Despite a continuous flow of examples to the contrary this spring, summer and, now, autumn, our side keeps on wishfully, willfully and rather ignorantly denying the plain evidence in front of their faces about how conservative politics works. Namely, I keep seeing predictions that this, that or the other signal from polls or the political establishment or a traumatized public will “finally” “break the spell” of right-wing extremism on a certain issue, or even on all issues—and then we see that prediction spectacularly fail.
We can’t keep on going this way, my friend. You have to finally come to terms with how conservatism works. Now, that guy in the White House, Obama—I’ve given up hope that he’ll ever get it. I still have faith in you, though. Stop judging conservative by the logic of “normal” politics, or by the epistemology of the world as you, a liberal, understand it. Or as Poli Sci 101 understands it. Every time you do that, you denude us of strength for the fight. Grasp the right on its own terms. Stop trying to make it make sense on your own. . . .
[On gun control,] if you think like a conservative, and you think in terms of good people and evil people, the predominance of evil people makes you want less gun control, and more guns. And if the bad guys have a machine gun, you need a bazooka.
Thinking Like a Conservative (Part Two): Biding Time on Voting Rights
[A]s Corey Robin explains in his indispensable book The Reactionary Mind, [conservatives understand] that the direction of human history is not on their side&emdash;that is why they are reactionaries&emdash;because, other things equal, civilization does tend towards more inclusion, more emancipation, more liberalism. They could not survive as a political tendency unless they clothed reaction in liberal raiment. You’ve seen that happen over and over again—like when people like Grover Norquist, whose aim is to roll back the entire welfare state, including Social Security, says what he’s really trying to do is save Social Security.
Thinking Like a Conservative (Part Three): On Shutting Down Government
This is war for them, folks. Stop pretending to try like it isn’t. William Baroody, head of the American Enterprise Institute, October 1972: conservatism is a “war for the minds of men.” Ralph Reed, November 1991: “I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don’t know it’s over until you’re in a body bag.”
Perlstein quotes Brent Bozell Jr. who ghostwrote Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative,
“Any election of Barry Goldwater would presuppose a sea change in American public opinion,” as if American society, “prisoners of all those years, succeeded in passing blithely through the walls of Alcatraz and tripping lightly over the shark-infested waters and treacherous currents, to safety on the shore.”and notes,
Yes: if you were a conservative, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society—Medicare,the National Endowment for the Arts, etc.—was the equivalent of incarceration in Alcatraz. And this was conservatism’s grown-up.
Thinking Like a Conservative (Part Four): Goalpost-Moving
I’m worried . . . that Obama might not grasp the fundamental nature of the entire modern conservative project. They really do believe that a smoothly functioning federal government is the enemy—a Satanic enemy, for the more theologically minded among them.
Thinking Like a Conservative (Part Five): Epistemology and Empathy
Have you ever noticed how conservatives who say the most controversial things imaginable think no one actually disagrees with them?
They will admit that, yes, people might claim to disagree. But they will explain, if pressed, that those who do so are lying, or nuts, or utter the non-truths they utter out of a totalitarian will to power, or are poor benighted folks cowed or confused by those aforementioned totalitarians. (Which, of course, makes the person “finally” telling “the truth” a hero of bottomless courage.) Or the people who disagree are simply stupid as a tree stump. This is why “agree to disagree” is not a acceptable trope in the conservative lexicon. A genuine right-winger will be so lacking in intellectual imagination—in cognitive empathy—that imagining how anyone could sincerely reason differently from them is virtually impossible.