May 29, 2009

In Defense of Stacy McCain’s puerile, splenic rantings

President Andrew Jackson is, from what I?ve read, much misunderstood, and was much more than the wild, populist, social-leveling Indian fighter he?s made out to be. The term ?Jacksonian Conservative,? coined by Walter Russell Meade, remains, however, quite useful for categorizing a certain type of Republican voter, many of whom, like Old Hickory, descend from the legendarily sanguine and splenic line of Scots-Irish. A ?JacksonCon? doesn?t give a fig about ?democracy promotion? or ?nation-building,? but after 9/11, he wanted to go over to the Middle East and kick ass. He might try to make time for the Permanent Things on occasion, but mainly he likes attacking lily-livered liberals.

If you?re still not sure who a JacksonCon is, I present to you Mr. Robert Stacy McCain. He?s a guy who can?t keep quiet about his recognition that the Iraq War was a ruinous fiasco?but then just to make sure you don?t think he?s an antiwar wussy or anything, suggests we engage in an equally insane campaign in Cuba for the simple reason that it?s ? uh ? much easier to get to. This is havin? a ?nuanced? foreign policy—Stacy McCain style! 

Still, despite some myths Stacy concocts about himself?ol? Stacy wasn?t just a columnist down in Georgia, he delivered the papers, even printed ?em up, makin? the ink and pulp with his bare hands, all between drags of a de-filtered Marlboro Red?Stacy?s actually quite capable of producing prose that?s light on its feet and even (gasp!) reasoned arguments.

But Stacy often likes to do his thinkin? in the sub-rational nasal zone?that is, he sniffs out who?s pinkish, squeamish, sycophantic, eager to get along with the liberal establishment, and so on and then proceeds to call them wienerheads. I myself wouldn?t articulate my critiques of, say, Rod Dreher and Ross Douthat as Stacy does, but his sense of who?s wishy-washy is usually right on the money. 

The occasion for my defense of Stacy?s puerile, deranged rantings is one of those typical blogospheric flare-ups, which I usually have no interest commenting on. This one involves the priggish J-school grad Conor Friedersdorf, a former guiding light of the thankfully deceased Culture11, who got his panties in a bunch when he heard Mark Levin use harsh language on his talk radio program?oh dear! Rod Dreher soon stopped by to wag his finger, opining that ?conservatism? would win if only its adopted the gentlemanly rhetoric of Wendell Berry.

Whenever I come across people like Dreher and Friedersdorf piously attacking movement types, it miraculously makes me want to stick up for the Dittoheads (quite an accomplishment.)

Dreher seems to have passed through three Christian denominations, evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox, in the past decade, but then ended up at a political consciousness that (excepting the abortion issue) is basically indistinguishable from that of my ?respectable hipster? neighbors here in Park Slope, most all of whom agree that capitalism inspires wicked greed and that it?d be best if one day we all got back in touch with the land. Dreher?s version of ?traditional conservatism??which, by the way, has little in common with traditional American conservatism?essentially means being a pro-life welfare-statist.   

I?ve also become tired of Stacy?s need to present himself as Mr. Average Joe Reporter and his opponents as effete, upper-crust intellectuals. Reading Dreher?s critique of Rush Limbaugh as a ?Rousseauian,? I began to wonder whether the CrunchyCon had ever read a page of Rousseau, and wasn?t just mouthing some bastardized, bromide-version of Claes Ryn, in which one traces back to Rousseau anything one doesn?t particularly like.

I?ve also been rather amused reading Dreher?s recent piece in which he advises ?traditional conservatives” (by which he means people who agree with Rod Dreher) to take the ?Benedict Option? (referring the 5th-century monastic) and ?make a strategic retreat? from the ?barbaric mainstream.? Don?t hold your breath waiting for Dreher to go under ground, because he doesn?t intend to do anything of the kind; indeed, he?s continued to spend his time blogging away, mostly about the current political scene (not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Dreher might take on some trappings of the ultra-trad ?paleoconservative??or perhaps a Medieval troubadour, just visiting our fallen modern world?but then in conveniently bashing liberal hate objects (like Rush and Levin) for being uncouth, and adopting mostly liberal positions on welfare statism (for putatively ?conservative? reasons, of course), Dreher has in fact fashioned a political persona that is utterly harmless and doesn?t threaten the establishment in the least. In Dreher?s world, absolutely nothing is at stake: No one actually believes he?s going pursue the ?Benedict Option,? nor that he?s closer to overcoming the selfish culture of greed and root-of-all-evil moolah than the rest of us, nor that America will soon be organized according to a sustainable, distributionist system of draft-horse farming. ?Crunchy Conservatism? is suburban conspicuous consumption, an ?alternative? caste that one puts on what are ultimately mainstream, and surprisingly PC, views on a whole range of issues, from foreign policy, to the welfare state, to the Middle East, to the great American story that is Sonia Sotomayor. Recently Dreher has talked about the possibility of ?traditionalists? (again read ?Rod Dreher?) working together with the ?alternative left? in order to better regulate the economy and redistribute wealth. A welfare state that protects America?s families? Wow, I wonder if anyone?s ever thought of that before?   

(And as Stacy points out, Dreher?s great hero, Russell Kirk, once quipped at the Heritage Foundation, ?Not seldom has it seemed as if some eminent Neoconservatives mistook Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States.” Can one imagine Dreher saying something this ballsy?)

As for Levin and his new book Liberty and Tyranny: I was given a copy as a gift and have crashed through it. There is, as you might guess, a whole lot of material in his ?On Self-Preservation? chapter with which I disagree. (No, the foreign policy of the Founders actually was substantially different (and more ?isolationist?) than what we had in the Bush years, and for essentially the entire Cold War era.) This being said, the brunt of the rest of the book I endorse. Republicans have a tendency to sound like Ron Paul when they?re out of office, and then act like LBJ once they get elected. Sure. But Levin has laid down some explicit constitutional, pro-liberty principles with real, concrete consequences. Whatever our disagreements, I?d take Levin?and puerile Jacksonians like Stacy?over the Crunchies any day of the week.

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