Double-effect writ large

November 2, 2008 § 18 Comments

It is a measure of how profoundly wrong this administration and McCain have been on critical questions vital to our country’s welfare that Obama’s candidacy, much less his Presidency, is even remotely possible. Whenever anyone contemplates the worst aspects of a future Obama administration, he should remember that Bush, McCain and their allies share in the blame for it. Just as they bear responsibility for the consequences of their policies long after they have departed from the scene, they bear the burden of responsibility for the political consequences of their failure, which include making someone of such genuinely atrocious views, particularly as it concerns human life and dignity, electable and broadly popular. – Daniel Larison

If Obama is elected, conservatives should keep in mind who principally got him elected: Bush, and supporters of Bush.

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§ 18 Responses to Double-effect writ large

  • William Luse says:

    <>Whenever anyone contemplates the worst aspects of a future Obama administration, he should remember that Bush, McCain and their allies share in the blame for it.<>One of the worst aspects I’m contemplating is an abortion regime of unprecedented reach and duration. Does Larison want me to blame Bush and McCain for Obama’s moral monstrosity? I suspect he came by it without any help from them. Does he want me to blame Bush and McCain for a stupid, uninformed, and morally licentious electorate whose consciences are dead to the plight of the unborn, yet feel compelled to vote for Obama out of some bizarre religious zeal? Larison can get lost. I’m sick of these paleos who can’t condemn Obama on his own terms, but must instead point to the dearth of conservative orthodoxy in others. “Bush supporters” described, in 2000 and 2004, a lot of good people I know who had their doubts about the man, but considered the alternative too awful to contemplate. These poor folks get blamed for Bush’s failings, and now they get blamed for Obama’s too, of which we are aware in advance. Saying that Larison can get lost says less than I’d like to. Now we’ll find out what ‘awful’ is really like.

  • zippy says:

    <>Does Larison want me to blame Bush and McCain for Obama’s moral monstrosity?<>I don’t think so. I think he wants us to acknowledge that the electoral viability of Obama’s moral monstrosity is in significant part because of Bush. While I think the paleo narrative more generally has lots of problems, I think Larison has a point here. And while I certainly acknowledge the agonizing and good intentions of many Bush (and now McCain) supporters, that and four bucks will buy a latte.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I’m inclined to agree with Bill. The connection of the causal dots here in this quote is obscure to me. It’s one thing to say, as I do say, as someone who voted for Bush in 2000, that we made a mistake in doing so. It’s one thing to say that Bush has compromised and not represented conservatives. It’s quite another to say that this is why Obama is being elected. I mean, what’s the idea supposed to be? That if conservatives had pulled the Republican party more strongly towards their own values, we’d have a better Republican candidate in this election, and he would be elected over Obama? Wouldn’t that last step be questionable in itself as a sheerly empirical statement? It’s almost certainly true that McCain’s candidacy is strategically foolish and that his liberalism has lost him votes, net. It doesn’t follow that a really conservative candidate or even much more conservative candidate would stand a good chance against Obama, only that he would get _more votes_ than McCain is going to get.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Without wishing to put words in Larison’s mouth, specifically, I have a sinking feeling that I know what many paleos would mean by saying that Bush supporters are to blame for Obama’s electability–It’s all about the Iraq war. You know, the line (which, I’m sorry, _is_ exactly the same as the leftist line)–“The reason Obama is being elected is because people are so tired of our foreign adventurism, so angry with Bush about all the things that we think people should be angry with Bush about–you know, globalism, and the Iraq war. And, oh, did I mention the Iraq war?”To put it succinctly, I think this is probably false. But whether it happens to be true or false, it is clearly being said because the person in question is projecting his dislikes for Bush and “neoconservatism” onto the populace at large.

  • Steve says:

    <>I mean, what’s the idea supposed to be? That if conservatives had pulled the Republican party more strongly towards their own values, we’d have a better Republican candidate in this election, and he would be elected over Obama?<>Actually, yes. Traditional conservatism has the benefit of adhering more closely to the truth, and traditional conservatism (as distinct from neo-conservatism) manifest a far more distinct character of <>restraint<> than other political ideologies.Simply put, it seeks to make sure that one’s own house is in order before attending to the rest of the world.Since the American house, as it were, not only isn’t in order but <>hasn’t<> been for quite some time, a traditionally conservative Presidency would benefit the people as a whole in a way that would likely engender future success for candidates of the same persuasion. Whether one likes hearing it over and over again, it’s true – Iraq, a war predicated outside the confines of just war doctrine and the legal framework for war in the Constitution, is an unpopular war. I don’t know the current numbers but earlier in the year polling was indicating that over 70% of the populace wants us out of Iraq. A traditionally conservative President who believed in a non-interventionist foreign policy wouldn’t have gotten us involved there (or the first time we were in Iraq, for that matter) so that would be off the table as a campaign issue. It’s also likely that by focusing on important domestic issues while simultaneously reducing the role of government in people’s lives might give rise to a certain degree of autonomous satisfaction on the part of even the most unthinking liberals. Of course it’s possible that fewer handouts, lower taxes and spending, smaller government, and states rights on things like life issues, etc., would only agitate the left, but hardly enough for this crest of Obamamania to have arisen, much of which is fueled by anti-Bush (read: anti-neocon) sentiment. I voted for Bush twice and I regret it. While I may not have seen the consequences ahead of time, I have seen them in hindsight – the sort of political ideology that drives Bush, and even moreso McCain, will only guarantee an even stronger backlash in the future if McCain wins. That stupid, uninformed electorate likes the policies of the left, and continues to gravitate that way, pulling many people in the center and on the fringes of the right with them, in the way large social trends do. This problem doesn’t go away because of one election. Looking long-term, a McCain defeat may be the only thing that could catalyze a restructuring and resurgence of the sort of conservatism in America that could help halt our decline.

  • zippy says:

    <>It’s all about the Iraq war.<>I expect that it is probably all about the Iraq war, on the one hand, and “phone it in” social conservatism on the other. The argument that the Iraq war’s unpopularity is a cause stings because it is <>true<>. The argument that Republican social conservatism is of the “phone it in” variety stings because it is <>true<>.On the other hand, Bill certainly has a point in describing “a stupid, uninformed, and morally licentious electorate whose consciences are dead to the plight of the unborn, yet feel compelled to vote for Obama out of some bizarre religious zeal.” I’d say both/and not either/or, but I do think Bush’s failures are a <>necessary<> precondition to Obama’s rise.It is a very strange thing to think of Hillary Clinton as the moderate; and I think that could not have happened without Bush’s failures and weaknesses.

  • Anonymous says:

    It is primarily all about the Iraq War, which is testament to the American people’s lack of desire for sacrifice. Which is why conservatism in general is on the wane. Obama is the perfect candidate for an immediate gratification culture. His policies involve even less sacrifice than Bush’s. Tax cuts for even those who don’t pay any taxes, for example. To blame Bush for the instant gratification culture is a bit of a stretch. Although he gets blamed for everything else so why not?

  • zippy says:

    <>It is primarily all about the Iraq War, which is testament to the American people’s lack of desire for sacrifice. Which is why conservatism in general is on the wane.<>While there is certainly some truth to the general point, the problem with the Iraq war is the more proximate fact that starting it was unjust: there were no big active WMD programs or close al Qaeda ties.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    You guys seriously are saying that, causally, McCain is losing and Obama winning because of the Iraq war?This doesn’t “sting” because it is true. It doesn’t “sting” me at all, because I was opposed to the Iraq war when many of my paleo friends were in favor of it! (So there.) The claim annoys me because a) I suspect it’s false and b) I suspect it’s easier for us non-McCain conservatives to believe than to believe that a majority of our fellow citizens are stupid, wicked, or thoughtless and that _this_ is why they are supporting Obama. Not because they are “like us” in thinking Iraq was a mistake. An obsession with the misguidedness of Iraq and an attribution of Obama’s cult-like following to that is an easier answer and makes some, in my opinion, overestimate the evidence in favor of _that_ as the cause of Obama’s popularity.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    And I should add that Zippy has said himself that it does not follow from the fact that the Iraq war was unjust initially that we should just get out instantly now. So 1) It isn’t clear that it is right to criticize the Bush administration for not simply getting out now, and2) It isn’t clear that the majority of Americans are voting for Obama because they believe we should simply get out now.I think one bottom line (can there be more than one?) is that I think we should blame liberals who are voting for Obama for Obama’s popularity, and we should admit that we are surrounded by a bunch of very, very liberal people, people who either just get swooning over Obama’s promise of “change” and couldn’t care less about important issues, people who vote for Obama just because of his race, people who actually agree with Obama’s policies, or people who are led by the nose by the media to believe that the Republicans are to blame for the financial mess, that Sarah Palin is a corrupt politician, that Obama is the Messiah, or heaven knows what. None of this can be blamed on either insufficiently staunch conservatives or war hawks.

  • zippy says:

    <>You guys seriously are saying that, causally, McCain is losing and Obama winning because of the Iraq war?<>Yes. I think that issue alone probably makes a ten to fifteen point difference in the spread, though admittedly that’s just my own gut-feeling guess.

  • Tom says:

    At the very least, opposition to the war gave Obama a lot of traction early on.I’m curious, though: if it was a mistake for conservatives to vote for Bush in 2000, what would have been the correct thing for them to do?

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Zippy, as always, I have trouble figuring out your relationship to the “paleo narrative.” I had thought previously that you were not in agreement with their more extreme “we are obligated to get out yesterday” dove-ishness, but now you seem, if I’m understanding you correctly, to be blaming the loss of this election on McCain’s not adhering to that doveishness, and, again, if I’m not misunderstanding you, to be joining the paleos in holding such doveishness up as a moral standard.But setting that aside, I think your statement above that it’s “both/and” is a bigger admission vis a vis the Larison quotation than perhaps you realize. Look, let’s face it: The force of all the sort of talk Larison engages in there and of such talk generally is this paleo trope: “Conservatives who aren’t as insightful as we are sit around blaming liberals for the fact that they are losing, but really they should blame their fellow conservatives.” Now, frankly, I think this is a lot of tripe. R– P— was their dream candidate, and he wouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance in Hades of winning the presidency if his Fairy Godmother had waved a magic wand and given him the victory in the primary. You can say this is good or you can say it is bad, but it is true.And I believe that even _my_ dream candidate, Zippy, or _your_ dream candidate, would probably lose this election. And I believe this is true because of the liberalism of our society. So the whole “don’t blame the liberals for Obama’s win; blame your fellow conservatives” trope is, it seems to me, factually wrong if it’s supposed to mean, “If only everyone would listen to me, we would win.” And that’s true whether the “me” there is Daniel Larison, or you, Zippy, or…well…me. I don’t think I have a winning platform for the Republican party; just a better one.

  • zippy says:

    Tom:<>…if it was a mistake for conservatives to vote for Bush in 2000, what would have been the correct thing for them to do?<>I recommended going the abstain/third party route to anyone who would listen in that election too. I think my evidence and argument justifying that stance were probably on far less solid ground then than now, and my own position has shifted nontrivially; but in hindsight I still think the conclusion was right: that the Bush presidency has in fact led to exactly where we are now, which is a worse place than we were then. Part of the problem is that the Presidency is treated as if it were <>everything<>.Still, setting aside I-told-you-so’s which are probably not founded on much more than luck (if we want to call being right about something awful lucky), I think part of the problem is that we overestimate our influence on the course of history. I don’t really have any idea if things would have been better <>in general<> or worse if some percentage of pro-lifers did what I recommend. If they <>all<> did what I recommend, that is, were consistently intolerant of murdering the innocent, period, it is a virtual certainty that things would be better; the problem is the real-world in between cases where some do and some don’t. I can’t specify all possible outcomes in that phase space, but one thing I’m sure of is that pro-life itself would be less corruptible and less corrupt than it is now, now that we are reduced to playing propagandist marketing games and refusing to speak aloud the areas where “our” candidate supports murdering the innocent because such plain-speak (we think) hurts our electoral chances.

  • zippy says:

    Lydia:I guess if I had to put my discomfort with the general paleo position into a nutshell, that nutshell would be that it is far too tunnel-vision and fact-cherry-picking for comfort. I think paleos make plenty of interesting and true points, but that they also tend to filter anything out that doesn’t result in a foregone conclusion. I also tend to think that they have given up on America, that is, have given up on the common good; and that is never acceptable, not even from the catacombs.<>…but now you seem, if I’m understanding you correctly, to be blaming the loss of this election on McCain’s not adhering to that doveishness, and, again, if I’m not misunderstanding you, to be joining the paleos in holding such doveishness up as a moral standard.<>Not so. Part of the problem is that you are in my view projecting too much of your own rationality onto the public at large. Bush started what is now manifestly – and should at the time have been manifestly to him, since a putative information disparity between what the administration knew and what it could make public was what drove trust in the conclusion in the first instance – an unjust and now very unpopular war. McCain has an (R) after his name, so he takes an at least single-digit hit for that, netting into a double-digit margin difference, period.

  • Kyle R. Cupp says:

    I take Larison’s point. Had our current president not undermined the rule of law, authorized torture through his Office of Legal Council, falsely claimed certainty about WMDs, mishandled an unnecessary war, and doubled our national debt, he might be more popular today and his party might not be looking at sure defeat. We might have been able to see Roe’s overturning with this next president. Not anymore.

  • Figulus says:

    It’s all about the war? Are you kidding?It’s all about two things and two things only: gas and stocks.When gas prices are high, people blame democrats. It makes no sense, but they do. When gas prices were high, McCain was ahead.When stock prices are low, people blame republicans. It makes no sense, but they do. When the stock prices tanked (and the gas prices went back down at the same time), Obama was ahead.Obama won. When gas prices are high again, and the stock market is back up, Obama’s approval ratings will go back down.

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