John Kerry, Conservative?
July 25, 2004 5:16 PM   Subscribe

Kerry's Democrats: The Conservative Party? So thinks Andrew Sullivan: "I may not find myself the only conservative moving slowly and reluctantly toward the notion that Kerry may be the right man - and the conservative choice - for a difficult and perilous time." Similar thoughts were published recently by AEI: "If the terms 'liberal' and 'conservative' still had any meaning in American foreign policy, George Bush would happily style himself the true liberal--the radical, even--in the upcoming election and paint Kerry as the conservative, the reactionary." Food for thought in front of the convention this week.
posted by dagny (42 comments total)
 
It's an interesting point, but I'm not convinced it'll win over many.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 5:29 PM on July 25, 2004


It's a Liberal Jedi Mind Trick.

:D
posted by RobbieFal at 5:46 PM on July 25, 2004


I read Andrew's site fairly regularly and it has been quite interesting to watch him move away from Bush and toward's Kerry over the past half year or so. Mostly, the gay marriage and Iraq war foibles seem to have driven him here. I am glad to see it, as Andrew has been one of my very favorite web mavens for several years. He is much more conservative than I am, but he thinks and he can see the opposite side of an issue. I think being attacked as a gay person has shown him the intolerance of this administration. Why do so many conservatives, even the ones who seem to be able to see the broader world need to be personally attacked in some fashion before they can see the inherent inconsistencies in their president? I know a lot of liberals voted for Clinton while holding their nose, but at least his alleged transgressions were not against the country, more so against his honor and his family.
posted by caddis at 5:51 PM on July 25, 2004


As the water swirls in, even the rodents head for the exits.

And no, Bush is no liberal, although with the growing awareness among voters that his policies have been disastrous, I'm sure he and his supporters wish he could somehow make the last four years go away.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 6:06 PM on July 25, 2004


Bush is not a conservative, either.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:10 PM on July 25, 2004


I think the most appropriate political label for George W. Bush is "monarchist".
posted by wendell at 6:18 PM on July 25, 2004


Wendell nailed him, King George.
posted by caddis at 6:54 PM on July 25, 2004


GWB's fiscal liberalism is also striking, particularly in contrast to the fiscal policies of the Clinton years. The Republicans are apparently now a party of old-fashioned Keynesian liberals supporting big government and bigger deficits; they remain "conservatives" only in regard to their intolerant social policies.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:10 PM on July 25, 2004


they remain "conservatives" only in regard to their intolerant social policies.

Looks can be extremely deceiving, although I can thoroughly understand and acknowledge why Democrats, and many independents, have reached this conclusion. The Republican Party has been far more successful at maintaining an image of unison within itself, a feat that is nearly impossible for Democrats given the wide range of issues in modern politics.

From a purely anecdotal perspective, analyze wedge issues and you'll find that Republicans have capitalized, thoroughly, upon emotionally charged rhetoric and created a group of voters determined to make one issue, one policy their basis for voting. Democrats have used similar tactics in the past, but I would venture to say that their results have been mixed.

There are many Republicans in Congress who are fiscally conservative, who still believe in the separation of church and state, who fight for states' rights in face of over-reaching federal laws. Unfortunately, the current construct of the party limits the re-electability of whistle-blowers. The RNC plays a strong role in determining who receives campaign finance support; the President can make or break an interim election for tight races; further, Beltway politics are rarely discussed here on MeFi, or in the mainstream press, so our conclusions are potentially limited.
posted by BlueTrain at 7:30 PM on July 25, 2004


Well, let's not mistake the AEI piece for support of Kerry. A more complete quote:

"To be sure, there is a huge risk of hubris in attempting to foster democratization across the greater Middle East--a danger that the Bush administration has not appreciated as keenly as it should. Yet the status quo is intolerable, and there are worse offenses than excessive ambition in trying to change it. And just when did the American left begin to sneer at heroic efforts to improve the world?

The deeper problem for realists, of course, is that American interests and American principles are inextricably bound together in Iraq. Iraqis' tolerance of foreign troops has always dangled on the thread of the belief that the United States will help empower the Iraqi people, not consign them to life under yet another strongman. In particular, the support of the majority Shia has been contingent on U.S. guarantees of democratic elections. Should we retreat from these assurances, it will destroy the very stability that the realists claim to prize.

If the terms "liberal" and "conservative" still had any meaning in American foreign policy, George Bush would happily style himself the true liberal--the radical, even--in the upcoming election and paint Kerry as the conservative, the reactionary. Indeed, it's hard to conceive of anything more repugnant to American principles--or blind to American interests--than "conserving" the current political order in the Middle East.

It is one thing to argue that strategy and statecraft demand that we pick our fights carefully, with a due regard for the sacrifices Americans will be asked to make in blood and treasure. It is another altogether to say that prudence demands that we pick our principles so as to avoid sacrifice. Always shameful, such a position is also, in a post-9/11 world, profoundly unrealistic.
"

That said, Bush pushed me over the edge with the amendment bit as well. Not that I'm a true "conservative" - neither is Sullivan - but I expect I'll be joining many other libertarian types in siding with Kerry.
posted by tirade at 7:37 PM on July 25, 2004


It can be illuminating to look at the national debt chart, corrected for inflation (third graph down, in blue) to figure out which governments have been fiscally responsible. Since the second world war, the debt didn't start increasing in real terms until well into Reagan's administration; and didn't start coming under control again into Clinton's. Note that the graph doesn't show Bush II -- that would be illuminating indeed.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:38 PM on July 25, 2004


Interesting point of view. It's both entertaining and pathetic to keep hearing how President Bush's policies have been a disaster. Are you sure they're just a distaster? Not a catastophy? Not a policy holocaust? This about it, and I'm sure you'll revise your opinion.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:38 PM on July 25, 2004


As you've apparently revised yours:
I didn't say "W" is stupid (in the post). I only said, or implied his policies are dangerous and that if average Americans were more intelligent, they wouldn't let him get away with his policies, which also contradict his campaign promises.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:31 AM PST on August 25
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:45 PM on July 25, 2004


More from the AEI bit re: Kerry's position on Iraqi democracy:

"For several months, Kerry has downplayed democracy in Iraq, insisting, "I have always said from day one . . . that the goal here is a stable Iraq, not whether or not that's a full democracy." ... "Still, it is notable that the Kerry camp--presumably more clear-eyed about such matters--is attacking less the often-bumbling means by which the administration has tried to bring democracy to Iraq, than the wisdom of the effort itself. Rand Beers, Kerry's top foreign policy adviser, recently told the Los Angeles Times, "We have been concerned for some time that Bush's position about having some kind of democratic state [in Iraq] was too heroic.""

Shameful. This is something many of us will be watching closely. Kerry claims to be committed to staying the course in Iraq, but leaving the country under a "stable" non-democracy in the name of political expediency and a quick resolution is unacceptable. The Iraqi liberation and occupation has already been tremendously costly, in whatever currency you care to measure it - backing away from our stated "heroic" goals would truly make all of it in vain.
posted by tirade at 7:54 PM on July 25, 2004


I would like to be the first to coin the term Kerry Republicans.
posted by drezdn at 7:58 PM on July 25, 2004


just a distaster

There's no accounting for taste.
posted by ook at 7:59 PM on July 25, 2004


It's both entertaining and pathetic to keep hearing how President Bush's policies have been a disaster. Are you sure they're just a distaster? Not a catastophy? Not a policy holocaust? This about it, and I'm sure you'll revise your opinion.
I thought disasters and catastrophes were Bush's second-term agenda.

tirade,
even Bush and his people have given up on "democracy" there, with the installation of Negroponte and Allawi, and the legal hamstringing by Bremer before handover.
posted by amberglow at 8:04 PM on July 25, 2004


Yes, GS, I underestimated Bush, and overestimated Gore--ok? The Iraq war, and Bush's response to the Taliban made me a convert.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:12 PM on July 25, 2004


Why should anyone care about the opinion of Andrew Sullivan? He doesn't speak for anyone. Not gays. Not conservatives. Not some kind of higher voice of reason. No one, except for Andrew Sullivan.

Whether you're a Republican, Democrat, or third party voter, it should be abundantly clear by now that Andrew Sullivan is the very definition of a quisling apologist flipflopper. He deserves to be widely ridiculed as such.
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:45 PM on July 25, 2004


Well, GWB is clearly a radical in the sense that I understand it, and his administration reflects this. No compromise is possible, or in the public interest, if you are right, after all.

As a far-left voter, I'm uneasy with Kerry precisely because he's running to the center. It's still important to get W out - but on November 12, I'll be flinging poo with deep abandon, I have no doubt.
posted by mwhybark at 9:46 PM on July 25, 2004


Well, tirade, if you and those similar to you would actually vote for a libertarian (I think the LP sucks, just as many libertarians and minarchists do, but they're not going to win anything), maybe politicians might start to pay attention to us, rather than taking us for granted.
posted by trharlan at 10:12 PM on July 25, 2004


Bush's response to the Taliban made me a convert
You mean bombing them for a bit, running off to Iraq and allowing them to creep back into power? That bit?
posted by owillis at 10:25 PM on July 25, 2004


Bush is not a liberal. Bush is not a radical. Bush is the living definition of a reactionary. Every political opinion he has, especially the political opinions that changed in the last four years, are the very essence of what it means to be a reactionary.

All reactionaries are simply trying to spread the mythology they define themselves by to other countries or more solidly in their own. Bush's mythology, I assume, has something to do with the Founding Fathers as god-fearing freedom fighters, the inherent rightness of democratic republics (so much that individuals who don't want to live in a democratic republic are simply terrorists, evil and against him, personally) and that fear of God (read: Irresistible Force) is the only thing that really motivates people.

The other point is that Bush's foreign policy, in practice, isn't that much different from previous American imperial campaigns. The US has been involved in very similiar fights. It won some, it lost some. The failure in Iraq is mainly logistical.
posted by raaka at 10:51 PM on July 25, 2004


Oops. Missed this.

Sullivan: Just try finding a coherent theme in Bush Republicanism. It is, in fact, one of the most ramshackle distillations of political expediency ever tarted up as an "ism".

Well, not if you call Bush a reactionary. It's all rather coherent once you see it that way.
posted by raaka at 10:53 PM on July 25, 2004


In one sense Sullivan is correct - Kerry's Democrats are much like the British Conservative Party. The sad thing is that there is no leftwing option to American voters - unless you want to help the Republicans by voting for Nader.
posted by salmacis at 12:17 AM on July 26, 2004


as salmacis pointed out, the fact is that at this point the Democrats (since the DLC days at least) are the Conservative Party in America, as the GOP has become a Reactionary, budget-busting fundamentalist religious party. Liberals can either vote (defensively) for the Conservatives in order not to have Roe vs Wade disappear, not to see the environment looted even more than it is now, etc.
or, they can vote Nader, fell good about themselves because they voted for a liberal for a change, then sit down in front of the Tv and watch Bush celebrate his election (or re-instatement, whatever)
US liberals are, in a word, fucked. they have no real political party at this point, unless they live in Vermont or something. Nader is at this point a fig leaf.

this shift to the right of the entire US political spectrum is obvious to most US liberals and to all non-Americans. unless one of course watches GOPNews and thinks Sean Hannity is, ahem, fair and balanced, of course

_______

"Andrew Sullivan is the very definition of a quisling apologist flipflopper. He deserves to be widely ridiculed as such."

$$$$$
Poor Sully has been irrelevant since, 1995 or something. he jumped the shark a long time ago. the fact that he used to have a slightly successful warblog does not make him any better -- he is a smarter (no huge feat, at that) DenBeste with a Oxford degree who doesn't still live in his mom's basement. Sully's tired McCarthyite rants against the traitors he saw even under his bed blew up the rest of his credibility from the TNR days. I also like the way he was shocked when his Republican heroes tried to ram the GodHatesFags amendment down America's throat -- UK Clueless, indeed
posted by matteo at 12:37 AM on July 26, 2004


But what will happen to Sullivan? People like him seem to have legions of adoring fans, hanging on every word he says without criticism.

(a) Sullivan is immediately branded a terrorist-sympathising Communist traitor. Blogrolls are clensed of his presence and his name is struck from history.
-or-
(b) A mass conversion of warbloggers to the ranks of Kerry supporters. Won't that be interesting to watch!
posted by Jimbob at 12:57 AM on July 26, 2004


OWillis: We've done as much as plausible in Afghanistan: unlike Iraq, there's no social or other infrastructure for to create a sane, modern country, so the best we can really do is de-fang the place (probably on an ongoing basis). And the place is no longer an external threat; whether everything's just shifted to Pakistan is another question.

But in any case, all that matters is extrapolating what another President would have done. And, I think, a Kerry, Clinton or Gore would have done far less.

Interesting how so many people hold their own beliefs' champions to a lower standard than the oppositions'.

Is President Bush the Perfect Candidate or President? No, by only a fool (or a typical Metafilter poster) would expect him to be. Would I vote for Kerry if he was more honest and forthcoming with his real views on Iraq and foreign policy? Quite possibly.

But he's not, and so, at this point, there's a 90% chance I'm not voting for Kerry. Kerry was, and I have to presume, remains, deep down, more hawkish on Iraq than President Bush ever was. But to pander to the democratic party's core, he's gone revisionist, and that's unacceptable.

OWillis: Nice to seek you posting on Metafilter again!
posted by ParisParamus at 4:42 AM on July 26, 2004


To say that Kerry's platform is remiscent of the watered-down gruel which comprises the agenda of the Tory/Christian Democrat Euro-right is undoubtedly true.

To say that this doesn't give Bush a strong, clean place to stand on the right isn't true. So long as Kerry opposes the death penalty and the Second Amendment and obeys the NEA, NAACP, NARAL, and the trial lawyers at every possible juncture Americans by the tens of millions will continue to reject him as a worthless leftist.
posted by MattD at 6:09 AM on July 26, 2004


obeys the NEA, NAACP, NARAL, and the trial lawyers

You forgot about the militant homosexual cabal. Nice touch with the "trial lawyers" though.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 6:15 AM on July 26, 2004


And, I think, a Kerry, Clinton or Gore would have done far less.

That's complete bullshit, ParisParamus. After 9/11, any president would have bombed Afghanistan. (As David Cross said) fucking Nader would have bombed Afghanistan.
posted by jpoulos at 6:41 AM on July 26, 2004


Armitage: obeisance to the trial lawyers is not an incidental toss-in, it is a core characteristic of the current Democratic political consensus. Individual Democrats will show spine on many issues, but never on those near and dear to the ambulance chasers.

In judicial nominations, for example, you'll see them being clever and trotting out so-called civil libertarians on scare issues over which lower court appointees have little influence, when the real agenda is all about class actions, over which lower court judges have considerable influence.
posted by MattD at 8:47 AM on July 26, 2004


But in any case, all that matters is extrapolating what another President would have done.

If you're going to play "what if", then it matters even more what another President would have been doing BEFORE 9/11. Such as demanding and getting regular intelliigence briefings. Or at least showing up for work.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:49 AM on July 26, 2004


The USA (and Canada) needs a socially-liberal, fiscally-conservative political party.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:55 AM on July 26, 2004


Why should anyone care about the opinion of Andrew Sullivan? He doesn't speak for anyone. Not gays. Not conservatives. Not some kind of higher voice of reason. No one, except for Andrew Sullivan.


Right, if you can not parrot back the party line then you are disloyal and thus beneath contempt. "Why does Andrew hate the GOP?"

GOP - Group Obedience Party
posted by caddis at 10:42 AM on July 26, 2004


Individual Democrats will show spine on many issues, but never on those near and dear to the ambulance chasers.

unlike the spine shown on a regular basis by the GOP when the NRA, Halliburton and the other military-industrial complex guys, the big pharmaceutical megacorporations, and thousands of other corporate masters / right-wing special interests ask them for a favor, right?

I like your logic!

I also find interesting how the trial lawyers seem to be the right wing's enemy -- you must love those Big Corporations and their famous penchant for quality control, and their refusal to sell defective material to an unsuspecting public
posted by matteo at 10:46 AM on July 26, 2004


So long as Kerry ... obeys the... trial lawyers at every possible juncture Americans by the tens of millions will continue to reject him as a worthless leftist.
posted by MattD at 6:09 AM PST on July 26


I hear BushCo recently hired himself a couple of those damned trial lawyers and is obeying their every word in regards to keeping his filthy hide out of prison. Anyone else hear about this dirty, worthless leftist occupying the White House?

Great logic! Works so well! Time to drop that GOP talking point automaton, it won't fly.
posted by nofundy at 11:50 AM on July 26, 2004


" ... but I expect I'll be joining many other libertarian types in siding with Kerry."

As oposed to joining the libertarian types in siding with, um, the Libertarians?
posted by Ayn Marx at 1:49 PM on July 26, 2004


Because, Ayn Marx, all those completely individualistic, free-choice Libertarians all have to vote for the same party...? Sounds familiar.
posted by Jimbob at 3:57 PM on July 26, 2004


I hear BushCo recently hired himself a couple of those damned trial lawyers and is obeying their every word in regards to keeping his filthy hide out of prison. Anyone else hear about this dirty, worthless leftist occupying the White House?

Great logic! Works so well! Time to drop that GOP talking point automaton, it won't fly.


exactly--and don't forget that Bush is sharing a lawyer with Ken Lay-- Jim Sharp, (a lawyer that also represented some Nixon cronies during Watergate) Let them keep bringing it up--it's good for us to keep reminding people of those connections.
posted by amberglow at 4:17 PM on July 26, 2004


Muhahaha!!! Revenge is sweet.
posted by Perigee at 1:26 AM on July 27, 2004


Gore would have caught bin Laden in Afganistan. So would Nader. So would Clinton. So would the first Bush. So would any reasonably coherent President. So that's strike one against Bush II.

But it's beside the point.

Any reasonably coherent President would never have allowed 9/11 to happen. This is, to my mind, the ultimate failure of the Bush II administration. Even if you can argue that it was inevitable, even if you can argue that nobody could have stopped it, the fact remains that the President at the helm when it happened needed to take responsibility to ensure that the world retained faith in American leadership.

I'll repeat it: Bush II needed to step up after 9/11 and say, "This is my fault. I failed America." Only then could the next President have assumed power with the belief that the mistakes would not be repeated.

It's more important that the American people and the world believe that 9/11 won't be repeated (and I believe any adminstration could take steps to prevent it) than that any particular individual remain in the oval office, regardless of whether or not he was in any real sense responsible.

In all honestly, had Gore been President on September 11th and things gone as they did, I would have expected Gore to wait a few weeks to get things under control, and then have resigned the Presidency, taking responsibility. It would have been the right thing to do.

As it is, Bush II was in charge. The only responsible tactic for him to take was to acknowledge his personal failure of policy and leadership, and fall on his sword for the country.

He didn't.

To use the analogy that he likes to beat tirelessly, Bush was the CEO of AmeriCo. The CEO doesn't really have total control of what happens in the company. What he is is a booster and a salesman, the guy who sets up strategy and lets the footmen engage in the tactics. But the other side of being a CEO is that when the company fails, he resigns. It's only fair. A failure of the company is the failure of the CEO.

That's the way Bush II should have treated 9/11. A personal failure. And he should have resigned.

The fact that he didn't indicates that he believed, and believes, that the failure was not his. Why? Because he somehow sees himself as *above* the country, not before it. He's not the CEO. He's the sole proprietor. Now that the business was thrashing around in dire straits, he had to bring it under control, answering only to one master, God, who directed him in his moves.

This is ridiculous. But, so far as Bush II is concerned, the U.S.A. is pwned.

Vaca
posted by vaca at 6:45 AM on July 28, 2004


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