’t post here as often as they used to. (The fellow who actually inspired me to pick LF up again has said that real life has overtaken him.)

    I think that what it comes down to is that you could attempt a book called CONSERVATIVE FASCISM, and fill up a few hundred pages doing what Goldberg has done, more or less, highlight those aspects of historical fascism that overlapped with historical conservative/rightwing movements – and make as good a case. In a way, that wouldn’t contradict Goldberg’s thesis, though it would contradict him wherever he argues not merely that fascism also had similarities with some leftist movements, but where he goes a step further as in your example.

  65. Wait isn’t the game the Soviets were playing at least since 1930, against the Social Democrats, crowding out the Nazis. or Harry Truman back in ’48, saying the GOP ‘were the same folks that gave us Tojo and Mussolini,’ or Goldwater or Nixon, or Reagan, or Bush or in her more
    unhinged moments, Erica Jong from her peninsular retreat, the specter of Palin, Sullivan has take up the cudgel , in as close to a comlplimentary way. A staffer on Humphrey’s committee, put out something called Friendly Fascism

  66. @ narciso:
    Certainly a similar game, if not the same one. Turnabout might be fair play, but it still rests on distortion and can lead to bad results – especially when small initial aiming errors can land your political artillery shells on civilians or allies rather than the real enemy.

  67. I post this now only with the sadness at having missed this entire line. I went back and did some reading and actually was working on a more substantial reply to CK on his criticisms of JG’s book and then life did take over. And in the meantime I see that Jonah has made his own response which makes my endeavor somewhat useless now as I begin to see life showing glimpses of time popping up again.

    I will try and keep a closer eye on what is going on. I still think we are getting too caught up on what is socialism/communism/marxism/fascism/progressivism/liberalism. They are all related to one another over a concept I would call statism. The power of the state to remake society in a utopian ideal (at least initially) until it turns ugly. What I first knew of Wilson was WWI and League of Nation stuff. We never learned the other stuff he did in conjunction, which began to make me understand that the disappearance of German culture was more than just because we fought them in WWI. If JG’s LF was begun to establish the point that progressivism and current day liberalism are related philosophically with fascism, I think it has created more thought than just that. How did we get here? How did we get nationalized car companies and health care and Wall Street?

    We got there because people felt govt could “force” people to do what is best for them, whether it really was or not. A suspicious type would say they (the Left) just feel sorry for people who lose. The cynic would say they just want to control everyone with rules for everyone else other than themselves.

    What we now know with pretty good certainty is that no matter what the original intentions are of the old time progressives the end game is failure. We saw what happened with communism in Russia.
    We saw what happened with fascism in Italy and socialism in Germany and now Venezuela. And we are now seeing what social democracy, liberalism and modern day progressivism is doing to western europe and the US. None of it is sustainable and in the end, comically enough, it will be the undoing of their philosophy by its insatiable hunger to devour everything and anything. They are killing the golden goose. Why?

    Because no man or group of men or an organization has enough information to make the decisions capitalism requires to work smoothly. And in their attempt to force the issue they fail to remember or understand that people will take the path of least resistance, for it appears to be the one constant of humanity. Progressives fail to remember this truth.

    I cannot predict exactly how this plays out, how US statism will die or when it will happen – will we be overrun by the financial or the failure to be proud of who we are and that for the most part, the US has been a force for good and thus go meekly into the night when the current ism – jihadism – finally overtakes us? Steyn’s writings are actually pretty interesting in that they point out that the progressives also don’t believe in evil, except in their domestic political opponents. OSlash’s comments on Pearl were frightening.

    Wilson and TR helped start this in the US. JG actually was a big fan of TR but has since reconsidered that. I don’t hate Wilson, but I now do acknowledge that he was more a part of our problem today than I ever knew. I would guess that is enough.

  68. I think to put statism in the driver’s seat, in terms of lining up ideologies, is to confuse the means for the ends. I think there have been statist right-wingers and statist left-wingers, and while Goldberg may scoff at this, the history of self-identified (as opposed to conveniently identified afterwards, LF-style) rightists and leftists bears me out. To place the royalists on the side of “the left” is something even Goldberg doesn’t seem to want to do, yet he sticks with these right/left labels which become meaningless in this context.

    If I understand you correctly, you’re less interested in why people have taken up statism (i.e. for ostensibly, historically, or subjectively left- or right-wing reasons) than in distinguishing between those who have and haven’t embraced the state. As Goldberg says in one of his more honestly non-ideological moments “we’re all fascists now” and I’d only amend the “now”, at least if we’re defining fascism as he does. Considering how few Rand Paul-like “conservatives” are out there I have real trouble excepting the American right tradition from statism, even compared to the left (look at the war on terror, for example, and this is not necessarily a condemnation of the right, though I think one is warranted in certain areas, as an observation).

    To me it’s not so interesting to distinguish between those who are open to using the state and those who are more ambivalent (all of which is relative, incidentally, since Obama is seen as conservative from a truly socialist perspective, and because Bush and others on the right – ex post facto excoriated, initiated the current phase of bailouts and stimuli). It’s far more revealing, and thought-provoking to connect the dots between the myriad aims of the historic and contemporary left, on the one hand, and the historic and contemporary right, on the other. It seems that the overarching drive of the former has been equality, which could perhaps be modified to justice in the current multiculti climate; while the North Star of the right is order – of which liberty is seen as one element, not the sine qua non (increasingly, I think libertarians should perhaps be distinguished from both left and right and placed in their own free range). The connective tissue between the often conflicting impulses on the left is a notion that society is unfair, and that we can do something about this (before you addend “through the state” remember that anarchists belong to the left). On the right, the framework seems to be a concern with the stability of the overall structure (keep in mind that this does not negate innovation, personal liberty, nor development, all of which can be seen as facilitating underlying structure through fluctuation and orderly organization through dynamic institutions).

    As an aside, the (selective) focus of small-government conservatives on the villainy of the government seems excessive; the state is one source of power, but it is not the only one (and on the reverse side, liberals should do a better job acknowledging the state is not the only, nor the best, means of spreading ideas and changing society).

  69. Actually the state is the center of power and as the state determines to do more than make laws but also confer benefits on certain entities they by fiat make those who enter into communion with them powerful. But that power can be withdrawn at a whim. The reason a flat tax will never be adopted is because too many politicians need the power of the state purse to line their own with those willing to buy access. If you adopted Gramm’s baby all that goes away.

    So while business has power, it is completely dependent at this point upon either staying out of the gaze of govt or of paying for the privilege. People angry with Wall St miss the point. They should be angry with the govt which enables all that Wall St does. The mortgage mess is a direct result of first misguided govt policy on mortage underwriting for social reasons, which then resulted in the formation of GSE’s which still today are unchecked in their activity. We are on the hook for trillions and it is all off the books. GE is a corporation that no longer is competitive in a private sphere without regulation. Eliminate 3rd party payers in health care, wind power subsidies and environmental rules on home appliances and light bulbs and GE has developing nation rail engines and some other engine technology. Thats it.

    College loans are a wonderful example of the insideousness of govt action. We moved from private funding to govt sponsorship to govt takeover. In that time college tuition has increased well beyond any measurable inflation rate. It is just like an area when a major employer increases its orthodontia benefit. All the orthodontists just raise their prices. Little difference in education. The govt took a non-existant problem and created one. All with the best of intentions of course, but in the meantime, you have many college grads in jobs for which a college education was never necessary but now they have the added fun of owing more than they can ever reasonably re-pay.

    When you argue the right is statist too I would argue that the right as you describe I would assume you are relating cultural issues. While I see your point there is one problem, the cultural right usually runs to govt after a judge has decided that 150 years of a norm now have miraculously been wrong. They try to use govt – the legislative – to fight back from cultural leftists. Now as you get into smaller govt units, like townships and cities, you could easily argue more activity from the right. But this was the point at which the founders felt most govt should occur, as that was the way the continent had actually been governed well before the revolution ever occurred. In fact, the state and smaller govt units have a level of police power which exceeds that of the federal govt. I am not sure if anyone would even recognize that now.

  70. Additionally I would caution against taking the military is the right argument. FDR, TR and Wilson were not of the right and yet all endorsed strong military postures, particularly the Roosevelts. They would have loved the War on Terror, in fact Wilson utilized our involvement in WWI to do all sorts of stuff that would make opponents of the Patriot Act blush. Nationalism is not of the right – it is of the statist.

    A proper description of the Right would be strong central govt in those limited areas defined for them with most of the day to day stuff, including cultural issues at the local level of the state or smaller. Properly defined, the Right or Conservative philosophy should never embrace the statist model. Libertarians believe as best as I can tell in almost no govt power over issues of personal liberty. They are probably as close to anarchists in that regard as I can imagine. In reality I think they are really just liberal or conservative on the edge.

  71. JEM, the state is one manifestation of power but it is not the only one. Reduce its power and other centers of power will rise in its wake – the trick is to keep everything in proper balance.

    As for the military, context is everything. FDR and Wilson were facing a world at war, and neither were especially full-throated in their militarism before America was dragged into a pre-existing conflict. TR was a textbook militarist/nationalist, in the sense usually associated with the Right, and I’m puzzled why

    Anyway, this was not what I had in mind when mentioning “the war on terror”; I had in mind state power over the individual, which was demonstrated in rendition, indefinite detention, torture/”enhanced interrogation”, wiretaps, and the like. We can debate their various virtues, but it seems hard to argue that the the right was not more “statist” in its advocacy of such measures than the left. Again, I think it has more to do with aims than means. During the Bush presidency, standing on the sidelines, the Left focused on individual liberty, just as the Right is doing now; in power, both stress the necessity of government action facing pet challenges. I don’t want to imply that the Right is just as statist as the Left, clearly the latter has absorbed more ideas favorable to big government than the former. But it’s not so simple as statist v. non-statist ideology. Rather, it seems to me about first principles and the degree to which the state is employed to advance said principles is incidental to the more important “meanings” of ideology and politics.

    I’m in no position to argue about the causes of our current financial predicament, as I’ve no grounding in economics. It does strike me as perplexing, from a common sense perspective that so many conservatives seem to take the absolutist position that profit and the public good will never clash in a free market. How an insurance company, whose entire purpose is to make money, is supposed to value an individual life when there are ways to weasal around coverage, is beyond me. Like the scorpion that stings, the company exists to make a profit. In part, this does involve pleasing the widest range of consumers possible. However, it has little to do with satisfying an individual customer, or doing the “right thing” in a unique case, or even providing the public with the best product possible if they’ll accept something else. I don’t find people to be especially rational and don’t see why a market structured around their choices or desires should be especially so either. This is not to say big government would be a beacon of reason; obviously, bureaucracy has its own problems. It just strikes me as absurd to expect the profit motive to take care of all our problems.

  72. Oh, I have no love for the corporation either. And I have a great deal of suspicion for them, particularly when they go to govt to force me to use their product.

    The profit motive per se is not altruistic or greedy. The motivation it has creates the ability over the aggregate to provide the best allocation of resources that fits the desires of the most people. It is, in a sense, the most efficient. And I doubt most conservatives would doubt the requirement for govt to set rules for how business will be conducted and provide for the enforcement of contract and property rights. If govt were happy to be the impartial umpire, no problem.

    However, the govt has increasingly decided I will pick winners and losers. We subsidize risk and privatize profit. Why didn’t we allow the nation’s bankruptcy laws to deal with GM and Chrysler? Why did we prop up AIG in order to faciliatate the total recovery of loss to Goldman Sachs and others? Why didn’t we allow the rules to play out over businesses that made poor decisions and let them reap the consequences? A great deal of the financial trouble came because in addition to poor govt policy, we also guarenteed to bail out institutions. Why didn’t we allow more to fail, or extract more grievous penalties to support them. I don’t mean to underestimate the ramifications of a crippled financial center, it is is necessary for our continued prosperity. But why not make them understand that if you make crazy bets – the whole securitized subprime mortgage mess – you pay, not the tax payer.

    As to my comment on national security/war with TR, Wilson and FDR, I can grant that FDR and Wilson had external issues driving decisions. I think FDR was always more “worldly” if you will than Wilson who I believe looked more inward. But Wilson’s practices domestically were nothing like FDR’s even when the threat was greater during WWII than WWI. In JG’s reply to CK’s criticisms, he listed in summary some pretty nasty domestic policies of Wilson’s that make the War on Terror security measures we have taken look lame. I will grant the internment of the west coast Americans of Japanese descent by FDR was pretty bad, but he was facing what many military experts feared was a pending invasion of the west coast by Japan. Wilson had nothing similar to fear.

  73. Actually they were pulling for health care, cap n trade, and the like, they were the ones behind the expansive Homeland Security department that to consider everyone a potential terrorist, They not only support the IRS, but are for more comprehensive tax schemes, ‘that eat at our substance’, where in may cases they do not abide by these same rules. For the legitimate functions of national defense, and domestic security, they obstructed every successful program, that kept an eye on the real enemy. They bandied about the rumor of reintroducing conscription, despite the counterproductive nature of it

  74. JEM wrote:

    But Wilson’s practices domestically were nothing like FDR’s even when the threat was greater during WWII than WWI. In JG’s reply to CK’s criticisms, he listed in summary some pretty nasty domestic policies of Wilson’s that make the War on Terror security measures we have taken look lame.

    I commented on this argument in the LF re-reading, the Defense of Wilson, and in the post here. It was a different era: Among other things, there was an active and militant radical/revolutionary movement in the US of Wilson’s day. Furthermore, many of the policies that you and Goldberg attribute to Wilson didn’t originate with him or his administration, while his own policies were milder than what powerful forces, including most but not all to his “right,” were demanding. For a nostril-opening sniff of the atmosphere, check out the New York Times editorial that narciso linked on the “defense” thread:

    As also previously argued (just catching you up here, JEM), the notion that WWI policies of any kind may have made WoT policies look tame isn’t very impressive when you consider that, just for this country, WWI represented about 1,000 times a bigger deal, in an epoch with very different general ideas about dissent and the niceties of law enforcement procedures.

  75. That’s certainly true, with say the American Protective League, but the Creel Committee, the War Industries Board, that was more his
    sentiment, those were the sentiments that seemed to have been
    at least temporarily banished in the 20s, with the possible exception
    of the Lafollette campaign

  76. @ narciso:
    Not sure what you mean by a “sentiment” in re the War Industries Board and Creel Committee. Both were explicitly war-related operations, and the fact that they disappeared along with the war and its exigencies, along with the fact that Wilson himself exited stage right without requiring, say, a conqueror from another land taking Washington DC away from him, defeats the “fascist tyranny” case no matter how you try to advance it – unless you take the position, which JG comes close to, that anything other than absolute libertarianism is “fascistic tyrannical.” That means that we have always lived and always will live under fascist tyranny. Fascist tyranny turns out to be a description for all politics and government – and that is why I referred to LF as defining evil down.

  77. I will take a look at your link. I take issue with your definition of “right” however in that post. He was attacked by other progressives for not being into the fight enough. Even JG acknowledged that in LF. Wilson was not the brightest light crying for joining in the fight.

    Feels good to get back into the scrum.

  78. @ JEM:
    He was attacked and resisted from both right and left, and both for having gone too far and for not having gone far enough. Most of those arrested, in particular the relatively few imprisoned under provisions of the federal acts, were from the “left,” Debs most famously.

    In this discussion, as in your exchanges with movieman above, we run into familiar problems in dealing with conservatism in the U.S. The libertarian “right” is very different from the cultural “right.” They sometimes can be seen to overlap or intersect – as under the divinely ordained natural rights discussion – but many on the traditional/cultural right are much less concerned with the niceties of constitutional interpretation and libertarian moral philosophy. They may instead give much greater priority to the protection of a cultural inheritance, to a larger set of established mores, and to organic concepts of nation or race.

    A second, partly overlapping way of looking at it is the difference between relative or evolutionary conservatism – Burke or even Wilson – and values conservatism, which relies on the assertion of transhistorical absolutes. Libertarians assert one set of transhistorical values, and libertarian constitutional conservatives further assert that they are embodied in the Founding. Cultural conservatives assert different if sometimes overlapping transhistorical values that are no more or less “moral,” but which tend to precede and supersede any political process or constitutional forms. If what matters most to you is salvation, whether you get there through the electoral college or popular vote, a mixed economy or the free market, is probably secondary, if relevant at all. So Mike Huckabee talks the free market constitutionalist talk, but is justly suspected of being ready at a moment’s notice to override his constitutionalism with his higher faith.

    So, back to Wilson, most, but not all, of the people conventionally associated in his own time with the political right were big believers in law and order, and uncompromising enemies culturally, politically, and otherwise of the IWW and other radicals.

  79. The link is consistent with my understanding of the period.

    As to your latest, Huckebee doesn’t strike me as a conservative Burkean standard bearer. The political alliance between social and fiscal conservatives have been more on the basis that social conservative’s values and morals are more likely to be protected in a more conservative fiscal environment wiith less govt safety nets in place, where the ramifications of “poor” decisions are much more serious.

    Where the cultural battle is joined is that the progressives overcame local law to enforce national standards, and we have constitutional amendments to show how those fights turned out. But it went from significant amendments on the aftermath of slavery to madeup rights to privacy on abortion where prostitution was ignored. Hell, Rand Paul just got tripped up on it. I understand where he was coming from but based upon the conditions of the time and the clear disregard for the amendments coming out of the Civil War, something needed to be done. A better answer would have been, yes I would have voted for it but not for what it has become.

    That would have been a home run – that he hasn’t seen it yet indicates he isn’t ready for prime time – where as Paul Ryan clearly is. Rand just grounded out to the pitcher with the bases loaded.

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