Conservative rot

Excellent column from Matt Grossman on the incredibly dysfunctional cycle of modern American conservatism and why it is stuck in it:

The typical conservative cycle runs from backlash to embrace to disappointment — and we are right on schedule. After opposing government expansion and social change under Democratic presidents, conservatives typically give new Republican presidents the benefit of the doubt. By the time of the next counterattack against a new Democrat, historical revisionism sets in: Republican leaders are seen as part of the problem, being too accommodating to liberalism and selling out their principles.

The cycle is born of the infeasibility of conservative goals, especially the American right’s attempt to reverse the growth of the welfare and administrative state (which even the world’s most right-wing parties accept) and its tendency to start unwinnable culture wars against inevitable change (a typical conservative foible). The public shares conservatives’ broad desire for limiting government growth and social upheaval, but that does not translate into support for specific policies to achieve those goals. [emphases mine] The international and historical norm is that the size and scope of government grow over time and new social changes are codified; conservative resistance slows this liberal policy drift but does not reverse it…

The conservative movement has perennially stimulated resistance to liberalism, frequently incorporating new cultural issues and voters. But conservatives have been unable to guide Republican presidents to implement a policy agenda beyond lowering taxes and building the military. Despite gaining working-class constituencies, Republicans are not offering tangible solutions to rural poverty, family breakdown, rising drug addiction or deindustrialization.

Krugman, meanwhile, makes the case that this intellectual hollowness at the center of modern conservatism has, unfortunately, diminished the personal character of many conservatives:

Yet if you step back a bit and think about it, Trump’s latest outbursts were very much in character — and I don’t just mean his personal character. When did you last see a member of the Trump administration, or for that matter any prominent Republican, admit error or accept responsibility for problems?

Don’t say that it has always been that way, that it’s just the way people are. On the contrary, taking responsibility for your actions — what my parents called being a mensch — used to be considered an essential virtue in politicians and adults in general. And in this as in so many things, there’s a huge asymmetry between the parties. Of course not all Democrats are honest and upstanding; but as far as I can tell, there’s almost nobody left in the G.O.P. willing to take responsibility for, well, anything.

And I don’t think this is an accident. The sad content of modern Republican character is a symptom of the corruption and hypocrisy that has afflicted half of our body politic — a sickness of the soul that manifests itself in personal behavior as well as policy…

So what happened to the character of the G.O.P.? I’m pretty sure that in this case the personal is, ultimately, political. The modern G.O.P. is, to an extent never before seen in American history, a party built around bad faith, around pretending that its concerns and goals are very different from what they really are. Flag-waving claims of patriotism, pious invocations of morality, stern warnings about fiscal probity are all cover stories for an underlying agenda mainly concerned with making plutocrats even richer.

And the character flaws of the party end up being echoed by the character flaws of its most prominent members. Are they bad people who chose their political affiliation because it fits their proclivities, or potentially good people corrupted by the company they keep? Probably some of both.

In any case, let’s be clear: America in 2018 is not a place where we can disagree without being disagreeable, where there are good people and good ideas on both sides, or whatever other bipartisan homily you want to recite. We are, instead, living in a kakistocracy, a nation ruled by the worst, and we need to face up to that unpleasant reality.

Krugman is right.  I think there’s an innate tendency to “both sides” on almost all things political parties.  And, in many ways, human nature is human nature, no matter the political party.  That said, a party is an organization and organizations develop their own cultures and values.  And, sadly, it’s pretty damn clear that the 2018 Republican Party– especially in it’s embrace of Trump– has embraced a culture that is rotten to the core.

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Photo of the day

Love me some Olympics.  And Olympics photo galleries.  Like this on in the Atlantic:.This one doesn’t even look real.

Nika Kriznar of Slovenia soars through the air during the women’s normal hill individual ski-jumping competition on February 12, 2018. 

Matthias Schrader / AP

This explains a lot

Chris Federico highlighted this chart from a new political science book on partisanship:

But, hey, maybe it really is all just a response to liberal “political correctness.”  Assuming by “political correctness” you mean rights for racial minorities.

[Update: here’s the link to the article.]

I’ll settle for Switzerland

With all the talk about how to change gun policies and what we can actually achieve in the American context, there is the very real fact that America’s culture is simply far more gun-obsessed than most.  Of course, culture can change– same sex marriage anybody?  That said, at least in the short term, meaningful change does mean recognizing this fact.

So, you know what other country loves guns (at least relative to it’s neighbors) and has notably more lax gun laws?  Switzerland.  It also has a lot more gun homicides than all of Europe.  But, you know what?  Still way less than the U.S.  Think how many lives could be saved if we just got down to Swiss levels, or at least reasonably close.  Here’s a chart from German Lopez’s excellent piece on gun laws in four countries:

A chart shows America’s disproportionate levels of gun violence.

Heck, forget Switzerland’s 7.7.  Cut it in half and we’re still way higher at about 15, but imagine all those lives saved.  But, Switzerland shows that you can have a country that has widespread gun possession and still the additional regulation that will make America’s obscence levels of murder far less likely:

How gun control works:Switzerland is perceived to have one of the more accepting cultures toward guns in Europe. Laws let militiamen in the country (where all able-bodied men are required to serve in the military, except for conscientious objectors) keep their issued personal weapons in their homes, and Swiss statutes and traditions respect the right to bear arms.

But the country’s restrictions are still somewhat more stringent than the US.

For one, automatic weapons are outright banned for civilians.

Private gun ownership generally requires a license, for which an applicant “must be at least 18 years of age, may not have been placed under guardianship, may not give cause for suspicion that he would endanger himself or others with the weapon, and may not have a criminal record with a conviction for a violent crime or of several convictions for nonviolent crimes,” according to the Library of Congress’s review of Swiss gun laws. The license is valid for six to nine months, and it’s usually valid only for one weapon.

But rifles and semiautomatic long arms used by recreational hunters are exempt from licensing requirements.

The licensing requirement also only applies to dealers, with an exemption for private sellers. Still, the law requires private sellers to verify the identity and age of the buyer by checking an official identification document, and private sellers must have no reason to believe the buyer has been or should be disqualified from firearm ownership — requirements that aren’t necessary for private gun sales under US federal law.

For anyone to carry a gun for defensive purposes, the licensing process requires the applicant to demonstrate the need to protect himself or others and pass an exam. But no carrying license is required for transporting an unloaded weapon for “legitimate purposes” like hunting and traveling to a shooting range, as long as the ammo is kept separate from the weapon. In comparison, the license to carry is a requirement that only exists in a minority of US states…

Switzerland’s restrictions show that a country can have a culture that is broadly more receptive to the idea of gun ownership while maintaining some restrictions that make firearms less accessible to potentially dangerous people and improve public safety. But it’s perhaps no coincidence that the country is second to America in terms of firearm homicide deaths — although the Swiss rate is still four times lower than the US’s rate. [emphasis mine]

Four times lower sounds so good.  But, heck two times lower would be awesome.  We absolutely can do this.  There’s only one thing stopping us right now.  The callowness of the Republican Party.  And the insane gun nuts.  Okay, that’s two.  But nobody is (realistically) asking for Australia or Japan.  Just give us something more like Switzerland and we’ll save so many lives.

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