the right as cultural movement, ct'd

Gene Healy says Republicans think that their voters are stupid:

By 2012, our national debt will be larger than the entire U.S. economy, according to the International Monetary Fund. So what's on the front burner in Washington these days? Zoning issues in lower Manhattan!


The establishment Right wants to play the Tea Party movement for suckers. It remains to be seen whether they'll play along.

Will Wilkinson is less charitable to "the base":

I don’t find this believable. This idiotic foofaraw could be a distraction only if the GOP rank-and-file actually cared more about the size of government than the cultural politics of American identity. But they don’t. It’s not even close. American conservatism is a movement consumed by protecting and asserting a certain fabricated conception of the traditional American way of life against imaginary enemies.

Needless to say, I think Will has a point here. You can argue that the party, the people that tend to vote for it, and the media that cater to those people all feed off of each other. But in any case, the modern kulturkampf-obsessed GOP didn't arise in a vaccuum.

I'd really rather be wrong about all of this.


on saving the GOP from the GOP establishment

Conor Friedersdorf:

Imagine a successful two-term Republican governor with a credible small government record, a demonstrated commitment to civil liberties, skepticism about foreign wars, a longstanding determination to right America's fiscal ship, evidence of competent management skills in the public and private sectors, and an utter lack of ugly populist rhetoric during the whole of his substantial time in public life. You'd think he'd be a God send for tea partiers and civil libertarians, a possibility to win the GOP nomination in 2012, and an appealing alternative for those of us who think that given a sane alternative Barack Obama doesn't deserve another term.

That attractive, reality-based Republican exists! His name is Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico.

He goes on to say that Johnson has an uphill battle with regard to name recognition and fund raising. But the elephant in the room (if you'll pardon the expression) that Friedersdorf neglects to mention is that Johnson is an outspoken drug war skeptic. And I think that puts him out of the running as firmly as Mitt Romney's Mormonism and Rudy Giuliani's cross-dressing.

The American right today is not a political movement, it is a cultural one, and one that is still fighting the culture war of the 1960's. It isn't that most Republicans actually believe marijuana is harmful (too many of them have smoked it themselves, and know better) or that they actually think the war on drugs is good policy (because no reasonably intelligent person still believes this, and I don't think most Republicans are actually stupid). It's the counter-culture that drugs (and marijuana in particular) are emblematic of.

For the establishment right, it isn't about good policy, it's about sticking it to "the elites", "the intellectuals" and yes, to "the hippies". Understand that, and you understand why the the GOP looks so completely, utterly bonkers these days.


"This idea – that Manning and WikiLeaks have imperiled Afghani informants or American troops– is now the leading charge against them. “We know for a fact that people will likely be killed because of this information being disclosed," Rep. Rogers said.

Rogers did not provide evidence for his "fact," but one fact beyond dispute in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is this: they have killed people by the thousands. In fact, the two wars combined have produced well more than 100,000 corpses. If putting people in harm's way is a damning criticism of Manning, then what are we to make of those who have cheered on, voted for, and managed America's wars?"

--Will Wilkinson, firing on all cylinders.

Read the whole thing.


just a momentary diversion on the road to the supreme court

...for California's Prop 8, the gay marriage ban.

Jacob Sullum writes:

Today a federal judge in California overturned that state's ban on gay marriage, ruling that it violates the 14th Amendment's command that no state may "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." In response to a lawsuit filed by several same-sex couples, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker concluded that Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative that amended California's constitution to prohibit gay marriage, "unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation."

The arguments for banning gay marriage are so weak, Walker said, that they fail even the highly deferential "rational basis" test, which applies in equal protection cases that do not involve a "suspect classification" such as race. "Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians," he wrote. "The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite sex couples."

This has always been a question of equal protection, as far as I am concerned. It's nice to see a federal judge get something like this right--and for the right reason--for a change. Last year I pointed out that the California supreme court got it wrong for the right reason on this one.

The only prediction I will hazard about what happens when this gets to the high court is that it will be a 5-4 decision that pisses a lot of people off.


veiling and the limits of religious liberty

This piece is about as challenging as one can be to what I would consider my fundamental assumptions about the role of the state in the private lives of its citizens. A snippet that gives you an idea of the whole:

It was perverse, she said to me, that she should be free to cover her head in an American university but not in a Turkish one. It seemed perverse to me as well. It would to any American; politically, we all descend from men and women persecuted for their faith. I was, I decided, on the side of these women.

But that was when I could still visit the neighborhood of Balat without being called a whore.

Read the whole thing. This is a conversation we (by which I mean the west, broadly) need to be having. And I have no idea where I am on it.


It occurs to me that Chelsea Clinton married her boyfriend of something like 10 years yesterday, and they already don't have half a dozen kids.

I'm sure this is because they practiced abstinence.