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The obligatory “problem with the problem with the Palin problem” post

Ian Lazaran at Conservatives for Palin, the go-to site for anyone interested in the Palin supporter’s side, raises some serious questions about Quin Hillyer’s “The Problem with Palin” – a piece whose title somewhat defeats the author’s numerous compliments to Sarah Palin.  Lazaran introduces reasonably well-evidenced arguments on Palin’s behalf – that she was a budget-cutter, that her rise to the governorship was an underdog triumph against corruption, and so on – that would serve Palin-supporters well in conventional politics, but no one much is engaging in conventional political warfare with Sarah Palin at the moment.

Lazaran is much less successful defending against Hillyer’s “quitter” attack, I think because the charge and the bare facts of the matter encapsulate and reinforce all of the discomfort that the unpersuaded feel about Palin, in a way that may be effectively beyond argument.  We had a long and informative discussion at the HA headlines and elsewhere on Hillyer’s article and in particular on the resignation- what it meant, what it still means, and what it may end up meaning for Palin.  Rather than recapitulate the exchanges, I’ll just maintain for now, in as neutral terms as I can come up with, that the resignation was the moment that she fully detached from “conventional,” and people who are made uncomfortable by too much unconventionality in a political figure may never learn to like it – or look past it.

On the other hand, as was largely predictable last July, “Palin, Inc.” has been served famously well by Palin’s resignation, to the tune of 8-digits, but the end of the initial growth phase is over, and a familiar diminishing returns plateau appears to have been reached.  I’ll concede that Palin gone stale would still be a lot more interesting, and influential, than the vast majority of politicians on their best days, but for her star to start ascending again, rather than just settle in the firmament at approximately its current coordinates, or perhaps begin an accelerating decline, she would need to renew her message. I’m not sure she can or will, or even if she should.

Until then, I think the real Palin problem – the problem for Palin – may be that the chemical reaction that makes it happen, her particular format for the meeting of conventional and unconventional, is going flat:  It’s not a perpetual motion machine, but depends on a continual supply of popular interest, and… people get bored – gradually, unevenly, at first invisibly, but inexorably.

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: ,

Faith-Based Politics In Place Of A Winning Program

Responding to a Salon article by Democratic Strategist Ed Kilgore on the Republicans’ “2012 problem,” RS McCain offers up a mixture of snark and political prognostication.  The snark is arguably well-deserved, and McCain delivers it with relish.  He doesn’t, however, seem to have taken as much interest in his own political speculation:

Is BHO not already the most protested POTUS ever? Should he not hold that dubious honor, he shall by 2012.

McCain’s heart may be in the right place, at least if you share his estimations of the Tea Party Movement and of Barack Hussein Obama, but “most protested POTUS ever” strikes me as a reality-free historical observation (Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard Milhous Nixon, a.o., are rolling over in their graves).  It’s not really up to the standard set by Kilgore when, in downgrading Mike Pence’s presidential prospects, he reaches for his political almanac and points out that no sitting House member has won a presidential nomination since 1896.

You don’t have to be the sponsor of the Pence12 Facebook page to recognize how utterly irrelevant such factoids are to whatever is really going to answer run/not-run and win/not-win for a prospective candidate, but merely declaring that Kilgore is flacking for the Dems doesn’t make McCain’s own conclusions any less self-servingly wishful:

Counter-analysis: the 2010 election buys We The People a chance, but only a chance, to set the country on a course for recovery. The Tea Parties et al. continue their pressure and whoever wins in 2012 comes in with a mandate to begin the process of unwinding a century of debt, centralization, and diminished liberty. And the efforts of the Founding Fathers shall not have been in vain.

From McCain’s blog to God’s monitor, we might say, but this isn’t really an “analysis.” It’s a hopeful projection.  Compare it to Kilgore’s final paragraph, dubbed by McCain a “watered down Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf outing”:

So let Republicans enjoy their 2010 comeback. It was all but foreordained by the last two cycles, and by the very demographics that threaten the GOP in the long run. Allow them to celebrate their “fresh faces”; they’ll have a lot of fine options for the vice-presidential nomination in 2012. But their 2012 prospects will go straight downhill starting on Nov. 3, 2010. That’s when Republicans will have to start to deal with the consequences of their recent bout of self-indulgent destructiveness, when they’ll begin choosing someone to take on Barack Obama not in press conferences or talking points or Tea Party protests, but in a presidential election.

Kilgore is summarizing here:  “self-indulgent destructiveness” refers to his argument that Republicans have “brand[-ed] themselves as the party of angry old white people” in a way that may maximize advantages in 2010, but hurt them in 2012 and beyond, when the electorate will tilt more to the Democrats’ favor, whether under an incumbent Barack Obama or, going forward, as demographic factors shift.

It’s possible, perhaps likely, that both McCain and Kilgore are doing a little whistling past their own partisan graveyards here, but, even if you share McCain’s faith in continued “pressure” from the Tea Party and a quasi-apocalyptic awakening to the supreme self-evident truths of constitutional conservatism, Kilgore’s argument stands.  It goes without saying that a perceived abject failure of the Obama Administration, and the aftereffects of any of several potential game-changers between now and November 2012, might make a hash of all conventional political calculations.  Yet 2012 was always likely to be a more difficult climb than 2010, and we should also understand that what Republican conservatives promise or promote with effect this Fall may serve them a lot less well, or even weigh them down,  when Obama is on the ballot again against a real opponent with his or her own campaign to run. If we reach for our own political almanacs, we can determine from polling history that even Jimmy Carter looked pretty good until Ronald Reagan finally closed the deal against him during 1980 campaign’s final days.  We don’t know yet that BHO = JEC.  As for the Republicans, if you can confidently declare one of the known suspects for a 2012 run to be another RWR, you may be a candidate – for de-programming (assuming you’re not receiving a check).

This isn’t the place to attempt a full-fledged comparison of 1980 to some imaginary 2012, or even to dial back to 1978 for a mid-term comparison, or to 1994/96 for an alternative set of potential parallels.  It’s even less the place to wonder whether we don’t focus too much on the presidency, too little on how policy is really effectuated in the U.S.A.  And unless we’re pushing a partisan or factional agenda, we have to begin and end by admitting that we don’t know what the future holds, and which rough beasts slouching toward Bethlehem might draw the nation closer to the President and the stationary state he and his allies are preparing for us – an effort that Ross Douthat recently characterized as aiming “to get everybody inside the barrel before it goes over the falls.”

We might just as well look back to that election of 1896 that I was just dismissing up above:  That “last sitting congressman” nominee was William Jennings Bryan, who lost in 1896 and again in 1900 and 1908, but went on to become one of the most important and influential figures of that age in whose shadow McCain sees us still to be standing.  A conservatism that aims to change the course of history, to “begin the process of unwinding a century of debt, centralization, and diminished liberty,” could do a lot worse than lose with a new Bryan, but it may not even achieve a fruitful defeat if it stands still, expecting the assumptions of a convinced minority to carry the day simply for having been asserted, and without regard for what and whom those assumptions seem to exclude.

cross-posted at Zombie Contentions

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with:

Faith-Based Politics In Place Of A Winning Program

Responding to a Salon article by Democratic Strategist Ed Kilgore on the Republicans’ “2012 problem,” RS McCain offers up a mixture of snark and political prognostication. The snark is arguably well-deserved, and McCain delivers it with relish. He doesn’t, however, seem to have taken as much interest in his own political speculation:

Is BHO not already the most protested POTUS ever? Should he not hold that dubious honor, he shall by 2012.

McCain’s heart may be in the right place, at least if you share his estimations of the Tea Party Movement and of Barack Hussein Obama, but “most protested POTUS ever” strikes me as a reality-free historical observation (Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard Milhous Nixon, a.o., are rolling over in their graves). It’s not really up to the relatively low standard set by Kilgore when, in downgrading Mike Pence’s presidential prospects, he reaches for his political almanac and points out that no sitting House member has won a presidential nomination since 1896.

You don’t have to be the sponsor of the Pence12 Facebook page to recognize how utterly irrelevant such factoids are to whatever is really going to answer run/not-run and win/not-win for a prospective candidate, but merely declaring that Kilgore is flacking for the Dems doesn’t make McCain’s own conclusions any less self-servingly wishful:

Counter-analysis: the 2010 election buys We The People a chance, but only a chance, to set the country on a course for recovery. The Tea Parties et al. continue their pressure and whoever wins in 2012 comes in with a mandate to begin the process of unwinding a century of debt, centralization, and diminished liberty. And the efforts of the Founding Fathers shall not have been in vain.

From McCain’s blog to God’s monitor, we might say, but this isn’t really an “analysis.” It’s a hopeful projection. Read more ›

Posted in US History Tagged with: , , , ,

On re-reading Liberal Fascism: Defining Evil Down

Two years after reaching to the top of the non-fiction bestseller lists, Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism remains an influential book on the right.  If you blog on topics that overlap with its subject matter, especially if you argue in any way against its thesis, conservative commenters will link you to it, seemingly under the presumption that, if only you had fully imbibed of its wisdom, you could never be so complacent about the evil ones on the other side of the American discussion.

As for that other side, Goldberg may at least have made leftists a bit more self-conscious about dropping the political f-bomb on their opponents, perhaps because those opponents have learned a set of comebacks.  In fact, partly due to the work of those who have taken up Goldberg’s arguments and run with them, the thesis has been taken a step further than the author claimed he wanted to go.  Goldberg writes insistently that, of course, he didn’t really mean to suggest that liberals are the same, or virtually the same, or as bad as, the real fascists.  Yet it’s not hard to find that thinking, in pretty much those words, on the internet right.  In part by lending his services to popularizers, but also by virtue of the argument as he set it down in 400-plus pages, Goldberg has encouraged that development.

Here’s Goldberg’s “working definition” of fascism, from LF‘s  first chapter “Everything You Know About Fascism Is Wrong”:

Fascism is a religion of the state.  It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people.  It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good.  It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure.  Everything, including the economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives.  Any rival identity is part of the “problem” and therefore defined as the enemy.  I will argue that contemporary American liberalism embodies all of these aspects of fascism.

Read more ›

Posted in Books, Featured, History, Politics Tagged with: , ,

Paul Ryan on Real Progressivism

Many people believe Democracy obsolete.
They are wrong.
Obsolete is the one thing
Democracy can never be.

R. Buckminster Fuller – “No More Secondhand God”

In responding to Rep. Paul Ryan’s speech to the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs on March 31, even some of the constitutional conservatives on the HotAir headline thread and then again around the Quote of the Day gave both speech and speaker rave reviews. The general reaction to Ryan verges on “presidential boomlet,” and, really, why couldn’t this man be president, and as soon as we need him to be? He’s as qualified as… Woodrow Wilson was. He’s certainly as qualified as… Abraham Lincoln was. More qualified in many ways than various presidents any of us could bring up…

When people ask, as they often have over recent months, what I mean when I refer to “progressive conservatism,” I have often pointed to Paul Ryan. He’s not the only exemplar I could name, but he’s one of the best. Consider the entirety of his approach – and also consider passages in his speech like this one (our Contention of the Day bonus from last Friday): Read more ›

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: , , , , , ,

It wasn’t a very good year: 1938 – Hitler’s Gamble by Giles Macdonogh

[amazon-product]0465009549[/amazon-product]

Considering the centrality of “Munich” to American thinking on foreign policy – and the centrality of the war that followed to what America has become – there’s an argument for considering 1938 to be as important to our understanding of ourselves as other American milestone years – 1776, 1787, 1860, 1929, 1945, and so on.

What makes 1938 unique on such a list is our own absence from the critical scenes. The effect in Giles MacDonogh’s month by month, sometimes day by day and hour by hour chronicle is a portrait of American leadership traced out as though in a photographic negative.

The cloudy, black and gray surface reveals the following: A world without American leadership is a world that can fall prey to the “gambles” of upstart second-raters and maniacs. A world without American leadership is a world in which secretive, shifting alliances, immoral deals, territorial larceny, and brute force lead, step by step, to chaos and conflagration. It’s a world in which everyone can choose to look the other way when a monster and his brood are appeased, and appeased again, at the expense of races, religions, and nations. It’s also a world in which anyone can get in on the action while the getting seems good, not daring to think that he might be next.

In other words, 1938 marks the last historical moment up to the present day during which other nations could pretend to solve matters of great importance without significant American involvement. For nearly three more years, the U.S. avoided formal entry into the developing conflict, but the last pretense that the world could take care of itself on its own ended a few months into 1939. Soon, the argument for acting “while dangers gather,” instead of waiting for whatever day of infamy, would have 60 – 100 million direct casualties and a rubble of nations weighing on its side. Read more ›

Posted in Books, History, International Relations Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How little you know: The Deniable Darwin by David Berlinski

The Deniable Darwin collects essays written from 1996 to 2009 mostly on the same general theme: That the insufferable pretensions and aggressive self-certainty of science ideologues prevent us from justly appreciating how much we actually have learned about the natural world, and how wonderfully little that is. David Berlinski applies his dauntingly well-informed, remorselessly cogent skepticism to several fields of study – theoretical physics, mathematics, linguistics, molecular biology, and so on – but it’s his dismantlement of Darwinism that he takes to center stage for a virtuoso recital.

The program’s highlights include two name-taking essays, the book’s title piece and another (“Has Darwin Met His Match?”) from seven years later, presented along with full replies from most of the named and regiments of their supporters, and extensive rebuttals from the author. Giving the impression of deep familiarity with the professional and popular literature, and advancing his critique in a richly literary style, Berlinski argues that the Darwinists remain very far from demonstrating and evidencing how evolution via random mutation and natural selection could explain what the evolutionists claim it explains – that is, everything.

Berlinski’s ideas have been taken up by some Intelligent Design and Creationist writers and activists – including the sponsors of the Discovery Institute Press, which published this book – and that fact leads the Darwinists to accuse him, in brief, of the thought-crime of religious faith. The maneuver conveniently relieves them from confronting his argument on its own terms, particularly his denial that the only logical alternatives to Darwinian evolution are Biblical literalism and its cousins. Read more ›

Posted in Books, Science Tagged with: ,

A journey to delicious and beyond…

This is one of the greatest TV Commercials of all time.

Friskies Adventureland Commercial

It makes me proud to live in a country where TV Commercials like this one are produced.

And if you disagree, then you’re worse than Greg Gutfeld.

Posted in Art, Pets Tagged with:

The Real Progressives

In a comment at my home blog, and in related comments at her own blog, J.E. Dyer has ably encapsulated the negative responses of numerous conservatives to my post on “The Point of Being Annoyed with Glenn Beck.” J.E. concedes some of her own hesitations regarding Beck (as she did, implicitly, throughout “Beck and the Legacy“), but also expresses incomprehension regarding one of my main criticisms:

How is it dehumanizing invective to refer to progressivist political ideology as a cancer on the American polity? It would be one thing to say the metaphor is inapt. I don’t think it is, but one could argue the case dispassionately. Another criticism that wouldn’t necessarily be a reach would be that it’s hyperbolic. Again, I don’t think it is. I am convinced that progressivism is antithetical to limited, constitutional government. I think Beck is correct that progressivism and limited, constitutional government can’t coexist. One of them has to recede, be defeated, dissolve over time. They can’t occupy the same space.

[…]

I really don’t see what’s out-of-bounds about putting this in metaphorical terms as the operation of a “cancer.” Is it the metaphor, or the basic proposition, that you find so offensive…?

Well – both – except that I never expected anyone to care whether I personally was offended by GB and the to me unfortunate resonances of his rhetoric. My concerns initially were that Beck’s approach might be politically counterproductive and potentially dangerous, and that it would be rightly taken as offensive and extreme, or just plain nuts, by others. I see no gain in making Frank Rich and David Neiwert look relatively reasonable, however briefly. I am equally concerned, however, about how “the basic proposition” may be taken and acted upon by us – by conservatives.
Read more ›

Posted in Politics Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

I'm a cancer, he's a cancer, she's a cancer, we're a cancer…

Last night, J.E. Dyer replied to “The Point of Being Annoyed with Glenn Beck” (at HotAir here), and to related comments at her blog The Optimistic Conservative. (For anyone new to the discussion, “The Point…” was itself framed as a response to J.E.’s “Beck and the Legacy,” which had referenced my short “Bennett vs. Beck” entry of last Monday).  At Zombie Contentions, we’ve had a wide-ranging discussion in the comment thread, but I’d like to consolidate the dialogue with J.E. rather than try to advance it in two or more separate venues amidst multi-sided group discussions.  This approach is further justified because J.E. is such an able and articulate spokesperson:  If I were Glenn Beck, I would be delighted and grateful to have J.E. speaking up for me and forcefully extending my arguments.  She also concisely expresses the responses of many who disagree either with the big name/high level critics or, rather a different thing, with me.

I also think that the discussion, whose implications go well beyond what anyone thinks of Glenn Beck, or thinks of someone else for what he or she said about Glenn Beck, can be usefully divided into style and  substance – even if, in the end, the two have to be considered together.

In this post, I will focus on style – that is, political rhetoric and presentation.

In the ZC comment, J.E. concedes some of her own hesitations regarding aspects of Beck’s approach (as she did, implicitly, in her “Legacy” post), then expresses incomprehension about one of my central complaints: Read more ›

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: , , ,

State of the Discussion

+ BTW, I recently upgraded some this and that on the back end of the blog, and it does seem to make comments post much faster [. . .]
Gutenberg: The Invention of the Printing Press, the Destruction of WordPress

For WordPress self-hosted people, there is already a "restore legacy editor" plugin, even though Gutenberg hasn't been installed yet as the default.

Gutenberg: The Invention of the Printing Press, the Destruction of WordPress

Extraordinary Comments

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