Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sane Conservatives, Redux

Latest Newspaper Column:

I've occasionally been accused of being too hard on conservatives in this column. Some have even asserted that I hate conservatives. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Some of my best friends are conservatives.

What I’m against, and what I mock on a regular basis, are people who use the mantle of “conservatism” as a cover for meanness, selfishness and bigotry, people for whom so-called “conservatism” isn’t about what you believe, it’s about whom you hate. I actually go out of my way to look for reasonable, rational, non-insane conservatives. I’m pleased to say, the hunting has been pretty good recently.
One thing conservatives profess to love is the Constitution. Remember the brouhaha when Supreme Court nominee (now Justice) Elena Kagan quoted her mentor, Thurgood Marshall, in saying that the Constitution,
as originally drafted, was “defective” because it recognized and legitimized slavery? You’d have thought she’d advocated setting fire to the original ­document and replacing it with Mao’s Little Red Book.
Yes, some conservatives sure do love that Constitution — until its protections start being applied to someone who looks, prays, loves or think differently from them. Freedom of religion? Right to private property? Not for Muslims in Manhattan, bucko! Right to counsel? Shut up, you Islamofascist sympathizers, and bring on the waterboard!
A recent example of conservative disdain for the Constitution arose over the 14th Amendment’s definition of a citizen as anyone “born ornaturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

That really grinds some ­conservatives’ gears when it’s applied to the children of ­people here illegally. They really hate the idea of those rotten little brown “anchor babies” being citizens, to the point where some Republican senators have called for at least partially repealing the 14th Amendment.
That got to be too much for former CNN newsman Lou Dobbs. It would be hard to find someone more hard-line on illegal immigration than Dobbs, who’s characterized it as “an invasion.”

But he recently went on Fox and said: “The idea that anchor babiessomehow require changing the 14th amendment, I part ways with thesenators on that because I believe the 14th Amendment, particularly inits due process and equal protection clauses, is so important. It laysthe foundation for the entire Bill of Rights being applied to the states.”
Another conservative who suddenly managed to turn up sane was Ted Olson, former solicitor general under George W. Bush and no one’s definition of a bleeding heart liberal.
After a federal judge struck down California’s ban on same-sex marriage, I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of the attorneyswho had argued the case for the plaintiffs was none other than Olson. He afterward went on “Fox News Sunday” and proceeded to calmly demolish Chris Wallace’s argument that the judge had created some kind of “new right” for gays and lesbians.

Olson pointed out that the right to marry a person of your choice has long been defined as a fundamental right, “part of liberty, privacy,association and spirituality guaranteed to each individual under the Constitution.” Pressed on the issue of so-called “judicial activism,” Olson responded that it’s a “judicial responsibility” to overturn laws that violate the Constitution, no matter how many people may have voted for them. “Would you want Fox News’ right to report be submitted to a vote?” he asked Wallace.

One conservative writer and blogger I read regularly is David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush and the author of several books on conservatism, including “Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again.” Frum recently responded to an editorial in The National Review condemning the falsely named “Ground Zero Mosque” by using the same sort of rigorous application of the Constitution that conservatives claim to be so fond of (but so rarely adhere to).

“I remain skeptical that the sponsors of this mosque are quite as benign as they have been represented,” he said,“... but the rights guaranteed by the Constitution do not belong only to nice people. And whatever we may wonder about the mosque promoters, we should also remember the mosque’s users: the thousands of Muslims who work in lower Manhattan, every single one of whom is as entitled to pray as any member of Marble Presbyterian or Temple Emanuel.”
Sane conservatives: They’re out there. They don’t get the same press coverage as the nutballs, birthers and death-panel fabulists do, and to tell you the truth, they’re not nearly as much fun to write about. But they’re willing to be fair, and so am I.
At least this week.


Mj Hawk said...

I'm like you.

My best buddy is a conservative. We don't discuss politics, and if anyone goes near the third rail, one of us yells "jabberwocky!"

I keep beating the bushes in search of sane conservatives, because I remember a time when Democrats and Republicans worked together to get things done. I guess it's a Pericles and the Lion kind of thing, a yearning for some common ground, some decency. Sometimes Lindsay Graham surprises me, and I think we may get an energy bill yet. I like Kathleen Parker and David Brooks. Even Albert Gonzales, a real joke, at least came out against changing the 14th Amendment (even though the whole thing is just a stalking horse to gin up more hysteria on the right).

I confess to liking Joe Scarborough-- a lot.

And a big shout-out to Chuck Hagel for supporting Joe Sestak.

JD Rhoades said...

Mj, Scarborough does indeed show flashes of sanity:


Seems I do one of these "sane conservatives" columns about once a year. And the ironic thing is, they don't get nearly the number of page views or comments that the ones where I take the wingnuts to task.

Dana King said...

Great column. There are wingnuts on both sides, and I think they get more attention than they deserve because it's easier for the media to gin up a "Story" about some of the weird things they do.

About once a year a conservative friend and I have email conversations that may extend a couple of weeks, about some issue that has become newsworthy. We're always civil, and when we're done at least one of us--usually both--have moved toward the other's point of view. Even if we haven't, we have a better understanding. Neither side benefits when someone argues with his glands, refusing facts or common sense to intervene.

David Terrenoire said...

I used to be a conservative. I campaigned for Goldwater when I was just 14. I would have voted for Nixon had I been able to in '68. I enlisted in the Army during a pretty damn dangerous time because I was raised with that obligation to serve.

But the Army sent me places and showed me things that changed my mind about the hard-line America firsters.

I've been married to Jenny for 30 years and tried hard to raise a daughter who is responsible.

But, starting in the 80's, with the embrace of Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand ass kisser Alan Greenspan and Lee Atwater's scorched earth politics, the GOP left me standing still as they moved farther to the right.

I remember Rich Bond, former head of the RNC, refer to people who weren't GOP as "not real Americans." That's when I knew I wouldn't vote for another Republican in a long, long time.

Today, they've moved so far rightward that I don't recognize the party of Goldwater, Nixon and Rockefeller any more.

But there are sane conservatives out there. I know a few. But their party has turned over the bus to loonies.

Mj Hawk said...

David, I agree about the bus of loonies. And they're kicking most of the normal people off - look at David Frum.

Okay, kind of normal people.

Charlieopera said...

Interesting perspectives. I think the GOP uses the rhetoric it feels it needs to keep those it can bamboozle into a false sense of patriotism. Unfortunately, while the DEMs may use a more progressive rhetoric, they act too much like the GOP for me to feel either party is of any use to actually change things. Third and forth and fifth parties will remain on the fringe so long as we kid ourselves about the rhetoric vs. action. Tea Partiers are mostly full of shit because when voting time rolls around, they’ll vote republican from fear of Democrats. Liberal Democrats, for all their angst, will vote Democrat from fear of Republicans. Socialists, libertarians, communists and Naderites will continue to be vilified … while they shake their heads in disbelief.