By T.S. Swanky,  an imaginary, confused conservative

Civil liberties? Let’s just call them “liberal liberties” from now on.

I was barely recovered from the shockingly disturbing news that President Trump and Steve Bannon were parting ways, when I read that the ACLU, which had bravely stood up for the rights of racists to express themselves in Charlottesville, VA, has now decided that it won’t represent racist haters if the haters are swaggering around with guns.

Hey, guns don’t hate people–people do! Just because you are yelling hateful, bigoted, angry things at people in public does not mean that you intend to shoot them, does it? And whose to say, anyway, that a bullet can’t be considered a form of speech? If money can be speech (thank you Supreme Court!) why can’t the inanimate objects of weapons also be speech protected by the First Amendment and the Second Amendment?

If it wasn’t for muskets and cannons, would we even have a Constitution?

All those protesters that carry those handwritten signs– some of those signs are big enough to hurt someone if used as weapons. And I saw a photograph of somebody about to throw a heavy metal newspaper dispenser at some racist. The news may be fake, but it can hurt if hurled. Is the ACLU not going to defend newspapers now?

Where will it end? Even old Confederate statues are being torn down which is if you think about it a violation of historical free speech rights. If contemporary hate groups have a right to speak their minds, why shouldn’t historical hate groups–like the Confederacy– have a First Amendment right to honor old military racists?

I’m no racist, but who is going to stand up for all our militias that just want to be heard and feared, to carry really big and powerful weapons when they stage public confrontations against the sort of people they hate? Surely the Founding Fathers did not intend to limit armed speech in this way.

What’s next? Outlawing war?


Editor’s Note– Here’s a link to a NY Times editorial which addresses the same issue (carrying guns at political protests) in a much more astute, less confused manner. A portion of it follows: 

“The critical question is how to protect peoples’ free speech in the presence of armed opponents. The gun lobby has worked to pass laws in Virginia and other states to prevent local governments from passing restrictions on open carry. But legal researchers point to elements in state laws and Supreme Court decisions saying that the right to bear arms in public is not absolute and must stop short of inducing fear in others. No help should be expected, of course, from President Trump, who was the National Rifle Association’s candidate last year. Ideally, the president should be the first to call for a ban on gun toting at public forums and tighter regulations of the adapted battlefield rifles that the gun industry markets to macho civilians.”


By T.S. Swanky, an imaginary, confused conservative. Any resemblance to any actual person or conservative columnist, living or dead, is an astounding coincidence.

I confess that I was one of the many conservative “Never Trumpers” who said publicly before the election that I would under absolutely no circumstances stoop to voting for a guy that the most perspicacious of American columnists, George Will, once called, on television no less, “a bloviating ignoramus.” That Will has a way with insults. I kept my word by voting for myself, writing my full name unabbreviated and unpunctuated on the ballot. If I was Never Trump, I was also Never Never Ever No Way Hillary.

Like the entire nation I was shocked that Trump actually won the Electoral College vote. But like many intellectual conservatives I took solace in the fact that at least the nation was spared the bleeding-heart, feminist, war-mongering liberalism of Hillary Clinton. And as time went on, I found myself becoming a Somewhat Trumper, for Trump, while lacking a certain political polish and burdened with a propensity for misconstruing the truth, was not as liberally-inclined a president as many of us feared. And his sudden distrust of Russia and Putin screams epiphany as the liberal media goes on and on about Russian ties to Trump’s campaign.

I now find that Trump’s reckless, intuitive, going-with-his-considerable-gut style of governing is at times refreshingly anti-cerebral. Trump is proving himself an inscrutable man of erratic action, keeping the nation and our enemies guessing. Stressful? Decidedly not. Call it instead exhilarating! Trump hasn’t been president long, but already he has launched 59 missiles at Syria and dropped the biggest, most bombastic mother of a bomb the U.S. has ever seen on Afghanistan! One, two–boom! Problems solved. Well, almost. Trump showed, let us admit, fabulous restraint. He could have fired a full 60 missiles, and nuked the whole Afghan nation. But he showed his true conservative colors, his inherent frugality and wisely demurred from further violence.

Now Trump the Magnificent has set his sights on North Korea with a manly resolve Obama and Hillary could never match. Yes, I have had my doubts concerning this man Trump and the sort of people he has gathered around himself in the White House. The man is flawed, but what man isn’t? (Yes, the aircraft carrier that the White House said was heading to the Korean Peninsula to show the North Koreans who was boss was actually heading toward the Indian Ocean. A little miscommunication, okay? Could happen to anyone. Running a government is a very complicated business, and it doesn’t matter because the North Koreans probably got the message anyway.)

But, on second thought, I now think that Trump probably lied about that aircraft carrier on purpose! To confuse the enemy and the liberal media, which, as President Trump has pointed out, are really the same thing! What a great man! What a great nation! Thank God we didn’t elect Hillary. She would have gotten us into a whole conglomeration of wars.

Writing recently in The New York Times Magazine, prominent historian Rick Perlstein attempts to figure out how exactly American conservatism could produce, as if out of nowhere, a candidate and a president of such “intellectual embarrassment” as Donald Trump. What had American historians, particularly those of conservative focus, failed to see since William F. Buckley, Jr. supposedly recreated respectable conservatism out of the ashes of World War II by founding the National Review?

President Reagan meeting with William F. Buckley in the Oval Office. 21 January 1988. By White House photo office [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The simple if perhaps too simplistic answer to Perlstein’s question is that the patron saints of the modern conservative movement–primarily Buckley and Ronald Reagan–have been venerated (mostly by conservatives) well beyond their actual intellectual/political brilliance. What they created has led to Trumpism because American conservatism was not grounded, beyond the small farm agrarianism of Thomas Jefferson, on justice and reality.

Perlstein does not mention in his Times essay that the year before Buckley founded National Review he wrote and published a book, co-authored with his brother-in-law, L. Brent Bozell, in which the two men generally defended the ideas and methods of that great conservative symbol of national security paranoia and heavy-handed government intrusion– Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. A wonderfully droll and critical review of McCarthy and His Enemies appeared in The New York Times in April of 1954 by William S. White, a reporter at the time for the The Times Washington Bureau. The review of the Buckley/Bozell book is worth quoting from at length, for it sheds much light on the shallow intellectual acumen and slipshod academic methods of the (admittedly younger) William F. Buckley, Jr.:

“One assumes that Mr. Buckley led this team. They have written their book not as reporters who have followed the blow-by-blow contests, but rather as “historians” who have studied the “historical” documents. One may legitimately doubt their objective approach, however; the authors have consulted with Senator McCarthy, but it is not known that they have consulted with General Marshall or any of the other “enemies” of the title.

Here, at any rate, is proof that it is the young who are infinitely more deadly — in purpose at least — of the species. Essentially what they have attempted is a defense both of Senator McCarthy and “McCarthyism” and an argument, well written in the English language as it is, that will rather stagger those to whom that language has long expressed certain concepts of fair play which Messrs. Buckley and Bozell seem to think either out of date or not viable in a world of great peril. They wish to make that kind of “security” that would astonish and worry traditional Conservatives.

For the kind of “security” here proposed would, in the end, and by its own definition, result in enormous insecurity for every sort of person whose notions might run counter to the youthful Buckley-Bozell political dogmas . . . “

So right from the very beginning of Buckley’s career there is displayed the sort of radical reactionaryism that would be right at home among many of the “alt-right” to whom Trump turned as both candidate and president. Despite White’s acerbic review, McCarthy and His Enemies appeared on the NY Times best-seller list, which goes to prove, I suppose, that this sort of nationalism-gone-berserk conservatism was pretty popular already back in the 1950’s.

Buckley’s National Review also dabbled early in racism. This excerpt from The NY Times reporting on the life of Buckley soon after his death in February of 2008:

In 1955, Mr. Buckley started National Review as voice for “the disciples of truth, who defend the organic moral order” with a $100,000 gift from his father and $290,000 from outside donors. The first issue, which came out in November, claimed the publication “stands athwart history yelling Stop.”

It proved it by lining up squarely behind Southern segregationists, saying Southern whites had the right to impose their ideas on blacks who were as yet culturally and politically inferior to them. After some conservatives objected, Mr. Buckley suggested instead that both uneducated whites and blacks should be denied the vote.

This, then, was the nature of Buckley’s conservative “organic moral order.” Yes, as Perlstein points out, Buckley denounced the John Birch Society, anti-Semitism and the fanatical followers of Ayn Rand; Buckley was a clever and by all accounts charming defender of traditional, wholesome aspects of culture he thought liberals were too quick to dismiss. But generally speaking, William F. Buckley, Jr. was no Russell Kirk, no lover of quiet agrarian traditions in which both silly “progress” and sillier war were opposed.

Kirk’s brand of agrarian conservatism, closest to that of Thomas Jefferson, has always held some promise*(see note below), but is burdened, in my view, by an over-reliance on historical norms and prejudices and a suspicion of reason and egalitarian feeling. For Kirk, liberalism is always “radical collectivism” which “detests religious faith, private virtue, traditional personality, and the life of simple satisfactions.” Not true, I reply. Liberalism does not forsake tradition, virtues and satisfactions, but will not be made a slave to unjust, inhumane traditions and practices. Liberals believe in the power of individual reason and a democratic government acting for the common good.

 What stands as the foundation of American conservatism as invented in National Review is an intellectual anti-intellectualism which inevitably evolved into Trumpism– mere un-intellectualism. In other words, historian Richard Hofstadter was not as mistaken about the nature of American conservatism as Perlstein suggests:

Until the 1990s, the most influential writer on the subject of the American right was Richard Hofstadter, a colleague of Trilling’s at Columbia University in the postwar years. Hofstadter was the leader of the “consensus” school of historians; the “consensus” being Americans’ supposed agreement upon moderate liberalism as the nation’s natural governing philosophy. He didn’t take the self-identified conservatives of his own time at all seriously. He called them “pseudoconservatives” and described, for instance, followers of the red-baiting Republican senator Joseph McCarthy as cranks who salved their “status anxiety” with conspiracy theories and bizarre panaceas. He named this attitude “the paranoid style in American politics” and, in an article published a month before Barry Goldwater’s presidential defeat, asked, “When, in all our history, has anyone with ideas so bizarre, so archaic, so self-confounding, so remote from the basic American consensus, ever gone so far?”

What Hofstadter said of Goldwater can be as easily said of Donald Trump, but Trump was actually elected. Perlstein writes that the election of Ronald Reagan to the office of president twice by landslides “made a mockery of Hofstadter.” Well, hardly a mockery. The “paranoid style” of national security coupled with the fairy tale style of “trickle-down” economics remains the heart of conservative ideology and thus does not deserve to be taken seriously.

Perlstein, seems to me, is just being too polite. Or too circumspect. And to risk being impolite, as Perlstein writes future historians may have to be–Trumpism is just the dumbest form of conservatism.

*Note–Today our “conservatives” are more likely than liberals to be supporters of “factory farming” and other forms of corporate greed/government austerity that harm rural areas.

Perhaps inspired by a genuinely religious (that is, generally liberal) sermon, House Speaker John Boehner decided the next morning he had nothing more to say politically and told House Republicans and the nation yesterday that he is quitting and leaving Congress.

Boehner did not say, however, that he will take a vow of poverty to work among the poor in Calcutta or Cleveland or take to the streets and march for peace, or turn liberal activist to lobby his former colleagues for cuts in carbon emissions and the end of capital punishment in the name of Pope Francis and God.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan called Boehner’s resignation “an act of pure selflessness” but what Boehner was facing was an act of utter mutiny and embarrassment– a vote to throw him out of the Speaker’s chair. In other words, John Boehner is no Mother Theresa. But maybe, just maybe, Boehner was moved enough by Pope Francis’s spirit of religious and political compassion to send a shocking message to the tea partying Trumpites who want to throw the poor, the foreign and the peaceable off the ship of state.

P.S.– And today Boehner, still in a religious mode, criticized the “false prophets” of his own party for being “unrealistic.” Michael Needham, head of Heritage Action for America, complains that some Republicans are treating the most conservative Republicans like “crazies.” Wonder where they got that idea?

(Mother’s Day card, 1916 by Northern Pacific Railway (eBay item card front card back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

(Editor’s Note: Former imaginary conservative columnist T.S. Swanky, aka “the voice of reason,” asked to return for he fictionally failed to find suitable employment elsewhere. In southeastern Wisconsin these days conservative commentators are a dime a dozen; in fact, conservatism has become one of Wisconsin’s few growth industries but the supply greatly exceeds the demand. Our technical specialist, Riverboat Sam, was opposed to Swanky’s return, calling him “the most cantankerous, caterwauling purveyor of claptrap I have had the underprivilege of knowing.” Be that as it may, I’ve decided to accept Swanky’s offer, in the spirit of democracy and religious/humanistic compassion, to return without pay, though Swanky himself often displays little of democracy or compassion, especially in his columns. I remind readers that Swanky’s opinions are his own and he does not exist in reality, a trait he shares with many other fictional and real Americans.)

By T.S. Swanky , an imaginary, confused conservative

As Mother’s Day will soon be upon us, a holiday I have always thought a sentimental and unnecessary creation of Big Government (it started as some feminist/pacifist thing, anyway), I want to compare motherhood and corporate monopoly, both of which are given short shrift in this modern world.

I don’t think much of “Mother’s Day”, but I do value the great American institution of motherhood, for without mothers to take care of children, how would capitalism as we know it survive and prosper? Only with kids kept busy and out of the way can true men of vision grow the economy as they see fit. Don’t get me wrong. I like children as much as the next guy but as a nation we need to get our priorities straight.

You’re a single mother? What’s more important? Making money or raising kids? No contest. And if you can’t afford both day care and food, go to some food pantry. Whatever you do, avoid food stamps: You shouldn’t be feeding your kids lobster in Wisconsin, anyway. Not fresh. And sharp cheddar? Just be grateful your kids have any food at all.

You want to be the sort of mother that stays home and raises your own kids? Get a man. Better yet, get a man and a job. No dignity these days in staying home, anyway. Isn’t that what the feminists say? Want respect? Go to work. Be grateful for any pay you get.  A mother staying home is domestic protectionism, that’s what it is. A father staying home? That’s just un-American. It’s treason, too. If women ran the world our economy would collapse they’d be so worried about their children all the time and even the children of foreign mothers.

Motherhood is the backbone of America. It makes profit possible. And if some corporations make a whole lot more profit than others, what’s the big deal? If the free market creates a few really big corporations that dominate their market, so-called monopolies, and these monopolies manage to influence the government and media so that the monopolies are always protected and supported, isn’t this the American Dream? Isn’t this freedom of speech and the pursuit of happiness in action? Isn’t this the essence of entrepreneurship? Get big or get out. That’s the real world, bud.

A child has just one mother, don’t he? (Well, he used to. Nowadays some states claim he can have two.) So being a mother is a monopoly, right? And since motherhood is good, monopoly must be good, too. Would Cheap-Mart be so cheap if it wasn’t also so big and powerful? Cheap-Mart is like your mother. Monopolies give us things we can’t get without them, including jobs. Monopolies take care of us. All they (or it) ask in return is our unthinking loyalty and money. So trust the trusts.

Are there some downsides to monopolies? Sure. But is any mother perfect? I know my mother isn’t.

The only good thing about Mother’s Day is that it helps sell flowers and brunches. It’s good for the economy. So buy your mother some good Columbian flowers  from your big corporate florist and take her out to your big corporate chain restaurant for brunch. Thank your mother and thank God for our great American monopolies.