Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I'm involved, just a teeny-weeny bit, in this flame war Robert Stacy McCain's having with Conor Friedersdorf.

At Stacy's post yesterday, "
Conor Friedersdorf vs. Dan Riehl" (on the debate between Friedersdorf and Dan), I left the link to Conor's post, Iran, Twitter, and The American Information Elite." That link goes to the Atlantic, where Freidersdorf's now a "big ideas" blogger. Stacy's been hammering Friedersdorf pretty hard anyway, but even more now that news of the Freidersdorf's Atlantic gig got out.

I've been thinking about writing something about this. So, I might as well comment on Dan's remark earlier on the conservatives schism (
David Frum vs. Rush Limbaugh, etc.), when he noted that "To be honest, I wonder if this whole moderation movement isn't simply about purging the social conservatives."

Well, yeah. I'll just say here that Conor Freidersdorf is an Andrew Sullivan myrmidon. As anyone who's followed the recent conservative debates knows, especially in the months since the election, there's been an amalgamation of moderate conservatives, left-libertarians, and unpatriotic paleocons on the postmodern right. I wrote about this (only slightly tongue-in-cheek) the other day, in "
What's Up With David Weigel?" From Conor Friederdorf to David Frum, to Daniel Larison to Andrew Sullivan, and then E.D. Kain, there's a movement afoot that wants desperately to be "conservative," but one that is failing miserably.

The reason is simple: These folks, let's loosely call them neoclassical conservatives, or neoclassicons, are driven by an essentially leftist-libertarian domestic policy orientation that is primarily animated by an intense hatred of "theoconservatism." That's the term Andrew Sullivan deploys in his book, The Conservative Soul: Fundamentalism, Freedom, and the Future of the Right. In Sullivan's case in particular, hatred of theoconservatism emerges out of the psycho-sexual torment of his own homosexuality. For a man who has apparently long preached a standard of homosexual monogamy, his own personal moral breakdown into wild sexual excursions of high-risk barebacking and alleged steroidal drug use makes it difficult for reasonable people to take him seriously. Sullivan's own considerably masterful writing, of course, and his ability to put his finger to the pulse of the latest ideological hot buttons, helps to give him some cachet among those on the left looking for some type of pop-legitimacy to their postmodern agenda.

What's striking about all of this is not just how wrong these folks are on most of the main issues of contemporary conservatism, but also how, from my perspsective, the Sullivan-cadres mount their ideological program completely bereft of decency. Andrew Sullivan himself,
as is well known, practically lost his mind last year after Sarah Palin's nomination as the GOP presidential running-mate. His attacks on the Palin family have hit bottom and he keeps digging. Beyond that, I routinely see his followers and allies making the most ridiculously unhinged attacks, allegations, and arguments. Conor Friedersdorf put up a totally absurd piece a couple of weeks back, in an essay called, "A Question for War on Terror Hawks." Friedersdorf advocated waterboarding for folks like the suspect in the murder of George Tiller. I took him to task in my post, "Is Waterboarding Worse Than Abortion?," and he left a hopeless comment noting his exception.

E.D. Kain, another neoclassicon who practically worships Sullivan - and not to mention,
Daniel Larison - is himself like a confused adolescent, afraid to engage in an intellectual debate with me at this blog. E.D. Kain was once in regular communication with me as the publisher of Neo-Constant, which was described as a blog of "Hard-line neoconservative political commentary, global politics, and foreign policy." Like Andrew Sullivan, E.D. must feel a need to float along the tides of partisan popularity. He's certainly denuded himself of moral standing among those with whom he had previous communications. But that kind of childishness appears to characterize the neoclassicons overall. Recall that Andrew Sullivan attacked Ann Althouse for her simple decision to get married. Why? Jealousy most likely, but also spite for hetersexuals and traditionalists. This is how these guys roll.

And what for? For all intents and purposes these guys have joined the other side. They're not conservative by any sense of the imagination. One doesn't have to be a devout church-goer to be deeply conservative on the issues, and that includes on such starkly moral questions as the right to life for unborn children. One of the most important conserative intellectuals in the last few decades is Robert Bork. And he claims to be just mildly religious (see Bork's, "Hard Truths About the Culture War" for a penetrating expose on the mainstreaming of postmodern radicalism in contemporary public affairs).

Robert Stacy McCain mostly just writes these people off as little men, a bunch of immature pseudo-conservative social climbers. My take is perhaps rougher. From social policy to international affairs, I see these folks in bed with the hardline activists of the nihilist left. On gay marriage to Iraq, there's little that differentiates them. For them to suggest they're "reclaiming" conservativism is preposterous. No smart conservative on today's right would even deign to associate with views like this. Rush Limbaugh is popular for a reason. Mark Levin's Tyranny and Liberty remains at the top of the bestseller lists, and the mainstream press has refused to give him the time of day. David Frum and Sullivan, on the other hand, are feted like they're top political soothsayers of the age. It's a strange thing.

No matter. Analysis of election data, as well as recent polling, indicates how far out on a limb the neoclassicons have placed themselves. The genuine conservatism of folks like Robert Bork, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin will be making a huge comeback in no time. Frankly, the Obama administration's deficit-driven agenda is already being repudiated in public opinion, and former Obama voters are now having remorse.

It's good to put these neoclassicons in there place, of course. Conservatives have to fight for every inch. The media's in the tank for Obama, and Andrew Sulllivan and his stooges are simply seeking a path of least resistance in their hubristic attempt to excommunicate the traditional right-wing from the political spectrum.

I'll have more on this debate in upcoming posts.


brenda cox giguere said...

This is one of your best.

smitty1e said...

Excellent analysis, but did you mean to say:
"Sullivan's own considerably masterful writing, of course, and his ability to put his finger to the pulse of the latest ideological hot buttons, helps to give him some cachet among those on the left looking for some type of pop-legitimacy to their postmodern agenda."

Kevin Robbins said...

"Rush Limbaugh is popular for a reason."

Please define popular.

AmPowerBlog said...

Thank you, Brenda!

AmPowerBlog said...

You're right, Smitty!

conor friedersdorf said...

I DID NOT and DO NOT support waterboarding George Tiller's murderer -- in fact, I don't think that police or military should waterboard anyone.

Additionally, I haven't any desire to purge social conservatives. I spent 14 years attending a religious private school, I've spent the last two weeks defending Rod Dreher, a religious and social conservative, against those who want to purge him... I mean, how inaccurate! In a post ostensibly about me, you get most of your facts wrong, and spend most of your time talking about Andrew Sullivan.

Dennis said...

Excellent article Donald.
As much as Rush sometimes bothers me he is popular because he touches on many of the issues that are important to a significant number of individuals. The fact that he has maintained the large audiences he has for well over twenty years is instructive. When somebody on the Left on radio commands a tenth of the following then maybe we can talk about popular and definitions.
If one cannot figure out these things for themselves it is their problem because of a bias based on ideology. Donald or the rest of us are not your research assistants. In other words DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. If some of you actually read something other that blogs, biased newspapers and screeds from the Left you might open your mind to other possibilities and understanding of others opinions.
As I have stated before one only has to look at the categories at the bottom of each commentary to find areas of personal research. Also, Donald provides large numbers of links if one is truly interested in finding out information.
Sometimes I wonder if anyone on the Left knows what a Bibliography is or has actually read one. Many of the books I read come directly from the Bibliography of other books I have read. A lot of them historical and science oriented though my tastes are somewhat eclectic.
One wonders how many of you graduated from institutions of higher learning, but exhibit such poor research skills. A link is not RESEARCH or proof of fact.
Undergraduate training should provide one with basic knowledge in a wide variety of disciplines with some advanced work in one's chosen discipline. Graduate training further ones knowledge and puts the onus on one to apply all that knowledge to solve practical issues, problems, et al.
What kind of people are being given, and I mean given, degrees?

Rusty Walker said...

Very important and instructive post. Thanks for helping to define the various parameters, Good Dr.!

Mark Harvey said...

SPOT ON calling the alleged conservatives out! Poor things. They want SO much to fit in someplace but there is no place for them to fit in except for the Leftinistra.

How bizarre is that?

Benjamin Blattberg said...


An interesting post, but one which raises a question for me: what is it that you think makes a conservative conservative (as opposed to a moderate conservative)?

That is, in a recent post you offered a map of various ideological tendencies, but I'm wondering what sort of political policies these ideologies lead us towards. That is, if the neo-classic-cons are about purging social conservatives, what would remain? Small-government conservatives, shading off into libertarians? And if this purge didn't work, what sort of conservative group would that be--would it be made up of social conservatives (who believe in some level of social engineering) and small-government conservatives? And how would that group work together?

Let me preempt a possible critique of Dennis's here: Dennis might say that I should do my own research, and he's got a point. But I think that right now, it would benefit both of us (or all of us) more to discuss openly what it is we want or think.

(As a tangent, I've once or twice critiqued Donald's site for dipping into news-aggregation rather than commentary, so let me offer sincere thanks that this post is more commentary--I can go elsewhere for news, but only here do I get to see what Donald thinks about things. Now, I often disagree with Donald, but I'm interested to see what he thinks.)

cracker said...

Cheers, good post

Having spent the morning reading through trackbacks, references, and listening to debates.

Overall,(and omitting the conjecture and specter, You (Prof.) and your contemporaries wrap your lean prose with....)

I think McCain is correct in the assessment that there's an age difference that accounts for the attitudes and platitudes of Mr. Friedersdorf.

Mind you the the significance of age.......McCains proposal of "whipper snapper" is indicative of a myopia, if not an intellectual moat suffered by many an aging, settled stone, greening with fuzz (one that no longer rolls).

An analogy, related to cars and the present state of the auto industry...

at the stoplight

The 86" Camaro blowing carbonized black smoke, revving loose engine.
There's a Bim (Bimbo) in the passenger seat, smoking a Slim, big hooters and a missing tooth, Rejected from the cover of "Over 40" magazine.

They're next to a, Mini Cooper, that runs on electricity, smooth fast ....

The light turns green, the Bim looks over and yells "Fag!"

The next light is the future.

cracker said...

Also good comment Dennis,

Certainly shared peeves,

I submit that lack of understanding "Research Methods" is applicable to many, Left Right and Center.... , Its a staple of the blogosphere.

That ignorance is the underpinnings of "popularity", .....many confuse it for knowledge of a given subject.


DrCruel said...

If Rush wasn't so popular, his Left-leaning opponents wouldn't be nearly so keen to pontificate on how "unpopular" he is, how stupid his fans are, etc. They'd simply ignore him.

I've learned from hard experience to be extremely cynical about anything that Leftists or their friends have to say. I'm no Dittohead, but I'd take Rush Limbaugh over Al Franken, Keith Olbermann, Randi Rhodes, Jennifer Garofalo, Sean Penn, or most any of the other pop pundits popular amongst the Democrats.

Rich Casebolt said...

I see one big reason the "neoclassicons" are finding themselves media darlings today is that they have a common cause with them and their Leftist fellow-travelers ...

... the denigration and reduction to insignificance of the Judeo-Christian worldview as a serious guide for responsible living, because they consider it based upon mere superstition, and consider its adherents terminally ignorant for embracing it.

They're just another expression of the humanist faith ... and its obsession to make itself the EXCLUSIVE worldview for the thinking man.

That is why, in particular, any signs of public acceptance of Sarah Palin enrages them ... for any success on her part validates as wise what they consider foolishness ... in their view, anything that challenges the intellectually-inbred conventional wisdom they possess CAN'T be wise, by definition.

cracker said...

Mr. Casebolt

Palin's present example, of responible lifestyle guides.....

Scares the shit out of most the responsible and involved parents, let alone average citizens in this country.

It just exacerbates from there.