There’s a famous line attributed to Henry Kissinger about the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s: “It's a pity they can't both lose.” Left-wing Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins adapted Kissinger’s quip for his Tuesday post about whether “vicious, ignorant megalomaniac” Donald Trump is “more contemptible” than “steely-eyed devotee of Ayn Rand” Paul Ryan.
Conservatives have objected in droves to a remark President Obama made this past week during his visit to Argentina. Addressing a gathering of young adults, Obama said, “In the past there’s been a sharp division…between capitalist and communist or socialist…but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works.”
The right’s hostile response, contended The Washington Monthly's David Atkins in a Saturday post, is indicative of its longstanding “failure to acknowledge policy realities…The leadership and media organs of the conservative movement remain obsessed with promoting ideology over practicality so much that [Obama’s comment] somehow becomes a fundamental betrayal.” Long ago, wrote Atkins, “capitalism won the war of ideas and appropriately so—but that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect system. Modern Republicans have totally lost sight of that fact.”
Many left-wingers still insist that supporters of Donald Trump are conservatives, but Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins finds Trump backers “far less terrifying” than staunch right-wingers. In a Sunday post, Atkins opined that even though Trump’s base voters tend to be mean and “ignorant,” movement conservatives are “more morally objectionable” because they believe in “economic royalism.”
The “unregulated capitalism” that conservatives favor, argued Atkins, “is a totalizing ideology as impractical as state communism but lacking the silver lining of [communism’s] species-being idealism; as impervious to reason as any cult religion, but lacking the promise of community, salvation or utopia; as brutal as any dictatorship, but without the advantage of order and security.”
Over the past few days, a great many left-wing commentators have weighed in on Antonin Scalia-related issues, especially Scalia’s judicial legacy and Republicans’ refusal to consider anyone President Obama might nominate to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Highlights have included Slate's Dahlia Lithwick remarking that "sometimes it seemed [Scalia] worked overtime to earn your hate. He gloried in it. He wrote cruel, demeaning things about whole groups of Americans”; Salon's Amanda Marcotte alleging that Republicans won't consider any Obama nominees for the SCOTUS vacancy because "the conservative base has never accepted that a black Democrat could be a legitimately elected President”; and Esquire's Charles Pierce suggesting that Scalia be succeeded on the Court by Anita Hill.
Ben Carson seems to be joining the likes of Michele Bachmann and Howard Dean on the list of presidential candidates who generated a lot of early buzz but became distant also-rans well before a nominee was chosen. According to Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins, Carson’s campaign also offers yet more proof that conservatives tend to be easy marks for scammers.
“The libertarian-conservative ethic of ‘get rich any way you can’ combined with a stubborn dismissal of objective fact makes political conservatism especially ripe for con artistry,” argued Atkins in a Saturday post. “It’s no accident that the tea party has been home to one grifter after another making a quick buck…Fox News itself is a long con perpetrated on fearful, older white Americans with the goal of making Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes rich while keeping Republican politicians in power.”
In 2010, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas published his book American Taliban, which detailed his belief that “fundamentalist Muslims [are] basically hard-right Christians…American [religious conservatives] may be more constrained by American society and laws than their Middle Eastern counterparts, but…their goals are the same.” This past weekend, one current and one former Daily Kos writer carried on the tradition of lumping the two groups.
Daily Kos’s Susan Grigsby opined, “It is very difficult to find much space between the coming Christian caliphate, which reveres the Second Amendment as a holy text, and the one set up by [ISIS] in Syria and Iraq.” Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins, a frequent Daily Kos contributor until about a year ago, argued that “to most rational people there is very little dividing line between the agendas of conservative Muslim extremists and conservative Christian ones. Both groups are strongly in favor of weaponizing the public, both are devoted to the imposition of theocracy, and both are opposed to expanded rights for women and those of alternate sexual orientations."
In the week when a new James Bond film is coming out, it’s fitting that two lefty writers are both shaken and stirred by recent Republican blasts at media bias. In a Sunday article for Salon, Boston College history professor Heather Cox Richardson charged that “since the 1950s, Movement Conservatives have fought the fair examination of their ideas. They embrace a worldview in which a few wealthy men control the economy and dominate society. This idea repels most Americans…Movement Conservatives have gained power only by obfuscating reality. They make war on the media because it sheds daylight on their machinations. Transparency threatens their power.”
Also on Sunday, Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins declared that the MSM are “facing an existential threat” and urged them to not give in: "Republicans [are] increasingly unashamed to tell grandiose lies and respond to any press criticism with derogatory insults and whines about media bias as well as blackmail threats to cancel appearances if the questions are too tough…If the press chooses to assuage and give comfort to the GOP, it will lose what little credibility it has left."
Liberals and conservatives often differ over the concept of American exceptionalism, either on how to define it or whether there even is such a thing. Washington Monthly blogger Ed Kilgore recognizes a limited version of American exceptionalism, one which pretty much boils down to a mania for guns.
“America is mainly exceptional [italics in original] among advanced democratic nations not in our personal or economic liberty, but in our strange belief that letting everyone stockpile weapons is essential to the preservation of our freedom, and in the consequences of that strange belief,” wrote Kilgore in a Friday post that piggybacked on President Obama’s statement regarding the Oregon community-college shootings.
Conservatives tend to be religious, but is conservatism itself akin to a religion? Yes, opined Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins in a Sunday post. “Many consider modern conservatism to be an almost cultic movement,” Atkins wrote. “Its adherents long since stopped caring about the evidence or empirical results. It’s all about who can prove truest to the faith, and maximally annoy and rebel against the evil liberal heathens.”
Atkins sees a resemblance between today’s conservatives and followers of the 20th century’s major pseudo-religion: “In a way, modern conservatives are similar to the Communists of old. No matter how obvious the ideology’s failure, the response is always that the policies were not enacted in a strong and pure enough manner.”
“The blue-collar white males who make up the GOP base” are between a rock and a hard place, suggests The Washington Monthly's David Atkins. The Republican party doesn’t represent their economic interests, but “their inherent racism, sexism and distrust of government” won’t allow them to vote Democratic.
As a result, argued Atkins in a Sunday post, they’re waging an ideological “insurgent war,” and, moreover, “many of them see a day coming when their nativist, secessionist political insurgency may become an active military insurgency, and they intend to be armed to the teeth in the event that they deem it necessary. The GOP electorate isn’t choosing a potential president: they’re choosing a rebel leader. The Republican base doesn’t intend to go down compromising. They intend to go down fighting.”
Lumping one’s political adversaries with the vicious jihadists of ISIS seems to be the new new thing. Last Thursday, Dinesh D’Souza alleged that “the common thread between ISIS and [the looters] in Ferguson is you have these people who basically believe that to correct a perceived injustice, it's perfectly OK to inflict all kinds of new injustices...And all of this is then licensed by the left and licensed to some degree by the media.”
On Saturday, Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins responded to D’Souza, asserting that ISIS is not at all left-wing; rather, the terrorist group stands for “bedrock principles of political conservatism wherever it appears in the world,” such as “eschew[ing] ‘foreign’ western impulses, roll[ing] back the clock on progressive social reforms, and aggressively institut[ing] a more traditional religious approach to society.”