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Conservatism’s Safety Net

Root for Us You Liberal Moron FDL’s Thers is piling on the “has conservatism run out of ideas” bandwagon and inadvertently helped demonstrate why conservatism will never die.

The piece is entitled “The Autumn of Wingnuttia” and doesn’t disappoint. He dismisses “a belief in free markets, free people, and in the greatness of the American people and the American nation” as “fatuous slogans and overripe bullshit,” at least “in the eyes of people who aren’t morons.” Similarly, “modesty toward what problems government can ever solve” translates as “wanking.”

It turns out that conservatism was never “an intellectual movement at all” but rather “an essentially nihilist politics of vicious opportunism, where the entire goal is power for its own sake.” The forty percent or so of Americans who self-identify as conservative? “[C]ompletely crazy idiots.”

Like political parties, political movements in the ascendancy invariably overreach. Too many conservative Republicans interpreted a narrow Electoral College victory in 2000, which gave them nominal control of the policymaking apparatus, as a universal mandate. A cottage industry of books insulting the forty percent of Americans who [identify with the other party]* as stupid (If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d be Republicans), traitors (Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism), both (The Enemy Within, Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder) or barely worth talking to (How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)).

Now that the Republicans are down, too many on the other side are making the same mistake. Conservatism has been rejected! Everyone agrees with progressive ideals now! Only the stupid, racist few disagree these days!

It’s not inconceivable that the November elections return the White House to Democratic hands, increase the party’s House majority, and even provides a filibuster-proof margin in the Senate. But it’s a lead pipe cinch that they’ll screw it up, became the corrupt, power-at-all-costs goons that they now accuse their opponents of being, and piss off enough of the country that they’ll be thrown out on their butts. Not because they’re bad people who hate America but because that’s what people in power do.

Correction: The original had “vote the other way” where the brackets are. Closer to 50 percent voted for the Democratic nominee, Al Gore, in 2000 — indeed, more than voted for Bush. My intent was to discuss the rough 40-40 split between die-hard supporters of the two major parties, not voting behavior in a specific election.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. superdestroyer says:

    The problem is that the groups that will vote for Democrats no matter how badly they screw up are growing relative to the population. Do you really think that as the demographics of the U.S. become like the current demographics of California that the Democrats can screw up bad enough to convince blacks, Hispanics, gays, Jews, and Asians to stop voting for them by huge majorities? For a political party that keeps electing Marion Barry and Kwame Kilpatrick, there is no bottom.

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  2. nightjar says:

    I think it is correct that at some point the country will tire of liberal governance and choose to try something new again. However, I think your wrong in equating the countries current depth of contempt for republican stewardship with that of any recent period of liberal control.

    On the bread and butter issues, the American electorate has been and is solidly in alignment with democrats. The only times they haven’t been were when democrats became overtly reckless with the voters tax dollar. The past 14 years of liberal powerlessness will serve as a strong cattle prod to delay making the same mistakes.

    Although eventually, the dems will disillusion the electorate, the average middle class voter won’t soon forget the economic squeeze they’ve felt the past 8 years and who they hold responsible.

    And not to mention a reckless and costly foreign policy.

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  3. Floyd says:

    Thers sounds really frustrated…Gooood!!
    Rants seldom come from those who have tasted victory!![lol]

    James,
    Waddaya mean “become”??

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  4. Patrick T McGuire says:

    It annoys me to no end that the terms “Republican” and “conservative” are used interchangably as if they are the same thing. They aren’t!!!

    Too much attention has been paid in this election cycle to which party will win, almost like which team will win the Super Bowl. Third parties are ignored because afterall, this is the Super Bowl so how can they be relevant. Conservatives don’t see this matter as a contest between political parties, but rather as a matter of life or death for American culture, values, and way of life.

    I am about as conservative as they come and I look for conservative leaders with strong personal integrity, not some schmuck with a great smile and an “(R)” next to his/her name. That certainly excludes the current crop of lying, back-stabbing, self-serving sycophants.

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  5. Bithead says:

    It annoys me to no end that the terms “Republican” and “conservative” are used interchangably as if they are the same thing. They aren’t!!!

    My response exactly.And I can’t think of anyone in the current spotlight to illustrate this better than John McCain who has demonstrated time and again he is no conservative.

    On the bread and butter issues, the American electorate has been and is solidly in alignment with democrats. The only times they haven’t been were when democrats became overtly reckless with the voters tax dollar.

    OK, back that statement up, in light of two elections in a row, of George W Bush… who is also no conservative, in reality.

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  6. “The Autumn of Wingnuttia”

    I wonder if he meant to imply something as cyclical as the seasons. After all, only a moron would do that.

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  7. Bithead says:

    I should point out that it’s been the way of places such as the aforementioned “Firedog Lake” to declare victory and move on before the contest/conversation has even begun, so as to silence opposition.

    This, I think is another such case.

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  8. nightjar says:

    OK, back that statement up, in light of two elections in a row, of George W Bush… who is also no conservative, in reality.

    up until 1994, 40 years of democrat control of the peoples House of Reps. Which is the best way to gauge the public on bread and butter issues, imo. Not mention the polling on these issues.

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  9. TJIT says:

    James you said,

    Too many conservative Republicans interpreted a narrow Electoral College victory in 2000, which gave them nominal control of the policymaking apparatus, as a universal mandate.

    Unfortunately they then used this perceived mandate to:

    1.) Spend like drunken sailors, elevate earmarking to an artful form of corruption, create new entitlement programs, and cover for their colleagues sexual misconduct. (note that this is in no way a comprehensive list of their utterly disgusting behavior)

    2.) In the face of this out of control orgy of spending republican leadership (Tom DeLay) managed to utterly beclown himself and the republicans by declaring that they had cut about all the fat they could.

    I could buy the idea that the disapproval ratings of the current crop of republican pukes we have in washington was a symptom of the decline of conservatism if the current crop of republican pukes had managed to enact some conservative policies.

    Hopefully groups like the club for growth will continue to have success in picking off republican incumbents in primary races.

    In my opinion that is the only hope we have of reforming the elected republicans and maybe getting some conservative policies out of them

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  10. Bithead says:

    up until 1994, 40 years of democrat control of the peoples House of Reps. Which is the best way to gauge the public on bread and butter issues, imo. Not mention the polling on these issues.

    So, 1994 doesn’t constitute a shift away from that one party system, then?

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  11. Our Paul says:

    The key to Paul Atriedes capturing the loyalty of the fierce fighting Freeman on the Planet Akaris was to convince them of the truth of the phrase “times change”. Enough to make you wonder what Victor Herbet would think about today’s political scene…

    In 1959 there were three kidney dialysis units on the East coast. By 1974, in 15 years, they were common place, found in most hospitals in the country. In 1974, data generated by radioactive counters during medical research was captured by telatype machines. Inside 5 years, that technology was dead. You could of course try to “re-brand” that great machine, but it was a dodo bird, killed by the emerging technology of the “personal computer”. Times change

    Careful reading of Thers post in Firedog Lake will show it is the flip side of your own May 20th and 23rd post which examine George Packer’s article in the New Yorker, titled “The Fall of Conservatism”. Thers language is inflammatory, adding little to the discussion. The one nugget in his screed is this quotation:

    “American conservatism has a set of core principles that includes a belief in free markets, free people, and in the greatness of the American people and the American nation. Those principles are timeless. They are also pure and, in the eyes of conservatives, true. The principles in turn should dictate conservative policy.”

    The italics are mine and expand the quotation. Of note is that he attributes the quotation to Michael Goldfarb, when in reality it was written and posted by Dean Barnett.

    In that quote the concept of “American Exceptionality” is clearly stated as a cornerstone of conservative philosophy. You partially broach this issue in one of your previous posts, unfortunately limiting it to foreign policy:

    ” Should we continue a foreign policy of “American greatness” and trying to democratize the heathens through military power? Or should we retrench to a more traditional Realist posture?”

    It strikes me that if you subscribe to this “American Greatness”, it is only one banana peel away from subscribing the ideology as immutable and in no need adjust to the changing world around you… Times change.

    Worse, you do not have to see and learn through the eyes of others, and thus the silly cries of “socialized medicine”, or the idiocy of sloganeering with “let the marketplace render its magic”…

    You were getting close to being on the mark in the previous posts I quoted above. I think you let Thers post in FDL get under your skin. Get rid of this Burke nonsense of American Exceptionality and concentrate on solutions to readily discernible problems.

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  12. nightjar says:

    So, 1994 doesn’t constitute a shift away from that one party system, then?

    I’m not sure what your question is, but I’ll guess at answering.

    I didn’t say there was a one party system during that time. Only that the House is the best measure to gauge public opinion on bread and butter issues. The presidency is different where National Security is equally important to voters and where repubs have done better.

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  13. Nobody accused conservatives of being vicious, stupid, backwards, racist, and amoral merely because their policies invariably fail. It was because, on objective evidence, they are vicious, stupid, backwards, racist, and amoral.

    You’re undoubtedly right that the Democrats will screw up their chance at power, and eventually lose it. But at least they won’t be conservatives.

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  14. Bithead says:

    I didn’t say there was a one party system during that time.

    Well, I’d say 40 years of it qualifies.

    Only that the House is the best measure to gauge public opinion on bread and butter issues

    And so, I ask again, did 94 change that perception?

    Nobody accused conservatives of being vicious, stupid, backwards, racist, and amoral merely because their policies invariably fail. It was because, on objective evidence, they are vicious, stupid, backwards, racist, and amoral

    .

    BAsed, doubtless on the objective POV provided by the left wing news media, and the DNC talking points.

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  15. nightjar says:

    And so, I ask again, did 94 change that perception?

    yes it did, for 12 years. Didn’t you read my original post.

    The only times they haven’t been were when democrats became overtly reckless with the voters tax dollar. The past 14 years of liberal powerlessness will serve as a strong cattle prod to delay making the same mistakes.

    That should be 12 years till 2006. I don’t get your point bithead. they lost in 94 mostly on spending issues with some pretty tame corruption compared to recent repub offenses.

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  16. Rick Caird says:

    Nightjar keeps trying to claim that 40 years of control of the House indicates an alignment of the voters and the Democratic party. That would only be true if the party were the same and the voters are the same. They are not.

    Rick

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  17. DL says:

    To argue that it is about policy when it is about image is waste of time. Hillary did fine until the special interest groups that compose the democratic party found a better image in the Messiah. They never cared for her anyway, and knew exactly what a sleeze she was.

    We all want to be lied to as long as it fits our biases. Think how easily Hitler led the German people into WWII just by telling them how super they were. Do we think our people don’t willingly fall for the big lies? Give me a list of five major things Obama stands for. Can’t do it? It’s the Halo that they want to see – not the brain work -he can say anything and blow every question from a leadership point of view, as long as he says what they want to hear. The libs know this well -that’s why I call them the Photoshop party.

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  18. nightjar says:

    Well I guess I’m just not the wingnut frequency. My point was narrow to bread and butter issues, and the dem party hasn’t changed much over the decades on those. And neither have the voters when there not bamboozled by GOP wedge issues. The repub party has changed, from an insincere message to a scrambled eggs one.

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  19. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    When read, I almost spewed chunks. Free market and freedom are not the property of intellectuals. These fops have never ever read John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. Or any of the writings of the founding fathers of this nation. What the “intellectuals”, those with degrees in LIBERAL arts, who’s indoctrination turned them from the beliefs of their parents to those of Mao, forget or were never instructed on the fact intellectuals are usually the first that Fearless Leader gets rid of. Some call that being useful idiots. Intellect indicates the ability to originate thought. If you just echo the propaganda you were flooded with in institutions of lower learning, in spite of what your professor instructed you, intellect is not what you possess.

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  20. Steve J. says:

    It’s not clear that there are any conservative principles, at least among American conservatives.

    cf, Hayek, “Why I am NOT a Conservative”

    Excerpt here.

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  21. Hal says:

    James, Thers provides a response to your blog post equivalent to a rassberry. My favorite part

    It’s quite nice that Joyner deplores Coulter-level books and says their crudity is part of the reason the GOP is in trouble. However, this class of stuff is just a less sophisticated version of commonplace rhetoric you see emanating from everywhere else on the right these days. And if Joyner wants to dump it, fine, but the brute fact is that without accusations like, say, that Barack Obama is an un-American socialist, well, the GOP might as well just concede the election immediately. And everyone knows it. The right just cannot win if it renounces the politics of resentment, and that’s all there is to it. You can’t scrub ugly. You can’t reboot Soviet Communism without perpetrating once more its rottenness, and you can’t retool movement conservatism without it eventually f*cking up royally.

    Emphasis, mine. If the right has something other to run on that fear and resentment this year, they so far have been able to completely hide it.

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  22. Hal says:

    Also, it seems appropriate to quote John Stuart Mills wrt conservatives, given James’ interpretation of Thers’ post.

    I never meant to say that Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.

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  23. glasnost says:

    I find it hilarious to listen to ‘true conservatives’ saying “it wasn’t *us* the voters have rejected, it was the Republicans! They then go on to point out how all these Republican politicians aren’t *real* conservatives!

    Folks, if true conservatives had policy positions that were anything less than utterly radioactive and laughingly unpopular, Republicans would have fully adopted them. Did any of you actually watch the Republican primary? Fuc*ers were falling all over themselves to declare themselves the most conservative person in the room.

    Any remaining true conservative rock that has yet to be turned over during the Bush Admin.. probably a very good reason, along the lines of “we’d be dragged into the street and lynched for the lives we’d ruin if we tried that”.

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  24. Bithead says:

    yes it did, for 12 years. Didn’t you read my original post.

    OK, then apparently, you miss the point of the question. You attribute a permanency to the leftward telt, given forty years of it, and apparently we’re to take the 94 vote as an abberation?

    That should be 12 years till 2006. I don’t get your point bithead. they lost in 94 mostly on spending issues with some pretty tame corruption compared to recent repub offenses.

    Spending was only half the issue. The other half was cultural.

    I find it hilarious to listen to ‘true conservatives’ saying “it wasn’t *us* the voters have rejected, it was the Republicans! They then go on to point out how all these Republican politicians aren’t *real* conservatives!

    Folks, if true conservatives had policy positions that were anything less than utterly radioactive and laughingly unpopular, Republicans would have fully adopted them.

    Now, suddenly, you’re willing to accept Republicans as having intelligence? How very generous of you.

    Reagan was a real conservative. Bush was not. Bush was offered the VP slot as a a ticket balance against Reagan’s conservatism. His kids end up in about the same place, politically speaking. Neither is a conservative, but a centrist at best. Look both here and my place and usenet before that you’ll see I’ve been saying this since prior to 1992.

    Even YOU can’t call such as Lincoln Chafee a ‘conservative’.

    Any remaining true conservative rock that has yet to be turned over during the Bush Admin.. probably a very good reason, along the lines of “we’d be dragged into the street and lynched for the lives we’d ruin if we tried that”.

    Yes, well, I’ll remind you the same thing was said prior to Reagan’s taking office.In short it’s a false fear.

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  25. nightjar says:

    The other half was cultural

    Like I said , bamboozled with wedge issues. And obviously I didn’t attribute permanency. 40 years of democratic control versus 12 of republican. Now back to dem. duh.

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  26. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Every problem we have today is almost directly related to democratic leftist policies. High gas prices? Don’t drill here. Kids can’t learn. Give schools more money, not better teachers. The concept or remedial math and English at college level is a direct result of liberal control. You liberal ass hats can blame Bush or who ever you want for the problems you have caused, but Obama will not win this next election and America is still the home of the free. A few of you are even brave.

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  27. Laughing says:

    Mad, James? Just wait. It’ll only get worse!

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  28. G.A.Phillips says:

    I have accused liberals of being vicious, stupid, backwards, racist, and immoral exactly because their vicious stupid, backwards, racist and immoral policies always fail, and because of their policies, on objective evidence, they are vicious, stupid, backwards, racist, and immoral.

    how in the **** you can start out as racist slave owners and separatists, turn into Communists,and then into the new Nazi order is kind of beyond me but I in some strange way I have a feeling that Evolution has played a significant part.

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  29. nightjar says:

    how in the **** you can start out as racist slave owners and separatists, turn into Communists,and then into the new Nazi order is kind of beyond me

    Actually, they turned into republicans.

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  30. Our Paul says:

    It was the asterisk in Hal’ (May 25, 2008 | 09:18 pm) post alerting us that Thers had a response to your post that tickled my interest. Nope, the (*) that fallowed the “F” cannot be found in the original.

    I did entertain myself with a comment on Thers Whisky Fire blog. I cross post it here because I am inordinately proud of the link hidden under the reference of putting pants on one leg at a time… Do not ask me why, it would take too long.

    I happen to be a reader, and occasional commentator of Outside the Beltway. Although my social and political leanings are strongly Center Left, I find James Joyner’s writings reasoned, and well stated. Good enough, so that a slow writer / slow thinker like myself is a bit jealous. Like all of us who put their pants on, one leg at a time, he occasionally strays outside the boundary of reasonable argument.

    The same cannot be said Thers. His language, and that of some his fans posted above, is atrocious. My sentiments are best expressed by Irate Historian | May 25, 2008 at 09:17 PM (above):Can’t see why anyone would boast about the poverty of his vocabulary. I suspect that Christy Hardin Smith, Diggby, and others toes are curling at this man’s crudity.

    If the language chosen is a measure of the man, it not surprising that Thers would attribute the original post to Michael Goldfarb, when it was actually written by Dean Barnett.

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  31. G.A.Phillips says:

    lol, dude I know that the indoctrination that you liberals get is bad but damn you can’t seriously this like this.

    experiment on humans
    murder unwanted babies
    socially control the population
    surpass all debate that is not liberal
    replace Christianity with your doctrine of evolution
    violent protests for descent
    terrorism for descent
    rewriting of history
    socially control the economy
    propagandized control the media
    propagandized control the education system
    super belief in and worship of the occult

    Liberal=Nazi

    all in all in the great green hell you are even after the smokers like the frocking Nazi!!

    I got more but this should be enough, but of course it won’t be, for you.

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  32. Hal says:

    It was the asterisk in Hal’ (May 25, 2008 | 09:18 pm) post alerting us that Thers had a response to your post that tickled my interest. Nope, the (*) that fallowed the “F” cannot be found in the original.

    It was placed as a courtesy to James – and to prevent his rather onerous spam filter from kicking in ;)

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  33. Hal says:

    G. A. Philips provides a text book example for us all to enjoy.

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  34. G.A.Phillips says:

    G. A. Phillips provides a text book example for us all to enjoy.

    cause I don’t beet around the bush talking endless amounts of poop about nothing and try to tell you people the things about yourselves that can’t see, or refuse to see.

    I’m sure I’m suppose to treat you people like real debaters, all you ever do is not listen and spout propaganda.

    I just laid out most of what your ideology is made up of now and you totally missed it and said sum stupidly weak insult, if your gonna insult me employee someone to write some for you.

    And cause you can’t handle the truth you say nothing about nothing because thats all you know.

    I just taught you how much you are like the Nazi in the beginning, yet you say nothing.

    Dude I was raised liberal, and I changed, why can’t you even start or at least look at your side if not mine.

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  35. Hal says:

    Dude I was raised liberal, and I changed, why can’t you even start or at least look at your side if not mine.

    Dude, I was raised an ultra conservative, evangelical christian. I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and whomever the Libertarian dude was in 1984.

    As the saying goes, “Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs”.

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  36. G.A.Phillips says:

    lol what happened?

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  37. nightjar says:

    You happened G.A. Phillips –spoofer.

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  38. G.A.Phillips says:

    Telling you guys what you are and mean, yes me spoofer lol

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  39. gmoke says:

    The original words for your “liberal moron” image are:

    “Do with less –
    so _they’ll_ have
    enough!

    Rationing gives you your fair share.”

    I don’t know of any conservative who believes that but perhaps you can refer me to one.

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  40. Hal says:

    lol what happened?

    Ronald Reagan. He pretty much turned me into a democrat single handedly. I was just voting like I was raised, only just turned 18. The next four years were a disaster and taught me a lot about politics. In college, I took the usual route of wearing black berets, smoking dope in the dorms and wigging out on Libertarian treatise as a response to the Reagan administration’s utter depravity. Boy was I a rube to be roped in by that clap trap. Finally wised up when I realized that Libertarians were basically unable to solve even the simplest of prisoner’s dilemna scenarios – which is kind of what politics is all about, imho – and they couldn’t even build a frickin’ hiway network with the framework they were offering. Figured the democrats had all the civil libertarian ideals I wanted and when I looked – really looked, mind you – at their platforms and talked to other liberals, I found they were just as big of capitalists as I was.

    My god. I just realized I answered a question posed by a troll honestly. Geebus. I’m cursed.

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  41. G.A.Phillips says:

    I am not a number!!!…oops I mean a troll!!!…..

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  42. Don says:

    Interesting that you chose to round down the percentage of those who voted “the other way” to 40%, implying that a pretty solid majority chose the conservative agenda. The reality of course is that the majority of citizens (48.38% to 47.87%) didn’t vote “the other way.” On your main point, while I agree that power indeed can corrupt, I believe leadership from the top influences either positively or negatively, and that the past eight years have shown the negative influence.

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  43. James Joyner says:

    Interesting that you chose to round down the percentage of those who voted “the other way” to 40%, implying that a pretty solid majority chose the conservative agenda. The reality of course is that the majority of citizens (48.38% to 47.87%) didn’t vote “the other way.”

    It was a poorly worded passage. I’m arguing from the premise that both parties hover around 40 percent support with 20 percent or so truly up for grabs. But, no, the actual voting behavior is different because most of that 20 percent chooses between the major parties.

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