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3 Basic Differences Between Conservatism and Neoconservatism

Or: Why Charles Krauthammer wasn't on my list yesterday.

by
Dave Swindle

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December 27, 2013 - 9:00 am
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I suppose I should have anticipated reactions such as these to my list of the 10 best conservative columnists of 2013 yesterday:

Charles Krauthammer ?

This column alone should catapult him to #1 in terms of “valuable pieces on the chessboard.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-obama-the-oblivious/2013/12/12/67acc91c-6363-11e3-a373-0f9f2d1c2b61_story.html

On Twitter:

I tried to preempt this criticism with my second ground rule:

I’m likewise being strict with the “conservative” title – other various right-of-center ideologies (neoconservatism, libertarianism, Christian theocrats, and paleo-con conspiracists) warrant their own lists.

But apparently some object to the idea that there are distinct ideologies within the conservative movement. Here’s “New MarcH” in the comments:

David – Bravo for opening a discussion of intellectual trends in on the Right. Still, I have some issues as well as some thoughts for further discussion regarding your use of the term, “neoconservative”.

Ben Shapiro but no Krauthammer? You had to twist yourself into a pretzel not to mention Krauthammer.

Also, why the cheers for the NYT not including the “neoconservative” William Kristol but then whooping it up for the less well known Frank Gaffney? Gaffney began as a protégé of Scoop Jackson and Richard Perle. How he is less of a “neo-con” than Kristol (BTW, I have a high opinion of Jackson, Perle, Kristol and Gaffney)?

If you want a deeper topic, consider this: what is the current significance of the term “neoconservative (‘new conservative’)”? As you know, the term was coined in the 70s to describe former FDR/JFK Democratic party intellectuals who were dismayed by the leftward shift of the Democratic party and the failure of its defense, social and economic policies. These folks formed a big part of the brain trust of the Reagan campaign and White House. Neo-Conservatism is often caricatured (not entirely unfairly but ultimately incorrectly) as a movement of New York Jewish intellectuals, but its leaders and founders included Jack Kemp, William Bennett, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, George Gilder, Charles Murray, etc., and, of course, Ronald Reagan.

But what does it mean today? William Kristol may be a lot of things but he took in Reaganite conservatism with his tinker toys so he can’t be accurately described as a “new”-conservative.

During the Iraq war the Left brilliantly grabbed the word and morped it to suggest ‘”chicken-hawk” Jew or Jewish dupe who wants to trick the US into fighting a war for Israel and make money off oil, etc’. Some on the Right were not uncomfortable with grabbing this twisted use of the word and “demagogue-ing” it to try to create a post Reagan isolationist conservative movement. Pat Buchanan was an early adopter of this strategy and it was always funny to watch this Vietnam War avoider suggest others were “chicken hawks”.

So David, is the term you used “neoconservative” relevant to contemporary political analysis? I would say not. It is out of date and serves mostly as a slur word for the Left.

I very strongly disagree. And so did Irving Kristol, the founder of neoconservatism, who in August 2003 defined some of the basic assumptions and tendencies of what he characterized as a “persuasion” rather than an outright movement. There are a number of differences between conservatives operating in the William F. Buckley Jr./Ronald Reagan tradition and neoconservatives operating in the Irving Kristol/George W. Bush tradition. Here are three, and I’ll use Kristol’s own words to explain it.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Nobody is EVER ready to be Commander in Chief on day one; certainly as a Governor, Palin was far more qualified than any of the three senators on the ticket COMBINED. I wouldn't have voted for McCain - I did vote for McCain/Palin. (That McCain flaked and panicked when Rangel & Frank finally managed to collapse the economy was an especially painful development, but entirely in accordance with McCain's nature.)
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't agree that the choice of Sarah Palin as VP candidate was a "bone-headed Hail Mary political play". I think it was a smart move and McCain lost the election himself, refusing to let his campaign go after Obama, and holding Palin on a short leash.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, why you can't have a discussion is because you, like so many others, have dropped back and bared fangs at everyone who might even slightly not be ideologically pure enough for you on something, then you point your finger and scream "STATIST!!! COMMUNIST!!! OUT, DAMNED SPOT!!!" at them. Various people do it in the comments sections of almost every article posted here now.

It's like people are trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy and cause the ideological purity by somehow "forcing" everyone else to align with the Communists and Jihadists, no matter how much they disagree with said ideologies.
47 weeks ago
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All Comments   (149)
All Comments   (149)
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Thanks for this, Dave. I learned a lot from this short article. While I'm not about personal attacks for differences in political beliefs (I didn't see any of that here), the study of HOW we differ from each other and WHY is certainly useful, if for no other reason than knowing your enemy. With allies, it can help us build bridges and overcome differences. Big-government Republicans have bugged me for many years. You've put into words why. They're simply a different animal.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're welcome! I'm glad you found it useful. I hope to have more pieces discussing the histories and origins of political ideologies in 2014 (both ones I write and by others who I edit.) And I look forward to your feedback.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Spying on Americans before 9/11: NSA Built Back Door In All Windows Software by 1999 Government and Microsoft Inc Global Research, June 27, 2013

http://www.globalresearch.ca/spying-on-americans-before-911-nsa-built-back-door-in-all-windows-software-by-1999/5338215
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
What a pile of narcissistic slop, indigestible in every way.
Somewhere, Sarah Palin will be happily celebrating the season. More power to her.
Krauthammer? Not so much.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wrote about the search for unity among former progressives here, and the focus was Charles Krauthammer's "biography" as presented on Fox numerous times. See http://clarespark.com/2013/10/26/krauthammer-fox-news-channel-and-the-search-for-unity/. I am all for coalitions based on shared real material interests, but not for mystical bonds.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The only problem here is that there is no Buckley/Regan axis. Reagan was a true American anti-Communist - he was fully anti Left. For Reagan there was no distinction between a Bolshevik, Menshevik, Troskyite, Marxist, Socialist or Liberal.

With Buckley as long as you were anti-Stalinist you were fine no matter what part of the Left you occupied. Sidney Hook - fine, John Galbraith - Fine, Tito - Fine, Mandela - fine, Murray Kempton - fine, Alan Ginsburg - Fine, Henry Kissinger - Fine.

Buckley's attack on the Birchers was part of a larger expulsion of Republicans whose anti-Communism when further than anti-Bolshevism. It was Eisenhower who took McCarthy down and pink slipped as many Taft Republicans as he had authority to, and promoted Detente.

Reagan, to the opposite, was purely and thoroughly anti-Yalta.

No I am afraid the Conservatives aren't much better than Neoconservatives and neither of the two see the Left as their enemy.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not only followed but protected and defended!
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
David would you comment on the Constitution and the original intent of that document and it's authors as to what ideology it represents.
The originally signed version, for then you will know what my ideology is and can label it for those of us who wish it to be followed.
46 weeks ago
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46 weeks ago
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"Neoconservatives believe the GOP should be converted to embrace a “modern democracy,” aka a welfare state in the mold of FDR and the Great Society. Neoconservatives don’t want to disassemble the federal government in order to rebalance divided powers between federal, state, and local governments; they just think they can pilot Leviathan better than the Democrats"

What, then, is the difference between the neocons and the GOP establishment - what Monica Crowley calls the GOPe?
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The terms are mostly synonymous. Neoconservatism became the GOP establishment during the Bush administration. And Fox News has certainly helped with that.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Interesting stuff, Dave. Kristol was calling himself secular and a "cynical pragmatist" in allying with believers? Kinda damns the whole lot of them. W. fits the welfare-state, build democracies in Araby with armies stuff, but he wasn't cynical about his faith.

Krauty's fun. Used to be the only sensible voice and interesting read at The New Republic back in the 80s. I like him, but you're right about him.

Wrong about Palin, as others have pointed out here. Choosing her certainly did rev up the conservative base of the party, just as the Ryan pick did for Romney. Satiate? Impossible without gagging McCain. We surged ahead in the polls after that convention, thanks to Palin - what a speaker!

And her effectiveness is what led to her demonization. Remember Barry freaking out the next week? "You can't put lipstick on a pig," he said. Such a tiny man.

You're implying the pick was cynical. That's a nasty thing to imply about McCain. I dislike him, but I wouldn't go that far.

And you're pretty openly saying the pick was stupid: "We all know how that worked out...." Post hoc ergo propter hoc, dude. Commenter Ken Mitchell's got it better - it was very close until McCain backed Bush on TARP.

And the conservative base DID turn out for Palin and for Ryan, despite McCain and Romney. (Huge rallies!) It was the more loosely affiliated GOP that stayed home.

Reagan won big because Conservatism articulated well inspires and brings in the loosely affiliated, as well as Reagan Democrats. They also stayed home because the Dems revved up the hate: "Get in their faces!" "I want people angry!" If you don't follow the news and don't know what's at stake, better to stay home than be called racist. (Especially with McCain assuring people that his opponent would make a good president, and Romney telling us that his opponent was a very nice man, just a touch misguided.)
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Wrong about Palin, as others have pointed out here. Choosing her certainly did rev up the conservative base of the party, just as the Ryan pick did for Romney. Satiate? Impossible without gagging McCain. We surged ahead in the polls after that convention, thanks to Palin - what a speaker!"

This doesn't matter. McCain still lost. If he'd picked someone instead of Palin he might not have.

"You're implying the pick was cynical. That's a nasty thing to imply about McCain. I dislike him, but I wouldn't go that far."
I've said much nastier things about McCain than this...
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dave, I'm a little late to the show, and I haven't read all the comments, but do you consider VDH a neocon? If not then why did you exclude him? Thanks
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
VDH is not a neocon and he was not included on my list because I edit him. I wrote about him back in August as part of this series: http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/08/13/the-price-we-pay-for-our-ignorance-of-military-history-is-dead-americans/
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks, I didn't think he was a neocon. I often use him a "compass" for my understanding of complex issues. He seems to titrate things down to their to their essence.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wikipedia lists both VDH and M. Ledeen as neoconservatives. Both write for Pj Media, and have thus been excluded from Dave's list of top ten conservative writers.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The anonymous editors of Wikipedia are not a trustworthy source for defining neoconservatism. Contrary to what I once thought when I was a leftist undergrad in college, Ledeen is not a neoconservative. I've known him and been strongly influenced by his ideas for several years and edited his writing for the last 2 since I've worked full time for PJM. He was actually the very first writer I wrote about in this series: http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/08/05/war-and-preparation-for-war-are-the-normal-conditions-of-mankind-while-peace-is-extremely-rare-michael-ledeen/
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Another brief point I'd like to make -- I believe the vast majority of commenters here and elsewhere use the term "neoconservative" as a sly (or not so sly) insult. In other words, the term carries negative connotations, and is no longer a "neutral" term. (In the case of Dave's definition, it becomes a synonym for secularists, big govt European-style welfare states, etc) (On this latter point I have yet to read -- I do not watch Fox News -- Charles Krauthammer ever, ever endorsing a European-style welfare state -- in fact, this seems to be one of Krauthammer's gravest fears (ie, that the U.S. under Obama will become increasingly like a European state).
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
One of the problems here is -- who is doing the defining of "neoconservative"? The MSM (yes, yes we can all rail against them, but they write the play book) allege that "neoconservatives" are further to the right than are "normative" Republicans. As Horowitz states, anyone who supported the Iraq war automatically becomes labeled with the pejorative title of "neoconservative". Thus, Ledeen and VDH become fire-breathing, right-wing military hawks. Like Horowitz, I've come to believe that the term should be dropped.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
If you believe the term should be dropped then you can drop it. And I'll keep using it to distinguish between the Irving Kristol/Weekly Standard/George W. Bush approach and the William F. Buckley/National Review/Ronald Reagan approach.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
In so far as Charles Krauthammer is concerned, your division is a difference without a distinction. You have yet to provide evidence that Krauthammer is an advocate for "big government." To make such a risible claim minus a scrap of evidence is to enter into a fantasy world (but, of course, we all have our fantasies and I can hardly pretend to be able to disabuse you of yours).
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're arguing against a straw man. I didn't say Krauthammer was an advocate for big government. I said he was *tolerant* of big government. Which he and George W. Bush and John McCain and Irving Kristol and neoconservatives are. They are not interested in disassembling the New Deal. They celebrate the big government Republican tradition of Teddy Roosevelt and defend FDR. Do you agree with me that George W. Bush failed to shrink the federal government and in fact expanded it?

Let me see if you will accept this as a fair summary of the differences: Krauthammer and George W. Bush/John McCain/Mitt Romney neoconservatives don't necessarily advocate vocally for making the government bigger but rather just tolerate it growing bigger at a slower rater than Democrats. Shrinking the federal government back to pre-New Deal levels is not Krauthammer's or neoconservatives' agenda. It is for Tea Party conservatives like me.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree that Bush (which can be clearly illustrated and documented) grew government (Bush didn't just "tolerate" big government, he gave it momentum). But I have not read CK being even "tolerant" of Big, Socialist-European-style governance. (This is the troublesome point here). He's not in favor of the tea party (but I believe that is because he thinks they're too radical. Personally, with the exception of Ron/Rand Paul, I align with the Tea Party). Remember CK (at a young age) was raised in Montreal. He noted that in Canadian politics there is a huge range in political beliefs and parties -- from Communist parties to ultra right-wing (mirroring Europe -- it's what is found in Europe). But, as CK has written American-style politics was (until Obama) played out in the center, in the middle zone -- cranks at either end of the spectrum were marginalized. I think this is also why CK so fears Obama -- he sees Obama as an un-American, European-style radical out to "transform America", turn the govt into a huge socialist welfare state (at the expense of the military, withdrawing from the world, etc). And Krauthammer has said that (to avoid insolvency) America must address the looming fiscal crisis. So, I don't think he's tolerant of Big Government.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Did you read this article from Andy McCarthy at NRO from October about Krauthammer's Daily Show appearance?
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/362259/republican-embrace-welfare-state-andrew-c-mccarthy
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, I've read McCarthy's piece. The Daily Caller published a portion of the interview. Here is one portion: CK speaking: [Paul Ryan's] "assumption is not that government does not have a role. His assumption is that the welfare state as established with great success by liberals has now reached a point where it no longer fits. With the new demographics and with the higher technology and medicine, we will simply become insolvent unless we radically reform." Ck goes on to cite a statistical fact "When Social Security was instituted, the age of longevity was 62. Today, life expectancy is 80." Then CK points to Europe (where America under Obama is headed) and its insolvency. CK maintains that Europe "never adapted to the change in demographics and the change in technology." So I believe CK sees the danger, and realizes Big Government leads to insolvency (but the prescription as to a solution differs between, say, Paul Ryan and the Tea Party).
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
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