Quote of the Day: Pat Robertson Notes Rush Limbaugh Not Thinking Rationally

I’m always on the look out for signs of sanity from the right. I don’t agree with Pat Robertson very often, but he is right on this answer in an interview with U.S. News & World Report:

Q: So you don’t subscribe to Rush Limbaugh’s “I hope he fails” school of thought?

ROBERTSON: That was a terrible thing to say. I mean, he’s the president of all the country. If he succeeds, the country succeeds. And if he doesn’t, it hurts us all. Anybody who would pull against our president is not exactly thinking rationally.

Maybe its the OxyContin.

Why Conservatives Have No Credibility

Conservatives claim to have all the answers, and think that being able to recite a handful of simplistic talking points on economic issues is actually the same as having any understanding of economics. When things go wrong under their rule (as they generally do) they are also experts at shifting the blame and never taking responsibility for the consequences of their own policies.

During the Bush years everything was Bill Clinton’s fault. If that doesn’t work, more and more conservatives are even willing to abandon their previous support for Bush, claiming he was not actually a conservative.

Anyone have any doubt that they will try to blame the current economic crisis on Obama if they run out of ways to blame it on Clinton? One example comes from Michelle Malkin who points to the stock market declines since Obama was elected (not even when he took office) as if the problem occurred under his watch as opposed to under Bush.

I’m certain that in future years Republicans will speak of the economic crash as being an event of the Obama administration. The right has already been in total denial over how the 9/11 attacks were largely a consequence of the failings of the Bush administration to pay attention to the warnings both from the Clinton administration and in Bush’s own daily intelligence briefings.

The only remaining question is how they will rewrite history to shift the blame for the other major failing of the Bush administration. Will future conservatives rewrite history to blame Katrina on Clinton or Obama?

Update: You would think that not many people would be so ignorant as to how the stock market works to take this post by Malkin seriously, but apparently many conservatives do. I wonder how they explain the approximately 25% drop in the market while Bush was in office, and the overall trend even before Bush for the market to do better under Democrats than Republicans. Doug Mataconis and Steven Talor, neither of whom supported the stimulus bill, both debunk the idea that Obama’s policies are responsible for the stock market drops since election day.

Mission Not Accomplished

Earlier in the month some were excited by optimistic assessments that al Qaeda had been defeated. Some conservatives even saw this as vindication for the faulty Republican strategy in responding to terrorism. Events in parts of Pakistan make it look like they were prematurely declaring victory over Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. Pakistan agreed to suspend military action and even impose Islamic law in the Taliban-dominated northwest part of the country, creating a haven for militants. This will also make it easier for bin Laden to both avoid capture and to regroup.

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Republican Support For Obama’s Stimulus Plan

Obama might not have received hardly any Republican support for the Democratic stimulus plan in Congress, but that does not mean that Republicans were universally opposed. The New York Times points out that many Republican governors, who are more pragmatic out of the necessity to actually run a state government, supported the plan.

Obama has received some criticism by those who question why he even bothered to reach out to Republicans in the development of the plan. The support from Republican governors shows that moderating policies to be acceptable to more rational Republicans can still be of value, even if it doesn’t help with Congressional votes. Many of the Republican governors also expressed favorable views of Obama compared to George Bush. Although he also served as a governor, Bush quickly allowed extremist ideology as opposed to pragmatism determine his policies.

Even more important than the support of Republican governors, Obama can benefit from the support of people who voted Republican in the past. Some voted for him in 2008, and they are more likely to do so in 2012 if they see Obama as someone who considers their views as opposed to adopting the Republican policy of attempting to govern with 50% plus one, even if some on the left are displeased.

Dividing Progressive and Liberal Beliefs

Terms such as liberal, conservative,  progressive, and populist all have some ambiguity as a variety of people fall into each category, and often the lines are not clear. People who use these labels might have historical influences, but they generally do not have specific ideological leaders. While Marxists or Objectivists might trace their views specifically to Karl Marx or Ayn Rand and there is a clear definition of these philosophies, liberals and conservatives typically have a variety of influences on their views.

Nate Silver recently drew a distinction between two forms of progressives. It looks like this grew out of blog wars which I don’t want to get into, and his definitions are tilted in favor of one view and against that held by those he was arguing with. Ignoring these issues, there is still some value in looking at his breakdown.

The first type of progressivism has its philosophical underpinnings in 18th Century, Enlightement-era thought. It believes that politics is a battle of ideas. It further believes that through the use of reason and the exchange of ideas, human society will tend to improve itself through scientific and technological innovation. Hence, it believes in progress, and for this reason lays claim to the term “progressive”. Because of its belief and optimism in the faculties of human reason, I refer to this philosophy as rational progressivism.

Rational progressivism tends to be trusting, within reason, of status quo political and economic institutions — generally including the institution of capitalism. It tends to trust these institutions because it believes they are a manifestation of progress made by previous generations. However, unlike conservatism, it also sees these institutions as continuing works in progress, subject to inefficiencies because of distorted or poorly-designed incentives, poorly-informed or misinformed participants, and competition from ‘irrational’ worldviews like religion. It also recognizes that certain persons who stand to benefit from preserving the status quo, particularly elected officials but also corporations, may seek to block this progress to protect their own interests. The project of rational progressivism, then, is to propagate good ideas and to convert them, through a wide and aggressive array of democratic means, into public policy.

The second type of progressivism is what I call radical progressivism. It represents, indeed, a much more radical and comprehensive critique of the status quo, which it tends to see as intrinsically corrupt. Its philosophical tradition originates in 19th Century thought — and specifically, owes a great deal to the Marxist critique of capitalism and the Marxist theory of social change. It also finds inspiration in both the radical movement of the 1960s and the labor and social movements of late 19th and early 20th centuries (from which it borrows the label “progressive”).

Radical progressivism is more clearly distinguishable from “conventional” liberalism and would generally be associated with the “far left” — although on a handful of issues such as free trade, it may find common cause with the “radical” right. Radical progressivism embraces the tradition of populism and frequently adopts a discourse of the virtuous commoner organizing against the corrupt elite. It is much more willing to make normative claims than rational progressivism, and tends to view conservatism as immoral and contemporary American liberalism as amoral (at best). Its project is not reform but transformation.

Actually I tend to avoid the term progressive and prefer liberal, seeing two primary uses for the term progressive. Often it is used by as an alternative in response to the demonization of the word liberal by the right. I would often use liberal in place of Nate’s use of rational progressivism and reserve progressive for radical progressivism or populism from the left. This is not entirely satisfactory as the word liberal is used by others in a variety of ways, often including Nate’s radical progressives. There are certainly no hard and fast lines between each group, and Nate acknowledges this:

The truth is, I don’t particularly care whether you call me a “progressive” or not. In fact, I’m suspicious of people who line up on the same side of the ideological divide on every single issue. The world is more complicated than that, especially when one strives to see the world through a scientific, empirical lens. While progressives, in my view, clearly have the preponderance of good ideas, they do not have a monopoly on them. Nor do conservatives have a monopoly on bad ideas, especially when radical progressives flirt with Marxist modes of discourse.

While recognizing that liberal is often used in other ways, I generally use liberal in the way that Nate uses rational progressive as a philosophy growing out of the age of enlightenment (thus the tag line of the blog). Primary principles of liberalism include a belief in liberty, limitations on the power of government, openness to new ideas, and use of science and reason to evaluate the world and influence public policy.

Progressives (or Nate’s radical progressives) may share many of these beliefs, but they are often more concerned with what they view as economic fairness. They are often the supporters of larger government programs, while liberals vary tremendously in support for “big government.” There is often a considerable blurring between these two groups. They might share many of the values of the other and the difference is often based upon which ideas they stress more.

The line between liberals and progressives versus conservatives often comes down to political alliances on the major issues of the day. During the Bush years both rational and radical progressives shared common ground in opposing many of Bush’s actions. Opposition to the Iraq war provided further common ground.It is not surprising that with the Democrats in power disputes between different segments of the left would be more visible.

Lumping people with some diversity of views into one of two groups based upon the major issues of today (along with who they supported in the last election) will give a general breakdown of liberals and progressives versus conservatives, but there are clear limitations. I recently cited Andrew Sullivan as an example where the labels breakdown.

Sullivan supported Obama over McCain, opposes the war, supports same-sex marriage, and holds other views which cause many conservatives to consider him a liberal as opposed to conservative. He falls on the liberal side when looking at a division based upon current issues, but when his views are evaluated in greater detail it is clear that his fundamental views are based upon historical conservatism as opposed to liberalism.

Sullivan traces his views back to the political tradition of Burke, as opposed to the religious fundamentalism which now dominates the conservative movement. His opposition to this fundamentalism places him on the same side as liberals on many issues despite his conservative philosophy. Similarly there are also other conservatives who stress civil liberties and constitutional limitations on government power who have sided with liberals in opposing the actions of the Bush administration.

Libertarians create yet more confusion on the ideological spectrum. The word libertarian has become as ambiguous as any of the other labels. Many libertarians have been aligned with the Republican Party for so long that, even if they disagree with them on some issues, they have become increasingly conservative. In many cases, but certainly not all,  it is accurate to describe a libertarian as a Republican who has smoked marijuana. There are also Libertarian Republicans who still claim to be libertarian despite supporting massive increases in the power of the state as they accept the Republican line on the “war on terror.” The most extreme of these have endorsed what would amount to a virtual military dictatorship with suppression of civil liberties to prevent dissent against the “war on terror” while still claiming to be libertarian. On the other hand, there are left-libertarians and liberaltarians who share considerable common ground with Nate’s rational progressives, but are much further from the radical progressives.Failure to distinguish between the different types of liberals, along with the fundamental conservatism of some who use the libertarian label, leads to the differences in reaction to alignment with liberals among different libertarians.

There is yet one other dichotomy I’ve found useful in discussing the views of liberals. There are the actual views held by liberals, regardless of which strand of liberalism they believe in, and the imaginary liberals created in the scare stories spread by people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. It would be helpful in political discussion if people understood the differences between various types of liberals and progressives, but it would be tolerable if these were lumped together as long as people understand the differences between actual liberals and the straw men created by the right.

Bloggers Pile On George Will Following Global Warming Blunder

One of the common arguments used by global warming deniers is a claim that in the 70′s scientists thought we were facing a period global cooling. If they were wrong then, their logic goes, the scientists must be wrong today (and therefore we should believe conservative writers as opposed to scientists who work in the field). The problem with that argument is that global cooling was a belief which sometimes made the newspapers but was not accepted by most scientists. That is hardly the same as the current scientific consensus on climate change.

Although there is no substance to this argument, it continues to pop up. George Will was the latest to raise it. Many bloggers have debunked him:

Ezra Klein: George Will Embraces Palin-ism

Steve Benen: Bad Will Hunting

Zachary Roth: Where There’s a (George Will) There’s A Way To Deny Global Warming

Nate Silver: George F. Will Takes on Science, Loses Credibility

David Roberts: George Will is an Idiot

While all these liberal bloggers have looked at the facts, and the views of scientists actually working in the field, via Memeorandum we see that once again conservative bloggers are only interested in those who share their biases. Several conservative blogs are excited that an astronaut shares their denial of global warming. They don’t care that he is not an expert in the field any more than they care when they quote meterologists, which is quite different from being a scientist working in climate change. They are only interested in finding people who will agree with their prexisting biases and lack any interest in sorting out the truth.