Agreeing and Not With a Thoughtful Conservative

Charlie SykesRecently, Sean Illing at Vox interviewed Charlie Sykes, a conservative radio host in Wisconsin who is quitting the business.

Sykes says a good many interesting things in the interview. Mostly what impressed me was his consistency. He believes that Republicans who considered Bill Clinton’s sexual behavior unfit for the White House are utterly hypocritical in supporting Trump. Sykes admits that Trump represents a fascist figure, and that some conservative voters believe in “crazy stuff.” He said, “How many times can you say that Obama isn’t gay or a Muslim or that he wasn’t born in Kenya?”

I especially liked his take on the conservative media’s support: “another chance to beclown themselves on behalf of the Orange Duce.” He added, “They broke it. They own it.” And Trump’s most fervent GOP political allies? “The Huckabees, the Giulianis, the Newt Gingriches — they ought to be totally and utterly discredited by their support.” I agree. But I feel the less outspoken allies should be as well.

Naturally, as I am not a conservative, there are areas of disagreement. Charlie Sykes respects Paul Ryan; I do not. Sykes believes William Buckley’s rejection of the John Birch Society was principled; I see it as purely a strategic move. The Birchers often accused prominent Republicans of being Communist tools; it was wise to break off that kind of dissension, while maintaining the anti-civil rights and Cold War rhetoric that appealed to Birchers.

Did Political Correctness Give Birth to Trump?

There’s one area where I both grant his point, and reject it. Sykes blames some of the far-right’s rise on liberals who were too quick to label opponents as “racist” or “sexist” (while acknowledging that Trump is both). And I’ll agree that these terms are very powerful, so they should not be used lightly.

I’d argue that the perception conservatives have of the nation being “too PC” is something few conservatives have any direct experience with, but they hear about it from their media.

However, there’s a difference between attacking people and attacking policy. I neither know nor care what Reagan’s views towards African-Americans were. His policies were deeply racist. People who support voter-ID laws may themselves be unbiased; but voter-ID laws are deeply racist. Bush II worked well with Condoleeza Rice; but he also supported policies that endangered women’s health.

It Was You, Charlie

Furthermore, at least before the rise of social media, calling conservative voters “racist” or “sexist” was not a frequent occurrence. How often did it come up at the workplace, or at family dinners? Most accusations of “sexism” or “racism” were over-hyped instances of, say, something spoken at a college protest.

It was Limbaugh and Fox News that spread these stories, to further their narrative that liberals were bent on thought-controlling dissent out of existence. I’d argue that the perception conservatives have of the nation being “too PC” is very like their perception that crime rates are rocketing and voter fraud is rampant. It’s something few conservatives have any direct experience with, but they hear about it from their media.

There is blame on our side for using those terms too lightly (particularly on the internet, where pejorative terms are used with little care for how harmful they can be). But it’s mostly right-wing media that has created the notion that white male Christians are threatened by “PC.”

Charlie Sykes and the New Prometheus

Finally, there’s one area where Charlie Sykes is completely, 100% correct. Illing compared Trump to a “Frankensteinian monster,” and Sykes didn’t think it’s an apt analogy. Right on, Charlie! The monster was highly intelligent, and only became filled with violent rage once he’d been rejected by humanity’s cruelty to those who look different.

Trump does indeed resemble an angry monster, but it’s what’s inside that counts. If we’re going horror classics, he’s more Dracula. He lives in a castle, must return every night to his lair, preys on superstitious rural villagers. And like Dracula in bat form, Trump is skilled at navigating blindly through an echo chamber.

My credit to Charlie Sykes for leaving it.

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About James Fillmore

I am a spy for MI-6 who recklessly sleeps with innumerable gorgeous partners, drinks like a madman, ruins expensive company equipment, and I get away with all of this because I save the world on a consistent basis. As my cover, I am a poor person living in Minnesota.

11 thoughts on “Agreeing and Not With a Thoughtful Conservative

  1. I think I disagree with what you imply Sykes meant in rejecting the Frankenstein comparison. He never went into detail about it. But it seemed more like some resistance to accepting full responsibility. He can’t deny it in the specifics but he’s still have trouble in a general sense.

    • It’s quite possible! A wise man (well, wise enough to get by) once told me that in electronic communication, we should always assume the best of someone until they prove our worst suspicions correct.

      It’s possible because while I admire Mr. Sykes for owning the right-wing media’s role in creating extremism, he seems to still believe in “moderate Republican” economic policies. That’s his democratic right to do so, but the fact is most Americans do not want Social Security and Medicare turned over to Wall Street. There is not one elected national-level official in this country who ran solely on the Republican economic platform. (No doubt there’s a few mayors, but nobody in the House or Senate.) They were all elected on “social issues.” Every last one. And it was inevitable a Trump would come along. As it’s inevitable there will be more. No doubt Sykes would disagree with me on this. He probably actually believes people vote for Ryan because of “fiscal responsibility.”

      There’s another question here. Is there a place for conservatism? I think so. There’s a place for saying government should go slow, start with small experiments instead of committing to big solutions. There’s a place for saying existing charities sometimes are the best experienced at serving their community’s needs. There’s even a place for saying the profit motive is sometimes best at solving problems, although I think that’s quite rare.

      But all those viewpoints are well represented in the Democratic Party. In fact, they make up the majority of party political members. I don’t know of a Republican who’s held those views in 20 years.

      If I were Mr. Sykes’s life coach, I’d tell him not to quit radio. Instead, quit backing the national Republican Party. Do a talk show on public radio where you debate local ordinances with liberals. There are stupid rules at the state, county, city level which were pushed by overeager politicians and which should be changed. That’s where an honest conservative should be working. Not to support the national GOP, which is a moral and intellectual distaster.

      I like to imagine he rejected the Frankenstein analogy because he read the book, though. He’s clearly brighter than most. Just rejecting hate media, that’s better than many on his side will do. Conservatives like that? I can have a politely disagreeing argument with those folks.

      • Quote me back to me, young man! :-)

        If Trump had been an actual economic populist, I would have far more respect for him. And you may remember that I said some nice things about him early on. Then he came out with his tax plan. And it was just another giveaway to rich — but worse than others that have come before. And that’s when I knew he was just as much of a con man as the rest of the Republicans. He’s working exactly the same con: appealing to their racial resentment and giving them plutocratic policy.

        On the Frankenstein issue, I think he understood what the interviewer meant and was reacting to that. It doesn’t mean he hasn’t read the book. But even in the book, the main issue is that Doctor F creates something, it gets out of control, and destroys him.

        • Ah, I hadn’t thought of that. Perhaps Sykes rejected the analogy because he doesn’t think Trump (and the voters he most represents) will destroy the Republican Party. That the party can reject overt racism and go back to the glory days of code phrases. We shall see. I think that’s pouring new wine into old wineskins, as Jesus would say; they won’t hold it. I may be wrong.

          • What’s sad is that if the Republicans go back to using dog whistles, the media will let them. But I think a large part of the party won’t because its base won’t let it.

  2. Maybe things are different in some parts of the U.S.A. than from Canada, but no, lazy accusations of racism and sexism were in fact very, very common before Limbaugh the Clown came along. He did not invent it; in fact it was this thin veneer of truth that added to Clown’s popularity.

    I could be wrong too; but you are not entitled to that proposition, that these lazy accusations were rare before the Clown. I’d need to see some research. There actually have been some actual PC outrages, mainly at universities, and the unwillingness to admit it by leftists and liberals has given a false credibility to the Clown. There are some books about it by liberal and leftist authors, from the 90’s, but strangely I rarely am able to connect to people who have read them.

    The current outrage is only threatened rather than actual, but it is genuinely scary. There are a fair number of people who claim that a man accused of rape should lose his job immediately and basically be shunned by everyone, and anyone who says otherwise is a damned misogynist and rape enabler (“Don’t blame the victim!!!”). There also continue to be people who trot out insane and impossibly high figures for incidence of first-degree sexual assault (i.e. forcible rape) and of course only a misogynist and rape enabler would want to criticize this.

    But I can’t agree that this man is a thoughtful conservative. Paul Ryan is an absurd hypocrite and pretty obviously a poser; I’m disinclined to grant that a person that takes more than 120 seconds to realize this is ‘thoughtful’. It’s a bit like saying that someone who can solve 3x + 4 = 7 is good at math. On some relative scale maybe; on a reasonable (‘thoughtful’) scale, no way.

    • Every lie has a thin veneer of truth. When the Clown (I love that label, BTW!) dismisses his boasting of sexual assault as “locker room talk,” yes, teenage boys do say things in locker rooms they wouldn’t say around women. “Did she let you see her boobs?” That’s about the extent of it. It’s adolescent curiosity about sex, sharing information, and quite often lying to make oneself seem more knowledgeable than the rest. Saying “I had sex” is quite impressive in a teenage locker room, true or not. Saying “I can force myself on anyone” would creep the shit out of almost any teen boy. After all, if they can do it to girls, they can do it to you.

      “Mainly at universities” describes most of our P.C. outrages as well. (Which is sorta what college should be about, finding your voice, your intellectual passions. Experiment!) As for our Left not decrying those mishaps, we’re just too busy trying to keep another Republican bill called “Coastline Safety Act” from passing, some shite that bans anyone from suing oil companies which leak thousands of gallons from offshore rigs. It’s that bad, here. Most of our efforts are rear-guard action. Some dingbat college professor who thinks white males should smear themselves with feces whenever a minority student walks by, it’s beneath our notice. As it’s not important. The bad stuff going down in our legislature, that’s important.

      Perhaps nothing illuminates the differences between our countries more than your angry criticism of Sykes for supporting Ryan. I completely agree; Ryan’s a sociopath in my mind. Yet here, he passes for a moderate. It’s bananas. I do give credit to Sykes for ceasing his part in propagandizing the worst side of his party.

    • What time frame are you talking here? Because Limbaugh was huge in the late 1980s. I do remember that coincided with the rise of sensitivity training. But that was mostly something corporations did to avert some PR mistake. James may be exaggerating a bit, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that PC is pushed more by those against it than those for it. The reason is that one ridiculous PC act can be shared with millions. It makes it look bigger. In addition, why is PC seen as a disease of the left, when it is every bit as virulent on the right? (For example: Colin Kaepernick.) I think these tend to support James’ point.

  3. Well, some of those things on university campuses are going down as a result of legislation.

    PC hurts the left, not the right, by inhibiting recruitment and making cooperation more difficult. I can’t cooperate directly with my local chapter of BLM, for example, because I am not prepared to take personal, individual responsibility for the African slave trade, or to spell ‘black’ as ‘Black’. I support their general aims, but they call me a racist. No thanks.

    I’m not interested in a conversation about whether the right or left is ‘worse’ at PC or PC-like features. There is no conversation to be had with with the right; they must be defeated or at most, negotiated with. I criticize people I respect; I laugh at the Clown. I converse with people on my side; I try to hurt people on the other.

    James: you don’t need to expend lots of time or energy simply to acknowledge reality. If we were willing to do that, I think the left would grow much faster in influence and numbers. Say you were kind of undecided on some issues. Would you join an organization that denied obvious reality and called you an asshole for asking questions? I bet you wouldn’t.

    By the way: I called Limbaugh the Clown, not Dumper. I think Trump is even stupider than Limbaugh. Not even a clown.

    • Don’t worry — it’s not a lot of time or energy. It’s more just unwinding on a keyboard and having fun. I wrote a lot of sad stories this year, those kicked my butt.

      I can’t speak for your local BLM group. The one here is pretty friendly. They don’t just do angry marches, there’s often community gatherings with music and food. Angry marches too, of course.

      As to the Black spelling; I’m not aware of the rationale behind it, but I’m quite familiar with the Deaf community. In that world, lower-case-d “deaf” refers to the physical condition of hearing loss, while upper-case-D “Deaf” refers to the Deaf culture. For example: if your sister is deaf but you are not, yet you sign ASL fluently, you are part of Deaf culture. If you have age-related deafness but do not know or engage with others who are deaf, you are not part of Deaf culture.

      I’ve long hoped for a replacement for African-American. If you’re an immigrant from Somalia with dark skin, you are African by birth, American by citizenship, yet you most likely identify more with other Somalis and Muslims, not the African descendants of American slaves. Similarly for an Ethiopian immigrant, although they are more likely to be Christian. Many people from the Caribbean are very dark-skinned, so white people see them as black, but they’re likely a part of Latino culture.

      So if capital-B Black refers to the shared cultural heritage of slavery descendants in America, it’s a more accurate term than African-American or small-b black. More precise language! I’m always in favor of that.

    • PC is just a pejorative for social norms. All groups have them. We freak out more about leftist PC because it is newer. Also: it is far more associated with the young. It’s usually college kids who are still learning. Meanwhile, it’s the old folks who are getting their outrage fix hearing about it on Fox News.

      I don’t know that much about the inner workings of BLM, but it seems like you might be overstating this. It sounds kind of like what I got into a lot during the primary over Bernie Sanders. People would tell me about how horrible Sanders supporters were online. But I didn’t think that they were representative. It is certainly true that any group made up of young people will tend to be more rigid when they think they’ve found The One True Way.

      Certainly one can’t take individual responsibility for the African slave trade. But I do know that my entire life has benefited from the African slave trade. I’m not sure what I can do about that other than work toward more justice today.

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