Jonathan Bernstein made a funny, but we both know it is very serious. He compared two articles. First, Alex Massie‘s attack on Russell Brand’s “all those liberal politicians are really conservative” game. Second, Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry‘s attack on the “radical” wing of the Republican Party. He wrote, “One of them was about ‘an adolescent extremist whose hatred of politics is matched by his ignorance’—want to guess which one?” The joke is that although it was a description of Brand, it could easily have been a description of Ted Cruz or any number of other Republicans.
Bernstein’s article is about how it is good that Ponnuru and Lowry are calling out the Republican crazies, but that it is being done very gently. As he notes, “Indeed, Ponnuru and Lowry’s five-screen attack on the radicals is packed full of ‘on the other hand’ and ‘to be sure’ qualifications, so much so that at times it’s hard to tell whether the point is convincing convincable conservatives or if it’s to do just enough to be able to claim credit for being on the side of sanity.” My question is why this is. Why is it is that liberals have no problem calling out their own extremists but conservatives never do it.
I think I know the answer: conservatives agree on the essentials whereas liberals have a fair amount of disagreement as to where they are headed. Put another way, the Republicans have an extremely small tent and the Democrats have an unbelievable large tent. I get tired of pointing this out again and again and again. Republicans disagree about urgency. They disagree about tactics. But they do not disagree about goals. And those goals are stunningly archaic.
In a time and place where all land is owned and a man literally cannot make his own way, they want to ossify social positions because they think that they are currently about right. As I quoted social psychologist Paul Piff before, “Let’s imagine that you’re invited to a game of Monopoly. And you arrive at this game to find out that all the property’s been divided up. All of the money has already been handed out. But you’re told, ‘Hey: go ahead and sit down. Play the game; we’re going to give you a chance to play just like everyone else.'” That’s the way all Republicans want the world to be. That’s how they define “equality of opportunity.”
In contrast, Democrats really do disagree about where we are going. This ranges from people who want only what we have now but with perhaps a slightly stronger safety net to people like Russell Brand who want guaranteed minimum incomes. (I’m guessing; I don’t really follow or care about Brand.) But with all of our breadth, what we don’t have are extremists like the Tea Party folk. On the left, that would be equivalent to people calling for the workers to own the means of production. The catastrophe of the Soviet Union long ago scared liberals away from those kinds of ideas. But strangely right wing military dictatorships (eg Augusto Pinochet) have not scared the right away from their path.
It is tiring to see people like Ponnuru and Lowry applauded every time they write articles that make the gentlest of criticism of the conservative movement. Do you know what Rich Lowry was talking about the last time I wrote about him? How Ted Cruz would flummox liberals because he was a smart Ivy Leaguer who thought like Sarah Palin. Ponnuru, of course, is a good critic of his own side. But he is careful in the extreme. And when he talks policy, he is as foolish as most other conservatives. The main thing, though, is that both men agree with Ted Cruz and company with regards to what they want. They would just like these crazies to be smarter about getting to their promised land where all the poor will get their just, painful, but brief death.
Don’t be like Russell Brand: they can only win if you do not vote. Election day is 4 November 2014!
 This is clearly not the case for someone like Josh Barro, but even I have a hard time calling him anything but a good old fashioned liberal. And most Republicans would balk at this description of their goals, but this is what the policies that they want would produce. In May of this year, Avik Roy wrote that “equality of opportunity” was nothing more than simply not having laws forbidding people from doing something. In other words, as long as you don’t live in a caste system, you have equality of opportunity. So it isn’t like I’m being hyperbolic here.