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December 01, 2008


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It has always seemed to me that a valid definition of conservative is 'living in the past' or at least viewing some moment in the past as a golden age to be preserved and emulated at all costs. This is as short-sighted and doomed to failure as expecting to achieve a liberal utopian future.

I'm not against keeping the good things we have from the past any more than I am automatically for anything new because it is different.

It seems to me that all the Goldwater Republicans joined the Libertarians after giving up on Reagan and Bush.The last 8 years have definitely had McCarthy-like scare tactics used to the max.

Goldwater's 1964 campaign presaged Nixon's Southern Strategy. His ad hoc alliance with crazy militarists like Curis LeMay also anticipated the way Republicanism became synonymous with extreme hawkishness. Goldwater himself defended McCarthy, and while there may be stylistic differences between the two, their conservatism both tended to anti-intellectualism and paranoia.

So why do we like Goldwater and dislike McCarthy (and his successors)? Because Goldwater was much more like us than not. He was, by instinct, a modern man. He belonged to the Urban League and Planned Parenthood. He even self-identified as a Jew and his best friends were often Jewish. His family included gays. He was, in short, a cosmopolitan.

Conservatism today is a reaction to modernity. It's a blind alley in which every fear and remorse about the new is stoked for political gain. The Kabuki theater of culture-war politics made Ronald Reagan an ideal spokesman, even though he was a divorced man with ultra-modern children who made his money in evil Hollywood. John McCain, a serial philanderer, also became a poster-child for anti-modernists.

Conservatism today is little more than the perfume of nostalgia. It's why conservatives can spend recklessly and attack Constitutional liberties. It's simply too vaporous to have ironclad principles. Aside from animosity to certain minorities and reproductive freedom, there's nothing there. Conservatives might love to argue about which principles are non-negotiable but this is the idlest form of self-pleasuring.

Hey, Jon, off the subject, but how come you have not weighed in on the Gannett bloodbath that is going on with the layoffs all across the board? The Republic, as a big fish, should be pretty hard hit...I know there is no love lost there, on your part, but it is your hometown and your hometown paper and you still are friends with some of the folks there.
Anyway, just curious.

A classic: LBJ's anti-Goldwater "daisy" commercial:


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