I have conservative friends who argue that it’s unfair of the left to paint them all as a bunch of tea-party-attending, Glen-Beck-listening yahoos. They argue that conservatism has a rich intellectual foundation, and that by cherry picking their worst-sounding supporters, we willfully ignore the writers today who uphold that intellectual foundation.
Writers like the folks at The National Review.
Writers like John Derbyshire1.
Why do I bring this up? Well, its just that as Faiz Shakir points out over at Think Progress, John Derbyshire went on Alan Colmes’ radio show yesterday and took a stand against female suffrage.
DERBYSHIRE: Among the hopes that I do not realistically nurse is the hope that female suffrage will be repealed. But I’ll say this – if it were to be, I wouldn’t lose a minute’s sleep.
COLMES: We’d be a better country if women didn’t vote?
DERBYSHIRE: Probably. Don’t you think so?
COLMES: No, I do not think so whatsoever.
DERBYSHIRE: Come on Alan. Come clean here [laughing].
COLMES: We would be a better country? John Derbyshire making the statement, we would be a better country if women did not vote.
DERBYSHIRE: Yeah, probably.
Okay, so that’s bad enough, but Alan Colmes, rightly gobsmacked by this, next asked
COLMES: What’s next, you want to bring back slavery?
DERBYSHIRE: No. No, I’m in favor of freedom, personally.
COLMES: But women shouldn’t have the freedom to vote?
DERBYSHIRE: Well, they didn’t and we got on along ok.
He goes on to argue against The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Of course.
Anyhow, all this illustrates two things for me.
First, it really perfectly encapsulates the strange sort of doublethink you see in conservative political philosophy all the time.
“We believe in individualism! (Just so long as you don’t have sex in ways we disapprove of.)”
“We believe in freedom! (As long as people who disagree with us are not allowed to vote.)”
“We believe in free speech! (But people who criticize the (Republican) president should watch their goddamn mouths.)”
You see this a lot in discussions about economics, where the argument is that government intervention and collective solutions are illegitimate (not just wrong, mind you), no matter how much of the electorate is in favor of them. You see it in the faux-troversies about President Obama’s legitimacy. You see it in Glenn Beck’s rhetoric about how ‘real Americans’ are opposed to President Obama, despite him having won the presidency by an overwhelming majority 2. You see it in the analysis we hear every election about how “if it weren’t for the African-American vote, Democrats would be a permanent minority party3 ”
The central idea is this: If you disagree with them, you ought not be allowed to participate in the democratic process in the first place. I contrast this with the way the liberal ACLU operates, fighting for the free speech rights of white supremacists and the religious rights of fundamentalists, both groups who are not (to put it mildly) their ‘core constituency’.
‘Rights for all,’ versus ‘rights for the people who agree with me.’ That’s the difference.
Hell, John Derbyshire makes no bones about it! He says outright, “The conservative case against [female suffrage] is that women lean hard to the left.” That’s not an argument. That’s thuggery.
Anyhow, that’s the first thing I took from it.
The second thing I took away is that when people talk about the rich intellectual tradition of Conservatism, it’s guys like John Derbyshire they’re talking about, so … jeez … maybe they mean something different by ‘intellectual?’
Please do not comment unless you accept the basic dignity, equality, and inherent worth of all people
- Who, as Andrew Sullivan ably documents, continues to believe that gay people are all child molesters. Or at least enough where we shouldn’t let them around our children, best to be safe, etc, etc, etc. [↩]
- And the Democrats having won both houses! [↩]
- Hey look, here’s an example or two from a while back. [↩]