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Glenn Beck is the perfect example of the Conservative fallacy.

Having been raised with the all the benefits of an open, liberal society, he has come out with the belief that all his success is due to his own effort, and not to the structure that modern civilization created for him.

That’s what allows him and his ilk to look down on the unsuccessful: they must not be working as hard as I am.  And therefore they are morally undeserving of success, or even assistance.

“How did I learn about the evils of progressivism? I educated myself.  I went to the library.  Books are free.

I’ve been on food stamps and Welfare.  Anybody help me out? No.”

The essence of the modern Conservative spirit is a blind selfishness, wrapped in ignorance and piety.  Jesus tells us to love one another; to reconcile that with resenting and hating other people, one has to deny reality on a fairly large scale.


Throw Grandma From The Train

It’s “insane,” to use the words of several prominent Republicans, to believe that there are any “death panels” in the current healthcare proposal that will result in a government bureaucracy, directly or indirectly, sentencing the old or sick to death.  Yet the message is spreading in the fearful Right.

Part of the problem is a combination of fear and carelessness in wording. The GOP has been pushing the euthanasia/voluntary suicide hot button for YEARS, and any time any proposal from the left comes with the words “voluntary end-of-life counseling” they’ll naturally go ape because they assume it’s the “end-of-life” that’s voluntary, not the counseling.

Messaging is crucial, and the GOP is expert at turning messages that are intended for the moderately astute into total freak-outs for “Regular Americans.” Living wills get torqued into voluntary euthanasia; family planning becomes mass abortions; coverage for marital counseling becomes decreed divorces; school health counseling becomes homosexual indoctrination. I swear that by the time this is over somebody’s going to take Everett Koop’s statement that gun violence is a public health issue and turn that into “Obamacare will confiscate your guns!”

It’s both intellectually and morally bankrupt, and there’s barely any defense against it other than to gently suggest that Congress will make sure that any plan to make healthcare more available and affordable will not involve mass murder, reeducation camps, or martial law. Because absurd as it sounds, a whole lot of people actively believe that it will.


Well, well. Fireworks on the 3rd of July.

As much as this is a (self-described) gift to the people of Alaska, I’m not sure it ends up being a gift to the conservative movement, the Republican party, or the lower 49.  As usual, more was left unexplained than was illuminated, and if the historical pattern of surprise-announcements-by-Republican-Governors is followed, many things in Palin’s statement will be revealed to be half-truths, deceptions, or outright falsehoods.

So the huge question is “Why?” and I can really see only three probable answers:

1) Household finances.

Palin has repeatedly cited the legal costs of defending the ethics claims against her (and erroneously cited the cost to the Alaska taxpayer oil industry) and has failed to raise the funds to pay her lawyers.  Pesky ethics rules prevent her from generating outside income while Governor, though her popularity is still strong enough that she could make up the nut in a book advance and a month of personal appearances.  It’s possible that this is just a kitchen-table choice: this job is costing her more than it’s paying her, and she could get out of debt fast and actually start being able to afford that Saks Fifth Avenue wardrobe if she quit.

I consider this the strongest theory because a) it fits the facts in evidence and b) she claimed her real purpose was otherwise.  (For most people, I take their stated reason as the most likely, but for her, that never works.)

2) Another shoe is about to drop.

There’s been little mention that her hand-picked, barely-qualified Attorney General also resigned, suddenly and without explanation, in February.  He was replaced by the head of the Criminal Division, and Palin’s attempt to nominate a heavily-armed good ol’ boy was soundly defeated in the Legislature.  She finally got a nominee confirmed last month, but meanwhile the investigation into whether she inflated the cost of an already-controversial sports complex to tag on construction and materials for a personal vacation home has continued.  The speculation is that subpoenas were issued last week and the Palins were notified that they were targets of at least a state criminal investigation, if not federal.

If true, it still doesn’t provide a full explanation. Resignation in advance of indictment isn’t a great idea; it sort of telegraphs guilt.  There’s certainly an element of wishful thinking, too.  Palin has dodged every single ethics complaint; the one set of charges that was well-founded came from a toothless Legislature.

3) She’s running for President.

The only evidence for this is her cryptic (and misattributed) quote of Douglas MacArthur about “advancing in a different direction.” If she is making a conscious attempt to run for President, the resignation shows almost zero deliberate planning for it; if somebody else is backing her, it is the most incompetently-staged campaign kickoff in history.  Her only credibility in 2008 was her experience in being the executive of a (geographically) large state; by not completing her first term, she will have ceded her only talking point, which was her lead on Obama in executive experience.

As for the other nutty theories—pregnancy, an adultery scandal, truly being sick of the toll politics is taking on her family, cashing in on her fame while she has it, etc.—they’re all pretty speculative and poorly formed.  If she truly doesn’t have the hide for the rough-and-tumble of American politics, her resignation speech was too defiant; if she’s really expecting further personal revelations, the speech was too political.

So, as real journalists say, “it’s too early to tell.”  But this is far from Palin’s swan song. It may be her rambling, incoherent take on a Checkers speech.


Politico says that a panel of conservative judges may deny Obama the expanded executive powers established by the Bush Administration.

Progressives have been appalled that Obama is defending the Bush policies (even in word, if not in deed). These are the same executive powers that Obama decried as a Senator, and campaigned against in the general election.

One of two things is happening:

Obama is no dummy. He’s a constitutional scholar, and has deep respect for the institution of the Presidency. He realizes that the Presidency expands its power once in several generations; that normally the courts and Congress are continually chipping away at the Executive, not enlarging it. It’s his duty to the office to hold his ground, not just for himself but for future Presidents and the presidency itself. The last thing America needs is an impotent figurehead as Executive, with the Congress and Courts constantly sparring for power with no tiebreaker. So even if he never intends to use those powers, it’s his obligation to defend his right to.

Or the second thing, which I consider less likely, but more brilliant:

He’s aware that there are indeed biased, activist judges in the Judiciary, and that they are more likely to limit the executive powers of a [young, black] Democratic president than they were of Bush.

So this is a deke.

He’s inviting the Judiciary to do his job for him. Rather than ceding the ground that Bush took, he’s making the courts take it away from him, which establishes the precedent that the ground can never be retaken by future Presidents. And he’s letting the conservative circular firing squad put their firm endorsement on it.

He’ll make conservatives implement his policies to the point where they’ll claim it as their victory. And they might not even notice.

Again, I think the odds are long that he’s that Machiavellian. But if he is, and it succeeds, it will be the most masterful Presidential move in decades.


It seems that the greatest threat to heterosexual marriage is Republican politicians.


It’ll be nice to get our country back.


There are fundamental decencies at the core of conservatism.  It’s hard to tell in this campaign, as McCain and Palin have synthesized a bizarre ideological stew of McCarthyism, populism, Christian fundamentalism, and militarism that combines the cool judgment of Buck Turgidson with the intellectual rigor of Marge Gunderson. The daily defections of lifelong Republicans from the McCain camp show that the level of alarm and disgust at the present state of the movement is rising.  

The traditional circular firing squad is assembling itself now (which is surprising; they usually wait until December or so).  Conservatives are already talking about how long they’re going to have to spend in exile and on what basis they’ll reconstitute the Republican party and the conservative movement.  They’ll assess whether the core strategy of greed, fear, and religious fundamentalism is still a sound electoral coalition, and what, if any, policies their movement stands for.

I have some suggestions.

First, the Republicans have considered themselves the party of fiscal responsibility for the past century.  The actual economic benefits of their governance and their ability to manage spending has not matched their ideals, but they still have that brand.  Once the current recession ends, it’s likely that a balanced budget and paying down the national debt will be popular positions.  The Republican minority in Congress and Republican candidates in 2010 and 2012 could easily reconnect with their traditional voters through fiscal policy.

Second, the Republicans have always successfully branded the Democrats as the ones who use Big Government To Solve Problems.  One of the problems with the McCain campaign is that he almost entirely abandoned the Reagan “small government” message, and Bush has done nothing but hideously expand both the size and the intrusiveness of the Federal government.  A candidate with a specific plan for cutting or reshaping big programs (such as the GOP Congress and Clinton did with Welfare in the 90s) would get a lot of traction.

Republicans are jingoistic; they are nationalistic; they are passionate about traditional displays of love of country.  In this election cycle that’s been used in an ugly fashion, as a cover for xenophobia and racism.  But it can be used in a positive, Reaganesque way, by a candidate who cleanly separates the power of the country from the power of the government.  Adopting some Libertarian attitudes about governmental power, such as taking a strong stand against NSA eavesdropping, restoring Habeas Corpus, and staying out of the medical and sex lives of citizens could give them a message of being pro-liberty that might work well after a decade of Democratic governance.  

The greatest rise in crime in America in the past decade has not been in the inner cities; it’s been in rural areas, associated with poverty and drugs.  The Republicans used to be the Law and Order party.  Addressing the meth epidemic in rural areas for the purpose of getting dealers off the country roads and reducing crime would resonate as much with rural conservatives as the Democrats’ urban initiatives did with liberals in the 60s and 70s.

Finally, the GOP tapped a deep wellspring of populism with the Sarah Palin candidacy.  Combined with the crippling fall of the financial titans and the avaricious wealth those same titans looted from their firms on their departure, the GOP could have been well positioned to defend the “little guy” against the fat cats.  Unfortunately, McCain’s great personal wealth and the traditional big-donor funding base of the GOP made this message fundamentally insincere, with Palin’s $150,000 clothes budget being the most egregious example of the tone-deafness of the actual campaign.  I expect the next GOP cycle will follow the Obama model and raise extremely large amounts of money from millions of small rural and church-based donors, and may actually be able to do some token forays at executive compensation.

I’m afraid that the Republicans are going to have to abandon some of the elements that elected Bush twice.  Fear of Muslims and terrorists is just coming across as simple, stupid racism.  The social-issues package of anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage, anti-evolution policies just looks bigoted and ignorant.  And while a pro-business bias has always been a Republican hallmark, if the burgeoning business of 2010 is alternative energy, they’re going to have to drop the dispute about climate change and the environment, because that will be the engine of commerce of the next decade.

A Republican party and conservative movement based on efficient, inexpensive government; sound fiscal management; laws and regulations that maximize personal liberty; focus on catching criminals rather than terrorists; and supporting the needs of the middle class over those of the wealthy would be an all-new party with solid connections to its history, but a great deal of distance from what we have seen in 2000–2008.