Thursday, February 08, 2007

What's Negotiable.

What may be somewhat lost is Rod's blogging today is that he has made abundantly clear what values are negotiable when his social conservatism conflicts with his economic, erm, populism: the most important issues to most social conservatives, abortion and marriage.
I dunno, this 2008 election is going to be interesting for me as a social conservative. I've got no natural candidate to support -- unless Huckabee and/or Brownback get all Smoove B on me -- and I would by no means rule out voting for Giuliani. Like Ross says, social and religious conservatives are a lot more complicated than our opponents give us credit for. Giuliani (and for that matter, Obama) is far from my ideal on the issues. But with Giuliani, he's tough and innovative, and he's absolute right on law and order issues. I think Bush was the last hurrah for the social right regarding substantially changing abortion policy at the federal level, and for passing a constitutional amendment to prevent SCOTUS from declaring gay marriage. And frankly, I am incapable of believing the pandering of Republican politicians to my side on these issues. The war and its aftermath is more acutely important right now, and Giuliani has not been on the right side here. Still, I would trust him infinitely more than I would trust Hillary Clinton. [emphasis mine]


"I think Bush was the last hurrah for the social right regarding substantially changing abortion policy at the federal level, and for passing a constitutional amendment to prevent SCOTUS from declaring gay marriage. And frankly, I am incapable of believing the pandering of Republican politicians to my side on these issues."

So far, I believe Gina Dalfonzo from Chuck Colson's Breakpoint blog is the only one to have noticed this and to have commented:
Congratulations, Rod. You've finally done it. You've completely floored me. How wonderful to know we don't have to bother trying to find and support pro-life, pro-marriage candidates anymore, because Bush was the last hurrah.

Whatever that means.

Rod explained himself, somewhat lamely:
I'm not saying I like it, or that we should have to find and support candidates who believe what we social conservatives believe. What I'm saying, though, is that if we couldn't get this stuff through with Bush as president and the Republicans holding both houses of Congress, then I find it unlikely that we'll ever get it through -- especially, on the marriage question, given that young adults by and large have no problem with gay marriage.

Like I said, I don't like it, but I think that's where we are.

I believe he means that he's not saying that we shouldn't have to find and support politicians who oppose abortion and the redefinition of marriage, but why should we bother if he thinks the cause is hopeless?

He betrays what I believe to be an unjustifiable pessimism: Rod says our chances are slim for "substantially changing abortion policy at the federal level." First, somebody should explain to him that we can't change abortion policy at any other level because of Roe v. Wade.

Second, someone should explain that, though the pro-life movement suffered a 7-2 defeat with Roe, we now have four originalists -- Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito -- who would likely overturn Roe because it was an atrocious decision. Furthermore, of the five oldest members of the court, three are liberal (Stevens, 86; Ginsberg, 73; Breyer, 68) and the 70-year-old Kennedy is considered a swing vote. Is it impossible or even unlikely for Bush's successor to shape the court so that it has the five originalists needed to overturn Roe? Hardly.

As with Iraq, Rod displays an incredible lack of resolve: that young adults are generally less opposed to redefining marriage is hardly a reason to give up -- or in Rod's case, to make the issue unimportant in deciding who to support in a presidential race.

On the issue of marriage, I agree that the moment has probably passed for an amendment to preempt a SCOTUS ruling mandating gay marriage. Does that make the composition of the court any less important? Does that make an amendment after such a ruling an impossibility? Put simply, does that mean that we can have no further effect on the legal definition of marriage, so that we should set aside that issue to support someone who is utterly opposed to our position?

Thank God that those who led the pro-life movement in the first years after Roe were made of sterner stuff than Rod here.

Further, Rod displays a sort of ideological purity that is positively counter-productive. He says that he is "incapable of believing the pandering of Republican politicians to my side on these issues." Suppose his distrust is justified: let's suppose both parties' leadership holds our positions in contempt and consider us to be women-hating homophobes. Is it better to vote for a Democrat who's sincere in their opposition to us, or to elect a Republican who, pandering or not, will advance our cause, however slightly?

All of this was a long time coming. After all, he supported the pro-choice liberal Joe Barton because of his position on the environment; he gallingly redefined what it means to be pro-life to justify supporting abortionists because of their position on Iraq; and he made clear his belief that rank-and-file Republicans are homophobes for agreeing with him on the issue of marriage.

I wrote in July that I believe he's been just begging the Democrats to moderate on abortion and secularism, that he would gladly leap into their arms if only they would moderate their positions. It appears that I gave him too much credit. Let's ignore his supporting the Dems in November because he wanted to punish the DC Republicans: as I pointed out before, Rod praised Obama back in June for his speech on religion, but Al Mohler rightly pointed out that the speech offered nothing more than "secularism with a smile." Now, Rod's praising Obama because he could "admit that his mind was changed by a religious conservative." His mind was changed on what, his policy position on abortion? Certainly not, Obama's support of abortion on-demand is unchanged, it's just that he's moderated his rhetoric to emphasize "fair-minded words."

Wrap the iron hand of radicalism in the velvet glove of civil speech, and that's good enough for Rod.

Even that may not be needed, though, because now Rod is throwing overboard two of the key issues of social conservatism, giving them up as lost causes to justify his support of social liberals.

Insofar as a coherent ideology can be determined, perhaps Rod is more accurately described as some variant of the paleoconservative than as a liberal. But on economic matters, his vague populism has not distinguished itself from socialism: perhaps the distributism of E.F. Schumacher differs from traditional socialism in that it wants the state to command the economy in novel ways.

On international matters, his talk about our being in a generational war and needing a tough foreign policy hardly amounts to an actual idea for winning that war; if he can call Iraq a "meat grinder" despite a casualty rate that's ridiculously low compared to the rest of history, it's hard to see how his attitudes are any less suicidal than the Left's politically correct multiculturalism; and, ultimately, his disagreements with Ted Kennedy and Jane Fonda didn't stop him from supporting the Democrats in November, did it?

He even takes for granted the assumptions of the Left: the dire state of the environment; the near infallibility of the mainstream press; "the fraud, the mendacity" of the Bush Administration for getting us into a war on "dubious pretenses;" and even the slander that mainstream conservatives are godless materialists who gave Bush their uncritical support until late 2005.

With his justifying an abandonment of opposition to abortion and the redefinition of marriage to support liberals -- demanding little more than talk about community and a more civilized rhetoric to justify their radicalism -- I must say, he may not be a liberal, but he might as well be.

What's the difference, other than his being able to broadcast commentaries on NPR as a disenchanted conservative? What does it matter?

His journey to liberalism, predicted by Jonah Goldberg less than a year ago, is complete, for all practical purposes. He will support liberals and their causes, and ultimately no disagreement with them will amount to anything substantive, to say nothing of actual opposition.


Blogger Bubba said...

Lengthy as the post already was, I wanted to limit it to the subject at hand, but there is more to say about that blog entry, particularly this:

When I say "the war and its aftermath," I'm talking in general about the war on Islamist terror. I am one of those religious conservatives who does believe that this is a civilizational war, and that we're going to be fighting it for the rest of my life, at least. And that we haven't been fighting it well under Bush. There is no national politician I trust more to understand what is at stake here than Rudy Giuliani, and not to go soft. What I want to know, though, is if he learned the lesson of our failure with the Iraq adventure. Because I don't care how much of a harda*s he is, if he's going to bring us more of that Bush-style messianic Wilsonianism, we cannot afford to have him in office.

Given the choice between "Bush-style messianic Wilsonianism" and someone who doesn't even understand the threat we face -- and Rod is clear that he believes many on the Left do not -- he would choose the latter?

Other than "Wilsonianism is bad," what lesson should Rudy learn? What policy does Rod support if not trying to reshape the reactionary Arab world into something that can actually coexist with Western freedom?

I've yet to see any evidence that the question has even crossed Rod's mind.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Oengus Moonbones said...

After having read Mr. Dreher's blog for some time now, I've reached my own conclusions:

For me, Mr. Dreher is an interesting blogger, a bon vivant with his own genial, chatty kind of style. And I will continue to enjoy his writing.

However, I no longer take him seriously, and hence I have no disappointments.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Flambeaux said...

I missed Jonah's prediction that he was going all left-liberal (again) on us.

Doesn't surprise me, though.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

a bon vivant with his own genial, chatty kind of style.

Well, chacun a son gout. :p

---One who never took him seriously

5:47 AM  
Blogger Flambeaux said...

Yes, but diane, you seem to have had the grace to have "known him when".

Some of us were not so fortunate. But once bitten, twice shy and all that.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Paul Zummo said...

I have my own disagreements with President Bush, and he's not been as outspoken an advocate for the pro-life clause as I would have liked. But at the end of the day, he will have done a better job at reversing Roe through his judicial selections than either his father or even the great Ronald Reagan. He may not have a lot of other accomplishments to boast of when he's done, but he will ahve accomplished more in this regard than his predecessors.

7:04 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

I agree, Mr. Zummo, that Bush has done a lot for the pro-life cause just counting his Supreme Court appointments. If Bush's successor is committed to nominate originalists, there's a very good chance that we'd have a court that would overturn Roe within the next decade. To give up on the cause now is insane.

On the subject of Iraq, I've been giving more thought to Rod's criticism of what he appallingly calls "messianic Wilsonianism," and I don't think there's any substance there: He does not seem to acknowledge Iran's interference in Iraq, possibly because it doesn't fit the narrative of our unleashing the demonic forces in Iraq by deposing Saddam. Were he to acknowledge the material support Iran (and by extension, Syria) has provided to its proxies in Iraq, he might have to admit that dealing with Iran's interference might actually improve the situation. It's becoming increasingly clear that he doesn't want the situation to improve.

Let us call our current efforts in Iraq "soft" Wilsonianism, whereas a harder variety would have entailed a provisional government under American/coalition authority: we would have brought order and ensured economic stability before even moving to make Iraq democratic. Our trouble in Iraq may stem from our Wilsonianism being too soft rather than an inherent flaw in Wilsonian nation-building.

And if that's the case, Rod ought to consider the possibility that the fear-mongering of the Left -- of which Rod's taken part, calling Iraq a "meat grinder" despite its historically low casulaty rate -- makes any hard Wilsonianism a political impossibility: screeching about occupation and oppression, Haliburton and Vietnam would have been even louder.

But since he takes no account of Iran's interference, our deliberately delicate approach to nation-building, and the consequences of the opposition's vitriolic rhetoric, his criticism of Wilsonianism seems premature and incomplete.

To say nothing of his steadfastly avoiding the issue of what we're supposed to do instead, other than have a "muscular" foreign policy to fight what he admits is a generational war.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

And now Rod's talking about a
close friend who's being deployed to Iraq, and using the occasion to call Bush "despicable."

(What was that Rod said Tuesday, and does it have no bearing on this comment now?)

God bless his friend, and I do hope he returns home safely, but I'm not sure that his friend being sent ought to have any bearing on our foreign policy -- or on Rod's authority to speak about the war. I struggle to conceive of any honorable reason Rod would bring this up, quote Jim Webb, and call Bush a dispicable man whose actions condemn him.

8:15 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

dreher ought to ask his friend why he volunteers to fight for men who are, pace daffy duck, dithpicablllle!

8:32 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Consider this: one of Rod's paleo friends that he most frequently cites lists as inspiration to Burkean paleoconservatism both the Confederacy and (get this) the loyalists who opposed the American revolution.

"The rebels of 1776 relied on the all together mythical contract between the people and its government, which they deemed the King and Parliament to have broken and thus made their rule illegitimate. The ahistorical and illusory nature of this contract was apparent to the Loyalists, just as the entire notion of the social contract is viewed as unreal by our contemporary (paleo)conservative thinkers."

Of the loyalists, Larison writes, "it is to them that American conservatives might more profitably look for inspiration."

Consider also one of the ISI conference that Rod highlighted. (It's not the one at which he'll be speaking, which he just now announced at his blog.) At the March 24th conference, Allan Carlson has the following presentation:

"The 'Good War': WWII and the Displacement of Community in America"

The "Good War." In scare-quotes. Let me guess that his thesis is that joining WWII wasn't that good for America, a thesis I believe Pat Buchanan himself agrees with.

So: the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II. Paleoconservatives have their reasons for opposing our side in all three conflicts, for disagreeing with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower.

What American war do they support? What American war would they support?

And in what sense (and on what planet) could these guys be considered American conservatives beyond their being reactionaries that happen to have been born here.

We should take solace that those who want to argue the Civil War and WWII don't have a snowball's chance in Hell of making real advances politically. But it's still very creepy stuff to read.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

And, Oengus, it would be far easier not to take Rod Dreher seriously if it wasn't so clear that (in a sense) he wants so desperately to be taken seriously.

I say "in a sense" because, it's not like he's actually interested in forming a cohesive personal philosophy and defending that philosophy from questions and criticism. He wants the praise of the pundit without engaging in serious punditry.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

And now Rod has said everything short of actually writing the phrase, "Bush lied, people died."

"What on earth is hyperbolic about finding despicable men who sent this country to war on the basis of intelligence cherry-picked to fit the conclusion that the war planners wanted? Jim, men are dying because of the decisions that were made in Washington, and they will continue to die until this thing ends. What is moral about remaining silent about the mendacity of our leaders? What is selfish about calling out the Bush leadership for what they've done? Is Sen. Webb selfish for saying what he said, even though he's got a son fighting in Iraq?"


9:59 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

And from one "Venn T. Diagram," this response to my claim that Rod's jumped to liberalism needs to be reposted.

Hey, a guy's got to do what he has to to survive. If you woke up and found yourself to be a) 40, b) a recently-demoted editorialist at a money-hemmoraging provincial broadsheet and c) with yet another mouth to feed recently being born, you would also be looking for the best, most secure way to preserve your income stream. And in second-tier paper newsrooms, that way is to start toeing the party line.

Have some sympathy for the pragmatic reality Rod faces. He's burned his bridges with opinion journalism on the right (not counting vanity publications like AmCon), can't go back there. And at his age and situation, it's not like a, say, Obama Administration is going to ask him to join the White House speechwriters' staff in January 2009, even if you're right and he's become a liberal in effect if not by creed.

No, in much the same way Rod said the other day that "Bush was the last hurrah for the social right", and from here we have nowhere to go but left, Rod's career apogee is not in the future. It's about hanging on to what one has, so that mortgage payements can be made. He's still a "conservative" and will claim to be such for the remainder of his career. He'll also believe it, in his heart of hearts. But the time comes when a man has to put away youthful exuberance and dial it down a few notches to run with the herd.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Andy Nowicki said...

So, Bubba, tt's "creepy" to read alternative points of view to the mainstream account of the moral superiority of the North over the South in the Civil War (never mind the depravity of Union generals Sherman and Sheridan, who murdered, raped, and pillaged wherever they went, or Lincoln, who called the shots and was thus complicit in all of their atrocities), or the wisdom of America essentially riding to Stalin's aid and enabling his mass murder of millions of his civlilians during and after World War 2 because Roosevelt was so enamored of "Uncle Joe" that he was willing to sacrifice thousands of American soldiers for the growth of Communism in Eastern Europe? "Creepy," huh? Well, hell; consider me a creep.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Venn's comment was deleted -- no surprise, but he has more:

"Let me be much less direct than I'd like in hopes of getting past BNet's civility censors this time"

Dream on if you think there is actually a live BNet moderator reviewing this blog in real-time. It's just not that important to them. Nope, it's just Rod himself sitting there in Dallas, hitting the delete button over and over again. Criticism from the right Is. Not. Allowed. Particularly when it involves paying attention to that man behind the curtain; that would be "ad hominem" and thus forbidden. Calling other people despicable though, is fine.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...


never mind the depravity of Union generals Sherman and Sheridan, who murdered, raped, and pillaged wherever they went, or Lincoln, who called the shots and was thus complicit in all of their atrocities

Um, never mind the chattal slavery?

I believe in federalism and I furthermore believe that the federal government has since gone too far in usurping state's rights (justified mostly through untenable readings of the commerce clause and the mention of the "general welfare"). Nevertheless, I do not believe that state's rights do not supercede human rights, including the right not to be treated as property.

And, like Patton, I believe we should have finished the job: first Hitler, then Stalin. But that doesn't nullify the good and necessary work we did do in defeating Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan.

But you miss my point: the sum total of the neocons' opposition to the United States' involvement in World War II and the Civil War AND the American Revolution itself -- putting them at odds with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower -- all while they claim to be true American conservatives IS creepy.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

That should read, nevertheless, I do not believe that state's rights supercede human rights, including the right not to be treated as property. Too many negatives.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Andy Nowicki said...

Additonal correction: I think by "neocons" you mean "paleocons"

Well, most paleos aren't against the American Revolution. We do tend to side with the South during the Civil War, but not from any conviction that slavery is good. And we don't care for FDR, a tyrant if ever there were one. And we tend to be sticklers for the notion that you don't pursue a moral goal through immoral ends-- i.e., even if slavery was bad, it doesn't justify the wholesale destruction and subjugation of the South in the Civil War and Reconstruction; also, even if the Nazis and Imperial Japanese were bad (and no paleocon I know of is saying they weren't), it doesn't justify the slaughter of civilians at Allied-led atrocities like the firebombing of Dresden, or the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc.

So we're not against all the people you mentioned, just a lot of them. Still creepy?

11:54 AM  
Blogger Paul Zummo said...

Paleos also tend to engage in some historical revisionism pitting the evil generals Sherman and Grant against the holy and wholesome Robert E. Lee. The supposed raping and pillaging that took place when Sherman marched to the sea (never mind that southern land owners themselves set many of the fires ravaged the coast) is supposed to be a greater evil than, say, the atrocities of Andersonville or, say, holding millions of black Americans as chattel slaves.

And of course we'll hear some stuff about states' rights while ignoring the fact that a) there is no right to secesssion and, b) Lincoln was not even President when 7 of the 11 Confederate states seceded, and thus could not have taken any action to motivate the unlawful rebellion. Moreover, President Lincoln had not pledged to usurp the rights of slaveholding states to continue the practice, so in essence 11 states unlawfully seceded because they didn't like the fact that an opponent of slavery - but one who wasn't an outright abolitionist - was President. Yeah, the confederacy was born out of an ill-advised temper tamptrum. What a romantic lost cause. Not.

Paleoconservatives. Neither paleo, nor conservatives. Just bitter reactionaries whose understanding of history is incredibly skewed.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Andy, you're right that I meant "paleocons," but it does seem to me that many of those from that particular region of conservatism (self-described paleoconservatives and otherwise) tend to overemphasize the wickedness and impotence of the United States -- you'll hear stuff about Sherman and Dresden, but slavery and London, not so much.

I'll give you a contemporary example in the question, is culture fragile or resiliant?

If the subject's immigration, the answer is that culture is fragile and so that, therefore, many paleo's say we need not only to enforce our immigration laws (which we surely need) but we also need to very strictly limit immigration.

But if the subject's Iraq, the answer is that it's very resiliant, and there's nothing we can do to encourage political or religious freedom in the entire Arab region.

How does one reconcile the two positions? By noting that, even though they imply different notions about the permanance of culture, they are both rooted in a faith that America is impotent -- impotent in preserving our own culture from even legal immigration, and impotent in changing the culture of Iraq.

In clinging so tightly to their own ideas about an idealized America that never was and never will be, many paleocons strike me as entirely too quick to join those who are genuinely anti-American in their often vicious criticism of America as it actually is.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

LOL, flambeaux. Actually, I don't remember Rod Dreher from the days when my DH taught world history, history of Western philosophy, Latin, and Greek at the Louisiana School (and when both DH and I used to chaperone the prom). I remember many of the students vividly, but I cannot place Rod. However, I assume he must have come to at least one of the proms I chaperoned. He was a member of the charter class there--and so were we (DH as teacher, that is).

Bubba: At another forum I used to frequent (where I now mostly lurk) the paleocons have been endorsing not only a romanticized view of the Confederacy but also something called "kinism" along with anti-semitism and extreme xenophobia WRT Hispanic immigrants.

Is this typical for paleocons? What distresses me is that traditionalist Catholics seem to be jumping on the bandwagon. :p

4:38 PM  
Blogger Andy Nowicki said...

Kathleen, from what I can tell, kinism seems more the province of extreme Calvinists than trad Catholics.

6:16 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Bubba, if you have more to say you should start another blog. we'll all follow you over there dutifully. maybe chime in occasionally. maybe.

3:15 PM  

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