Saturday, November 15, 2008


P. J. O'Rourke's got a retrospective up on how the conservative movement in America screwed up, crashed, and burned.

I disagree with a lot of what O'Rourke says, but it's impossible to totally dislike him when he comes up with prose like this:
Our attitude toward immigration has been repulsive. Are we not pro-life? Are not immigrants alive? Unfortunately, no, a lot of them aren't after attempting to cross our borders. Conservative immigration policies are as stupid as conservative attitudes are gross. Fence the border and give a huge boost to the Mexican ladder industry. Put the National Guard on the Rio Grande and know that U.S. troops are standing between you and yard care. George W. Bush, at his most beneficent, said if illegal immigrants wanted citizenship they would have to do three things: Pay taxes, learn English, and work in a meaningful job. Bush doesn't meet two out of three of those qualifications. And where would you rather eat? At a Vietnamese restaurant? Or in the Ayn Rand Café? Hey, waiter, are the burgers any good? Atlas shrugged. (We would, however, be able to have a smoke at the latter establishment.)

And this:
The left has no idea what's going on in the financial crisis. And I honor their confusion. Jim Jerk down the road from me, with all the cars up on blocks in his front yard, falls behind in his mortgage payments, and the economy of Iceland implodes. I'm missing a few pieces of this puzzle myself.

The main problem is that O'Rourke seems to think "liberalism" and "conservatism" are going to have coherent meanings to his reader. Maybe you're required to assume that if you write for The Weekly Standard. But I honestly can't say that I know what those words mean in the context of American politics. Maybe one or both of those words mean something to you. Maybe you can come up with high-sounding definitions of "liberalism" and "conservatism", and maybe those definitions might make sense for a while. But getting politically-minded people in the United States to actually behave in ways that fit your definitions will be like herding cats.

What is American "conservatism"? What do the philosophies of Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Arlen Specter, Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin have in common that sets them definitely apart from the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton? Besides the fact that the first group thinks Democrats should be defeated and Republicans elected, and the second group thinks Democrats should be elected and Republicans defeated. That's not a philosophy.

So my eyes tend to glaze over when people talk about the state of "liberalism" and "conservatism". Using those blanket words just leads to easy stereotyping. Liberals want to subsidize lazy welfare moms! Conservatives enjoy beating up gay people and tossing them off bridges!

P. J. O'Rourke is a great comic writer, and I enjoyed the article I linked to. But he's better when he writes about real life.

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