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The Case For Sneering

In the latest issue of Prospect (the British political magazine, not The American Prospect), Michael Lind has one of those articles where a liberalish intellectual advises his fellow liberals to stop sneering at social conservatives. There's something to that, obviously. But then again, there's a strong case for sneering. Ed Kilgore remarks on Bush's sudden betrayal of the gay-bashing movement in his Washington Post interview with the observation that Bush "and his party richly deserve whatever backlash they incur from social conservatives on this one." But they won't incur any backlash, just as the GOP never incurs a backlash, despite having never done anything to advance social conservatism in a serious way. This is what social conservatives deserve to get sneered at for. They're the great suckers of American politics, whipped into a frenzy every two or four years and ordered to vote Republican in order to hold back the tide of libertinism, and then the Republicans don't lift a finger to do so. For one thing, their financers don't support the social conservative agenda. For another thing, if social conservatives ever had anything done for them, they might not be so mad all the time. But last and by no means least, social conservatives get screwed every time because their willingness to get screwed and then come crawling back begging for more next time there's an election on is well-established. It's pathetic and eminently sneer-worthy.

January 17, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

C'mon Charlie Brown. I won't pull it away this time.

Posted by: Lucy | Jan 17, 2005 12:12:11 AM

@#!$!% !

Posted by: Charlie Brown | Jan 17, 2005 12:13:47 AM

No reason to sneer. Republicans will be angry and humiliated plenty when Bush dumps on them and everything he promised them....which he already did in the infamous VanderHei/Fletcher interview last Friday in which he said he now will no longer push for an amendment to ban gay marriage.

Not even inaugurated, and he already backpedals on the mesaure the far-right religious most wanted from him. Bet they feel stupid, believing a liar.

Posted by: Deborah White | Jan 17, 2005 12:23:37 AM

Worth noting, although I also think that one of the key differences is that many of the supporters on the right pay more attention to personalities rather than policies, and even those personalities appear to be formed by instances rather than a continuous history. Reagan is my preferred example for this; he was personally indistinguishable from any other Hollywood actor in terms of his personal morality - he was indifferent to Church attendance, he certainly had no qualms about premarital liaisons (the infamous Canadian Trivial Pursuit question), and yet he is presented as this avatar of righteousness.

I suspect that part of this is a matter of Republican Noise Machine - the only president I'm reasonably confident didn't have a mistress was James Buchanan, so morality charges are always a wonderful thing to nail your opponent on. Similarly, it's ludicrous on face value to have Rupert Murdoch decrying the media through one set of outlets and coarsening it profoundly through the other set. The only thing I can think causes it is the general fecklessness of the Democrats when it comes to media.

Gah, I'm feeling really Baudrillardian right now. Coupled with facing the Pats again depresses me.

Posted by: Mike Collins | Jan 17, 2005 12:28:25 AM

Spoken like a true member of the reality-based community, Deborah. Don't you know that kind of talk is why True Americans hate us?

Posted by: scarshapedstar | Jan 17, 2005 12:30:10 AM

social conservatives get screwed every time because their willingness to get screwed and then come crawling back begging for more next time...

codependency is a bitch.

But seriously, if Dobson carries through on his threat to punish those GOoPers who don't toe the Jesus line, 2006 and 2008 could get interesting. The only question is will they split or just sit on their hands.....


Posted by: def | Jan 17, 2005 12:33:40 AM

This is so EXACTLY true and it is why we have the SAME debates year after year. Thirty years after Roe and we're STILL debating Roe, because if it ever was actually overturned that would be one less issue for conservatives to run on. Same thing with evolution taught in schools. These guys get so little from their leadership.

Posted by: Cody | Jan 17, 2005 12:49:26 AM

Here here, Matt. Hate to get all pyschological, but the plight of American social conservatives and their reflexive devotion to the Republican party is a friggin case study on the political dimensions of sado-masochsim.

Posted by: fnook | Jan 17, 2005 1:00:43 AM

I dunno, but if we're going to sneer at people who have been disappointed by politicians they supported, we might have to look at the mirror just a bit.

Posted by: CharleyCarp | Jan 17, 2005 1:06:18 AM

A British magazine seems an awfully strange place to attempt to communicate with American liberals. Perhaps there are dozens of Michael Linds out there regularly trying to communicate with us in Saudi, Russian, and Chilean publications that we don't know about.

PS Didn't Michael Lind declare conservativism dead a decade ago?

PPS I agree with Jonah Goldberg about one thing. Michael Lind is annoying. And also kinda spooky looking.

Posted by: Green Dem | Jan 17, 2005 1:11:05 AM

Let's wait until the Supreme Court justices get nominated before sneering.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher | Jan 17, 2005 1:18:58 AM

I am a social conservative. I read Matt because he's smart and not an oh-so-predictable hack. Of course he's right that the GOP gives little more than lip service to its social conservative base. Now, give me one reason why I should vote for someone like John Kerry instead.

Posted by: John | Jan 17, 2005 1:23:34 AM

I think you have it right on, Matt.

In a related question, do you think there's anything to the conservative meme that Democrats need poverty and dependence to get elected, and thus really don't want to reduce it?

THis is why I'm DLC. Becuase I see the liberal wing wanting to increase federal power as an end in itself, and relying on beneficiaries of government largesse to stay in office. The Republicans are incompetent, intolerant, and favor the rich. The liberal Democrats are incompetent, economically illiterate, and favor their various(and often contradictory) interest groups. The DLC is just right. Pro-business, yet favoring a safety net for society's less fortunate. Harnessing the powers of free markets to better everyone's lives.

And most importantly, they actually have a clue about how to govern.

:)

Posted by: Adam Herman | Jan 17, 2005 1:36:29 AM

I think Andrew's right re: Supreme Court justices. The GOP elites don't care if the peons have any rights, because their peons are against pretty much everything in the Bill of Rights except for the Second Amendment. And the big shots also don't care if fourth- and fifth-rate jurists are appointed to federal courts, because they're planning on staying above the law permanently themseves; again, the rank & file won't matter there. I think what will happen is that things like Roe will be completely gutted but remain on the books, ensuring an eternal quest for social conservatives. I suppose they have to stay busy until the rapture.

And yes, I'm sneering. I grew up with 'em, and while I wouldn't trade anything for their desserts at a family reunion, that doesn't mean I consider them fit heirs to the legacy of Jefferson, Madison, et al.

Posted by: latts | Jan 17, 2005 1:44:56 AM

"Worth noting, although I also think that one of the key differences is that many of the supporters on the right pay more attention to personalities rather than policies, and even those personalities appear to be formed by instances rather than a continuous history."

and

"Hate to get all pyschological, but the plight of American social conservatives and their reflexive devotion to the Republican party is a friggin case study on the political dimensions of sado-masochsim."

There's some truth to this, but there's a bigger, deeper story at work here that needs to be told. Throughout the new deal era (1932-1968), these folks by and large voted Democrat, largely because the Democrats effectively bribed them into voting for them, with progressive taxation, social security, jobs programs, medicare, and the promise of a decent middle class life. Then, beginning in 1968 they started to trickle out of the party, and that trickle became a torrent in 1980. What happened during those twelve years was that the new deal economic order hit an inflationary wall, Bretton Woods (which had ensured genuine free trade from the end of WW II to 1972) collapsed, and folks started to get the impression that all the Dmeocrats had to offer them economically was more of the same - double digit inflation, and double digit unemployment. It didn't help that crime was now through the roof, the country felt humiliated over Vietnam, and gay pagan abortionists were roaming the countryside trying to recruit their children (okay not really but that's what they thought anyhow.) And between nothing economically and voting their cultural values a good swath of America starting voting their cultural values, and voting for Republicans.

A certain degree of deregulation was inevitable, as were tax cuts, but the Democrats were so afflicted by their own hubris and groupthink in the 1970s they didn't realize they were making Reaganism close to inevitable. Had Democrats wised up, gotten on board raising interest rates early, trimming bureaucracy, streamlining regulation, while not selling out manufacturing and textiles (meaning replacing Bretton Woods with some other kind of discipline in international currency valuation), not selling out small farmers and ranchers, or rolling back progressive taxation, they would've remained the dominant party.

But that's not what happened.

What happened was that they sat on their assses, and let the GOP take over the country.

Then along came the DLC with its Reagan-lite which by 1992 the Democrats were ready to accept (however unenthusiastically.) But the DLC's brand of libertarian centrism, as helpful as it has been in winning over white, white collar, suburban moderates, has done little to nothing for the party in white, working class red America. What gains the Democrats did make in the south and other true red regions in the 1990s were a function of Clinton's charisma, not his DLCish policies.

A good portion of white, working class red America can be won over on the issues, but Democrats in too many cases know next to nothing about the issues of rural America. Even Democrats from rural states. Folks out in red America do care about health care and education, but they also care about the family farm or ranch that's being decimated by big ag's illegal supply chain monopolies and massive subsidies (when was the last time Democrats did anything for small farmers and ranchers?), the loss of manufacturing and textiles jobs (what was John Kerry's plan for ending illegal Asian monetary protectionism?), the loss of mom and pop stores downtown to competition from Wal Mart and chain restaurants (what is the Democrats' plan for giving small business in rural America a fighting chance?), and so on down the line.

Posted by: Green Dem | Jan 17, 2005 1:55:46 AM

Don't be to smug in your sneering, libs. George Bush and Karl Rove know that:

a) The votes don't exist for the FMA, sans a Supreme Court overturning of the DOMA;

b) Since you can't get FMA enacted, why waste political capital that can be better spent on where the real action is, namely,

c) Moving the courts, especially the supreme one, to the right.

If Bush snubs social issues conservatives on item "C", I think the suppossed willingness of such folks to get screwed will no longer be operative.

Posted by: P. B. Almeida | Jan 17, 2005 1:57:40 AM

Lenin had a name for people like this - "useful idiots."

Their support comes in handy when you seize power - and the best part is, you do not need to pay them off.

You can toss the "useful idiots" like Dobson's followers a few table scraps if you feel generous, but you really do not need to.

Posted by: liberal elitist | Jan 17, 2005 1:59:22 AM

Bush I appointed David Souter and he got challenged by every ones favorite populist Patrick Buchanan. That's a slap on the wrist, Peanut Butter Almedia.

Posted by: Drew | Jan 17, 2005 2:10:30 AM

Even Democrats from rural states. Folks out in red America do care about health care and education, but they also care about the family farm or ranch that's being decimated by big ag's illegal supply chain monopolies and massive subsidies (when was the last time Democrats did anything for small farmers and ranchers?), the loss of manufacturing and textiles jobs (what was John Kerry's plan for ending illegal Asian monetary protectionism?), the loss of mom and pop stores downtown to competition from Wal Mart and chain restaurants (what is the Democrats' plan for giving small business in rural America a fighting chance?), and so on down the line.

Green Dem: I think your points here are partially valid. People will vote with their pocketbooks, but Democrats haven't given working folks in Red State America much reason to think pulling the lever next the the "D" candidate constitutes said pocketbook vote.

I would argue the way to do that is by repairing, strengthening and modernizing the safety net -- especially with an eye toward making it the powerful, flexible tool it could potentially be in a global economy. What the Democrats should do is try HillaryCare (and other, like-minded items) again. The Democrats' problem is they give up too easily. Grover and the boys have been trying to dismantle Social Security for years.

But the items in your laundry list (with the exception of ending agribusiness subsidies) appear to me to be Michael Moore variety protectionism (both domestic and foreign). Even if such measures were the smartest thing to do from a policy standpoint, there's little evidence they actually win elections. As Dick Gephardt could tell you, there's ample evidence to the contrary.

Posted by: P. B. Almeida | Jan 17, 2005 2:11:35 AM

Bush I appointed David Souter and he got challenged by every ones favorite populist Patrick Buchanan.

Drew: Thanks for making my point. Much of what the son does occurs with the knowledge of what happened to Poppy. Dissing social conservatives and raising taxes may well have cost GHW Bush a second term. By contrast Dubya, you may recall, courted social consevatives, slashed taxes, and got reelected.

Posted by: P. B. Almeida | Jan 17, 2005 2:17:29 AM

If Beckett had been part of the GOP leadership, he'd have written: 'Waiting For God's Law To Be Imposed Upon American', just to take the piss out of the base.

the Democrats effectively bribed them into voting for them, with progressive taxation, social security, jobs programs, medicare, and the promise of a decent middle class life.

I don't consider that 'bribery'; I consider it a constitutional duty.

Democrats haven't given working folks in Red State America much reason to think pulling the lever next the the "D" candidate constitutes said pocketbook vote.

That's bullshit, of course: it's why plenty of rural red states have Dems in the governor's office and the state legislature, which shapes plenty of day-to-day pocketbook issues. But federal Dems don't win in Oklahoma, say, because of social or 'moral' issues that are never actually delivered by the GOP.

Btw, Jelly Almeidia, you were much better on '24' than you are here.

Posted by: ahem | Jan 17, 2005 2:22:59 AM

He may have courted them, but he did jack shit to affect any significant policy in the social conservatives world. Furthermore, I think Bush I payed more for the tax hike than for Souter. Plus, he didn't have this whole cult of personality thing we've seen from Bush II's supporters. Oh, and, Kerry is no Clinton.

Posted by: Drew | Jan 17, 2005 2:23:10 AM

Matt,

Of course one might say the same thing about the Black community:
"DEMOCRATIC PARTY never incurs a backlash, despite having never done anything to advance BLACK AGENDA in a serious way. This is what BLACKS deserve to get sneered at for. They're the great suckers of American politics, whipped into a frenzy every two or four years and ordered to vote DEMOCRAT in order to hold back the tide of RACISM, and then the DEMOCRATA don't lift a finger to do so....BLACKS get screwed every time because their willingness to get screwed and then come crawling back begging for more next time there's an election on is well-established. It's pathetic and eminently sneer-worthy."

Would you recommend sneering at the black community as well?

Posted by: niraj | Jan 17, 2005 2:25:20 AM

Can we just say that social conservatives are gullible and dumb?

Please, let's be frank about this. If you don't believe in evolution, but you do believe that some day soon Bush is going to make queers vanish into the aether, and prevent all those poor unborn babies from being sacrificed to the Great Donkey, you are dumb. You are one of the perennial fall-guys for the GOP carnie-barkers. You are some kind of fucking masochist. And you are dumb.

Would you recommend sneering at the black community as well?

No, but I'd recommend that you pull your head out of your ass and come up with some vague shred of evidence for that jet of liquid shit.

Posted by: ahem | Jan 17, 2005 2:28:13 AM

Matt writes:

"Michael Lind has one of those articles where a liberalish intellectual advises his fellow liberals to stop sneering at social conservatives."

Huh? I believe your normally good reading comprehension skills have failed you here, Matt. Lind's article isn't about anything like that. And in fact, he's arguing a rather different point.

His central thesis is summed up in this sentence:

"Indeed, the Democrats are no longer the party of the working class so much as the party of the urban professional elite and the working poor."

And when Lind does get around to the topic of social conservatives, his concerns have more to do things like this:

"Even in the realm of social issues, what might be called the 18th-century republican centre is more important in red-state America than the religious right."

And:

"The Bush Republicans won in spite of their extremism, not because of it. They won because they played down what is weird and divisive in the ideology of the religious right ... and appealed to the American centre - a centre which is now geographical as well as political."

---

Reduced to its essence, Lind's argument is that liberals should stop sneering at the exurbs, not that they should stop sneering at social conservatives.

While I don't agree with everything Lind says, the guy is interesting enough to be worth an actual reading, instead of just using him to riff on a completely different topic.

Posted by: Petey | Jan 17, 2005 2:28:42 AM

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