Sunday, September 30, 2012


My Salon column this weekend is about the Catch-22 Republicans find themselves in: the best way to really reclaim their party from the crazy is to have a successful president who kicks it out, but it's hard to get that as long as the crazy has such a strong influence on nominations.

Meanwhile, in home news, I've always resisted having a formal comments policy, and I'm not exactly going to begin now. However, I'll refer everyone to an admirable statement about comments from Alan Jacobs, a new blogger over at The American Conservative, which pretty captures what I think about it. Parenthetically -- it occurs to me that of any current publication out there, TAC might well be the one that I'd have the highest expectations for a new blogger I'd never heard of before. Okay, not if you count The Monkey Cage as a publication, but still. Dan Larison, Noah Millman, Rod a world in which sensible, interesting conservatives are sometimes hard to find, that's just an outstanding lineup. Certainly not something I would have expected, and I'm no more of a Pat Buchanan fan now than I ever have been, but there you are.

Anyway, I'm going to be more aggressive about zapping comments which are partisan talking points, or rude, or repetitive, or contain characterizations of other commenters other than those they embrace, or are gibberish. As Jacobs says, if you don't like it, start your own blog. But like him I certainly will not delete a comment because the commenter disagrees with me; to the contrary, I welcome such things...I'm a lot more tolerant of attacks on me than I am even small slights on other commenters. I've always been very proud of the comments section here, and I intend to keep it that way.

(Technical note: If I haven't previously zapped a commenter, I'll still almost always issue a warning first...but that's my norm, not a Rule. And blogger continues to occasionally misidentify some comments as spam, and I'm not always quick to fix it. If that ever happens to your comment, please feel free to email me and let me know; unless you've been warned, it's almost certainly a spam filter issue).

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming.


  1. Just wanted to note that Millman is not a conservative, but more of the house free-thinker. Still, I agree with you. A few years ago, I was arranging a program of political magazines to read regularly and picked out TNR, The Nation, and NYRB on the left, and The Weekly Standard, National Review, Claremont Review of Books, and TAC on the right.

    Suffice it to say that I couldn't put up with the slipshod quality and mendacity of TWS or NR, found Claremont of higher quality but with some of the same problems (and a paywall), and have been reasonably satisfied with TAC for a conservative publication. I'd actually say it's gotten better since they added that slate of bloggers. It's recently become my go-to source for hearing from the other side.

  2. Thinking about your Salon column made me wonder about Eisenhower, the first Republican President after Hoover. I think that's what it's going to take to break the crazy. Someone who is so respected for non-political reasons that he can bring them back. I cannot imagine who that might be in today's world, but it's something to think about.

    1. Of course the Eisenhower example brings both someone respected for nonpolitical reasons and five entire terms of being locked out of the White House.

      The Eisenhower example also raises the possibility of a general. The problem there is that we haven't had a war that people feel good about since . . . well, Eisenhower's day. I might have said Colin Powell once, but I imagine he's damaged goods these days. Petraeus has a lot of name recognition (no ideal if he's a Republican or a Democrat, but then that was the case for Eisenhower, too), but many on the right have complained about the counterinsurgency strategy (although that could ultimately change depending on how things go in Iraq and Afghanistan). In any event, he's probably too closely identified with the Obama adminstration now.

    2. That was supposed to be "no idea if he's a Republican or a Democrat."

      Now that I think about it, the War of 1812 was an unmitigated disaster, and that produced a couple of presidents.

  3. Following the Alan Jacobs link, there's a link to a piece, How to be a Good Commenter by John Scalzi.

    Despite my dislike of 10-lists, this is a list worth serious consideration.

  4. Dr. B,

    Wow. I hadn't noticed the comments sections getting choppy, but you're here every day; I just stop by every so often. Glad you're nipping the problem in the bud. I'm almost always impressed with the folk that hang out here; higher name recognition and traffic bring with them undesirables. Often, the comments section here feels to me like my favorite sort of coffee shop. Hopefully this stays the nice thoughtful place I've enjoyed.


  5. JB - About the Salon column, I felt the lack of mention of demographic changes in the national electorate was conspicuous. Are you not buying what Lindsay Graham so eloquently phrased as: “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”?

    My own feeling is the wave of voter suppression laws in GOP-friendly legislature/state houses is telling that the party feels this is becoming more of a problem - if not this way, how can the Republicans stay competitive in future presidential elections, other than hoping for a cyclical recession to catch a 'wave' election?

    I can't think of a major GOP policy they can reverse on to enlarge the 'tent', that won't alienate a substantial bloc of their current voting coalition.

    1. See, I don't know that I agree with that. On some issues, yes, there are real difficulties with core groups within the party vs. growing demographic groups. But a lot of this stuff comes from what should be the fringes, and normally party politicians should be able to walk away from that stuff pretty easily.

      That is: Republicans are stuck with their position on abortion whether it helps them or not. But there's no voter pressure at all on them and relatively little organized group pressure on them to use anti-contraceptive rhetoric, and no group pressure at all for them to call politically active women "sluts." That's all the "crazy" dynamic at work.

      So it's very possible for me to imagine, in theory, a GOP with more or less the same basic positions that they have now, but with the crazy kicked out, and with flexibility to adapt to the current issue environment such that demographic changes weren't really scary to them.

      It's possible to imagine such a party, but a lot harder to see how the actual GOP gets there from here.

    2. So you don't think reversing (relenting?) on Immigration is going to alienate a fair number of current Republican voters? The expanding Latino demo is probably the most glaring problem for future GOP White House aspirations if Dems continue to take 2/3rds or better of those voters.

      I'll grant you that the conservative messaging machine is pretty good at getting behind Frank Luntz, and a candidate like Jeb Bush could make a plausible play for Latino voters. But I don't see Marco Rubio making it through a national Republican primary.

      Roughly the same if the party decided to give in on gay rights - the Evangelicals and Catholic Bishops (and the most committed Catholic worshipers) would be outraged. The actual number of gay voters is small, but issues like this appeal to the under-50 voters that have largely come to accept alternative lifestyles.

      And while this point is more conjecture - I'm also thinking about how the internet has changed since I got online around fifteen years ago. On one hand people can create their own virtual version of epistemic closure, but that's mostly the political 'junkies'. I'm guessing there's a lot more people in the twitterverse exchanging links on things like Todd Akin, and saying 'OMG, did you see this?'

      I'd say that the problem the GOP has, is that their core belief is lowering tax rates for the wealthy and cutting regulations for business. But their voting coalition is held together by all those social issues that bind people to the party. And they've lost the popular vote in 4 of the last 5 Presidential elections.

    3. JS, (I realize this is a stretch) but there is one possibility: Climate Change. The lead skeptic had reversed course. There's major drought in the heartland. In Texas.

      And there's a lot of room for 'innovation' and 'growth' in 'morality' in changing stance on climate change. While it would dismay anti-regulators, they're not going to vote democratic in the first place. And it make pick up some independent votes who care about the issue or are looking for evidence that Romney's not turned completely into a creature of the base of his party; that he's able to lead the instead of being led by the base.

      But I agree it's not likely.

    4. I'm sorry, but two more points on the unlikely potential for Romney doing a flip on Climate Change:

      First, the Supreme Court has already ruled that the EPA can regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act, so there's the whiff of constitutionality to it.

      Second, the industries most concerned with climate change regulation, so likely to support Romney due to concerns about regulation, would, if it's inevitable, rather have Romney regulation, and the potential for regulatory capture under a Romney administration, then Obama regulation (or so it seems to me).

    5. That's possibly the closest major issue where you could see 'compromise' between the parties.. but I wonder why the Republicans that wouldn't vote for the Heritage Foundation's Health Care Plan (because Obama proposed it) will now vote for an already politicized Cap & Trade proposal - that was already a compromise from the Democrats' Carbon Tax idea.

      Understand that this is the same GOP that has planted their flag firmly on the hill that rejects any attempt to claw back $4 billion in oil company subsidies, and feels that the Keystone pipeline is a top domestic policy item. Climate Change is an issue that has the possibility for a broader appeal, but I think the problem here is that any proposal that addresses CC involves higher taxes and/or greater government regulation of industry.

      And that goes back to the *actual Republican party agenda, which the whole point of having all these social issue voters in their coalition is to protect industry, CEOs and large investors from giving anything (as little as possible) to fund government.

      (But it still might be the least worst alternative, if the party actors (elite?) determine that they need to reach out to a new constituency.)

  6. What's wrong with partisan talking points? Nearly everyone with partisan leanings, including Jonathan, will leap to the defense of their side's partisan talking points, at least now and then.

    Without digging up something more specific, here's the kind of thing that might be said: "Obama's stimulus worked -- if anything, we just needed more of it to stimulate a true recovery."

    Now, that's hardly a novel idea -- nearly everyone who said it first heard it (often with neatly packaged supporting evidence) somewhere else. Jonathan himself has given voice to the idea, with citations drawn not from personal research, but from fellow party actors.

    The dissemination, repetition, refining, testing and jousting of partisan talking points defintes much of what the political photosphere does. Even niche political views, like my own libertarianism, will often develop their own talking points.

    And of course, talking points are not necessarily wrong.

    1. Look, I'm the last one to attack partisan talking points per se. But there's a time and a place, and simply repeating what we all hear everywhere else would be boring. Sure: that's a good place to get topics to talk about. But a comments section that just sounds like Crossfire (assuming everyone remembers what that was) would be pretty dull to me.

      I'm not going to start zapping comments just because I recognize them as coming from somewhere else, but a commenter who simply did that all the time would be annoying.

  7. Not sure if this helps, but there's probably only two justifications for participation back here: for our host, these discussions are valuable to the extent they build his personal brand. For the rest of us, the discussions are valuable to the extent the commenter, and others, learn something.

    Maybe this is simplistic, but if a commenter is routinely failing the "learn something" test, that's probably problematic.


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