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I’ve been posting (for free!) chapters of Polemical Judo, in hope that at least a few of the ideas may percolate through some of you to where they’ll do some good.  (Or start fresh with Chapter 1. Or else… actually buy a copy?)

Last time we offered the second half of Chapter 5: End the War on Facts!  Here we’ll offer Chapter Six where I start getting fierce. No more reaching out, with things we have in common and could negotiate. (Well, in fact, I start the chapter with just such an olive branch!)

 But it’s time to make very clear how very often the American conservative movement has been on the utterly wrong side of facts, justice, truth and history. Even Barry Goldwater admitted as much, near the end of his life.

Use these lists. (And see several inserted updates from September 2020, including one addendum about GOP Perverts, Abusers And Pedophiles.)

I’ve gotten tons of messages “I’m losing fans” by expressing my dissatisfaction with our corrupt, incompetent President. While I appreciate people encouraging me to choose fame and money over decency, I’m afraid I’ll never be Donald Trump.” — Jim Gaffigan

=========

 

Polemical Judo – Chapter 6

 

Credibility?

How Often the Right Has Been Wrong

Credibility? How Often the Right Has Been Wrong 2

Here I’ll offer two lists concerning American conservatism. One recounts grownup and rational “conservative” stances that have always been welcome at the negotiating table. In fact we’re poorer not to have such voices speaking up skeptically, even demanding accountability from… well… liberal zealotry. 

The other list – alas – is much longer, presenting case after case in which conservatives wrecked their credibility by screaming against clear science, genuine progress or honesty itself.
 In example after example, time proved them not just wrong, but calamitously and tendentiously wrong. From tobacco and smog to drug wars and gerrymandering, it’s a litany our neighbors try desperately to forget.  

And yes, there were liberal errors. Two of them on a par with any single item on the conservative list. I’ll cite those also, down at bottom.

 

 

WHAT DEFENSIBLE – EVEN GOOD – IDEAS

MIGHT CONSERVATIVES BRING TO THE TABLE?


In Chapters 3 & 13 & 19 I call for a Big Tent that welcomes saner versions of conservatism – for example those reminding us that market competition is the great generator of wealth, the very wealth that then enables good things, like spending taxes to help poor kids. Indeed, before the movement was suborned by petro-sheiks, coal barons, casino moguls, mafiosi, inheritance brats, Wall Street shysters, tabloid monsters and rebranded KGB/Kremlin conspirators, there were American conservatives who held up core conservative values (CCV), staking reasonable negotiating positions on:

– generating market alternatives to government solutions…

– reducing the overhead burden of excess paperwork…

– reduction in debt burdens passed to our children…

– individualism that transcends dogma or party lines…

– changing one’s mind in the face of strong evidence…

– defending free trade between states and between nations…

– encouraging responsible gun ownership…

– encouraging genuine competition in flat-fair-open-creative markets…

– encouraging fiscal responsibility with our tax dollars…

– encouraging voluntary service…

– encouraging startup entrepreneurship…

– encouraging home ownership and a rising middle class… 

– investment in an educated/healthy workforce…

– investment in infrastructure… 

– investment in federal R&D beyond most corporate ROI horizons…

– environmental stewardship… 

– honest, long range thinking in board rooms…

– Resistance to “picking winners and losers” – going there only for a clear, long range need (e.g. sustainable energy)… 

– defending the right of millions to live demure lives without in-your-face shock confrontation.

 

That list surely has our RASR friends nodding: “Okay, he gets it, somewhat.” Moreover, if you liberals could not have compiled that list, while grudgingly admitting there’s some wisdom there, then you’ve made no effort to understand your neighbors. You’re thereby not just narrow-minded, but ill-equipped for today’s struggles. 

 

If that list were truly the essential manifesto of a sane-grownup American conservatism, there’d be room for negotiation! Indeed, we need for all of those imperatives to be presented cogently on the table. Only now the bad news. 

Alas, out of all the goals listed above, only a bilious version of the last one remains in today’s mutant conservatism. The rest have been functionally (if not polemically) dropped by the Republican-Confederate madness. And ironically, every item has been adopted by some or most sectors of a liberalism that already had plenty else on its plate. (And yes, Democrats did all the useful de-regulating, paperwork reduction, fiscal responsibility and defense of individualism; offer me wager stakes on that, please. See Chapters 8 & 10.)

 

Later on I will offer our Residually Adult-Sane Republican (RASR) friends a historical parallel for what they might consider trying, in order to recover those core conservative values and our respect… something the Democrats did to save their party, back in the “Miracle of 1947.” That is, if those “sane conservatives” have guts.

    

“A conservatism defined by ideas can hold its own against progressivism, winning converts to its principles and evolving with each generation. A conservatism defined by identity reduces the complex calculus of politics to a simple arithmetic question—and at some point, the numbers no longer add up.”  

 

– from How America Ends, by Yoni Appelbaum

– The Atlantic, November 2019

 

Yoni Appelbaum’s Atlantic essay – one of the most cogent commentaries on the American dilemma, describes how U.S. conservatism has survived and often thrived not by futilely opposing in horizon-expansion and inclusion, but by participating in our unique process of absorption and inclusion.[6]

 

 

GOOD THINGS PROMISED… AND BETRAYED

 

Remember how I opened this book by citing Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America”? Have you looked again – or ever – at that masterful piece of polemical brilliance? Here are the “good parts” of that Contract the GOP never kept:

 

 – require that laws that apply to the country also apply to Congress; 
 – arrange for regular audits of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse; 
 – limit terms of committee chairs and party leadership posts; 
 – ban the proxy votes in committee and law-writing by lobbyists; 
 – require committee meetings to be open & public; 
 – guarantee honest accounting of our federal budget.

 

Really, who could object to those items? Indeed, what could be a more powerful blow to the GOP than to remind Americans of such broken promises… and then for Democrats to fulfill them at long last? (While mocking the “bad” parts of the Contract that were fulfilled.)

 

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Instead of railing at them uniformly, let’s gall old Newt as he now sucks up to Trumpists, by reminding folks that about the quarter of the time he actually tried to get some stuff done, like negotiating some legislation and budget reform with President Bill Clinton. Imagine how that’d irk him.

 

Then bring in how Newt’s the one who upped the savage war on facts, by dismissing the Office of Technology Assessment and other advisory boards that had an inconvenient habit of telling the truth.

 

SO WHAT’S THEIR TRACK RECORD?

Let’s be clear. U.S. Conservatives are in no position to lecture us, given what they’ve let happen to their movement. Moreover, while conservative skepticism-toward-excess-bureaucracy is welcome, when it’s sane, we need to recall how often they have been wrong, wrong, wrong, and again wrong… but want us to forget:

 

– Prohibition…

– Break up monopolies? Never! (And curse that class traitor Roosevelt!)
– Aid to farmers? Never! (And curse that other class betraying Roosevelt!)

– Dalliance with fascism, then appeasing Hitler and isolationism…
– Tobacco? No worries… (cough)

– Acid Rain… then ocean acidification…

– Cars don’t cause no smog!

– McCarthyism…

– Burning Rivers…

– Keep the lead in gasoline!

– The insane War on Drugs…

– Who needs seat belts in cars? 

– Vietnam...

– Resisting Civil Rights and hating on MLK… 

– Watergate, defending Nixon long past proof of treason…

– Resisting women’s rights…

– Throw into prison Vets with PTSD who get relief from marijuana…

– Supply Side lies and outright theft of trillions…

– Resisting easy fixes to the ozone layer…

– Resisting mileage efficiency and safety in vehicles…

– Unleashing the surge in gambling, vice, and casino mafiosi…

– Climate change denialism and science hating…
– Claiming moral superiority while Red America scores worse in every category of turpitude, from teen sex/pregnancy/STD/abortions to gambling, domestic violence, divorce, alcoholism etc…

– More supply side voodoo so-called “economics”… 

– Divorce was a bad thing, right? Till they realized the rate is far higher for top Republicans., with12 marriages among just Reagan, Hastert, Gingrich, McConnell, Trump… 

– Most traitor spies since 1955 were Republican…

– Most child molester politicians…
– Iraq Wars, based on outright lies…
– Undermining energy independence…
– A proven track record of far worse economic outcomes… 

– Gerrymandering, crooked voting machines, voter suppression and other blatant cheats …

– Moscow-collusion and other blatant treasons…

– Birtherism and other hydrophobic Clinton-Obama jeremiads…
– Open war against all fact-centered professions; science, teaching, journalism, medicine, law and “deep state” public servants…

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– Kowtowing to Vladimir Putin, Rupert Murdoch, Saudi princess, Wall Street parasites, inheritance brats & Trumps…

 

You know the list can go on and on. What kills is how blithely they shrug aside this past record, as if it bears no relevance to present credibility. But they know it does. Want proof? In the section on “Name an Exception!” I’ll issue the following challenge. (And it was micro-glimpsed earlier.) But let’s preview it here:

Name one top GOP leader between Eisenhower and Ryan who was even mentioned at the 2016 Republican Convention. Except for Reagan and Newt Gingrich, all were brushed under the rug, including both Presidents Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Dennis (convicted child molester) Hastert, Tom (convicted felon) DeLay, John Boehner and so on. That’s how writhing ashamed Republicans are, of their record at governance. 

(LATE NOTE IN SEPTEMBER 2020: The recent 2020 RNC was even more blatant! Even Newt was left off. There was only a perfuctory mention of the former GOP deity, Ronald Reagan!)

 

Why does no Democrat hammer this point? That if you disavow those past Republican administrations as incompetent, Russia-hating, enterprise-destroying, warmongering liars, then where is your party’s credibility to be trusted with power? 

Credibility? What’s that?

 

 

HOW CAN YOU BE WRONG SO OFTEN?

 

A dozen states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and a dozen more allow prescription relief from pain, nausea and PTSD. It’s a good time to wonder at the misery and lives lost to the insane “War on Drugs.” Certainly, both parties initially took part in this mania that wracked our cities and sent billions into the pockets of the very worst humans. The issue isn’t ‘do we make mistakes?’ but rather ‘are we willing to let evidence of an obstinate error finally change our minds?’

 

I am reminded of the words of the great futurist, Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

 

An example that’s so amusing… and biting. NPR recently reported that “John Boehner Was Once ‘Unalterably Opposed’ To Marijuana. He Now Wants It To Be Legal.”[11] Ah, an example of Republican flexibility? Alas, read on about Boehner’s close ties to a burgeoning cannabis industry. Moreover, the hypocrisy is even greater among our dear libertarian friends, who have long railed against the Drug War, but refuse to budge in their hate-Democrats-more-than-Republicans reflex, even after blue states have led the way against prohibition. (And are fiscally more responsible and have done more deregulating.)

 

How far back does it go? Climate denialism spews from some of the same ad agencies that promoted “tobacco is harmless,” “cars don’t cause smog,” and “no seat belts in autos!” While waging open war on science, this cult sabotages research on whether America and our children and world are in danger from planet-changing pollution. (I’ll discuss this in a soon to be released follow-up to this book.)

 

At age 19, I helped run the famous Clean Air Car Race, which was covered every night on Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News. Among many innovations, that transcontinental demo-rally featured the world’s first hybrid car and several that disproved all the lies about unleaded gas then spread by SOBs who declared autos would shatter and capitalism collapse if lead were banned. Was our nationally viewed refutation effective? Within months after the race, a bill banning leaded gas emerged from committee, and twenty years after the U.S. banished that poison, crime rates plummeted, as lead-free children reached maturity with healthier brains. Today bald eagles soar again, because we limited DDT. Folks eat fish caught along sweet riverbanks in downtown Pittsburgh, and every species of whale still exists… all because we acted on warnings… and no communist hell descended. 

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Dare we repeat that? Not a bit of the predicted communist hell descended, not even black UN helicopters. Though there was a plague of amnesia, as our rightist neighbors forget they were wrong about every one of those things.

 

See: “Toxic Sludge Is Good For You, which is a history of public relations.”[14] as well as “How clean air transformed American cities.”[15]

 

Like Supply Side Voodoo Economics… the 100% disproved assertion that giant tax gifts to the rich will get invested in productive new goods and services, rather than asset bubbles and hoard-slowed money velocity. Or that skyrocketing wealth disparities will somehow help generate a fecund, flat-fair-competitive market economy. And if you tire of my repetition, then you don’t get the main lesson of this book… that repetition is key to polemical victory!

 

Do you recall when GOP masters forecast doom to the entire U.S. auto industry, if new efficiency standards were imposed? What were the actual results of the Obama-Pelosi 2009 CAFÉ rules? Across-the-board improvement in our cars, which now have vastly higher quality in every category while actually dropping in year-adjusted price, compared to other costs of living, while saving consumers tens of billions at the pump. A win-win that the Trumpists are reversing… while liberals stupidly point only at the pollution aspects, instead of the big picture.

 

The U.S. military is made up of people who tend toward a crewcut-conservative personality. Yet, the officer corps is also fact-centered. The armed services were the first American institutions to realize that racism, and later sexism, simply wasted talent that skilled defenders could not afford to forego. Likewise, officers know that climate change is a real threat to the republic, and that foreigners meddling in our elections pose real danger, possibly at the level of war. Alas, do Republicans take the advice of soberly sagacious officers? No. The latest catechism spilling from Fox is that these men and women who serve and protect us – along with the intelligence agencies and FBI – are all conniving “deep state” enemies of Real America. [16]

 

I’ve been dancing around the big one. Climate Change. We’ll get there later. But again we see that the special interests, lobbyists and ad agencies are still very much the same, using similar delaying tactics and incantations as for tobacco.

 

It’s sad that RASR conservatives – many of whom I like – can never tabulate how often their side has been flat-out wrong and learn from this that they need to revise – not their best Core Conservative Values, but their reflexes and methodologies. And especially whom they accept as allies. 

 

ADDENDUM ON PERVERTS, ABUSERS AND PEDOPHILES

Another note from September 2020: Among the countless calumnies that the KGB funnels through the QAnon madhouse is the raving that Democrats are baby-eating pedophiles. No MAGA would bet even a dollar that any of it is true – they know it’s not, but adore our looks of bollixed frustration and whining demands for proof!

What’s especially galling is that the rate of sexual perversion, pedophilia, child porn, domestic abuse and general nastiness seems especially rampant among Republican politicians. We recall Roy Moore and Larry Craig and I often cite Dennis “friend to boys” Hastert, who was head of the whole GOP and made Speaker of the House for 6 years. Look into Rep. Jim Jordan and this Oklahoma Trump campaign chair convicted of child sex trafficking… and another… and another… and another… and… and… and it goes on and on. But let’s just leave it as an offer of a $10,000 wager offer that the list of very serious perversions and crimes is far longer among GOP pols than democratic ones.

And that leaves out 700+ Southern Baptist pastors accused… and 200 or so convicted… of various perversions and abuses.  DOn’t throw stones, guys.

THE DESPERATE NEED FOR A SANE-ADULT

CENTER-RIGHT PARTY

 

Before you gloat over the apparent intention of the Republican Party to self-destruct at a gibbet of fanaticism, consider a sobering historical correlation and danger sign. The Fox/Putin systematic destruction of moderate conservatism has dangerous implications, as Yoni Appelbaum points out, in the previously cited Atlantic article How America Ends

 

“In his recent study of the emergence of democracy in Western Europe, the political scientist Daniel Ziblatt zeroes in on a decisive factor distinguishing the states that achieved democratic stability from those that fell prey to authoritarian impulses. 

 

“The key variable was not the strength or character of the political left, or of the forces pushing for greater democratization, so much as the viability of the center-right. A strong center-right party could wall off more extreme right-wing movements, shutting out the radicals who attacked the political system itself….  

 

“If groups that traditionally have enjoyed privileged positions see a future for themselves in a more democratic society, Ziblatt finds, they will accede to it. But if “conservative forces believe that electoral politics will permanently exclude them from government, they are more likely to reject democracy outright.””

 

This is just another reason to be ready with an olive branch to offer any and all ‘RASRs’ who are willing to renounce their movement’s fealty to mafia-oligarchy, and who will help re-establish the primacy of facts. All else is negotiable! But without those two things, we are forced to accept a bitter truth. That sane conservatives have turned a blind eye to their duty, to country, civilization and conservatism. At which point, we’ll just have to save all of those things, ourselves. 

 

 

DEMOCRATS AREN’T ALWAYS RIGHT

 

After all of those examples, should the conservative position always be discredited?

 

Nonsense. Criticism makes us better and countless potential errors in liberal programs were detected in advance by constructively critical conservative colleagues… a help that the Republican Party refused during this century, under the “Hastert Rule.” This led to some errors in Obamacare that had to be corrected later, again without GOP help.

 

An earlier point that I’ll reiterate many times, aimed at every dogmatic purist out there: Are you actually asserting that YOU – the reader – are absolutely 100% right, with no margin of error?

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Dig it (and this is good news!) Your enemies are likely no more than 99% wrong! Possibly as little as 50%, if you allow for all those shared instincts and reflexes (Chapter 2) and build common ground.

 

Moreover, have you the character strength to sift through your opponents’ maelstrom of “wrongness” for those slivers where they actually had a point? Sure it sounds noxious, but they may be rewards! Not only will that boost your cred, when arguing with them, or convincing third parties that you’re the reasonable one. 

 

You may even discover one of your own errors to correct!  Because – and hold on now – you are likely no more than 99% right! Possibly as little as 90%. And finding those errors isn’t just a matter of honesty. It can help you (ultimately) to win.

 

Indeed, sometimes a conservative assertion proves correct!  Take the greatest mistake of modern American liberalism, which badly hurt the movement, shattered the Greatest Generation’s Rooseveltian coalition, and helped restart the Confederacy across America – an insanity called desegregation by forced school busing. It was an aggressively coercive lefty “innovation” of pyrotechnic stupidity, in which arrogant “reformers” stubbornly ignored every bit of evidence that their position was pigheaded and wrong. And above all, self-destructive. In the process, they handed the Republican Party thirty million or more formerly Democratic voters, an advantage the oligarchy has exploited, ever since. 

 

Let me further avow (though it will cost me!) what anyone knows, who has spent time on a modern American university campus. There are dogmatic leftist bullies who routinely take over swathes of soft-studies departments, wherefrom they issue grand, post-modernist tracts denouncing the “colonialist” concept of objective reality. Suppressing open debate, they crow over campus-level PC victories that have no pertinence or effects in the real world, but that do give Foxzoids plenty of ammo for hysterical finger-pointing: “See? This is what liberals are like!” Thanks… allies. 

 

Universities should be places that encourage diversity, debate, and courage. For example, this article demands affirmative action for conservatives on college faculty.[18] “Liberal colleges are recruiting conservative professors to ‘stir up some trouble.’” 

 

While this book is 99% a tactical guide to defeating monstrous, right-wing confederatism, I am fine with inviting back to campus anyone who might talk again about those CCV values we viewed at the start of this chapter. Kewl! I love good debates. I want there to be fact-loving and cogently collegial conservative voices on campus. Alas, that the sub-species is now rare, verging on extinction. All the more reason to offer habitat and breeding grounds, free of rabid Fox disease.

 

Anyway, anecdotes about campus lefty-flakery have zero bearing on the vast majority of moderate-pragmatic, science and fact loving Democrats. 

 

Sadly, “Ostrich Republicans” have one final incantation. Desperate to keep their heads buried in denial they chant: “I know my side has gone insane… but… but… but Democrats are worse! Yeah, that’s the ticket! Democrats are just as crazy… or worse!” 

 

Um… sorry, but not

 

Ronald Reagan used to chant “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left me!” Then he proceeded to begin dismantling every aspect of the Rooseveltian social contract that the Greatest Generation – including activist young Ronald Reagan – helped to build.

 

You RASRs and ostriches out there, can you lift your head and look around? Blink in dismay and realize that the Republican Party long ago left you. It has left America, honesty and sanity.

 

FOOTNOTES


[2] http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/05/crushing-crazy.html

 

[4] How mature conservatives might save US conservatism: http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/1947.html

[6] “The conservative strands of America’s political heritage—a bias in favor of continuity, a love for traditions and institutions, a healthy skepticism of sharp departures—provide the nation with a requisite ballast. America is at once a land of continual change and a nation of strong continuities. Each new wave of immigration to the United States has altered its culture, but the immigrants themselves have embraced and thus conserved many of its core traditions. To the enormous frustration of their clergy, Jews and Catholics and Muslims arriving on these shores became a little bit congregationalist, shifting power from the pulpits to the pews. Peasants and laborers became more entrepreneurial. Many new arrivals became more egalitarian. And all became more American.

    “By accepting these immigrants, and inviting them to subscribe to the country’s founding ideals, American elites avoided displacement. The country’s dominant culture has continually redefined itself, enlarging its boundaries to retain a majority of a changing population. When the United States came into being, most Americans were white, Protestant, and English. But the ineradicable difference between a Welshman and a Scot soon became all but undetectable. Whiteness itself proved elastic, first excluding Jews and Italians and Irish, and then stretching to encompass them. Established Churches gave way to a variety of Protestant sects, and the proliferation of other faiths made “Christian” a coherent category; that broadened, too, into the Judeo-Christian tradition. If America’s white Christian majority is gone, then some new majority is already emerging to take its place—some new, more capacious way of understanding what it is to belong to the American mainstream.”

[7] Vietnam was a bipartisan catastrophe. LBJ came that close to saving us from JFK’s biggest mistake, then decided to stay. But there’s one difference between parties since Vietnam. Democrats may wage war (See Chapter __), but they hate sending in whole armies. Republicans love it. 

[10] Outcomes comparison: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/06/so-do-outcomes-matter-more-than-rhetoric.html

 

[11] Boehner and pot. https://www.npr.org/2019/03/16/704086782/john-boehner-was-once-unalterably-opposed-to-marijuana-he-now-wants-it-to-be-leg

[12] Only decades later did I put together how seminal and important the Clean Air Car Race was. http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2013/01/getting-lead-out-quirky-tale-of-saving.html

 

[13]   See Neil Tyson’s Cosmos episode about this. https://www.space.com/25579-cosmos-recap-earth-age-lead-poisoning.html

 

[15] https://www.salon.com/2019/03/17/how-clean-air-transformed-american-cities/

 

[16] Again, never neglect the insipid complicity of liberals, who aren’t leaping to embrace these desperately needed allies.

[17] The entire “neocon” movement, which connived to justify both Iraq wars, had its roots in men like Nitze, Perle, Adelman, Wolfowitz etc., former students of a mad, ingrate-mesmerizing imperialist named Leo Strauss. When they were university professors, their views ranged from conservative to – well – unpleasantly right wing, but at least they faced arguments and reality checks by colleagues and students. But when their offices were trashed by jubilant activists, it proved counterproductive to chase them off-campus. Fleeing to faux academes like Heritage Foundation – echo chambers of servile oligarchic rationalization – these bright fools concocted fairy tales of prodigious insanity. We – and peoples of the Middle East – paid a steep price for those gleefully trashed offices. Congratulations on such ‘victories.’

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