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Old 05-06-2010, 08:03 PM
jimM47 jimM47 is offline
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 459
Default Re: Let's Go (David Frum & Jonah Goldberg)

I'm late in returning to the party, so there's little that I can really add that hasn't been said by Jonah's defenders and dismissed by his critics, but here is a list of some of the things Jonah is saying that I am in full agreement:

* Jonah is disputing the predictions that David is making about the future of American politics and the best strategy for conservatives going forward. I think he's right.

* Jonah is defending using the word 'Socialist' in good faith. To me, "socialism" in the only sense of the word that still matters, refers to someone who is on the wrong side of a particular intellectual debate. There isn't a better word for that position, because not all liberals and members of the left are on the wrong side of that debate. David is wrong: this use of the word socialism is "an analytic category." And it is perfectly appropriate to use to mean someone whose position is within the realms of civil debate, but happens to be wrong in a historically significant way. (David's watering down point seems like needless strategery: just use words in ways that are useful for conveying ideas) Socialism to me is not a matter of the degree to which one is on the left, but a particular mindset, a particular way of being on the left. I don't think Obama is terribly far to the left compared to other Democrats, but he seems like a systematic rigorous thinker whose intellectual priors are best described by the word socialist. That worries me more than if he were simply farther to the left in a different way. Do I go around calling Obama a Socialist? No. Because I know that not everyone is going to read that the way I mean it. And David Frum surely knows that's the reality and is trying (and in my opinion failing) to use that to score cheap debate points by asking Jonah to defend characterizations that are accurate but open to misinterpretation.

* David continues to press this same tactic when he asks whether the constitutional order is in jeopardy. Jonah again is right that just because there is not some radical or novel threat to the constitutional order does not mean that there are dangers to the constitutional order, and that we ought not to care about it.

* Jonah is laying out a double-standard between how one should try to conduct himself when engages in discourse and what conduct by others you have a right to act surprised or disgusted at. It's a double standard that I fully agree with. It is juvenile to call people names, use hyperbole, assume bad faith, etc. and one should avoid doing so. One should even attempt to raise these points with people you are having genuine discussions with when you think it will help them. But it is also juvenile to expect that high discourse is going to rule in all quarters. That's just not an acceptance of reality. It's silly to claim that the existence of low discourse is a surprise or a fright or a danger. It just is, and twas ever thus.

* Jonah is rightly calling bullshit on David's assertion that right-wing talk radio is the tail that wags the dog of the conservative movement. I have never listened to more that 5 minutes of talk-radio at a time, and I was writing my Congress-critters in 2008 to tell them to do precisely the things David has been decrying and to be precisely as obstructionist as they have been.

* Jonah is also right that given the reality of the numbers, going along with a bipartisan effort on HCR wasn't going to get Republicans any compromises they really cared about or that really changed the character of the bill. The left-wing of the democratic caucus only abandoned its aspirations when it became apparent that they couldn't quite bet 60 votes for them. Were they really going to radically alter the schema of the bill without the need to do so?

* David's credibility gets completely shot with the whole "overplaying the Maoist thing" / "National Review reminds me of China" thing. It just indicates a total lack of perspective.

* I enjoy Jonah gloating about having gotten to the right place on gay marriage years before David "I know the future of the compromises we must make" Frum.

* Jonah is right that David comes across as elitist when he advocates nanny-statism. David's rejoinder that they are both elites is beside the point. Jonah isn't railing against elites, but he also isn't saying that elites should run people's lives: elitism.

* I think implicitly, Jonah succeeds in drawing out that David's bona fides on lots of conservative ideas are lacking. David is interested in a particular foreign policy that has hitched itself to the Republican party and he'll be tempted to construe conservatism in any way necessary to get the public to support the coalition that will effect that foreign policy.
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