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TomDavidson
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...about why I find old-school "conservative" thought so much more compelling than what people insist is "conservative" today -- why, for example, the kind of thinking that someone like DarkJello would ascribe to RINOs seems so much more, well, thoughtful than what passes for principle among more modern Republicans. And I started trawling through The American Conservative, which is still easily the best paleoconservative journal out there today (Alan Jacobs especially, although obviously I roll my eyes whenever he attempts to discuss theology or the opposition thereto), only to discover their Who We Are page. And while a lot of it reads as their attempt to explain to other conservatives why they spend so much time attacking the home team (much like Mother Jones does for leftists), something rang very true to me and helped clarify why I've never considered myself particularly liberal: old-school conservatism was not populist. And while I am fiercely, almost knee-jerkingly anti-authoritarian, I am also disgusted and dismayed by populism. I consider Andrew Jackson one of our most horrifying and damaging presidents; I think appeals to the "common man," when not openly and evilly cynical, are foolish if not doomed; and I am almost always confident that the first and most easily identified common denominator in any situation is also going to be the lowest.

Both parties, as has been noted, are hopelessly corrupt -- and that corruption almost always manifests itself as cynical decisions by a wealthy, relatively insulated elite to co-opt and ultimately pervert the desires of a populist underclass. This makes it easy to sympathize with the populists; after all, they're being horribly taken advantage of, and all they really want is a voice. And if we were arguing that the general populace should have the right to educate themselves and thus contribute meaningfully to a national dialogue, that'd be entirely logical. But what we do instead is compete to find ways to appeal to that populist mass, to sway it one way or the other through the cheapest and most tawdry of rhetorical tricks, without ever addressing the underlying principles at play -- and the danger here, as we do that, is that the best manipulators and marketers rise to the surface, and the people who genuinely understand those principles, who are committed to them and can rationally advance them in argument, are initially sidelined and then completely forgotten. The reason for the fight becomes unimportant, because the people who're best at fighting don't know it; all that matters is the winning. And while we justify the fight -- and the ridiculous, demeaning, and offensive tactics used in those fights -- by insisting that there's some fundamental difference in principle, the truth is that most of the people fighting couldn't articulate those differences in anything resembling coherence.

This is, of course, nothing new. I mean, the classic big-city political machines have always been engines of populism that paid lip service to principle but inevitably turned to nepotism and self-promotion -- and when I say "always," I mean going back to the ancient Greeks. Socrates ranted about the dangers of "common" thought. But it is interesting to me nowadays that we've reached a point where it would be profoundly difficult for anyone to come out in favor of snobbery; while the Right pretends to despise the Left's calls for egalitarianism and equality, they're just as desperate to wrap themselves in the cloak of the low-brow. The upshot, of course, is that the snobs still rise to power, but only in secret, only through manipulation -- and this means that the country winds up run by the worst kind of dishonest snob: the one who won't let you know just how much he's using you.

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Pete at Home
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" I consider Andrew Jackson one of our most horrifying and damaging presidents;"

It always scares me when I agree with you so passionately about something so pivotal.

"I think appeals to the "common man," when not openly and evilly cynical, are foolish if not doomed; and I am almost always confident that the first and most easily identified common denominator in any situation is also going to be the lowest."

Dude, now you sound like you're quoting the Book of Mormon. [Big Grin]

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TomDavidson
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Hey, I seriously considered joining the Mormons when I was 12; I went with the Baha'i Faith because it was less obviously fictional, but that doesn't mean the church didn't appeal on some levels.
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Grant
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Ave, Marcus Porcius Cato.
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DarkJello
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Hopefully the following is in the correct thread:

http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/18/jake-tapper-questions-spitzer-on-hypocrisy-of-never-being-charged-with-breaking-the-law-he-signed/?iref=allsearch

It is "quixotic" to say the least. Scumbags like this should not rise to the top in either party. Why does the public tolerate such insanity??

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