Clark Stooksbury correctly objects to Jonah Goldberg’s recent (mis)characterisation of Crunchy Cons and Rod Dreher. Goldberg had lumped Rod in together with Michael Gerson and saying that “both of these derive from the kind of thinking that led George W. Bush to insist in 2000 that he was a “different kind of Republican” because he was a “compassionate conservative” — a political program that apparently measures compassion by how much money the government spends on education, marriage counseling and the like.” This is just badly wrong. There’s no other way to say it.
Rod responds here. I had noticed the same thing, but at first it was such a minor part of Goldberg’s column that I didn’t want to rehash the same old arguments over what was almost a throwaway line. I really didn’t feel compelled at the time to point out (yet again) that Goldberg misunderstands what Rod has been talking about, but it occurs to me that this excerpt illustrates what seems to be a recurring pattern in Goldberg’s writing. On more than one occasion, he has conflated very different ideas on the right and claimed that they are very closely related, when their only point of contact is that they both represent something other than current establishment conservatism. Thus the proponents of Sam’s Club Republicanism can be bizarrely identified with the politics of Sam Francis, and now the ideas of Gerson and Dreher can be traced back to the same source. This might not be terribly interesting to most people, except that this also appears to be what Goldberg has done in his book Liberal Fascism with the two non-conservative ideologies mentioned in the title. There may be substantive similarities between liberalism and fascism in certain respects, and it is correct to identify fascism as a leftist ideology, but at a certain point specific differences matter and fine distinctions become important for understanding how two sets of ideas that may share a few assumptions lead people to significantly different conclusions and actions. Those distinctions become important for understanding why Dollfuss and Schuschnigg or Metaxas, for example, may have been conservative authoritarians, but they were definitely not fascists despite some superficial similarities or a shared interest in corporatist economics, and they remain just as important for understanding what FDR and Wilson were and were not. Conflating or identifying two significantly different things, as it seems Goldberg tends to do, ultimately makes for very unedifying intellectual analysis. These conflations suggest either some misunderstanding of the matters at hand or a polemical goal of lumping together various political adversaries in order to associate all opponents with the errors of those assumed to be the worst.