The GOP’s Civil Civil War

Every once in a while an article comes along that makes the scales drop away and makes me go “ah hah! That’s how it is!”

I’m a conservative.  Have been for over 25 years.  And in all that time, there’ve been two things that have bothered me:

  1. The media’s fixation for mixing up “republicans” and “conservatives”.  This is always a problem in Minnesota, with GOP’s history of having collaborated with the DFL’s spending orgies in the seventies and eighties, and having had Arne Carlson as governor for eight years, which seems to make every DFL pundit feel entitled to remind conservatives “but Tom Horner was a perfectly legitimate Republican!”  Since some of the people who say this are smart, savvy political observers I have to figure they’re being willfully obtuse, but in the cases of many non-conservatives, I can’t help but think it’s just ignorance.
  2. “The Southern Strategy”.  Way back in the pleistocene epoch, Richard Nixon supposedly started spinning the GOP’s message to play to the fears of white southern racists.

Well, I’ve been a conservative since Reagan’s second term, and I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever met a geniunely racist conservative or Republican.  Not one.  (And I’m not going to superimpose the fact the the most gleefully racist person I’ve met in my entire life was a DFL organizer onto the rest of the party. You’re welcome).

And so for decades, I’ve wondered what form of conservatism people were talking about when they mentioned either of the above.

Jacob Weisberg summed it up well in, of all places, Slate; there are really three different kinds of conservatism:  Northeastern (“moderate”, outwardly secular, tends to work within in big government; think Mitt Romney) and Southern (conservative, evangelical, with a racial aspect), which were the two main faces of conservatism from the 1950’s through the 1990’s.   Weisberg notes:

The big drama of the GOP over the past several decades has been the Northeastern view giving way to the Southern one. To see this transformation in a single family, witness the shift from George H.W. Bush to George W. Bush.

The third branch of conservatism:  Western.  It’s small-l libertarian, Tenth-Amendment-friendly, small-government, and on the rise:

You see this in the figures who have dominated the GOP since Barack Obama’s election 19 months ago: Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Rand Paul. You see it in the right’s overarching theme: opposition to any expanded role for government, whether in promoting economic recovery, extending health care coverage, or regulating financial markets. You see it most strongly in the Tea Party movement that in recent months has captured the party’s imagination and driven its agenda.

And no, it’s not like the three “factions” have uniforms and sub-conventions:

On many issues, such as guns, taxes, and immigration, Southern and Western conservatives come out in the same place. They get there, however, by different means. The fundamental distinction is between a politics based on social and cultural issues and one based on economics. Southern conservatives care about government’s moral stance but don’t mind when it spends freely on behalf of their constituents. Western conservatives, by contrast, are soft-libertarians who want government out of people’s way on principle.

Which is a fine answer to one of the left’s latest chanting points; “I wonder if conservatives would be such budget hawks if they knew they’d lose social security?”

Southern Republicans are guided by the Bible. Western Republicans read the Constitution. Seen in historical terms, it’s the difference between a movement descended from George Wallace and one that harks back to Barry Goldwater.

Weisberg:

The GOP’s Western tone of recent months summons the ghosts of Goldwater’s disastrous but transformational presidential campaign of 1964. Goldwater didn’t care about religion—he was a Jewish Episcopalian who once said that Jerry Falwell deserved a kick in the nuts. He wasn’t focused on racial politics—there aren’t many black people in Arizona. What mattered to him was limiting government and preserving liberty. To Goldwater, political freedom was inseparable from economic freedom, a view distilled in his most famous phrase, “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” To call this politics Western is a matter of its Bonanza style as well as its anti-statist substance. Goldwater boasted a Navajo tattoo and liked flying planes, shooting guns, and playing the tables in Las Vegas. Western conservatism succeeded on a national scale when Ronald Reagan kept the cowboy look while easing up on Goldwater’s honorable, self-defeating consistency.

It’s not a bad description – although liberals like Weisberg always, always, always omit the second half of Goldwater’s famous dictum (“extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the defense of justice is no virtue“; the whole statement kinda sets the left’s false context on its ear.

Tea Party darling Rand Paul’s objection the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is clearly Goldwater’s, not Wallace’s. Wallace and his followers resisted civil rights because they wanted to maintain segregation. Goldwater favored integration but thought the civil rights bill infringed upon private property rights and free association.

Read the rest of the article; Weisberg doesn’t believe Western Conservatism has intellectual legs.

I disagree, naturally; more in coming weeks.

36 thoughts on “The GOP’s Civil Civil War

  1. Not to mention the fact that a lot of those “southerners” are actually transplanted blue collar northerners who left the rust belt starting in the 70s recession. I remember vividly in my Detroit area youth the stories of people heading south for auto plant or other jobs, to places like Tennesee, Kentucky or Texas and Arizona. If these folks have a southern culture, it’s been acquired in the last 30 years, not something passed down from generation to generation.

  2. You may never have met a conservative OR republican racist, Mitch. I have. I had the privilege of traveling in the south during the civil rights movement. I met norther racists as well growing up.

    I consider that racism summarized by the comment made by prominent conservative Willaim F. Buckley “the central question that emerges… is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.”

    No matter how much you wuold like to spin it away, or deny it, after the passage of the civil rights legislation in the mid 1960s, large numbers of democrats in the south switched parties and became republicans over the issue of race. It is a matter of historical record. That difference in politics has softened on the issue of race, but the differences have not completely died out either. (And yes, I am well aware that Buckley subsequently rejected racism and changed his views.) Racism has o ften become more subtle, but it has not entirely disappeared – nor do I find it unique to conservagtives, but I do find it tends to be more blunt and more unapologetic among conservatives.

    I gew up hearing comments from conservatives like “black people are different from us’, “you can’t trust black people”, and my personal favorite, “I’m a creationist, but I believe black people are closer to the primates than we are”.

    My perceptions of subtle racism changed when the primary handler I used to show some of my dogs was black. We developed a personal ‘shorthand’ for communicating with each other about racism – from an AKC judge, from another exhibitor, or from a spectator…..two fingers from one hand rubbing across the back of the other hand, a way of commenting that the color won’t rub off, and an observation about color and qualities that are skin deep. I have had that handler arrange for someone else to show my dogs to certain judges, so that his race would not adversely affect their competition. A white woman traveling with a black man – let me tell you that still can create some uncomfortable situations.

    And yes Mitch, the overwhelming number of those racist encounters were with conservatives. If you are determined not to see racism, you won’t. But if you really believe that conservatives OR republicans are free of racism as a political group, you are wrong. I wouldn’t excuse liberals and democrats as being free of racism either, btw. Rather I find it is something that exists in people, some are, some aren’t. In my experience, conservatives have been less willing to recognize racism, and less open to understanding the hurt that racism does or the obstacles that it can pose.

    I would suggest to you that a willingness to allow racism to harm people by permitting discrimination is an example. Libertarians (small or large ‘L’) putting a great

  3. whoops – putting a greater importance on private property rights in the context of a public business over the harm done would be a case in point.

  4. Dog Gone said:

    “If you are determined not to see racism, you won’t”

    And the converse is also true. Perhaps you really want to see the worst in your political/ideological opponents?

    “In my experience, conservatives have been less willing to recognize racism, and less open to understanding the hurt that racism does or the obstacles that it can pose”

    In my experience, conservatives are less likely to call other people racists in service to their agendas.

  5. Dog Gone, what do you think about Democrats who are anti-Christian bigots? Especially anti-Catholic bigots?

  6. One thing libertarians may forsee in some civil rights legislation is what it has lead to. A restaurant in St Paul being told by the gov’t that it has to rename its “dago sandwich” to a name that the gov’t approves of.

    Or a souvineer T-shirt shop in Duluth getting a visit by a city official because they are selling a shirt that says “My Indian name is Drinks Like Fish”.

  7. DG,

    You may never have met a conservative OR republican racist, Mitch. I have. I had the privilege of traveling in the south during the civil rights movement. I met norther racists as well growing up.

    Well, I can’t speak to your anecdotes any more than you can speak to mine; if anecdotes were evidence, our old mutual acquaintance Ray would be proof the DFL was little better than the Klan.

    If you are determined not to see racism, you won’t. But if you really believe that conservatives OR republicans are free of racism as a political group, you are wrong.

    DG, you seem to have taken lessons from Penigma in “jumping ninety degrees off the track of the conversation”. I didn’t say any group is “Free of racism”; indeed, as I wrote in what in all modesty was probably the most coherent essay on race in America that I have ever read (and yes, I’m being hyperbolic), every single human being in the world is to some degree or another a “we-ist”, someone who is most comfortable around people like them, and less comfortable around people and societies notK like them. The difference is in how people express or subdue that preference; whether one accepts differences and looks for commonalities, or whether one deals with differences by trying to get their “we” the upper hand.

    My point was that I have never known any conservative to act on policy grounds for any reason that could be considered “Racist” by someone who is approaching the issue rationally (which most people who cry “racism” do not).

    As to the purported “Racism” of the property rights crowd, let me ask; if I say that I detest, for example, the Minnesota Vikings, and refuse to allow Vikings fans into my house, is that or is that not my right?

  8. Dog Gone, what do you think about Democrats who are anti-Christian bigots? Especially anti-Catholic bigots?

    And anti-Israel bigots?

    Or the latest in fashion – anti-blue-collar-fundamentalist-Southern-white-guy bigots?

  9. “I’m a creationist, but I believe black people are closer to the primates than we are.”
    In my 50+ years I have never, ever heard such an ignorant, racist statement made in my presence. I have to wonder what kind of company Doggie has been keeping.

    Here is the sad but undeniable fact: Liberals are predominantly racist. They view everything through the prism of race. It is a basic underpinning of the culture of victimhood which drives their power base.

    I wish it wasn’t so, but facts are stubborn things. We could all move forward more effectively as a country if liberals could shed their racist inclination.

  10. FTA:

    “For that, they need a conservatism that hasn’t been in evidence lately—a version that’s not Western or Southern, but instead tolerant, moderate, and mainstream.”

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. More of “my political opponents need to be more like me”. That’s really “great” advice. Now you take it first, Jacob, and let me know how it works out for you.

  11. Troy wrote,”Perhaps you really want to see the worst in your political/ideological opponents?”

    I don’t think so Troy. First of all, some of those observations were made while I considered myself a conservative, so it was not about identifying people as opposition.

    I would also argue that since I also identify racisim in others who are not conservatives or Republicans, I’m not identifying racism as something specifically ideological.

    I would further make the distinction that I have observed individuals who have racially prejudiced attitudes towards groups, essentially an abstract, but who seem to be able to relate to individuals without acting in a racist manner. In those instances, it is the assumptions about people as a group that are the problem, not their behavior individually one on one with anyone.

  12. Kermit, I would agree with you about the statement – your reaction expresses my feeling at the time precisely.

    However, I would point out that the person who made the statement was not ignorant, and in fact was employed in education, teaching lit classes at Inver Hills. That person’s spouse was a small business owner who had some problems with theft, predominantly from black ‘customers’, which contributed to the opinion but was not the sole basis for it. And that person and their spouse were active in a local lutheran church, and in South St. Paul republican politics.

    There can be some surprising differences between what people will say when they are concerned with being politically correct, when they believe they need to watch their words, and what they say in less guarded moments that expresses their more private feelings.

  13. Mitch, can you define for me what you mean by anti-Christian or anti-Catholic? An example would be great. By anti, are you referring to being critical of or disagreeing with specific beliefs, or a more general assumption about all Christians or all Catholics?

  14. Would you consider me a bigot Mitch for disagreeing with fundamentalists who favor creationism, or who would ban the teaching of oh, say evolution in schools? Creationism and / or intelligent design is bad science and should not be taught in schools as science.

    Do you consider it ‘anti-Christian’ to assert that this country is a secular nation, not a Christian nation? Obama correctly identified we are not JUST a Christian nation, but a nation of the followers of many religions. I don’t believe that – as Bradlee Dean has described it – secular means godless. It means not interjecting religion into non-religious areas, and it means not promoting Christianity (or any other religion) differently or more favorably than another religion or atheism, but rather recognizing religion as a private matter of belief (or non-belief) in which the government generally should not intrude.

  15. Mitch wrote: “As to the purported “Racism” of the property rights crowd, let me ask; if I say that I detest, for example, the Minnesota Vikings, and refuse to allow Vikings fans into my house, is that or is that not my right?”

    I think you should be able to refuse or invite into your home whomever you like. Business is different.

    An example would be the recent story from last week’s Strib about the farmer who didn’t wish to comply with government regulation of milk production. He sold raw milk out of a truck or van near a school. Four people became ill, including one child who faced potential life-threatening cmoplications from ecoli.

    I’m quite sure that the farmer never believed the milk he produced and sold would harm anyone – but he was wrong. He believed he could do anything he wanted to do with his property without any government regulation. The government position is that it has the right and obligation to make some regulations that exist to protect the public in the course of doign business. That would include not allowing discrimination which harms those members of the public who are discriminated against. Same with fire codes, or other safety rules, or fair business practices.

  16. As a man whom I admire for his devotion as a parent, Mitch, would you agree that the property rights of that man selling the raw milk were moer important than the safety of your kids? That farmer still insists his property rights trump everything else. I disagree. I would argue he can do whatever he wants with his property right up until he engages in business with other people. Then his rights have to be balanced against the rights and interests of the public with whom he does business.

  17. Note: due to my daytime activities (i.e. working), I have a hard time following long, multipart threads, especially when they veer off topic.

    So let’s see what I can answer here:

    would you agree that the property rights of that man selling the raw milk were moer important than the safety of your kids? That farmer still insists his property rights trump everything else.

    I have never bought raw milk for my kids, and being from cattle country and aware of the risks of raw milk that one doesn’t obtain with ones’ own hands, I never would. Bad example. But here’s the part that liberals usually miss; one person’s rights do not impact another person’s rights; if they do, then you’re not talking about rights. Should he have the right to sell raw milk to people who are aware of the hazards of raw milk? I don’t see why not. Should he sell contaminated milk? No. And at the very least there should be civil liability. I don’t especially oppose reasonable regulations regarding food contamination, but I don’t think there should be a law saying the guy can’t privately sell raw milk, no.

    Business is different.

    Why? Seriously – why would a business I own be different than a home I own?

    Would you consider me a bigot Mitch for disagreeing with fundamentalists who favor creationism, or who would ban the teaching of oh, say evolution in schools? Creationism and / or intelligent design is bad science and should not be taught in schools as science.

    Another bad example; I consider the Creation story an allegory, and hence Creationism and Science don’t conflict in any way. While I don’t support teaching Creationism or Intelligent Design as science, I do believe that ID is a useful jumping-off point to learn to think critically about the limits and ethics of science.

    I do believe your statements in this comment section show you to be a “we-ist” about the upper-middle-class liberal perspective on the value of educational credentials, though.

    Do you consider it ‘anti-Christian’ to assert that this country is a secular nation, not a Christian nation?

    No, and it’s a battle I have had in the past two months within the GOP.

    As to anti-Christian actions? Being as secure as I am in the superiority of my beliefs, I tend to let such bilge roll off my back. Others may feel free to chime in if the spirit moves them. I may, later.

  18. I don’t think there should be a law that says he cannot sell raw milk under limited circumstances, but there were allegations of lack of cleanliness in the milking parlor, and I’m not clear that the milk was clearly sold as raw milk, and apparently the buyers in this case (but not other instances) were not aware of the consequences and risks. Inspection and health testing are essential to reasonable licening and regulation, and so is proper labeling.

    Country boy or not Mitch, I rather doubt you’ve ever performed a mastitis test on a cow. (Just curious – have you ever milked a cow Mitch, by hand and / or milking machine?) And I’d be surprised if many of your readers knew much about dairy operations.

    If the milk were labeled, if it were more safely refrigerated than being sold out of a van or truck in a parking lot, if there were some kind of product liability insurance in place……… in this instance the advantage and power and control of the information about the product were all one-sided, pretty much to the advantage of the seller and the disadvantage of the buyer.

    Rights are rarely if ever absolute. You cannot exercise your first amendment right of free speech by yelling fire in a crowded theater if there is no fire. Free speech is not absolute, propert rights are not absolute.

    Our constitution grants the right to regulate commerce. That might conflict on occasion – just hypothetically – with freedom to label a product any way you like, or to advertise sale merchandise (bait and switch) or any number of other instances. There is no absolute right. There are balances of rights between people, and that includes the right not to be treated in a discriminatory way by someone doing business with the public.

  19. I’m not sure I correctly understand your comment about anti-Christian actions – please elaborate.

    I’d be happy to address the subject of we-ism and educational credentials separately. I think we might be wandering off topic – both of us.

    Don’t let me distract you from work – some of this can wait until you have the time. As always, you are one of my favorite conservatives (hope you’re still fond of me too). Thanks for a great discussion – and thans as well to the other Mitch-k’teers.

  20. Dog Gone, these who statements are at odds:

    “I would also argue that since I also identify racisim in others who are not conservatives or Republicans, I’m not identifying racism as something specifically ideological.”

    “And yes Mitch, the overwhelming number of those racist encounters were with conservatives.”

    Do you think racism is more, less, or equally a problem for “conservatives” compared to “liberals”?

    “Racism has o ften become more subtle, but it has not entirely disappeared – nor do I find it unique to conservagtives, but I do find it tends to be more blunt and more unapologetic among conservatives”

    From this I take it that you believe “subtle” racism is a better kind of racism. Is that true?

    I thank you as well for your responses, but shorter responses are more appreciated. 🙂

  21. Do you consider it ‘anti-Christian’ to assert that this country is a secular nation, not a Christian nation?
    No. Historically illiterate is more accurate.

    And that “Lutheran person employed in education teaching lit classes” sounds like a typical liberal to me. I bet they have a What Would Wellstone! Do bumper sticker on thwir Volvo.

  22. I don’t think there should be a law that says he cannot sell raw milk under limited circumstances, but there were allegations of lack of cleanliness in the milking parlor, and I’m not clear that the milk was clearly sold as raw milk

    It was my impression that getting raw milk was the whole impetus for anyone to do business with the guy.

    Country boy or not Mitch, I rather doubt you’ve ever performed a mastitis test on a cow.

    No. And I’ve never performed a bris, but it doesn’t mean I can’t comment on antisemitism. I know that cattle are mighty filthy; I’m perfectly fine buying pasteurized milk, if I buy it at all.

    Rights are rarely if ever absolute.

    No, but that phrase has been used to justify eroding some of them to an extent that is just not conscionable.

    Our constitution grants the right to regulate commerce.

    It granted the right to regulate interstate commerce, without a lot of elaboration, and mainly with an intent to prevent trade wars between the states. The Supreme Court starting under Roosevelt and for the following fifty years of radical leftist rulings expanded that into something that perverted the framers’ original intent…

    …and it’s irrelevant, since I suspect “dairy regulations” might be one of those things the Tenth Amendment reserved to the states or The People.

    That might conflict on occasion – just hypothetically – with freedom to label a product any way you like, or to advertise sale merchandise (bait and switch) or any number of other instances.

    Well, no, because both of those are forms of theft, not free speech; both of them unjustly deprive people of their private property (money!). Bad example.

    There is no absolute right

    Irrelevant; nobody has ever said there is.

    But there IS an absolute principle; one person’s legitimate rights do not and can not infringe another person’s legitimate rights. If you find a case where you think you have, then one of the rights is not legitimate. And that IS absolute.

    the right not to be treated in a discriminatory way by someone doing business with the public

    Ah. So if a business is owned by a Big Ten fan who refuses to hire Ivy Leaguers (because they all have the same preening sense of entitlement and have no idea what the word “work” means), young Chauncey Dovetonsils has a right to redress?

    Why not? Is there a “right” to be treated with respect?

    If Tyrone’s Superior BBQ refuses to serve people in white hoods and robes who are being otherwise perfectly-behaved, the Klansmen have grounds for a federal bias suit?

    No? Why not? Tyrone discriminated against people in his business! So even though the sight of Klansmen morally repulses him, he should be required to serve them?

  23. “Our constitution grants the right to regulate commerce.”

    No. It grants the *power* to regulate commerce. Governments have powers, not rights (except vis a vis other national sovereigns). The fact that you confuse and interchange individual rights with government powers goes a long way to revealing why you think the way you do.

  24. Kermit however much you might wish someone to ‘get off your side’, no liberal, no volvo, no Wellstone bumper sticker.

    Foote – thank you for correcting me. I do know the difference, I expressed myself badly.

    Troy, I have encountered more harshly overt racism among some conservatives, while I have encountered more subtle racism among some liberals. There are some ways in which the overt is more unpleasant than subtle, in the sense of being more confrontational; but no, neither is acceptable. I don’t believe racisim is automatically a part of either conservative or liberal politics or ideology. While my experience has been more with racism among conservatives, that has varied dramatically by region, and by the age of the individuals. I cannot extrapolate it to fairly claim it is more or less of a problem with either political ideology.
    If that doesn’t answer your question, please rephrase, and I will try again.

    I would also disagree (I think this was with Kermit, apologies for not backtracking through all the comments) that a greater awareness of racism is the same thing as a culture of victims. Some of those individuals who have made me more aware of the problem – like my friend and employee dog handler – are the furthest examples I can think of from the word victim.

  25. Racism is a fundamental pillar of liberalism. Liberalism is built on victimhood, and aggreivement.

  26. Large numbers of democrats in the south switched parties and became republicans over the issue of race. It is a matter of historical record.
    This is a lie. It is what Dog Gone believes, and what what many liberals believe, it is not a matter of ‘historical record’.
    I’m certain that if I continue to read Dog Gone’s comments I will find other lies as well.

  27. Palin and Beck are terrific entertainers and the Tea Party is a great show, all of which has made the conservative movement fun to watch lately. But cowboy-style constitutional fundamentalism is unlikely to prove a winning philosophy for Republicans beyond 2010. For that, they need a conservatism that hasn’t been in evidence lately—a version that’s not Western or Southern, but instead tolerant, moderate, and mainstream.

    In other words, not conservative at all. Weisberg’s got another thing comin’. His so-called “Western conservatism” is a much easier sale than he thinks. It is a clear contrast to the Progressivism in both major parities, a long-awaited alternative to what has become a big government status quo.

  28. Skimming the other comments, let me just throw this out there: As folk of blackish decent, the product of an interracial marriage, my anecdotes would seem at least as relevant as anyone else’s. Race has been a non-issue in my life. It simply hasn’t mattered. It’s mattered to a lot of people around me who seem to think I must have had it hard growing up and should be offended by this, that, or the other thing. But my encounters with overt racism could be counted on one hand. I am cognizant of the likelihood people have attitudes they do not overtly express. But I have this axiom I operate under which says, if it’s not said, I don’t care about it. I worry about actions. I could care less what people think. All I expect in return is the same consideration.

  29. This is a lie. It is what Dog Gone believes, and what what many liberals believe, it is not a matter of ‘historical record’.

    Indeed, it took more than a generation after the passage of the various federal civil rights acts for the South to switch from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican. Correlation isn’t enough by itself to prove causation but you can’t have causation without correlation.

  30. “…and my personal favorite, “I’m a creationist, but I believe…”

    Spoken like a true atheist, deegee. If they believe in a creator they must be racists!!! [insert Dean scream]

  31. Pingback: Shot in the Dark » Blog Archive » A Day In The Life Of Every Uppity Conservative

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